Craig Calcaterra

Hiroki Kuroda Getty

Hiroki Kuroda says his years in the majors were “tougher than they were enjoyable”

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Hiroki Kuroda pitched for the Dodgers and the Yankees for several years, and pitched pretty darn well for a lot of those years. But upon his return to Japan, he is not remembering those years as particularly wonderful:

A simple question about how he viewed his time in the major leagues prompted him to drop a verbal bomb in his response.

“To sum it up in one word, it was ‘tough,'” Kuroda said in the news conference. “In a situation in which I didn’t understand the language and battled to make it through the season, the seven years were — including physically — tougher than they were enjoyable.”

Kuroda, 40, will pitch for the Hiroshima Carp this season. Here’s hoping he enjoys himself a bit more now that he’s back home.

Miguel Cabrera has been cleared for “limited baseball activity”

Miguel Cabrera
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Health update on Miguel Cabrera:

Cue that weirdo on Twitter who thinks we hate Cabrera for the suggestion that anything he does is “limited.”

Cabrera, of course, is rehabbing from surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his foot. With him being cleared, at least on a limited basis, the Tigers’ optimistic assessment of his time table — that he will be ready for Opening Day or soon thereafter — is still theoretically in play.

UPDATE:  The Tigers are saying as much:

A scorching-hot A-Rod take reveals Mike Lupica’s ridiculousness, ignorance and simple cruelty

Lupica
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It’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff to criticize Mike Lupica. He’s been a self-parody for quite a long time and, despite his predisposition to speak for the common fan, he has been nothing approaching a common fan for decades.

He’s an extraordinarily well-paid man who, unless he chose to, has not had to pay for a ticket to a sporting event since the Carter administration. He’s not even like most sports writers in that, again, unless he chooses to, he doesn’t have to cover the day-to-day of sports. He writes a political column one day, writes a children’s book the next, goes on TV, goes on the radio and then swoops down to weigh-in on whatever sports controversy of the day interests him. That’s good work if you can get it. Really, being a sports columnist is a great gig, even if you, perversely, become insulated from actual sports and sports fans as a result. Occupational hazard.

But insulation is one thing. Becoming a cruel, angry person is quite another. And that’s what Mike Lupica has become.

For eveidence of this, one need look no further than the column he wrote today about the A-Rod apology. And not because he’s slamming A-Rod — everyone slams A-Rod — but because, in an effort to roast A-Rod, he says a couple of things that are unhinged at best and a couple of things which are flat out petty and mean.

So this is the way Rodriguez decides to play it, deciding not to hold some kind of press conference before spring training, opting out of the visual of his lawyer sitting next to him and telling him which questions he could answer, and which ones would require him to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights, so as not to face self-incrimination. But then DEA informants — it is exactly what Rodriguez is — rarely want to tell their stories in public.

That’s right: Mike Lupica just insulted a person for cooperating with law enforcement in the prosecution of a drug dealer.

Lupica then excoriates A-Rod for not “taking questions from the New York media and the national media:”

It is one thing to tell his story to a writer or to the new commissioner, Rob Manfred, behind closed doors. Or to do the same thing, again behind closed doors to Hal Steinbrenner of the Yankees and his team president, Randy Levine, and his general manager, Brian Cashman. It would have been quite another thing for Rodriguez to have answered questions out in the open without a lawyer present.

“Fine, you came clean to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Baseball, the owner of the New York Yankees, the president of the New York Yankees and the Yankees’ general manager, but dammit, you didn’t take a question from the guys who work for my tabloid newspaper which has had it in for you for more than a decade! How dare you!”

Then there’s this:

Rodriguez never uses the word steroids, the way he never used that word back in 2009 when he begged everybody for his first second chance. He doesn’t say “my” PED use. Just PED use. Alex Rodriguez remains as cute as his handwriting, and slicker than spit.

Perhaps because, based on just about everything we’ve learned, neither A-Rod nor any of the other clients received steroids from Tony Bosch. They received growth hormone, testosterone and other things, but not steroids. Because Major League Baseball does not suspend players for “steroids,” specifically defined, but for “Performance Enhancing Substances,” which are commonly referred to as PEDs or PESs. Really, Mike, you’re a reporter. You should research this stuff first.

But Lupica isn’t content to stick with ignorance, he thinks cruelty is the way to go:

It will come out in the ESPN piece written by J.R. Moehringer that Alex is in therapy these days. Of course he is. It is about time, and better late than never, for somebody who really could be the buffet at a psychiatrist’s convention.

Mocking a person for seeking mental health is always a good idea. It shows empathy and understanding of phenomena which cause great pain, suffering and adversity in a lot of people’s lives.

Then there’s this:

Bosch, his drug dealer? He goes to jail now for 48 months, three months shy of the maximum sentence he could have gotten for operating the kind of drug ring he was operating.

The star of that ring, still batting cleanup there, still a big name at Biogenesis, was Alex Rodriguez. He doesn’t go to jail. He goes to spring training. Is this a great country or what?

As I noted above, in addition to sports, Mike Lupica writes a lot of columns about political and social issues. I can’t recall him — or, really, anyone who sits on any part of the political spectrum in the United States — ever before lamenting that a drug kingpin was going to jail while a mere drug user was not. Anyone who thinks such a state of affairs to be so backward that it elicits an ironic “what a country!” But hey, who needs any sort of reason when you have your white whale to harpoon?

Really, though, the crack about A-Rod being “the buffet at a psychiatrist’s convention” sticks in my craw. That’s just pathetic, even by Lupica’s usual extraordinarily low standards. Alex Rodriguez is a guy who, it would appear, needs some mental health assistance, and the fact of him getting it elicits an angry “it’s about damn time that basket case got help!”

Who thinks that’s acceptable? Decent? Would he treat any other person on the planet like that? Or is it that, because he has spent so many years opening fire on athletes, he no longer even sees them as people?

I’d never expect a reasoned or measured response from Mike Lupica. But you’d think he’d at least aspire to basic human decency. Apparently he thinks differently.

Remembering the team owner who moved his team to get away from black people

Calvin Griffith
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Mark Armour and Dan Levitt’s greatest GM series concluded last week, but they are keeping the content rolling over at their Pursuit of Pennants blog. Today’s subject: Calvin Griffith.

Griffith owned the Senators and then, after moving them out of D.C., the Twins until the early 1980s. As Dan details today, Griffith was one of the last of the old school owner/GMs who ran both the business and the baseball operations. He had some savvy when it came to baseball ops, but by the time the 1960s and especially the 1970s rolled around, the job was just too big for one guy, and it led to a lot of trouble for the Twins eventually. The post provides an excellent example of how the business and player development side of the game fundamentally changed during the decades Griffith was in charge.

Not mentioned, however, was my “favorite” part of Calvin Griffith’s legacy: his explanation for why he moved the Senators to Minnesota in 1960. Here are his comments, taken from a Star-Tribune report in 1978. His jumping off point was when he was asked by someone about rumors that he might move the Twins out of Minnesota.

Remember, he said this at the time — in 1978 — not in the 50s or the 60s:

“They’ve got all the ink and all the typewriters but they don’t have all the truth,” Griffith said. “There’s no damn place in the country worth moving to. They talk about New Orleans, but what’s wrong with that is…”

At that point, Griffith interrupted himself, lowered his voice and asked if there were any blacks around. After he looked around the room and assured himself that his audience was white, Griffith resumed his answer.

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,” he said. “It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”

And after that he began to rip his own players for their personal lives and work ethic.

There’s a statue of Griffith outside of Target Field. He didn’t make Cooperstown, but he is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the legacy of the man whose innovations essentially caused the game to pass Griffith by — Marvin Miller — can’t get the time of day.

Tim Lincecum is the Giants’ fifth starter

Tim Lincecum
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News from Scottsdale:

Lincecum pitched six games in relief late last season and was relegated to the bullpen for the playoffs, where he pitched exactly one game. It had been thought that, perhaps, Ryan Vogelsong and Lincecum would compete for the fifth spot, but that competition now appears to be scrapped.

Lincecum is in the second year of a two-year, $35 million deal. You have to figure they want to see if they can’t get a decent starter’s production out of a decent starter’s salary. Or, at the very least, to see if they can’t flip him mid-season as a starter given that in Vogelsong and Yusmiero Petit, they have decent alternatives for the fifth slot.