Cheap Pirates Benching Freddy Sanchez Because they Don’t Want to Pay Bonus?

Stop me if you’ve heard something like that before. It’s pretty well known that the Pirates are one of the more frugal teams in baseball. They haven’t had a winning season since the days Barry Bonds’ waist was wider than his head and they’re perpetually in rebuilding mode. They do have a few good ballplayers on the team, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, a former batting champ, being one of them. Sanchez is hitting .323 with a league-leading 14 doubles and he’s been Pittsburgh’s best hitter this year. Given that information, you would figure the team would keep his bat in the lineup on a daily basis — you know, if you’re trying to win and all. Apparently that’s not the top priority for the Pirates who held him out of the lineup twice in the past week.

The Pirates did not bench second baseman Freddy Sanchez twice last week to hold down his plate appearances and keep him from triggering an $8.5 million vesting option for 2010, team president Frank Coonelly said last night.

“I am very surprised and, quite frankly, offended that anyone would suggest that, in the middle of our worst slump in his tenure as a major league manager, John Russell would do anything other than put out the lineup he believes gives us the best chance to win the most baseball games,” Coonelly said, referring to the eight-game losing streak the Pirates carried into last night. “A player’s contractual clause has no bearing on J.R.’s lineup or player usage.”

Sanchez needs 635 plate appearances or 600 plate appearances if he makes the All-Star team to guarantee the option year. The two days he sat in the past week were against right-handed pitchers Todd Wellemeyer and Livan Hernandez — none of whom would put the fear of god in you. When I went back and thought about this story again, I realized that Freddy’s played his entire career in Pittsburgh. It clicked with me that he must be telling them to bench him so he’s not forced to play for the Pirates next year. That has to be it!

Mike Lowell Sees the Steroids Cloud in Baseball the Right Way

I heard lots of player/manager reaction to the Manny Ramirez steroids bomb that got dropped Thursday morning. Some guys have the typical accomplice-type mentality saying that we should wait to see how the facts play out. Some guys have the typical head-in-the-sand mentality saying we should just move on and talk about the game/wins and losses. There are very few who had what in my opinion would be the proper reaction. As I saw in a clip on ESPN, Jake Peavy was glad it happened because it shows MLB isn’t playing favorites. He’s pissed because he’s a pitcher that has to face the roided up monsters (if he’s not one himself), and he likes seeing guys get punished when they’re caught. The best reaction from a player that I’ve seen so far is Mike Lowell who really seems to understand why it’s necessary to get rid of steroids. As he said to NESN:

This is very negative for our sport. It just seems like kids that are trying to become major league baseball players — the list of who they might look up to or want to be like is getting smaller and smaller and I think that’s very unfortunate.

I just don’t understand why, especially now, [considering] that everyone is being tested. It’s proven if anything that our tests are legit, even people that might be trying to escape it. I think we can at least take some satisfaction in the people that are testing clean in today’s day are doing it right. Anyone who’s not is getting caught.

The guys who say you should give the benefit of the doubt to Manny and wait and see how things play out are those who are probably using too. I’m not as convinced as Lowell that the testing is completely legit because I would expect more people to be caught. I do appreciate his point about players being clean so they can look at themselves in the mirror and so kids can look up to them. The only way to truly please me at this point is to institute harsher penalties for violators. Two years for a first-time positive test. Lifetime ban for a second. Now who would risk their career with that on the line? You’d be playing with fire. That’s the only thing that would help reinvigorate my enthusiasm as a fan because right now I don’t enjoy what I see happen on the field. There are still too many questions about what I’m watching to get excited.

Manny Gets What He Had Coming

There are so many angles to this story it’s hard to know where to begin. It would be naive, and stupid, to believe that Manny Ramirez is the only guy in the bigs still using something. Only difference right now is that Manny was dumb enough to get caught. This is probably karma for Manny loafing his way in Boston and hatching the scheme to get traded away; the biggest sin in baseball is disrespecting the game and now he has to pay. Speaking of paying, does anyone luck out for this more than Frank McCourt? The cheap muther not only will still get to the playoffs with a division title, but he gets to dodge paying Manny almost $8 million. And all the ticket sales have already been made. Perfect scenario for Franky? I’d say so. OK, let’s take this a few steps further.

Joe Torre says this doesn’t diminish any of Manny’s accomplishments. I say it does. How are we supposed to know how long Manny’s been using? For all we know it could have been his entire career — the numbers have always been there, right? If not, his ’07 year with Boston might be a good jumping off point. By then he was 35 and not hitting the way he always had. As a result, did he start juicing last year as part of a tag-team effort with Boras to get the new contract and score one last big pay day? I think it’s entirely possible.

Now it appears as if pushing the traveling secretary in Boston last year could have been a roid-raging moment. What about showing up to spring training so late even though the Dodgers were willing to strike a similar deal weeks before Manny signed? Was it so he could avoid extra drug testing rather than extra workouts? Me thinks this is definitely the case. And how about the extra baggy uniform he just started wearing recently? This also became a trend in MLB the past few years. Something tells me one sharp player decided to do it so that all the new muscles added by roids would be obscured and it became a trend — for juicers. I think it definitely worked. When was the last time you heard someone say Manny had the body type of a roider? Never.

Lastly, about the possible mistake here and blaming things on a physician, there’s no doubt that Manny knew exactly what he was doing. If he really needed the hCG for fertility or health purposes, he would have received a medical exemption ahead of time. And needless to say, he would have fought the suspension kicking and screaming if he were innocent. And the argument that he’s passed around 15 drug tests in the past means nothing. Except to say that this is the first time his “physician” didn’t properly mask it. Nice going, Manny. Don’t worry, all of LA will still love you. Sadly.

LBS Baseball Tickets Giveaway from Carl’s Jr. Orange Cream Shake

To anyone who reads and/or contributes to the site by telling friends, visiting it, commenting, or passing along tips, your patronage is extremely appreciated. You’re what keeps me going here every day. Sometimes I like to try and give a thank you by running contests where the winner receives prize pack giveaways. And now thanks to Carl’s Jr. and their new Orange Cream Shake, I can hook one lucky reader up. Here’s the deal: Carl’s Jr. is going to give one of you coupons for the Orange Cream Shake, a beer cozy, four tickets to either the Angels or Dodgers, a corresponding bobblehead doll, and a Flip Video Ultra F260 Orange 60-Minute Digital Camcorder. Sounds pretty sweet to me.

As you can tell, the prize-pack is somewhat LA-centric, so to that end, the contest is targeted more towards the LA audience. The Dodgers have tied a major league record for the longest home winning streak to start a season by going 12-0. Here’s how the contest is going to (sadly) work: tell me (in the comments) when you think the streak is going to end and how many total runs will be scored in the game. Whoever gets closest wins the prize pack. Better act fast because the streak could end at any point during this homestand. And don’t forget to visit your local Carl’s Jr. to try out an Orange Cream Shake!

Video: Carl Crawford’s Six Stolen Bases, Brad Penny Thinks it Was Bush League

It’s hard to know where exactly you should point the finger when a guy ties a record by stealing six bases in a game. Do you point it at Carl Crawford, saying he was just feeling it and on fire? Do you point it at the pitchers for being too slow in their delivery to home plate? Do you blame it on Jason Varitek because Crawford stole bases on three different pitchers but only one catcher? Terry Francona says you need to give credit to Crawford: “We had (Brad) Penny at 1.28 (seconds to the plate), and Jason at 1.9 (seconds on his release and throw). We can’t go faster than that. (Crawford) outran it. At the moment, to throw him out, you about have to be perfect.” Varitek had a shot to throw out Crawford in the first but made an errant throw. He’s now 3 of 29 on the season. Yikes. So what did captain bitter, Brad Penny, have to say after the game? Just what you’d expect (talking specifically about Crawford’s steal of third in the 5th):

Who cares you know, they’re two outs — why even steal there? We’re not holding him on — we’re giving him the bag. If you steal second like that it’s not considered a stolen base.

Penny sort of does have a point there and maybe Crawford should have only been given credit for five instead of six stolen bases. Still, by focusing on that instead of simply complimenting Crawford for the good game, Penny proved himself to be a jerk like usual. Can’t imagine that 7.61 ERA has anything to do with his attitude. In case you haven’t seen the Crawford steals, here they are:

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Rays Reliever Joe Nelson Is a Trekkie, Uses Vulcan-Grip Changeup

When Joe Nelson was in the minors, his agent supposedly told him that if he ever made it to the majors he’d be a marketer’s dream (wasn’t Happy Gilmore told the same thing?). While Nelson’s been in the majors previously in his career, it took some success for him to finally get some notice. Nelson has a 2.38 ERA in 10 appearances this year with the Rays, and he put together an impressive season last year with the Marlins, allowing just 12 earned runs in 54 innings. Thanks to that success, the Star Trek story could finally be told. His college coach said he needed some sort of split-finger pitch so …

Nelson one day moved the ball to between his middle and ring fingers — “I just jammed it in there one day” — and it worked. He began throwing it regularly at the University of San Francisco and never stopped.

Then, of course, he had to decide what to call it. “Old enough” at 34 to have watched Star Trek TV show reruns in addition to several of the movies, he figured that was the way to go.

Well, it has worked out nicely so far. Now it should be up to that agent to get him in on some advertising deals or guest appearances. I think the Rays should capitalize with a Joe Nelson Star Trek night. Maybe free admission for all those rocking the Spock cut.

(via Fark)

Alex Rodriguez Likely Has Been Using Steroids Since High School

You knew it was only a matter of time before Alex Rodriguez got his name back in the news — and not because of his recovery from hip surgery. Selena Roberts’ book on A-Rod is set to be released in the near future, so to drum up some interest she’s leaked a few juicy details to the New York Daily News. One of the details is that A-Rod’s Yankee teammates nicknamed him “bitch tits” because that’s what he developed in ’05 (likely because of steroids use). The most important detail, the one I knew was going to come out before long, absolutely destroys A-Rod’s P.R. strategy for managing his positive steroids test from ’03. While A-Rod tried to say he only used while with the Rangers from ’01-’03, the book says he’s full of crap:

[Jose] Canseco said he believes Rodriguez’s steroid use goes back to his teens, when he was a high school standout in Miami.

“Was he on steroids in high school?” he said. “I think probably so. I worked out with him when he was 18. He could lift almost as much as I could.”

Rodriguez put on 25 pounds of muscle between his sophomore and junior years, and word was that his connection was a dog kennel owner. A former high school teammate told Roberts the future No.1 MLB draft pick was on steroids and his coach knew it. Another student said the son of coach Rich Hofman admitted he saw Rodriguez use steroids.

As for the people who aren’t bothered by steroids use, there’s an allegation that A-Rod tipped pitches to opponents, hoping they’d do the same for him when he really needed a hit to pad his stats. Classic A-Rod — caring more about his stats than his team. That says everything you’ll ever need to know about his character (as if we didn’t already know what a giant piece of crap he is). Anyone who believed that A-Rod’s roid use was limited to the Rangers years was naive and ignorant. Any high schooler who can lift as much as Canseco likely was on something. Oh yeah, this also destroys the notion that A-Rod’s a natural talent who’s been good ever since high school. There goes that argument.