I'm just going to say it. I am going to say the disagreeable thing, however unpopular, and not because I am trolling.
I know that players sign contracts that bind them to league rules, and those rules include what is in the CBA, and the CBA is chock full of language over this kind of thing, so Hamilton is legally bound to the outcome defined by MLB. Yet it still feels pretty shitty that MLB has the power to totally piss on a person because they choose to dictate what that person can do in their private life, on their own time, well away from baseball season. (Hiding behind societal legality to defend MLB power is not gonna fly, since Hambone could have decided to tour Europe, hang in the Netherlands for a week and go on a perfectly legal hemp binge, breaking zero statutes. And MLB's stance would be the same.) It's not like Hamilton was doing something that could potentially have some practical effect on gaining an unnatural advantage during competition. Nor does his behavior put other members of MLB at any risk. So what is the deal?
If I am reading the available information correctly, not only does MLB have the power to dictate rules in order to control personal choice in the private lives of their members (Thou shalt not take use of controlled substances, even in the privacy of thine own home), but they also have the power to expect that their members will report to them any personal action in their own private lives that may have violated those rules (If thou hath violated rule 1, thou shalt not be allowed to keep it to thyself, no matter how long ago). That kind of thing makes me pause for a second.
Did Hamilton break an MLB rule? Without grinding through all the clauses in the CBA myself, I can safely assume based on all the recent activity that he did. My observation is not about what the MLB should do once one of their rules has been broken. No, this is something that goes back to my 60's anti-establishmentarianism roots. While many want to argue back and forth about the consequences of breaking a rule, WTF is it with some of these rules in the first place?
If reports are to be believed, this is about cocaine. I completely understand that cocaine differs from any other thing. It's different than marijuana use in Colorado, which is different than marijuana use in Alabama, which is different than alcohol abuse anywhere. And it is different than rape or domestic violence or gambling on baseball. But that means that, in order to classify cocaine different from other things, we have to draw a line (no pun intended). In fact, as you travel in this direction you find that down this road all kinds of lines need to be drawn. And you also find that everybody has their own pencil that they shall wield to draw their own lines according to their own personal beliefs. If there is one lesson to be learned from the existence of things such as The Bill of Rights, it's that this line drawing activity gets out of hand pretty quick and the individual needs some protection from the masses.
Now it is not uncommon for there to be morals clauses in contracts that provide ways out, but how many of them instruct the party to come in and report something on themselves, something that since nobody knew about could not possibly have brought any shame upon the other party to the contract? It was, after all, something that Hamilton probably would have done in private and without any affected 3rd parties. No one but Hamilton was bothered, certainly nobody that would have any impact on MLB in any way. So how does MLB get to get inside people's private doors? How is it that MLB gets to draw such lines? How is it that MLB gets to intrude on private and unrelated behavior? Why are we all OK with this? The man is not an airline pilot, or a soldier, or a thoracic surgeon. He does have a responsibility to his contract partner where being stoned will have the potential for serious consequences. He plays the game of baseball. He runs around in pretty clothes and throws a ball, catches a ball and hits a ball. Why does that give his contract partner some degree of oversight into every moment of his personal time, especially months apart from participation?
I get it that Hamilton needs help. He will always need help. That's one of those things that comes from addiction. And I hope that he has effective help and that such help saves him, and those who love him, from himself. But while sending him to the sidelines so that he can focus on getting help feels morally right, sending him to the sidelines because MLB's moral standards are not in keeping with his private life feels wrong.
- First Game Itches!: The first game of 2015 is in the books and the Angels came out on top of the Brewers 3-2. I put that result there only because you were going to ask, not because I care. By definition, nobody plays to win the first game of Spring Training. But, there was a very cool moment. Think of the LAA farm system when you read the following: in the bottom of the third inning Mike Trout singled, scoring C.J. Cron. Kole Calhoun advanced from first to third base on a throwing error by Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura. Those aren't invitees getting a looksee. They are established pro roster players, all credible names, and all from the maligned LA farm system. Note in the video viewable in the link, by the way, that Trout beats out an infield single. Dude is still fast!
- Second Base Flowchart: Garrett Wilson over at MonkeywithaHalo beat me to the punch. One of my ST projects this year was to call forth another flow-chart, long overdue, and focus on the battle at second base/ How would Sosh decide? Well, Garrett has gone and done it. Great, funny, stuff. Enjoy! (Now I need to come up with some other idea...hey...what about this Hamilton cat?)
- Trout Porn: Mike Trout remains really good at baseball. We appear to now be well beyond the period of under-coverage of our phenom, and now firmly into the age of over-coverage. This shall, I predict, last for years. Not too long form now, knowing how the information cycle is ever accelerating, Trout will reach the Jetersphere of saturation and we Angels fans will be alone on the planet once again in our gushing pride over his every accomplishment. Today's entry is a partial (in my view) look at Mike Trout versus the fastball. The bottom line here is that any plate problem that Trout has, has little to do with velocity. Trout still nabs his fair share against fastballs, even though he see more than his fair share of +95mph pitches. But i Say "partial" for a reason. For example, how many of those +95mph fastballs came as the first strike of a Trout AB? You know, where he was going to take anyway? Thus, for the 77 pitches accounted for in the "Called Strikes" category, how many were because he was fooled versus how many were because he was giving them back anyway? Knowing that there is a difference means that Trout is actually some percentage better than even the article records...........And, while on the subject, Mike Trout has promised to swing more often at first pitches. As long as he is smart about it, this can only be fantastic news. When one considers that he is far and away the best overall player in baseball while taking a lot of his at-bats with only 2 strikes to play with, imagine what he can do with 50% more!
- Hamilton's Calvary: Is it just me, or has the MLB Player's Union arrived on the scene of Josh's debacle just in time to hand out flyers asking people to be polite and pick up their own trash? I was not raised pro-union by any stretch of the imagination, but I know enough about labor history to understand the role unions have played. And I cannot believe that Marvin Miller or Donald Fehr would have been this late to Hambone's defense.
- Hector Santiago: I love this ind of stuff. Alden Gonzalez tweeted a link to his game recap yesterday. His tweet reads"You can throw all the bullpens you want, but as Santiago learned in his spring debut, you can't simulate game action." The implication there is that bullpen time is not as valuable as real game action, and Santiago might now have learned a thing or two about this fact. Well, recall just this past Monday I linked to an OCR piecewhere we are told that Santiago tried to pitch in live game situations during winter to test out things he had been working on, and only got one game in before Jerry Dipoto told him to shut it down. "I wanted to learn my body in a game situation," Santiago said. "I can throw a bullpen as many times as I want, but it’s not the same." So, yeah, I think young Hector already knew that. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
This Date In Baseball History: 1884 - The Gothams, who will later become known as the Giants, nearly lose their stadium for their home opener when high winds rip the roof off the bleachers at the Polo Grounds. The roof lands a block away.........1907 - Four years earlier, in The National League Park Disaster, 12 fans are killed and 232 others seriously injured when a balcony collapsed at the Phillies home ballpark. On this date the owners were acquitted of damages..........1922 - Babe Ruth signs a new deal with the Yankees, becoming the highest paid player to-date with a 3-year, $52,000 contract. That would be worth $705,793.29 in today's dollars..........1923 - The Cardinals announce that players will wear numbers on their uniforms. Amazingly, the plan is for the numbers will correspond to the player's slot in the batting order. This does not go over well among players everywhere and they were removed after a short time..........1945 - Harry O'Neill, who played catcher for 1 game with the Philadelphia A's, is killed in action in Iwo Jima...........1971 - Charlie Finley nags AL President Joe Cronin into an exhibition rule changed designed to increase offense, changing a walk from 4 down to 3 balls. On the one hand, it works as A's win a 13-9 barn-burner that saw 6 home runs. On the other hand, it failed miserably as the game lasted forever due to 19 walks. Let that be a lesson to us all: it's going to be very hard to shorten overall game times AND restore offense!..........1973 - Bar trivia winner: Ron Blomberg is the first "official" Designated Hitter in baseball history, but Larry Hisle of the Twins is the "actual" first DH, having appeared in an ST game on this date against the Pirates. (Interesting note: the idea of a DH actually goes back at least as far as 1891.)........1987 - Free Agent Andre Dawson signs a blank contract to join the Cubs. The Cubs will reward that commitment by paying Dawson a $500,000 base salary, roughly 50% of what he had made the prior year. That year Dawson will be an All Star, win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger, and be National League MVP. He won't earn less than $1.8MM in a season after that until he is a 40-year old playing out his career with the Marlins.
- Switch Pitcher: You might have seen this earlier this week. The A's have a relief pitcher in camp, Pat Venditte, who is ambidextrous, and Venditte got out a pair of Giants in an appearance using both sides of the mound. So I was watching that highlight video and as he was warming up I saw how easily he switched gloves between pitches. I had to wonder WTF about the glove itself. Well, a quick Google search of Pat Venditte glove gave me this pull. Fascinating.
- Finally. Robots!: Murray Chass must be rolling in his coffin. Oh, wait, Chass is not yet officially dead. Anyway, the Associated Press is on the verge of using robots to compose game recaps. They will be starting this spring with DI baseball. Eventually, yeah, the robots will be cranking out MLB stories. Folks, I speak from a teeny-weeny bit of experience here since I carry the occasional duty of post-game recaps on HH along with my better peers. It's tediously easy, since it all happened right in front of everybody's eyes. But it does require speed because we all want to immediately gather and share in the memories (good or bad). late-inning rallies are the worst because it deletes everything you have already prepared and erases all the runway you had left to do the job. The trick has become one of (a) posting anything just to create the watering hole for everyone, then (b) going back and fleshing things out while everybody jumps in and starts to comment. Of course, without everyone refreshing their browsers, a pithy recap can be missed altogether. Don't go overboard, though. Human journalists will remain an integral part of the Big Business that Major League Baseball is. But robots are perfect for this particular work, and even for the kind of information dissemination that is being fed today by social media. Robots will happen. And it will be odd that they will happen in the MSM before they happen on the field, replacing much of the work that is done by the people whose job it is to put a focus on judgement errors on the field, rather than taking the field and reducing those errors in the first place. Someday, in the distant future, a robot scribe will be interviewing a robot ump about a missed call that, by human rules, could not be reviewed by robot replays.
- Oh no! Not robots!!: Well, not cyborgs, anyway. Ok, this is a very intelligent and deeply thought article concerning the issue of arm injuries among pitchers: Rubbing Mud, over at Baseball Prospectus. I encourage you to spend some good time on this. There is a lot of meat on one page of the Internet. Anyway, I was reading along, learning a good deal, when all of a sudden we got to the subject of what we need to start talking about now, before the future gets here. And I got to this (paraphrasing): "Most of the most likely solutions to the problem of pitcher injuries involve biotechnology...Players might be able to overcome...painful disadvantages. In so doing, though, they’re likely to end up as something our parents and grandparents would have called cyborgs. Half man, half machine............The decade-long PED scandal that enveloped the game gave sports fans in the United States an identity crisis. We came out of it with the firm feeling that we want our competitors to be humans, straining the limits of physical achievement, but not artificially surpassing them. If that was true in regard to steroids and amphetamines, it seems to me that it would also hold when the issue is a cloned, synthetic elbow tissue, or a shoulder brace that automates the deceleration of the arm after release." Like, O..M..G. Cyborg humans pitching baseballs. I had not ever considered such a thing and it seems so inevitable. I mean, artificial hips and knees are commonplace anymore. I am not an orthopedic anything, but why not artificial shoulders and carbon fiber tendons and even surgically lengthened arms to increase leverage and velocity (on that last part, know that surgically lengthening legs is something that already does happen today). And I must confess that, in defense of my lawn, my initial reaction is no effing way.
- Astros Medicine: Something odd is going on down in Houston. If you recall, last year the Astros changed their offer to top overall draft pick Brady Aiken after seeing his medical report from team doctors. That was a calamity. (Although, it is worth pointing out, not quite as big a calamity for the Astros as it was for Aiken. The odds of Aiken being the #1 overall pick in 2015 are decent but less than 100%. Meanwhile, MLB rules gifted the Astros a guaranteed #2 overall pick this year to pair up with their #5 for being so shitty.) Well, we got news this week out of the Ryan Vogelsong camp that before signing with the Giants, he almost had a deal with Houston. But then Houston's doctors ran him through their health check process and the Astros suddenly lowered their offer. Which explains Vogelsong's comment concerning the Astros at the time: "I really wasn't comfortable with what was going on."
- FWIW: As an update to the Brady Aiken tale (above), Aiken is back in the 2015 draft and picked as a potential Top 5. Further, the other player who lost out in Houston's boner last year was Jacob Nix, who was prevented from signing when the Astros lost their slot money for failing to sing Aiken. Nix, completely innocent in all this, is back in the frat this year too, and is a potential first rounder. I hope all work out well for both kids. Especially if they get to spend their career being thorns in the side of the Astros.
Insufferable Baseball Prick Moment #1: How to live in Derek Jeter's world forever? MFY GM suggests cementing Jeter as the final team captain, forever..........Insufferable Baseball Prick Moment #2: We are the Cardinals. We are boring because, unlike your team, being all about business is what makes us the Best Thing in all the World..............Like pet rocks, sometimes great ideas to reap financial rewards come from the simplest of sources. Like, for example, tape..........Here we go. Our first Spring entry for Baseball Food of Death 2015 comes to us from Arizona. A churro topped with 3 scoops of frozen yogurt smothered in whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce. All served in a sliced chocolate-glazed donut log. They call it The Churro Dog. Just $8.50 to move you 1117 calories closer to your first diabetic coma..........Bejeebus. One week into Spring Training and we already have value judgements being made on Alex Rodriguez' baseball playing abilities. "His bat is slow."..........The Mets never ran across my grandmother who, when it came to wasting food, was always concerned about the starving children in India. (I do recall being a total dickwad at the age of 9 and permanently shutting her down with the challenge of "If I send my broccoli to them will they stop starving?" I think my dad would have wanted to backhand me any other time but it was, after all, his mother-in-law.)..........It's the year 2015. If you know your BTTF trivia, this is the year that the Cubs win the Best of 9 MLB World Series. As a publicity stunt, Volo Auto Museum in Illinois is raffling off their Delorean mockup, should the Cubs actually win. No, they don't have to defeat the Marlins in the WS.............Life as a mascot. Probably a lot more fun if you are not the mascot for a living train wreck...........The one baseball player more satisfied with his home runs than David Ortiz..........Bryce Harper, you are no Cardinal! Funnier still, it's the Mets who think they are the ones who are going to shut him up. The Mets. The ones in New York. The ones who have not won as many as 80 games in a single season since 2008...........So, for those times when you bash your head against your television over some decision Scioscia has made, know that he still has far, far to go to overtake the skill set of Charlie Brown...........Your LA Angels: currently 8-5 to win the AL West, and 14-1 to win the WS.
And now, being the full service weekend linkage institution that we are, here is the obligatory moment we take out of each Friday...for beer...
Friday: Sacramento Beer Week continues, dominating the weekend.
Saturday: Sacramento Beer Week continues, dominating the weekend..........Sam Fest: 2nd Annual Los Angeles Barleywine Festival takes place at 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill in Alhambra..........Twilight Tasting beer tasting & release event is at Lyon Air Museum at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.
Sunday: Sacramento Beer Week concludes.
BEER BONUS: This comes to us from eyespy, who realized that it is the perfect confluence of two of my favorite things, (a) beer...and (b) flow charts: What Kind of Beer Should You Drink?