THE USB Baseball Report: The Goodbye A-Rod, Hello Tebow Edition

Hi, hello & welcome to THE USB Baseball Report! I’m Steve Cook, and just when you think it’s time to cast baseball aside to concentrate on football, one of the game’s most famous players hangs up his spikes in the middle of August. We just might have to talk about that a little bit. We got Reds stuff too, and some politics because it’s that time of year. Let’s get it started!

Adios, A-Rod

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The end of a career can happen in all sorts of ways. If you’re beloved by your community & have enough juice to have celebrations in multiple cities, you can do what David Ortiz is currently doing and have a retirement season. If you don’t need that kind of attention you can retire at a press conference after a season. If you want to retire on top, you can retire after winning a World Series.

Or if you’re Alex Rodriguez, you can retire in the middle of August.

Not that he had much choice in the matter. A-Rod has played in 62 games this year & has a batting average of .204, 9 home runs & 29 RBI. After a pretty solid 2015 where he turned back the hands of time & hit 33 home runs while playing 151 games, A-Rod looks every bit of forty years old this season. Looking back, 2015 might have been the perfect time to end his career. He came back from his year-long suspension, silenced the doubters & contributed to a playoff team…would have been a good note to walk into the sunset. But most athletes don’t get that. We publicize the heck out of the ones that do, so it feels like everybody gets a happy ending, but not everybody gets to walk out on top like Peyton Manning, or even near the top like Derek Jeter & Mariano Rivera did. Most players have to stop playing when their performance dictates that they can’t play anymore.

The Yankees are rebuilding. When you have the kind of money that they have, it’s easy to pay people to go away. Putting A-Rod on the shelf and making him the world’s highest-paid instructor is a better investment for the Yankees than wasting a roster spot on a 40-year old that can’t hit anymore. For most teams, this would be lunacy. For the Yankees, it’s smart. It’s not the most glorious way for A-Rod to go out. Certainly an icon with his numbers deserves better, right? Three-time MVP. Fourteen-time All-Star. 696 home runs. Over 3,100 hits. Everything on the back of his baseball card screams Hall of Famer.

The problem is that everything not listed on the back of his baseball card screams Weird Dude. Jeremy Lambert’s article covered the weirdness surrounding A-Rod during his career. All of that stuff made him tough to get behind as a fan. Add in the PED suspension, and you got a guy that probably won’t get into Cooperstown without a ticket.

So Friday is going to be an interesting day. It’ll be A-Rod’s last game as a Yankee. People are already speculating that he might go somewhere else when his contract with the Yankees expires, but I can’t imagine him contributing much of value on the field as an active player. Maybe he wants to get to 700 home runs, but do people care about that anymore? I think this will be it for him. Part of me kind of feels bad for him not getting the respect that his career probably deserves, but how can you feel sorry for somebody that’s made the money that he’s made? You can’t.

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Reds Update

This is usually where I insert the Mike Francesa video saying “THEY STINK”. But the Reds actually haven’t stunk since the All-Star Break. They won six straight three-game series for the first time since 1999. 1999! How did this happen? Let’s break it down…

July 15-17: Milwaukee Brewers. They stink.
July 18-20: Atlanta Braves. Worst team in the league.
July 22-24: Arizona Diamondbacks. Turrble.
July 25-27: San Francisco Giants. Fell flat on their ass after the All-Star Break and have let people back into the NL West race. Injuries are a mother.
July 29-31: San Diego Padres. They were bad before they traded everybody. So now…
August 2-4: St. Louis Cardinals. This one was surprising because the Cardinals always win series over the Reds. But this year’s edition of the Cardinals doesn’t measure up to their usual collection of talent, at least not right now. St. Louis fans were so bummed during their stay in Cincinnati that they didn’t even bother yelling “CARDINALS!” over “Redlegs” during Take Me Out To The Ballgame. They were actually tolerable, believe it or not. Cubs fans have taken the title for most annoying fans in the NL Central and it didn’t take them long.

The schedule broke the right way, but it’s still a pretty impressive feat. They immediately lost two straight in Pittsburgh to end the streak, but came back strong on Sunday & got some momentum heading to St. Louis for another series. They’re still way out of first place & contention for anything, but if Reds fans wanted to see some progress out of this team they’re getting exactly that right now. Joey Votto’s doing his second half thing. Brandon Phillips is still here & he’s still getting hits. Billy Hamilton’s stealing bases left & right. The bullpen, except for Mr. Wonderful Ross Ohlendorf, has been getting the job done. Lots of positives with the team right now, hopefully it’ll stay that way.

And then we can talk about Bryan Price and whether or not he should still be the manager. At least there’s a debate right now. Before the question of “Should Bryan Price be manager next season?” would have resulted in maniacal laughter from me. Now the question merits a “hmmmm”.

…And about an hour after I finished writing that, the Reds blew a 4-run lead against the Cardinals in the 9th inning. Tony Cingrani took out his gas can & set the place on fire, and Bryan Price sent Ross Ohlendorf out to try & put the fire out because he’s a stupid idiot. Scratch that last paragraph, I want that man nowhere near this team next season.

 

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Baseball’s Top 10: People That Did Politics Too

You’d like to think that the bar for United States Presidential Candidates couldn’t get any lower than it has in 2016. You would be wrong. Former MLB pitcher/broadcaster & current social media troll Curt Schilling mentioned on his Facebook page that he plans on running for President in 2024, or in 2020 if Hillary Clinton should be successful this November. Now, I would ordinarily dismiss this as the rantings of a crazy person. This should be on the same level of Bob Backlund running for President as a WWF angle. (Backlund had better ideas than Schilling, but that’s beside the point.) But in this day and age, who knows. Schilling would probably get some votes from his fellow crazy people.

He wouldn’t be the first MLB-affiliated person to enter the political arena. This week we’re going to list the top 10 baseball people that went into politics!

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10. George H.W. Bush: The first Bush to become President never made it to MLB, but he was captain of Yale’s baseball team during his time there. He’s a Houston Astros fan, which probably makes for interesting conversations with his son George.

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9. Walter Johnson: After his Hall of Fame baseball career came to an end, the Big Train went into politics in his home state of Maryland. He made Montgomery County’s Board of Commissioners in 1938 but was unsuccessful in his bid to make the U.S. House of Representatives in 1940. You would think Johnson would have got in on name alone, but I guess people thought more about the issues than the man back in the day.

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8. Frank White: White played eighteen seasons with the Kansas City Royals, winning eight Gold Gloves & making the All-Star Game five times. After coaching & broadcasting baseball for years, he decided to get into politics & was elected to the Jackson County Legislature in Missouri in 2014.

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7. George W. Bush: Bush headed a group that bought the Texas Rangers in 1989, and he served as Managing General Partner until he was elected Governor of Texas in 1994 and started a political career that ended in the White House. His main accomplishment with the Rangers was getting a publicly-funded stadium built that still stands today. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Bush’s time in baseball was his desire to become Commissioner before starting his political career. One of history’s more interesting “What If” scenarios.

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6. Raul Mondesi: Mondesi played 13 years in MLB, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Upon returning to the Dominican Republic after his retirement, he got into politics and is currently Mayor of his hometown, San Cristobal. Both of his sons got into baseball, and one of them debuted with the Royals during last year’s World Series.

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5. Magglio Ordonez: Magglio had a solid fifteen year career with the White Sox & Tigers. He appeared in a commercial supporting Hugo Chavez in 2009 & got heat from Venezuelan fans that didn’t agree with his political stance. After retiring he continued as part of Chavez’s United Socialist Party & was elected Mayor of the Juan Antonio Sotillo Municipality.

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4. Bobby Avila: Avila spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Indians, winning the batting title during their last good year for four decades, 1954. He’s still considered among the best Indians of all time & was one of the first notable Latinos in MLB. Upon returning to Mexico after retirement, he got into politics and became Mayor of Veracruz, his hometown.

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3. Wilmer Mizell: Mizell spent most of his pitching career with the St. Louis Cardinals and was one of many players that were forced into retirement by being part of the 120-game losing 1962 New York Mets. After retiring he moved to North Carolina & served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969-75. He went on to serve in various posts in the Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan & George H.W. Bush administrations.

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2. Happy Chandler: Happy was the only person on this list that started out in politics. He served as Governor of Kentucky & served a term in the U.S. Senate before becoming the second Commissioner of Baseball. He had spoken on behalf of the sport during World War II & impressed baseball insiders during that time. He served six years in the role, with the main accomplishment of his term being the breaking of baseball’s color barrier. He once again served as Governor of Kentucky four years after leaving the Commissioner post.

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1. Jim Bunning: Bunning had a Hall of Fame career as a pitcher with the Tigers, Phillies & other teams. When he retired he had the second-most strikeouts in history. He went home to Northern Kentucky & went into politics, working his way up to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987-99, then served in the U.S. Senate from 1999-2011. He probably won’t make the Hall of Fame of U.S. Senators.

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Welcome to the Show…Tim Tebow?

Tim Tebow’s football career might finally officially be over, as one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time is turning his attention to baseball. Apparently he’s been training at baseball for a year now & will be holding a workout for all MLB teams later this month. Tebow played baseball as a child & made All-State his junior year of high school, hitting .494 & leading his team to Florida’s state semifinals. He quit baseball his senior year to focus on football. His high school coach Greg “Boo” Mullins called him a “six-tool player”. I’m not even 100% sure what the five tools are, don’t ask me what the sixth would be.

Los Angeles Angels scouts even considered drafting Tebow out of high school, which with the religious connotations would have been something else. Tebow to the Angels? Of course. It didn’t happen since Tebow didn’t return his information card to the Angels, and he would have been another one of those wasted draft picks anyway since football was going to be his thing. Now that it’s not, he’s returning to baseball.

People are killing Tebow for this on social media. How dare he have the gall to think that at 29 years old, he could compete on the same level as the top baseball players in the world! He’d take a spot in the minors from a truly deserving player! It’s nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt to keep his name in the spotlight!

You know what? All of those things are probably true. But I’m not going to kill Tebow for this like everybody else is. Bryce Harper keeps talking about how baseball needs to be fun again, right? Watching Tim Tebow try to make a baseball organization…doesn’t that sound like fun? What if he actually does well enough at this workout to impress somebody? You don’t think he’d be the biggest attraction in the minor leagues since Michael Jordan went to Birmingham in 1994? Tim Tebow fans would be falling all over themselves to go to his games and support their boy in their new endeavor. Tim Tebow haters would spend enough time bashing the guy to get baseball some attention in places it usually doesn’t get it.

To me, this is all upside. What’s the downside? Tebow embarrasses himself on the field? Who cares? He’s an athlete, and after his NFL career he knows what it’s like to get embarrassed in front of the world. If he wants to give this a shot, I can’t blame him for trying. If the Tim Tebow Experiment gets people talking about baseball and injects some excitement into the game, it’s worth it. While football writers wring their hands about Tebow embarrassing himself & the sacred game of football, baseball writers should be excited that they get something to write about.

If he succeeds, he becomes a huge star & a great ambassador for the game. If he fails, he proves that baseball is a lot harder than it looks and those silly football players can’t do it. Both of these are great outcomes for baseball.

Welp, that’s all we have time for this week! Join us next time for more baseball excitement!

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