Lonely at the top: Cards in sole possession of 1st

It’s sort of like I’ve got a mini-streak going.  Last week I started by reminding you all how brilliant I am, when I said the week before that the A’s were good, and the Cards would have their work cut out for them.  Then last week, I talked about how it’s conceivable that short-term ridiculous deals can leave a club with fewer options, and could be arguably more restrictive (in some ways) than a long-term ridiculous deal.  Then, what happens?  Ty Wigginton gets his unconditional release.  Couldn’t move him, couldn’t send him to Memphis, so that’s that.  I’m so smart.

Totally kidding, by the way.  For those that haven’t gotten to know me yet, any reference to myself being brilliant is purely satire.

There’s so much going on right now, it’s not easy to narrow down to which topic I want to write about, quite honestly.  A lot has happened today (Tuesday, as I sit here).

  • Cards win
  • Pirates Lose
  • Reds lose
  • Wainwright throws another gem
  • Yadi Molina’s knee
  • Ty Wigginton released
  • Mitchell Boggs sold to COL
  • Rob Johnson promoted
  • PED news resurfaces (Braun, A-Rod…etc)
  • All-Star game (Cards send 5; Snubs; Puig)

That’s not even the complete list of topics I’d like to write about, and most of those have popped up in the last 12 hours or less.

I suppose I’ll just touch on a couple of items, and maybe come back to others at a later date, or maybe never get around to it, who knows?

-Cards (no longer) tied for first-

So, the important stuff first:  Your St. Louis Cardinals are in sole possession of first place in the NL Central and are the only NL team with 54 wins.  There are two AL teams with 54 wins: Boston and (you guessed it) Oakland…And Boston just won their 55th.  The Redbirds have won 4 straight now, as the Pirates have dropped their last 4.  I’ve pointed out before, however, that you can’t forget about those guys, even as they’ve started to drop the last few games–they’d still be alone atop the other NL divisions.  The Reds keep hanging around, currently 5 games back of the division lead.  They’d better step up their game, or they won’t “earn” another “division champions trophy”.  What an embarrassment to the game.

Looking ahead for the Cards & Pirates, who will square off for 4 in Pittsburgh at the end of the month, the schedules between now and then line up like this:

Pirates are at home until the ASB, and host OAK, then 3 against the Mets.  After the break, they go to CIN for 3, then to DC for 3 against the Nats, followed by 3 in Miami before the Cards head into Pittsburgh.

The Cards will finish the two-game set again Houston at home, then head to the North side of Chicago for 4 against the baby bears.  After the break, the Redbirds will host the Padres (who just ended their 10-game losing streak as I typed this sentence) and the Phillies at Busch before heading to Atlanta, then on to Pittsburgh.

If both teams win the series’ they’re supposed to, you figure the Bucs & Cards series at the end of the month could be an important one.

-PEDs in the news again-

Ryan Braun, A-Rod, and “as many as 20 others” could be facing 100-game suspensions after the ASB.  What a mess.  There are a variety of things going on here that are unclear, unfair, and some things that are just flat wrong.  I don’t understand a policy that says your penalty for a first offense (failure of a PED test) is a 50-game suspension, a 100-game suspension for a 2nd offense, and, predictably, on the third strike you’re out.  Neither A-Rod nor Braun have been popped for their first offense yet.  We know A-Rod used, because he admitted to it.  “I was young, I was stupid, I’m sticking to a script…”.   We know Braun peed something that could run a Prius for a week and a half, but the chain of control protocol was violated, and most of the free world (including many MLB players) agrees that Braun got off on a technicality.  However, neither of these men have actually had their “first offense” by the letter of the rule.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re both dirty, but you can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.  And the whole “after the ASG” thing could mean September, or even after the season–let’s not get all worked up thinking that a couple of dozen players are going down on July 20th.

One of my biggest problems with the PED penalty structure is that it barks up the wrong tree.  Suspending a player for games doesn’t hurt enough.  I understand that in some cases, the financial implications can be felt and are not insignificant, but it’s far from enough to get the player’s attention.  One need look no further than Manny or Melky to see that.  Cabrera got popped, and served his suspension in the 2nd half of his team’s run to a World Series championship, after taking home the MVP award of the All-Star game.   Nice.

According to the almost always reliable folks at baseball-reference, Melky’s contract with the Giants in 2012 was worth a cool six million bucks.  A 50-game suspension is roughly a third of the season, so you could say that it cost him $2,000,000 when he got busted.  But you’d be wrong.  I’d argue that, without using, his production wouldn’t have landed him in Toronto the VERY NEXT SEASON under terms of a two-year deal worth, oh that’s right, $16,000,000.  I am ashamed of the things that are on the list of what I’d do for sixteen million dollars, folks.  Using PEDs is most assuredly on that list.  And I’ll bet it’s on Melky Cabrera‘s list, as well as most of the rest of the human population of this planet.

Hit ’em where it hurts–in the wallet.  Taking away games from a player…I mean, sure it takes some of their money, but not enough to truly discourage using.  If I catch my kid playing his DS when he’s not supposed to, I’m not going to ground him from the game he’s playing.  I’m going to ground him from the DS.  The whole DS.  I say start taking real money from these players when they’re caught (and proven to have violated the policy, in accordance with established rules, after  fair due process – make 100% sure).  First offense?  Don’t take 50 games from them, take 50% of the value of their contract from them.  Second offense, again, not 100 games, take 100% of the value of the contract.  Not the value of that year’s salary under the contract, the value of that contract.  Keep the whole “three strikes & you’re out” thing.  You can’t go the route of “have a team policy not to sign players who have used” because, just like signing a free agent to a 20-year contract, it only takes one GM to do it and then, at least on the field, that GM’s team may have an advantage.  I have another whole post on GMs & contracts, but that’s for another day.

Obviously, the PA would have to be on board with such a huge penalty, and it’d have to be ratified in a new CBA…etc, etc.  I know.  There are a lot of reasons why it wouldn’t or couldn’t work.  But if the players (and more importantly, the union) really wanted to get serious about ridding the game of this, they could do more.  You can’t blame Selig for everything.

That’s gonna have to do it for now.   I’m thinking about starting a new feature portion of my post, and getting a little interactive with you guys.  More on that next week, though.  Thanks for reading!

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