Can A Case Be Made ?
by tophatal …
Well with baseball’s mid-season highlight event the a 2012 All Star Game is almost upon us . Moreover, we can look back at the first half of the season with one or two surprises . To my mind those unheralded teams that have put themselves in a position to make a surprising run in the second half of the game’s 162 game schedule . It would have to be the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central , and the Washington Nationals within the NL East . The Pirates guided by Clint Hurdle and his coaching staff certainly has this team playing with a great deal of confidence .
Slide show , for your perusal .
The Pittsburgh Pirates led by their All Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen . The player has simply been outstanding , as his team has been the surprise of the NL Central over more likely candidates the Cincinnati Reds and the reigning ….. World Series’ champions the St Louis Cardinals . At this point last season the Pirates sat in third place within the NL Central with a record of 45-42 . This season with some very solid play from Clint Hurdle’s players , are showing that through their experiences of last year . They are now very much in the right frame of mind , with a view to perhaps winning the division outright and gaining their first postseason berth since 1992. Two decades of incompetence and changes in ownership has seen this once proud franchise slip deep into an abyss of mediocrity. Team owner , Bob Nutting and GM Neal Huntington , have sought to nurture the talent within their farm system , while seeking to be judicious with regard to the team’s payroll . In addition , the Pirates and their home venue of PNC Ballpark in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania , remains amongst baseball’s poorly supported teams with an average attendance of 24,474 per game .
Andrew McCutchen will be joined by teammate Joel Hanrahan as the Pirates’ sole representatives in the All Star Game which will be played at Kauffman Stadium , in Kansas City , Missouri, home to the Kansas City Royals . In stark contrast , the Texas Rangers leads all teams in the number of players chosen (eight) for the mid-season event , as Ron Washington has eight of his players on the AL roster .
If ever there was a time for the Washington Nationals and specifically GM Mike Rizzo to think ahead , rather than continuing to make asinine statements as to the role of his starting ace Stephen Strasburg . Then now would be it , as team seems on the brink of making a breakthrough competitively as a legitimate contender for the postseason. But much of that will be predicated on whether or Rizzo and the ownership group makes the case to reverse their decision on Stephen Strasburg not going over 160 innings pitched for the season . Currently , Strasburg (9-4, 2.82 ERA, 128K’s, 99.0 IP) leads the Nationals’ pitching staff in strikeouts but it has been Gio Gonzalez (11-3,3.01 ERA) who leads in terms of wins . The loss of Stephen Strasburg , were he to meet criteria being set by the general manager would be a disaster , albeit Rizzo sees this all as being in the best interests of the organization and their long-term investment in their pitching ace. If as projected , and Strasburg is pulled having pitched 160 inning then his final start of the season then by late July or early August will be the last time that the Nationals’ fans get to see the young “ phenom” pitch . I can only surmise that team manager Davey Johnson and principal managing partner Theodore “ Ted” Lerner are in complete agreement with the general manager’s decision but I do feel that this decision is a mistimed one ! Is there an ulterior motive and how else can this decision be full explained in light of team’s progress this season ? Granted , 2011 Strasburg was shutdown , having to undergo Tommy-John surgery on his right elbow . So perhaps , we can assume the organization is seeking to protect Stephen Strasburg , taken as the number one overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft . Strasburg’s agent Scott Boras may not be entirely happy with the situation but his client will remain “ the face of the franchise “ for the foreseeable future .
Alex Rodriguez , remains a polarizing figure in the game of baseball . Love him or hate him , there is no denying in spite of his achievements on the field of play. The player’s now infamous 2007 interview with Katie Couric will forever cast doubts as to Rodriguez’s honesty and integrity . Having lied to the reporter as to his use HGH and anabolic steroids , it would later be revealed he did in fact used prohibitive substances , as he looked to apportion blame elsewhere for his lack of honesty . A cause-celebre` , one has to ask how it is that this three-time AL MVP winner can be so despised in spite of his undoubted talents ? . Alex Rodriguez is the game’s highest paid player and unquestionably the highest salaried player on the New York Yankees’ roster . It can be justifiably argued that Rodriguez might not even be the best player on that prolific Yankees’ team ? That accolade if anything , belongs to Robinson Cano , and his exploits for the New York Yankees has shown how invaluable he has become to this team . Derek Jeter , long seen as the leader of the Yankees and currently their captain is now in the waning years of his distinguished career . With Rodriguez now enmeshed as part of the organization , it remains to be seen if will be used as one the primary selling points of this distinguished organization .
Drafted number one overall in the 1993 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners . Alex Rodriguez seven-year foray with the organization would indicate his precocious talent , shown in the minors and paraded as his career has progressed in the Majors . With Scott Boras as his agent , Rodriguez was able to parlay his talents , that would see him depart from the Mariners and sign with the Texas Rangers for what was then the highest salaried contract in professional sport’s history . Ten years $252 million and a great deal of heartache for an organization , whose co-owners at the time Tom Hicks and Ken Gillette possessed about as much business acumen and integrity as a corrupt third world dictator. In the three years that Rodriguez spent with the Rangers , the team would finish no never finished higher than fourth within the AL West (from 2001-03). Subsequent years of mediocrity and the very fact that the Rangers would be an unprofitable organization that would subsequently be placed into bankruptcy proceedings by the completely inept stewardship of Tom Hicks and Ken Gillette .
With the Rangers not being able to compete within the AL , the ownership group sought to trade Alex Rodriguez. The New York Yankees agreed in principle to take the play off the Texas Rangers’ hands , sending Alfonso Soriano in the opposite direction but it would lead to an unprecedented arrangement that would see the Rangers still . having to pay 55% of the remaining seven years of the Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million contract . How this arrangement could suborned by the MLB hierarchy simply sheds further light as to what is wrong within the game of baseball from an economic standpoint . MLB Commissioner Bud Selig gave this deal his blessing without so much as a “bye your leave” or any real scrutiny from anyone within the league hierarchy.
Rodriguez is the active home runs’ leader with 642 home runs to his name as well leading the runs batted in (1,930) . Alex Rodriguez’s sole ambition beyond having won his sole World Series ring (2009) , has to be surpassing Barry Bonds’ all-time home run tally of 762 . The player’s postseason heroism during 2009 has been of the few occurrences where Rodriguez has been at his very best during the playoffs. . Is it possible where we could see the third baseman perhaps lead the New York Yankees back to the World Series and propel them to another victory ? Well that is something that awaits us once the regular season resumes this upcoming Friday , as the team seeks to main their dominance of the AL East .
Picture gallery for your perusal .
In light of the points raised within this piece do you believe that the right decision is being made by Mike Rizzo of the Nationals and his wish to shut down Stephen Strasburg once he has pitched 160 innings for the ball-club ? And as a fan of the game do how do you view the career of Alex Rodriguez as a player , given his missteps in terms of his avowed use of an illicit substance ? Can the case be made that Rodriquez is “still the best player in the game , albeit that he is the highest paid player in the game ? Simply, leave a comment as you see fit .
Picture and slide show details below .
(1) PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 2: Andrew McCutchen (22) of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates after scoring on an RBI double by Garrett Jones (46) (not pictured) in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros during the game on July 2, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images …
(2) Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen (22) hits a pitch for a double with the bases loaded against the Minnesota Twins, driving in three runs in the second inning of the baseball game on Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Pittsburgh. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic ….
(3) Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg sits in the dugout during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies, Friday, July 6, 2012, in Washington. The Rockies defeated the Nationals 5-1 . AP Photo/Evan Vucci …
(4) Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo is seen with Stephen Strasburg . The general manager insists that the pitcher will not pitch beyond 160 innings for the season even if the team is still in contention for the NL East divisional crown. There has been a great deal of speculation that the front office may well reverse their position based upon the team’s standing. AP Photo / Mitchell Martin ….
(5) BOSTON, MA – JULY 7: Mike Aviles (3) of the Boston Red Sox tags out Alex Rodriguez (13) of the New York Yankees after he was caught off of first base during the third inning of game one of a doubleheader at Fenway Park on July 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images …