Archive for April, 2006

…. Reading is fundamental

I just finished my copy of The Only Game in Town, a new book written by former baseball commisioner Fay Vincent. It is the first volume in what is intended to be an on-going oral history of the game. In this volume, some of the players from the 1930′s and 1940′s are the focus, including Dom Dimaggio, Bob Feller, Monte Irvin and Larry Doby.

As an oral history, the book lacks a sense of pace or focus; in that, for the most part, it appears that the players were interviewed, and then the tapes were simply transcribed and published. This leads to a lot of strangely composed sentences and paragraphs, making it a less enjoyable read. I would have liked to have seen the players words refined or smoothed out, (Simon & Schuster published the book, but it doesn’t appear to have been edited).

Studs Terkel is famous for this type of writing, and as I read this book, I found myself longing for Studs’ ability to make me feel as though I were actually with the person talking. Here’s an example:

And it was that kind of baseball. So when I got back to Sarasota, my uncle subscribed to the Amsterdam News–that was the New York Weekly. And my father subscribed to the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender. See, these are the weeklies. We don’t get the paper until around Tuesday. But Tuesday evening, everybody would come to my house and we’d spread these papers out in the yard.

Now, the guy–I would probably be Rube Foster; another guy would be C.I. Taylor, and so on. So because–and it gave me a hope that I never had before, because the guys that I’d seen making a living playiong baseball, they were white. So now, this was a chance for me to make my living playing baseball. So that’s it.

John “Buck” O’Neil

Now, don’t get the impression that it’s not important to record the thoughts and words of Buck O’Neil, a baseball immortal who is loved by everyone who has ever met him. Better editing would have allowed me to feel his presence, to hear him more clearly.

Other than that one issue, the stories told by these players are a part of the history of the game, some of them lesser lights who were overshadowed during their day. The Baseball Oral History Project is important, and these players voices are too. If you’d like to pick up a coopy of the book, the link above will take you right to Amazon.

…. Backtalk

It’s really amazing to me that some of the people who are writing comments are still reading my work. Palinurus, why are you still coming here? And how can you imagine that your anonymous and snide remarks carry any weight or act as any type of critique of what I am trying to say? Here’s your pal, Lou, missing my points as completely as you have:

Weary of continuing his indefensible insistence that Bonds didn’t use steroids or cheat and that Bonds’s critics are either bigots or mooncalves being led around by their noses by Mike Lupica, Perricone has now moved on to suggesting that competitive sports should legalize the use of harmful but performance-enhancing drugs because athletes will always look for ways to get a competitive edge (so what’s the use trying to stop ‘em, right?). While we’re at it, let’s allow boxers to get steel plates inserted beneath the skin covering their skulls so it will be harder to knock ‘em out. Let’s allow basketball players to wear leg extenders so they can block more shots. The possibilities are limitless.

Let’s see…. I have never, ever written the words; “Bonds never used steroids.” Ever. I have never used the race card in defending Bonds, although I have posted comments that my readers have written that have included such an argument.

I have suggested that controlled, medically supervised use of PED’s would probably be a better way to handle the complex realities of today’s athletic world; as opposed to the Orwellian efforts being undertaken by organizations like WADA. I have challenged anyone, anywhere to send me to the studies that prove that the use of any kind of steroids are harmful, something that the US Government’s own anti-steroids website does not do, by the way. A challenge that has never even been attempted, I might add. Are you up to that challenge, Lou? Or are you just another blowhard trying to be funny in the dark, hidden from scrutiny?

As for “what’s the use of stopping them,” well, no one’s doing that now, obviously. Using punitive measures to control the actions of individuals has never worked, and likely never will. Continuing Lou’s absurd premise, that “stopping them” be our goal, I’d suggest that the only way to do that would be to have them live in a completely enclosed world, under constant supervision, and living with virtually no privacy or rights as individuals at all; the absurd conclusion of all of these, “make ‘em pee in a cup” ideas.

As for his last comments, regards steel plates and leg extensions; well, there are already numerous surgical procedures in use today that artificially extend an athlete’s career, (for instance, Tommy John surgery), that are, in fact, just incremental steps down the road to surgical enhancement.

And finally, if you think that Lupica, Verducci and the other writers running around screaming about the sky falling aren’t leading you around by your nose; how do you explain the recent spate of ridiculous “polls” these media outlets have published, in which they tell us that, lo and behold, their readers agree with what they write.

I’d like to hear you put together an argument for why athletes should give up even more of their rights, with your full, real, name, in a public forum, (sort of like what I have done for most of the last four years). Included in this argument, I’d ask that you come up with a formula for allowing someone else to manage your own life decisions and actions that you would buy into yourself, in your current job, in your current life, (again, as I have done in my writings).

I stand behind my writing and my ideas and my critiques. I post them under my name, with my personal email address available for anyone (including Mike Lupica and the gentlemen who wrote Game of Shadows with whom I have exhanged emails in the past) to write to me directly. I have posted numerous critiques of my ideas and writings, and continue to welcome the writings of my readers and other writers who have taken the time to take on my ideas critically.

To those of you like Palinurus, anonymously calling me names and ridiculing my ideas by taking small, unrelated bits and pieces and then suggesting that I am advocating absurdities, (Is that a straw man you’ve got in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?) I’d suggest you put your name where your mouth is, and put your writings out there for the whole world to swing away at, as I have done. Until you have the guts to do so, you embarass only yourself.

And again, if you think I’m such an asshole, why are you here?

…. Never enough

I just want to point out, again, the folly of trying to legislate risk. This morning, there are two NY Daily News articles, one which is full of all of the unintended irony you can find in five paragraphs, and the second, which is just full of shit.

The first article explains that a Daily News poll of some 800 baseball fans has the fans saying they want tougher steroid rules, and that they don’t like Barry Bonds. For those of you who don’t know what irony is, well, suffice to say; those views are, (coincidentally, I’m sure) consistent with the position the paper has taken for most of the past two years.

The second is a continuation of the same position, taken to its absurd conclusion. If you’re gonna try and stop athletes from doing everything they possibly can to win, you might as well stop competition.

The Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency, which dictates doping policy for all 35 Olympic sports federations, has accused FIFA of noncompliance with its doping code because of FIFA’s unwillingness to adopt WADA’s recommended two-year ban for first-time drug offenses.

You can have a lifetime ban for first-time offenders if you want, it won’t stop competitors from taking anything they feel comfortable taking to improve their performance. It just won’t.

Science will work to beat the tests, so will teams, coaches, GMs, countries, and athletes. The world of sports has become one of the top ways to earn a living for tens of thousands of athletes world-wide, and the lure of a championship, with the riches that follow, have forced the athletes (and by extension, the teams or countries they represent) towards ever-increasing extremes of training, equipment and technology. PED’s are a natural extension of high altitude training, ridining bicycles in wind tunnels, and whatever list of training methods you can come up with.

Is it fair that some athletes have access to these technologies while others don’t? Of course not.

Does that matter? Of course not.

…. Happy?

Pedro Feliz is mired in the midst of one of the worst stretches of hitting in his brief career. Currently batting .186/.213/.329, Feliz hasn’t seen a fastball since before the All Star break last season, and appears unlikely to do so in the near future.

How bad is he? He batted an anemic .217/.271/.402 in the second half last season, a line that would represent a substantial upgrade over what he’s doing right now. It’s clear that teams will not throw him anything but off-speed junk, regardless of the situation. The Rockies just walked Moises Alou on four pitches to get to Feliz, prefering a bases-loaded with one out situation over even attempting to get Alou out. Feliz immediately grounded to third on the first pitch he saw, ending the inning.

Feliz has one main problem; he won’t stop swinging at every pitch he sees. Until he actually proves he can lay off the breaking balls off the plate, he’ll be killing the Giants with his complete failure at the plate. Last season, Feliz worked the count to 3-0 just one single time all season, and 3-1 just 12 times. He just saw a 3-1 count (3rd time this season) a minute ago, and hit a flare to right center that Freeman made a circus catch on.

The Giants have come out of the gate unprepared for the season’s action for the second year in a row. The bullpen is in shambles, the hitters appear to be clueless, they appear to have no plan, no set approach…. I mean, with five of the ten regulars hitting below .200, it sure seems to be a coaching issue. If it weren’t for some very timely hitting, and some very solid starting pitching, the Giants would be looking at a repeat of last season’s devastating start.

As it is, if Durham, Matheny, Bonds, Vizcaino, Neikro and Feliz don’t start hitting, and if the bullpen can’t perform better than a run per inning, this early run at first in the NL West will prove to be an illusion.

…. Backtalk

… Knowledge is power

…. Talk talk

Here’s Lupica today:

…. For the sake of conversation, let’s say it’s all true about Barry Bonds.

Let’s just say that he not only possessed illegal anabolic steroids, but injected and ingested them at a torrid, home-run-like pace. Let’s say he perjured himself in front of a grand jury when he said he didn’t know what he was taking.

Let’s say he’s guilty of giving lots of money to an ex-girlfriend and then encouraged her to hide that money from the federal government.

If he did all that, and broke various laws of the land, somebody explain something to me:

How is this a witch hunt?

How is Bonds the first political prisoner in baseball history?

How does that all work, exactly?

Is that an amazing line of bullshit. or what? How is that a witch hunt? Since I am as loud as anybody calling this sham a witch hunt; let me answer Lupica, (since he has never answered my emails):

It’s a witch hunt because even if you’re right, singling Bonds out is wrong. You, and the rest of you hypocrites have chosen him to hammer at continuously for the last three years, to the point where the SF Chronicle has the balls to run a poll that asks if fans think Bonds has cheated, ignoring the immeasurable irony inherent in a paper that has been attacking him for the last three seasons wondering if their readers believed them or not.

If I’m to believe Verducci and the rest of you, steroids was widespread, virtually every player, star or otherwise was pumped to the gills. You sanctimonious loudmouths have the audacity to suggest, in print, that, since Giambi has recovered from his problems in 2004, he must be using something you can’t test for. You have made a mockery of the game you proclaim to love, holding a simple and childish view of a complex and nuanced issue.

Here’s ignoring the obvious one time after another:

…. How do you think the BALCO hearings, which included equal parts baseball and football players, turned into the exclusive property of MLB? (I’ve heard the argument about records, which I don’t really buy. Baseball numbers before 1947 are extremely tainted.) It seems to me that bodies in the NFL have transformed over the last 20 or 30 years. What is going on with what seems to be unbalanced reporting?
– Tony Muetz, Martinez, Calif.

A valid point, Tony. Other than getting dragged in front of Congress a couple of times, the NFL has had it easy in this steroids scandal. I see a few reasons for that. First, the NFL has had a fairly strict drug policy in effect for years (just ask Ricky Williams).

…. Um, John? Ricky Williams smokes pot.

I’ve said this to just about every sports writer and no one acknowledges it. Babe Ruth. Ty Cobb. Joe DiMaggio. Mickey Mantle. They would all have done whatever it took to win — and that includes taking steroids. Bonds may not be a desirable human being — most great people are not as nice as people think anyway. But will everyone get over the steroids thing already?
– Chet, Grand Rapids

Heard that before, too, Chet. Don’t agree with your side.

I remember a talk with a former big league player I had last year. This player — he had a long career that ended in the ’80s — had an opportunity to take steroids but, after some soul-searching, simply couldn’t do it. He was unsure of the health consequences. He was uncomfortable with the idea that he might gain an unfair advantage. So he simply said no.

Yeah, right. Sanctimonious? You bet. You can bet that whenever a retired player says he thought about it and decided to say no, it was the health consequences, (trumped up and exaggerated as they are) that weighed heaviest in his mind. How about, as a reporter, you ask them this question:

What would you have done if you thought there were little or no side effects??

Nah…. Why bother with real journalism? Attack Bonds. He’s a dick. Who cares?

…. Winn now

Randy Winn hit his first homer, and Jamey Wright pitched another excellent game, as the Giants beat the Dodgers 2-1 after an almost two hour rain delay. Bonds is playing with bone chips in his elbow, and Moises has a bum calf, again. Apparently, being 40-years old and playing professional sports can be difficult.

Here’s a question, where has Jamey Wright come from? A career 63-88 record, with a 5.10 ERA, I mean, all of his numbers are terrible. Lot’s of walks, home runs, baserunners, not too many strikeouts…. I know he’s played in Colorado a lot, and for the most part he’s been on very bad teams, but he’s looked terrific so far in orange and black. And he only makes $500,000 this season.

As for Bonds, now he will really face the music. The government, not satisfied with leaking his grand jury testimony, will pursue against him, a waste of taxpayers money and the US Attorney’s office’s time, since everyone admits that, for the most part, perjury cases are virtually impossible to win. But the vendetta against Bonds is such that this was inevitable.

Here’s Michael McCann’s two cents:

Keep in mind, perjury charges are typically very difficult to prove. Perjury is the act of knowingly, intentionally, and materially lying to a court after taking an oath to tell the truth. So the prosecution must establish that a defendant knowingly and intentionally misstated a material fact, rather than having merely suffered from 1) a faulty recollection while answering a question; 2) a misunderstanding of the question being asked; or 3) a misunderstanding of his own response to the question. Moreover, an intentional lie must have a consequential effect on the case’s ultimate outcome, a hurdle which can also be difficult to establish.

Bonds’ situation is getting worse, not better, and he’s hurting, slow, out of shape, not hitting…. His catching Ruth might be doable, but it sure looks like he’s not gonna get Aaron.

…. Friends

There’s a new Giants website, Giants Daily, run by Brian. Lots of interesting things, plus great color scheme. He’s listed in my Up & Coming section. Check him out when you can, he’s got pictures. Oooooohhhh!!!

Also, reader Tom Wilson sent me to, which offers fans the chance to buy a foam asterisk. Depending on whether you or the people selling them are tight-asses, it’s either funny or insulting. Nice. I mean, for the most part, funny is insulting. ;-)

…. Odds & Ends

A 4-2 start is nice. Vizquel and Moises have come out of the blocks red-hot, let’s hope Alou keeps in mind that these guys are 40 years old, and gives them the rest that they’ll need to stay hot, (unlike last season when he played his son for something like 35 games in a row right off the DL).

Schmidt’s allowed 9 earned runs already, Tyler Walker’s playing himself out of baseball, Taschner’s allowed 5 runs and gotten two outs. Durham, Matheny, Feliz, Bonds, and Sweeney are all waiting for that first big day at the plate.

The real surprise so far is Finley, who looks younger, faster and better than I would have expected. He’s making Sabean look pretty good right now. The depth of this outfield will determine how well the season goes, and if Finley can perform like this, (or even close to this), he and Winn could easily make up for the missed time we can expect from Alou and Bonds.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
San Francisco Giants, Major League Baseball, or any other organization mentioned herein.

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