Masahiro Tanaka and Billy Joel might get along well…

I say this because both Masahiro Tanaka and Billy Joel seem to be in a New York state of mind.

            As reported this morning, Tanaka has signed a seven-year deal with the New York Yankees for $155 million, and this included an opt-out after four years. And yes, that is an insane amount of money, and yes, it is record-breaking. He is now the holder of the fifth-largest contract offered to a pitcher, putting him behind Cy Young winners and proven pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.

            No one is really surprised that Tanaka signed with New York, although some may still be a bit surprised at the amount of money. The number of years should be no surprise, but the amount of money might trip people up. After all, this is a guy who has never pitched in the MLB. Yeah, he dominated the Japanese League, but MLB is a different animal. Can he live up to the pressure? I think so. If he didn’t think he could, he wouldn’t have chosen to go to New York, where the spotlight is brightest.

            There are other teams who needed Tanaka. The Cubs and D-Backs expressed strong interest, but the feeling was not mutual. Don’t get me wrong, I love the D-Backs and I respect the crap out of the Cubs, but I don’t know many pitchers who would wake up one day and say to themselves, “Gee, coming into the majors for the first time sounds like fun! I think I’ll go to Arizona or to a team who hasn’t won a championship in decades.” The New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers would have been the most logical choices, and as a resident of Arizona, I am quite happy Tanaka chose not to go LA.

            The Yankees are back to being the Yankees. No longer worrying about staying under their $189 million goal, they have acquired some serious talent this offseason. Like, $438 million worth of talent. They need the offense they got in Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann. They need the pitching they should be getting in Masahiro Tanaka. They are probably not done, though, since I believe they need to add to the bullpen and possibly fortify their infield. So hey, since they are over their self-imposed salary cap, they might as well keep going. You might as well.

            Now that Tanaka is off the market, the remaining pitchers on the market will be swept up relatively quickly. There is no more limbo to sit through, and that is a very good thing. With Spring Training just around the corner, it will be good for the remaining free agents to settle into their new teams.

            I gotta say, it is going to be fun to see Tanaka settle into his new team and new role. I mean, the Yankees are generally always fun to watch, but with all of the off-season signings I feel like the fans have extra incentive to watch the games. The Yankees needed Tanaka and they got him. Let’s just hope that he will live up to expectations. 

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162 Games

162 games.

     162 games. I can safely say that I am surprised by this verdict of suspending Alex Rodriguez for a whole season. As I have said before, I lean slightly Team A-Rod, so I guess I am biased against this, but there are so many questions I still have:

 

     Question #1: Why can’t we see the evidence used in the hearing and why isn’t the arbitrator forced to show it? Whenever the Supreme Court hands down a ruling, they must present a written-out verdict, explaining why they ruled a certain way. I want to see exactly what the arbitrator saw, just so I can have some clarity on the matter. I want to see what evidence he saw. If we had more information, maybe the suspension would seem more reasonable, but for what it’s worth, given the evidence we as a public have received, 162 games seems a bit excessive. This process probably was never meant to be transparent, but I think it would be good if it were, at least a little more.

     Question #2: Why didn’t Bud Selig testify at the trial? We, as a country, have granted defendants the right to face their accuser. A-Rod did not get this. He was right to be upset and even said himself that he wanted to face the man who was trying to further run his career into the ground (more so than A-Rod has already done to himself).  If you are going to hand down a much larger suspension to one player than all of the other players, I think you need to get up there and explain this. If Selig was forced to testify, A-Rod should testify, too.

     Question #3: What are the Yankees going to now? There are still a lot of loose ends here. Obviously, they will have quite a chunk of money to spend, to go after players that will produce more and make them a much stronger team to go all-in on Tanaka. The off-season has been good to New York and they have signed a bunch of great offensive talent, all of whom would probably produce more than A-Rod. New York is coming out of this in a relatively scoff-free manor. The Yankees are probably pleased with the verdict, as they should be. With A-Rod still fighting a legal fight, they will be in limbo for a while, but now they have more flexibility. But remember, he is under contract through 2017.

     Question #4: Why wasn’t there such a “witch hunt” when people like Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire were playing? I have no answer to this one, but it troubles me to see MLB glance over this era and then come down so hard on a single player. Because they didn’t do anything about the PED issue then, why on earth are they doing something now? Bonds and McGuire filled seats and McGuire and Sosa’s epic homerun battle entranced everyone. Was that why nothing was done? I dunno. I honestly have no idea what the logic behind all of this is, but I do know that something is very wrong.

     Question #5: Why was A-Rod specifically targeted? Again, I have no idea. Unless I can see the documents that were specifically in the hearing, I don’t think anyone ever will. It’s not fair to A-Rod to be targeted in such a way.

     Question #6: What should A-Rod do now? Well, he says he will keep fighting. His chances of succeeding in a federal court are slim to none, at best. Would he fare better in front of a jury? It’s anyone’s guess. Should he gamble on it? Should he just accept his suspension? It’s all a mess. A big, big mess. No one can sort it out except for him. Will it be worth it to spend millions of his own money to fight this? I wouldn’t, but I’m not Alex Rodriguez. He no longer has the Union behind him, but I highly doubt that will stop him.

     Question #7: What’s his legacy? Beats the hell out of me. We cannot discount all the amazing feats he accomplished. If we still hold Bonds’ records in account, we cannot just throw away A-Rod’s. Will he be in the Hall of Fame? Probably not. Should he be? I’m not sure. His skill is incomparable, or at least, was incomparable.

 

     So, if A-Rod cheated, he should be punished, no question. But with no documents released confirming that he did, I’m stuck. It’s widely known that he did not test positive for PEDs. Let’s face it: this whole thing a mess. MLB is saying one thing, players are saying one thing, writers are saying thing, the fans are saying one thing, and A-Rod is saying one thing. It’s a crazy, crazy mess and I have a feeling it won’t be sorted out any time soon. I can’t say what the next moves should be, but I will say that I truly believe he was unfairly targeted and made out to be an example. I hope I see him in pinstripes this year, but it’s starting to look like that’s just not going to happen. I am accepting that and looking to the future, but it’s hard to say if A-Rod will do the same.

     I’m not going to sit here and say A-Rod is not guilty in any of this. It’s clear he has made some bad choices in this whole ordeal, but someone has to play devil’s advocate here. I’ll play devil’s advocate because I am not convinced justice has been done. MLB is guilty. A-Rod is probably guilty of something. There are really no winners here, except MLB’s drug eradication program. 

RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

http://espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/story/_/id/10270220/alex-rodriguez-discussed-accepting-lesser-suspension-source-says

Alright, alright. I gotta get this off my chest: Hi, my name is Hannah and I am Team A-Rod.

Yep. You read that right.

Look, I get that he may not be the most likable guy and it is possible he cheated the game. If he did, he should be suspended, no question. But, is it odd to anyone else that he specifically has been targeted by MLB? Isn’t it odd that Bug Selig was never asked to testify in A-Rod’s trial, considering he basically used the “just because” clause when bringing down the 211 game suspension? And isn’t it odd that nothing like this was happening years ago when the likes of Barry Bonds and other juicers were filling the seats in stadiums across the country?

I’m not going to pretend I know everything about this trial, but there are a lot of things I don’t agree with. But, if A-Rod can agree to a shorter suspension instead of gambling for a not-guaranteed win, I think he should, not that he has the leverage to do that. If he gets less than 100 games, he has some thinking to do. If he has more, well, he won’t go down without another fight.

The tale of Puig and the Disappointed Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are “very disappointed” in Yasiel Puig and so am I.

            Now, before I get into my whole deal here, let me preface this by saying that I am amazed by how talented Puig is. When he burst into the Majors last season, he took the baseball world by storm, and rightly so: though polarizing, Puig is an undeniable wealth of talent. The kid is amazing. I also really admire the charitable work he does off the field for kids, volunteering his time to coach them and visit them in the hospital. It is obvious that he really does care about these children and I think that is wonderful.

            However, I still do not care for him. As a resident of Arizona, I have taken special interest in crossing my fingers that he will strike out every time he is at bat (which, frankly, was not far-fetched most of the time).  But I do not dislike him because of his insanely mad skills. In fact, I have the utmost respect for his mad skills. I just don’t care for his attitude, which is a lot more important to me than overall talent.

            When Puig was arrested for the second time this past week for reckless driving, I was not all that surprised. My Dad and I have been saying for about six months now that this kid is out of control. Keep in mind that he is acting like a 23-year-old boy, but that is not what makes him out of control. Pretty much every 23-year-old I have ever met has made a lot of stupid choices. It’s kind of a right of passage when you are in your early twenties. What makes him out of control is my mind is his aggression and his seeming lack of caring about how people see him.

            During the 2013 season, we all got to witness firsthand how Puig could either win a game for LA or make a stupid move that results in a loss. He aggression is dangerous for the Dodgers, even though that aggression helped them get as far as they went in 2013. Watching the benches-clearing brawl between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks back in June proved my point. Not only was he an aggressor, but also he was more out of control than anyone in the fight.  The way he stares down umpires after not agreeing with a called strike. The way he grossly over-throws from the outfield. The way his cockiness rubs too many people the wrong way. I think it’s great that he plays with so much zest, but his zest quickly turns into something potentially dangerous for the Dodgers.

            After the second arrest, the Dodgers issued a statement saying that they were disappointed in his choices and that they would work with him to further develop his growth on and off the field.  They have their work cut of them. Some days, I wonder if Puig even cares. He doesn’t have to, but my deal is this: he is a pro athlete and there are so many kids who look up to him. As a public figure, he has an unfair amount of pressure put on him to be a good role model and I understand that sometimes, you can’t live up to that. However, he is making conscious decisions that adversely affect how people view him. His choices are just that: choices. They are not a series of accidents or actions with complete lack of forethought. After all, he chose to drive 110mph in a 70mph zone.

            I personally would love to see him continue to do well in the Majors. He brings something to the table that I haven’t seen in a loooooooooong time. However, he needs to be brought down a few notches. He needs to look at himself in the mirror and remember that he has people and children looking up to him as a role model. I mean, can he look into the eyes of a ten-year-old fan and try to explain the mug shot this kid just saw? I don’t expect Puig to make any significant changes overnight, but I think it is something he needs to look at more closely. He needs to reassure that little kid who wears his name on a t-shirt that he won’t get thrown in a jail. Heck, he needs to convince this twenty-something author of that, too. 

RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/12/baseball-hall-of-fame-steroids-bonds-clemens-piazza-bagwell/

I don’t know about you, but I am not 100% sold on letting people who have been strongly linked to steroids or have actually used steroids into the Hall of Fame. BUT, you have to make a case for some of the best ballplayers of my generation. I mean, if you can have wife-beaters, drunks, and all-around terrible people in the Hall, who says PED users are any worse? While I’m still not convinced, this is an interesting article that makes some good points. 

A Nationals Enquirer

Here’s the deal: I think the Washington Nationals may very well be the best team in the NL East and probably one of the best teams in the entire National League. The Nats have made some great off-season moves and I gotta say, I am quite impressed.

First of all, hiring Matt Williams as the manager was a great move. I grew up in Arizona, so I watched him as a ballplayer and third base coach for over ten years. The man clearly knows baseball, and not only that, but he knows how to play the game the right way. He always played with class and made sure the players he coached did the same. He’s probably going to be aggressive, but I think that will be a good thing. And let’s not forget that he has one of the best pitching staffs in the majors. I think Williams will do a great job as manager.

Second of all, they have a dope rotation. Trading for Doug Fister was a very smart move and I can safely say I would not want to face anyone on their pitching staff. They have a few guys on reserve for the fifth spot, but in all honesty, I would not worry too much about that right now.

The Nats don’t have a whole lot of holes to fill, with the exception of an everyday second baseman and probably a solid back-up catcher. Of the two men battling for second base, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa, I would bet on Rendon, if only because Espinosa had a dreadful year last year. The back-up catcher is so up in the air at this point that it is probably not going to get cleared up until later in the offseason, at least in my opinion.

In order to be successful, the Nats also need Bryce Harper to stay healthy. He will go into Spring Training around 99.99% healthy and I sure hope he can stay that way! He plays hard and really goes after it, which is one of the reasons he is such a bright, young star, but he really needs to be careful! Bryce, if you’re reading this (probably not), PLEASE pay attention to where the warning track is. It’s there for a reason.

I had the chance to see the Nationals play last year and it was a fun game to watch. Well, sad for me because my team lost, but boy do those Nationals play some good baseball. I was impressed with how hard they tried and how they took advantage of every opportunity. Last season, they were the preseason favorite to win the NL East and it was kind of disappointing to see them not live up to the hype. They are a solid team with talent to spare. I would be very surprised if they did not win the NL East.

Of course, we will have to see how the other teams fare, but I would put some money on the Nats. Not a lot of money, but that’s only because I am in college. The Nats will be bomb, so long as Bryce Harper stops running into walls and they don’t get plagued with injuries.

So, you know, try really hard to not run into walls.  And take your vitamins. Drink your milk. Do whatever to stay healthy.

Here’s an article about the Nats and a brief look at some of their postseason moves:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/washington-nationals-enter-2014-with-new-skipper-matt-williams?content_id=66204572&partnerId=as_mlb_20131227_16331454&vkey=news_mlb&ymd=20131226

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http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/tampa-bay-rays-trade-market-david-price-prospects-or-proven-talent-121913

With trade talks still going on in regards to David Price, the picture is starting to look messier and messier for the Rays. If they trade him, would they still be as good? Given how challenging the AL East division is, they can’t take any chances. Could they get better players or prospects? Should they wait until next year? It’s all up in the air and it looks to me like this won’t be settling down anytime soon…