Even the All-Star Game is not immune to the biggest scandal in sports today.
During the 21-minute press conference at Citi Field Monday, managers Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland addressed the simmering Biogenesis scandal.
According to a published report on Sunday, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez could be facing an unprecedented 150-game suspension. Other prominent players ensnared in the scandal are Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun and Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz.
Reportedly, MLB is contemplating a 100-game suspension for Braun and Rodriguez.
“I’ll just say this, I totally — and baseball, the players, the coaches — we all are 100 percent behind MLB in cleaning up this game and just trying to eliminate any kind of drugs that these players get involved with,” Bochy said.
Bochy managed the final year of Barry Bonds’s career, which was tainted by allegations of steroid use in his breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time home run mark. Leyland managed the first seven years of Bonds’s career before he is believed to have turned to PEDs.
“I think we all support MLB’s efforts to get this behind us once and for all,” Leyland said. “Then I think you leave it to the people a lot smarter than me to make sure it gets done. But I think it’s a tremendous effort on MLB and I don’t think there’s any question that we support it totally.”
MLB investigators met with Rodriguez on Friday. The results of those findings could be revealed shortly after the All-Star break and lead to lengthy suspensions. Rodriguez could get just a 100-game ban since this would be his second offense after he admitted to using during 2001-2003 when he played in Texas.
Rivera to pitch regardless
Mariano Rivera hasn’t appeared in an All-Star game since 2009 in St. Louis but AL managers (Joe Girardi and Ron Washington) have subscribed to the theory that Rivera closes out wins and there hasn’t been a save situation for Rivera in his two recent appearances.
The AL hasn’t had a lead in the last three years and Rivera was forced to miss last year’s game with a serious knee injury.
Tuesday is his last appearance before the greatest closer of all time retires as the all-time saves leader in regular season, postseason and All-Star Game history and Leyland plans on pitching him at some point even if there is not a save situation.
“I think I’ve gone on record, I think it would probably be the most beautiful touch in the world if we can somehow get a lead on the National League and get the greatest closer of all time, coming out of the bullpen,” Leyland said. “I can assure you that. That would happen but we need to get that lead first.”
Rivera pitched in a non-save situation when the game was held at old Yankee Stadium and he relieved Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning of a 3-3 game. Rivera pitched the 10th inning, which is what Leyland seemed to have in mind if a save situation does not happen, though it could be the eighth inning if the AL is losing.
“Mariano Rivera, I assume is going to come here very healthy and you can rest assured that he will be on the mound in this game at some point,” Leyland said. “You will see him pitch, whether it be to a hitter or an inning, depending on how the game goes obviously, you will see No. 42 pitch.”
Wins matter to Leyland
Many subscribe to the theory that wins don’t necessarily mean everything when defining how good a pitcher is. Recent Cy Young voting in both leagues indicates that fact, but for Leyland, they still matter.
Leyland said that was the primary reason he selected his own right-hander when he named Max Scherzer the starter. Scherzer is a name that many Yankee fans should know from the fact that in the last two postseasons, he has held the Yankee to one run and four hits while striking out 15 in two starts.
“Thirteen and one, Max Scherzer and I don’t think I need to explain any more than that,” Leyland said.
Scherzer began this season with 13 straight wins over his first 18 starts through July 7 after going 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA last season.
Wins is the only category Scherzer leads the American League in, though he is second with 152 strikeouts and batting average against at .208.
Scherzer has capitalized on better run support, getting 119 runs as opposed to Harvey’s 79. Also falling into the low run-support department is Hiroki Kuroda, who has eight wins but has the second-lowest ERA in the AL and has pitched in both of Rivera’s blown saves.
He was among the list of five names Leyland considered as replacements but lost out to Baltimore’s Chris Tillman, who is 11-3. Tillman’s 3.95 ERA is tied with Oakland’s Jarrod Parker among AL qualifying starters and his 89 strikeouts are 24th among AL qualifiers but in the end wins trumped everything for Leyland.
“At the end of the day I added Tillman because I’d almost be embarrassed not to take a guy that’s 11-3 to the All-Star game,” Leyland said. “I think when you get 11 wins by the All-Star break, that’s pretty hard to keep a guy off.”