Manny under the microscope

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Thumbnail image for manny ramirez option.jpgA summary of Bob Klapisch’s take on Manny Ramirez:  He was totally awesome until he tested positive for PEDs, and then we all realized that he was a fraud and now he needs to prove he can still produce without the drugs. But if he does produce this season we’ll have no idea if he’s doing it legitimately or not because he has every incentive to cheat.

I may not agree with Klapsich’s particular take on PED testing, but if negative PED test results are not treated as even prima facie evidence that a guy is playing clean, I’ll agree that there’s something wrong with the system.  Or something wrong with the guys who like to throw stones at everyone. Can’t decide which.

But maybe the most astonishing thing about the column is this passage:

If only Manny hadn’t succumbed to steroids, history would’ve eventually
glossed over his other transgressions, including his abandonment of the
Red Sox in 2008. The faked knee injury could’ve been written off to the
desperate act of a player who could no longer co-exist with his
teammates. But the positive test changed everything.

I personally think that the lowest point of Manny’s career — the blackest mark against him — was his behavior in his final days in Boston. He quite obviously faked his injures, quit on his teammates and when he did play didn’t even try.  That behavior, in my mind at least, was far more damaging to baseball competition than any drug he ever took.  That Klapisch can say that such behavior pales compared to his PED use suggests to me that we have either greatly overreacted to PEDs as an evil in the game or are far too dismissive of mid-2008 Manny Ramirez-style jackassery.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.