Friday, April 24, 2015

The Commish

Manfred was asked about the distinction between Rose and players tainted by allegations of steroids use, who are eligible for the Hall but have fallen short of election.

"I don't accept the analogy between steroids and gambling," Manfred said. "I see gambling as different in a sense that baseball's rules on gambling have been in place literally for decades. They've been clear. They spell out specific penalties. The reason those rules exist is that gambling is corrosive in a number of ways, including raising the specter of somebody of not doing everything they can to win. Steroids — a very, very different kind of issue."

He gets it. Glory, hallelujah, he gets it.

Commissioner Manfred has made one of the most intelligent and sensible statements about these two controversies in a long time. It's something everyone who cares about the game of baseball must consider.

He was discussing the status of Pete Rose, and the possibility of Pete participating at the upcoming All-Star Game, and inevitably the possibility of Pete's reinstatement after 25 years in the wilderness as an outcast from the game he loved and loves.

Inevitably the companion subject of PEDs came up. And Manfred hit the ball out of the park.

Let's be clear.

Ballplayers take PEDs because they believe they will stay in the lineup longer and be more productive and therefore more valuable. This is destructive to the player's health, sets a bad example for kids, and cheapens the game.

However, ballplayers who get involved with gambling and gamblers inevitably run the risk of getting involved with schemes to "fix" or "throw" games. As we know from history, this is destructive and, if not handled firmly and mercilessly, will be fatal to the game of baseball itself.

A mighty big distinction. Will the BBWAA take heed? Don't hold your breath, but what needed to be said has been said, by the man whose first responsibility is to the game itself, and nothing else. He gets it.

Early Returns

A three-game sweep of the Dodgers is always nice, of course, and when it comes on the heels of a 1-6 Homestand-from-Hell-in-the-making, it's even better. Giants starting pitchers have racked up 11 quality starts in 17 games so far, so when your record is 7-10 you know where the problem is.

We weren't too thrilled with the off-season pickups of Nori Aoki, Casey McGehee, and Justin Maxwell, but we're sure happy to say that two of those three guys, at least, are paying off big-time. There's nothing in Maxwell's tepid resume to date that would suggest he'd thrive as an every-day starting outfielder on a contending team, but he's been nailing the ball this month and really ought to start every day until he stops or until Hunter Pence returns, whichever comes first. As for Aoki, it's not that we disrespected him as a player, it's that we had the sick foreboding that before long he'd be used as the leadoff man. And we were right-- and so far, he's been right, too. As long as Aoki can hit .300, his OBP will be over .350, and that qualifies.

McGehee got a big hit in a clutch situation yesterday, leading off the ninth and setting up Brandon Crawford's monster triple that we thought would win the game. At .179, we'd say McGehee has about four weeks to pick it up and prove he should be starting ahead of Matt Duffy-- who ran for him and scored the tying run in that ninth inning.

Two weeks ago everyone was moaning about Joe Panik, who has since climbed to .295/.348, well within acceptable range. Today's moans center around Brandon Belt, who has started to hit the ball hard but who remains below the Mendoza Line. Buster Posey leads the team with 8 walks, in 60 AB, which is a number we like to see, but it was clear from watching that game yesterday that at least a few of those walks are from teams pitching around him to get to Belt. Not so good.

And then there's Angel Pagan, whose mere presence in the lineup... yada yada yada, except it's true. There he was yesterday, waiting through a pitchout before stealing second base and setting up Maxwell, whose GIDP-appearing grounder went through for the game-winner and made up for Kendrick's brilliant bases-loaded eighth-inning stab of Maxwell's shoulda-been-RBI-single. We've always said the key stat in stolen bases is the caught-stealing, because it is so destructive. Pagan has two steals, hasn't been caught, and those are the kind of numbers we like, because speed and stolen bases are all about opportunity, not quantity.

Between them, Chris Heston, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum have delivered 7 quality starts in 9 appearances, with a composite ERA of 2.61. Throw out Bumgarner's certified turkey from April 11, and it's even better. Lincecum showed he could pitch well against a team other then the Padres, Heston has already pitched well against the Rockies, whom he faces at Coors Field tonight, and Bumgarner is, well, Bumgarner. We're not at all sure Jake Peavy can help the Giants any more, Tim Hudson's been OK so far but nobody knows how long he'll hold up, and Ryan Vogelsong was excellent yesterday-- 16 days after his previous, awful, start. Oh, we got issues here, all right, but noting to panic about. And consider Yusmeiro Petit has yet to be called upon to start a game.

Finally, if there is one more takeaway from this LA series, it's this: the other guys' bullpens tend to "blink" a lot more than does the Giants'. This not-so-secret weapon is our best guard against a repeat of that 4-10 start that had everyone ready to jump ship a few days ago.

There are two NL wild-card spots. A .500 team at the All-Star Break is now a contending team. This one's weaknesses will be apparent by then, and recent history teaches us that mid-season, not off-season, moves tend to be the ones that turn things around for the Giants, if a turn-around there is to be.

Charlie Hustle

Has Rose suffered enough? We think so. He deserved his suspension, because gambling by players and coaches is the ultimate bad seed of professional sports.

But Rose did not participate in, nor did he condone or excuse, the fixing of games. This is where he differs from the "Black Sox" and others banned for life.

It's been over 25 years. Pete Rose is 74. He ought to be reinstated, and voted into the Hall of Fame, before he passes. Let his punishment stand as a warning to others, but let him back in.

But Joe Jackson and the others? Never in a million billion years. Throwing games-- that gets you baseball's version of the death penalty. His records, and their records, are still in the book, and they should be. But his person, and their persons, cannot ever be admitted into an institution that purports to honor the game. It's not that Hall of Famers are, were, or should be model citizens or even nice guys. It's that those who deliberately, with malice aforethought, specifically seek to undermine and destroy the very integrity of the game by their own efforts for their own monetary gain, cannot possibly honor that game by their presence, and therefore must be excluded.

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