Machado Slides; Bumgarner Crashes; Marte Cheats
April 24, 2017

This was just the third week of the baseball season, and it seems all at once, controversy has descended upon us. Was that a dirty slide into Dustin Pedroia? Was a suspension for a retaliatory pitch really necessary when the batter wasn't even hit? Should Madison Bumgarner lock himself in his hotel room on off days instead of riding his dirt bike? And what the hell was Starling Marte thinking, taking banned substances as he was becoming an emerging star?

Just to get you caught up. In Friday night's game, Baltimore's Manny Machado made a hard slide into second base, which injured Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Even though the slide was not ruled illegal, and Pedroia didn't seem to think there was intent to injure, Boston pitcher Matt Barnes, perhaps to show loyalty to his team, threw at Machado's head. The pitch missed Machado and hit his bat, but Barnes was ejected from the game, and a four-game suspension was announced today.

Backing up to Thursday, the San Francisco Giants were enjoying a day off in Colorado, and superstar pitcher Madison Bumgarner decided to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes—riding his dirtbike. He's done that many times in his life, but this time, he lost control of the vehicle and injured his multi-million dollar left shoulder. The ace of the Giants staff bruised some ribs and stained the AC joint in his shoulder, which means an estimated six to eight weeks or more on the disabled list. Bumgarner apologized to fans and his teammates today, and will apparently not face any discipline from the organization.

But the news on Tuesday was the worst, when Pittsburgh's emerging superstar Starling Marte was suspended 80 games for using performance enhancing drugs—specifically a steroid called Nandrolone. Not exactly one of those 'I didn't know it was illegal' substances. Marte seemed immediately ashamed and remorseful, and while that's better than the in-your-face denials of sports losers like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, it doesn't change the fact that he tried to cheat and got caught. He'll miss half the season, and then teammates and fans will welcome him back as if nothing happened, and they'll hope he hits 20 home runs and steals 20 bases, instead of going for 40-40 over a full year. If the Pirates somehow make the playoffs, Marte will be ineligible, but will still be collecting his millions.

All three of these events over this past week seem to have created some controversy, but there doesn't seem to be any outrage. The Machado-Pedroia-Barnes incident is tame, and even somewhat amusing compared to the other two, but what should the reaction be with Bumgarner and Marte? Bumgarner clearly didn't mean to get hurt, and the thought of injury probably never entered his mind on that off day in Colorado. It's unclear if there is anything in his contract that prohibits such activity, and maybe that should be the focal point here. It was pointed out on the Giants telecast tonight, that the team went through the same thing with Jeff Kent in 2002. Kent, though, lied and said he had a mishap while washing his truck, but really broke his wrist after being seen riding his motorcycle and popping wheelies. At least Bumgarner was honest, but let's see where the Giants are in the standings two months from now.

The reaction so far about Marte is sadness and disappointment. Kind of like Dee Gordon a couple of years ago. In this age of testing, why would such a prominent player do something so stupid? But then people seem to feel sorry for them, and forget all about it after the suspension is over. Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco is a good friend of Marte's, and says he's saddened but supportive. That's a good thing to be as a friend and for Marte as a person, but what about as a ball player? One may argue that he's young, he made a mistake, and he paid the price, but the truth is, it reveals a lot about your character and the person you really are. The Boston-Baltimore thing was baseball, Bumgarner just wasn't thinking, but Marte tried to cheat the game, and work the system to gain a competitive advantage. Why? Only he knows. Eighty games from now, let's see how many people are applaud when he hits his first home run after he returns, or steals his first base. They'll be happy, and they'll be happy for him. The fact that he cheated to get here just simply won't matter. That is what's sad and disappointing.

One up, one out: For a few days, the number of Gold Sox alumni in the big leagues increased to three. Pitcher Anthony Bass was called up by Texas from Tripe-A Round Rock on Thursday. However, Saturday, the Minnesota Twins placed Justin Haley on the Disabled List with what they are calling right bicep tendonitis. Haley is 0-0 with a 4.15 ERA and a save in 5 games, and has 11 strikeouts in 13 innings, but also is a Rule 5 pick, which means he has to stay on the big league roster all year or risk losing him. Placing him on the DL technically keeps him protected. Sending him to the minors does not.

La La Land awaits: Brock Stassi grew up a Giants fan (he's from northern California and his father played in the Giants organization), but he will be at Dodger Stadium this weekend when the Phillies arrive for a three-game series. Stassi's playing time has been sporadic, and he's hitting just .174 with a home run (his first major league hit) and one RBI. Incidentally, the Phillies don't go to San Francisco until August, and they do play the Oakland A's in interleague play, but that series will be in Philadelphia in September.

A good Giant: Tonight was the first game of the year between the Giants and Dodgers, and also the first time Sergio Romo pitched at A T&T park while not wearing a San Francisco uniform. Although he's a Dodger now, he got a wild ovation when introduced early in the game. Romo pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but the Giants won 2-1.

View All Commentaries