A Braves New Day in Cooperstown

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This has not happened since 1996 that this large an induction class (6 members) consisting of great former Baseball heroes of the clay and grass get their names forever struck in bronze and will hear their stores and accolades echoed upon the summer air in Cooperstown on July 27, 3014. Even more amazing is the fact every inductee is currently drawing breathe and would make this the largest living class induction since 1941.

thHT376MVKI think I can safely predict that on that great summer day in Cooperstown, New York this baseball hamlet might hold a 24 hour distinction of being dubbed ATL-North. It is amazing that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Joe Torres (played in Atlanta) and Frank Thomas will forever be aside the bronzed likenesses of such baseball icons as Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle as well as newer members Ripken, Boggs and Brett.  571 voters cast their votes for the induction class.

For the record, Maddux topped the list with 97.2% followed in order by Glavine (91.9), and Thomas (83.7%).  Interesting enough, if Craig Biggio had been placed on 2 more ballots he would had beaten the requirement of at least 75 percent and made this the largest first year player ballot since 1955.

Biggio’s 74.8 percent tally might make him a heavy favorite for 2015 induction, but as we have seen in this year’s results, not until they are cast can the bronze plaque design begin. Lest we forget such dominating past baseball names like Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez will be newbies on next year’s Hall of Fame ballot and some would predict early favorites to be inducted next January.

One of the biggest question that was being pondered and debated before the official announcement was if Maddux could top Tom Seaver’s historic Hall of Fame induction percentage mark of  You can bet more than a few comments and profanity-laced communications will be directed at the 16 BBWAA voters who decided to not to name Maddux on their ballot sealing his demise of not gaining the most percentage point ever for Hall of Fame induction. That will be a small side story told cross the country today, but one we all hoped might happen just for the sake anointing a new standard for voting excellence. But with 3 Braves caps heading into the Hall of Fame corridors, the South at least for today has risen high and can thump its chest out proud once again.

It is simply amazing that Braves icons pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and their always positive Manager Bobby Cox will share that grand day all receiving yellow jackets, bronze plaques. The Atlanta duo was expected to join Cox on the stage in 2014, but not until their names were bellowed loud and proud could the ATL faithful begin to search venues and hovels for their pilgrimage to Cooperstown

thCVXVSV95Joining these 3 Braves into induction in his first year of eligibility will be the “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas who not only showed the grace of hitting for average, but could punish any pitch with a swing that was the envy of so many other MLB masters. Thomas who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada was one of those guys you could bet with certainty even before the New Year began would be “bronzed”. Thomas played the game with integrity, honor and I do not think even a whisper ever was heard about him abusing PEDs or altering the scope of the game in any way.  That in itself is a true testament of why Thomas deserves his plaque in an era where voices carried untruths and soured even the best of honest intentions within the game.

Even more amazing is Thomas’s selection might have opened wide the further discussions on a Designated Hitter getting the call for the Hall of Fame. Thomas did not play the DH spot all his career as such Hall hopefuls as Edgar Martinez. But what Thomas’s selection has grooved is the ideal that being a DH will not in the future possibly dismiss you from Hall consideration or have your stats discounted because of your spot on the lineup card, but not on the field.  This could speak to many within the game finally giving credo to the DH evolution of the game and possibly we could see someone like Martinez garner more future Hall consideration and votes as well as open the Hall of Fame doors wider for future eligible Hall of Fame candidates like current Boston DH David Ortiz to becoming a more acceptable chance at garnering a Hall selection after he hangs up his well-used spikes.

Today’s Hall of Fame announcements did have a darker side as some players saw their chances become bleaker and darken with another year passed and no movement up the proverbial hill in voting percentages. The biggest name to see a slide due to his last year of eligibility on this ballot was former Tiger pitcher “Black” Jack Morris who now will have to go the Expansion Era committee route to gain induction after only garnering 61.5 percent of the vote. Morris also received 6.2 percent less support this year than in 2013.

bigpizAmazingly the only 2 players to garner more voting percentage point this year in their second year of eligibility were Biggio (6.2%) and Mike Piazza saw his own increase in his voting numbers to 62.2 percent, a 4.2 % increase over last year’s ballot.  4 players saw double digit decreases in their voting percentages as former closer Lee Smith garnered 17.9 % less votes this year. The other 3 losing ground towards the Hall summer stage were Alan Trammell (12.8%), Larry Walker (11.4%) and Edgar Martinez (10.7%).

Names you will not see on the 2015 ballot based on low percentages or no votes cast besides Morris will be: Rafael Palmero (4.4%), Moises Alou (1.1%), Hideo Nomo (1.1%), Luis Gonzalez (0.9%), Eric Gagne (0.4%), J T Snow (0.4%), Armando Benitez (0.2%), Jacque Jones (0.2%), Kenny Rogers (0.2%). The following names did not garner a single vote and will also be excluded from consideration for the Hall of Fame next winter. They are: Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Richie Sexon and Mike Timlin.

I want to again congratulate Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and the Veteran’s Committee inductees Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre into the Cooperstown Hall and salute the BBWAA for their insight and votes in completing and enshrining each of these great men into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With the names of those selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is now official and complete it is time to focus upon another long awaited moment……Pitchers and Catchers report in 37 DAYS!!!!!

Taking a Whack at 2014 Hall of Fame Voting

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I have to say I’m glad I’m not one of those 600+ members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) who have put in the mandatory 10 plus years of service covering own slivers of the Major League Baseball fishbowl who have to parlay their thoughts along with slicing and dicing their own set in clay adverse and varied opinions about the nominated few and somehow find a cohesive way to whittle down their list of potential former MLB players for possible selection and immortalized in bronze forever within the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
20140102-161419But wouldn’t it a hoot if I did have a envelope to send into Cooperstown. That my own personal baseball opinions could be voiced upon that black and white card of my 10 selected baseball heroes from the past that I personally would LOVE to see in bronze for eternity. The reality is I will never have that opportunity. I wasted my chance at being within that brotherhood long ago when I left my Sports Correspondent slot soooo long ago. But I would cherish and relish a chance to send just such an envelope into the mail and then sit back and see how many of my picks could/would get a phone call and the prestigious yellow jacket this summer.

I would consider such an envelope a huge responsibility both as a life-time baseball spectator as well take into account morally that I not only follow my gut reaction for such voting, but also toil and weather such stormy matters as if a finalist had used or ever abused the pre-PEDs mandates (McGwire) and testing regulations (Clemens/Bonds), whether a career-long DH (Martinez) merits a hearty Hall nod. Or maybe I might wrestle on a solid and concise benchmark for statistic considerations of both starters and relievers. I would hope I can show empathy with finalists who might have suffered in their careers by playing on mediocre teams (Morris/Raines) that did not parlay their own bits of success into playoff berths or shot in the World Series. Does getting a World Series ring (or 2) trump a player with a den full of MLB hardware?

And even if I did produce 10 ducks in my selection row, that the moment the selection process is finalized I could end up with a whittled down list maybe into the single digits and as low as 3 of my selections receiving that prestigious phone call on Wednesday, January 8th. But no matter the results, I know there will be chatter, both realistic and convoluted as some inductees and finalists will miss the cut and not meet both the required minimal votes for this summer’s Hall induction and possibly fall off the 2015 ballot due to lack of support or future consideration by the growing group of 600+BBWAA voters.

My first 5 selections will bode well with most voters, but my other 4 might ruffle some PED feathers or be called into question because of their non-God like stats, plus I added 1 Hometown hero to my selection list but that is what this voting blog post is all about……my personal Hall of Fame choices.

Without further ado, this would have been my ballot for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014:

1) Greg Maddux 355 W’s, 17 seasons of > 15 W‘s, 4 Cy Youngs. Could garner over 98.84% of votes
 2) Tom Glavine 305 W’s, 14 seasons with >200 innings, 5- 20 W seasons, 2 Cy Youngs
 3) Frank Thomas 7 straight seasons with .300 AVG,20+ HR,100 RBIs, 100 Walks, + 521 career HR
4) Craig Biggio 3,060 hits, 668 doubles are most by any right-handed hitter
5) Jeff Bagwell 7 100R/100 RBI seasons, NL ROY, Gold Glove, MVP, .408 OBP.

6) Mike Piazza 427 HRs, 12 X All-Star
7) Barry Bonds 762 HRs, 1,996 RBIs, 2,935 hits, 7 MVP, 8 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star selections.
8) Jack Morris 15th (Last) year on ballot. His 3.90 ERA would be the Hall’s highest.
9) Lee Smith Was MLB Saves (478) leader when he retired. Great pressure guy.
10) Fred McGriff 493 HR were done clean and legal. 200+ HR in both AL and NL

Rays Trivia: What other Hall of Fame finalist besides Fred McGriff played for the Rays during his career?

Answer: Hideo Nomo who wore # 11 while going 5-8 in 100.2 innings in 2005.

Riding the Always Swaying Fence Regarding Home Plate Collisions

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When it was first announced about the possible “sissification” of the classic Home Plate collision I have to admit, I was emotionally disturbed by it. I’m one of those closet purists who see it as a emotional, physical and mental harbinger of the game. Somehow I’m now caught on the spiny spindles of the fence teeter-toddling between that purist regard and utmost safe for both players involved. The winds of change seem to have me bobbing and weaving with each passing moment searching for that perfect thrust of rhetoric for which I can finally land on a side of this issue. 

I mean it is truly a thrilling sight to behold in a game no matter the score as you see one inert persona dressed in the MLB catching armor with the indescribable strength of a human brick wall about to line-up toe-to-toe with an unforgiving  swirling dervish of speed, power and explosive inertia easily resembling being nailed by an incoming human bullet.

g74I tend to have a roller coaster state of mind and varying opinions about this right now, holding due court with merit-able opinions both “for” or “against” bringing this most animalistic segment of the game into a tamer and safer variation played out upon our own sacred 30 MLB baseball cathedrals’. Should I stand proud and echo it has been a part of the game since the beginning and we shall not tinker with the finer essences of the game? Or do we caution on the side of possibly ending a gallant career or life with an accidental shift left or right that delivers a body blow for which someone doesn’t recover?

I felt as if I might seem a bit soft in letting myself edit out an intricate tool within baseballs time-honored feats of determination and brute savage moments. Would I be considered weak and timid if I voiced out loud that the Home Plate play should be reduced from that violent basic lion’s “roar” moment to be tragically maligned and trans-versed offerings that would make this type of game day excitement suddenly a sublime shadow of its old former glorified self.

12collisions-1-articleLargeSure I have empathy for guys like Ray Fosse and even current San Francisco Giant backstop Buster Posey who have solidly tried to stand their ground as human locomotives plowed into them , quickly exposing their own unforeseen physical limitations that resulted into visual “oh my” moments as they laid there in pain, disoriented and in some ways, a shell of their former gladiator selves even if only for that brief moment.

I have never played the Catcher spot on a diamond even though at 10 I was almost 5 foot tall and a bit bulky. I do not have a hint of what it takes to bodily stand there in a upright completely vulnerable stance or even s more defensive half-kneeling position as a whirlwind of spikes and sweat come rumbling, tumbling down the chalk line destined to dislodge myself and possibly the ball from the Home Plate keystone. I cannot tell you the first or last thought that does through a catcher’s subconscious right before his own stationary mass meets that incoming accelerated mass, and in a way, I’m glad I never had to face that impending explosion on the defensive side of the game.

thI was against the folding of this baseball institutional human element of the Home Plate battle of the wills until I got up one morning in May, quickly becoming dizzy, dis-oriented and finally paying the price for the violent damage of misguided head-leading tackles, multiple player accelerated dog pile tackles and collisions that felt like a  human car crash at times. Possibly my body was now too fragile and weary to hide the pure fact this action and reaction causes lasting effects of my own years of inflicting “punishment” and now the penance for that bravado was due in full.

So as I return to post again on this forum, I’ve decided it is not only prudent but responsible of myself to sit back here upon these fence spindles right now and relax and truly ponder this issue until I can definitely see the black and white refined honest answers needed that might and will ultimately effect this powerful segment of our beloved game. I must in this thought process take into account the invisible and delayed potential ultimate physical body count of players both on the “incoming” and the “receiving” side of this explosive sometimes game changing moment within the game.

dt.common.streams.StreamServerI mentioned I was going to write this topic to a baseball friend over a cold glass a few days ago and his machismo answer was “No one has died yet, so why change it”.  Funny thing is the moment he said that I pondered my own flashback montage of my own on-field collisions.  I somehow got a jolt of unforeseen haze upon my thoughts. Not from a conscious or unconscious blanking of the mind, but an intense mental imagery of the physical nature and cause and effect lingerings of what brute force against immovable force can leave physically on you many years later.

The simple fact that this possible injury-plagued part of the glorious game might have to evolve, make either subtle or extreme changes to keep just that thought of as possible or ultimate fatality unveiling itself makes it even more of a  moral imperative to bring about a realm of responsible measures and factual rules that even if we treasure our baseball heritage like fiends, the game has to evolve to protect those playing it now and in the future.

th (1)Maybe today I’m swaying in the breeze happy to be on the fence about Home Plate collisions and rules pertaining to its “taming” or its possible subtle nuances being changed forever. But I would rather be on the uncomfortable fence here and now, and open to possibility of maybe needed changes than visually witness a career-ending car crash at the plate, or ultimately scream to the heavens if a truly horrific action occurs. I  am not blind to the pure fact that I may value and want that purity of the game, bit it cannot and should not overshadow any future considerations to hinder or exclude safety measures be enacted of all involved in such a violent aspect of our National pastime.

Definitely something for me and the rest of you to also ponder and to think about before our respective squads take to the fields this Spring. 

Silent Avenger Becoming a Pleasant Offensive Surprise

James Loney

I now call him the “Silent Avenger”. On a Tampa Bay Rays team already filled with persona’s like “Tatman”, “Super Sam” and even “Wolverine”, Rays First Baseman James Loney has been one of those great players who comes out of nowhere and makes this team better immediately.

toronto-blue-jays-v-tampa-20130506-180616-029Playing a position that embodies power and defensive responsibility, Loney has become not that iconic 1B that smashes the ball into an oblong shape on its way to the cheap seats, but has become a hitting machine producing needed single and run producing opportunities that also have brought the Rays back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 7th. Sure Loney is not the only reason this team has rebounded from their April funk, but he is one of those shining examples of a player brought in with question marks and wonder as to what role he will ultimately play on this team’s rise towards a post season berth.

All Loney has done is be a stopgap defender at the corner who has committed only a solo error in 259 total chances this season. But lost in that vital fact is the number of errors his glove has erased due to his versatility and flexibility at the First Base bag. But that is only 1 dimension of the Loney story as he has again found his hitting stroke since coming to the Rays at one point this week reaching the summit of the American League Batting Average pile along side Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera.

James LoneyLoney currently heading into Sunday’s contest is 3rd among all MLB players in batting average (.371) behind Cabrera (.376) and Brewers OF Carlos Gomez (.374). He also shares another very vital distinction in the A L with Oakland A’s INF Jed Lowrie of 7 3-hit games this season which all transpired within 11 starts between April 17th and May 5th. Loney has not only shown the potential to produce for the Rays, he is doing it on a club once thought of as weak and full of holes offensively but has been one of those key linchpins to the Rays recent run explosions that has seen them creep from the bottom of the AL Team hitting stats.

Sure Loney (.959) might not have the Rays top OPS ranking which currently belongs to long-ball artist Evan Longoria (1.009), but he does have 39 hits in his 35 games as well as leading the Rays in doubles (11, tied for 7th in the AL). OBP (.426 which is 4th in the AL) and is second to Longo (.609) in Slugging Percentage (.533). Loney has been one of those pleasant surprises on a team that most thought would be hard pressed to produce runs much less victories this season after their horrific April start.

201304062129773759188-p2Want to know why the recent hitting surge of Loney is so impressive? Over his last 23 contests (17 starts) Loney leads the MLB with a .453 average with 2 HR,15 RBI and 9 doubles. But what is extremely impressive is his stat of only 4 strikeouts during this span that saw his average rise to over 200 points from its .167 spot on April 16th. Fangraphs also produced a fun fact that 33% of Loney’s hits this season have been line drives, the highest percentage in the MLB where the MLB average is 20.2 percent.

Amazingly enough Loney who is a left-handed hitter has produced a .529 average against Southpaws this season which should bode well for him as the Rays will be facing a lot of left-handed hurlers over the next week. Add on the nice stat of Loney sparking a .424 average with runners in scoring position and you get a player who is helping the team tremendously by slicing and dicing up hitting from both side of the pitching rubber. Loney is also boasting an impressive .337 average against right-handers so far this season.

And how rare was that Home Run by Loney last night against the San Diego Padres? The last time Loney deposited an offering in the his home stadium cheaps seats was September 17, 2011 in Dodger Stadium.

James Loney, Joe MaddonLoney has hit 8 HR on the road between those dates. Loney on May 9th also became only the 4th Rays player ever to be on the top tier of the AL in hitting with teammate Matt Joyce last doing it in 2011. Combine that with the pure fact Loney has produced back-to-back 3-hit performances on multiple occasions this season and you can see how he has transformed into a much needed silent avenger for the Rays.

Want one last reason to think Loney is having one of those dream seasons so many seem to have when they pull on a Rays jersey. Consider Loney has hit left-handed pitchers at a career .248 average heading into his Rays tenure. This season after Loney’s impressive outing against southpaw pitching during 3 starts against Toronto (May 6-9th) at the Trop produced a stellar 10-19 (.526) showcase. But the cherry on top of this is the fact during 2013 Loney has only struck out 11 times so far in 116 plate appearances which leads all MLB 1B qualifiers and had a streak of 39 at bats without a whiff this season.

Loney is definitely the silent avenger the Rays needed at First Base and has more than proven his worth.

Happ..Happ..Happy He is Okay

Desmond Jennings

Toronto Blue Jays Pitcher J A Happ is one lucky guy. Considering the sound I heard the moment the ball struck him on the left side of his face, just a hair to the outside of his orbital socket, he is lucky to be standing now much less have his facilities intact.

J.A. HappSure the ball’s stitches caused a bit of bloody damage as it ricocheted off his ear and then down the First Base line towards the Rays Bullpen, when he went down into a lump in front of the pitcher’s mound, you had a assume the worst because of the sound the ball produced as it made contact with Happ. I watched the video of the event a few hours later and saw Happ try and make a valiant attempt to spear the ball, but he was both a few inches shy, and a few nanoseconds too late.

It also reminded me of the video from late in 2012 of then Oakland A’s starter Brandon McCarthy getting plucked by a batted ball in which he suffered some concussion related symptoms and missed some valuable time during the last month of the season. Twice now we have seen events that not only shocked the audience in attendance, but also left those watching on the television or the radio in a state of limbo as to the condition and injury status of a pitcher who did not have ample time to assimilate or react to a ball coming back at him at maximum velocity, definitely faster than it got to the plate.

J.A. HappThe Happ incident will again bring out a few critics who debated the merits of a supported cap or quasi-batting helmet design to protect the skull and side temples of pitchers from just such a ball bouncing off their noggin. In Happ’s case, this would not have been an effective deterrent, and might have even made the situation worse if the ball had caught the underneath of such a cap and bounced down towards his eye socket region.

Then there is that mode of thought of possibly moving the current pitcher’s mound back from its present 60 ft 6 inches to possibly 70 inches to give a little extra reaction time in just such an event as a batted ball coming in at full velocity at a pitcher’s head or other regions. Sure both suggestions have merit, but are they the answer or just a solution to a problem that will be debated and talked about every time a hurler gets plucked by either a broken bat or a batted ball.

Desmond JenningsLast night I do not think a mound 10 feet backwards would of made a huge difference as Happ might not have had adequate time to react to attempt to either spear the ball, or duck and cover. The great part is Happ received care immediately and if you look at the photo of Tampa Bay Rays Desmond Jennings a few moments after he struck the ball and before he began to run the bases, he immediately knew it was a severe moment and one that might haunt him for a few contests.

BMcCMcCarthy who now plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks was also on the hill last night going against the Los Angeles Dodgers hours after Happ’s injury and I wonder if his own event flashed back through his mind before he hit the hill for his late night start. Pitchers’ all know the inherent threat of balls coming back at over 100 mph at them glancing off body parts or taking shots to their body that will leave more than physical marks. One of the best moments of last night was as Happ was being wheeled out the Rays Home Plate opening he did a small wave to the assembled crowd in that area showing he was awake.

J.A. HappBut it was a moment where the entire crowd within the Trop., plus the entire viewing audience was hoping and praying was not a moment that would produce a substantial injury or worse.

I think we will hear a few debates and proposed moves or solutions to this every happening again, but in the end it is a part of the game, something every hurler knows could happen at any given moment and with each swing of the bat. Happ got his medical clearance today from Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida and should be on the Jays dugout rail or possibly sitting deep in the dugout away from any stray baseballs.

It is just great both Rays and Jays fans can be Happ…Happ..Happy today knowing J A will be working through his injuries with courage after knowing he danced with the Devil a bit last night and lived to speak about it. 

I Finally Forgave Vinny on Cinco de Mayo

Vinny Castilla

When former Major League Baseball star (?) Vinny Castilla came out to the mound yesterday to throw out the First Pitch accompanied by his 2 sons here at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, I was not sure how I was going to react. As a failed asset of the old Rays “Hit Show” promotion, I still had some bitterness towards the way he ended his Tampa Bay Rays playing venture as well as some of the comments I heard personally outside the hallowed Trop. walls. Oh how I had held that burning aggression and brewing displeasure for Vinny within my gut for the last 12-odd years.

1482452_jpg_3587_0_display_imageI had talked over the last 2 days here in Colorado about Castilla to fellow baseball fans wearing the black and purple accents of the hometown Rockies. It almost seemed like Castilla was a different person in St. Petersburg, almost like the devil might have ripped out his baseball soul while wearing the D-Rays colors and inserted some demonic servant to do his bidding while manning Third Base for the team.

I was told about his charity efforts, how he embraced the Rockies fans and their culture and was a model teammate when he wore the Colorado colors. This confused me as it was so different from his D-Rays persona, as if he was more eager to leave the ballpark then stroll into it on game days. MY icy demeanor about Castilla was beginning to slowly melt away as I saw a different person described to me, almost like someone I could of admired and respected for his play on the field.

3426633817_16af4fa5d6_zI was truly perplexed, not knowing either to stand and clap or sit and just ignore the player who I personally felt “gave up” on his D-Rays teammates and who’s own comments definitely divided himself from his peers. It seemed to me that Castilla had a complete 180 degree difference in personality and playing style high above the desert plains here at Coors Field.

I was completely in flux as to what I wanted to do having still deep seeded feelings about Castilla, but felt each player deserved his time in the Sun both during and after his career, so I stood along with the other 39,220 souls who knew Castilla from his true “Hit Show” days as a Rockies player. I was beginning to see that “Tampa Bay” might have been a bad chapter in the life story of Castilla with downfalls and strife I could only imagine.

050909132214Castilla may not have made a lot of positive memories for me inside the Trop., except for his blast into the old TBT Deck, but the man had history and was almost a cult hero here in Denver. Maybe in my old age I grew up a bit more here in the cheaps seats knowing you can not hold grasps of negative moments against a person as we all are constantly evolving and changing especially as people. I can say today I was proud to clap for him today as he beamed from ear-to-ear with a smile I did not regularly see during his Rays times.

With each clap I seemed to also lose a bit of the resentment and hostile sealed up emotions I held deep in my Rays soul for a guy I felt let his team down. I can say the crowd showing their love and respect for Castilla both in their comments earlier and their loud ovation made me change my stance about Castilla.

Lilvinnyskyline_v1gme7czMaybe the moment that truly clarified I should forgive and forget Castilla’s Rays past was when I met a young Rockies fan who cheered, shouted and was truly a 1-man cheering section for the Rockies that day. He wore a Castilla black T-shirt with white numbers and when I asked him if he ever saw Castilla play he responded, “No, I was too young to see his Home Runs”. Without thought, I reached into my camera bag and pulled out my (lil) Vinny bobblehead and thrust it into the young guy’s glove.

It was the right thing to do, true fan-dom should be rewarded, and with that gesture I also forgave Vinny for his past Rays ways. 

Even MLB Fans Could Mask a Drug Test

 

Future-Drug-Testing-in-MLB

Take you or I, trying to do our best at our job and we get a bit of insomnia, possibly want to rid ourself of some water weight or even grow some hair where it is thinning or showing trails of age. Those are everyday problems that plague some of us male baseball fans, but did you know those same medications can help mask steroids or keep any of us from producing a positive MLB drug test.

ytjtyjtfcjjEach of the usually prescribed medications for those 3 situations could be blockers or masking agents to help you not test positive in a MLB drug test. That’s right, some of our own personal every day medications we as fans are prescribed or receive over-the-counter with or without a doctor’s script could make anyone of us potentially become invisible if we were to take a MiLB or MLB mandatory drug test.

With so many knock-offs of well-known medications, or off-brands on store shelves and register counter-tops, you could purchase a single medicine that could effectively help keep you from triggering a positive test without you honestly knowing the “banned” substance or potential masking agent was inside your purchase.

And to make matters worse, some National chains, on-line mail order houses and vitamin warehouses that can supply have supplements also contain borderline or active substances that would help you mask a positive result, and their products inert properties can sometimes takes days or week to leave the body heightening your time span to post good results.

The reality is that most of us, on a daily basis take medication or use medicines that can mask any form of a positive MLB mandated drug test. We all know the high paced culture of life today doesn’t mandate any form of abstinence from our daily needed products, or warns us of their extraordinary properties.

mlb_logo_syringeHow many of us have truly read through any of those medicine pamphlets our pharmacists gives us we get a new medication? I know I usually only read the dosage and the possible side effects section then chuck it into the trash can. A majority of the drugs I will mention today can be obtained via a doctor’s script at any pharmacies throughout the world, and are especially easy to obtain on-line….for a price.

If these drugs were prescribed to you personally and you discovered their innate athletic performance advantages, would you still use them?

I am not implying here that you or anyone within the MiLB or MLB would use a scientific loophole provided by an over-the-counter medication to get an advantage, but if it can help give you an extra zip or punch without causing a bevy of red flags in a possible urine or blood tests, would you use it?

Let’s dive right into this hidden OTC medicine that might be hiding in your own home’s bathroom cabinet.

thCAVYXJYHThe first one up is the literally hair raising drug known as Finasteride or known by its brand name Propecia. Testosterone has a vital part in helping the body produce muscle mass, and this pill actually helps the body produce an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

The pill is commonly used as a treatment for prostate cancer but has a hidden medical kicker of helping eliminate hair loss and start new hair growth. But Propecia also contains a chemical that can be used to mask the use and effects of anabolic steroids in the body because of the overproduction of DHT.

For some reason, this medication was removed from the World Doping Agency list in 2009 and is not considered a banned substance anymore. Curious? Or does that explain why most Olympic athletes have a fine head of hair?

thCA5C2IWIThe second medicine under the heat lamp is Sidenafil Citrate or better known as Viagra. Most men might use this mentioned medicine to help the ill effects of certain body function which helps dilate the body’s blood vessels to expand and take in more oxygen and rid the muscles of dangerous toxins.

Viagra is really helpful in participating in games at higher elevations as it will dilate the blood vessels for the duration of the drug and make it easier for the body to adjust to the higher altitudes and the decrease oxygen intake associated with these altitudes. It can give a short term advantage to athletes playing games in the Mountain time zone, then resort back to their normal breathing habits after the pill is gone from their system. I think we can almost rename this medication the Colorado Cocktail, or am I being too glib.

thCAIZ7B9XThe third drug I will expose/introduce today was developed to help the aging male population find relief from the ill effects of male pattern baldness. This drug also has been known to hide traces of steroids by masking the symptoms within it’s own chemical molecular bonds. Minoxidil or better known as Rogaine, is one of those drugs that is available right on our grocer’s shelf, and can be purchased with total anonymity.

Rogaine was first developed as a potential cure for hypertension, but its side advantages came to light when suffers began to see renewed growth in their hair follicles. It is important here to note that a common side effect of steroid use is hypertension, or a renewed state of anxiousness.

So it is easy to imagine that Rogaine can be used as a chemical mask to offset the hypertension as well as keep the hair follicles intact on the user during the duration of using the medication. This is also a drug that can be used in plain sight within any MLB Clubhouse and most people around you will not give it a second thought.

thCAR73OMINow onto a medication that was initially developed to help combat weight loss without throwing your body into a severe crash diet scenario. This Drug is Liothronine also known as Cytomel. The medication is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone needed by the body to controls our metabolism. Cytomel can be used by a sly trainer/user to get fast results via a six-week cycle to help get body fat down quicker.

It also helps its regain muscle mass so they can effectively hide any transformation by not gaining excess or bulky weight distinguished by an adverse gain in size and weight. This drug has also been known to be mixed with HGH as a cocktail to help induce massive changes within a small period of time. This medication can also be taken before a game to bring about a instant rush of energy without the side effects of a positive drug test.

thCAIVJ8TVAnd last, but not least today will be the medication Dutasteride or better known as Avodart. This is a true masking agent because it is highly effective in hiding some of the side effects of using anabolic steroids like the unsightly bacne. This medication can be taken in a cocktail also with Propecia which helps regulate the production of DHT, which is the main contributor to the formation of bacne.

Avodart acts as a masking agent to dilute the DHT enzyme and creates a buffer to eliminate this tell-tale sign of steroid usage or coming off a steroid cycle. But this is also two-fold as the medication also has a nice side effect of making certain body parts, well shrink in transition to its usage. And because of that, it can give a secondary sight recognition to the possible steroid usage.

thCALLQF80But there are also other medicines that are used by drug/steroid users to mask intent like Methylphenidate or Ritalin, which gives the user more focus and puts them “in-the-zone” quicker. It was amazing the when MLB banned the stimulant in 2006, the MLB’s drug exemption paperwork for usage therapeutically skyrocketed among players.

I did not post this to have people second guess or even try and investigate any MiLB or MLB player’s medicine cabinet, then announce its content to the World. I wanted to show that even a person outside the game of baseball can effectively hide or even produce a positive MLB drug test without actively knowing it. I know I do not have to worry about failing a MLB drug test, but would some of you have cause to worry?

 

We May Never Know the True Exchange

baseball-umpire-tom-hallion

I want to believe that the game of baseball doesn’t get itself caught up or snagged on those petty little things that can not only drag the integrity of the game down from all angles, but can sometime balloon out of control and eventually label a player or pitcher as “loose-lipped” or belligerent. I want to believe that baseball is above such drama, but with human interaction, anything is possible.

David PriceI personally think whatever was said between Home Plate Umpire Tom Hallion and Rays starter David Price on Sunday will ultimately come down to a “he said, they said” kind of scenario for the MLB disciplinarians. Now I’m not on either adversaries side here. I do feel that Hallion errored when he made a move in Price’s direction as the Rays ace was strolling towards the Rays dugout at the end of the 7th inning. With Hallion beginning the aggression by speaking with an already frustrated Price, even a sane and rational statement would have ignited Price and the Rays bench.

I expect the Umpires to have a sense of decorum which somehow was not evident in Hallion’s movements or comments even if it was more G-rated than the PG-13 opinion heard by Price and the Rays bench. What makes this volleying of comments between Price and Hallion especially dangerous is the fact Price is stating Hallion used a “no-no” adult phrase towards him after his last pitch of the 7th inning contest, and Hallion with a square-jaw is calling Price “a liar”. The fact the two parties even got into each other remote space after Price retired Dewayne Wise with a come-backer to end the inning then strolled to the Rays dugout was made worse by Hallion aggressive steps towards Price when decorum and tight-lips would have been advised by both sides.

David PriceYou can see on the replay that they did bark back and forth a few times, and here is where the “he said,they said” come full circle. Price says Hallion snipped at him, “throw the ball over the f#@^&in’ plate”, while Hallion told a pool reporter after the game that he said, “just throw the ball”. Someone either heard extra words and vowels, or someone didn’t hear their own verbage in the exchange. Some say MLB should dig deeper into the fandango, but in all honesty, unless the conversation was caught by the Home Plate audio mic, it is every man’s words for themselves, even Hellickson’s commentary.

I wonder just what was heard by fellow Rays hurlers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore who were barking like bulldogs towards Hallion and Hallion advised the Rays duo to stop the barrage, but Hallion decided Hellboy was the aggressor of the pair and immediately ejected Hellboy while Moore was given a reprieve. This type of exchange happens nightly upon a baseball diamond, but what set this situation into a total nuclear meltdown might just be the frustrations of Price overflowing at the wrong moment when Hallion decided he had to make his opinion known as well as a level of disrespect felt by Price’s peers who were camped out on the Rays dugout rail and got a front row seat to the entire exchange.

tampa-bay-rays-v-boston-20130413-123341-228There is a huge danger here for Price to consider first and foremost. If he begins to show emotions, make ill-advised comments towards anyone in blue, his reputation with the Umpires and their previous strike calls when Price’s pitches just seem to nip the corners may fade away. No one wins in this exchange. Sure Price has been frustrated this April and maybe one certain word from Hallion, possibly the phrase “then get it over the plate” to Price might have set this all in motion, or just poked the already angry bear hidden within Price.

In the end the game of baseball is filled with high and low emotional moments when frustrations, excitement and even dismay can turn on a dime and take you from the top of the mountain to the darkest depths. In all honesty, both parties have fault here, but Price has more to lose in the long run than Hallion. Respect on the diamond is paramount especially for a pitcher who makes his living painting the corners of the strike zone. Let’s hope there are no repercussions from this for Price, and that Hallion get whats coming to him…..I think a 98 mph fastball somehow missed by a Ray catcher into Hallion’s thigh would make more than a few people smile…including me. 

Could the Rise of Moore and Cobb Make Price Late July Trade Bait?

3-hurls

You have to think the recent deep valley that Tampa Bay Race ace David Price has found himself so far in April is an unfortunate blip in his otherwise stellar Rays career marks. That fact Price is still winless after his 5th start of the season has some wondering if Price might indeed have more to worry about in late July than how much water to give super pooch Astro.

baltimore-orioles-v-tampa-bay-20130402-151626-443With his recent slide backwards some chirps have been growing louder that Price could find himself on the opposite end of more than a few trade rumors come July, and possibly find himself throwing his late season starts in a National League park. Of course it is too early to fully dive deep into such a move, but with his recent struggles and the younger members of the Rays rotation posting wins and numbers that have the Rays Front Office giddy for the future, the proposed arbitration salary mark for Price might make him expendable a lot earlier than any of us truly imagined.

201304062105759248969-p2Because the Rays 4 and 5 starters Matt Moore and Alex Cobb have stepped up considerably during the time of Price’s unfortunate pitching streak and have miraculously contributed to 7 of the Rays total 10 victories. In all, the Rays starting staff has notched 9 of the Rays 10 wins, with Rays closer Fernando Rodney getting the other victory. But with Moore and Cobb escalating their game, it kind of makes Price a little bit of extra weight especially since he is projected to be the Rays highest paid pitcher EVER possibly this Winter.

I truly expect that sooner rather than later the Rays will swap Moore into the 3 slot currently held by free agent signee Roberto Hernandez, and I would not be surprised if the Rays might also have Cobb tag-along right behind Moore and possibly take over the 4 spot with Hernandez descending to the 5th spot in the rotation. This is nothing personal to Hernandez, it is the pure fact Moore and Cobb have adjusted and matured to the point they would be solid at the 3 or 4 slots in the rotation for the rest of the season.

CarchCombine all of this with the success a few of the Rays top hurlers have had at Triple-A Durham, and you could see a considerably young explosion of talent rising up in September to claim attention and possible spot for 2014. Chris Archer who most thought might push possibly push Hernandez to the Bullpen this Spring has a healthy 3-1 record after 5 starts and has struck out 25 hitters. Jake Odorizzi might sport only a 1-0 record, but he also has sent 30 International League hitters back to the bench in his 25 innings.

It is not like I want to see or propose the Rays look for alternatives to Price come late July, but more and more the quick maturation process displayed already by Jeremy Hellickson, Moore and Cobb might hasten the Rays Front Office’s conversation to possibly find a suitor for Price who could possibly bring in a slew of great prospects, possibly a top catching prospect and maybe even a young Third Baseman currently at the High-A level who could mature in the Rays system and be a fit if and when Evan Longoria possibly becomes a Designated Hitter or possibly a First Baseman as he grows into the gray parts of his recent Rays “lifetime” deal.

price032713_8colThis is hard to write and even fathom since Price is such a likeable guy and has been more than generous with his time on and off the field to the Rays Republic. But as we all know, sometimes you have to make adjustments, let go of real talent to bring your own club’s level of competition to a higher level and bring in the right pieces to run the machine for several seasons.

This scenario of Price possibly leaving the Rays earlier than anyone expected might have its origins in the pure fact the Rays young pitching talent has shown reason for the team to possibly even think the unthinkable and imagine this team without Price leading the rotation come August 1st. But sometimes when the talent level rises as high as it has in 2013, no one is guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster, sometimes not even a proud and fan popular Ace.

Roberts Tattoo’s a Few Rawlings

Ryan Roberts

I have had Tampa Bay Rays infielder Ryan Roberts on my Fantasy teams for the last several years. It is not for him maintaining a high batting average, but when he gets on a bit of a roll, he just plain tattoo’s the Rawlings right off the baseball. And when you have an alter ego like “TatMan”, adding a little extra ink or black mark produced by your bat smashing into the ball is not always a bad thing.

0430827683_10548011_8colAdding another little ink moment to Robert’s first Home Run was the fact it was against the Rays numero uno nemesis, the New York Yankees who put their ace CC Sabathia on the hill and Roberts was behind in the count 0-2 when he lifted his first shot up and over the left field seats.

Say what you will about Robert’s unique and always expanding body art, but when he truly gets on a bit of a hitting streak, he is someone who not only can help elevate his own game, but those around him seem to also feel that same vibe and energy. You have to believe Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar felt some of that residual energy at the dish last night as he combined with Roberts to post back-to-back Home Runs becoming the first Rays middle infielders to EVER produce this feat.

Ryan RobertsEven more impressive was Robert’s blast as he lead off the bottom of the 3rd inning and got into a nice hitters count with 3balls and 1 strike when Sabathia tried to sneak a pitch by Roberts that he instead decided to deposit again into the left field seats to the joy off everyone in Section 135-137. His Home Run in that at bat also secured only the 3rd time in Rays history they have seen such a power explosion from their middle infielders.

Roberts display last night with his bat also was the first time since he has given up two long bombs to a single hitter since May 23,2010 when he gave up a “deuce” to New York Mets OF Jason Bay during an Inter-League series at Citi Field. Not only did Roberts hit two long and far away shots, but he went 3-for-4 in the contest and helped pace the Rays to their 4th straight win at home to boost their home mark to 7-3 this season.

What is even more special is the pure fact Roberts is in the middle of one of those nice hitting streaks I spoke about at the beginning of the post as he is currently 7-15 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 2 runs scored and there are still 2 more contests in the Trop. before the team hits the road for a 10-game slate. You can bet Rays Manager Joe Maddon will not hesitate to pencil in Roberts name on the lineup card as he is hitting a spectacular .455 (10-22) and has a 2-game hitting streak in which he has gone 5-9.

york-yankees-v-tampa-bay-20130422-172614-105Roberts is quickly establishing himself as one of those hidden gems to the Rays offense considering most people who do not keep stats might not know Roberts currently enjoys a robust .308 2013 batting average and has been set up in the 2-hole the last 2 contests and produced a .455 average (5-11). Surprising enough, his elevation to the number 2 slot in the Rays lineup is the highest he has been in the Rays batting order with his previous best being in the 5th slot.

Throw out the additional facts Roberts has produced 3 multi-hit games over his last 4 starts and we might see someone who can reduce a bit of Maddon’s stress and worry, especially against southpaws. Yesterday Roberts also produced his second 3-hit game of this season, the first “trifecta” coming when the Rays hosted the Minnesota Twins back on April 12th. Seems kind of funny that Roberts only had his first extra base hit of 2013 this past Sunday in the Rays win against the Oakland A’s.

Ryan RobertsRoberts is also quickly establishing himself as a get plug-in player around the horn as he has made game appearances for the Rays during contests at First Base (1), Third Base (1) and his usual home Second Base (8). That mobility and versatility could get Roberts a lot of chances to expand upon his prior top hitting marks and possibly be another one of those hidden gems that seem to come to the surface for the Rays and gleam brightly all season long.

I can only image the design and location Roberts might pick to put a everlasting symbol of this great night and feat somewhere upon his skin canvas. Who knows, if he keeps hitting like this he might have to dedicate an entire limb just to his Rays accomplishments as well as tattoo a few hundred more Rawlings along the way.

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