Author: Craig Calcaterra

petco park getty

The Padres are bringing in the left field fence at Petco — but only by 34 inches


The Mets aren’t the only ones bringing in the fences. The Padres are too. Except it’s by less than three feet and it’s only incidental to a larger, seating and video board overhaul, not an effort to boost offense:

In order to create better view clearance for the lower seating area, the upper box area will be recessed four feet and raised. That will result in the conversion of 192 existing seats to 111 bar-stool seats along two drink rails.

At the fence itself will be the addition of two rows of seats, which leads to the slight change in the fence in left field, the first modification in that area since the ballpark opened in 2004.

How slight? The fence will come in only 34 inches.

The Padres have brought the fences in before, but that focused on right field. I assume this change will amount to, what, one extra homer a year? Two maybe? If that?

Are Cliff Lee, Marlon Byrd and Jonathan Papelbon “bad guys” in the clubhouse?

cliff lee getty

With the caveat that the guy tweeting this isn’t considered the most reliable guy on the planet, I offer you this:

I really don’t follow the Phillies clubhouse dynamics terribly closely, so I’ll defer to Bill or some of you commenters who know about this stuff more than me, but I find this rather surprising. Mostly because I can’t remember any dustups in the Philly clubhouse outside of some bristling at Ryne Sandberg over the past year. All of which I chalk up more to a veteran team not much liking losing and, possibly, not much liking a change in habits and routines.

Part of me wonders if this isn’t a function of a Phillies team wanting to unload pricey veteran players with big contracts, realizing they won’t get a ton of value for them and wanting to set the stage to make up for that publicly by arguing it was addition by subtraction or some such when they get pennies on the dollar. Wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has been done.

The Rays will name 12 candidates to replace Joe Maddon. Which is kind of crazy.

Dave Martinez

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that today the Rays will name 12 candidates to potentially replace Joe Maddon. He lists several possibilities and gives a brief summary of what they bring to the table. It’s a useful quick-guide.

But the question I have is why they are interviewing anyone and not just giving the job to Dave Martinez.

Martinez has been the Rays’ bench coach since just after the 2007 season. He was there for the whole Rays Ascension under Joe Maddon and, by most reports, was Maddon’s right-hand man. He has been long talked about as managerial material and has interviewed for multiple top jobs. He is reported to have a good relationship with the players and the front office. I can’t remember anyone ever saying a thing about him other than “Dave Martinez is gonna be a manager one day.”

On a team that would’ve kept Maddon around in a heartbeat and clearly had no desire to change course on the field (Topkin reported the other day that they intend to keep the current coaching staff) how is Maddon’s protege not the one and only choice for the job?


Oh, look, we’re back to “The Yankees should try to void A-Rod’s contract” land again

San Francisco Giants v New York Yankees

source: Getty Images

Buster Olney’s take on the latest A-Rod news starts off well enough. Unlike some of his peers, he does not act shocked and appalled at yesterday’s revelation that A-Rod told the truth to the DEA about his drug use. He merely recounts the past events in the saga, correctly noting that anyone with a brain wasn’t fooled by any of this.

I will take a couple of issues with a couple of his points, however. Like this one:

As Ian O’Connor noted in his column Tuesday, Rodriguez had been making appearances on behalf of the Taylor Hooton Foundation — which is devoted to the fight against PED use — and speaking to kids about the dangers of steroids while simultaneously whispering out of the other side of his mouth to Anthony Bosch about how to best juice up and avoid detection. He used the integrity of the foundation, created after the death of the founders’ son, to burnish his image as the remorseful and rehabilitated A-Rod, and all the while he was taking drugs.

There is certainly no defense to A-Rod lying in general, and absolutely no defense to him lying in the course of charitable and youth outreach efforts. It’s profoundly scummy and cynical of him.

But let us not forget that A-Rod is not the only party who uses the Hooton Foundation to “burnish his image.” The entire relationship between it and Major League Baseball is a function of the league desperately seeking a way to get on the right side of the PED story back in the bad old days of the Mitchell Report. It became MLB’s go-to charity/shield, and that relationship is the very reason A-Rod was set up with it in the first place. To help with the p.r. fallout from back in 2009 when he first admitted to using drugs.

Again, that doesn’t excuse A-Rod’s behavior. But let us have no illusions that MLB’s relationship with the Hooton Foundation is not itself borne of calculation. And when the roots of a relationship are such, it is inevitable that, at some point, there will be fallout like this.

Olney also scolds A-Rod for putting the MLBPA and, specifically, its late director, Michael Weiner, through the pain and indignity of defending him. He is particularly mad that Weiner had to expend energy on this as his condition worsened, and says:

And then Rodriguez, apparently knowing that the union’s defense on his behalf was built on the sands of his lies, had the temerity to show up at Weiner’s funeral.

I’ll let the funeral bit go — people in baseball are really big fans of attendance or the lack thereof at people’s funerals as a gauge of character for some reason — but can we please dispose of the “A-Rod duped the union!” talking point?

Rodriguez’s “I didn’t do it defense” was laughable, but the union had both the right and the responsibility to defend him against the process by which he was punished and the severity of the punishment that was levied. Even if Rodriguez had said in January 2013 “Yep, I did a bunch of PEDs” the union should have and I have no doubt would have defended against a 211-game suspension that was based on, well, nothing other than Rob Manfred’s desire to make such a thing stick and to create precedent for future off-JDA punishment.

The MLBPA’s defense was certainly not helped by A-Rod in any real respect. Indeed, he made a mockery of the proceedings at times. But the idea that there was no defense but for A-Rod’s lies is simply wrong.

Finally, Olney goes back to something he’s been fond of arguing for years: the voiding of contracts of PED users. He argues that the Yankees should do so now:

But there is a higher ground for the Yankees and owner Hal Steinbrenner to take this.

A lot of teams in baseball, the Yankees among them, have long attached conduct clauses to their standard player contracts, in spite of the general perception within the industry that the language of the team clauses is superseded by the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That validity of the conduct clauses has never really been challenged; nobody knows for sure whether they are at all enforceable.

Could any team have a better opportunity to test-drive a conduct clause?

He goes on to say that the biggest justification for this is, more or less, that the Yankees will win over a lot of people if they look like they’re going hard after A-Rod because, you may have heard, he’s unpopular. And he’s calling Rodriguez cynical!

That aside, what, exactly, does Olney think should trigger a contract-voiding? It can’t be the revelation of PED use, because A-Rod has already been punished and has fully served his sentence for that. He must think that the argument should be that A-Rod lied about it publicly. Not under oath. Not in a way that broke any law. Just that he publicly, in comments to the press, lied about something.

Are we really cool with the idea that a player should have his contract voided for lying and the attendant bad P.R. that creates? Should a team void a contract for a player who claims that he is in the Best Shape of His Life but then pulls a hamstring in spring training? How about a guy who says his bad year was because he was tipping his pitches but it was really because he just can’t pitch anymore. Or, more realistically, how about voiding the contract of a player who hides an injury or tries to play through one without fully disclosing its severity to the team?

One can construct any manner of untruths that could lead to a contract-voiding if one puts one’s mind to it. People lie ALL THE TIME. Athletes maybe even more so, either because they have to deal with a pushy press corps or because part of the essence of being an athlete is convincing yourself of things that may not be so. Many players use that to motivate themselves.

Ultimately, the argument that Olney and others seeking the voiding of A-Rod’s contract are advancing is “This is a big, big story that looks bad and A-Rod is a big, big jerk, so the Yankees should get to keep the millions they promised him.” And I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough.

The guy is a liar. The guy is a jerk. But the guy served his time. It’s time to let it go.

Alex Rodriguez is “working out like a fiend”

alex rodriguez yankees getty

Is A-Rod in . . . The Best Shape of His Life?

A source close to Rodriguez told The News Wednesday that the former AL MVP has been working out “like a fiend,” hitting several days a week at the University of Miami among other places . . .“If anything, this is just making him more determined,” said the source, who saw A-Rod working out in Miami last weekend. “He just wants to prove everybody wrong.”

“This” being the latest furor we discussed this morning.

I still have no idea if a 39-year-old can play effectively after a year layoff. It’s possible he can’t. And it’s possible (probable) that this story is a function of people close to A-Rod trying to focus the story back to baseball on the day news hit about him. Which, heck, is an improvement over A-Rod’s past p.r. efforts, which were akin to dumping kerosene on a flame.

But I really do think that people’s heads will ‘asplode – maybe even literally — if Rodriguez shows up to spring training in great shape and can actually be a useful ballplayer next year. I’m not sure anyone will know quite how to process it.