Craig Calcaterra

Rob Manfred

Rob Manfred to Hall of Fame voters: don’t surmise PED use without evidence

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Rob Manfred was up in Bristol, Connecticut to speak with ESPN baseball writers and reporters, so expect to see a lot coming out about those meetings in the next few days. The first thing, from Jayson Stark, is fun.

Stark reports that Manfred would advise Hall of Fame voters not to “surmise” that certain players used performance-enhancing drugs unless there is “credible evidence.” He notes that, yes, with someone like Barry Bonds, there’s a lot of evidence, so that’s not big deal. But he goes on:

“The guys I’m concerned about are, there are players out there who are talked about where there is literally nothing. They have nothing, other than, you know, ‘He looked like X.’ Trust me, from somebody who spent a lot of time doing it, you can’t decide whether or not somebody was using steroids, based on what they look like. That is not enough evidence to make that determination.”

That describes Piazza and Bagwell, the two current Hall of Fame candidates who have been the subject of most of that kind of speculation by Hall of Fame voters.

Odds any Hall of Fame voter’s mind is changed on this: about zero, I’d say. The people who vote this way long ago decided that they are Defenders of the Sacred Hall, not reasonable actors, and good sense like that which Manfred is offering here will not deter them from their quest.

The Diamondbacks graduated some prospects this morning. Literally.

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This is neat. Most teams have “academies” in Latin America. The Diamondbacks have one that not only teaches baseball players the game, but also teaches them academically. And hands out diplomas. From Nick Piecoro at the Arizona Republic:

Five young men will don caps and gowns atop Diamondbacks uniforms on Friday morning in the Dominican Republic, where club officials will present them with high school diplomas.

They represent the first graduating class in a program that’s believed to be the first of its kind. For years, every major-league club has operated a Dominican academy where players as young as 16 begin their professional careers. The Diamondbacks’ academy in Boca Chica is the first to also offer players a classroom education.

It’s good to see that the Diamondbacks are treating the young men in their academy as something more than mere baseball playing resources that are either fully-exploited or discarded by the time they turn 17.

Some folks didn’t get the “Ostracize A-Rod” memo!

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A-Rod: doing good deeds, having his praises sung by a notable Yankees figure and soon to meet with an eager Yankees brass!

Hmm. That certainly doesn’t jibe with the narrative. Nor does this, from John Sterling, the Yankees announcer:

“We talked right after the fire. Alex felt terrible about it,” Sterling told me over the telephone. “He offered me his place in Manhattan to stay in when this happened. I guess he was in Florida.”

Sterling, while realistic about the chances for A-Rod to contribute as a player has nothing but good things to say about him. But, this being a story in the Daily News, it is important that the author immediately note that A-Rod is, indeed, hated:

“I’m rooting for Alex,” Sterling said emphatically. “He’s a friend.”

Having absolutely no knowledge of how each member of the Yankees organization feels about Rodriguez, it’s a safe bet they are not on the same page as Sterling. A-Rod does not have many allies.

The very next paragraph explains how the team’s manager, Joe Girardi, is an A-Rod ally. And then the stuff above from Cashman. And earlier in the week Yankees reliever Dellin Betances talked about liking A-Rod and looking forward to seeing him in camp. And there have been a lot of stories about his good relationship with Latin players in pinstripes over the years.

None of which makes A-Rod a great guy. The fact about him are the facts. But it’s almost as if the extent to which he is a monster no one likes has been overblown by the press. Shocking, I know.

The sixth greatest general manager of all time once traded David Cone for Ed Hearn

John Schuerholz
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Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.

Maybe it’s unfair of me to list John Schuerholz’s worst trade in the headline of a post about him being one of the best general managers of all time. But it’s such a fun fact — and Schuerholz’s credentials are otherwise so unassailable — that I think he can take it. Heck, Schuerholz can take a lot. Even un-hinged fans who totally lack perspective and say outrageously dumb things.

Deftly dealing with setbacks is easy when you have his track record. He broke into baseball in what was then the best organization in baseball, the Orioles. He came to the GM chair by working his way up in another fantastic organization, the Royals. He won a World Series there and then, with the help of Bobby Cox, helped bring the Braves back from oblivion and turned them into perpetual division title winners.

Maybe he’d take a do-over on the Cone-Hearn deal. But John Schuerholz has made out just fine otherwise. Go read about him over at In Pursuit of Pennants.

Baseball in Boston is dying, you guys

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Gonna level with you: many won’t be able to stomach this article, even before it gets to the part for which I am linking it. It’s many, many paragraphs about Boston sports and how exceptional they are and how exceptional and demanding Boston fans are and all of that. That’s not aimed at any of you not from Boston, obviously — that’s fan service to the readers of the Boston Globe and rooters for Boston’s teams — but, man, a lot of that bleeds over to the national discourse and it can be tiring.

Even better: despite all of the claims to exceptionalism — valid claims, mind you, given how many titles Boston teams have won in the past 15 years or so — there are still a few references to Boston fans being put upon, and everyone loves that. The writer’s father didn’t make it to see the 2004 championship, you see, so “therefore, all those titles will never be enough for some of us,” and Boston fans “will never be spoiled.”

But like I said, I don’t link it for that. I link it for the stuff in the second half of the column in which the writer claims that, now and forever more, Boston will be a Patriots town, not a Red Sox town, because . . . baseball is dying, you guys:

The NFL, in spite of its warts, is more popular than ever. Check the ratings from Sunday’s Super Bowl. It was most-watched Super Bowl and TV show ever in the U.S. Viewing peaked at 120.8 million in the fourth quarter. About 129 million Americans voted in the last presidential election. It drew an 85 share in Boston, which means 85 percent of TV sets in use were watching the game. The other 15 percent were either watching “Breaking Bad” re-runs or are Jets fans.

The task for the Red Sox is no longer securing, or maintaining their spot, as Boston’s Most Popular Team. That is gone forever. Demographics and time cannot be denied. The Patriots fan base is getting younger and the Red Sox fan base is getting older. Young people are turning away from baseball because the sport is simply too damn slow for 2015’s society.

This is not a judgment, but rather reality.

No new arguments, here. TV ratings and baseball’s slow pace and the tastes and interests of people between the ages of 18-34, etc. etc.

I’m not from Boston, so I ask you Boston folks to weigh in on my hunch. Which is this: if and when Tom Brady is retired and/or the Patriots sink into mediocrity, Boston will no longer be an NFL city, even if it is now, which I’m not really sure. Boston has always been described to me by people who know it well as a baseball city. My outside observations suggest this to be the case as well, even if people get super excited for the other teams when they win. It, along with maybe St. Louis, usually New York and, perhaps, Cincinnati, may be the only cities where baseball is the king, but the feeling is that it is definitely true in Boston.

Or have I just been sold a bill of goods by Red Sox Nation?