First off, if the Baltimore Orioles don’t qualify for the post season it’ll be due to the fact that they didn’t win enough games. I’m not big on saying well this happened because of this or that; Buck Showalter doesn’t appear to be either. There comes a point where you have to stand up and simply say we didn’t get the job done. But with that said, there are in fact sometimes outside circumstances that affect us and our lives. I’m talking specifically about the Orioles’ shot at the playoffs this year, and the recent surge of the New York Yankees.
Kudos to New York for working their way back into the pennant/wild card race for starters. However it can’t go unmentioned that their surge has come within the last week or so, and since the return of Alex Rodriguez they have a win percentage of .667. ARod’s only played in 15 games with an average of .281, however he does have an OBP of .379. Furthermore while he (in theory) has diminished power as opposed to the prime of his career, he’s still a force in the New York lineup and he forces teams to somewhat alter their game plans as they prepare to face him.
Without going into the whole PED’s discussion too much, we all know that ARod also shouldn’t be playing right now. I support a player’s right to appeal a suspension, and for the most part I also feel that it makes sense to allow that player to be able to play and thus collect a paycheck while his appeal is being heard. Before we go any further here, let me state for the record that it’s entirely possible that New York would have surged like this without Rodriguez in the lineup. It’s just an intangible that we don’t know.
Let’s leave the Orioles out of this for a moment. What if New York continues their hot streak this weekend against Tampa and ultimately when all is said and done they’re one of the wild card teams as opposed to Tampa (or the Orioles)? Again, on one hand you’d have no choice but to say good for them. However is it really fair that there’s at least the perception that they swooped in and stole a playoff birth from teams with a guy that shouldn’t have been playing anyways?
Again, I support Mr. Rodriguez’s right to appeal, especially given the number of games and amount of money we’re talking about. I think he’s guilty as sin, however that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t have the right to appeal. However in this particular case I also think that perhaps Bud Selig should have invoked one of his for the good of the game deals and not allowed ARod to play during the appeal. I recognize that the right to play during an appeal was something that was collectively bargained and so forth, however what we’re really saying is that the “rights” of one individual is more paramount than what’s fair to the group. If this was April or May I probably wouldn’t have any issue with it. However we’re starting to get down to crunch time in the regular season…you get the point I’m sure.
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Some folks will play devil’s advocate and ask what happens if the appeal is successful? What do you say to ARod? At that point I’d say just pay the man the game checks he would have received and move on. Is this a perfect solution? Probably not, because then his team would have had him for these games. However if New York goes to the playoffs I think it’s going to look about bad on MLB as it possibly can, and you’ll have at least one or two teams saying that they should have been in and so forth. For the record, Boston’s Ryan Dempster probably did as much to wake a sleeping giant as ARod’s doing when he threw at Rodriguez last Sunday. That caused Joe Girardi to lose his temper and get run out of the game; the entire episode appears to have galvanized that team. But the fact remains that Rodriguez shouldn’t be on the field.
The O’s will take on Oakland this evening in the first of three in a weekend series. Bud Norris will be on the mound for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Dan Straily. One thing to watch is the Orioles’ bullpen late in the game. On Wednesday Buck Showalter opted not to use Jim Johnson in the 9th inning, and kept Darren O’Day in the game instead (who later gave way to Tommy Hunter, who got the save). Does this indicate that Showalter is losing confidence in Johnson, or that he’s no longer the closer? Tough to say, but if the Orioles find themselves in a save situation late in tonight’s game it’ll be interesting to see who comes running out when those bullpen doors open up.