The New York Yankees have been the home to some of baseball's immortals. Names of old, such as Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Ford, and Berra, along with more recent legends, namely Jackson, Pettite, Rivera, Jeter, Posada, and Gossage. Jeter and Rivera, specifically, were given the grandest of send offs, with both being hailed throughout their final season, no matter where they went. Opposing ballparks showered them with gifts, opposing fans cheered the soon-to-be hall of fame bound villains, and opposing teams approached both men seeking pictures and autographs as though they were their ten year old selves again.
On paper, Alex Rodriguez deserves a similar sendoff. 696 home runs, 329 stolen bases, 3114 hits, three 50 home run seasons, a 40-40 season, 3 AL MVP Awards, 14 All Star game appearances, a batting title in 1996, and a World Series Championship in 2009. On paper, Alex Rodriguez may be the greatest player in the history of baseball. On paper, Alex Rodriguez is a shoo in for the hall of fame. On paper, Alex Rodriguez deserves a retirement sendoff on a scale never before seen in baseball.
Alex Rodriguez, on paper, is all but guaranteed enshrinement in Cooperstown. In reality, though, he'll be lucky to get a whiff of the hall of fame, if even that.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
On paper, Alex Rodriguez can be judged by just statistics. In reality, we must examine a man who is perhaps the single most controversial player in MLB history, and I am including Barry Bonds in that discussion.
Alex Rodriguez announced his retirement earlier this week, stating that his last game as a Yankee will be Friday at Yankee Stadium. Years ago, you would've expected this to be a momentous occasion, with ticket scalpers salivating at the thought of being able to charge hundreds of dollars for nosebleed seats, with millions of people watching A-Rod's farewell on national television. Unfortunately, while the game will likely be highly attended and anticipated, it will not be a game that people will flock to their TV sets for.
Where to begin with this? When A-Rod first signed the obsurd $252,000,000 contract with the Texas Rangers, it seemed as though it was an appropriate contract for the man that had already had a 40-40 season with Seattle, and was on his way to surpassing Ken Griffey, Jr. as the most talented all around player in baseball. While in Texas, he seemed to live up to it as well, averaging 52 home runs a year for his 3 Texas seasons. He found himself in Yankee pinstripes after an offseason trade sent him to the Bronx in 2004. While his 2004 season took a step back, finishing with fewer than 40 home runs for the first time since 1997 and a batting average below .300, he had an overall good postseason, posting a .320 average for that infamous 2004 playoff run that saw Boston come from down 3-0 to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. From there, it is a pretty consistent story: good to great regular season, next to no production in the postseason (2009 not withstanding).
Even still, when you look at these numbers, you can't help but think that this is the stat line of an historically great baseball player. Well, the numbers only tell one side of the story.
On the other side, you have the PED allegations/revalations/admissions, PED coverup attempts, PED lies, PED suspension, lack of acceptance with New York fans, I could go on, really. I asked some of my Yankee friends what they thought of him, and here is just a small sampling of what I got:
"He's not a real Yankee." "Sure, I don't hate him, but I'm glad to see him go." "He was never good when we needed him to be." "The Yankees overpaid for him when they got him, and he never really lived up to it, especially with the later PED revalations."
What struck me was the final sentence of one message I received from a friend whose opinion I hold in extremely high regard. His last sentence was 2 simple words.
This is a Yankee fan I am talking about, and I mean I have known him for 20 years and he was a Yankee fan before I met him. For him to say this about Alex Rodriguez had me floored. I had thought the same of A-Rod, but while I knew Yankee fans had a definite Love-Hate relationship with number 13, I was not expecting what seems to be a complete sense of indifference and apathy towards the controversial superstar.
This may be the greatest shame in the history of baseball. We are going to see one of the most supremely talented players in the history of the game go out not on top, but on the bench, as Joe Girardi has almost made a point of not playing A-Rod as of late (tonight's start being an exception). We are going to see one of the most gifted hitters of a generation go out with a final season batting average right around .200, nearly 100 points lower than his career average. We are going to see one of the best players anyone has ever seen be remembered not for his accomplishments on the field, but for his PED usage, his attempted cover ups of PED usage, his 162 game suspension for PED usage, and for his constant denials of PED usage only to later admit his guilt.
Come Friday evening, an era will end. Alex Rodriguez will be a part of his final baseball game as a player. He will finish his career short of 700 home runs. He will finish his career with a batting average below .300. He will finish his career with only 1 World Series ring playing for a team which should have won several. He will finish his career with the fans of his team not caring that he won't be around anymore. But what is the most tragic of it all is that he will finish his career not as a hero, but as a disgrace.
What a sporting scene we have on our hands right now. The frenzy of the trading deadline in baseball, the Olympics set to open in just a few days amidst doping issues, health concerns, and infrastructure issues, and golf crowned it's final major champion in Jimmy Walker at a rain soaked PGA Championship. Therefore, I find it only fitting to talk about football.
That's right, my curiosity with football ruling the American sports world not only spans all medias, but also my own interests.
Training camps have opened for NFL teams, and before you know it, high school and college football will be kicking off around the country. My NFL predictions will come soon enough, but for now, I would just like to pose 5 questions for the 2016 football season.
When the 2016 NFL season begins, Tom Brady will not be on the field in charge of the New England offense, due to his suspension.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
1.) The NFL season will open without Brady or Peyton under center Week 1. How will this affect the season? While one of these absences is permanent, the other is only temporary, as Brady somewhat surprisingly accepted the 4 game suspension handed down for his role in the deflategate saga. It seems fairly obvious that the Broncos will suffer on offense with the departures of both Manning and Osweiler, so this team will have to rely even more on their championship caliber defense. The other is not so simple to answer. While Jimmy Garappolo has been dubbed the heir apparent to Tom Brady, it remains to be seen if he is NFL ready. Now, when Brady returns, expect the first few weeks to be similar to the beginning of last season when Brady played angry. We have seen over the years that angry Brady is nearly unbeatable, so after Game 5, expect very few Patriots losses when he returns. However, I am interested to see what New England's record will be going into that Week 5 matchup with Cleveland. If they split the 4 games with Jimmy G at QB, expect another run at home field advantage for the Pats. If they lose 3 of 4, they may not be so fortunate.
Andy Dalton missed the end of last season due to an injury. He is now healthy and ready to prove that his white hot start to 2015 was no fluke.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
2.) Is this the year the Bengals finally win a playoff game? Ah, yes, the subject of much debate in Cincinnati this offseason. Can the Bengals get over that hump and advance in the playoffs? Well, to be fair, Cincinnati may be home to the deepest and most talented team in the AFC. They now have 2 QB's capable of winning football games. They return one of the best RB tandems in the NFL is Bernard and Hill. In spite of losing Jones and Sanu, they still have a deep receiving core, with Green and Eifert being among the best Receiver/Tight End combos. And that defense, oh that defense. This is a team built from within, with a solid foundation of young talent, and a thirst for success that has grown stronger and stronger with each passing year. As is the case every year, the answer to the playoff question will come down to health. If the Bengals can remain healthy, which was a bit of a concern last year late, then they may be the team to beat in the AFC. If that seems like a bold statement, it's because it is. However, it is not without merit to make such a bold statement for a team that has not won a playoff game since 1990, considering the depth of talent on this team is among the best the AFC has seen in years.
Andrew Luck is now healthy. Andrew Luck will soon be a very rich man. Andrew Luck hopes to add trophies to his mantle in the near future.
USA TODAY Sports
3.) Andrew Luck struggled last year, possibly due to his injury issues. Even with these problems, he made bank this offseason. Will Luck lead the Colts to the promised land? Andrew Luck is the kind of talent at QB that you see once in a generation. We've known this for a long time now. Last season not withstanding, he has led the Colts to multiple playoff appearances, including a berth in the AFC Championship game just 2 years ago. As a reward for his early success and seemingly limitless potential, he signed a contract extension for an obsurd amount of money, though some may argue he earned every penny. The big question is can Luck do what Peyton Manning did 10 years ago and lead the Colts to another Super Bowl Title? Luck has run into similar issues that #18 had to deal with early on: talent surrounding him on offense, light on defensive prowess, just to name one. The short answer is that 2016 will not be the year that Luck gets his Super Bowl, but if you look past this year, it may not be long before #12 earns his championship, maybe even an MVP award, and his place among the truly elite in the NFL.
The NFL's Superman came within one game of leading the Panthers to their first Super Bowl Championship. Cam Newton must now regroup and make another run at the Lombardi Trophy.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
4.) Will we see Cam Newton in the Super Bowl again this year? The Panthers could do no wrong last year, leading to just 1 regular season loss and an NFC Championship. The problem with all of that? No ring. While it wasn't exactly shocking to see the Panthers make the playoff run that they did (it has been building for a few years), the dominance that they showed leading up to it was a bit of a surprise. Cam Newton, it seemed, finally turned the corner in becoming the leader on the field that he was. While his demeanor in defeat left something to be desired last year, it just shows his competitive spirit in my view. Who wants to lose? I sure as hell don't, so I can see where Cam's frustration comes from, even if the timing of it was unfortunate. To answer this question, we must look at the rest of the NFC. What will we find? The Cardinals will be strong again, but Carson Palmer isn't getting any younger. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, and that can never be discounted. The Cowboys may have the best offense in the NFC, assuming Tony Romo can stay healthy, and of course, there will be a surprise team that comes out of nowhere as one does every year. All that being considered, I would say that I would not at all be surprised to see the Panthers make a return trip to the Super Bowl in 2016. They return a lot of talent, and Cam Newton won't be discouraged by a Super Bowl defeat. If anything, it'll make him even hungrier.
The Jets have their QB, and have avoided having to thrown Geno Smith into the drivers seat. Will bringing back the Harvard man, Fitzpatrick, be enough to boost the Jets over the hump and onto the top of the AFC East?
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
5.) Will we see a changing of the guard in the AFC East?
As I mentioned earlier, Tom Brady will miss the first 4 games of the season due to suspension. This gives the other 3 teams in the division (The Bills, Dolphins, and Jets) a glimmer of hope that they may break the Patriot dynasty, even if just for a year. The Patriots will be looking to win yet another division championship, but that Brady suspension cannot be discounted. The Jets won 10 games last year and still missed the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Dolphins and Bills will be looking to have breakout seasons with the added talent they have accumulated. With the Jets resigning Fitzpatrick for the season, their offense has been stabilized, even if it just for 2016. The Bills looked strong at times last year, as did the Dolphins, and I see them both being even better this year. The question, though, still remains, will it be enough to take down the Patriots? It's a tough question, and one that might take some time to answer fully. I'll say for now that the Jets have the best chance of taking down New England, considering the defense they possess, but it will be difficult to take down the Patriots. It always is.
I will be coming out with my NFL Predictions Sure To Go Wrong soon, but for now, I leave you with these 5 questions. Personally, even though my love for the Bengals remains strong, the question I am most interested in is the Andrew Luck conundrum. If he returns to his 2014 levels of success, then look out in the AFC, but if he doesn't turn things around, you will begin to hear a lot of rumblings out of Indianapolis of his unbelievable contract.
The Reds are 8-4 since the All Star Break, including taking 2 of 3 from the first place San Francisco Giants. Jay Bruce has been a man possessed at the plate. All I have to say is where the hell did this come from?
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
When last we spoke, the Cincinnati Reds were bottom dwellers in the NL Central, having completed one of the worst first halves to a season in club history. There had been some good, plenty of bad, and way too much ugly with this young team. The 2 All Stars, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce, seemed the lone bright spots on a team in the midst of a rebuild.
With the intermission for the All Star Game behind us, we are now in Act 2 of the 2016 season. Apparently, nobody told the Reds that Act 2 is supposed to start where Act 1 left off.
Who would've thought that Dan Strailey, a guy the Reds picked up off the scrap heap before Opening Day, would be the most consistent starter? Better yet, who would've ever dreamed he would outduel Madison Bumgarner? Ever??
Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
The Reds are 8-4 since the All Star Break, which normally could be attributed to playing the lowly Brewers, Braves, and Diamondbacks. However, they have just completed an improbably series victory over the San Francisco Giants, who lead the NL West. Included in that series was a 2-1 win over Madison Bumgarner, one of the premier pitchers in the National League. To top it off, while I had been critical of Joey Votto's unVotto like season, he has bumped his average up to .281 in a very short time, which now leads the team among every day players. Jay Bruce is up to 25 home runs, for which he shares the team lead with Adam Duvall, and 79 RBIs, which not only leads all Reds players, but also all National League players.
Not to mention, the pitching has been halfway decent since the break, all things considered. Tony Cingrani is up to 12 saves, Anthony DeSclafani has maintained an ERA near 3, and overall, while for the season Reds pitching has surrendered 5.74 runs per game, they have allowed 4.17 runs per game since the All Star Break (for those of you that live and die by old school stats, that's a 5.46 ERA before the All Star Break and a 3.88 ERA since). That is a significant improvement, even if it is just 12 games. On top of that, it was announced today that Homer Bailey has been activated off of the 60-Day Disabled List. While this will not immediately make this team a threat to win so often they actually make a Wild Card run, that will bring a veteran arm into this young pitching staff, and provide added support to the bullpen by his presence (someone has to get bumped from the rotation to make room for a $100 million man, right?)
With all of this good happening to the young Reds, there has to be a catch. In fact, the catch is perhaps the brightest star on the team right now: NL All Star and previously mentioned RBI Leader, Jay Bruce.
The trade deadline is Sunday. The Reds are obviously not buyers, so one might assume they are sellers. That would be a fair assumption for a team still making progress to rebuild towards another playoff run. With so much young pitching both in the majors and minors, obviously they don't look to be dealing any arms this July. However, they do have a specific bat that can be dealt if the price is right, and as of now, that price has never been higher.
With a club option for 2017 (that would be valid for any team that might acquire him), and a run of hot hitting that has placed him among the top hitters in the game right now, Jay Bruce is trade bait that might draw top dollar deals from some teams.
Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, though there is a club option for 2017 worth $13 million. Assuming he is not traded, the Reds will almost assuredly pick up that option, considering they do not have a suitable replacement as of yet for Bruce. Assuming he is traded, it's hard to see another team making a different decision, considering the tear that Bruce is currently on.
While we have always known that Jay is one of the most powerful hitters on the Reds, he has struggled to stay consistent. He made the All Star Team this year, which, while is a strong indicator that he has had a good season thus far, was just the launching point for the Texan. Since the break, he has a batting average just a few points short of .300, 7 home runs, and 16 RBIs. For comparison, if he were to continue that pace for 150 games (assuming he took some off days), would amount to 87 home runs and 200 RBIs, obviously a pace he won't keep up. However, it does beg the question, will there be ever a better opportunity to trade an outfielder for a King's ransom?
The Reds have not been shy about trading established stars away over the last calendar year, with top guys such as Cueto, Leake, Frazier, and Chapman already having been shipped away for younger, unproven prospects. Bruce certainly fits the mold: established starter, former all star, end of a contract, not getting any younger, and (not including Chapman and his situation) certainly white hot as far as trade value. I heard on 1410 ESPN Radio a valid point a couple days ago. There is always a market for pitchers at the deadline, but position players is a bit more difficult to sell. However, Bruce, I believe, breaks this mold, considering the streak that he is on and the fact that he not only can do damage at the plate, but is a major contributor on defense.
Bruce will bring a King's ransom at this point, considering the surge that he has showed over the last 2 weeks, but the buyer has to be right. Seattle has been mentioned by several reporters as their corner outfielders have been so-so at best. Other potential suitors include the Dodgers, Indians, and Giants, although a trade to Cleveland would require Bruce to waive his partial no trade clause. At this point, I don't know who will end up landing him, if anyone.
These are the two guys I want to see on this team for years to come, but the business of Major League Baseball can be cruel to players and fans alike, and I fear that we are about to see the end of this sight very soon
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
This is a tough one. I was there when Jay Bruce hit the home run against the Astros in 2010 to win the NL Central, and that was the biggest sports moment that I had ever seen in person (although the Cincinnati Cyclones Kelly Cup Championship just 3 months prior would give that home run a good run). At the same time, I've seen Jay Bruce go to the plate, and I would know, no matter the circumstance, he was going to strike out for the 20th time in 10 games. I would love for Jay Bruce to sign an extension and join Joey Votto as the veteran presence on a young team building towards a World Series run in 2018, but I know better. Baseball is a game, but Major League Baseball is a business. Frankly, business sucks.