Archive for September, 2006
…. As the story goes, Bonds had a pretty good year that year (1998) — fourth in SLG, fourth in OBP, third in OPS; top ten in runs, doubles, triples, homers, RBI; second in walks and fifth in SB; and a .308 batting average — but was overshadowed by the increasing home run totals of those allegedly using PEDs. So, Bonds figured, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
…. It’s a classic race to the bottom situation. The result we want is a drug-free game, at least in our public statements and such. However, we give awards and honors to the drug users, at the expense of the clean players. This incentivizes them to do things we don’t want them to do — namely, use PEDs. After all, the 70 home runs McGwire hit each count as much as the 37 Bonds hit.
So, Bonds joined the race — and won by a mile. He, not Sosa, has the 734+ career home runs — an NL record and second all-time. He, not McGwire, has the single-season homer record.
And, in winning, he is labeled Public Enemy #1. But is it fair? Should the brunt of our anger fall on Bonds, who while the victor in this race to the bottom, was a late-entry? Or should it fall on Canseco, McGwire, and Sosa — three players who were among the first out of the gate, but stumbled toward the finish line?
Interesting stuff for those of us who really, really care ;-D
Lipsyte is saying that Bonds’ use of PED’s is well within the realm what a superstar athlete would consider doing to maintain their career. Got that? He’s not saying that Bonds didn’t use PED’s; he’s mentioning what should always be mentioned when discussing Bonds and PED’s, that all we have is hearsay and conjecture.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t appear likely that he did use PED’s, just that it’s not the same as, say, a failed drug test; or a teammate saying that he used them in front of him, or something like that. We have the Chronicle authors putting together a pretty damning book, but still; it bears noting that Greg Anderson is still refusing to testify against Bonds. Victor Conte never has either, and both of these guys had their feet to the fire. The fact that these two men didn’t come out and put the kibosh on Bonds has to carry some weight. They burned a bunch of other athletes, so why not Barry?
…. I do understand my own complicity in the superstars’ need for the needle; we — fans, coaches, parents, owners, media — demand that they attempt superhuman feats to thrill us, authenticate us, make us rich and proud, and naturally they need superhuman help to satisfy us. (We also want our Whole Foods before they rot, which is why long-haul truck drivers pop speed.)
And we don’t want to know about the process. When it’s jammed in our faces, when athletes come up “dirty” in testing (or truck drivers jackknife on the interstate), we demand that they be punished and expunged from our fantasies.
This pattern of denial and demonization is our problem, not theirs. Steroid use in sports is a symptom of our disease more than theirs, and a fascinating, if tinted, window on Jock Culture, on its connection to the complicated, dangerous, exhilarating way manhood is measured in America from the field house to the White House.
“Athletes certainly have no ethical dilemma about doing steroids,” says Dr. Michael Miletic, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst whose Detroit-area practice includes high school, college, and professional athletes. “Steroids are totally embedded in the sports culture. We need to get past the finger-pointing. There’s been a wholesale abandonment of critical analysis.”
…. Consider poor Barry Bonds, the Othello of the sports drama. (His Desdemona was fame.) Barry was raised a prince, the son of a star (Bobby), the godson of a superstar (Willie Mays), and he definitely proved himself worthy. Lean and apparently drug-free, Barry was arguably the greatest player of his generation, but one day the crowd’s affection and the home-run records began flowing to a swollen, surly, red-headed meatball named Mark McGwire who was clearly on the juice. So Barry, with an aging and wounded back and bad knees, seemingly decided to level the field by getting some, too.
Now, I don’t much like Barry. Once, he so frustrated me during an interview that I appealed to his dad, who just shrugged and said he had the same problems. Barry’s moral character makes him a poor role model for the sportswriters who are jumping all over him now that he’s down. I wonder if they’re making up for having never noticed all the steroid side effects in locker-rooms the past ten years. (Actually, serious steroid use, particularly in Olympic events, goes back to the days when I was reporting, so you can blame me, too.)
Barry didn’t start taking steroids — if he did: no proof yet — to enslave our children or to mock all fans outside San Francisco or even to bury Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. He did it because he wanted to stay in the locker-room and on the field, and he wanted to be the best. He did exactly what he had been trained to do as a Jock Warrior, pushing himself and the boundaries, winning ugly, even cheating, if necessary.
…. So why should we — Botox’ed, Viagra’ed, silconed — be surprised that athletes are enhancing themselves, too? And why should we care?
On one level, I don’t. The jock’s capital has always been his body, and he should be free to spend and invest it. Policing that should be a function of the team dynamic. It is very telling that athletes, as competitive and violent as they can be in every aspect of their lives, have not dispensed locker-room justice to the steroid-users who are presumably tilting the playing field and stealing jobs from team-mates who stay clean. Obviously, most everybody is using drugs. That genie is out of the bottle.
That’s enough. Read the whole thing, and then we can argue some more.
The Giants starter gave up 9 hits and 9 runs for the second time in three games, as Matt Morris matched Noah Lowry’s dubious feat tonight, which of course led to the team’s fifth straight loss. Not exactly the kind of post-season push we were hoping for….
Didn’t somebody try to tell me the Giants had the best starting pitching in baseball?
UPDATE: As far as being utterly and completely vindicated, I guess tonight’s disgrace to humanity would pretty much handle that, no? Noah Lowry gave up 9 hits and 9 earned runs while recording but 4 outs. Yeah, and if that’s not bad enough, he was handed a 3-0 lead before he took the mound. Not only was this the fourth consecutive embarassing performance by a starting pitcher for this dismal, repulsive, unwatchable, pathetic collection of talent; but it was also a game in which the hitters came out of the gate and put the team in prime position to end the recent slide. So much for that.
Oh, and by the way, Frank, to suggest that the players on this team have somehow let San Francisco down is beyond absurd. It is provably, patently, clearly, and unequivocally wrong, inaccurate, false…. I can hardly get through the thesarus fast enough for this piece. This is a team of misfits, castoffs, has-beens and never-was’s who have performed exactly as expected, exactly as predicted. Only an idiot could come to the conclusion that this team has under-performed. There is not one player on this team who could have reasonably been expected to be any better than they have been. Not one. Give me a break.
The blame for this sham of a season falls on Sabean and Magowan, for taking the concept of building a veteran team to its absurd conclusion.
…. and pray for rain? ;-D
How about pray for Schmidt? Now we learn that Schmidt is nursing a sore back, and may miss tonight’s start. Ouch.
Matt Cain continued to make me look like a bonehead, extending his run of dominance, (5 wins and a 0.21 ERA over his last six starts), and the Giants beat the Rockies 5-0 yesterday to remain 2.5 games behind the Padres.
Not to concede anything, but it would be better for us if the Dodgers destroyed the Padres, and we somehow put a licking on the Cards, Rockies and Brewers on this unbelievably poorly timed 10-game road trip. Actually, either team sweeping the other would be good. I’d hate to see the Giants sweep the Cards and watch the Pods and Dodgers split, leaving us still behind. I know, one game at a time and all that….
I know I said I was gonna take a look a Lowry, but it will be a while before I can get to it.
The Giants gained on just about everybody last night, pulling within 1.5 games of the wild card leading Padres. Kevin Correia picked up Jonathan Sanchez and his team, after the Rockies jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, Correia lasted through the eighth inning, the Giants hitters roared to life, and the Giants won 10-6, picking up a win in a game they desperately needed.
Lowry looks to keep the dream alive tonight. Discuss amongst yourselves….
UPDATE: Lowry woke me up, and Felipe threw water in my face, when the two of them combined to allow the Rockies to score seven runs on just three hits in the fifth. Eecch.
As Lowry alternates between afwul, injured and good this season, Jim Adams wonders if he’s the second coming of Shawn Estes:
After pitching well in a late-season call-up in 1996, Shawn Estes was one of the best young left-handed pitchers in baseball in 1997, striking out 181 batters (8.1/9IP) and posting an excellent ERA (3.18). Then in 1998 the Giants lost a close race for the wild card, largely because Estes fell off a cliff: he battled injuries, he posted a losing record, his ERA jumped (5.16), and his strikeout rate plummeted(8.2/9IP). He never got back to where he was in 1997.
Fast forward a few years. After pitching well in a late-season call-up in 2004, Noah Lowry was one of the best young left-handed pitchers in baseball in 2005, striking out 172 batters (7.5/9IP) and posting an excellent ERA (3.78). Now in 2006 the Giants are trailing in a close race for the wild card, in part because Lowry has fallen off a cliff: he has battled injuries, he has a losing record, his ERA has risen (4.19), and his strikeout rate has plummeted (4.7/9IP).
Jim posits an excellent argument, except that Estes’ strikeout rates actually went up in ’98, and in both years they were pretty good. It dropped quite a bit after that, and he did fail to even really come close to ’97 again. Lowry certainly failed last night, that’s for sure. I’ll look at his season a little more closely in the morning.
Two other things….
First, is Clint Hurdle kidding somebody? 4 pitchers to get three outs in the bottom of the seventh, with a four-run lead!!?? And to add insult to injury, he has the balls to make the crowd sit through the third warm up session so that Venafro can walk Bonds on four fucking pitches!!?? There needs to be a rule that prevents managers from putting us through this bullshit. Between Hurdle and Alou, the two team used 11 pitchers?! In a game that had 17 runs scored? There oughta be a rule.
Second, I couldn’t have been the only one who, as Bonds prepared to bat in the ninth, knew he was gonna hit a home run and the Giants were gonna lose by a run, could I? What a terrible loss.
Matt Morris pitched like he has all year, (which is to say, he was hammered by a weak-hitting team), and the Giants lost the hammer game against the Padres on Sunday. Morris and the SF Chronicle writers can talk all they want about how bad his run support has been this season. Morris still has allowed 19 home runs, 195 hits, has a 4.71 ERA, allowed over 100 runs (7th worst total in the NL); and done all this pitching half his games in one of the best pitchers parks in the game. I mean, come on, in his last ten starts, he’s allowed 6, 3, 5, 1, 5, 2, 3, 5, 0, and 7 earned runs. That’s horrible, atrocious, disappointing…. whatever, you fill in the blanks. That’s 3 good starts,2 mediocre ones, and five starts in which he gave his team no chance to win at all. The hitters bailed him out once, and he ran out a nice 2-6 record over those ten starts. Difference maker? You bet. Just not the right kind.
Anyway…. the Giants still managed to pick up a game on the Padres, pulling within 2.5 games of the wild card. A nice win streak coupled with a Padres stumble would go a long way right now.
Schmidt was dominant early, striking out nine through five innings. But he faltered late, allowing home runs in the seventh and the eight to allow the Padres to tie the game at 4, leaving the Giants hitters to bail him out. They did, as Ray Durham tripled with one out in the 11th, and Mark Sweeney drove him in after Bochy intentionally loaded the bases as the Giants took the second game against the Padres to move with 1.5 games of the Wild Card leader. With the Mets taking the first two games from the Dodgers, the G-men find themselves with a season to play out.
Talk amongst yourselves….
UPDATE: Doh! The Mets took two of three from the Dodgers.
The Giants have scored and allowed almost the exact same number of runs, (645 runs scored to 641 allowed), which is what you’d expect a .500 team to do. They are currently 3.5 games behind the Padres for the wild card spot, with the Phillies and the Marlins also ahead of them. Of these four teams, all are scoring and allowing right around the same number of runs, with the Padres out-performing their expected winning percentage by a decent margin, (mostly due to the 5-game winning streak they are currently on), which puts them 7 games over .500, when they really should be only about one or two games over.
Which is to say, the Giants have as much a chance as any of these mediocrities to be the first round sacrificial lambs to the Mets, right?
These three games with those same Padres are, to state the obvious, critical. Sweep ‘em and the teams would be in a virtual tie. Cain vs. Peavy, Schmidt vs. Wells, and Hennessey vs. Williams. Even a pessimist like me has to like our chances with those matchups. Good looking weekend for sports all around, with the NFL kicking off and the Giants basically playing a playoff series with the Pods.
UPDATE: The Mets did their part, slapping the Dodgers around to the tune of a 7-0 wipeout.