Tagged: Suspension

Jenrry Mejia’s Exit

Three strikes and you are out is baseball 101. Apparently, Jenrry Mejia only understands this when he is on the mound. Mejia is the first player permanently banned due to failed PED testing. He has now failed three different PED tests since April 2015. Three failed tests in ten months is a quick way to find yourself out of baseball. Everyone makes mistakes, but Mejia seems to be unable to understand his mistakes and correct them.

Jenrry Mejia floated between the minor leagues and the Mets between 2010 and 2013. He appeared in 43 Major league games between 2010 and 2013. In 2014, he finally established himself as a legitimate closer, finishing 49 games with 28 saves for the Mets. Mejia had 98 SO and 41 BB in 93.2 innings in 2014. The Mets looked to have found their closer of the future. Then the 2015 season arrived and just as quickly as Mejia’s star rose in 2014, it fell.

Jenrry Mejia.jpg
Jenrry Mejia could have been the Mets closer of the future, but now it is all gone. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

On April 11, MLB announced Mejia had tested positive for stanozolol and was suspended for 80 games. Stanozolol is a synthetic steroid, made famous by Canadian Sprinter Ben Johnson who tested positive for stanozolol at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics and subsequently stripped of his Gold Medal. Mejia served his 80 games and returned to the Mets on July 12. He pitched in seven games before MLB announced on July 28 that Mejia had again failed a PED test. Mejia was now suspended for 162 games having tested positive for two different drugs, stanozolol and boldenone. Boldenone is a veterinarian steroid, not meant for human use, that builds muscle and endurance when used in humans. It is bad enough to be suspended twice for failed PED tests, but Mejia failed the test twice for stanozolol. When you fail a test the first time, whether the failed test was due to a mistake or an attempt to use PEDs, it would make sense to alter what is going into your body to prevent another failed test for the same substance. Instead, Mejia doubled down on the same drug and added another drug for good measure. Coming so soon after his rise, the Mets and the rest of professional baseball must wonder if Mejia’s performance was real or if it was chemically enhanced.

Mejia managed to make it through the rest of 2015 without failing another PED test. He would serve the remaining 99 games of his suspension in 2016 and then rejoin the Mets for what, the fans in Queens are hoping, will be another trip to the World Series. Instead, on February 12, MLB announced Mejia had failed a PED test again, the third time, for boldenone. While he finally stopped using stanozolol, Mejia failed a second test for boldenone. This third failed test means Mejia is now permanently banned from MLB.

Jenrry Mejia Prayer.jpg
Jenrry Mejia’s only hope now may only come from above. (www.remezcla.com)

There are many reasons a player would want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Pete Rose, but joining Rose as the only other living member of the permanently ineligible list is not among them. Mejia’s stupidity has cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, potentially millions. His banishment from baseball reaches beyond MLB. Mejia cannot simply sign with a team in a league in Japan, Korea, or elsewhere as international leagues usually respect MLB suspensions and refuse to sign those players. Mejia finds himself on the outside of baseball looking in. He could potentially sign with a team during Winter Ball, but the paychecks and length of the season are much smaller. There is some good news for Mejia. He can apply for reinstatement after one year. If granted, Mejia would have to sit out an additional season, meaning he would miss two complete seasons before he could return to the diamond. Mejia is only 26, so it is feasible for him to return to the mound. Although time is somewhat on his side, I am not sure how forgiving MLB will be with someone who has failed three tests within 10 months.

In some ways, MLB may use Jenrry Mejia to set an example. Mejia may not be a superstar like Andrew McCutchen or Bryce Harper, but he is far from a player who barely made it to the majors. Mejia was looking at a long and successful career with the Mets. They believed in him enough to resign him even after two failed tests. The reality is the number of chances a player gets depends on their skill and Mejia’s skills on the mound made him a risk worth taking. Now the failed PED tests change everything. A player failing a test when they are barely hanging on in the low minor leagues can kiss their career goodbye. A superstar,like Ryan Braun, can continue his career without worrying about job security. It will be a tarnished career though and shows that MLB’s drug testing is accomplishing its intended goal. It will never catch every drug cheat, but catching Mejia three times shows it is not giving players a free pass.

Any time news comes that a player has failed a drug test, there is usually a quote from the athlete saying something like, “I do not know how this substance got into my body. I never knowingly took this substance.” People then roll their eyes or believe in the statement, but the player remains forever marked as a drug cheat. Personally, players who fail drug tests make me sad, sometimes angry. It’s hard to believe a banned substance accidentally entered their body. I’m sad when I believe they made a mistake and angry when the player appears arrogant with their bluster exploding after their failed test. Players like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez are the public face of those players who no longer get the benefit of the doubt, and it is all due to their own egos and how they handled the media fallout from their failed tests.

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After multiple failed tests, Ryan Braun seems surprised no one believes he did not cheat. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Jenrry Mejia failed three different tests with two different drugs. While it may sound a bit odd, I would be more willing to believe any plea he might offer of innocence if he had failed the tests for a different drug each time. The counter-argument there is that he may have been changing drugs in an attempt to avoid detection, plausible and likely true. However, it would have been equally likely that he stopped using the source of the drug to avoid another failed test, but as bad luck would have it, he was negligent again of knowing exactly he was taking. I readily admit that failing three different tests on accident is extremely unlikely, though still possible. Mejia, however, seems to have believed that he could beat the test. He failed spectacularly three different times. You fail the first test, whether you are dirty or clear you will reexamine and adjust what is going into your body. Instead, Mejia continued as he was doing and added another layer of drugs. Not surprisingly, he failed another test. Again, you would think he would change what was going into his body. Instead, he only stopped using the stanozolol while continuing to use boldenone. Coming as a surprise to no one, Mejia failed his third test. Why would you continue to take the same drug you failed a test for before when you know the next failed test could end your career?

Jenrry Mejia was stupid, either willingly or through neglect. Either he is the worst drug cheat in baseball or he is extremely unlucky. Regardless, he has failed three separate PED tests. Ultimately, it does not matter how Mejia has found himself banned from baseball, he now finds himself on the outside looking in. The argument about whether gambling or PEDs are the bigger threat to the game is moot; both sides have a legitimate case but are both being equally addressed. While Mejia hopefully collects himself and cleans up, baseball is left to savor a bittersweet victory. The MLB Drug Policy is working. It is not catching every player using PEDs, but it is catching some. Once they are caught they are serving their punishments, which in the case of many are career altering and in the case of Jenrry Mejia the punishment can be career ending.

DJ

Down and Dirty

The “slide” by the Dodgers Chase Utley into second base was horrific.  No one but Utley can say with certainty what his intentions were, but from what we saw Utley went in either with cruel intentions or forgot how to slide into second base.  Whatever his intentions were Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada now has a fractured right fibula.

Chase Utley has played 13 seasons in the Majors, he has played 12, 954 ⅔ innings at second base, and turned 902 double plays.  He is not a starry eyed rookie, Utley knows howto play the game.  He knows how a player should and should not try to break up a double play.  What was on display at Dodger Stadium in Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series was grotesque.  Utley knows better, but he injured another player because he did not play the game they way it should be played.   The play was dirty, plain and simple, but why when Chase Utley is generally not seen a dirty player?

Ruben Tejada paid a painful price for Chase Utley's stupidity. (PAUL RODRIGUEZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER - Dodgers vs. Mets in game two of the NLDS.)

Ruben Tejada paid a painful price for Chase Utley’s stupidity. (PAUL RODRIGUEZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER – Dodgers vs. Mets in game two of the NLDS.)

People are going to argue that the play was not dirty, just Utley playing hard like they use to play.  First, it was a dirty play. Second, just because that is how they use to play the game does not mean it is the right way to play.  Utley was on top of second base when he began his“slide”.  Tejada was doing everything he could to protect himself by being behind the bag.  Turning a double play is dangerous for the shortstop or second baseman that has to make the turn.  Tejada used the bag as best he could to shield himself from a clean, hard slide, which was justified.  However, this is not happened.  Tejada had to have his back to Utley to receive the ball from Daniel Murphy, this places him in a compromised position.  As Utley is going in to break up the double play he begins his slide so late that he does not make contact with the ground as part of his slide  until he is past second base.  Beginning his slide so late meant Utley’s body was still high up, potentially too high for Tejada to avoid.  It looks almost like a football player being tackled after an unsuccessful attempt to hurdle the defender.  This is far too late for the play to be safe but hard.  Utley sliding in late with Tejada’s back to him as he begins to turn places the responsibility on Utley to not do anything stupid or dirty so that both players do not get hurt.  Apparently this was too much to ask of Chase Utley as he sees the play developing and goes into second base hard, late, and high.  Utley also goes in with his body wide.  Yes it does appear that he is trying to make contact with the base, in accordance with the rules.  However, “sliding” in wide, late, and high with Tejada’s back to him in this case meant the contact was guaranteed.  This is where a play turns both dirty and dangerous.  The best case scenario for Tejada to be violently flipped by Utley, and even then the play would have been dirty.  The reality though is much worse.  Tejada was defenseless and paid the price for Utley’s inability to understand that his attempt to break up the double play in this manner was foolish and dangerous.  Utley’s stupidity, regardless of intent, has resulted in Tejada having a broken leg and Utley receiving a knee to the head, likely a mild concussion or at least having his bell rung.  The Mets lose their starting shortstop and the Dodgers might lose a backup second baseman.  There was no need for Utley to take out Tejada.  It was a stupid play.

After the game ended with the Dodgers evening up the NLDS at one game each, MLB Network begins breaking down the game as a whole and debating whether the play was dirty or not.  Eric Byrnes adamantly argued that the play was hard, but not dirty, and that this is how players use to break up double plays.  (Brynes has since changed his opinion after seeing the replay more and doing further analysis, which I respect him for doing).  Brynes was a fun player to watch because he brought intensity, grit, and passion to the game everyday.  However, his initial reaction to this situation was wrong.  Just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it should continue to be done that way.  (Again Brynes has changed his opinion from his initial reaction, but that initial reaction is held by some people).  Plays like the one Tejada and Utley were involved in have the potential to end careers; severe concussions, destroyed knees, shattered legs.

A play like Ruben Tejada canot be much more defenseles than at this moment as Chase Utley begins is "slide". (www.businessinsider.com)

A play like Ruben Tejada canot be much more defenseles than at this moment as Chase Utley begins is “slide”. (www.businessinsider.com)

Change has never come easy to baseball.  Purist usually argue that changing the game in any way will negatively impact the game as a whole.  Slowly but surely baseball has changed, and usually for the better.  Baseball had always allowed for home plate collisions.  Talk to Buster Posey about his lost season or Ray Fosse about how his career was never the same.  Baseball had allowed the spitball.  Talk to Ray Chapman’s family and see how they felt about it after he was killed by the pitch.  Talk to the countless African-American players who were denied the ability to play in the Majors simply because of their skin color.  Baseball had not drug tested for steroids and other PEDs.  Talk to the families of Taylor Hooton and Rob Garibaldi who testified before Congress in the same hearing with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, and Jose Canseco.  Taylor was 17 and Rob was 24 when they committed suicide due to their steroid use.  Baseball is continuously changing.  Obviously some of the changes it has undergone are far more important and far reaching than others.  However, the notion that continuing to do something simply because it is the way it has always been done is absurd, especially if there is a different way to achieve the same end goal while reducing the danger to the players, to individuals who look up to the players, or to end injustice.

Chase Utley is not who usually comes to mind as being a dirty player, but what he did in Game 2 was a dirty play.  Trying to break up a double play during a playoff game is good, hard baseball.  However, what Utley did with his extremely late “slide” was to unnecessarily injure an opposing player and change the series.  There are only two times in baseball that it should ever look like one player is tackling another: when a fight has broken out and players are trying to restrain one another and when a team is celebrating a win and the team is chasing the player who got the game winning hit.  That is it.  Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada on a dirty “slide”.

Baseball changed its rules about spitballs and making the ball dirty after Ray Chapman was killed after being hit with a pitch. Some injuries can and should be avoided. (www.didthetribewinlastnight.com)

Baseball changed its rules about spitballs and making the ball dirty after Ray Chapman was killed after being hit with a pitch. Some injuries can and should be avoided. (www.didthetribewinlastnight.com)

If people who want to defend what Chase Utley want to talk about how his play is just how baseball is and should be played, then they also need to talk about something else.  Regardless if it is in the NLDS or next season there will be a purpose pitch delivered.  That is just how baseball is.  It could this year before Utley’s appeal is heard.  It could come next year when the two teams play each other.  Somewhere down the line a purpose pitch will be delivered by the Mets to the Dodgers expressing their anger at this dirty “slide” by Chase Utley.  Hopefully the batter on the receiving end of that pitch will be Utley himself and not one of his teammates.  Noone should not have to get hit by a pitch for this.  It was Utley’s stupidity, he should have to answer for it.  Baseball players have always dealt with this sort of thing themselves, and in this case Eric Brynes and others are correct that some things in baseball do not need to change.  This is how baseball has always policed itself, and this is how baseball should generally continue to police itself.  A player does something stupid, let him take the punishment for it.

Major League Baseball acted quickly to suspend Utley.  Too bad the suspension is not long enough.  He should be suspended for more than just two game, conveniently he would have missed the games in New York had he not appealed.  Two games is what you should get suspended for arguing for too long with an umpire about a bad call, not for taking out an opposing player.  Utley and the Dodgers should feel the pain he inflicted on the Mets.  Appealing his suspension is Utley’s right, but it would be shameful if it were to be reduced.  Those on Utley’s side are arguing that he has gone in to break up double plays like this before without receiving a suspension.  While this is true, it does not make it right.  Fortunately, Utley has not injured anyone seriously before.  Even Tejada has been on the receiving end of one of Utley’s “slides”, and he was able to walk away.  The “slide” during Game 2 was the most egregious of Utley’s questionable slides, and it clearly went from trying to break up the double play to taking out an opposing player.  Again we will never know what Utley’s intentions were when he went into second, but ultimately his intentions do not matter.  Utley made a boneheaded and dirty play.

At come pint Chase Utley will have to face the truth about what he has done, and it is going to be painful. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

At come pint Chase Utley will have to face the truth about what he has done, and it is going to be painful. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

There is nothing wrong with playing hard and trying to break up a double play, especially in the playoffs.  There is however a line between playing baseball hard and playing dirty.  Chase Utley flew over that line when he took out Ruben Tejada with his absurdly late slide during Game 2.  Go in hard, make the middle infielder jump to avoid you, make the throw to first a little more difficult and take some of the juice off the throw.  There is nothing wrong with this.  What is wrong is when you slide in late, wide, and high against a middle infielder who has his back turned toward you.  Ruben Tejada was trying to make a play.  He used second base to protect himself, but Chase Utley took him out with simply a dirty “slide” that resulted in a broken leg and the Mets losing Tejada for the rest of the playoffs.

The NLDS has been changed, and not for the better.  Instead of talking about the series being tied at a game each, all the talk is about the injury to Tejada and whether the analysis think the play was dirty.  This is not good for baseball.  Instead of celebrating the game and the playoffs we are arguing whether the play was dirty.  What a shame that a fairly ordinary play has turned into a season ending injury for one player and a debate about whether the play and player are dirty.  You were better than this Chase Utley, what changed?

DJ

Fantasy Creates More Reality

One of the biggest issues facing Major League Baseball is the regionalization of the sport.  Yankee fans watch Yankee games, Rockie fans watch Rockie games, and Twin fans what Twin games.  Fans tend to watch the game their team is playing.  This could be partly due to local television deals, which make it difficult to watch out of market games.  It could also be due to the nature of the sport.  Teams play almost every day during the season so keeping up with multiple teams at once can be daunting and time consuming.  I have my teams who I root for, my one primary team and a few backups who I cheer for unless they are playing my main team.  I keep an eye on the standings and can tell you which teams are good and which teams are starting their vacations early this year.  However I cannot tell you about every player and how good or bad they are playing this season or during their careers.  The sheer volume of games, combined with the regionalization of the sport, and the finite amount of time I have to spend looking at the sport each day prevents this from happening.

Despite all the forces working against me, there is something, which has expanded my view of the day-to-day happenings from around Major League Baseball.  Playing Fantasy Baseball has taught me a lot about daily baseball in a short amount of time.  The Fantasy Baseball League I play in, Infield Lies, makes you set a line up every day.  You start understanding how great a player is after you look every day to see how they did the previous day.  The competition of the league drives me to continually look for someone who is hot and can help me win the week or the season.  You start looking around and you see these phenomenal players who do not get national press on a regular basis, or at all.  These are not the Mike Trout’s or Andrew McCutchen’s of the world.  These are the versatile players like Martin Prado who can essentially play everywhere on the diamond.  You lock on to Prado, also known as Nitram Odarp, because he can fill so many gaps for you on your roster.  Then you start seeing his ability with his bat show up on the daily stat line, and then you start watching a few minutes of the game he is playing in with the Diamondbacks and now the Yankees.  Despite his not being on my fantasy team this year, I still follow him and will continue to do so because I “discovered” such a great player that I might otherwise have never known about.

Martin Prado can play everywhere on the field and has a good bat too. Teammates and fans love him for it. (www.onlineathens.com)

Martin Prado can play everywhere on the field and has a good bat too. Teammates and fans love him for it. (www.onlineathens.com)

Every year I hope to make the rest of the people who are in my league upset by finding that player who come out of nowhere to have a career year or to be a breakout star.  I am not always successful in this mission, but it does not mean that players other league members “discovered” do not interest me.  Trying to have more steals each week meant the “discovery” of the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon.  Prior to 2014, Gordon had average 60 games, 223 plate appearances, 27 runs scored, 22 stolen bases, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 12 walks, 11 RBI, a .256 batting average, a .301 On-base Percentage in parts of three seasons with Los Angeles.  In 2014, Gordon has his break out year.  He played in 148 games, had 650 plate appearances, scored 92 runs, stole 64 bases, had 24 doubles, 12 triples, walked 31 times, had 34 RBI, a .289 batting average, and a .326 On-Base Percentage.  Aside from the triples and stolen bases, which led all of baseball, Gordon could have gone unnoticed unless you are a fan of the Dodgers.

Looking to find the reliever that could put his team over the top in 2013, Jesse picked up Jason Grilli of the Pittsburgh Pirates after his hot start.  Prior to the 2013 season, Grilli had collected five saves, a 4.34 ERA, 1.413 WHIP, and a 1.96 Strikeout to Walk Ratio in 10 seasons.  The Pirates returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1992 and having a shutdown closer like Grilli helped them secure the Wild Card.  Grilli had an All Star season with 33 saves, a 2.40 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, and 5.69 Strikeout to Walk Ratio.  “Discovering” Grilli during his best season has led Jesse, John, and me to follow his career as it has moved forward.  I hope that Grilli has a few more good seasons, but if not we were able to appreciate his greatest season while it was in progress.

Charlie Blackmon, the local kid who we "discovered" when he got to the Major Leagues. (www.houston.cbslocal.com)

Charlie Blackmon, the local kid who we “discovered” when he got to the Major Leagues. (www.houston.cbslocal.com)

After learning that Charlie Blackmon went to one of the local high schools near his house, John did the dutiful thing and picked him up.  The 2014 season was Blackmon’s first full season in the Majors and it turned out an All Star year.  He hit .288, with 19 homeruns, 72 RBI, 28 steals, 82 runs scored, 27 doubles, 31 walks, and an On-Base Percentage of .335.  Not much in his stat line leaps out at you except for the steals.  However, digging a little deeper and you see that Blackmon had 171 hits in 648 plate appearances.  His batting average can be a bit deceptive, as it masks the success Blackmon had at the plate.  The simple connection that occurs, like growing up in the same area, can help you “discover” players that you might otherwise overlook.

I generally cheer for all players; if they make a great play it does not dissuade my excitement even if they are playing against my team.  There are exceptions though, mainly Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun both for their PED use and their lies about their PED usage.  I was at the game in Yankee Stadium against the San Francisco Giants when Rodriguez broke Lou Gehrig’s career Grand Slam record.  The entire stadium went nuts because it was a big home run in a big moment, but I knew what it meant and I just could not bring myself to cheer.  I felt the pit in my stomach, which only sadness can bring.  People did not understand the moment; they focused only on that single game.  This singular focus on winning also seems to exist within fantasy sports in general.  You are trying to win this week, so you are not so much concerned about next week or next year.  People who become overly obsessed with their fantasy sports begin to root against their team, because someone on the opposing team in on their fantasy team.  I have personally seen this and heard stories of this, which boggled my mind.  I root for my teams and this will not change.  I want the players to do well, but if I have to choose, I want the team I cheer for the win more than my fantasy team.

Rick Ankiel reached the top of the mountain twice. His journey is part of what makes baseball so great. (www.sports.yahoo.com)

Rick Ankiel reached the top of the mountain twice. His journey is part of what makes baseball so great. (www.sports.yahoo.com)

I understand that ultimately this allegiance to real life teams and players is in its own way a fantasy.  However, it is a fantasy that does not continuously change.  Once I begin cheering for a team or player, they have to do something terrible for me to stop, and I do not mean wins and losses.  My dislike for Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun is because they both cheated and then lied about cheating multiple times, not the uniform they wear.  Honesty goes a long way for me.  Even if a player like a Rick Ankiel, when he was still a pitcher, clearly can no longer play at a Major League level, I will not stop rooting for them so long as they are honest and give it their best effort.  Ultimately, every player deserves to be treated as a person, so why would I boo someone who is struggling, yet trying their best?

Fantasy Baseball has expanded the sport for me.  It has exposed me to a slew of great players, who I may otherwise have never seen or noticed.  Some see fantasy as a way to ruin the game, but for me Fantasy Baseball has made me a better fan of the entire game.  The improvements of teams like the Mets the past few years or a player like Casey McGehee, and his career year last season, allow me to love baseball more and to be a true fan of the game, not just or a few teams.  Fantasy Baseball is what you allow it to be, and for me it has allowed me to look into the game of baseball like never before.

D

Fighting the Good Fight

Josh Hamilton’s fight against his addiction has unfortunately become news again, but not for a good reason.  Hamilton has admitted he has suffered a relapse in his fight against his alcohol and cocaine addiction.  Every day is a battle to stay sober, and Hamilton unfortunately lost that battle for at least one day this off-season.  When he is winning his battle against his addiction, Hamilton has the ability to be one of the best hitters in the world.  However, this latest relapse reminds us all of how unimportant baseball is in terms of leading a heathy and productive life.

When I first heard Hamilton had relapsed, I did not think of what it meant for him or the Angels on the field, rather I was simply sad for the man.  I do not fully understand the power of addiction to substances like alcohol and cocaine.  I do not have to fight those demons.  We all have our own struggles to wrestle with, often on a daily basis.  The last thing I would do is judge Hamilton for the ongoing battle he is going through.  Everyone is far from perfect, so all those who are casting aspersions on him should take the time to look within their own lives to recognize their own faults.  It is easy to sit behind a keyboard and teardown a man for losing his fight against his addiction.  However, would it not be better for Hamilton and society if instead these same people offered their support and encouragement to him?

The man is more important that the ball player. (www.shoutitforlife.com)

The man is more important that the ball player. (www.shoutitforlife.com)

Hamilton has already lost so much to his fight against his addiction.  He was suspended from all baseball for three years due to multiple failed drug tests.  He has fought to stay sober and to resurrect his career.  I believe Hamilton has the power to stay sober, but the constant fight to do just that has worn on him, as it would everyone.  It only takes a moment to give into that urge and revert to those demons that have been kept in check for years.  Unfortunately, for at least one day and one moment, Hamilton was unable to summon the strength to fight his addiction.

Addiction is a disease.  The desire to regain the high, whether it is drug inducted or gambling or some other addiction has the power to make rational people do something, which they know is not beneficial to them.  Addictions are powerful and do not go away.  The urge to fulfill that addiction will always be there, whether you have been sober a day, a year, or 30 years.  It only takes a moment for all the hard work to go away and to have to start over.  I do not look down upon people who are fighting addictions.  We all have our own personal battle to fight, some more destructive than others.  It has taken an extraordinary amount of strength and courage for Hamilton to speak publicly about his fight with addiction.  Speaking public has meant showing the world the worst part of his private life and letting people know that he has been vulnerable in ways many of us are not even willing to share with those closest to us.

I do not care about Josh Hamilton the baseball player.  I do not care if he ever steps on a baseball field ever again.  I care about Josh Hamilton the man.  I care about all those Josh Hamilton’s that do not have the gift to hit a baseball with a bat better than 99.99% of the world.  Hamilton has become the face of addiction and recovery in baseball, and most likely beyond.  He has shown that having millions of dollars does not change how they fight addiction.  Everyone fights their addiction one day, one hour, one moment at a time.  Hamilton has a family who need him, they need their husband and their dad to be there for them and they want him there to walk with them through this life.  Hamilton has fallen down, but I hope he gets back up and starts again and keeps fighting for his sobriety and his life one day, one hour, one moment at a time.  For all the Josh Hamilton’s out there, keep up the fight, you can make it.  You may not be perfect, but neither is anyone else.  Keep fighting the good fight.

D

The Men in Blue are Human

Fans cheer for players when they get a hit or make a good play.  Fans boo umpires when they make bad calls.  This is just a fact in baseball.  Any umpire will tell you they do not want to be noticed; because if they are being noticed it means they missed a call.  Umpires and players are human.  This can get lost in the heat of competition.  Every team has calls go against them, and teams also get calls that go their way.  Ultimately baseball is a sport played and umpired by imperfect people.

Last week, Phillies closer Jonathon Papelbon had a meltdown on and off the mound.  On the mound, Papelbon blew a 4-1 Phillies lead in the 9th inning.  He gave up four runs on four hits, a walk, and a wild pitch against the Marlins.  After the final out of the inning, and with the Phillies now trailing 5-4, Papelbon heard it from the Philly faithful.  He responded in a less than professional manner by grabbing his gentleman’s region as he approached the dugout.  Soon thereafter, Umpiring Crew Chief Joe West ejected Papelbon from the game for his less than becoming behavior.  The ensuing argument was heated with Papelbon refusing to allow West to walk away.  West eventually pulled Papelbon out of this way, which did nothing to lessen Papelbon’s anger.  Most fans love the in your face arguments which were more or less a staple in baseball prior to replay.  Papelbon vs. West could have been a classic had it been about a missed call and not for the disgusting actions of Papelbon towards the Phillies fans.

Joe West encourages Jonathon Papelbon to leave the field after his ejection. (abcnews.go.com)

Joe West encourages Jonathon Papelbon to leave the field after his ejection. (abcnews.go.com)

While players and umpires should never touch one another, in this case I agree with West’s action, as he was trying to remove the trash from the field.  Papelbon’s actions were reprehensible and his seven game suspension could have easily been much longer, and could cost him millions, West did receive a one game suspension, which I believe was justified, but the message was sent to players like Papelbon; if you want to behave in such an unprofessional and profane manner you will be treated like the fool you are.

Seemingly on the other end of the spectrum from Jonathon Papelbon and Joe West you will find Tim Welke and Bryce Harper.  In Philadelphia, you had an umpire standing up for the fans against a player, in Atlanta you had an umpire standing up against a fan for a player.  The obscenity-spewing fan let Harper have it in the 6th inning of Washington’s Division clinching game last Tuesday in Atlanta.  Home plate Umpire Tim Welke decided the fan should beat traffic and ejected him from the game.  It is not often you see an umpire eject someone not on the field, but it can and does happen.  Just ask Daytona Cubs Organist Derek Dyer what happened when he played 3 Blind Mice after a close play.  Welke stood up from Harper, and all other players who hear it from fans on a nightly basis.  Fans are not untouchable, they have to behave like adults or they will lose the privilege of watching the game in the stadium.  Love him or hate him Harper should be treated like a human being.

Tim Welke isn't afraid to eject you, the fan. (bigstory.ap.org)

Tim Welke isn’t afraid to eject you, the fan. (bigstory.ap.org)

Joe West and Tim Welke brought the human aspect of baseball back into focus last week.  West stood up to a player who clearly views the paying fans as something that does not deserve respect.  When Papelbon continued his antics after his ejection, West showed him as much respect as Papelbon had shown to the crowd.  Welke took the opposite approach.  He took action against a fan who viewed Bryce Harper as something to be harassed and degraded.  Welke stood up for a player and another person when the fan lost touch with reality and aimed his venom at what he presumed was something less than human.  Umpires do not do their job for the accolades.  They generally do not want to be seen, as it often means they were unsuccessful in getting a call right.  However in both the case of Joe West and Tim Welke they were noticed for all the right reason.  Both of these men in blue restored the human aspect of baseball when a player and a fan sought to degrade the other into something less than human.

D