Archive for December, 2006
SI’s Jon Heyman offers this 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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.