Only Baseball Matters

Archive for February, 2007

…. I’m back

And so are drug scandals:

…. With BALCO still churning on the West Coast, a new front on the steroid war opened in the East yesterday when law-enforcement officers raided two Orlando pharmacies and seized steroids, human growth hormone and records that could connect those drugs to dozens of athletes.

…. The Albany Times-Union, which broke news of the raids yesterday, reported that drugs from the Mobile lab were allegedly received by former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., former slugger and best-selling author Jose Canseco and former major league pitcher Jason Grimsley, whose home was raided last year by IRS agents.

The paper also said an investigator flew to Pittsburgh last month to ask a Steelers physician why, in 2006, he allegedly used a personal credit card to buy $150,000 in testosterone and human growth hormone.

Hmmmmm…. Sounds scandalous.

In Giants news, well, no news is good news, I guess. I got back on Monday, and have been without power for most of that time, so give me a day or two to get myself back together, and then we’ll talk.

…. Still kicking around

Well, no one seems to care too much about the “letter,” so, since I have a taste of internet access, I thought I’d mention the recent John Donovan article about the Mitchell investigation:

…. If the truth is to be known — how prevalent were steroids in baseball, how damaging, who knew about their use, how were they allowed to take hold and, maybe, take over the game? — D.C. might be the only place it’s to be found.

“I think that’s very likely,” former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent told me recently from his home in Florida. “The public, I suspect, will be very supportive of Mitchell. And the Congress will be delighted. They’ll all look very good.”

When Selig picked Mitchell last March to take the investigation “wherever it may lead,” the commissioner surely must have hoped it would not wind its way back to Washington. But over the past 10-plus months, through what Mitchell has said are hundreds of interviews, mostly with employees of the 30 teams, the former Senator from Maine has run into too many closed mouths and too many obstacles, legal and otherwise. He told owners as much last month in a meeting in Phoenix, threatening — not so subtly — to use his influence with his former colleagues in Congress if necessary. “I can tell you from personal experience,” Mitchell said, “if they get involved, they almost certainly will use their subpoena power and everyone will be forced to cooperate.”

…. Last words

This is gonna be the last thing I write for about two weeks, as I’m going on vacation. Reader James Wang suggested we talk about the “letter,” so here it is:

From: Peter A. Magowan []
Sent: Monday, January 29, 2007 8:21 PM
Subject: From the desk of Peter Magowan

This evening, we will announce that Barry Bonds, the 14-year Giants veteran and seven-time National League Most Valuable Player, signed a one-year contract with the Giants.

As youíve probably heard, the process of negotiating this contract was complex, lengthy and highly unconventional. This decision was not taken lightly and we spent significant time evaluating all of the elements and circumstances surrounding the negotiations before we made a final determination to move forward.

Of particular concern were the allegations against Barry in the New York Daily News on January 12th. We consider any action by one player to unfairly damage the reputation of another player to be a serious matter. Based on the information that we have at hand in this matter and in discussions with both players, all of the facts have not been accurately portrayed. After evaluating the situation and its potential impact on clubhouse chemistry, we came to the conclusion that the Giantsí players will be able to function as a team committed to supporting each other and dedicated to doing everything they can to succeed on the playing field.

Additionally, we felt that with these assurances, signing Barry to a one-year contract helped us pursue a long-term strategy toward getting the club back on track. With his presence in our lineup and only a one-year contractual commitment, we were able to avoid the temptation to trade away some of our valuable young pitching talent and were able to free up long-range funds to acquire a front line pitcher. These decisions enabled us to sign Barry Zito, retain our promising and highly sought-after young pitchers and fill our need for a power hitter in the middle of our lineup. We believe that this combination of moves provides the Giants with a better chance of winning in 2007 and in the years ahead.

You may also be interested to know that even with the signing of the 42-year-old Bonds, the average age of the 2007 Giants will be 30.7 years versus 32.7 in 2006. So we have gotten younger and presumably healthier as we stated we would try to do when the 2006 season ended.

I understand that this has been a particularly controversial and difficult decision and that there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue. I received letters, emails, phone calls and had many conversations with many of our season ticket holders during our Fanfest. I truly appreciate your passion for the Giants as we work through these complex issues. At the end of the day, I believe we have put together an exciting team for the coming season.

Like you, I am pleased that we have been able to complete this process so that we can all turn our attention to the day when pitchers and catchers report to Arizona on February 14. Thank you again for your commitment to the Giants and I look forward to seeing you at Spring Training or when we open our All-Star Season at AT&T Park.


Peter A. Magowan
President and Managing General Partner
San Francisco Giants

James thinks this is a cheap stunt, talking about doing something instead of actually doing something. Well, yeah, of course it is. Why should the Giants care about their season ticket holders? They don’t do anything, either. They don’t cancel their tickets when they disagree with the direction of the team. They don’t stage walkouts or organize en masse to boycott a game, or a series or whatever. The local media doesn’t show any real concern for the sorry state of the franchise, they trumpet the signing of a complete washout like Finley, actually telling us that Brian Sabean said he expects Finley to get 500 at bats(!) when anyone with a computer could have told him THERE WAS NO WAY IN HELL THAT WAS GONNA HAPPEN!!!!!

I feel, (quite strongly, actually), that no one really wants to be critical of anything anymore. I mean, anything, not just baseball or sports. Here at OBM, it’s been suggested that that’s all I do. Well, somebody’s got to.

Talk amongst yourselves….

…. Who was the MVP?

Why, Prince, of course. ;-)

Interesting tidbit on yesterday’s pretty decent Super Bowl….

Nate Silver, over at Baseball Prospectus, had just about the most dead-on prediction of just about anyone in the universe:

…. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts are quite similar to the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals won the World Series with just 82 Pythagorean wins. They had the second-lowest Pythagorean winning percentage of any World Series champion in baseball history. Like the Colts, they were coming off two great seasons where they failed to go all the way. Like the Colts, they are led by a superstar who is probably one of the greatest players in his sportís history. Like the Colts, their defense (pitching) fell apart during the regular season, and they looked weak entering the playoffs. Like the Colts, their defense (pitching) dramatically improved during the postseason, once again making them formidable team they had been in 2004 and 2005.

The 2004 and 2005 Cardinals would have made sense as World Series champions. When the 2006 Cardinals won, it seemed strange ó yet most of the important players on the roster are the same. The same goes for the Indianapolis Colts.

…. Youíre probably wondering about my prediction for the Super Bowl. Actually, you could probably care less. But Iíll give you one anyway: Colts 24, Bears 19. I see a fairly sloppily played game with a lot of turnovers and field goals.

Not for nothing, but no football analyst I read anywhere came within a mile of such a clear and accurate analysis of the Super Bowl. That is simply spot on analysis by Silver.

…. Bang some heads

Mike Matheny retired this week, due to the lingering effects of the many concussions he sustained during his career. In today’s SF Chronicle, Gwen Knapp chronicles the Giants’ response to the issue:

…. On the surface, the Matheny concussion looked like an unfortunate fluke, and the outcome of it seemed to be a sad mystery. But the people on the Giants’ medical staff wouldn’t let it go that easily. As soon as the severity of Matheny’s injury became apparent, they started investigating on several fronts.

They interviewed 261 professional catchers about headaches, blurry vision, foul tips and masks. They tested the two basic types of masks, subjecting them to forces between 84 and 104 mph to see which model absorbed more impact. They watched endless hours of videotape to determine the frequency of foul tips. Above all, they discovered a cognitive-skills test — a surprisingly affordable one — that would help them monitor even subtle brain trauma. (Concussions, no matter how severe, tend to elude detection on conventional medical tests, such as an MRI exam or CT scan.)

Good for the Giants. It’s easy to understand how invisible this issue could be in the “tough it out” world of professional baseball. It is also easy to see just how much of an issue this would be, given the violence so common to the position of catcher.

Less obvious is the reality that professional athletes injure themselves in pursuit of their dreams, essentially constantly. Ongoing physical damage is so common to the world of professional athletes that we sometimes forget all about it. So, while the recent spate of articles about the post-career injuries and handicaps suffered by many, many professional football and baseball and hockey players may seem illuminating, sports fans who pay attention have known this for years.

It is a well-known, (albeit quietly well-known) fact that NFL players have life spans that are essentially the same as those of someone who lived in the Middle Ages. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about some player for the ’70′s passing away. The NFL, then and now, is a war-zone, and a ten year career probably takes that many years away from a players life.

Less well-known is the fact that virtually all professional athletes live their retirement years in constant pain; many of them undergoing multiple operations to repair the damage done to their bodies in pursuit of their dreams. This can be expensive, to say the least. Harry Carson’s eloquent Hall of Fame speech brought to light the poor support the NFL has provided to many of the players who made the game what it is today; something that will probably prove to be Roger Goodell’s first lasting impact as the new Commissioner, as he will almost certainly move quickly to correct this injustice.

None of this is nice news, none of it should be treated as irrelevant; but it is worth mentioning that plumbers and miners, carpenters and ditch diggers, electricians and waitresses…. many, many people who work with their bodies for a living live with constant pain from injuries and/or simple degradation of their joints, feet, shoulders, ankles, wrists, whatever.

Not to belittle the travails of Matheny, or those of the New England Patriots’ Ted Johnson, but a little perspective is a good thing. Matheny got hurt doing what he loved, making a handsome income while doing so. His post-baseball world will surely be difficult, but he will be able to afford the down time. And, sure the players from the ’60′s and ’70′s made a lot less money than today’s players; making their post-career difficulties even more painful. They also made a lot more money than, say, my Dad (a union plumber who missed four days of work in 35 years) did, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t work any harder.

I’m sorry for the difficulties Matheny is going through, and wish him a speedy and full recovery. But before we get too carried away, let’s remember all of the people we know, that we see every day, who suffer from debilitating injuries incurred during their time at the plate, as it were. My friend Dennis, 55 years old, inoperable damage to both shoulders and his back, needing morphine pills to make it through his days. My friend Tommy, same age as me, three operations now on the eye that got injured building homes in upstate NY with my brother-in-law; maybe he recovers his sight, maybe not. My Dad, bad knee, arthritic hip, 67 years old, just hoping to play a couple of rounds of golf a week in his retirment years.

I myself, after 20 years as a carpenter and builder, have two bad elbows, two bad shoulders, and a bad back. I’m 42 years old, and have trouble picking up my kids. In many ways, that’s life. Work your ass off for twenty, thirty years; you’re gonna pay for it. Even if it’s 30 years at a desk, you’re gonna have to pay the piper. Athletes get enough accolades for their “heroism” already. Let’s not add too much more because they get hurt doing what they love. Seems to me that’s an everyday occurence in the real world.

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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