Saunders on A-Rod: 'It's over'
In the last six years, the American League has filled the cleanup spot in its All-Star lineup with two players: Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.
Would you vote for either one today?
Ramirez was suspended Thursday after flunking a drug test. Rodriguez, whose positive test in 2003 was revealed this spring, made his season debut Friday after rehabilitating a hip injury.
Neither player will have enough games to pile up the statistics that warrant your vote. If fans vote for Rodriguez and/or Ramirez in order to see the big names play, Angels outfielder Torii Hunter isn't about to say the All-Star game will be tainted.
"Are we going to say our fans are tainted too?" Hunter said.
Yet Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said he would prefer not to see a drug cheat in the All-Star game.
"If a guy is using performance-enhancing drugs, I don't see the sense in having him represent your league," Scioscia said.
Scioscia declined to discuss any player by name, but Angels pitcher Joe Saunders said he would not vote for Rodriguez.
"It's over for him," Saunders said.
Saunders considers Rodriguez's reputation tarnished and in any case considers Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays the clear choice at third base. Beyond that, he takes exception to the notion that fans have adopted a forgive-and-forget attitude toward drug users.
"I think the fans do care," Saunders said. "Pretty much everybody wants a game without cheating."
In search of an honest man
Tino Martinez batted fourth for the AL in the 1997 All-Star game. He is the last AL cleanup hitter who has not been linked to performance-enhancing substances.
Since then: Juan Gonzalez in 1998, Ramirez in 1999, Jason Giambi in 2000, Bret Boone in 2001, Giambi in 2002, Rodriguez in 2003, Ramirez in 2004-05, Rodriguez in 2006-08.
The NL cleanup hitters the last five years: Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr., Jason Bay, Derrek Lee and Scott Rolen, none of whom have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
The cleanup hitters from 1998-2003: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
McCourt/Manny: Who talks first?
It's a bit hypocritical of the Dodgers to criticize Ramirez for hiding from the media when owner Frank McCourt has done the same.
McCourt issued a key statement during the Ramirez contract negotiations, and he was front and center at the news conference after Ramirez signed. Yet the Dodgers' owner has not responded to interview requests in each of the last three days and has not issued a statement.
McCourt was so angry at agent Scott Boras this spring that he privately threatened to give Ramirez this ultimatum: Take a one-year deal, or get lost.
McCourt's advisors dissuaded him from yanking the two-year contract that was all but complete, and now he must be angry at them, and at Ramirez.
Ramirez will be out of a job in 17 months, when his contract with the Dodgers expires. No one but the Dodgers would hire him last winter, and that was before he failed a drug test.
The Dodgers don't figure to throw him a retirement party next September, but he can pay for one himself. His total earnings in his career: $210 million.
-- Bill Shaikin