The more things change , the more they remain the same

The more things change , the more they remain the same

By Tophatal

In what some might consider to be an exceptional season in baseball , in the space of 24 hours , it has been turned upside down , on its head . Seattle Mariners’ starting pitcher , Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect game on the way the a thrilling 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays . And for the Rays as a franchise this has been the third such time that the ball-club has been on the wrong side of such an event . This was the “third perfect game pitched of the season and the twenty-fourth in baseball history (MLB).

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Slide show.

In light of this all, it certainly doesn’t improve the situation of the Seattle Mariners and their present standing in the AL West , as that now appears to be a forlorn situation, in terms of their having any say in the determining, in the outcome within the division. For Joe Maddon and his coaching staff , it is now back to the drawing board to decide how and why things went so wrong . Coming into this game , the Rays had been winners of eight of their last ten games and with the pitching staff simply being exemplary . Now, it is the offense that has been found wanting , and for all of the talk of the welcomed return of Evan Longoria from the DL . If the team is to be solely reliant upon reliant upon to provide a “ much-needed “ spark when things go awry , then their chances over the remainder of the season will indeed become grim.

Courtesy of USA Today

Cabrera suspension latest chapter in baseball doping

By Jorge L. Ortiz , USA Today

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, who are battling for first place in the National League West, close out the season against each other in what could be a classic down-to-the-wire playoff chase.

Cabrera’s storybook season, highlighted by his MVP turn in the All-Star Game, ended abruptly Wednesday when Major League Baseball announced he had been suspended for 50 games after testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing drug.
PHOTOS : Notable MLB suspensions for PED use

MORE: Column: Victor Conte says Cabrera far from alone

The ban, which would extend through the first five games of the postseason if the Giants get that far, removed a key contributor from the middle of a lineup that ranked eighth in the NL in runs.

For baseball, the suspension sent shock waves through a sport just getting over the bad taste left by the Ryan Braun case. The Milwaukee Brewers left fielder and reigning NL MVP tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in October but had his suspension overturned on appeal on a chain-of-custody issue.

“It’s bittersweet, but it sends a strong message to all athletes at every level that just because you’re the MVP of the All-Star Game doesn’t mean you’re above the rules,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

That message probably wasn’t much consolation to Giants fans, who had embraced Cabrera in his first season with the club as he rose from career journeyman to stardom. Cabrera, 28, was leading the majors with 159 hits while batting .346 with 11 homers and 60 RBI, thrusting himself into the discussion of league MVP candidates.

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It remains a constant struggle for the Tampa Bay Rays to maintain a level of consistency , and it could well be the determining factor how they fare between now and the end of the regular season . The team now goes into a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels (61-55), whose season so far has been truly sensational. Any thoughts that Mike Trout would simply be a flash in the pan can now be quickly dispelled , as the young twenty-year old rookie sets the AL alight . The young rookie sensation along with the recent form of Albert Pujols , are one of the primary reasons why the Angels have been able to maintain a serious challenge to the division leading Texas Rangers (67-49). And that divisional race now seems all the more imperative with the Oakland A’s (61-55) now being added into the mix . The “Cardiac Kids” of Oakland , have found differing ways of eking out a victory when all seemed lost .

As the Tampa Bay Rays enter into their four-game series against the Angels , it should be noted that these two highly competitive teams have a common thread as the Rays’ manager , Joe Maddon , was once a bench coach under Mike Sciocsia , the current manager of the Los Angeles Angels. Furthermore , it was Sciocsia along with team owner , Arte Moreno , who gave the move their blessing, when Andrew Friedman , general manager of the Rays, came calling to assess Maddon’s interest in succeeding Lou Piniella . Maddon’s success with the Rays can be attributed to the years serving alongside Mike Sciocsia . The Rays’ manager may well micromanage this team to the nth degree but those little foibles and intricacies seem to work for the players . It is when they tend to stray from Joe Maddon’s doctrine that things start to go awry . The upcoming quartet of games against the Angels should tell us a great deal about the presumable direction that the team may well be heading in. On the mound today for the Rays will be David Price (15-8, 2.50 ERA) , as he takes on Dan Haren (8-9 , 4.68 ERA) . The season series’ match-up between the two teams , sees the Rays currently holding 5-l lead in the series , with these four games being the culmination of their year-long series. Filling out the rotation of Rays’ pitchers in the series will be James Shields (10-7,4.02 ERA) taking on Jered Weaver (15-2, 2.22 ERA ) , Alex Cobb (7-8,4.08 ERA) facing C J Wilson (9-9, 3.32 ERA ) and Matt Moore (9-7, 3..60 ERA) opposing Zack Greinke (1-1 , 5.54 ERA) .

If Joe Maddon’s players can come away with 3-1 , 2-2 series’ split , it would certainly be better than a series’ loss against the Angels . The team would then face the Kansas City Royals , in Kansas City, Missouri , for three games before meeting the Oakland A’s for another three-game set . The month of August would be rounded out with two series against the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays .

So baseball’s drug policy has nabbed another individual ? Well, this time around , the culprit just happens to be Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants . It’s not so much the surprise of another playing being caught , it is simply in this case , the profile of the individual in question . Cabrera , is one of the leading reasons why the Giants were able to supplant the Los Angeles Dodgers in NL West standings over the past week . Now with this latest “black eye” for the game the hierarchy can say “ we are catching the cheaters” ___ but we ought to bear in mind last season’s claims by Bud Selig and the MLB hierarchy . If one recalls , Ryan Braun was found to have tested positive for a banned stimulant , for which the player believes he had an entirely feasible explanation . That asides , what segued into baseball’s countenance , that they were finally catching up to the steroid abusers , has now turned into an embarrassing tour-de-force for Major League Baseball. So much so , that any remote credibility or minutiae of integrity to be had , are now long gone !.

With the mandatory 50 game first-time suspension as warranted by the league of Melky Cabrera , will likely see a the Giants’ season be somewhat curtailed given the magnitude of the player’s contributions to the team this season . For the moment , it would appear unlikely that the player will be lodging a formal appeal through the MLBPA (Players’ Union) that would see the player’s reinstatement pending a formal hearing through an arbitrator. This might be one road down which MLB does not wish to go , given the absurdity of what took place as the evidence gathered by the league against Ryan Braun in 2011, was thrown out on a technicality because of a failure in following proper procedural protocols in the customary storing of Braun’s test samples . The Milwaukee Brewers’ All Star slugger felt vindicated by the decision of the arbitrator Shyam Das . What was then even more asinine, just happened to be infantile behavior of Bud Selig and Rob Manfred in challenging not only the decision of Das but their having the temerity to suggest that he did not follow the rule of law. Bud Selig and Rob Manfred cannot comprehend the technicalities of legal jurisprudence much less understand would not have stood , had the testing facility not made such a monumental mistake . Take it for what it is , the moment Selig renders a statement about anything his sphere of influence, then you know it is time for this asshole to shut the f##k up !

For Bruce Bochy and Cabrera’s teammates , this suspension could not have come at a worst time. The San Francisco Giants have surrendered back the lead of the NL West to the Los Angeles Dodgers and begs the question as to whether or not Giants are still capable of coming away with the divisional title with the loss of Melky Cabrera ? Certainly , while the player was deemed an integral part of the roster you give the team a chance against their divisional and instate rivals . Now , perhaps not but that would have to be solely predicated upon the San Francisco Giants being able to raise the level of their play. At this juncture, a betting man would likely favor the Dodgers under such a scenario.

If the San Francisco Giants are to now have any chance of now catching the Los Angeles Dodgers , then any subsequent games between these two teams will now mean a great deal more , given what it is at stake . With the highly competitive divisions of the NL and beyond division to be won , a second place within the NL West could still quite possibly garner a wildcard berth that would ultimately lead to the divisional rounds of the postseason . In the inaugural year of the new expanded format for the playoff , Major League Baseball seeks to make 2012 one of the more memorable years within the game’s history .

It would be easy to surmise Melky Cabrera might look to be reinstated but what would that seek to prove at this juncture ? The players know the rules but so often as we have come within sports in general , the athletes believe themselves to be not only above the rules of the game but also above the “rule of law” . There are two rules of thought here to be had , cheat and you don’t caught then it is fine. However , if you do get caught be prepared to accept your punishment , that is unless you can get an attorney who can simply run rings around baseball’s hierarchy .

Trust the front office of an organization to summarily give its manager “ the kiss of death” . Pretty much a given , as the Boston Red Sox have said that they will steadfastly stand by their beleaguered manager . Managing senior partner, John Henry , minority stakeholder Tom Werner , in conjunction with GM Ben Cherington and team President Larry Lucchino have all categorically stated that the team’s manager Bobby Valentine has their full backing . If the rumors are to be believed ,when a meeting took place in Manhattan , wherein , senior members of the playing staff met Lucchino , Cherington and Henry to voice their disapproval in the way with which Valentine has handled the roster this season. The Red Sox have been mind numbingly atrocious this season and when you factor in the team’s $173.2 million payroll there has to be cause for concern . Rightly or wrongly, you can question whether or not the players should be held accountable for the ball-club’s woes but at the same time the manager’s contributions have been negligible overall. So much so, that when you have seasoned veterans such as Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez questioning Valentine’s managerial approach there has to be some justification in their voicing their concerns.

Pedroia has since backed off some of the statements attributed to the him , however , I get the feeling that the former AL MVP player’s dissent is shared amongst his teammates ! Bobby Valentine has done himself no favors with his lackluster efforts in guiding the Red Sox to a 57-60 record within the AL East . That mark by the team sees them seated in third place within the always contentious division . Given the legacy of the Boston Red Sox , as one of the more famed franchises in all of baseball , anything short of making the postseason has to be looked upon as a failure for a ball-club of its size and fan-base. Fenway Park, as one of the more fabled ballparks within the game has witnessed the fans this season not just booing the owners but if anything their most heated attacks have been directed at the manager , himself .

For his part Bobby Valentine has been nondescript and it is my belief that he did not truly appreciate the pressure under which he would be placed when he accepted the managerial role and to serve in that capacity. If the adage is , you are only good as your last job and the success achieved there . Then my question for Ben Cherington would be ——- “why hire a manager who has been away from a managerial role for almost a decade “ ? Surely there must have been far more suitable candidates for the position ? Or was it, as it now appears to be , that this hire was done as an act of capriciousness , putting style over substance ? What thoughts if any do you on that premise ?

There is still a great deal to play for as the season meanders towards its regular finality on the 3rd October , but between now and then , let the chips fall where they may, and then after, we can assess how things have gone.

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Picture gallery.

Are you at all surprised by the recent turn of events within the game ? And as things now stand what if anything are you now most looking forward to as the regular season moves towards a finality ?

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Picture and slide show gallery details below.
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Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez is congratulated by teammate Justin Smoak, right, after throwing a perfect game to end the ninth inning of baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Seattle. The Mariners won 1-0 . AP Photo/Ted S. Warren …

(2) Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez is mobbed by teammates, including catcher John Jaso, after he threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays, in a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Seattle. The Mariners won 1-0. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren …

(3) SEATTLE, WA – AUGUST 15: Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners waves to the crowd after throwing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field on August 15, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images ….

(4) FILE – This June 5, 2012 file photo shows San Francisco Giants’ Melky Cabrera reacting after striking out during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Diego. Cabrera has been suspended for 50 games without pay after testing positive for testosterone. The commissioner’s office says the suspension is effective immediately. Major League Baseball said on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, that Cabrera tested positive for the banned performance-enhancing substance, which violates MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi ….

(5) BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 15: Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine argues with home plate umpire Mike Everitt after Adrian Gonzalez (28) of the Boston Red Sox was ejected in the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles would defeat the Red Sox 5-3 . Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images …

(6) BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 15: Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Mike Everitt during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

(7) Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, right, talks with, from left, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and first base coach Alex Ochoa in the dugout before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, in Baltimore. AP Photo/Nick Wass ….

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, right, talks with, from left, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and first base coach Alex Ochoa in the dugout before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Who’s Minding The Store ………….. ?

Who’s Minding The Store ?

I really like to understand how it is that with the financial uncertainty that still swirls around the Los Angeles Dodgers that Newscorp through its Fox subsidiary would see fit to loan Fank McCourt of the Los Angeles Dodgers $30 million to meet the organization’s expenses in terms of paying the team’s salary and that of the other anciliary employees . With the league hierarchy of baseball having brought in C Thomas Schieffer a former Texas Rangers executive as well as being the former US ambassador to Japan to oversee the day to day operations of the Dodgers I would be under the impression that given the Dodgers’ ongoing financial difficulties the league would want to make sure that McCourt would be able to guarantee the repayment of any loan taken out by him to meet the team’s expenses. Not only that but given the fact that Frank McCourt and his now ex wife Jamie McCourt between 2004 through to 2009 had borrowed in excess of $100 million from the team without there being any record to indicate that this sum had been repaid . Now should he be unable to meet the team’s payroll over the coming month there is an even greater chance in all likelihood that the league may well have no other option but to seek the sale of of the Los Angeles Dodgers but first they would have ask McCourt to completely relinquish control of the team.

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Clearly there’s something still amiss concerning the Dodgers , their finances and the mere fact that it has taken MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and his associates within the league hierarchy to even intervene in this situation leads me to believe that their business acumen and what we’re told are sound business practices are complete and sheer utter stupidity . From business standpoint I sincerely doubt that the vast majority of the owners around the league as well as the general managers would know the actual difference between a baking sheet and a balance sheet !

As this ongoing saga continues the less faith I have in the game’s integrity and that of the league hierarchy ! Bud Selig has become a clown of inconceivable magnitude and the fact that given the idiocy of the actions of the executives within the Dodgers’ organization most notably GM Ned Colletti , CFO Peter Wilhelm and Frank McCourt , whose own actions have been so egregious and clearly premeditated I cannot understand how it is that there seems to be no punishment of the owner for his misdeeds other than the mere fact that the league has essentially taken control of the organization. There is a great deal that McCourt has chosen not to be made public and at the same time it would appear that the league wants to cover up many of its own ineptitude in the handling of this situation. Frank McCourt states that the league hierarchy all along has had within their possession a $3 billion television contract deal that would supply the beleaguered organization with all the revenues needed to meet its financial obligations . However , in light of that all the Dodgers prior to this all Frank McCourt had stated that the Los Angeles Dodgers were never in any financial danger but records simply do not bear that out with there being multiple loans taken out by Frank McCourt using the team as collateral .

The league has a mandate that no team can have a debt ratio of more than 10 ten times its earnings but clearly with the Dodgers have contravened the rules in this instance. Bud Selig for his part has yet to make it fully public as to full extent of the problems of the Los Angeles Dodgers but clearly given the wide and varying reports by from various news sources the severity of the problems were so extensive that McCourt was simply being economical with the truth. Now it remains to be seen how long Schieffer will be overseeing the Dodgers’ operations and whether or not the team will in fact end up being sold. Frank McCourt’s ex wife Jamie McCourt has made a request of the judge who presided over her divorce proceedings to seek the court to enforce the sale of the organization . The judge may well not proceed with such an adjudication given the situation at present wherein the league has taken control over the organization. But it would not surprise me that the league’s own legal counsel could well seek out potential buyers for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However , with McCourt stating that he would fight tooth and nail to retain control of the team even if it meant taking legal action against MLB this situation could become a great deal more contentious were the two factions to enter into litigation.

At some point during the season we are liable to see several teams’ fortunes wane in terms of their performances .
Races within the divisions are steadily heating up but it’s still far too early to state what the outcomes will be with regard to where the teams will be at the culmination of the regular season .

Now as we enter the month of June and with the All Star Game set for 12th July to be hosted at Chase Field in Phoenix , Arizona it will be interesting to see what manner the protests will undoubtedly take in terms of the response to that state’s newly enacted law to enforce the state’s unpopular enforcement of the legal right of police officers to request a suspect to prove that they are a legal resident and not an illegal alien. As popular as this law may well be in the eyes of many it certainly has become very unpopular amongst many Latin American players within MLB. And the very fact that the ACLU and La Raza have chosen to closely monitor the actions as the state legislature and Gov Jan Brewer seeks its strict enforcement . I’ve no doubt that this issue as volatile as it has become should be dealt with at the Federal level of the government but given the inactivity and the partisanship within the Senate , Congress and the mere fact that no Presidential administration has seen fit to tackle this matter head on. I am really beginning to think that the mind numbing idiocy shown by the all levels of the government are completely at a loss to actually explain fully what their policy is with regard to illegal immigration !

DHS Chief Janet Napolitano who oversees the INS has been ambiguous at best in explaining the administration’s policy . Insofar as I think that the laws of the land have to be strictly adhered to , there has to be some latitude given to how a state can deal with problems that they deem acute within its own borders. I certainly don’t believe that Bud Selig ought to be forced to take a stance because a number of players oppose this statute no matter what their ethnicity. And even light of Carlos Santana making his outrageous statements at a ball game at Turner Field in Atlanta , Georgia , clearly shows how volatile this issue has become. However, someone ought to remind Santana that the state of Georgia has seen its own fair share of what he deems to be racial injustice as during the Civil Rights’ era within the state and in particular the city of Atlanta were one of the major epicenters of African American defiance as to the racial injustice that swept the South and across the nation at the time.

Given the history of the game and presumed journey that it has taken over the course of its history there’s no denying that baseball as far as it has come socially and economically there are still a number of issues that remain to be resolved. Jackie Robinson’s entry into the MLB opened up the game for all minorities but bear this in mind the game at the time though inclusive when Hank Aaron broke the alltime home run record he was being vilified the torrents of racial abuse , racial epithets death threats directed at the Hall of Famer would give the impression that in surpassing Babe Ruth’s feat was seen as an abomination by those who felt it beneath them to see an African American break one of sport’s most hallowed records. Now in this modern day and age it is not about the intolerance but what there is to be learned by all parties concerned.

It would appear in the aftermath of the game collision between Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins and the San Francisco Giants’ catcher Buster Posey . Giants’ GM Brian Sabean had a few choice words for the Marlins’ utility player and the fact that he felt that Cousins’ actions were unsportsmanlike . Many would disagree with Sabean’s view of the incident but when one takes into account what this loss means for the San Francisico Giants and their season then you can understand the general manager’s ire . Having lost Posey for the year and the players productivity it lessens the possible chance of the Giants quite possibly making the postseason either as a division winner or the wildcard entrant within the NL.

The Giants on a three game win streak but have lost 6 of their last 10 games over that span . For manager Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff the loss of Posey has to be a tremendous disappointment for the team . And it goes without saying for the fans they cannot be pleased with the loss of a fan favorite . While the debate goes on as to whether or not the league hierarchy needs to do more to protect catcher when at home plate protecting his position from a base runner heading home . I for one believe that the catcher knows of the imminent dangers that are presented in such a scenario . It has become one the traits of the game and there is not much that can be done to avoid such instances as both the catcher defending the plate and the player heading for home know of the prevailing dangers .

Collisions within baseball are part of the game just as much as fighting has become a part of an NHL . From my own perspective it would simply make no sense in changing the rules to supposedly make the game safe for its participants . What might need to be done is the for officials in such instances prior to the game to advise both coaching staffs that there is a need for their players to be aware that no unsportsmanlike conduct will be tolerated on the field . Safety has to be a priority which of course the players and managers are obviously aware of but with hindsight there becomes the issue if what we know to be right from wrong . The collision between Cousins and Posey wasn’t a premeditated act as both players were simply doing what would be normally asked of them . It goes without saying however that the game’s hierarchy may well now begin to monitor such instances to see if there is a flagrant act on the path of a player when such an instance arises between the catcher and an opponent at home plate.

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Picture gallery for your perusal . By clicking on an individual frame you can view that picture in its original formatted size.

What thoughts if any do you have on the points raised within this piece ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts .

Alan aka tophatal ………………………

https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) Frank McCourt the beleaguered owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers who could be close to losing control of the team either through its forced sale by the courts or from an unsolicited bid by a group of investors. courtesy of LA Dodgers . …

(2) Jamie McCourt arrives with her attorney, Dennis Wasser for a non-jury divorce trial at Los Angeles County Court August 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The trial, being presided over by Judge Scott M. Gordon in California Superior Court, is to decide whether Frank McCourt is the sole owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team or his estranged wife and former Dodger CEO Jamie McCourt still has ownership stake in the team. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America ….

(3) Hall of Fame player Ernie Banks (left) is seen here with Carlos Santa (center) and Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman at Turner Field in Atlanta , Georgia which commemorated the annual Civil Rights’ Game . The rocker would give a passionate but totally unwarranted speech that in part denigrated the state of Georgia with his insipid remarks calling the state and its occupants racists . AP Photo/ Chris Myles …

(4) Brian Sabean, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the San Francisco Giants, watches batting practice before Game Three of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs between the Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies at AT&T Park on October 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Getty Images / Justin Sullivan ….

(5) Catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, the National League?s rookie of the year in 2010, suffered a leg fracture and torn ligaments when Florida’s Scott Cousins barreled into him at home plate in the 12th inning of the Marlins-Giants game May 25, 2011. Courtesy of ABC News ……

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NB : It is being reported that former MLB players Orel Hershiser and Steve Carlton have formed to a consortium in conjunction with billionaire Ron Burkle to make a formal offer to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers should the league see fit to put the organization up for sale.