Archive for February, 2004
Well, apparently somebody gives a crap about my ranting and raving. One of my readers (Mark B.) took the time to post the following comment:
What continues to boggle my mind about this whole brou-ha-ha is the pious pontificating about the threat to the “sanctity” of baseball’s records. When, exactly were baseball’s records ever sacrosanct? In the 19th Century, when players threw games on a regular basis and cheated with impunity on the field (read Richard Scheinin’s Field of Screams for a great description of 1890′s thuggery)? Before 1920, when pitchers could do anything they wanted to a baseball and the same ball was used for the entire game, no matter how disgusting it got? In the 60′s and 70′s, when amphetimine use became commonplace in every baseball clubhouse? For that matter, how many “sacred” records are dependent on the whims of some bozo of an official scorekeeper?
Steroid use presents serious risks to an individual, and I believe that it should be regulated and restricted. To claim that it undermines the integrity of the game, however, is ludicrous. This isn’t Olympic sh-amateurism, but professional athletics. These guys have enormous incentives to enhance performance, and to expect them not to take advantage of anything that could provide that enhancement is Pollyannaish at best. Bans and witchhunts will work about as well as they have in the rest of the War on Drugs; that is, not at all.
Absolutely awesome! That’s a hell of a rant, and dead on. Thanks, Mark. For the record, you could question the accomplishments of players from the 30′s when rabbit ball was the norm, the 40′s, when so many players went to war, you could make a major league team with one arm; and all of baseball before Jackie Robinson.
The venerable Professor Adams has once again taken the time to enhance this little blog. His comments bear front page notice, so here you go:
John, I agree 100% with your take on the media’s coverage of Barry. Here are three quick thoughts that might make people feel better:
1) As Bill James has repeatedly pointed out, as time passes the element of a player’s image that decays most rapidly is the part that relates to how the media covers him – i.e. whether folks like Rick Reilly or Skip Bayless portray the player as a good guy, a prima donna, a clutch player, a steroid user, or whatever. What endures are the player’s statistics. During his career Ted Williams received EXACTLY the same treatment from irresponsible sportswriters that Barry Bonds receives today: they portrayed Williams as a surly, self-centered thug who was only out for himself; and at the time the public bought into the writers’ descriptions, to the extent that Williams was the most unpopular player in baseball. Yet by the 1980s Ted’s playing-day image had evaporated, and the public viewed him as a heroic individualist who was perhaps the greatest hitter who ever lived. Twenty-five years from now, I wonder if one fan in a hundred will remember (or care) what the Rick Reillys’ of the world were writing in 2004. So while the irresponsible media coverage is maddening while it lasts, I take heart in knowing that Barry Bonds’ on-field exploits will be remembered, long after all the current newsprint about him lies in the compost heap.
2) “The mills of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” I am confident that eventually the truth will come out about whether Bonds has used steroids, just as the truth came out about Pete Rose and gambling, and about which baseball players were using during baseball’s drug “crisis” in the 1980s. If Bonds is clean, the steroid story will gradually fade away, and the fact that it provided copy for a few dozen sportswriters in 2004 will mean nothing. If Bonds has used, then the finger-pointing and innuendoes from Reilly, Bayless, etc – well, they still won’t have been fair, but at least it won’t be like a terrible injustice has been done.
3) Bonds himself is handling the media coverage of the steroids story quite well: he goes about his business and doesn’t seem to pay much attention to what the sportswriters are saying. I know that if it was me, I wouldn’t be handling this whole brouhaha so calmly – but then again, this may explain why Barry is an all-time great and I was a college bench-warmer…
Thanks for stopping by, Professor. Listen, I know I could end up on the wrong side of my defense of Bonds. When Pete Rose confessed, I got a lot of emails reminding me that I had been defending him for two years. While on the surface that may seem true, in reality, that’s missing the point. I was defending Rose’s rights, not Rose. He was treated terribly for years, with one writer after another proclaiming his guilt, without even having read the Dowd report, let alone actually knowing anything.
I’m not saying Bonds hasn’t juiced. I don’t believe he has, but I know exactly as much about it as Turk Wendell or Rick Reilly; which is to say, nothing. In light of that, it would be unethical for me to assert that I know any such thing, as so many of these writers have done. I am astounded that their editors allow them to do it.
It’s a disgrace the way Bonds is being treated. This whole affair is shameful.
John Harper of the NY Daily News says that even though no players have come forward to commend Turk Wendell for his ignorant and uninformed comments abour Barry Bonds, behind the scenes, players are really behind him.
Even as Tom Glavine, long a high-profile union activist, was standing at his locker saying he thought Wendell was out of line for his comments, some of his fellow pitchers nearby were practically giggling as they discussed the Wendell-Bonds affair.
How this story qualifies as publishable is beyond me. This is nothing more character assisination. Wendell’s comments were little more than speculation, based on his own ignorant views. Harper’s insinuating column is no different.
And if you were to just read the headline of this John Shea piece, you’d assume Jeff Kent was going after Bonds too, but in reality, he’s singing a much more fair and balanced tune:
Dusty (Baker) said it best the other day when he talked about McCarthyism,” Kent said. “It’s guilt by association, and that’s what the media is doing. How do you know Dusty’s not on it? How do you know I’m not on it? All you know is it’s 10 percent, and I’m rounding that out. But I guarantee you, if you go to every ballplayer, everyone will say no. Guys saying, ‘Oh, test me, test me.’ They’re embarrassing themselves.”
Again, it’s the same kind of yellow journalism. In an article that has a prominent ex-teammate of Bonds essentially defending him and everyone else, the headline is clearly designed to make you think another player is going after him.
Bud Selig has a op-ed piece that essentially outlines a ridiculous, fairy tale plan for a zero tolerance policy towards illegal performance enhancing drugs. Selig has taken the time to convince everyone he’s on the right side of the issue, regardless of facts, actions or reality. I could go on and on about what a lousy commisioner Bud has been, or how he’s followed in Dubya’s footsteps by stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxpayers in Milwaukee to enrich himself and his family; instead, I’ll just mention that his plan has zero chance of ever being enacted. As such, this qualifies as little more than grandstanding during this so called crisis. Once again, he draws attention to the worst aspects of the game, instead of marshalling his resources to clear the names of some of his best players, players who have been unfairly accused of cheating with what amounts to less than circumstantial evidence.
And one of my favorite writers has it all wrong too. Mike Lupica wants everyone to believe he’s just giving it to us straight, but this piece is as full of speculation and insinuation too:
This is hogwash no matter how many misguided people like Dusty Baker, who can get in trouble talking about the weather, yell McCarthyism, or call it a witch hunt. Jeff Kent of the Astros, another beauty, seems to think there should be a “Cold Case” episode on television about whether Babe Ruth was on the juice, back in the day.
But this issue, which goes straight to the integrity of the game and its records, does not go away no matter how hard people try to make the best defense a good offense.
We know for sure that at least 5-7% (and most people believe the number might be higher than that) of the players tested for this stuff last season tested positive.
So now, even though these witch hunters finally got their testing, it’s not enough. Before the tests, it was at least thirty percent, so we have to test. Now the test results are out, and it’s an infintesmal percentage of players, they have to embelish the results, to make sure we know that the tests weren’t gonna work in the first place.
Which is it, Lupica? If you want the tests, stand by the results. No tests, speculation rules. You pick, you can’t have it both ways, no matter how much you hate Barry.
Does Lupica have any idea how easy it is to mess up a test? Does he have any idea that the way tests are put together; there is an already unnatural limit of whatever the test is designed to look for? Is he aware that the players being tested could easily end up like Butch Reynolds, a victim of a policy so strcit as to allow him no ability to clear his name even though the testing organization admitted they screwed up? Does he know that if Olympic athletes had a union, there’d be no testing there either? Does he care about the fact that these players have rights, just like he does? Obviously not.
Over at Yankees, Mets & all the rest, I found this, a post in which the guys over there agree with moi; with the added bonus of a link to a Rueters report in which Victor Conte is quoted (through his lawyer) as stating unequivocally that Bonds never did anything illegal.
“He knows of no illegal activity that ever took place with Barry Bonds,” Conte’s attorney, Robert Holley, told reporters after a courtroom appearance. “He feels that there has been a lot of rumor and innuendo that has been slandering one of the best baseball players in this country.”
Conte stood by his side, grinning and nodding slightly, but he declined to speak with reporters.
The attorney for Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, said Anderson had offered the San Francisco Giants star BALCO supplements, which he did not take.
“Bonds took nothing illegal ever,” said Tony Serra. “He was offered a schedule of what was believed to be legal. Receiving the schedule, he declined to take it.”
As I’ve stated before, you won’t see this stuff on the front pages, nor will it matter to jackasses who’ve tried and convicted Bonds in their own little minds already.
That’s why there’s a code of ethics for journalists. Without some guidelines, reporters can write whatever they want, and they don’t have to prove it. Once it’s out there, for 99% of the people, it’s a fact. Retractions, apologies, nothing makes a difference anymore. Assholes like Rick Reilly have been telling millions of SI readers that Bonds is on the juice for three years now. Even a straightforward statement like this won’t make a bit of difference. That’s why these guys, Reilly and Verducci, and the other dunderheads should be ashamed of themselves.
They should lose their jobs; and the sad reality is that no one, not their editors, or even their readers don’t take the time to take them to task.
Women writing about baseball? I almost can’t believe my eyes, but it’s true. Check out the Baseball Widow, who will soon be featured in my Up & Coming section. Here’s her opine regards our steroids dialogue:
…. As I see it, there are basically three ways to examine the consequences of Performance Enhancing Drugs (“PEDs”) in baseball.
1. If Barry Bonds is the only person using PEDs, then it cheapens his accomplishments because his domination of the field stems, quite simply, from cheating. If that’s true, then I’m sure history will appropriately asterisk his records and move on. This would hold true for any small number of individuals using PEDs in the game.
2. If everyone is happily using some sort of PED, then it’s hard to feel indignant about any one person using them. We may fret over their health or over the ethics of introducing such a variable into the game, but if everyone does it, then it can’t be cheating. At least, it doesn’t threaten the competitive balance among players.
3. If most people are using PEDs and the people who don’t are negatively affected, then baseball has a problem. A player who won’t use PEDs when everyone else is will probably lose his job. . . either because his actual performance will suffer or because a club won’t keep a player who isn’t willing to do absolutely anything for the roster spot.
Read the rest, and if you send her an email, tell her I sent you.
Skip Bayless wonders why the Giants couldn’t have made a move to get A-Rod, especially given the amount of money the Rangers were willing to eat. In a way, he’s right. The early returns for the Yankees have been terrific, some 200,000 tickets sold since the annoucement, not to mention an almost uncountable amount of merchandise. And don’t forget that good old standby, publicity. For the $16 million per season that A-Rod is costing the Yanks, it’s a good bet that he’ll pay for himself many times over.
Given the Giants standing as a flagship franchise, there seems to be little doubt that the same would have been true here, and I’d bet he’d have been willing to come here to play with Barry. The only missing component would have been a player of the caliber and age of Soriano to make the trade. Neifi Perez and Tony Torcato would have hardly been worth it for the Rangers, so who would the team have had to part with to land him? How about Ray Durham? He’s just a bit older than Soriano, not too shabby as an offensive player, and in the same neighborhood cost-wise. Here’s a look at the last three seasons for each player:
Soriano .287/.326/.506 .832 OPS 95 HR 121 2B 266 RBI 319 Runs
Durham .279/.358/.454 .812 OPS 43 HR 106 2B 168 RBI 279 Runs
The runs batted in you can attribute in part to playing on the Yankees, one of the top offenses in baseball the last three seasons. Other than that, Soriano is obviously a bigger power threat, more of a marketable “superstar,” but all in all, not a bad match.
And then there’s the fact that, since Durham makes something like $6 million per,(just about what Soriano’s making, $5.8 Million) A-Rod would have cost the Giants only $10 million per, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN STEALING!!!!. ($10 million for a 50 home run, 140 RBI, Gold Glove, MVP shortstop?!?! Arrrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!! Why do I even allow myself to dream?)
There is no doubt that he would have generated that much and more in merchandise alone. Of course, that would have required some vision and risk and balls, something I’m afraid is in short supply at PacBell lately.
But just imagine it; the Giants could have moved Neifi to second (where his anemic bat would have been less of a detriment), left A-Rod at short (where he would have produced so many more runs than Perez, it would have been like having two players at the plate whenever he came up), and A-Rod would have been given the chance to cement his standing as the best ever shortstop. Oh, and the Giants would have then been well positioned for Barry’s retirement; as well as set up to contend for the ring with the second best offensive player in the game to complement Superman, right now!
Ah, well…. what are you gonna do? No vision, no long-term thinking. All we here about are money problems. Sometimes it seems like Magowan landed Barry by accident.
Kirk Rueter is planning on being honest this season, especially if his shoulder bothers him again. I am again reminded of the terrible decision the Giants brass made when they chose to trade Russ Ortiz and extend Rueter, in direct contradiction to the evidence in front of them. This situation has the look and feel of the four years of hell the team was in because of the JT Snow deal; and it is particularly worrisome given the continued financial burden the ball park puts on the team.
ESPN’s Page2 features several writers taking a look at the Barry Bonds/steroids issue. Well, actually, it’s one fairly well-written piece, one ridiculous “I hate Barry” rant, and two quips. From David Schoenfield, we get this:
You know how many times Bonds has hit 50 home runs in a season? Once. You know how many times he’s led his league in home runs? Twice. You know how many writers suggest Bonds is the smartest hitter in the game, that he knows which pitch is coming, that his eyes and patience allow him to wait for exactly the pitch he can drive out of the park, that what makes him superman isn’t all the home runs he hits, but the way he does it, despite drawing all those walks, which puts him on base a must-be-a-misprint more than 50 percent of the time? Very few.
But of course, nobody likes Bonds anyway — writers or opposing pitchers. So bring him down when you can. Say that he’s nothing without the drugs, nothing but a cranky, sour SOB, that deep in his soul he’s not this good, because nobody can really be this good, nobody can put up these softball numbers in the major freakin’ leagues.
Freak? Yes, Bonds is a freak.
Steroids? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a man who regulates his body to optimal performance by staying away from those In-N-Out burgers that Jason Giambi craves so much. We don’t know, and surely Turk Wendell doesn’t either. Bonds has sculpted himself to his current frame from a lean 185 pounds as a rookie, and thus must be using steroids, as writers and talk-jock hosts love to point out? Means nothing. Look at Henry Aaron. When young, he was built exactly like a young Barry, long and lithe; by the time he was hitting No. 715, he had expanded and added bulk. All I know is that pitchers feared both Henry.
Asterisks next to all those records? Don’t even bother humoring us with that.
That’s pretty well put. I’ll leave it at that for now.
The boys at fogball invited Steve Shelby to put together an analysis of the auditioning players invited to spring training with the Giants this year. He does an excellent job exposing the astoundingly weak minor league system Sabean and Colletti are overseeing. Man, do they need a lot of talent.
One of my good friends, Alex Belth has an outstanding piece on the co-existence of Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter, (the piece was written with Rich Lederer). Tremendous writing, really. Go, now.