Sunday, May 01, 2005The Semi-Hot Corner (# 2)
First and foremost, I'll plug my last two columns, which are both baseball related.
Here I am mocking George Steinbrenner for his rant two weeks ago, which has basically led the Yankees to playing .500 ball as compared to .375 ball. The problem is they are still four games under .500. [Link]
And here I am ripping Curt Schilling for being a moron and basically not having a clue about anything, specifically his incident with Lou Piniella. [Link]
That's a simple enough title. Bud Selig made one of his rare smart moves yesterday, he announced plans for a serious upgrade to the steroid-testing program and then put the complete responsibility of it pass on the players.
The upgrade, sort of a three strikes and your out policy, will impose a 50-game ban for a first-time offender, 100-game bad for a second-time offender and a lifetime ban for a third-time offender. It also includes the banning of all amphetamines, more frequent random testing and all testing will be done by an independent third-party group.
Now some insiders seem to think amphetamines -- or greenies -- seem to be the real problem. They are already banned at the minor-league level and they aren't really being tested for correctly at the major league level.
The inclusion of a third-party testing group is Selig's acknowledgement that the public doesn't trust baseball to do this correctly. An acknowledgement that's become clearer with the fact that the four players who have been tagged under this policy were met with cynical applause since all four are from small markets and three were minor league players.
Jon Heyman of the Newsday thinks the players are cornered and need to concede [Link]. But not surprisingly many of the players have come out and claimed Selig is grandstanding and his proposals aren't fair.
Tom Glavine, an elder statesmen for the union, is clearly on the fence. [NY Times]
"I have no problem with a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy, but I'm not going to say 50 games is the right number. But that aspect of the agreement is an area we could look at and make a lot tougher."
He added: "Guys are serious about cleaning it up, and most of us think if you leave the program alone it is going to work, but other people obviously don't believe that. We're not going to dismiss this proposal out of hand; we're going to work at it."
Former Met and Dodgers catcher Jason Phillips is clearly against this policy in its current language.
"Put me on the record as saying that's ridiculous - I mean, until they come up with a list of banned substances," he told The Associated Press. "They still don't know what you can buy over the counter and what you can't buy."
But not all players are against this. Take current Dodger Jeff Kent for example and here's what he told the Houston Chronicle [link]
"I'm disappointed with Major League Baseball and the (players) association for not implementing a plan that is completely solid. We need to prove to the fans that there's no question baseball should be clean and is clean, and we're not sending the right message with this policy. We're
continuing to beat around the bush.
"Major League Baseball should set a higher standard, like the Olympic athletes. We are the best of the best. Why shouldn't we be accountable for things? I think we should."
Well...and god I never thought I'd say this...but there need to be more players like Jeff Kent out there....Yikes.
The players are expected to respond in a few days. There are more related stories here [LA Times], here [Boston Globe] and here [Denver Post].
Dontrelle Willis is 5-0 and he's quickly becoming the ace of the strong, young Florida Marlins staff. Willis seems much more comfortable on the mound this year as compared to last year, when he was messing around with his timing.
His stuff is borderline nasty. I'm willing to say it's better than what Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett have in their arsenal. He's also able to disguse his velocity on his fastball and change speeds on his other pitches very effectively.
Willis is now 8-0 in the month of April.
Kevin Baxter of the Miami Herald explains Willis' success further [link]
Yanks in April
This is also not worth talking about but I'll give five reasons why the Yankees (lack of) success in April could be a sign of the times.
-- Starting Rotation: Randy Johnson is still very tough but he's hittable, Carl Pavano should be solid. Jaret Wright isn't a good signing. He had one good season under Leo Mazzone, the best pitching coach in the league and he's got injury problems (he's current out for 4-6 weeks). Mike Mussina doesn't strike fear in any of the AL hitters and Kevin Brown's injury history has finally caught up with him.
What's even worse is that Johnson, Mussina and Brown are completely untradable with their salaries and no one will take a flyer on Wright given his injury history and a guarantee of over 8 million dollars in 2007. I expect Pavano to gradually become the Yankees ace and he's only a little better than .500 for his career.
-- The Baltimore Orioles: The Yankees (and the Red Sox) used be able to write in 45-50 freebies thanks to the futility of the Orioles, Blue Jays and the Devil Rays. Well the Orioles decided to open up the pocketbook in the last two seasons and no one can write off a lineup with Sammy Sosa and Miguel Tejada in it. The Orioles aren't going anywhere.
-- Aging All-Stars: Jorge Posada is no longer the best catcher in the AL. Jason Giambi isn't the same threat from the plate he was three years ago. Bernie Williams has lost several steps in the outfield.
Right now the Yankees could be forced into paying big money to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield because the power surge on that team has declined considerably in the last two years. A-Rod is still excellent, Jeter will always get on base but this lineup 1-through-9 isn't as daunting as it was a year ago.
-- Bad Trades: Only the Yankees trade the second baseman of the future for an out-of-position third baseman and an extra $15-20 million in salary. Read the list of prosects they've given up for the A-Rods and Javier Vasquezs and Randy Johnsons. Many of these guys were only B+ prospects but now the Yankees farm system has C and D prospects. And like I said earlier, the salaries are so high that it's going to be tough to trade for prospects. Who's going to give up a top prospect for Bernie Williams? Or Mike Mussina?
-- Defense: The corner outfield spots are great. Bernie Williams has lost several steps in center and his arm has never been that good. A-Rod has made several, game-changing mistakes at third, Jeter is vastly underrated but still not a great shortstop. Jason Giambi is absolute garbage at first base to the point of where Tino Martinez has to play even through slumps. Posada is still an excellent catcher but the years of wear and tear are starting to accumulate.