Don’t know if you’d call it a courageous decision, but it was the right decision for the San Francisco Giants at the time.
After conferring with his staff and superiors, general manager Brian Sabean elected not to reinstate Melky Cabrera to the active roster after he was eligible to return from a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension last October.
Sabean made the call that given the circumstances, he’d rather have his team win with Andres Torres and Xavier Nady than have Cabrera, who was leading the National League in hitting (.346) when he was suspended on Aug. 15, return and take up a spot on the roster for the NL Championship Series.
Sabean had been through a nightmarish period with Barry Bonds, and he wasn’t about to stand for an offender coming back to the Giants and playing.
“We wanted to win with the guys we felt had got us there,” Sabean said. “Our guys had played all out, and to all of sudden tell them they weren’t going to make our playoff roster, for me, was unfair. Obviously, Melky was having a great season before the suspension, but he was out of mind as far as our run to win the division and make the playoffs.”
And there was more to the Cabrera story, including him creating a fake website to try to hide the PED use. It was messy at the time, and Major League Baseball was looking into it to see if further action needed to be taken. Turns out Cabrera’s positive test kicked off the Biogenesis investigation.
Every situation is different, of course.
The Yankees allowed Alex Rodriguez to play after he was hit with a 211-game suspension, and appealed. Did they have any choice? Well, they could have kept him on the bench, but that would have been counterproductive.
Pretty soon, the Tigers and Rangers will have similar decisions to make concerning Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, respectively, who are currently serving 50-game suspensions stemming from the Biogenesis scandal. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski said in a telephone interview, “We really haven’t got to that point yet. Every situation is different. We’re at the point now where we’re setting our rosters and discussing those things.”
Peralta isn’t eligible to return until the final three games of the regular season in of all places, Miami, home of the Biogenesis clinic. The Tigers acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox, not only to protect themselves against Peralta’s suspension, but looking to the future, as Peralta will soon be a free agent. Peralta was having a good season, both in the field and at the plate (.305, 11 home runs). He’s obviously no Iglesias in the field, but he’s capable of providing more offense, as he did with a walkoff homer against the Red Sox this season.
It’s hard to imagine that after transforming the Tigers’ defense, that Iglesias would sit. Of course, if Miguel Cabrera suffers lingering effects from his leg injury, Peralta could be forced into playing third, a position many baseball people feel he will play next season for another team.
“Jose has given us excellent defense and range at shortstop,” Dombrowski said. “He and Jhonny are two different players. Jhonny is steady in the field and has more of a power bat, and obviously Jose has more range.”
The feeling of a rival American League GM is that Peralta will not be part of the Tigers’ postseason roster.
The same GM guessed that the Rangers might go the other way concerning Cruz. Meanwhile, GM Jon Daniels said Friday concerning Cruz’s playoff status, “We’ll see. Our thought process is just to keep him as ready as we can. If we’re in the postseason, we’ll make an evaluation. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves.”
The Tigers seem to have more offense than the Rangers, who were not able to depend on Lance Berkman for much from the DH spot this season. Cruz could then be back in their outfield/DH mix even with the acquisition of Alex Rios.
Cruz was, along with Adrian Beltre, the Rangers’ best righthanded power source. The Rangers had to replace Cruz in right field with Rios, but the Rangers could always find room for Cruz’s bat, whether it be in left field or as the DH.
The Tigers would also have to make decisions on their infield bench with Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, and Matt Tuiasosopo. Fair to have any of them not make the roster? The Rangers would be impacted because Jurickson Profar, their current DH, would likely become the utility infielder, while Adam Rosales looks like the odd man out. If Cruz goes to left field, that means less playing time for David Murphy.
Some of these are good problems to have, but any time a player comes back from a PED suspension, there’s always a cloud around the player. Is that good for a team? That’s something the Tigers and Rangers will have to wrestle with as they compile their postseason rosters.
Sabean made the choice last year, knowing full well that Nady and Torres were not as good as Cabrera. But as Dombrowski indicated, every situation is indeed different. Sabean’s choice was the right one. After all, the Giants won the World Series, and they didn’t need Cabrera or his baggage. They didn’t need the media focusing on Cabrera, creating a distraction.
Sabean, in the eyes of so many around baseball, did the right thing. He put the honor of the game ahead of enhancing his team.
RULES ARE RULES
MLB keeps close watch on uniform violations
Uniform violations are becoming more common because of more policing by MLB, which is trying to protect licensing agreements.
One common violation is shirts being unbuttoned too low. You see it everywhere. Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes wear their shirts with two or three buttons undone, exposing their undershirts. One unbuttoned button is allowed, but anything more than that is considered a violation. Players are usually warned by the league through their clubhouse/equipment managers. And if the problem persists, the player is fined.
Gomes said he had a violation this season for exposing an Under Armour logo under his jersey. The only logo allowed to be exposed is that of Nike since it has an agreement for undershirts.
There are also all sorts of glove rules. No names or writing of any kind (unless it’s the brand logo) can be written on the glove. Shane Victorino remembers he had the name of his son, “Kingston,” on his glove and a league rep came to see him in Philadelphia last season and asked him to remove it.
Koji Uehara receives most of his equipment from Japan, so he had a glove with the Japanese flag attached to the inside flap. The league made him remove the flag.
Last season, we saw the rule about not having any writing on the body. Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar placed a derogatory gay epithet on his eye black, and received major sanctions from the league.
Pitchers are not allowed to wear any type of bracelets on their wrists, nor can strings from their gloves be dangling to create distractions to the hitters. Gloves must also be a certain circumference from top to bottom, while first basemen’s mitts also have a certain size they must conform to.
Pitchers’ gloves, except for piping, can’t be white or gray.
And, oh yeah, the shoes players wear? They must be 51 percent of the team colors.
Apropos of nothing
1. Intentional walks should be banned. You’re asking pitchers to purposely fail.
2. The Red Sox entered Friday having have hit 56 homers against relievers, tops in baseball. But they were 12th in batting average against relievers at .250. They also had scored more runs (204) than any team from the seventh inning on.
3. Top five hitters vs. relievers (entering Friday): Yadier Molina (.375, 2 HRs, 16 RBIs, .937 OPS); Adrian Beltre (.365, 12, 32, 1.020); Buster Posey (.356, 6, 28, .941); Eric Hosmer (.355, 7, 27, 1.038); and Joe Mauer (.349/2/15/.928). The best Red Sox hitters against relievers: Daniel Nava (.281, 5, 31, .810); Jacoby Ellsbury (.270, 3, 20, .740); Stephen Drew (.269, 7, 26, .819); Jonny Gomes (.265, 6, 22, .933); and Mike Carp (.257, 2, 9, .684).
4. Lots of interesting decisions coming up regarding qualifying offers on free agents for the Red Sox. Among Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Drew, to whom do you make an offer of $13.5 million? Ellsbury, for sure. Maybe Napoli. But as much as the Sox may want to keep Saltalamacchia and Drew, do you pay them that much if you fail to negotiate a multiyear contract? Tricky stuff.
5. Jairo Asencio, who entered Friday with 26 saves for Norfolk, was named the top reliever in the International League, and to the IL’s postseason All-Star team for the second time. The first time came in 2009 with Gwinnett, the Braves’ top affiliate, when he was known as Luis Valdez.
6. Jeff Locke of North Conway, N.H., really had it going for a while. Before the All-Star break, the Pirates lefthander was 8-2 with a 2.15 ERA in 18 starts, with opponents hitting .202. In eight second-half starts, he is 1-2 with a 6.18 ERA, with opponents hitting .340. Locke acknowledges he has hit a wall. “I’m young, 25, but there is fatigue, and everyone says it’s normal,” Locke said. “And we’re not the only team doing something like this. I’m going to want to take [the ball] every time, going to want to keep going, regardless of how it’s going. But when I step back and look at the whole picture, we’re in a position we haven’t been in the previous years.”
Updates on nine
1. Brian Cashman, GM, Yankees — File this under something to keep track of, and only that. There has been murmuring among major league scouts and executives that Cashman might be getting a little tired of the Yankees, and that he could move on if something he likes opens up. There could be an opening in Los Angeles, where Angels owner Arte Moreno could do something dramatic and let GM Jerry Dipoto go. This is based on nothing Cashman has said, just what some are perceiving as a tough situation with the monumental rebuilding job ahead, while trying to stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.
2. Jon Lester, LHP, Red Sox — The team will likely pick up his $13 million option for 2014, and then what? One rival GM wonders this: “Will the Red Sox want to re-sign Lester at $18 million-$20 million-plus per year with some great arms coming up?” Valid point. The Red Sox will likely trade one of their veteran pitchers this offseason. John Lackey has to play for $500,000 in 2015 after agreeing to a clause in which he had to accept the minimum if he missed a season with Tommy John surgery.
3. Alfonso Soriano, LF, Yankees — At least the Yankees will have Soriano back next season. It was such a tough haul for Theo Epstein to trade him anywhere, and now that you see what he can do, why didn’t more teams bite? According to a major league source, no other AL East team made a serious bid for him. Soriano vetoed a deal to San Francisco last season. He also made it clear he didn’t want to go to Philadelphia, which was interested last offseason. A few teams have to be kicking themselves considering the major loot the Cubs took on.
4. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Phillies — The shocker for the Phillies was that nobody came looking for Papelbon at the trading deadline. Here’s a guy who had a short, rough spell, but for the most part has had a strong season with 23 saves and very respectable 1.006 WHIP entering Saturday. Two reasons for the lack of interest: the $13 million owed him in both 2014 and 2015 with the vesting option for 2016, and at times he says things he should not.
5. Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies — The Yankees made a brief play for him, but Ruiz, who was expected to be dealt, stayed in Philadelphia. Now the Phillies, who already have brought back Chase Utley, could do the same with Ruiz. He has had a disjointed season, first serving the 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines, and then dealing with injuries. But the Phillies believe Ruiz could revert to being an All-Star in 2014.
6. Brian McCann, C, Braves — McCann will enter free agency short of his 30th birthday, a nice position to be in for someone of his credentials. He makes sense for a few teams, including the Braves, who should attempt to retain him. His power lefthanded bat would be ideal in New York, maybe Texas, and even Boston if the Red Sox don’t re-sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
7. Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Orioles — Morse is a strong pickup for the Orioles, who will likely try to re-sign him as a free agent this offseason. But the Orioles could have competition for him. If the Red Sox don’t re-sign Mike Napoli, Morse might be a consideration. The Red Sox have always liked his righthanded power, and while he’s not a strong defensive player, he can play the corners and first base. It seems as if the Nationals have missed that since dealing him to Seattle.
8. Mike Hazen, assistant GM, Red Sox — Hazen is quickly rising as a possible GM candidate in places where there might be openings. If Dipoto goes in LA, Hazen, predicts one National League GM, “would be a great choice to take a job. He’s worked under Theo Epstein and now Ben Cherington with the Red Sox, and successfully rebuilt a program, let alone the fact he was the farm director while some of their top players came up.”
9. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Reds — Nothing brings a smile to Scott Boras more than Choo, who has had a very good season in Cincinnati and will likely be the huge pursuit of teams such as the Mets, Pirates, and Phillies this offseason. The Mets appear to be the biggest suitor, and with reason. They will look to revamp their outfield with Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Nelson Cruz likely targets. Choo, who hits leadoff, entered Saturday with a .277 average, 17 homers, and .410 on-base percentage, and an .856 OPS.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Minnesota has now struck out more times than any other team in Twins/Senators franchise history with 1,127 whiffs and climbing.” Also, “The shortstops with the most strikeouts this season are Washington’s Ian Desmond (119), the Cubs’ Starlin Castro (111), and Boston’s Stephen Drew (100). The Red Sox’ strikeout record for shortstops is 118 by Eddie Bressoud, set in 1962 . . . Happy birthday, Craig Skok (66) and David West (49).
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.