On Tuesday night, we were treated to yet another example of Yordano Ventura’s desire to start fights.
The fuse was lit in the second inning when Ventura threw a couple of fastballs up and in to Manny Machado, who responded with a stiff glare and some trash talk after he flew out. Then in the fifth inning and trailing 5-1, Ventura sent a fastball at 99 MPH — his fastest pitch of the night — right into Machado’s back.
A melee ensued. Machado immediately charged at Ventura, hit him with a right and then basically DDT’ed Ventura into the mound. It was ugly and it certainly could have been avoided.
But this is what Yordano Ventura does when he’s not striking batters out at a declining rate or issuing walks at a rising rate. A similar incident occurred last April when Ventura, once again on the losing side of things, decided to drill Brett Lawrie with a 99 MPH fastball.
A week before that, Ventura got in Mike Trout’s face for … some reason. In his start directly following the Lawrie beaning, Ventura instigated a brawl with the White Sox after mouthing off to Adam Eaton because … I really don’t know why. It’s quite difficult to identify Ventura’s modus operandi all the time. He was tagged with a seven-game suspension for his role in that donnybrook, a ban that felt like a make-up call on MLB’s part after it only fined Ventura for throwing at Lawrie.
And now he has done it again to one of the biggest stars in the game. Already frustrated with the look of his box score, Ventura decided to take it out on Machado at ninety-freaking-nine miles per hour.
What’s to come of this? It’s tough to say. Baseball has sent a message in recent years with its penalties — or lack thereof — for beanball pitchers. Since the start of 2012, only two pitchers have been suspended more than six games for intentionally throwing at batters. That’s one fewer than the number of pitchers who have received such suspensions for using pine tar. The Diamondbacks’ Ian Kennedy set the recent high-water mark in 2013 when he was banned for 10 games after throwing at the heads of Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke.
Perhaps Ventura won’t get 10 games (I mean, he tried to hurt only one batter). But he should. He is now a repeat offender, choosing on multiple occasions to throw as hard as he can with the intention of inflicting pain on another baseball player. The fact that he did it to an MVP-level player this time should carry some weight as well.
Ventura was compared to Pedro Martinez as he made his way through the minors for his delivery, slight build, eye-popping velocity and nasty offspeed stuff. He’s got another thing in common with Martinez now*. People romanticize how Pedro would pitch inside and intimidate hitters. Shortly following the brawl, I heard some TV broadcaster say, in relation to Ventura, at least Martinez never tried to hurt anyone (Hey, Gerald Williams! Hi there, Karim Garcia!).
That is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be dolled up “old school” baseball. This is dangerous and could be construed as criminal. Yordano Ventura can continue to jabber and piss off opponents and likely some of his teammates when he tries to get under a batter’s skin. The larger issue is the 25-year-old has hit a batter in consecutive years on purpose with a 99 MPH fastball. That really, really needs to be seen as more egregious than scuffing the ball with pine tar.
*Actually, an affection for the beanball should be considered the only thing Ventura and Martinez share as pitchers currently because Yordano has been one of the league’s worst on the bump this season and hasn’t come close to living up to the hype.
With not much to go on other than police reports, some conversations, a gut feel and conscience, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred ruled on Aroldis Chapman’s domestic violence case Tuesday.
And it feels like he ruled justly. It’s difficult to say unequivocally that the suspension’s length of 30 games is completely fair because there is so much that we (and Manfred for that matter) don’t know and will never know about what occurred between Chapman and his girlfriend on Oct. 30. She said he pushed her against a wall and choked her. He said he poked her on the shoulder with two fingers and she fell down.
But again, this feels proper for what we do know. If you think Manfred was weak in this instance, take a look at what he had to work with in this first case under the league’s new domestic violence policy:
Chapman was not arrested. He was not charged with a crime. The witnesses present gave inconsistent accounts of what occurred. There was no video or any other smoking gun to corroborate the victim’s claims.
But it still resulted in Chapman losing nearly $2 million in pay and being banned for almost one-fifth of his team’s season.
By comparison, in 2014, the NFL suspended running back Ray Rice for two games — one-eighth of a player’s season — after he had already been arrested and charged with simple assault and after he was later indicted by a grand jury for aggravated assault. One month after handing down the suspension, commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he was too lenient.
Manfred didn’t want to make a similar admission.
Maybe you think instead that 30 games for Chapman is too harsh. We know some sort of physical altercation occurred, but there’s no way of knowing the truth there. Even in his statement on the suspension, Manfred singled out Chapman’s use of a gun inside of his house rather than any sort of physical violence as the main reason for the ban.
Thirty games for firing a gun at a wall in his house and some unclear assertions of physical violence? How does the crime fit the time? I’ve seen people take that stance on Twitter to argue that Manfred brought the hammer down too hard on Chapman. If you think so, I’m sorry, but I’d much rather have a commissioner who takes a harder line against domestic abuse than one who follows in the missteps of his professional equals.
Those in positions of power in sports have a long history of overlooking domestic abuse. It’s time for a change. Call this an overcorrection or making up for the errors of previous regimes if you are so inclined, but it’s better late than never. This issue needs to be addressed and handled in sports with the gravity and sensitivity it deserves. Firing a gun in a house with children present, even if there is no intent to cause physical injury, can be cited as intimidation and domestic abuse. Honestly, with the lack of hard evidence against Chapman, Tuesday’s announcement feels like the floor for anyone found in violation of MLB’s broad policy against domestic abuse, sexual assault and child abuse. If Chapman’s actions garnered him this type of punishment, what lies ahead for those in baseball who are arrested and charged with such a crime? That will be a huge precedent-setter.
I would have been OK with a longer suspension. Conversely, I don’t think 20-25 games would have led to much more outrage. But it’s pretty evident that the parties involved reached the number 30 following some long negotiations. Manfred, in his first attempt at levying such a penalty, put forth a judgement with some meat and consequence on it. Chapman, as a reward of sorts for accepting the 30-game ban and not filing an appeal (something that once seemed inevitable), he stays on track to become a free agent following the 2016 season, given that he’s not suspended again.
For the New York Yankees, they still have Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in the bullpen, and they knew this decision was coming. Now that it’s here, I think a pro sports league commissioner, after dealing with a player accused of domestic abuse, deserves something rather rare: a decent amount of commendation.
Excuse the painfully obvious pun, but Jennry Mejia has racked up three strikes and he’s out.
And he did so in quick order.
The Mets’ former closer has been handed a permanent ban for a third violation of Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the league announced Friday. While Mejia isn’t the first baseball player to be given a permanent or indefinite suspension for drug use (Ferguson Jenkins and Steve Howe were both banned and later reinstated), he is the first player to be suspended permanently for PEDs.
It’s also crucial to not confuse the word “permanent” for “lifetime.” Under this policy, Mejia can apply for reinstatement into major and minor league baseball following one full year of suspension. Furthermore, Mejia must wait at last two years from the penalty’s beginning (today) to be granted reinstatement. To say Mejia has been banned for life is technically incorrect. He has been banned for as long as the league sees fit, and there is a path for him to return. In an absolute best-case scenario, Mejia could be back on an MLB team on Feb. 12, 2018.
But history tells us he won’t be able to lay off the bad stuff for more than a few months.
At this time two years ago, Mejia was preparing to battle for the fifth spot in the Mets’ rotation, a battle he won. However, he was moved to the bullpen in May after compiling an ERA north of 5.00 and walking 20 hitters through his first 37.1 innings. That move proved to be a wise decision as Mejia down 28 of 31 save chances. He had a strikeout-to-walk ratio slightly less than 3:1 with a 2.72 ERA.
AND THENNNNNNNNNNNN …
On April 11, 2015, Mejia was suspended 80 games for testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.
He did the time and returned to the Mets in July, having lost his closing role to Jeurys Familla. Mejia made his 2015 debut on July 12 and by July 28, he was banned for using stanozolol (again) and boldenone.
Then today, while still serving his 162-game suspension for that second strike, Mejia gets thrown out indefinitely. The substance? Boldenone. Again.
The most stunning part of this story to me is not that Mejia became the first MLB player to fail three PED tests; it’s that he did so in a span of less than two years. And now he’s supposed to stay clean for at least two years before possibly re-entering the league?
Maybe Mejia no longer cares about having a life in American baseball. Maybe he’s got an addiction to PEDs. Maybe he’s just incredibly stupid and keeps unknowingly ingesting stuff that contains these drugs. Whatever the case, he’s no longer the answer for any team at the back end of its bullpen. He is, however, the infamous answer to a trivia question and MLB’s new poster boy for the effectiveness of its PED testing program.
For the fifth time, here’s a list of topics that I probably should have written about in separate blog posts, but never did.
Charlie Weis, college dropout
In college, have you/did you ever get the feeling that it wasn’t worth studying for an exam? You know that cumulative final in statistics is tomorrow, but it doesn’t make a difference. Either way, you know you are going to fail that class. You could get 100 and it won’t change a thing. That ‘F’ is coming like tomorrow’s sunrise. Go out. Get drunk. Sleep in. Walk with confidence into that exam session and just wing it for all you’re worth. Guess your ass off. Bubble in all answers as “C.” What have you got to lose? It doesn’t matter. You’ve already failed.
Yeah, that’s how I think Charlie Weis is viewing the rest of this Notre Dame season. Just winging it.
Lawler’s law: More Iranian jokes
In the NBA, especially in Los Angeles, there will never be another Chick Hearn. But Ralph Lawler, who is the long-time announcer for the hapless Clippers, is pretty good in his own right. His “BINGOOOOO!” calls on 3-pointers are well-known throughout So. Cal.
So I wondered why he wasn’t on the call for last night’s upset win over the Denver Nuggets. Now, at the bottom of the following link, we have the answer.
Personally, that transcript is pretty funny. I understand that FOX Sports had to cover its ass, but that really shouldn’t warrant a suspension. Although I have never liked the term “back-door pass.”
Courtney Lee doesn’t deserve this
Michael Turner has a high ankle sprain! Crap!
Ronnie Brown has multiple foot injuries! Excrement!
Brian Westbrook may be out for the season after suffering another concussion! Bile!
Yes, it was a feces-like day for fantasy owners in week 10. But more than those injuries, Maurice Jones-Drew robbing you (and himself) of six points, or Bill Belichick’s-gutsy-but-understandable fourth-down play call, this highlight analysis by Dan Marino tops the pile.
I love it.
But in the last couple of months, we’ve had announcers draw scrutiny for a joke about tacos and, of course, running from the cops (because you can never see it enough). And yet, I’ve heard very little about this, which I would consider the worst offense of the three. Maybe it’s because no one cares to watch studio halftime shows. Maybe it was just a slight slip. It doesn’t matter that much to me, but when two announcers have been pretty much forced to apologize for a joke, shouldn’t another announcer, even if he is an NFL Hall of Famer, have to do the same when he drops one of the seven dirty words on live TV, even if was just an accident?
Panthers 28, Falcons 19
In the opening week of football, most teams usually don’t look very sharp. For example, the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night. They gained a total of 150 yards and turned the ball over twice against Boise St.
But at least we know that in a losing effort, the Ducks will always fight to the finish. And some of them might fight long after that.
At the end of the 19-8 loss — which really should have been something more like 32-8 — Ducks senior running back LeGarrette Blount starting yapping with Boise State sophomore defensive end Byron Hout. You see that all the time in football. No worries.
But instead of walking away in disappointment, Blount decided to keep it real and politely introduce his fist to Hout’s face.
Michael Vick broke one more ankle tackle on Monday as his electronic surveillance bracelet was removed.
Now that he is no longer under federal observation, Vick still has quite a mountain to climb to get back onto the field. Yes, there will be training, convincing owners to buy into him and the contract negotiations, but nothing will match the mia culpa he will need to express to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.