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MLB Playoffs: O’s, Yanks, A’s Pushing Each Other to Greater Heights

It is too bad Yankee Stadium has a no reentry policy. Because fans that left after the Oakland Athletics clubbed three homers in the top of the 13th inning to take a 9-5 lead have to be kicking themselves.

In what is arguably one of the most memorable come-from-behind wins this season, the Yankees beat Oakland 10-9 in 14 innings.

In the process, the Yankees unknowingly tipped their cap to the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s also won their game in extra innings on Saturday, beating the Boston Red Sox 9-6 in 12 innings. With New York’s win over Oakland, the Orioles now hold a two-game lead for the top AL wild-card spot.

Now, the Yankees will never admit this publicly. After all, this is a proud group of veteran players who have been in many pennant races. But the Orioles are pushing the Yankees to reach greater heights.

The result has been an amazing September chess match between two stud teams wrestling for division supremacy.

Since September 3, the AL East perch has changed hands between the Yankees and Orioles eight times. Neither team has held more than a one-game lead in this stretch. Both teams have been tied atop the division eight times as well.

Adding to the charade, neither the Yankees (winners of seven games in a row) nor the Orioles (winners of six in a row) play each other again for the rest of this regular season. This makes the fight for the AL East division even more of an enigma.

As far as strength of schedule is concerned, the Yankees have the edge over the Orioles. After Sunday, the pinstripes have a seven-game road trip versus the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays. Following that, the Yankees come home for their three final games of the year against the Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles have a seven-game homestand against the Blue Jays and the Red Sox. But Baltimore finishes its regular season at Tropicana Field in a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Rays have struggled a bit this season, the team has won three games in a row. Evan Longoria and Co. have proven in the past that this team has the ability to get hot at just the right moment. Even if it is still too late for the playoffs, the Rays have more than enough pitching to play spoiler.

It’s interesting that the Rays play a four-game series against the White Sox prior to coming home to play the Orioles.

This brings us back to the Athletics. While fighting for the AL East, it is critical that the Yankees and Orioles not forget about Oakland, as the team that does not win the division may be in a big fight with this team for a wild card.

The Athletics probably realize that neither the Yankees nor the Orioles would choose the Oakland Coliseum as the prime destination for a one-game playoff.

The Green and Gold swept the Bronx Bombers earlier this year in a four-game series, and the Orioles lost two of three games there earlier this month. A scary stat—Oakland is 27-18 versus the AL East, per

Fresh off its loss to the Yankees Saturday, Oakland is going to get a serious gut check in its last 11 games. After its series in New York on Sunday, Oakland plays seven of its last 10 games versus the Texas Rangers, leaders of the AL West division.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are primed to make a big playoff push of their own. As are the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. For the Athletics, there is no guarantee that a hot Tigers team and an equally hot White Sox team will not keep Oakland out of the postseason.

But Oakland is a proud bunch. If this team is able to outperform the Rangers and make things interesting in the AL West, we may be talking about entirely new scenarios.

It is for this reason that New York and Baltimore would be wise not to let off the accelerator.

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Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano: Media Loves to Hate NY Yankees

Have to give it to some people in today’s sports media. These folks sure knows how to douse the New York Yankees with high-pressured negativity.  

Talk about a core of hacks who have mastered the art of Anti-Pinstripeism.

Here is a ballclub that has fought through injury and at times ineffective pitching to win 11 of its last 15 games.

Here is a team that is on pace for another 90-plus win season and a trip to the playoffs.

Here is a franchise that has shown tremendous resiliency in the face of relentless pursuit by the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics.

Yet all that some writers can focus on is waging war on Yankees’ players who, day in and day out, perform at a high level.

Let me say this before pressing forward, because there are people out there who like to throw the First Amendment around like a rag doll to fit their preposterous agendas.

It is perfectly legitimate to criticize player performance. It is also all right to hold players accountable for their actions. That is if there is credible, unbiased evidence pointing to the specific infraction committed.

Hammer me if you will. Call me every name in the book. But I stand by the conviction that some of the things written about some Yankees players this year spits in the face of people who take writing for the public as a privilege and an honor not to be taken for granted.

First Men’s Health released results of its “anonymous survey” of 100 big league players they deemed to the most-hated players in the MLB.

Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez was second behind A.J. Pierzynski. Outfielder Nick Swisher was third. Men’s Health never verified any of this, of course.

But using that good old cowardly approach to demean players racked up solid ratings, I am sure.

Nothing at all about how many Yanks fans would not mind seeing a guy like Pierzynski playing in pinstripes. Nothing about how Swisher has done tons in support of American troops. Nothing about the fact Rodriguez has played through injury and will probably become the next player in Yankees history to achieve 3,000 hits.

Nope, all some saboteurs can focus on is generating non-factual accusations, i.e. ESPN’s Skip Bayless taking a shot at Derek Jeter on the PED issue.

That scorched-earth situation turned out well.

As did recent Internet rumors of Robinson Cano taking PEDs.

According to the New York Daily News, rumors flew through Twitter on the subject beginning with some hot shot in the Dominican Republic.

These rumors were baseless of course—and were linked to Cano being friends with suspended San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera.

But to people passing rumors like this, the words “facts” and “integrity” are completely meaningless.

Most recently Jeter was back on the receiving end of a double-edged sword.

In a candid interview, writer Rick Reilly asked Jeter if he would be willing to play elsewhere if the Yankees did not want him back.

Jeter used Peyton Manning as an example of a player who still had gas in the tank to play somewhere else after the Indianapolis Colts decided to go another direction.

The New York Daily News took the following Jeter quote from this interview and wrote a story designed to make Jeter look like the MLB’s version of Scrooge:

Well, if I wanted to keep playing, yes. It’s a business. People forget that.

Of course Jeter had to waste time responding to this non-sense.

From Jeter (per Bryan Hoch of

“You understand what the reference is: Peyton [Manning] had no choice, so if he’s going to continue to play, he’s got to go somewhere else,” Jeter said. “I think it’s comical that we’re talking about it after I’ve told you guys time and time again that I can’t picture myself playing anywhere else. Have fun with it.”

Have fun with it.

Sounds like an apathetic statement from a player who has endured his fair share of idiots who seem to sleep better at night knowing they did their part to undercut this proud franchise.

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New York Yankees: Disturbing Anime Video Hammers Struggling Bombers

The New York Yankees have experienced its fair share of vitriol during its long and illustrious history. But now a controversial Taiwanese anime website called Next Media Animation ( has taken the words “Yankee hater” to a whole new level.

In a recent YouTube video, “2012 New York Yankees Season Headed off the Rails” NMA used brutally vivid imagery to describe the Yankees’ difficult second half.

From NMA:

Last year the Boston Red Sox suffered an epic meltdown, dropping 20 of 27 September games and losing out on a Wild Card berth to the Tampa Bay Rays, who they led by nine games on Sept. 4, 2011. This year the New York Yankees may suffer a similar fate.

Perhaps the folks at NMA are ginormous Wei-Yin Chen fans. Maybe NMA felt the need to kick one of the world’s best MLB teams while it is down.

Whatever the reason, right off the bat, NMA lets viewers know where its loyalties sit (with the Baltimore Orioles).

The video begins with two imposing pirate ships—one with the Yankees logo, the other with the Orioles logo—racing through open seas. The next shot shows three O’s players (Chen, Adam Jones and some old guy that looks nothing like Buck Showalter) celebrating their defeat of the Yankees’ ship.

“The Yankees choke!” said a woman in Chinese, as the scene changed (strangely) to three Yanks players being grotesquely barbequed on what appears to be the world’s largest charcoal grill.

One Yankees player is poked with a barbeque fork and sliced in half at the belt.

This, as the words “stick a fork in them” appears on the screen.

Back to open seas. The next scene shows the Yankees and Orioles ships anchored side-by-side in an epic cannon battle.

The Orioles then boarded the Yankees ship and proceeded to win a sword fight.

NMA had to be smoking something while creating this video, because things grew even more disturbing from this point.

The video concludes with Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia being netted on a beach and hauled to sea by a boat like a whale. It also includes a teammate injecting Alex Rodriguez PEDs into his behind with an enormous syringe. Last but not least, there is even a scene where the pinstripes managed to load the bases with all players using walkers to get around the bases.

How Sabathia is pitching with his own teammates on base is beyond me (not to mention one player is playing shortstop with a walker).

Note, Yankee Stadium looks more like a place Rainbow Brite would hang out at than a popular ballpark.

All in all the video would be appalling if it were not so laughable. It is laughable because it is associated with a team that is still in firm contention for the postseason.

Still, even the most hard-core Yankees fan cannot help but chuckle at some of the scenes in this video.

But I can also see how some would be ticked off beyond all belief.

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Why Oakland A’s Are Like Baltimore Orioles

Monday, Fox Sports MLB writer Ken Rosenthal wrote a piece that described the Oakland Athletics as a “revolving door of misfits.” He also used a couple other not so inviting words to describe A’s general manager Billy Beane’s highly-performing team. 

From Rosenthal:

If the “Moneyball” A’s were, in the words of author Michael Lewis, baseball’s answer to the island of misfit toys, what the heck is this bunch? An archipelago of All-American rejects, plus one Cuban defector?

Misfit toys?


Cuban Defector?

Come on!

Way to take an inspiring team that has defied expectations and rip it to shreds.

This was my initial reaction of course. But with a few deep breaths and a second read of Rosenthal’s article revealed subtle expression of how Oakland is beautiful for the game of baseball.

Spot on, led by Beane and manager Bob Melvin, this resolute cast of rookies and journeymen has truly been a blast to watch this season.

The Athletics are the West Coast version of the Baltimore Orioles. They are young. They are energetic. And they are a challenge to match up against every day because opposing managers rarely know who will take the hill or what the starting lineup will entail.

Like the Orioles, the Athletics do tons of things that will not show up in the box score.

What this team lacks in headline-grabbing names, it makes up for with outstanding leadership, excellent followership (i.e. leave those egos at the door) and more importantly—a young, vibrant renegade-like psyche that oozes quiet confidence. 

Like the Orioles, the Athletics have mastered the art of resource management. Put the right players with the right skills in the right spots. Manage them effectively, mentor them with sincerity and watch them grow—both as men and as ballplayers.  

This is called professional development. It is rare to see in sports driven by individualism, constant pampering and social networking. But Oakland and Baltimore have instituted this as a way of business.

Like the Orioles, the Athletics have also shown great ingenuity in the face of a troubled economy. Contrary to the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, Oakland and Baltimore have traded loading up rosters to win now for creative, outside the box thinking.  

Last, like the Orioles, they make no excuses for injuries. When one man goes down, another picks up the flag, puts his chest out and marches toward victory.

All of this combined, it is no surprise the Athletics and Orioles are proving themselves as true contenders for the postseason.

As a baseball writer (and fan), it will be really exciting to see how loud these little engines will roar down the stretch.

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Nick Markakis: Hand Injury Will Not Derail Resolute Orioles

On Saturday, New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia struck Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis in the hand with a pinpoint inaccurate fastball.

This tragedy struck in the fifth inning.

Markakis seemed to know his fate immediately, shaking his hand while jogging over to Orioles athletic trainer Rich Bancells. With Buck Showalter and trainer looking intently, Markakis removed his batting glove. After a short boots on the ground look, Markakis and Bancells disappeared into the darkness of Baltimore’s first base dugout.

Wind fled the sails of 46,000 strong at Camden Yards, for the clap of Sabathia’s 93-mph fastball smacking bone sounded more like it hit wood.  

For Baltimore’s faithful, watching Markakis leave the game briefly conjured thoughts of more bad luck that has plagued this team for over a decade.

At the time, the game was 3-2 in the Orioles’ favor—but the crowd was hush hush. Potentially losing an ironclad player like Markakis will do that to a fan base.

Markakis has stuck with this ball club through thick and thin, never making excuses, and performing at a high level his entire career.

But for the apparent sadness in the crowd and in the O’s dugout, something happened—something that has been a trademark of this increasingly special baseball club.

Baltimore’s players did not make excuses.

Nor did they buckle in the face of tragedy.

As Baltimore has done all season, when one flag-bearer dropped the flag, another man picked the flag up and kept marching with his head held high.

Enter Orioles’ shortstop JJ Hardy, who led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a solo homer—just beyond the outstretched glove of Ichiro Suzuki.

After Mark Reynolds flew out to left the following at-bat, Adam Jones delivered a one out double. Lew Ford singled Jones home with an opposite field single to right field to make the score 5-2 Orioles.

Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Nate McLouth—who had entered the game when Markakis left—chased Sabathia from the game by smashing a one out double over Suzuki’s head.

The Orioles’ went on to win the game 5-4, and in the process guaranteed a two-game split with the Yankees.

Markakis did come back to the dugout in the eighth inning, wearing a brace—a sad sign of a broken thumb that was confirmed by Buck Showalter during his press conference (per the Baltimore Sun).

Markakis will be out for the next six weeks.

But while obviously disappointed, Markakis still had a subtle grin on his face. Perhaps this is because, unlike season’s past, he has grown men beside him in the dugout who smile in the face of adversity.

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N.Y. Yankees: Do Not Be Fooled by Ball Club’s Recent Rough Patch

Baseball is the most flip-flop sport there is on the planet. One day it can be a jerk. The following day it can be a team’s best friend.

But dealing with a cruel jerk over a long period of time can begin to show on the field in bewildered and frustrated faces.

Applied to the New York Yankees, devout followers of this proud franchise have to be a bit perplexed in light of the team’s recent struggles.  

Perhaps the Yanks are simply enduring a rough patch during the grueling marathon that is a major league season. Perhaps injuries are plotting to swallow this usually ironclad team. Or perhaps age is finally catching up with the veterans.

Whatever the cause, it is rare to see Joe Girardi and his thoroughbreds look like they did in Friday’s 6-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Yankees’ body language was striking from the get-go, beginning with Girardi after a terrible strike call on shortstop Derek Jeter. Girardi simply shook his head at the umpire, who seemed to struggle finding his strike zone early on.

The Yankees were doing their best to stay positive, as if the Bronx Bombers were still flying high. But beneath this team’s usual cool, calm demeanor they appeared about ready to boil over in frustration.

This frustration seems to be felt by New York’s fans, as well.

The crowd of 46,000-plus at Yankees Stadium tried like mad to find something to cheer about. Only a late home run by Curtis Granderson gave fans something to celebrate.

Give O’s rookie Miguel Gonzalez credit. Fans mostly jeered this night. They jeered after a near error by Robinson Cano on a relatively routine ground ball. They jeered again when Nick Swisher earned a golden sombrero. Cano earned more crowd angst later in the game when he popped up with a chance to rally.

Normally crisp force plays between the keystone combo of Jeter and Cano boosted body temperature of Yankees’ fans.

Even Hiroki Kuroda had a look on his face like “Where the hell’s my run support?”

Safe to say, it was not a good night for the pinstripes by any measure.

With the loss to the Orioles, the Yankees fall to 75-57 on the season. On the surface, this record by no means looks like an implosion.

This is especially true when one considers the Yank’s .264 team BAA is the ninth best in baseball.

And for all of the talk about pitching woes, New York’s 3.78 team ERA is 11th best in the league.

Not to mention, only two teams in the league boast a better fielding percentage than the Yankees’ .987 mark.

A closer look at the Yankees sees a team that has lost seven of its past 10 games, and is now just two games up on the pack in a competitive AL East.

Reasons for these struggles range from countless injuries, to lack of chemistry to poor hitting when it matters most.

All these are valid reasons for the team’s struggles.

But another reason could be that across-the-board parity between AL clubs is so tight, the Yankees are no longer able to simply run away with the crown like in years past.

Yet despite having just 75 wins at the end of August, it is just that: the end of August.

To say the pinstripes are imploding would be a mistake.

For the Yankees have proven time and time again throughout its proud history that they can fight  back with a vengeance.

This season will be no exception.

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Adrian Gonzalez: Boston Red Sox 1st Baseman Having Monster 2nd Half

Sometimes in the grind that is a 162-game MLB season, the All-Star break is seen by many players as a blessing. For some, the break provides a golden opportunity to spend time with family and friends. For other players, the break bestows a chance to simply get away and recharge batteries.

I do not know what Adrian Gonzalez did during the break. But whatever the great first baseman did, this consummate professional has had a breakout second half for a Red Sox team fighting mightily to find its way.   

Marching forward, it should be noted that Gonzalez did not produce a poor first half by any stretch of the imagination. For Sox fans, this slugger has been a calm amid the storm.

But keeping things in laymen’s terms, a split of Gonzalez’s first- and second-half stats (per, shows a much different player:

1ST 339 96 27  6 45 23 64 .283 .329 .416   .745
2ND 100 39   7  6 29   5 10 .390 .430 .640 1.070

Gonzalez’s second-half numbers are best amongst MLB first basemen.

Even scarier, Gonzalez is showing no signs of slowing down. In the past 10 games, he is batting an astounding .421 (16-for-38), with two home runs and 16 RBI.

And as usual, Gonzalez has been ironclad in the field, too. His .998 fielding percent at first base trails only that of Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees.

As a baseball fan, I truly appreciate players like Gonzalez. Still just 30 years old, this guy carries himself well regardless of what is going on around him. Boston is lucky to have such a ballplayer taking  the field for its team.

As usual, I appreciate your readership and welcome your comments.


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Manny Machado: Hot Orioles Shortstop Prospect Hits for Cycle

As if the Baltimore Orioles faithful were not stoked after Wei-Yin Chen’s brilliant performance against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night, Manny Machado just chimed in with his own from down on the farm.

The Orioles‘ 22-year-old shortstop prospect hit for the cycle Saturday to lead the Bowie Baysox past the Trenton Thunder, 8-7.  

Fresh off Friday’s 2-for-5 performance against the Thunder, Machado wasted little time getting started in this seesaw affair.

In the bottom of the second frame, Machado thwacked his fourth triple of the year off Trenton’s starting hurler, Craig Heyer.

The next inning, Machado sparked a four-run onslaught when he hit a double that scored Rhyne Hughes. Machado’s double was his 26th of the season.

After a sixth-inning single off Trenton Reliever Josh Romanski, Machado stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth frame with Bowie trailing 7-6.

With Hughes again on base, Machado clubbed his 10th home run of the year to center field to give Bowie an 8-7 lead.

Bowie closer Kyler Newby slammed the door in the ninth to preserve the victory for the Baysox.

Machado finished 4-for-4 with three RBI. To paint a full picture, though, Machado also committed two errors at shortstop (one fielding, one throwing). But these miscues dwarfed in comparison to what this Miami native did with the lumber.

With this outstanding performance, Machado is now batting .262 (102-for-389) with 10 home runs and 57 RBI in 105 games this season. He also has 26 doubles and four triples to go with 13 stolen bases.

Machado is the No. 1 shortstop prospect in baseball, according to

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New York Yankees: Comparing 2012 Team to Teams from Past Decade

With all the hustle bustle and hard daily grind that comes with being a New York Yankees fan, it can at times be tough to stop and appreciate just how consistent this team has been the past decade.

Per stats, Yankees teams from 2002-2011 combined to boast a .650 regular season winning percent (975-524). The Yankees also won the AL East seven times, and earned a spot in the postseason every season minus 2008.

And after losing in dramatic fashion to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series, Derek Jeter and Co. bounced back to win a 27th championship in 2009.

Offensively, the Yankees batted .275 as a team during this time, averaging 233 homers a season.  And while pitching has been an issue (4.23 ERA) the past decade, the Yankees earned a terrific fielding percentage (.984).

That said, how does the 2012 version of the Yankees stack up against other teams from the past decade?

If the below statistics (through 93 games) are any indication—this club stacks up very well.

’12 57 36 30-17 27-19   TBD TBD .265 149 3.72 .986
’11 56 37 30-19 26-18   97-65 1ST .263 222 3.73 .983
’10 59 34 31-15 28-19   95-67 2ND .267 201 4.06 .988
’09 56 37 31-16 25-21 103-59 1ST  .283 244 4.26 .985
’08 49 44 27-22 22-22   89-73 3RD .271 180 4.28 .986
’07 49 44 29-18 20-26   94-68 2ND .290 201 4.49 .985
’06 55 38 31-18 24-20   97-65 1ST .285 210 4.52 .983
’05 51 42 29-19 22-23   95-67 1ST .276 229 4.52 .984
’04 59 34 34-12 25-22 101-61 1ST .268 242 4.69 .984
’03 57 36 25-19 32-17 101-61 1ST .271 230 4.02 .981
’02 58 35 29-16 29-19 103-58 1ST .275 223 3.87 .979

Looking at the above info, the 2012 Yankees look consistent to last season’s team that finished 97-65, before losing to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS. This year’s Yankees are also similar to the 2002 team that went on to win 103 games (but lost to the Anaheim Angels in the ADLS).

Of course, Yankees fans hope the ’12 team follows in the brilliant footsteps of the ’09 team that won the World Series. Looking at the numbers, the ’12 team looks like it is on its way to potentially achieving this end.

This alone is very impressive—especially when one considers how many injuries the Yankees endured earlier this season.

Is this year’s Yankees team similar to the ’09 team, or does it remind you of another Yankees team from the past? Curious to hear your thoughts.


Appreciate Your Readership. Please follow me on Twitter

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Zack Greinke Spiking Points to Thin-Skinned MLB Umpires

Friday, John Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves were the biggest players in the running to acquire Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke this trade deadline.

Twenty-four hours later, D.J. Short of Hard Ball Talk reports that Greinke was quickly tossed in the first inning of his outing against the Houston Astros for spiking a baseball in frustration.

From Short:

Greinke gave up a leadoff triple to Jordan Schafer before Jose Altuve hit a chipper to Corey Hart at first base. Greinke ran over to the first base bag to catch the throw from Hart, but Altuve was ruled safe on a very close play. Greinke didn’t argue the call, but took out his frustrations by slamming the ball into the ground. He was then given the boot by first base umpire Sam Holbrook.

You can see the play and the ejection here, via

As if umpires have not been the source of enough fan angst already, here is yet another black eye for an umpiring era marked by thin-skin and short fuses.

Somewhere along the way, umpires forgot they were supposed to work behind the scenes as opposed to being lead actors in the show.

Now, here is what I do not understand: Greinke was angry—perhaps, merely with himself—and he expressed these frustrations by slamming the ball into the ground.

So Holbrook tossed Greinke. Then, to add insult to injury, Holbrook tossed Brewers manager Ron Roenicke after he stormed from the dugout to defend his pitcher.

Could Greinke have handled himself better? Absolutely. Will Greinke look back and feel a little embarrassed. Perhaps. But I am going to go to bat for Greinke on this one.

It is obvious that Greinke was frustrated, perhaps with more than just the close play at first. I think there is more going on here.

Greinke is in the midst of a flurry of trade discussions. Nobody knows what is going on in the guy’s head (especially in light of his social anxiety disorder). He may not want to leave Milwaukee. Who knows?

But sometimes a guy needs to vent. And umpires need to show some discretion in such situations. With that said, here is a question: Is Holbrook so thin-skinned that he cannot handle a simple act of vented frustration from one of the players?

Now if Greinke took the baseball and fired it into the crowd and scouts in attendance for his performance, different story. But Greinke did not do this. The only casualty in this mess was a plot of dirt in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time.

Funny how NBA players get away with spiking basketballs to the moon in frustration.

Of course, there are those who will argue that Greinke is a professional who needs to act the part.

To that I say, “Hogwash!”

Frankly, I am tired of people who tear down athletes who wear their emotions on their sleeves and show some passion in the heat of battle.

While I do not condone perpetual hotheads, I like guys who show some passion from time to time. Baseball players are not robots, after all.

The bottom line is that, all things considered, Holbrook should have given Greinke a warning. But Holbrook decided to steal the show. And Roenicke was right to let Holbrook know it.


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