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Manny Ramirez: Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way out

So, Manny Ramirez has decided to retire rather than face another suspension for failing a drug test.  Not surprising in the least, either the failed test or the walking away.  Once again, a lack of character taints an entire career and for Ramirez this is just the latest example.

Ramirez is one of those sports figures that gets a lot of press.  Not necessarily because of his on the field performance, though over some of the 19 years of his career they were quite good (but most likely PED enhanced), but for his demeanor and look.  Ramirez is one of those guys that the sports media eats up with a spoon.  They get down on their knees and pray that he does something they can spin into stories for a couple of weeks.  And more often than not, he was more than willing to give it to them.

He has always had a lack of character in my opinion.  He is one of those ‘ME’ athletes that wants the attention on him for whatever reason, good or bad.  He wasn’t about team.  If the team was winning and he had a part in it, his part was of course the most important and the most worthy of coverage.  If the team was losing and he was doing his part to help, dogging balls, batting poorly, acting like a jerk, then he got the coverage as well.  So it was a win/win for him in the press.  Remember, there’s no such thing as bad press and in this day and age, bad press is even better.  

Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violation of the drug policy.  When he returned, he was never the same.  On the field or as a celebrity of the moment.  A downtrodden, poorly performing Manny on losing teams is just not interesting to the media.  He joined the Rays in the off season and has performed abysmally.  His batting verage was hovering near .060.  The Rays hadn’t won a game, until he announced he was retiring.  He also took a couple of days off this past week to deal with a “personal matter.”  We now know what that was.

Ramirez tested positive in Spring Training for a banned substance, what exactly we do not know as yet.  Instead of going through the drug program process, which would have included a 100-game suspension this time, Ramirez walked away.  Abandoning the Rays and almost surely abandoning his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.  Yes, he has the numbers.  He also has two failed drug tests, one suspension and another pending suspension if he had not retired OR if he returns to the game.  He will still have to serve the suspension if he should return to the game at some point.  It doesn’t just go away.

His lack of character will not go away either.  His poor choices will not go away.  And the taint of PEDs use that this newest failed test perpetuates will never leave the game of baseball, which Ramirez and others like him have ruined for all time.  Thanks Manny, hit the road.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Possible Chinks in the Perceived Armor

Much like the Miami Heat when they signed the triplets, many in the sports world had them winning it all, including 70 games.  Now, they will be lucky to get to 60 games on the season and winning it all doesn’t seem so likely anymore.  

When the Phillies signed their stellar rotation, most in the sports world had them winning the World Series.  People thought that they had it all sewn up—ready to hand them the trophy.  Not so fast my friends, not so fast.

Apparently, there are a few more chinks in the Phillies’ armor than one might have expected at first glance.

Starting with Chase Utley and his knee injury.  Utley and the team keep saying that he is progressing and on the right track, but taking ground balls while sitting in a chair is not progressing unless they mean he isn’t lying down to take them, so that’s progress.  

Utley will likely be out for months, not weeks.  The Phillies just signed veteran Luis Castillo to a minor league deal.  They also have several candidates who can play second on their own roster.  

But replacing Utley and his defense isn’t going to be that easy and also working into a new around-the-horn chemistry.  It is not as easy as people might think.

Next, the Phillies are going to miss Jayson Werth’s bat.  A lot of people like to dog on Werth and his attitude, but he provided the Phillies hits in key situations.  That will be gone this season and they do not have a solid replacement in the lineup for what he contributed.  

It’s all well and good if your pitchers can hold down the other team’s runs, but your team has to put some on the board to win.

On to the pitching, it is a great rotation, no doubt about it, but it is not invincible.  Over spring training, almost all the pitchers in the rotation have had bad outings and some of them have had more than one.

Hamels has not been particularly stellar.  Blanton has given up a lot of runs.  Even Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee have given up more runs than one would have thought.  

In total, the Phillies starting five have given up 41 runs over 73 innings of work.  They have given up 11 homers and 74 hits.  They have had 57 strikeouts.  The starting five have a win/loss record of 5-4.  Their average ERA is 3.89.  

Do I think the Phillies will make the playoffs?  They should.  Do I think they win their division?  Perhaps. Will they win the World Series? We will find out in about eight months.  

For now, it might be wise not to put all the World Series eggs in one basket. 

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2011 Colorado Rockies: Projecting the Lineup

The 2011 Colorado Rockies have a lot of potential firepower in their mostly very young lineup.  Jim Tracy has yet to make a final decision on an opening day roster, but in looking at his spring training games so far, piecing a projected lineup together is getting a little easier.

The Rockies have a couple of the game’s hottest bats right now and this could be a breakout year for them, which in turn could lead to a very good year for the Rockies.  A few questions remain, but let’s take a look at what the Rockies lineup might look like on opening day.

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MLB: Spring Training Games Offer New Beginnings

Spring training games offer much for the baseball world.  They offer knowledge; they offer glimpses of the upcoming season; they offer looks at minor league up-and-comers; and they offer first looks at those recovering from injury.  

Spring training games are not your average gamesthey do not feature a team’s starters all the way through for the most partbut they do offer looks and lessons to be learned.

The first few days of spring training are in the books, and baseball teams and fans have already learned much.  T

he Yankees have learned that Bartolo Colon can still pitch, but he is very, very heavy on the mound. The Braves have learned that Chipper seems to be recovering fairly well from his knee surgery. The Twins have learned that neither Mauer, nor Morneau are completely healthy.  

The Rockies have learned that even spring training games can result in injury as a collision between Ian Stewart and Carlos Gonzalez showed. The A’s learned that Michael Choice is a baller.  The Padres and Mariners learned that minor league pitchers in spring training games can have some very, very bad showings that lead to massive run productiona total of 25 runs scored.  

The Phillies learned that their aces are on point, but Chase Utley has knee tendonitis. The Marlins learned that Mike Stanton has a strained right quad.

Spring training can also lull teams and fans into a false sense of success.

Teams get a good spring win/loss record, and everyone starts to see visions of the post season dancing in their heads, only to come crashing back to earth when the regular season begins.  

Spring training games have to be taken with a grain of saltespecially early on.  

While there is much to be learned from spring training games, the real story only starts to develop as opening day approaches; but that is still several weeks away.  

In the meantime, teams and fans can enjoy a little bit of what they might see in the regular season, and a lot of what they might see in the future from minor leaguers who get playing time.  

All in all though, every bit of knowledge is to be absorbed like a sponge for all those winter starved baseball lovers.

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Philadelphia Phillies Pitching Rotation: Domination or Failure?

As far as I can tell, there are only two options for the Phillies this season—domination or failure.  

Given the makeup of their pitching rotation, most observers are expecting domination. Total domination. Anything less would be seen as a failure by most.

The Phillies swooped in at the last moment in the Cliff Lee negotiations and scooped up the top-level pitcher for $120 million, making their pitching rotation at that moment one of the most dominant in all of professional baseball. Immediately, observers started to say words like “World Series” and “championship.”

With the addition of Lee, the Phillies rounded out a pitching rotation that many see as almost unbeatable. Those who are fans of other teams in the National League had to feel their heart sink to their stomach when it was announced that Lee would re-join the Phillies.  

It made it seem likely that they would dominate the National League for certain, and maybe all of baseball in the postseason to take home another World Series trophy.

The expectations for the Phillies are at the highest point you can reach before a season opens. Most observers expect them to dominate. Most observers expect them to take on all comers and come out on the winning end.  

Barring injury, most observers see the Phillies marching straight through the regular season and into the World Series.

But wait, what if it does not work out that way? What if they aren’t all that and a bag of chips? What if injuries happen? What if they come across teams that can hit them?  

What if their lineup that is now minus Jayson Werth doesn’t put up a lot of runs during games? If the Phillies rotation doesn’t completely dominate everyone, is “failure” the tag that becomes associated with them?

In my mind, it is only one or the other. With a rotation like the Phillies have, they have to be completely successful, or they are then considered a failure. If you have that kind of talent and they all stay healthy, the expectations must be met.  

Domination or failure—it is one or the other. There is no in between.

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