A-Rod mired in another PED mess

Alex Rodriguez is once again mired in a PED mess, and his career is in limbo. William Perlman/US Presswire

I wrote in early November about the concern in MLB regarding an alleged cell of PED use in Miami that may have become something like BALCO East, and there was more from ESPN.com and the Daily News over the weekend about the links.

This morning, Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times has more details.

It's a developing story, with many players allegedly involved, and MLB is trying to get traction in its own investigation. Among the others, MLB will examine the links to Alex Rodriguez. If what is alleged in the New Times report is accurate -- that Rodriguez was using PEDs as recently as last season -- it may be that Rodriguez's prolific career could be all but over.

Rodriguez has five years and $114 million remaining on his contract. What MLB could do -- as they did with Jason Giambi -- is summon him to New York and present him with whatever evidence they have, pressing him for answers about the details.

If Rodriguez is suspended, then presumably the Yankees will do their own review of their options, such as trying to void the contract because of misrepresentation, in the same way that former sponsors and business partners of Lance Armstrong have been trying to do in recent days.

But let's face it: Rodriguez is going to be evaluated by the Yankees (and other teams) on a very practical level, like a math equation. On one side of the measurement is the player's possible production, and on the other side are the off-field issues. Let's call it the Manny Scale, for Manny Ramirez -- because once Manny stopped being an elite or even good offensive player, teams stopped giving him opportunities.

For a young catcher such as Yasmani Grandal, who has been suspended for the first 50 games of the 2013 season but has years ahead of him, the future numbers far outweigh the downside of keeping him -- and so the Padres would give no thought to dumping him.

But Rodriguez is 37 years old, and that equation is very different. His best days are behind him, and given the major hip surgery he had earlier this month, it's not even clear that he'll play in 2013 -- and when he comes back, it's not clear that he can be even an average player. If MLB finds him in violation of the drug-testing agreement and he is suspended, the Manny Scale may tip once and for all for Rodriguez.

The Yankees may go after him in every way they can to extract as much financial relief as possible from the dollars they still owe him. It may be that Rodriguez's career in New York ended with those ugly postseason performances against the Orioles and Tigers. It may be that other teams won't want him either, in the way they haven't wanted Ramirez.

Boston's culture change

Boston Red Sox games must have been a psychiatrist's dream last season, given all the apparent dysfunction and frustration, given all the telling body language.

Most managers and pitching coaches stand relatively close together during games, but Bobby Valentine and Bob McClure often were far apart, and there were instances when McClure visited a struggling pitcher on the mound, returned to the dugout and sat without reporting to Valentine.

Not surprisingly, McClure did not last the season.

I remember watching a Red Sox pitcher stare down Valentine, like he was aiming lasers, as the manager made a slow walk to the mound. Sometimes, infielders preferred to stay at their position rather than participate in the meetings because of lingering issues.

And this all started even before the first day of spring training. When the players learned about some of the drills that Valentine had planned, including one in which they hit the ball to teammates using a fungo bat, the players couldn't believe it.

Midway through the season, one player summed up the mental state of the Red Sox: "Everybody hates everybody."

It was an exaggeration, of course, but the fact is that no matter whom you choose to blame, the atmosphere was miserable and the team's play was horrific, especially in the final weeks of the regular season. David Ortiz was hurt, Adrian Gonzalez had been traded, and there were probably players and staff members who couldn't wait for the season to end. In September, the Red Sox were outscored 161-85.

Valentine is gone, and John Farrell has replaced him. This era is dominated by statistical examinations and projections, and you can try to attach numbers to the Boston additions of Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli and Joel Hanrahan. You can attempt to quantify what it would mean to the Red Sox if Daniel Bard bounced back to pitch the way he did in 2011 and the ramifications of a full season of Will Middlebrooks.

But there's probably no way to fully measure what the change in culture will mean. It will count for something that the players will be excited to go to work again and be invested in the direction their manager is taking them. It will count for something that the staff will be working closely together and that the factions and divisions will be diminished.

Will this translate into one more victory? Two? Five?

I have no idea. Nobody does.

This much we know: Last year's situation was unworkable. The split between Valentine and the players was a significant, tangible problem. Now it's workable, at the very least.

Farrell commands respect and attention, writes Michael Silverman.

Replay issues

As Jayson Stark wrote recently, it's all but certain that instant replay will not be in place for the start of the 2013 season, in part because MLB wants more uniformity in the camera angles from park to park.

They may as well look for world peace for all eternity while they're at it.

Think about what happens in the National Football League: The stadiums are basically the same and the camera angles are mostly uniform, yet plays occur all the time that replay doesn't diagnose conclusively. The action creates obscurity that no camera-angle planning will ever wholly account for. A wide receiver attempts a diving catch, and even with four, five or six camera angles, we still don't know whether his hand was under the ball enough to prevent it from hitting the ground.

Think about one of the most controversial plays in baseball in the past decade: Matt Holliday (then of the Colorado Rockies) sliding into home plate at the end of the one-game playoff against the San Diego Padres. No part of the field is better covered for replay than home plate, with camera angles available from left field, right field, center field and behind home. But to this day, we still don't know for sure whether Holliday touched home plate and whether he was correctly ruled safe.

It is because of this dynamic of built-in uncertainty that some team executives are incredibly frustrated with the replay situation. Those officials acknowledge that the system that MLB might implement today wouldn't be close to perfect, but they think it's better than accepting a lot of failure that could be fixed easily.

"Why not get right what you can get right?" said one team official. "It's embarrassing for all of us, starting with the umpires. You're never going to get every call right, but any improvement is better than what we have now."

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Derek Jeter was back on the field for the first time since breaking his leg.

2. The Orioles are hoping to take advantage of an undervalued asset.

3. Ronny Cedeno was signed by the Cardinals.

4. Kelly Johnson is getting an opportunity with the Rays.

5. The Yankees signed Juan Rivera.

6. Joe Saunders is still waiting to pick a team, writes Dan Connolly.

7. The Phillies need to get better, said Cole Hamels.

Hamels had some shoulder soreness early in the offseason. Charlie Manuel is excited about the Phillies' bullpen.

Other stuff

• As Richard Sandomir writes in the aftermath of the Dodgers' announcement, there will now be six regional sports networks in Southern California.

• The third-to-first move is being eliminated.

• Carl Pavano's spleen was removed.

Mike Trout was honored.

• The Padres' optimism of the fall has faded after a quiet winter, writes Bill Center.

Brennan Boesch is ignoring trade talk.

• Some Astros are hoping for some good health.

• The Athletics need leaders, writes John Shea.

And today will be better than yesterday.