Only Baseball Matters

Archive for December, 2006

…. Out of order

SI’s Jon Heyman offers this explanantion for not voting for Mark McGwire on is Hall of Fame ballot:

…. McGwire denied taking steroids for years, right up until the point he was placed under oath. Then, with the circumstances changed and the stakes higher, he took a powder.

The only plausible reason to refuse to comment or cooperate to Congress is that he had plenty to hide. There is no other way to explain his performance. His defenders will claim he had a bad day. But if that’s true, what about the 21 months he’s had since then to explain himself? He continues to remain scarce, a contrast to the larger-the-life figure he cut in his later ballplaying years.

This isn’t a court of law and he isn’t on trial. But the question isn’t whether to punish McGwire, it’s whether to honor him. I can think of no good reason to do that now.

Some will claim steroids were not disallowed at the time, and that, of course, is 100 percent false. There was no testing for them during McGwire’s career, and no spelled-out punishment. But they were neither permitted in baseball nor legal in our society.

Some will say that everyone did them, and I’ll agree that many did do them. But I will say first that not everyone did do them, and most who did got away with it. While McGwire has never failed a test or confessed, in my mind he is caught. So on my ballot, his box is blank.

Every vote requires thought and judgment, and it’s hard to think any of other explanation for McGwire’s 70 home runs or his no-comment stance beyond steroids. If anyone can come up with something else plausible, I’m all ears. Until then, McGwire doesn’t get my vote.

Well, well, well. Alright, Jon, I’ll give it a shot. Here’s just a couple of things to consider:

His refusal to cooperate with those ridiculous, grand-standing Congressional hearings could have been because it was a complete circus, and if he was gonna get involved in such an important and weighty issue; he would have preferred to do so in a courtroom, or a grand jury hearing, or maybe even in a big meeting with MLB.

He could have wanted to protect players whom he had knowledge of, and didn’t want to unneccessarily embarass or betray his friends.

Or maybe he thought that once he started talking, there would have been no end; that no matter what he said, it wouldn’t have been enough. I mean, we are talking about a man who enjoys his privacy.

Maybe he thought that he’d have been a disappointment to his friends and family if he would have come clean, and didn’t to let anyone down.

Maybe he was taking one for the team, the team in this sense being all of baseball for the years he was there.

And maybe, just maybe, he realized that, no matter what he said, he would be judged as a cheater, as guilty by assumption. I mean, look where he is now? People say, “just look at him,” as if that’s enough. In fact, for the most part, he’s not being asked whether he did use steroids; he’s being asked to tell us that he didn’t. “While McGwire has never failed a test or confessed, in my mind he is caught.” How is McGwire supposed to overcome that? What could he say now, other than, “I did use steroids and I sorry.”

And therein lies the rub. He is in a lose-lose situation, with no way out. Here’s what I wrote about McGwire when it first became clear that he was caught in the crossfire:

…. Virtually any athlete in any sport will do just about anything to be the best of the best, and a manager or coach will push them to do so. Some athletes will push the envelope only so far, while others will throw it away, and risk their very lives, if they truly believed it would make a difference, the difference between winning and losing. We, as fans, not only ask this of them, we demand it. Their coaches demand it, their teammates demand it, the game demands it. Be the best, win at all costs, do whatever it takes; these are the credo of virtually every championship-caliber player, coach, or team.

And now, hysterical media-types are fanning the flames of controversy; “Oh no, it looks like so and so really did do whatever it takes. Shame on him!” Please. Don’t insult my inteligence. Of course he or she did, what did you expect? The only difference between what one athlete will risk as opposed to another is based on their own personal decision-making values. As for their choice, I’d ask you; is it appropriate for one person to decide what another should be willing to risk? Is it OK for you to tell me what I should be willing to do to improve my life, my career, my earning potential? Not in my book, it isn’t, not as long as my actions don’t harm anyone else, or take from anyone else.

In the five years prior to 1997, Mark McGwire played 139, 27, 47, 104, and 130 games. Was it his use of andro that allowed him to play 156, 155 and 153 over the next three, hitting 58, 70 and 65 home runs? During those five injury-riddled seasons, he hit a home run every 9.44 AB’s. In the next three, in which he played almost every game, he hit a home run every 8.17 at bats, not a tremendous difference. He stopped using andro sometime during the end of the 1998 season, right? Only one full season later, he was back on the injured list, and his career was over by 2001. If his use of andro enabled him to stay healthy enough and strong enough to get enough at bats to break Roger Maris’ record, how exactly was that wrong? Why should Mark McGwire give up his right to do whatever he can to help his body heal itself and stay strong enough to endure the rigors of baseball, his chosen profession? If there are risks involved, why shouldn’t he be the one to decide if they are worth it? It’s his life!

If it was steroids that allowed him to stay on the field instead of in the training room, the question still remains, whose life is it? Whose career are we talking about? Be the best. Do whatever it takes. Go the distance. He did. Was he wrong?

…. Odds & Ends

Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan has two things to say in his latest article, both of which state my position better than I did. This is Premium content, so I’ll only lift a taste, but it’s worth it, and Joe has allowed me to share some PC with you in the past:

…. Just based on the real evidence at hand—not “he looked like…” stuff, or the absolute joke that the treatment of Mark McGwire has become, but the data from the four years of testing—the steroid problem in MLB appears to have been overblown.

But when the names leak, as they inevitably will, a half-dozen or a dozen guys will have to answer for their actions of four years ago. A program in which players were promised anonymity in exchange for their willingness to help MLB find out the extent of its problem, will instead be used to embarrass the players who trusted the agreement reached in 2002.

…. San Francisco is probably a good fit for Zito, though. AT&T Park has a big outfield and is fairly good at suppressing home runs. I suspect that 2007 may not be that much fun for him, as the Giants don’t have a good defensive contingent covering that ground. Zito may only give up 20-25 homers, but allow 60 doubles and 15 triples along the way. Down the road, a younger, faster Giants outfield could make Zito a threat to push his ERA below 3.00, and I have to say that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenge for a Cy Young Award a couple of times during this deal.

I guess I’m not an idiot. ;-)

Many, many sportswriters have noted that the Giants overpaid for Zito, citing this deal as another Scott Boras coup. Well, yeah, but the Giants, having missed the postseason three straight years, had to overpay to get him.

Some of the backtalkers chided me for connecting the BALCO injustice angle to our government’s naked greed and ineptitude. It does seem to me that a McCarthy-esque bent exists today in part due to the shameless antics of the Republican leadership these last 6 years. Nevertheless, I stand corrected, in that my comments did make, at best, a tenuous connection betweem the two, one which did little to strengthen my point.

Thanks for the great backtalk, keep it up.

UPDATE: Over at the Sports Law Blog, there’s two posts (here’s a link to the second) regards the latest BALCO news, and a boatload of comments that are very much worth your time. Here’s a taste:

…. Violations of due process and Fourth Amendment privacy rights get me fired up fairly easily, and this case deals with the latter. Simply, by allowing investigators to use the initial warrant as a basis for gathering gobbs of incriminating information with respect to non-targeted individuals, the investigators, in effect, were able to use a generalized search warrant to obtain evidence without probable cause.

The court used the difficulty of retrieving and separating electronic data as an excuse to allow federal investigators full discretion to not only retrieve private and confidential information about thousands of individuals that are not even the subject of the warrant and for which there is no probable cause, but to also determine when there is “intermingling” such that an on-site search would be impracticable. This puts way too much discretion in the hands of federal investigators. Even further, the court didn’t place any limitations on the government’s use of incriminating evidence obtained with respect to non-targeted individuals.


…. Splash hit?

The Giants finally made some real noise this off-season, landing perhaps the biggest fish on the market, Barry Zito. The team will hold a press conference Friday to announce the deal, worth $126 million over 7 years, largest contract ever for a pitcher. OK, so what do I think now? Well, he’s a very good pitcher, but jeez, that’s a lot of years. On the other hand, $18 million today is a lot less than it would have seemed like last season. He’s three years younger than Soriano, the best hitter available, and the two of them landed virtually identical contracts.

Zito will gain some cosmetic upgrades to his performance right away, swapping a DH for a pitcher four times a game, as well as moving into what once was considered a pitchers park, (although PacBell may not be quite the extreme pitchers park it seemed to be, he will have a chance to make starts in some of the toughest hitters parks in the game, including Chavez Ravine and Petco). Will it work? I certainly didn’t think so two weeks ago:

…. We’re supposed to believe that Barry Zito will come here, to pitch with this kind of horseshit team behind him, with our waiver wire bullpen? Are these people out of their fucking minds?!?

…. Now the only way Zito comes here is if we give him Soriano money and years, which would be the exact wrong way to go. It’s one thing to overpay for a 40-40 guy who doesn’t get on base as much as you’d like. You sign a pitcher to seven year contract, you are toast. There has never been a seven year deal for a pitcher that’s worked out. NEVER. There’s been but a handful of 5 year deals that have, so, if that’s what the Giants have in mind to get Zito, then we’re lost. Even though he’s been expensive, A-Rod has never been a bust, never lost two seasons to injury, or completely lost his ability to play. Soriano may be expensive, but he’ll still be a pretty damn good player in 5 years. Mike Hampton gave the Rockies 22 wins for $122 million dollars. Who’s to say Zito doesn’t continue the decline that he seems to be on? Sure, he could get motivated and pull a Clemens, but how many times has that happened?

Did somebody say Nostradamus? ;-)

Actually, Zito’s not on a decline. It’s more that he goes up and down, and his up isn’t very up. He’s bounced between 8.6 and 5.7 strikeouts per 9 IP (6.9 for his career), which is good, but certainly not great. He’s posted a career 1.25 WHIP, which is pretty good, actually. Santan’s career WHIP is 1.10, and he’s a monster. Actually, a quick glance at the two pitchers shows that, compared to Santana, Zito’s not too shabby. They both came up in 2000. Santana has better numbers, some dramatically so, but if Zito can look OK compared to the best starting pitcher alive, then maybe the Giants didn’t do too bad. Still, ask yourself; if Zito hadn’t won the Cy Young, would he have even gotten $100 million? Rob Neyer doesn’t think so:

…. The only thing this deal does is make the Giants look ridiculous. Granted, Zito’s ERA will get a boost from the National League and the Giants’ home ballpark. And this one isn’t as dumb as the Mike Hampton deal with the Rockies. But based on the facts at hand, this looks to me like one of the dumber free-agent signings ever. Zito just isn’t very good. And if he’s worth $18 million per season, Santana’s worth $25 million.

Indeed, Zito landed the largest pitcher’s contract ever, even though he’s had as many as 200 strikeouts but once in his career, (and by the way, Rob, Santana is worth at least that much) Seems pretty risky to me, even with the adjustment made for these blowout contracts. Five years ago, Zito would have probably gotten something like Mussina money, 6 years, $87 million. Now Mussina seems like a bargain at $14 million per, as does Pettitte at $16. Is Zito, almost ten years younger than those guys, worth a couple a million more? I guess so, but 7 years is a long, long time.

UPDATE: Other Giants writers have put in their two cents. El Lefty Malo is about as ambivalent as I am, same concerns about the length of the deal, Zito’s good but not great numbers….

Nick Cannata, over at MVN, makes some interesting points:

…. Benefits of this signing:

~ Zito moves from the AL to the NL, meaning he’ll be pitching to a league that hasn’t seen him before
~ Facing pitchers now will up his K/BB rate
~ He’s still fairly young, eats innings, and hasn’t visibly declined physically
~ Removes pressure from guys like Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Noah Lowry
~ The longterm addition of Zito makes the Giants rotation set in many years to come, with Cain, Lowry, Sanchez, and Lincecum already on board.

But again, seven years. Wow. He’ll have to still be effective through ages 33, 34, and 35 while taking up a huge chunk of payroll ($18 million/year). I agree with Grant over at McCovey Chronicles, that in the short run this is an awesome move. In the long run, it’s not so attractive. The large contract goes on the fact that Zito’s been healthy his whole career, but so was Mike Hampton. And Ray Durham. And Armando Benitez. Zito stays off the DL and this is a move pays off bigtime. He blows out his arm and we’ve got more dead weight on our hands taking up 15% of our payroll. Sign Miguel Cabrera in the ’08 offseason and I’ll be a believer in Sabean once again.

According to Baseball-Reference, the two pitchers most comparable to Zito through the age of 28 are none other than Mike Hampton and Tom Glavine.

What?!? Hampton? How horrifying is that? Glavine and Hampton? Hampton!?! Glavine has always been a bargain in terms of cost per win, while Hampton killed his career (and the Colorado Rockies) with that $114 million dollar horror of a contract, one of the worst in baseball history. Ouch.

Of course, Zito could hit the weight room with the other Barry, and go Hall of Fame for the next 7 years. ;-D

…. V for Vendetta

So now the feds have gotten the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse the original decision to protect the rights of the players and respect the collectively bargained agreement between MLB and the Players Association; and to allow the government to have access to the urine samples compiled in the very first round of drug testing, the survey results, as they were referred to way back when. I am interested in Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas’s dissenting opinion, (which I found at the Sports Law Blog):

…. One of the three extremely able district court judges who rejected the government’s argument summarized it best, stating: “What happened to the Fourth Amendment? Was it repealed somehow?” Although it only had a search warrant for data concerning eleven Major League Baseball players, the government seized thousands of medical records and test results involving every single Major League Baseball player. The government did not stop there, seizing thousands of other medical records for individuals in thirteen other major sports organizations, three unaffiliated business entities, and three sports competitions.

The government now seeks to retain all of the medical information it obtained about persons who were not the subject of any criminal inquiry. The stakes in this case are high. The government claims the right to search—without warrant or even a suspicion of criminal activity—any patient’s confidential medical record contained in a computer directory so long as it has a legitimate warrant or subpoena for any other individual patient’s record that may be contained as part of data stored on the same computer. The government attempts to justify this novel theory on a breathtaking expansion of the “plain view” doctrine, which clearly has no application to intermingled private electronic data.

As radical as the government’s position is, the majority goes even further. It holds that the government—without warrant or even a suspicion of criminal activity—may seize, retain, and view all confidential records in any electronic database on which private data responsive to a warrant resides. Under the majority’s holding, a magistrate would be required to review the seized data for probable cause after seizure only if an aggrieved party made a motion. Even then, if the magistrate concluded that the irrelevant data was “comingled,” the government would be entitled to retain the confidential medical records.

This new theory was not argued by any party, nor presented to any district judge at any time during the course of these protracted and hotly contested proceedings. The scope of the majority’s new holding in the digital age could not be greater; it removes confidential electronic records from the protections of the Fourth Amendment. The holding also squarely conflicts with the sound and sensible procedural protections detailed in United States v. Tamura, 694 F.2d 591 (1982), which direct the government to seal and hold documents containing intermingled data pending approval of a magistrate of a further search.

I agree with the careful findings and conclusions of the three district judges who rejected the government’s position. For that reason, and because of the profound consequences of the majority’s opinion on the privacy of medical records throughout the United States, I respectfully dissent.

“The stakes in this case are high.” As opposed to the stakes in this ridiculous, multi-million dollar crusade against Barry Bonds. As I read through the entire 115 page document, it became clear that it is Special Agent Novitzky behind all of these shenanigans, as his name comes up again and again as he ignores the law in his wanton and destructive vendetta against Bonds.

…. In contrast to the affidavit supplied in the first warrant application, which purported to “to ensure that samples of individuals not associated with Balco are left undisturbed,” the affidavit of Agent Novitzky in support of this warrant application sought “authorization to conduct a thorough review of all major league baseball-related computer data” and “to seize all data pertaining to illegal drug use by any member of major league baseball.”

The affidavit conceded that no specific information had been uncovered linking Balco to any individual baseball players beyond the ten listed in the April 7, 2004, search warrant. However, in contrast to the first warrant application, Agent Novitzky averred that even though there was no evidence that had been developed to link the ballplayers who were not listed in the first warrant to Balco, “it is logical to assume that a review of the drug testing records for other players may provide additional evidence of the use of similar illegal performance-enhancing drugs which establishes a link to the charged defendants in the charged [Balco] case, given the relatively small number of professional baseball players and the closely-knit professional baseball community.”

In other words, Novitzky was saying that he could care less about whether what he was doing was legal, he was gonna do it anyway; which, of course, is what he’s been doing all along. In point of fact, he has acted shamelessly in this “case,” abusing the grand jury process, the judicial proccess, and basically doing whatever the fuck he wants, all in the name of the law. Remember this one thing, this all started as a crusade against one player, a crusade enacted by one man; because he thought Bonds was an asshole. Here’s another interesting exchange that took place before the first ruling in which the players right to their samples was upheld:

…. A hearing on December 10, 2004, discussed infra, contains this colloquy:

Counsel: And the government never would have done the search warrants if the grand jury process could have worked out. But it didn’t. I feel —

Court: Say that last thing one more time. What you —

Counsel: What I just said was we may not have ever done the search warrants if the subpoena process worked out.

Court: But, I mean, there was a subpoena process pending in this building before Judge White.

Counsel: Yes.

Court: At the time you went and got your search warrants, and you didn’t allow that process to complete itself.

Counsel: That is true.

Again, who cares about the law when you are on a crusade, a vendetta against one player, right?

…. Bonds’ lawyer questioned why the government continues to pursue Bonds when he doesn’t believe the Giants’ outfielder was among those who tested positive in 2003.

”If Barry is one of the players that did not test positive in ’03 for steroids, I would hope that it would cause the government to rethink their continuing harassment they’ve engaged in for years,” attorney Michael Rains said Wednesday.

Harrassment, indeed. Here’s part of the majority opinion from the original ruling:

…. The documents presented to the Court in connection with this Motion reveal extremely troubling conduct on the part of the Government. The picture painted is one of almost desperate effort to acquire evidence by whatever means could be utilized. The Government negotiated with movants’ attorneys over the breadth of the grand jury subpoenas; received assurances in writing that the records of the ten athletes would be secured while the Court resolved the issue, and the day after the issue was presented to a Court, went to another district and sought a search warrant.

That conduct would be suspect in itself. But in seeking the warrant (not the correct procedure for obtaining documents for a third party who is not a suspect), the Government explained to the Magistrate that the records in question were in danger of being destroyed. This is blatant misrepresentation, as demonstrated by the records in this case. Four days after Movants filed a motion before Magistrate Judge Johnson for return of the property, the Government obtained a further warrant from a Magistrate Judge in the Northern District of California. And while a motion for return of that property was pending, the Government obtained two more warrants in the Central District of California (not from Magistrate Judge Johnson) and in Nevada. The image of quickly and skillfully moving the cup so no one can find the pea would be humorous if the matter were not so serious.

Another judge noting that the government’s actions, (or should I say, Agent Novitzky’s) raise serious concerns. But, hey, these players are breaking the law, aren’t they? we gotta get them, right? They’re taking drugs!?!

Now we can expect at least two more years of appeals, more thousands of hours of billable lawyers fees, and in the end; a mockery of our already beleaguered judicial system. This while our President and his cronies steal millions upon millions of dollars from taxpayers, orchestrate the deaths of tens of thousands of human beings, and our “government” does nothing to stop him.* But, you know, let’s break the law, spend millions and do anything we can to stop Bonds.

Meanwhile, all of this could have been avoided had Donald Fehr and the Players Association simply destroyed the samples when they had the chance. What a farce.

* Some might say there is no connection between this baseball “scandal” and the goings on in Iraq, or the pillaging of our hard-earned tax dollars for the gain of the already super-wealthy; but I heartily disagree. There can be no doubt that the members of our Congress are paying very close attention to these goings on, and find them to be a very neatly tied up basket of bullshit to keep the rest of us occupied with. One can imagine them seeing this as a very opportune distraction; on the one hand giving them a chance to be seen as hard on cheaters (and, of course, to be seen saving the children); and on the other, allowing them to continue their virtually criminal mismanagement of our government unnoticed.

…. My Darling Clemens-tine

Timothy has a bone to pick:

…. (A)fter Clemens turned thirty, he had four very, very mediocre seasons in Boston. It looked like him, Doc and Brett had all burnt themselves out early in their careers. So he goes to Toronto, and boom, like magic, he throws on thirty pounds and starts popping the mitt at 96-97 again. Gimme a friggin break.

Then earlier this year it gets leaked that he, along with fellow Yankee schmuck Andy Pettitte, had been using HGH for years. Now if this was Barry Bonds, USA Today would have carried the story on the front page, SI would have Rick Reilly rip into Barry some more, and more fans would throw syringes at him whenever he went to any park. But this wasn’t Barry, it was the great Rocket and his sidekick Andy Pettitte, a true Yankee if there ever was one, so obviously this couldn’t be true. So what does MLB do, they retract the fuckin’ press release, like it never happened.

Andy Pettitte said he was gonna retire, probably because he figured he couldn’t cheat anymore, but his beloved Yankees threw $16 million his way so he’s coming back. And why not? If you can cheat anywhere in this country, its gotta be in the Bronx. Jason Giambi got through all of last year without anyone noticing. Supposedly drug testers, showed up in spring training and took samples from Mike Mussina and chien Ming Wang. Way to go testers– go right after the real suspicious guys.

So let’s ignore what we know and run with what we can speculate, is that what you want to do?

Here’s what we know: Clemens, like Bonds in or around ’97, made a serious shift in the intensity and commitment to his workout regimen after two and a half, injury plagued seasons, something that was well-documented at the time. In ’96, still with Boston, he won only 10 games, but was clearly back to form at 33 years old, pitching 242 innings, allowing 216 hits, 257 SO, 106 BB, and a 3.53 ERA in a year in which the AL posted a 5.15 ERA. Is it possible that he used PED’s? Sure. Do we “know” that he did? No, we don’t. And as for the Grimsley affadavit, after the first irresponsible leaks surrounding the blacked-out names, we found out that the “names” were simply thrown out for Grimsley to answer yes or no regards his knowledge of their PED use:

…. Grimsley, however, told Segui and his agent, Joe Bick, that federal agents asked him for names. He told Segui and others he never volunteered names.

Of course, this little fact has been all but ignored by virtually everyone in the media. In a quick Google of Grimsley, I wasn’t able to find a reference to it until the fourth page of links. But, hey, who cares about facts, or misleading, crusading Federal Agents, like Jeff -I hate Barry Bonds- Novitzky? Get those cheaters, right, Timothy? Everyone who has had late-career success must be using PED’s, right? I mean, you just wrote that Clemens followed four crappy years with two Cy Youngs, but, really, it was only two and a half years, and he was in and out of the lineup, so it wasn’t really that he was crappy so much as he was injured; but, again, those are just facts in the way of your beliefs, right? And it wasn’t really leaked that he had been using HGH for years, it was leaked that he was identified by Grimsley as having used PED’s in an interview with federal agents, a “fact” that was later disputed by the federal agents who were supposedly interviewing him; but, hey, now I’m just splitting hairs, right? Why bother with details like statistics and facts, when guys like you just “know” these scumbags are cheaters?

Who cares about, you know, what’s really going on? I mean, why worry about how one IRS agent (IRS agent???), who just happens to think Barry Bonds is an asshole, wakes up one day and decides to try and ruin him, wasting tens of millions of taxpayer’ dollars and utilizing dozens of federal agents in a seemingly endless, Kenneth Starr-esque parody of jurisprudent misconduct in a five-year vendetta against Bonds? Why worry that, even after all of this, the hundreds of courtroom hours, the thousands of hours of lawyers billed time, and the multitudes of witnesses and slanderous, libelous leaks and misrepresentations; Novitzky has been unable to bring one single criminal charge against Bonds, nor aid MLB in finding one single, credible account or instance of Bonds using PED’s in violation of baseball’s rules. Why worry that Grimsley says that it was only after he refused to help Novitzky get Bonds that his name was leaked? I mean, even though Grimsley readily admits his own PED use, he must be lying when he says that he doesn’t know if Bonds did, right?

No, instead of wanting to know the truth, or learn about what’s really going on in the world; let’s just embrace the party-line:

Only the new PED’s are bad, and the shit that went on in the clubhouse for most of the last 40 years, (in full view of the media and team management, by the way) was just boys being boys. Let’s get that prick Bonds and that jerk-off Canseco, and that one-dimensional asshole McGwire (we never really liked that fucking guy anyway) and that Sammy Sosa, (why wouldn’t he pee in a cup for Reilly?). Guys like Mantle and Mays and Aaron and Ripken, those are the kind of guys that are real heroes. Today’s baseball players are a bunch of rich, spoiled pricks.

I’m not interested in being told what’s right and what’s wrong. I’m not interested in agreeing with Mike Lupica, or Tom Verducci, or Seligula. I’m interested in forming my own opinion, based on what I’ve read, seen and learned in my life. Painting Bonds or Clemens or McGwire as cheaters is the real crime. Fans stood and cheered as they made history. Sportswriters and television analysts and play by play announcers fawned and worshiped them, and THEY WERE RIGHT THERE. For them to come forth now, and tell us to forget about how awesome it was, it was bad, that these guys somehow cheated us, well, no. I’m not interested.

Again, PED’s are here to stay. Banning them does little to prevent their use, and the reasons for doing so are questionable on their face. Condeming one group of players, while lionizing another, based on this kind of horsehit is disgraceful. Spending all of your time telling us that these guys are bad, but these guys aren’t? Calling me an apologist for Bonds? Please. You should be apologizing for the blind, sanctimonious piety you so blithely toss about.

…. Merry Christmas

Thanks to all of my readers, complainers, critics and everyone else who’ve contributed in one way or another, to make OBM such a great place to be. May all of you have a safe and joyous holiday, (even you, Timothy).

…. History in the making

Amid all the fluff and flutter about this pitcher being worth what, little has been mentioned about a certain Rocket, aka Roger Clemens, who might, just might, be in the middle of frittering away a legitimate chance at 400 wins. With 348 as of today, it doesn’t take much to see Clemens’ retire/unretire act costing him a solid 10 wins last season, and that would have put him only 42 wins away from essentially becoming only the third, and almost certainly the last pitcher to make it to 400 wins. Oh, and along the way, he would be cementing his claim as THE GREATEST PITCHER OF ALL TIME.

Even with all the horseshit, he’s still just 52 wins away, which, given his current level of performance, would take him three good, solid seasons to get. Nolan Ryan pitched at a pretty high level those last couple of seasons. He finished at, what, 46? Clemens has been much better than that, and he’s only 43 right now. If he just pitched until he was 46, I bet he’d either be there, or he’d be close enough that it would be a no-brainer to come back for at 47 to win the two or five games he’d need.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really love seeing history made. If I were in the Clemens camp, I’d make damn sure he knew that he was within striking distance of an accomplishment most thought we’d never see again.

UPDATE: After posting this, I took a quick look at Ryan’s stats, and, uh, Doh!! Ryan had 301 strikeouts and only 98 walks in 1989 as a 42-year old(!). He was just as impressive in his forties as Clemens has been. Basically, he and Clemens could be said to have been on a very similar career path up until now, and Ryan started 27 games and went 12-6 as a 44-year old. After that, he couldn’t stay healthy, so Clemens would need to out-Ryan Ryan to reach the promised land. Those 8 or 10 wins he missed by not playing until the middle of last season would seem to be the deal breaker, because at his age, (not unlike Bonds missing the 2005 season) the one thing you cannot overcome is missed time.

…. Great

More good news out of the Giants camp, as we learn that manager Bruce Bochy intends to let the Giants run and run:

…. “I would like to have our guys play their game,” Bochy said. “I don’t want to change the game because we do have Barry in the cleanup hole. You get to the point of diminishing returns sometime when you try to force the issue. If we think now is the time to run or hit-and-run, we’re going to play the game. You can’t sit back and wait on one guy or two guys.”

Since all I ever do is complain, let me just explain how happy I am to hear this. Fantastic news, really, especially since, with Bonds batting fourth; there will be already at least 70 games in which he won’t get to the plate in the first inning. Now we get the additional treat of advocating a reckless, proven to be virtually useless “speed” game, which will also provide the added treat of watching a) Bonds being intentionally walked with first base open an extra 20 times, and b) another ten or twenty first innings ending with Bonds in the on-deck circle as these old men get thrown out. Hooray.

Doesn’t anyone in the Giants organization read books? You know, baseball books, with information, research and analysis in them? Bochy, a grizzly, veteran-loving, old basball playing, tobacco-chewing, tough guy (who once famously intentionally walked Bonds in a meaningless situation after proclaiming how his team would never fear any one hitter), is now the second coming of Whitey Herzog. I’m telling you, I’m starting to have real thoughts of abandoning this team, as they continue down a path of baseball ignorance that I simply cannot stomach anymore.

And apparently, I’m not the only one:

…. Managing general partner Peter Magowan said he does not regret raising fans’ expectations by promising the Giants will get younger in 2007, but he is disappointed that the names of the free agents they tried to sign were leaked because, “The risk is, when we don’t get those players, we get an image of an organization that nobody wants to play for.”

Magowan said that was unfair, noting Carlos Lee picked Houston because he owns a ranch there and Gary Matthews Jr. went to Los Angeles because he has a son there.

“I can’t tell you how many conversations we had with excellent free-agent players during this offseason who did want to come here,” Magowan said. “We ended up with Ray Durham, but there were some excellent other second baseman who wanted to come here. This image that we’re going to go out and get players, and not be able to deliver on that, the public perception, I regret that.”

Yeah, well, regrets are like assholes, Peter. I regret that you are either blind to the failings of your GM, or are blind to your own; because at this point in time, your team is about tenth or twelth on he list of potential places to play for big-time free agents. Between the Bonds show, your systematic degradation of your major league team, your failure to effectively and accurately evaluate talent, and your neglect of your farm system; you’ve sent out a very clear message to any potential free agent: the inmates are running the asylum in San Francisco.

And let me further state that this problem goes all the way back to your failure to make a real effort to sign Vladimir Guererro. At the time of his free agency, he represented an EXACT fit for what your team needed; an immediate replacement for Kent’s bat, an All Star caliber outfielder with the best arm in the game to shore up your defense, and he was a younger superstar who would have been able to pick up the slack for Bonds as his career wound down. You and your GM low-balled him, (so that you could claim that you went after him, but still avoid actually paying him); and in the end, you came off as small-time. This franchise has never recovered from that miscalculation; just as it has never really recovered from Game Six.

Sabean (or you) haven’t made one significant move since then that could be considered to have worked, (other than perhaps the signing of Vizquel); and you’ve made about ten that have been abysmal. What’s really aggravating is that you guys spend all this time telling us about your financial limitations while throwing tens of millions of dollars on the ground. $18 million to Reuter when he was neither worth it or up for renewal, $27 million to Benitez, Alou, and now Dave Roberts; I mean, you could have signed Guerrero with no trouble at all if it hadn’t been for the ridiculous, albatross contracts you gave to virtually every mediocre “veteran” reaching the end of the line in baseball for the last decade.

Look in the mirror if you want to know why every free agent signs somewhere else; because it has nothing to do with where someone’s ranch is.

…. Well and good

David Pinto notes the interesting structure of Vernon Wells’ new contract with the Blue Jays. Basically, the deal is a win-win for both parties, in that Wells gets a big, up-front bonus, and the Jays lock up his best years for a reasonable rate. The part that concerns me, or at least makes me shake my head, is why Wells feels so good about the Blue Jays postseason chances:

…. “How can you not be happy?” Wells said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press several hours before terms of the deal were finalized. “Like I said, my family comes first. Obviously, this gives me an opportunity to set my family up for a couple of generations. That’s the biggest part of this thing. And this gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn’t been done in awhile.”

So, he’s happy to remain with a team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs one single time in his entire career, a team that is in the same division with the Yankees and the Red Sox, (two absolute playoff juggernauts). Riddle me this, Batman, were Wells and his agent so stupid that they came to the conclusion that Toronto was the only team willing to pay him that kind of superstar money? I can certainly understand the value of continuity, and its’ allure, but boy; it sure seems to me that Toronto is the last place on earth to go and try and make a serious run at being a real contender for any length of time.

Of course, I, along with Kent, would have loved to see Wells land here, but forgetting about my Giants bias; wouldn’t Wells have had many, many more chances at the postseason in SF, in the weaker NL, in the weakest division in it? Seems like the classic “agent got the most money but not the best deal” for his client scenario to me.

…. On and on

John Sickels has a review of the Giants farm system that illustrates the issues we’ve been pounding to death here:

…. The Giants in a Sentence: The Giants have some interesting relief arms after Lincecum and Sanchez, but have shown little ability to develop hitters with plate discipline or plus offensive potential.

Looking through his list, you can see there is little to be excited about; a couple of pitchers that could turn out to be OK, and pretty much the same kind of crap hitters we’ve been seeing for the last several seasons. The Giants have but one A prospect, Lincecum, and all the rest are essentially Jason Ellison/Marvin Benard types; which is to say, marginal.

Anyway, it’s worth a peek.

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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
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