Tagged: Roberto Clemente

The Return

The New York Yankees signed Chase Headley to a 4 year contract worth $52 million.  This solidifies the Yankees at third through 2018.  When the deal was announced, ESPN’s Buster Olney made the observation that this meant the Yankees did not have an everyday role for Alex Rodriguez.  The 2015 Yankees would have a lineup of CF Jacoby Ellsbury, LF Brett Gardner, 2B Martin Prado, 3B Chase Headley, DH Carlos Beltran, C Brian McCann, 1B Mark Teixeira, RF Chris Young, SS Didi Gregorius.

Notice anyone missing from the Yankee lineup?  What about Alex Rodriguez?  Where will Rodriguez fit into the Yankees plans for 2015 and beyond?  At this point in his career, Rodriguez has three options as far as playing.  He can continue at third, move to first, or be the DH.

Does he have any range? (www.sportsworldreport.com

Does he have any range? (www.sportsworldreport.com

At third, Rodriguez will most likely serve as the backup for Headley.  As a switch hitter, Headley will not yield at bats to Rodriguez based upon match ups.  However, even if Headley were to get hurt or needs a day off, the Yankees could have moved Prado from second to third to keep the defense in the infield solid and give some time at second to young Jose Pirela.  Prado’s trade to the Marlins means Pirela or Brendan Ryan will be at second.  I believe the Yankees should put Pirela at second and have Ryan as the infield back up.  The Yankees need some sort of youth movement if they are to continue playing competitively moving forward.  Honestly, as Rodriguez approaches his 40-year-old season, after a year away from the game, and the preceding year cut short by yet another hip injury, it is doubtful Rodriguez still has the range to play an average third base defensively.  Third seems does not look like a home, even temporarily, for Rodriguez.

At first base, Rodriguez would either be the backup to Mark Teixeira or platoon with him.  I would vote to avoid the platoon.  When healthy, Teixeira is a major asset to the Yankees and their success.  A potential hindrance for Rodriguez at first could be if the Yankees try to begin transitioning Brian McCann from behind the plate to first, which they should.  Teixeira only has two years remaining on his contract, so the Yankees will have to begin the process of finding his replacement either from their system, through trade or free agency, or from their roster.  The Yankees need the most from their investment in McCann and continuing to catch will reduce his playing time and effectiveness.  As a lefty, McCann’s power to the right field porch should give him an edge over Rodriguez.  Again, Rodriguez’s hips and age, plus the move to a new position could greatly hinder his ability to play an average first base defensively.

Is his speed completely gone? (www.chatsports.com)

Is his speed completely gone? (www.chatsports.com)

As the DH, Rodriguez is facing some stiff competition.  Carlos Beltran seems to be the preferred DH for the Yankees.  Beltran is a switch hitter, this he will not be pinch hit for due to matchups late in games.  Even when Beltran plays the outfield to give Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Chris Young a day off this does not mean there is an opening at DH.  Any of these outfielders could be the DH instead of Beltran.  Additionally, when Beltran needs a day off, McCann could DH, so could Teixeira, and Headley. Rodriguez has to six players to jump over to claim at bats as the DH.  Strangely, this is his best option for at bats.

These three positions do not leave Rodriguez many opportunities to play every day.  At this point in his career the likelihood of Rodriguez’s health allows him to play every day are growing smaller and smaller.  He has essentially missed the past two seasons; it may be difficult for Rodriguez to rebound.  He played 44 games in 2013 due to injury and served a suspension for all of the 2014 season.  In addition to the aches and pains of entering his 40-year-old season, Rodriguez has undergone multiple hip surgeries.  This has hampered his speed, range, and his ability to stay on the field.  Rodriguez is showing his age and the impact of 20 seasons in Major League Baseball.

Rodriguez is not the same player he once was before his troubles with his hip, a PED suspension, and his popularity taking a nosedive.  He has not hit above .276 since 2009.  Rodriguez has played an average of 110 games a season since 2008, without playing more than 138 in any season, excluding his suspension for all of 2014.  During his last three seasons played (2011-2013), Rodriguez has no more than 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in a season.  His Offensive WAR has gone down every year since 2007, from a high of 9.5 to 0.8.  Only once since 2005 has Rodriguez been above a 1.0 Defensive WAR, with four of those seasons being in the negative.  He has only been over a 2.0 Defensive WAR once, in 2000 at 2.3.  Clearly, his skills have deteriorated.

Stating the obvious about Alex Rodriguez. (www.komonews.com)

Stating the obvious about Alex Rodriguez. (www.komonews.com)

Alex Rodriguez was once one of the best players in all of Major League Baseball.  However, growing older, injuries, PED use and suspension, and becoming the face of what is wrong with the game have left Rodriguez as a tired act.  He is in the swan song of his career, and he has becoming the most polarizing figure in the game.  Rodriguez is approaching some of the most hallowed numbers in the sport, which should create a buzz about the 2015 season.  Instead, his march into history pains those who love this game.  He sits 61 hits shy of 3,000.  He is 6 home runs away from tying Willie Mays, 60 away from Babe Ruth, and 101 away from Hank Aaron.  He currently has a career batting average of .299, if he has one more good year at the plate he could assure himself a .300 career batting average.  He is 81 runs short of scoring 2,000 for his career.  He is 31 RBI short of 2,000 for his career.  All of these statistics place Rodriguez in the upper echelon of baseball history, but primarily through his own doing, many in baseball simply want him to go away.

Alex Rodriguez has served his time.  Regardless if you think he should have gotten more or less time, or wish he had received a permanent ban from the game, Rodriguez will not be the last player to cut corners to gain an advantage over his competition.  Hopefully, Rodriguez will be the final chapter of the Steroid era on the field.  Rodriguez is a sad figure, much in the same way Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have become.  These players had Hall of Fame caliber talent, but they tried to hang on to their skills through various forms of cheating, and in so doing so they have ruined their legacies.  Alex Rodriguez has earned more than $356 million, and unless he and the Yankees can reach an agreement to part ways, his earnings will surpass $400 million, which is the most career earnings in baseball history.  Derek Jeter earned $265 million, the second highest career earnings in baseball history, the difference in the legacies of Rodriguez and Jeter are night and day.  Will the extra $100 to $150 million Rodriguez will earn be worth it?

The return of Alex Rodriguez will soon be upon us, whether we like it or not.  There does not seem to be many at bats awaiting him with the Yankees as he attempts to chase down some of the biggest names in baseball history.  Does Rodriguez belong in the same conversation as the greats like Mays, Ruth, Aaron, Clemente, Gehrig, Williams?  Statistically yes.  On the field he has proven for 20 seasons he has Hall of Fame caliber skills and can do it all with the bat.  No player ever accidentally amasses the sort of numbers he has collected.

Alex Rodriguez will most likely live on the bench this season. (www.sportingnews.com)

Alex Rodriguez will most likely live on the bench this season. (www.sportingnews.com)

Does Rodriguez belong alongside these Hall of Famers in terms of class?  Not even close.  He has cheated multiple times, and continues to play the victim.  You can argue he is no better than Mays and his reported use of amphetamines, but what makes Rodriguez different is the amphetamines do not alter your abilities, steroids do.  He admitted to using PEDs from 2001 through 2003.  While we can debate whether one believes that after 2003 Rodriguez discontinued his use of PEDs, what is not up for debate is his admission to using them during these three seasons.  These also, consequently were the most prolific three year span of his career.  In 2010, Rodriguez was connected to Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, who at best has a checkered past with the law enforcement for providing and administering PEDs to elite athletes.  The latest run in for Rodriguez has been through his association with Biogenesis and Anthony Bosch.  While Rodriguez never failed a drug test, Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rodriguez for 211 games, later reduced to the 2014 season.  Major League Baseball suspended Rodriguez:

“for use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances…over the course of multiple years” and “for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”

The crime gets you in trouble; the cover up is what tears you down.  Rodriguez later admitted to the Drug Enforcement Administration that he had indeed used PEDs.  Rodriguez has a pattern of cheating, even after the installation of the Major League Baseball Drug Policy.  Everyone makes mistakes, however Rodriguez does not seem to have learned from his mistakes.

It seems three strikes does not mean Alex Rodriguez is out.  He has three seasons remaining on his contract with the Yankees.  He has become so toxic within baseball, and outside of baseball, that after the 2017 season his career with baseball as a whole is almost certainly over.  Unless the Yankees can work out a deal with Rodriguez to buy out the remainder of his contract, or his hips force his retirement, it is unlikely he will leave before his contract is up.  Alex Rodriguez is a survivor, through it all he continues to come back for more.  What a shame that this sort of resiliency is wasted on Rodriguez.  There are so many great people in and around baseball; unfortunately, Rodriguez has the ability to survive regardless of the damage he does to the game.  He takes the headline away from the people and events, which make baseball the great sport it is.

D

HOW DARE YOU!!!

What if I told you thieves stole a man’s tools he had used to make an honest living?  How would you react?  What if these thieves also stole the awards this man received as recognition for both his great individual achievements and for his role in making the business he worked for among the most successful in the world?  How would you react?  How would you react if I told you this man is a military veteran, who answered the call of duty when the country and the world need it the most?  What emotions would you feel?  Anger?  Sadness?  Shock?

Personally I feel both anger and sadness.  I am angry at the thieves who stole things from this man after he worked so hard to achieve.  I feel sadness because even if, and when, these items are recovered; some of the damage may never heal.  I have plenty to say to the person or people who did this.  They are not worth the space they occupy on this earth, nor the oxygen they breathe, and plenty more which is not suitable for printing.  The best I can sum up how I feel is this way, HOW DARE YOU!!!

Now take all your emotions and wrap them around the idea that the man I have been talking about is Lawrence Peter Berra.  Yogi, the man the myth, the legend.  The man who could utter sentences which decades later still baffle people.  Such as:

“I really didn’t say everything I said.”

I have plenty to say to these thieve.  I am guessing there are some people in the Bronx and around the baseball world who would love to do more than just talk to them.

Yogi Berra. The uncle everyone loves in the baseball world. (baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com)

Yogi Berra. The uncle everyone loves in the baseball world. (baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com)

On October 8th, the Yogi Berra Museum was broken into by thieves.  Among the items stolen were several of Yogi’s 13 World Series Rings, his two Most Valuable Player Awards, and the mitt he used to catch Don Larsen’s perfect game during Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.  These items are priceless in baseball value, but also in the value they have for Yogi and his family.

The theft makes me wonder what some people are not willing to do, either for money or simply because they want to have something.  The worth of a person’s reputation and honor appears to have a dollar value for some people.  This is disgusting.  The opposite is true for the man who had his property taken from him.  Yogi Berra is and never has been a victim.  He has put every ounce of energy he has into what he believes.  It does not matter if it is fighting for freedom, playing to the best of his abilities on the diamond, or helping kids learn.  Yogi is a man’s man.  He is tough when need be, he exudes love and humility everywhere he goes.  Everyone should aspire to be like Yogi.

The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center’s mission is to “preserve and promote the values of respect, sportsmanship, social justice and excellence through inclusive, culturally diverse sports-based educational programs and exhibits.”  This mission reflects through the young people who have come to the museum for programing.  Yogi through the museum and center continues to give back and help make the world a better place.

New Jersey Jackals playing at Yogi Berra Stadium (The Winning Run)

New Jersey Jackals playing at Yogi Berra Stadium (The Winning Run)

Yogi Berra Stadium, which is connected to the Museum, is home to both the Montclair State University baseball team and the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League.  Yogi’s connection to Little Falls, New Jersey has given both the college players a place to play the game they love, while getting an education.  The Jackals’ players have the opportunity to continue chasing their baseball dreams.

When people talk about baseball legends they refer to players like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Koufax, and so many more.  However, Yogi Berra is in a class of his own.  He is referred to not by his surname, but rather by his first name/ nickname.  He is the uncle everyone in and around baseball loves.  He is family.  While he is widely respected, there is an aura of familiarity about him which breaks down the need for formalities.  Yogi Berra is a man we all know in some manner, and we all love him just the way he is.  It is time for us as a baseball community to assist in returning to Yogi what is rightfully his and to see that those who have violated his generosity are held accountable for the crimes they have committed.

D