What in the heck is A-Rod doing?

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Watching another afternoon train wreck involving Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball, I feel like it’s worth remembering two things:

1. Alex Rodriguez could have used PEDs like crazy, but still not have deserved a 211-game suspension; and

2. Bud Selig can have it in for A-Rod — could wish to see him burn at a stake as punishment for everyone else’s sins — yet still not be outside of his authority in suspending A-Rod.

We forget that as we spring to the defense of one side or another. Or, more often, as we spring to scorn one side or the other. But the fact is that each side is speaking some truth and each side is peddling baloney.

My personal view is that Major League Baseball overreached pretty severely in the penalty it leveled, and that a straightforward attack of that penalty as excessive by Alex Rodriguez and his legal team would serve as the best way for them to prevail. They still may do that. The arbitrator may be able to tune out all of this noise and focus solely on whether the punishment fits the crime, concluding that no, it doesn’t. If that happens, A-Rod could get a 50-game suspension, maybe. Or maybe nothing if MLB’s evidence and investigation is viewed as flawed or infirm.

But I also believe that A-Rod and Joe Tacopina are taking a gigantic risk in making this arbitration about Bud Selig personally and some vendetta against A-Rod in general. They risk alienating the arbitrator. They risk having a proportionality-of-punishment case lost in the noise. All for the promise of trying a lawsuit that, if the percentages on such things hold, never sees the light of day in court. I don’t understand why they’re doing this, but I feel like they are running the risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Normally one can see the motivations of putatively irrational action like this. But I don’t see the percentage for Alex Rodriguez in this approach. I don’t see what he possibly stands to gain by blowing up the arbitration like he has.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.