Let’s see. Either the Astros or the Braves will be the next team to clinch their division titles, and in theory they could do it on the same day, since they both awoke this morning with magic numbers of three. In theory.
The Astros have a better shot at doing it first since their remaining schedule is just a trifle easier than the Braves’. But remember Andujar’s Law: In baseball, there’s just one word—you never know. And the Astros’ main 2019 rivals for the best ratio of excellence to injury compromise or depletion, the Yankees, are a game from clinching their division.
I was wrong so far about the loss of Christian Yelich to the Brewers and their general manager David Stearns was right so far. I thought losing their by-far best player for the season last week meant a gut punch to their season. Stearns thought it was just a gut punch for the night. Stearns wins that argument.
Even if they did it against bottom feeders mostly, the Brewers are 6-1 since Yelich went down after fracturing his knee cap on his own foul off the plate. And they’re tied with the Cubs, who have their own issues, for the second National League wild card.
And I’m still rubbing my eyes over the fact that this year, too, as seems to happen too often in baseball’s wild card era, we’re watching all the thrills, chills, and spills of at least eight teams fighting to the last breaths to finish . . . in second or even third place.
As of this morning it’s still possible mathematically that the National League’s second wild card could be won by a team finishing third in its own division, and two teams (the Mets in the NL East; the Brewers in the NL Central) still have a shot at that. Which means, in theory, a third-place team could heat up enough to go to, if not win the World Series.
And even if the Giants and the Red Sox are out of the races, it was still a thrill Tuesday night when Mike Yastrzemski of the Giants—the grandson of the Red Sox’s Hall of Fame legend Carl Yastrzemski—confabbed with Grandpa on the field before the game at Fenway Park, then blasted one into the center field seats with two out in the top of the fourth.
But all the above gets knocked to one side upon the news that the best pitcher on major league baseball’s possible most fractured and fractuous team this year may be a sex criminal.
Bad enough that the Pirates’ clubhouse became a well known mess this season. Enough of a mess that two of the key culprits, relief pitchers Kyle Crick and Felipe Vasquez, had a clubhouse fight over Vasquez’s music that caused Crick a season-ending finger injury. Way worse is Vasquez arrested Tuesday in Pittsburgh, on Florida and Pennsylvania charges involving sexual misconduct with underage girls.
According to KDKA, CBS Pittsburgh, Vasquez is charged with “computer pornography–solicitation of a child and one count of providing obscene material to minors,” out of Lee County, Florida. Denied bail at his arraignment in Pittsburgh Tuesday—senior district judge Eilenn Conroy considered him a flight risk—he faces an extradition hearing a week from today.
Far more grave is what Pennsylvania State Police announced Tuesday evening, according to The Athletic: charges of statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of a minor by a suspect eighteen or older, and indecent assault of a victim under sixteen.
Yardbarker reported this girl told officers she met Vasquez when she was thirteen and they kept in touch via text messages and other computer/phone apps. USA Today‘s Chris Bumbaca reported the girl’s mother “discovered the messages, two pictures and a video one week after they were sent to the victim on July 16. At that point, the mother told the suspect he was communicating with a minor. Police began an investigation on Aug. 8.”
Bumbaca added that Vasquez’s face wasn’t visible in the images but authorities identified him by way of his numerous and too-distinctive tattoos, and by the girl addressing him as Felipe during their text message exchanges.
“These allegations are very, very serious,” said Pirates pitcher Chris Archer, whose own season ended officially Sunday thanks to shoulder issues keeping him on the injured list since late August. “One term that was used earlier was heinous. Right now, as far as we know, they’re just allegations. There’s not a lot more we can say.”
There wasn’t? The Pirates wasted practically no time wiping Vasquez off the face of their earth before the Pirates hosted the Mariners at PNC Park Tuesday evening, The Athletic‘s Rob Biertempfel writes.
By game time, looking around the stadium, it was as if Vázquez had never played for the Pirates. His clubhouse locker was empty. His banner outside PNC Park had been taken down. His image was scrubbed from the scoreboard videos. His name was deleted from the list of National League save leaders that flashes on concourse monitors before the game. The scorebook magazines with Vázquez on the cover, which normally are handed out to fans as they enter the stadium, were stashed out of sight.
The Pirates informed the commissioner’s office almost at once and Vasquez was put on administrative leave and baseball’s restricted list. He’ll face worse if he’s tried and convicted. And that would still be nothing compared to what his victims and their loved ones have to come to terms with. They deserve your compassion and your prayers.
This isn’t just an athlete accused of and disciplined for domestic violence. This is one accused of having or seeking actual sexual activity with underage girls. ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted even more grating news this morning: “Police said . . . Vazquez admitted that he drove nearly an hour in 2017 to meet a 13-year-old girl and tried to have sex with her, according to a criminal complaint released today. After a failed attempt, Vazquez, then 26, left to go to a game, per the complaint.”
Only after 1980’s-1990s Cubs/Indians/Yankees/Giants outfielder Mel Hall’s career ended did we learn he spent much of his off-field career maneuvering 12- and 13-year-old girls into sexual activity. Those grotesque maneuverings continued after his career ended. Hall was finally arrested for rape in 2007 and sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2009.
Until now the worst thing that ever happened to the Pirates in legal terms (the absolute worst at all, of course, was Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente’s death in a 1972 plane crash) was probably six players testifying and facing discipline from then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth as part of the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials. Analysts observing the dissipation of this year’s Pirates and suggesting a housecleaning should come may want to amend that suggestion to a fumigation.
One of life’s saddest realities is that there are times, indeed, when a man can be accused falsely and wrongly of such sordid crimes as those with which Vasquez is charged. The evidence known thus far suggests he isn’t even close to one of those men.