Red Sox Return to Postseason with a Bang

Remember that abysmal finish to the 2011 season in which Boston missed the playoffs while archrival Tampa Bay reaped the benefits of a postseason birth?

Despite the sour taste that the 2011 and 2012 campaigns left in the mouths of the Red Sox nation, those years are now distant memories after Boston’s 12-2 victory over Tampa Bay last night.

After breezing through the first five batters, Rays left fielder Sean Rodriguez drilled a home run on a 3-2 pitch from ace Jon Lester. In the fourth inning another second baseman Ben Zobrist launched another Lester fastball into the Green Monster.

That was all a very versatile Rays lineup could muster against the ace.

Boston was able to catch a break against lefty Matt Moore during the fourth inning courtesy a defensive miscue by rookie Wil Myers. What seemed like a routine fly ball to Myers ended up being a ground rule double. Instead of going for the ball he called for, he gave up on catching it.

After that, it all unraveled for Matt Moore when he was given the hook after 4 2/3 innings.

However, the bullpen could not contain the offensive outburst from the Red Sox with the bullpen giving up five more runs. With a passed ball by Jose Lobaton, 4 runs scored off of reliever Jamey Wright (an RBI singles from Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, and Mike Napoli along with a two run double from Jarrod Saltalamacchia), the Red Sox got quite the cushion. Ryan Dempster then closed out game one for the save.

After an offseason in which they were written off by the baseball world followed by a rewarding pursuit of the AL East title, October baseball has never been more exciting for Red Sox Nation. If John Lackey and the rest of the team keep the momentum alive, Alex Cobb will be the only thing standing between the Red Sox and the ALCS.


Settling for the Braunze: 7 Lessons from this Latest PED Saga

For baseball enthusiasts, the suspension of Ryan Braun is not recent news since the press is having a field day with it. If one were to aggregate the coverage (both scornful and sympathetic) of the latest PED saga, there are plenty of real world lessons to be grasped from this debacle. Lessons that are Machiavellian truths indicative of our times.

"I would bet my life that I am safe and that any substance never entered my body."

“I would bet my life that I am safe and that any substance never entered my body.”

1) The truth may not be cunning but it is no coward like the lie (which is why it will set you free)

Fans and thought leaders have had various takes on the Milwaukee Brewers’ franchise player. While there are no two opinions on his guilt, reactions have been very encompassing in terms of the types of pieces churned out by the media. Some stories contained the most unadulterated contempt while other ones were probably ghost written by Braun’s publicists. Commentary of the latter category went so far as to suggest that fans love watching hitters belt home runs courtesy of the juice.

2) Dear future sports agents, lawyers and publicists are your best friends

In the event that an agent’s client gets implicated in a steroid scandal, having a sharp high-priced litigation team along with a high-powered sports media relations firm at his/her disposal is imperative. Guilty or innocent, lawyers and publicists will help clients navigate their way out of the woods unscathed (for a year at least until another scandal from which they cannot escape emerges).

3) “A lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” – Joseph Goebbels

Mr. Braun’s rousing press conference after his exoneration (see video underneath) may have restored some faith in both sympathizers and skeptics. Yet there were some people such as myself who did not have any judgment as to whether he was guilty or innocent.

However, after hearing the line ‘today is about everybody who has been wrongly accused,’ I became a skeptic right away. What were his crisis communications flacks trying to frame him as through this PRised speech? Baseball’s version of Nelson Mandela subjected to the oppressive apartheid scheme that is the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program? Perpetual reinforcement of that sentiment definitely went a long way in further positioning him as the victim of circumstances beyond his control. The league shortly fired Shyam Das, the arbitrator whose tie-breaking vote acquitted Braun. News of his sacking is all a smart person would need to confirm the left fielder’s guilt.

4) Make full use of the friends who trust you

The Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers bet his salary via twitter that his homeboy Ryan was innocent. MLB Columnist Mike Bauman even vouched for him during the 2012 MVP voting process. Little did they know that they were being taken for a ride. Maybe $15,000 of Rodger’s salary can help reimburse the guy who feels naïve after spending an arm and a leg on Ryan Braun memorabilia. Zack Greinke had quite the words for his betrayal and Rodgers was not particularly happy either.

Other consequences (besides losing some pocket change $3.5 million dollars, the joy of taking the field with your teammates, and goodwill) have begun to take their toll on the Hebrew Hammer. For instance, prominent convenience store chain Kwik Trip will willingly no longer receive Ryan Braun’s eloquent testimonials. More so with the Brewers’ playoff prospects looking bleak, the absence of Braun’s bat would not mean much in the grander scheme of the 2013 season. Instead of losing close to $6 million and being banned for more than 50 games, it was wise to go for the mere slap on the wrist.

5) The brighter the picture, the darker the negative

What does this say about the José Bautistas of the game? While the Toronto right fielder was being riddled with tests and PED accusations, where were the MLB Players Association and Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program test administrators when Braun was enhancing his performance? They were busy testing Bautista 19 times between 2009 and 2012.

All because after spending years as a journeyman utility player, at age 29 the Blue Jays right fielder suddenly emerged from obscurity to hit 54 home runs. That sort of treatment from the Player’s Association and Testing program only motivated Bautista to silence his critics.

Of course Milwaukee’s overnight sensation who has been hitting above .300 since his rookie year seemed squeaky clean to everyone. On the other hand everybody was looking for some tainted explanation for why the late bloomer suddenly found success after struggling for six years in the bigs?

6) “Using an unfair technique in a card game is cheating, but applying Vaseline to your fingers to give a curveball more snap is called competing”

Obviously Mr. Braun’s PR team will do some damage control by reaching out to thought leaders who endorse cheating. These are thought leaders of the “why should us fans worry about the 2011 MVP’s falsehoods when prominent world leaders lie everyday?” mindset. While that outlook true, there is no reason why this should not be of concern to fans that flock to Miller Park and help pay Braun’s salary.

To even romanticize Braun as a archetypal villain as per Sportsnet analyst’s Dirk Hayhurst musings below is laughable.

“It takes an amazing amount of strength and narcissism or whatever commitment really to boldface lie to the degree he did to keep it up that long. A lesser man would have been like my cousin told me to do it…. I think there is apart of me that respects what Ryan Braun did.” (see the complete video below)

There is nothing respectable about what Braun did. While one can admire the brilliance through which the lies were cemented, it is preposterous to associate respectability with the circus that lead to his exoneration last year.

7) Saviors sometimes come in the form of indirect subtleties

Another topic of contention is whether Dino Laurenzi Jr. did his job in handling the urine sample that tested positive for PEDs. Some believe he is owed an apology from Braun because Laurenzi was slandered in last year’s fiasco. Others like Bill Parker over-analyzed the legal proceedings to claim that Braun did not directly attack the handler. Hence Laurenzi Jr. should not expect the words “I am sorry” from the Califronia native. Parker explains why in his nit-picky ramblings:

Moreover, Braun didn’t attack Laurenzi personally. He said:

‘There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked, that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.’

Sure, “things we learned about the collector” could insinuate something unsavory. It could also mean, translated from lawyer-speak into baseball-player-speak, that they learned that the collector may not have handled the sample in strict accordance with the procedures.

The boldfaced rationalization above wastes time on indirect subtleties which are used to diplomatically slander the collector. Sometimes those numerous subtleties give way to countless means of spinning words to underhanded agendas.

In this case, Bill Parker exploited that politically correct verbiage to imply that Braun’s camp did not ‘directly’ defame the sample collector. All this so that Braun will not have to give an apology to the man who deserves it the most.


With all that being said, there is still hope for the Hebrew Hammer’s reputation. In a Ted Reed authored piece for The Street, crisis management and PR veteran Bruce Hicks opines that Braun needs to acknowledge the specifics of his wrongdoings rather than just say ‘sorry I messed up…now lets move on.’ And he needs to do it soon before the ship of amnesty sails away.

I doubt that will happen anytime soon because due to the agreement between MLB and the player’s association, the details of Braun’s revelation will not be made public. He has quite the long road back to forgiveness.

Nonetheless, if Andy Petitte can still be revered despite his mishaps, Ryan Braun is not any less deserving of such reverence. All he has to do is genuinely heed Bruce Hick’s wise words and continue producing (without extra PED help of course).

Confucius say: “When baseball team loses their way, call on my country (or other bordering nations)”

Whether it is about baseball, the Bretton Woods System, or any other topic,  I really do not like to repeat what has already been said before. As much as I admire the guy, I wanted to avoid writing about Munenori Kawasaki since every baseball beat writer and blogger has been churning out glowing pieces on him. Although I had to relent after watching his first home run and the reception afforded to him by the Rogers Centre faithful during the Orioles-Jays game on June 20. So here it goes : )

Time away from the field, rink, or court because of an injury is what every athlete hopes to avoid during his/her career. However injury prone physiques or inevitable freak-accidents not only get the best of star players, but their teams too.

The sprained ankle of Toronto Blue Jays shortstop José Reyes on April 12 is a prime example. A slow start due to a 3-7 win loss record resulted in early calls for the Toronto GM-Manager duo’s heads along with reports of absent clubhouse chemistry. Something was rotten in the state of Blue Jay land.

One of the few bright spots was the newly acquired shortstop, a major centerpiece of the mammoth trade with the Marlins that arguably mortgaged the Jays’ future. The .365/.465/.526 stat line does not even began to explain Reyes’ value during the phase when the team struggled out of the gates. Plus, his jovial persona was the only thing holding this team together.

However, now the team has clicked and the offseason acquisitions are coming around. Nevertheless José’s stint on the Disabled List meant that GM Alex Anthopoulos would be shopping around for someone to fill that irreplaceable void.

Enter the Japanese ‘Munenori Kawasaki’ Dragon

Rival GMs exploit such dilemmas by offering a trade piece (that may even be a bust) to fill the baseball club’s glaring hole SOLELY to pry away its coveted prospect and/or established player. These prospects and/or established players would be untouchable otherwise, but glaring holes created by unforeseen circumstances may force some GMs to overpay. Hence the GM is at the mercy of the glaring hole and sometimes relents to the rival executive’s demands for a stopgap solution. Long story short, the GM looking to stop the bleeding is vulnerable to getting fleeced.

Luckily this did not happen with the Blue Jays as an offseason minor-league deal offered to infielder Munenori Kawasaki paid off. Forgive the generalization but clubs can derive a valuable lesson from this. During times of unexpected calamity which creates more clubhouse doom and gloom, always call on the South East Asian to set the ship aright.

Ethnic references aside, by no means did he replace or surpass Reyes’ abilities. Nonetheless Kawasaki’s serviceable bat, sharp glove, and lively personality (even with his so-so proficiency in English) contributed to the current turnaround of the Blue Jays.  I really do not need to elaborate on the intangibles and awesomeness he brings to the team. For more on that, read this Sports Illustrated article.

It was almost baseball’s version of the The Karate Kid. Despite moving from New Jersey to the very different California, the status of a cellar dweller to a sure shot contender, the fan expectations just became overwhelming. Just when fans thought the wheels were falling off the car that is the 2013 Blue Jays season, a Mr. Miyagi like Japanese figure not only lightened the burden of expectations, but somehow influenced the team. For a more baseball-centric cinematic comparison, look no further than Hiroshi Kamikaze Tanaka in Major League 2. Check out the video below containing all Tanaka scenes from the the epic baseball classic. Watch the scene from 1:53 – 2:53 where Tanaka hilariously tries to motivate slumping power hitter Pedro Cerrano. For all we know, Kawasaki may have tried the same motivation technique with Adam Lind to help him break out of his funk.

While Kawasaki may not swing the hottest bat, his eye enabled him to milk most opposing hurlers for a good 10 pitches. For a lineup predominantly containing Home Run addicts and a newly christened hitting coach with a radically different plate approach, Munenori Kawasaki’s plate discipline has fortunately rubbed off on his trigger-happy teammates.

With José Reyes’ return nearing this week, some tough roster decisions loom for the Blue Jays. Chances are he will be sent back to the Blue Jays triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, especially since the bench is stacked.

If our brain trust does not find a creative way to keep you on our roster sayonara and domo arigato Munenori Kawasaki. If you are not traded, see you during the September roster expansions!

The Sinkerball has arrived in Toronto

Since we are on the subject of South East Asians who act as stabilizing forces on tumultuous major league teams, how about Chien Ming Wang? While the offense awoke with Kawasaki’s presence, the injury bug also bit the pitching staff. Ergo Josh Johnson, JA Happ, and Brandon Morrow landed on the DL. The former is back but the latter two still have strides to make in their recoveries.

While it is early to claim that Chien Ming Wang has fully resurrected himself from the dead, early signs are pointing to an all out career resurgence. During Wang’s tenure with the Yankees, the sinker pitch was his bread and butter. On the other hand, some of his worst outings came as a result of his inability to command that sinker.

I am not one to count my eggs before they hatch but the Tainan City native seems to be on the verge of a comeback. His reliance on other pitches besides the sinker has yielded great returns. Even more noteworthy is the fact that he is filling in admirably for Brandon Morrow.

Welcome to Toronto Wang! May your revival contribute to a Blue Jays postseason berth.

Dear Free Agents, sign with the Miami Marlins at your own risk

The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present. ~Niccolo Machiavelli

If immortality has many forms, Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is living proof that Nicolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli has achieved eternal life ideologically. About a week ago, Loria embarked on a damage control campaign to quell negative fan sentiment regarding Miami baseball since the November fire sale. Trying to unravel the spin from every statement of the Jeffrey Group’s (the newly hired PR firm by Marlins ownership) image restoration attempts is fruitless as: 1) Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan took the liberty of doing so, 2) the Marlins owner mints money from the art dealing business riddled with swindlers, and 3) the Montreal Expos are no more.

Reading Jeff Loria’s open letter addressed to fans through rose tinted sunglasses will turn even the most naïve South Floridian into a cynic. Besides fans and taxpayers, prominent casualties of the owner’s scam include Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and the team’s ability to acquire talent via free agent pools. The speedster and finesse pitcher signed with the team under the impression that Miami would be their home for the long haul. According to the two, both were told that verbal reassurances (not written ones in the form of no-trade clauses) from Loria were enough to guarantee their stability. Little did the four time all stars the owner would trade them away, despite promising to not send them to another team.

"You asked if a quadruple A team will take the field in a $2.4 billion stadium funded by your tax money? With a handshake promise, I assure you that will not happen on my watch."

“You asked if a quadruple A team will take the field in a $2.4 billion stadium funded by your tax money? With a handshake promise, I assure you that will not happen on my watch.”

While this whole trade fiasco is water under the bridge for Reyes and Buehrle, Loria has just torpedoed any hope of acquiring or retaining stars that deserve long term security. If ownership ever opens the vault to free agents, prospective players will think twice before setting foot on the red carpets rolled out for them at Marlins Park. With Jeffrey Loria’s reputation as the Machiavellian prince who never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise, Marlins fans can only hope for the Commissioner’s intervention. What are you waiting for Mr. Commissioner? Give this fraudster the Frank McCourt treatment already. On another slightly hypocritical note, thank you Bud Selig for approving the trade that ensured my Blue Jays were on the receiving end of the fire sale. You made my winter much more bearable. Go Jays Go!