Archive for February, 2009
Greg Anderson has refused to testify, and it looks like he could be held in contempt again. I'm surprised, since Judge Ilston indicated earlier in the proceedings that she was unhappy to see that Anderson had already been jailed twic
e for refusing, asking prosecutors if they'd ever heard of someone being jailed twice for refusing to testify, to which he answered no.
Now the trial will be delayed more, maybe even several months, which, of course, will result in more money being thrown on the ground.
What a disgrace.
Giants Rain Man and I have doing some good back and forthing, so I thought I'd front page him. First, he said:
…. Here is how some more Projection Systems see the Giants doing in 2009.
Cairo sees 83 wins with 744 runs scored and 721 runs allowed.
Marcel sees 84 wins with 771 runs scored and 747 runs allowed.
Hardball Times sees 83 wins with 702 runs scored and 673 runs allowed.
Even Chone projects the 2009 Giants to win 77 games.
To which I replied, “Fuck the predictions, there is no way the Giants will score 100 more runs, blah blah blah…. Sabean sucks, blah blah blah, and then he came back with:
…. You need to start looking at things in terms or the end of the Magowan era and the beginninging of the Neukom era.
The following are leftover mistakes from the end of the Magowan era:
1) Barry Zito (7 years @ $126M with 5 years @ $101M to go)
2) Aaron Rowand (5 years @ $60M with 4 years @ $48M to go)
2) Dave Roberts (3 years @ $18M with 1 year @ $6.5M to go)
You are wrong to think that the following are more of the same:
1) Edgar Renteria (2 years @ $18.5M)
2) Randy Johnson (1 year @ $8M)
3) Jeremy Affeldt (2 years @ $8M)
4) Bobby Howry (1 year @ 2.75M)
None of these deals are long term like the leftover bad deals from the end of the Magowan era. But you are also wrong because each of these players actually improves the Giants.
You also need to open your eyes and see the plan that is already unfolding. The Giants have been rebuilding the pitching staff for awhile now and are just about done. They should be done and have an all-homegrown, quality pitching staff when the contracts of Johnson, Affeldt, and Howry expire. In addition, the Giants have also started the rebuild of the positon players and have already found one real MLB starter in Fred Lewis with a very strong likelihood that Pablo Sandoval is even better. In my judgement there is a better then 50% chance that they will also find two more real MLB starters from Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Frandsen, Manny Burriss, Nate Schierholtz, John Bowker, and Eugenio Velez. The position players in the farm system are greatly improved with a good chance that another even better crop will be ready to harvest by 2011.
Finally, I believe there is a good chance the Giants will be right and quality young position players that happen to have contracts their current teams start finding hard to pay for will become available at this year’s trade deadline and in the next offseason.
Bottom line, I see the Giants future as bright and I see them as very much being on the right track with a real plan that is starting to pay off.
Well, let's see…..
First off, you're forgetting the $4.5 million each for Aurilia and Uribe, but OK, you wanna separate the free agents that way, whatever. The money is still on the books, and Sabean's the GM. What matters to me is that the amount of cash –$30 million per– these guys are earning is enough to sign real players, like, say, Mark Texeira, or Manny Ramirez, and these players are not worth the money, no matter how you look at it. They are not worth the improvement because the team is not close enough to contending to be worrying about how good their fifth fucking starter is, or how good their third reliever is, or whether they get 50 runs or 75 runs from their shortstop.
Look, the Giants scored 640 runs last season. A real contender needs to score between 750 and 800 runs. In addition, the Giants supposed strength, their pitching staff, allowed 759 runs, which was ninth best in the NL, almost exactly league-average (758). The top four teams in runs allowed were the four teams that made the playoffs, and they allowed about 100 runs fewer than the Giants did.
So, to put that into perspective, the Giants are something like a 250 runs scored differential away from being a real contender. Which, by the way, makes some of those projections look, quite frankly, ridiculous. HardBall Times thinks the Giants are gonna score 75 more runs and allow 100 fewer? How, exactly? 150 plus runs scored differential jumps are hist
oric, they pretty much happen once every twenty years. Tampa Bay made that kind of jump from 2007 to 2008, and they ran out a team just packed full of young talent, young talent that had nowhere to go but up. The Giants are still one of the oldest teams in the majors, so that'll never happen for us. NEVER.
Anyway, just for the hell of it, Mark Texeira was credited with creating 127 runs last season. The Giants first baseman of record was (according to ESPN's stats page) John Bowker, who was credited with creating 18.5 runs. Let's say for the sake of argument that the Giants got 50 runs created from first base last season. (actual stats include 44 runs scored, 14 home runs and 72 RBI, ranked last, last and second to last among NL first baseman)
So, if you signed Mark Texeira for the same $21 million per that he got from the Yankees, and just ran him out there everyday, the team might be expected to score 700 to 720 runs. A jump that would, in fact, actually put them a player or two away from having a contending-level offense. Replacing Vizquel and Burris (30 combined runs created) with Renteria (57 runs created) isn't going to do anything like that. Replacing Correia and Misch (162 innings, 107 runs allowed) with Johnson (184 innings, 92 runs allowed) isn't going to do anything like that. But, if you first landed a real impact hitter, and then wanted to make those kind of minimal upgrades, you'd be on the right track. So, unless Sandoval is poised to run at a .320/.400/.550 line with about 35 jacks, this team has wasted another $30 million dollars.
And it has done so because Sabean is blind, he is wrong, and most importantly, he has lost his ability to properly assess the team he is in charge of running. He seems to think that this team is so close to contending that he should be fine-tuning his offense, when in fact he should be saving money to acquire a big bat, or more importantly, he should have SAVED the money he threw at these stiffs so he could snatch Manny Ramirez off the table RIGHT FUCKING NOW!! He can't, though, because he already spent the money, he doesn't see the forest for the trees, there is no plan, and we are in big trouble, because this team is nowhere near contention, and our GM doesn't know it.
Have you forgotten that is a team with most of it's decent talent at or near it's peak production? The only player on the team with anything like real upside is Fred Lewis, and really, what's his peak, .290/.380/.490 15 home runs and 100 runs scored? If you got that from Lewis this season, you'd be ecstatic.
We've got $70 million dollars in salary tied up in a bunch of league average, thirty-something mediocrities. No projection is gonna change that. No project can even see that. I do, every day, watching them. There is no upside in Rowand, Winn, Molina, Aurilia, Renteria, Juan Uribe, and Dave Roberts. The only upside we have in our pitching staff is the hope that the free agents we've signed aren't out of baseball before the end of the year. Bobby Howry? You're listing Bobby Howry as a positive? We're paying $4.5 million for a 35-year old who gave up 13 home runs and allowed 44 runs in 70 innings, and you're trying to pawn that off as a sign of progress?
Only in Giants land can a 72-win team with the worst offense in baseball go out and sign two 29-year old players, a 34-year old player, a 35-year old player, and a 45-year old player and proclaim itself a contending team with a planned youth movement.
UPDATE: As if on cue, here's Lee Jenkins making it clear why I get so many people who think the Giants can contend:
… The Sandoval-Molina-Lewis trio has potential, but it's not going to scare Brandon Webb or Jake Peavy just yet. The Giants can sneak up and win this division, but only if general manager Brian Sabean adds a slugger to the mix.
The rest of the article is one perfect scenario after another, Lewis hits more home runs than he ever has in his life, Zito is comeback players of the year, Renteria isn't doing Jenny Craig commercials, Johnson's arm doesn't fall off, Lincecum still dominates, Cain finally wins, etc. When everything has to go perfect for you to still be one big bat from contending, YOU ARE NOT A CONTENDER!
Remember that? Remember when Chris Berman used to call Bonds that on the highlights. Jesus, I can't believe how long it's been since baseball was a game for me, and I used to wait every night for the Sportscenter highlights….
Man, that seems like a lifetime ago.
So now that Bonds is about to head into his absurd perjury trial, Jonathan Littman has come out with another Playboy article, this one laying bare the fraud that IRS agent Jeff Novitzy has been from minute one:
…. This spring’s perjury trial of Bonds—scheduled to begin in early March—promises to draw a carnival of television, print and Internet attention not seen since the first O.J. Simpson spectacle. Forgotten in this media orgy is that Barry Bonds is no O.J. No one was murdered. Nothing was stolen. No victim has been found. And Bonds may not have done anything particularly different from hundreds of other ballplayers.
…. How did allegations of cheating in sports rise to the level of a federal crime and become a subject considered so critical that everyone from George W. Bush to Senator John McCain wanted to cast a stone at Bonds? Why did whatever Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Marion Jones said (or didn’t say) become worthy of a $55 million federal investigation? Why for more than half a decade did so many miss the hypocrisy and brutal irony of what may one day be looked upon as the biggest put-up job in all of sports?
…. Novitzky became a world unto h
imself. He rebuffed attempts by the San Mateo Drug Task Force to bring in another undercover agent. Requests to bring in the FBI or DEA to do phone wiretaps or recruit new undercover agents were rejected. What had begun as a joint federal, state and local investigation was fast becoming one controlled by a single man. The undercover operation, wiretaps and Dumpster diving were about to give way to something never before seen in sports: a parade of high-profile athletes forced to speak about their drug use under penalty of perjury before the watchful eye of an IRS man—Novitzky.
…. Bonds was not given the same opportunity offered to virtually every other athlete who gave grand-jury testimony: the chance to view the evidence against them before they testified. When Bonds’s 149-page grand-jury transcript was finally made public, in early 2008, there was no doubt that the slugger was being asked about documents he’d never seen.
(Bonds attorney, Michael) Rains said, “It was a perjury trap.”
I could cut and paste the whole thing, but that wouldn't be fair. You must read the whole thing to realize that Littman is saying exactly what I have been saying for years now; that Bonds is being singled out, that this witch hunt is a complete fraud, that Novitzky has broken the law himself, almost certainly more seriously than whatever horseshit the government is trying to nail Bonds for, and that the driving force behind the entire steroids “scandal” has been and still is money money money money.
Great work by Littman.
The boys at Baseball Prospectus, (and some girls, too) reminded me why I am so pessimistic about Brian Sabean's efforts:
…. the Giants owed a lot of last year's surprising 72-win season to their record in one-run games, a NL-best 31-21, of which seven were won at the expense of the woeful Padres. That's an awful lot of luck in terms of run distribution within a season, and while things should also improve in the lineup by replacing last season's initial sad-sack set with the better players who helped produce their 28-27 stretch kick, they're still counting on scoring runs with a disjointed blend of expensive, generally mediocre free agents, and a smattering of youngish, mostly ready, and mostly mediocre prospects. Given that third-base aspirant and former catcher Pablo Sandoval might be the only position player likely to be around to help the next genuinely good Giants team, renting the Big Unit made sense as part of a tepid win-now bid, but barring a major move with a Manny to be named later, this is still a team that will have to scratch and claw to ge
t to .500, let alone contend.
This isn't news to most of my loyal readers, but some of the Giants fans who stop by here keep insisting that this team is a player or two away from contending. This is not true. As Christina Karl says so eloquently, “they're still counting on scoring runs with a disjointed blend of expensive, generally mediocre free agents, and a smattering of youngish, mostly ready, and mostly mediocre prospects.”
Again, I'm not saying that I don't want to see Sandoval become a real banger. I'm not saying that I want to see Lincecum regress.
I'm saying that the moves we made this off-season were wasteful, thoughtless, and will add essentially no wins –NONE– to last seasons' 72.
Sabean's best days are behind him, way behind him. And now, so our the Giants.
Read this and don't pee your pants:
…. Sixteen Broward Sheriff
9;s Office employees, including 15 deputies, have been moved to desk jobs while they are investigated for possible steroid use.
Insert your own punchline.
Now that we have seen the relentless attack pieces on Barry Bonds, the insinuating questions and overall disgracing of Roger Clemens, investigative dirt-digging and complete discrediting of Mark McGwire, and, of course, the latest, A-Rod's admission of guilt and apology, I'm just wondering…..
When is somebody gonna take Seligula to task? When does somebody do a full court press article –in the mainstream media, not some blog– detailing all of the ways our commissioner did nothing while Rome burned?
…. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Monday he has never encouraged the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, and added he is perturbed by people who say he hasn't done enough to get steroids, human growth hormone and other drugs out of the sport.
“I don't want to hear the commissioner turned a blind eye to this or he didn't care about it,” Selig told Newsday's Wallace Matthews in a telephone interview. “That annoys the you-know-what out of me.”
Yeah, well, you know what annoys the hell out of me? I mean, besides a grown man who seems to be afraid to say hell? A grown man who was the number one guy in charge of his sport sitting here and trying to explain how, while the inmates apparently were running the asylum, and everything went to hell, and all of his heroes were pushed aside by cheaters; he was, in fact, working diligently to do something about it, but everyone else just wouldn't let him.
Baseball players have been using PED's for forty years, and everyone knew it.
BASEBALL PLAYERS HAVE BEEN USING PED'S FOR FORTY YEARS AND EVERYONE KNEW IT.
Selig has been involved in the game for that entire time.
We keep hearing how every time A-Rod talks he makes it worse, how every time Clemens opens his mouth he makes it worse. What about Selig? Why should he get a pass? He didn't do steroids, obviously, but he and the rest of the owners sure liked all of those crowds who showed up while Bonds and McGwire and Clemens were doing their thing. Just like the editors at Sports Illustrated and ESPN and the NY Daily News and the Chicago Tribune loved loved loved all of those papers pouring out of the newsstands when these guys were breaking records and generally creating ABSOLUTELY ENORMOUS PILES OF CASH FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE SPORT!!!!
When will a team, a GM, or somebody, anybody other than a player get shredded by these so-called watchdogs of morality?
When will Lupica go after Selig the way he's gone after Bonds, or A-Rod?
…. the next time you feel added pressure to produce on your job, feel like you're lacking the proper energy, don't think about vitamins.
Don't think about a nutritionist or a personal trainer or a new diet or exercise regime.
Don't even reach for a can of Red Bull.
Call a cousin.
Call a cousin and tell him to find you something that will give you the jolt you think you need.
If he asks what kind of jolt you're talking about just say, “Whatever you think is best, you're my cousin, who'd know better than you?”
And once your cousin tells you he's found exactly the wonder drug you need, practically like baseball Viagra, here's something important:
Do NOT ask exactly what it is or press him too hard on how he got it.
Just have him start injecting you, whether he knows which end of a syringe to use or not, even if he's only gotten his medical training watching Dr. House on television.
Now here is an even more important part of this whole process:
Even if you can't tell whether or not this drug – a drug that may or may not be a steroid and may or may not be illegal – is helping you, continue to use it.
And not just for a few months.
Have your cousin inject you a couple of times a month, 30 or 40 times and maybe more than that over what you say is a three-year period, even as you continue to wonder whether it's actually doing any good for you or not.
Then, and only then, have your come-to-Jesus moment about performance-enhancing drugs.
After a neck injury, and after years of taking a drug that may or may not be illegal and may or may not be a steroid and may or may not even be helping you, stop cold turkey.
Here's how that might sound if he were writing about Bud Selig:
…. the next time you feel added pressure to produce on your job, feel like you're lacking the proper energy, or just plain presiding over the worst labor stoppage in the history of your sport, and are hearing sportswriters talk about how baseball, America's Pastime, isn't exactly America's pastime anymore, and are wondering where the miracle is gonna come from that's gonna save your ass, don't think about vitamins.
Don't think about a nutritionist or a personal trainer or a new diet or exercise regime.
Don't even reach for a can of Red Bull.
Just sit around and wait for the stars of your sport fill the stands while being involved something that you may think is wrong. Do nothing while the team that you own pockets millions and millions of dollars in revenue sharing monies, a revenue sharing program that just happened to be one of the very first things you implemented when you became commissioner, by the way. But, most of all, just do nothing.
Call a news conference celebrating the breaking of a 30-year old record by one of the game's new stars, even though you now say you were wondering, nay, worrying that he may be using PED's that might be a danger to his health.
If anyone asks what
kind of jolt he's taking just say, “We already have a policy to deal with this, so why dig any deeper?”
And once someone tells you exactly what the wonder drug is that he's taking, practically like baseball Viagra, here's something important:
Do NOT ask exactly what it is or press too hard to find out how he got it. Just ask him to stop, and when he tells you OK, go back to doing nothing.
Now here is an even more important part of this whole process:
Even if you can't tell whether or not this drug – a drug that may or may not be a steroid and may or may not be illegal – is helping him, just talk a lot, act confused, say you can't be expected to know everything, and make sure you leave it all up to everyone else.
And not just for a few months.
Sit by idly, while player after player is implicated, rumored or just plain slandered to have somehow cheated, stretched the rules, or was simply led astray over what you say is a 10-year period, even as you continue to wonder whether it's actually doing any good or not.
Only after a player that everyone can agree is the most disagreeable superstar since Ted WIlliams, a player who is –coincidentally– also widely acknowledged to be the best player of his generation is implicated in what any reasonable person could see was a blatant witch-hunt, and after years of doing nothing, come out with words, strong words condemning all of these horrible cheaters who helped bring the game you say you love back from the brink of bankruptcy, the same game that you tried to contract, that you masterminded a collusion that hurt players and teams and damaged beyond repair any possible collaboration between the players and management, and then, after superstars, Cy Young Award winners, MVP's and even World Series Champions have been smeared and implicated and after a five year run of almost endless scandals and controversies, after all that…..
Then, and only then, have your come-to-Jesus moment about performance-enhancing drugs.
And in that moment, being the leader that you are, get some flack of a government representative to ask people a bunch of questions, and then put together a report that does two things; implicate even more of the game's top players –based on the testimony of people who are talking to reduce their possible sentences or their own criminal acts, by the way– and of course, as a leader of men, make sure that everyone knows it's not your fault.
Here's what Selig, who is afraid to say bad words, should be saying right now:
EVERYONE IN BASEBALL –INCLUDING ME– NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR A CULTURE THAT ACCEPTED THE WIDESPREAD USE OF PED'S FOR DECADES, A TIME IN WHICH WE ALL LOOKED THE OTHER WAY.
OR NOBODY DOES.
Investigate A-Rod? Change his records? Suspend him? Only a commissioner with real integrity, one that is actually in command, could consider suspending the best player in the American League. Selig? He's a used car salesman. Baseball is in flames right now. This is his problem, and by extension, the owners problem. When they fired Fay Vincent, who said bad words and told the truth –all of his other faults notwithstanding– the owners made sure they got somebody who would do what he was told, and would do anything and everything to win. And for the owners, winning meant making money.
How could baseball players not the exact same thing, how could they not do anything to win, when the top levels of the management of their sport were not only turning a blind eye to their efforts legitimate and otherwise; but more importantly, were doing the exact same thing. Selig's leadership of baseball was directed not unlike any corporate leader's; pay attention to the bottom line and little else. And now, not unlike our government –who's lack of real leadership for the last eight years I could go on about for a year– he is presiding over a train wreck.
The owners got this mess when they appointed someone as far from a real commissioner as they could, a flunky who would do everything he could to make them rich, make himself rich, and bring NO REAL INTEGRITY OR CHARACTER TO THE POSITION WHATSOEVER.
Real leaders take responsibility for the results. These results, the scandals, the controversies, investigations, trials, hearings, all of it, are his. He cannot save his legacy. And make no bones about it, his latest, “woe is me,” quotes are directed at one thing and one thing only; his getting into the Hall of Fame. And here's the simple truth. He gets in when McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, A-Rod, Palmeiro, the whole lot of them get in first.
If you're gonna keep the best players of a generation out of the Hall of Fame because you think they shit on your beloved, sacred game, then the guy who ran the show while the game got shit on has to buy a ticket, too.
UPDATE: Not that Goodell is some paragon of virtue himself, but he's about a hundred times the leader Selig is:
…. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has taken a 20 percent pay cut and the league staff has been trimmed by 15 percent because of a reeling economy. The league said Wednesday it has dropped 169 jobs as a result of buyouts, layoffs and other staff reductions. Goodell voluntarily took a cut from the $11 million salary and bonuses he was to receive this past year. He and other league executives are freezing their salaries for 2009.
Symbolic, maybe, but at east he's demonstrating some semblance of compassion and empathy for the difficulties most of the NFL's fan base must be going through. something Selig obviously gave no thought to when he allowed information about his record-breaking salary to be released.
Some of the more interesting quotes about my latest piece include a forum writer who commended me for my endless defense of Barry Bonds; “Say what you will about Perricone, the guy's been defending Bonds for going on five years now.”
Thanks, I guess.
In truth, I think I've been more interested in defending Bonds' rights. The right to be treated fairly, to be held as innocent until proven guilty, the right to self-determination, and, of course, the right to be an asshole. I think I've also been criticizing the ham-handed, sanctimonious outrage and piety being displayed by so many of the members of the mainstream media, who are falling all over themselves in their efforts to prove that they will save the children, the heroes of the past, and, of course, by extension, us.
To them, I say, thanks but no thanks. I'm comfortable with controversy, I'm OK with sports stars who may not be perfect. I do, in fact, want our athletes to do amazing things, and I don't really care how they go about doing it. It has always been obvious to me that to perform at the highest levels in athletic competition, extreme measures have always been taken.
I have some context, that perhaps a writer like Lupica doesn't. I've worked in construction for most of the last 25 years, and I know what it's like to work through pain. I've shot myself in the leg with a nail gun and wrapped duct tape around it and kept going. I've had to drill a hole in my thumb nail to release the blood blister under it, and kept going. I've worked on a roof in three feet of snow, with a 20 mile an hour wind making the wind chill factor below zero, all day long, for days on end.
When I wasn't out in the field building houses, I worked in a mirror factory, I worked in a restaurant, I've worked with my body since I was 14 years old. In that time, I've taken every pill, literally, everything I could get my hands on, to make sure I could go to work every day. Until you do, maybe you can't understand. But I know that my readers who come from a similar background understand.
And when I read Bill Gilbert's account of the different players who do the same, I wonder, no, in fact, I know, the only difference between what Bob Gibson did and what I did was directly related to access.
If I would have had access to a physician whose sole purpose was to ensure that I got up and worked to the best of my ability, well, I mean, come on. Anybody would have made the same choice, and to suggest otherwise is more than disingenuous, it's flat out lying. Reading Bill Gilbert's followup piece makes that crystal clear:
…. ” 'Where's the Dexamyl, Doc?' I yelled at the trainer rooting about in his leather valise,” pitcher-author Jim Brosnan quoted himself as saying in his celebrated baseball book, Pennant Race. ” 'There's nothing in here but phenobarbital and that kind of stuff.'
” 'I don't have any more,' said Doc Rohde. 'Gave out the last one yesterday. Get more when we get home.'
” 'Been a rough road trip, huh, Doc? How'm I goin' to get through the day then? Order some more, Doc. It looks like a long season.'
” 'Try one of these,' he said.
” 'Geez, that's got opium in it. Whaddya think I am, an addict or something?' ”
…. On good evidence—which includes voluntary admissions by physicians, trainers, coaches, athletes, testimony given in court or before athletic regulatory bodies, and autopsy reports—amphetamines have been used in auto racing, basketball, baseball (at all levels down to children's leagues), boxing, canoeing, cycling, football, golf, mountain climbing, Roller Derby, rodeo, Rugby, skating, skiing, soccer, squash, swimming, tennis (both lawn and table), track and field, weight lifting and wrestling.
The amphetamines, of which Benzedrine, Dexedrine, Dexamyl (which has a barbiturate added) and methamphetamine (the notorious “speed” or “Meth”), are among the best-known, affect the central nervous system and produce what might be called a triple threat.
They act indirectly to suppress hunger spasms, and for this reason are used as appetite-killing pills by jockeys, boxers, wrestlers and anybody else who has to make a weight.
The drug is a metabolic stimulant, speeding up the respiratory and circulatory systems and enabling users to remain hyperactive when they would ordinarily slow down because of fatigue.
Finally, the amphetamines act directly on the brain, inducing a sense of excitement and euphoria, a sort of I-can-lick-the-world high.
Let's not forget, this article was published June 30th, 1969, forty years ago. Bill Gilbert is saying that it was commonly known forty years ago that amphetamines, illegal or otherwise, were used in virtually every sport there was.
…. “I dope myself. Everyone [that is, everyone who is a competitive cyclist] dopes himself. Those who claim they don't are liars,” Jacques Anquetil, a five-time winner of the Tour de France and a French sports figure of the stature of a Jean-Claude Killy or a Michel Jazy, has said. “For 50 years bike racers have been taking stimulants Obviously, we can do without them in a race, but then we will pedal 15 miles an hour [instead of 25]. Since we are constantly asked to go faster and to make even greater efforts, we are obliged to take stimulants.”
Anquetil's remark was made i
n the summer of 1967 in the midst of what to date has been sports' messiest public drug scandal. Anquetil himself was much involved, both as a commentator and competitor. In May 1966, after winning a race in Belgium by nearly five minutes, he forfeited his victory and his check rather than provide a urine sample, which was to be analyzed for amphetamines or other banned drugs. In September 1967 a world speed record set by Anquetil in Milan was disallowed for the same reason. In between these two incidents there were two cycling deaths attributed to amphetamines, a number of suspensions at the Amsterdam world championships and a slowdown strike by cyclists protesting the fact that they were being forced to compete without the aid of their accustomed drugs.
Next time you read another slam-job article on Lance Armstrong –by one of these uninformed hacks– keep that in mind. One of the men whose record was broken by Armstrong was speaking openly of doping FORTY YEARS AGO!!!! Cycling almost fell apart because everyone was using speed, and nobody wanted to stop.
How about the major sports?
…. Among major American sports, amphetamine usage may be highest in football, or again it may only be easier to verify in this sport. Among professional clubs, players, physicians and trainers of the Steelers, Chargers, Cardinals, Lions and Redskins have indicated that chemical pep is or has been used. At least one professional football team made the taking of pep pills part of its pregame routine.
“It usually seems to be the older players and boys who think they need an extra lift to make it through a game that want them,” says Joe Kuczo, the Redskin trainer. “I personally am not convinced that they do much good, but it's a mental thing with some of them. They've been used to the pills. In the quantities they get here, at least, I doubt if they do much harm.”
You might notice the Steelers in there. The same Steelers who, in the last couple of seasons, have seen several of their championship teams of the 70's implicated in steroid use rumors.
And then there's pain:
…. In addition to exhaustion and tension, all athletes are at some time in some degree challenged by a third physiological phenomenon—pain. The relationship between pain and sports is ancient and close. For some, pain is the prohibitive price that makes games not worth playing; for others it is the secret but ultimate opponent. For most it is a necessary vocational byproduct.
Does knowing that there are reasons players use drugs mean it's OK to use them? Of course not. I'm not saying it's OK, but I'm also not saying it's not. I'm saying it's none of my business. You don't get to tell me I can't take a Percoset so my elbow pain goes away, allowing me to get back to work. Why should I be able to tell Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire what they can or can't do in order to be the best at their job? How is that even remotely acceptable?
The players and coaches and owners are there, in the game. The sportswriters cover the game. Since when did the sportswriters become the guardians of anything? Since when did they become the judge and jury? How did we get here? You wanna write about what these athletes do, go ahead. Stop telling me what's right and wrong. I don't need you to help me figure that out. Really. I'm a grownup, and I can handle saving my children by myself, thanks.
UPDATE: Is this even possible? Did Peter Gammons just link to my last post, and not only link to it, but cut and paste most of it? I am flabbergasted, to say the least:
…. We are blasted with the stun guns of moral outrage. Bud Selig claimed he knew nothing of the PED world until he read about Mark McGwire's andro in 1998; now he says he pushed the union for steroid testing in 1995. The incomplete Mitchell report never addressed where so many of the drugs came from, sticking with a couple of East Coast leaks and ignoring the underground steroids world of Latin America.
We now know that there are baseball players from the 1950s who had vision and other problems because of “red juice.” We read “Ball Four.”
John Perricone's superb “Only Baseball Matters” blog this week recalled a 40-year-old piece by Bill Gilbert in Sports Illustrated.
…. At the least, Perricone should make us all think. Alex Rodriguez's admission doesn't bring baseball to an end; it should help those who love the sport edge closer to the truth, and allow players who want level playing fields to force the union into finally allowing one.
I don't know the whole truth, no one does. That list of the 103 other players who tested positive in 2003 is out there and could become public, and there will be more stories and revelations. But this is more complex than simple good and evil, just as there has been a lot of good in what Presinal has provided young athletes in a poor country.
Perricone criticized some writers who really care about baseball and their kids and what has become so ugly. But it's not just Barry Bonds, Bobby Estalella and Alex Rodriguez — it's societal, and as Bill Gilbert pointed out in the first year of the Nixon presidency, has been for generations.
UPDATE, Part II: I seem to have made the bigs. Rob Neyer also threw me a link. Hoo Wah.
I have written –repeatedly– that I simply cannot believe that sportswriters like Mike Lupica and Rick Reilly and Tom Verducci only just recently discovered that athletes will use PED's to improve their performance. I have stated again and again that the real reason –the ONLY reason– we have this “scandal” in baseball, and nowhere else, is because of the recent assault on the venerated baseball record book. I didn't read this Sports Illustrated article when it came out 40 years ago, because I was only 5 years old, but, it raises the same questions for me again:
How do these sportswriters expect me to believe that they haven't known what's been going on in the world of elite athletic competition over these last four decades? How can they ask me to be outraged when most of them have watched this problem develop, and waited over three decades to start sounding the alarm?
Bill Gilbert, a writer I have never heard of, wrote this piece, a damning indictment of the widespread use of all sorts of PED's. It was published in 1969, the same year we put a man on the moon:
…. after it has been admitted that most citizens dope themselves from time to time, there remain excellent grounds for claiming that in the matter of drug usage, athletes are different from the rest of us. In spite of being—for the most part—young, healthy and active specimens, they take an extraordinary variety and quantity of drugs (see cover). They take them for dubious purposes, they take them in a situation of debatable morality, they take them under conditions that range from dangerously experimental to hazardous to fatal. The use of drugs—legal drugs—by athletes is far from new, but the increase in drug usage in the last 10 years is startling. It could, indeed, menace the tradition and structure of sport itself.
…. “Are anabolic steroids [a male hormone derivative that supposedly makes users bigger and stronger than they could otherwise be] widely used by Olympic weight men?” rhetorically asks Dave Maggard, who finished fifth in the shotput at Mexico and is now the University of California track coach. “Let me put it this way. If they had come into the village the day before competition and said we have just found a new test that will catch anyone who has used steroids, you would have had an awful lot of people dropping out of events because of instant muscle pulls.”
…. There are abundant rumors—the wildest of which circulate within rather than outside the sporting world—about strung-out quarterbacks, hopped-up pitchers, slowed-down middleweights, convulsed half-milers and doped-to-death wrestlers. Nevertheless, it is the question of motive and morality that constitutes the crux of the athletic drug problem. Even if none of the gossip could be reduced to provable fact, there remains ample evidence that drug use constitutes a significant dilemma, not so much for individual athletes as for sport in general. One reason is that the use of drugs in sport leads one directly to more serious and complicated questions. Is athletic integrity (and, conversely, corruption) a matter of public interest? Does it matter, as appreciators of sport have so long and piously claimed it does, that games be played in an atmosphere of virtue; even righteousness? If not, what is the social utility of games—why play them at all? Drug usage, even more than speculation about bribery, college recruiting, spit-balls or TV commercials, raises such sticky questions about the fundamentals of sport that one can understand the instinctive reaction of the athletic Establishments: when it comes to drugs, they ignore, dismiss, deny.
…. Setting aside ethical considerations for the moment, there are obvious reasons why athletes should use so many drugs. The most obvious is that there are more drugs available these days for everyone than ever before. Furthermore, we have all been sold on the efficacy of drugs. We believe that the overflowing pharmacopoeia is one of the unquestioned triumphs of the age. We have been sold on drugs empirically because we have tried them and enjoy the results. We have been sold by countless magazine and newspaper stories about wonder drugs—many of which later turned out to be less than wondrous—by massive pro-drug propaganda campaigns mounted by pharmaceutical manufacturers, by TV actors dressed in doctors' coats and by real doctors, many of whom are very quick with the prescription pad. Generally, we have accepted rather uncritically the central message of this persuasive pitch—drugs are good for you. These days it is a cultural reflex to reach for a vial, an atomizer, a capsule or a needle if you suffer from fever, chills, aches, pains, nausea, nasal congestion, irritability, the doldrums, sluggishness, body odor, obesity, emaciation, too many kids, not enough kids, nagging backache or tired blood.
It would be surprising if athletes were not influenced by the same trends and tendencies that have the rest of us so high on drugs.
…. An example of how athletic pressure, ambition or maybe just ignorance at a sub-medical level can result in what charitably can be called dubious drug practices occurred a few years ago at the training camp of the San Diego Chargers. The story was told by Dave Kocourek, now an offensive end for the Oakland Raiders, but then a member of the Charger team.
“I guess this anabolic steroid business must have started on the Chargers around 1963 or right in there somewhere. One guy I can remember who got involved was Howard Kindig. He came to us as a
highly touted center and linebacker from Los Angeles State. He was long and lean and very quick, and they wanted to put weight on him, so in addition to using the weight program run by our weight coach, Alvin Roy, they started pumping him full of Dianabol [a popular anabolic steroid], and sure enough he gained about 30 pounds.
It's a six page article, one that you must read. I tried not to cut and paste too much, but, it's that noteworthy.
Now the cat is out of the bag. Forget about Barry Bonds, how about Tom Verducci? All of a sudden Verducci's expose, written five years ago, is dated, decades behind the real story. He blew the whistle? Really? Here's what Gilbert wrote FORTY YEARS AGO!!!!
…. “A few pills—I take all kinds—and the pain's gone,” says Dennis McLain of the Detroit Tigers. McLain also takes shots, or at least took a shot of cortisone and Xylocaine (anti-inflammant and painkiller) in his throwing shoulder prior to the sixth game of the 1968 World Series—the only game he won in three tries. In the same Series, which at times seemed to be a matchup between Detroit and St. Louis druggists, Cardinal Bob Gibson was gobbling muscle-relaxing pills, trying chemically to keep his arm loose. The Tigers' Series hero, Mickey Lolich, was on antibiotics.
Bob Gibson? He's one of the heroes these guys keep going on and on about. He's one of those guys who would never, ever have used steroids, right, Lupica?
…. “We occasionally use Dexamyl and Dexedrine [amphetamines]…. We also use barbiturates, Seconal, Tuinal, Nembutal…. We also use some anti-depressants, Triavil, Tofranil, Valium…. But I don't think the use of drugs is as prevalent in the Midwest as it is on the East and West coasts,” said Dr. I. C. Middleman, who, until his death last September, was team surgeon for the St. Louis baseball Cardinals.
Team surgeon? TEAM SURGEON!!!! How could that be? How could it be that the teams knew anything about this? The owners are paragons of virtue, men of impeccable character, who want nothing more than for the players to be healthy, happy and living on the same block as their sons and daughters, right?
How could a five-thousand word article, published in Sports Illustrated –which, in 1969, was THE preeminent publication on sports in America– not have been noticed?
Of course it was noticed. It was noticed to the point where the use of drugs continued, flourished and was an acknowledged part of the world of sports worldwide. And no one wrote about it, no one talked about it, no one did an Outside the Lines special report, no one did anything.
And in that type of environment, eventually, the drugs were gonna work. We have an NFL right now that has running backs as big as offensive linemen from championship teams of just a decade or so ago. We have baseball players bigger than offensive linemen as well. We have huge, super-fast, athletes everywhere you look, because the training programs, coupled with the tremendous advances in sports medicine, legal and otherwise, work. And one reason we know that they work is that athletes will do anything, will take any risk to win. The mantra, win at all costs, isn't a slogan for a sports drink. It is the water these men and women swim in:
…. The whole matter has been succinctly summarized by Hal Connolly, a veteran of four U.S. Olympic teams.
“My experience,” says Connolly, “tells me that an athlete will use any aid to improve his performance short of killing himself.”
But before you start worrying about saving the children — please God, somebody save the children– let's get something straight here. There is some good in all this.
You wanna know how? Think of sports as the NASA of the human body. We all know about the major advances in the space program that have influenced our daily lives. There are major advances being made in health improvements for normal, non-athletes that have come from sports, including advances in weight training, surgical techniques, and yes, drug treatments. The sports world has been one giant chemical experiment for the last four decades –at least– and anyone who has been to a sports medicine treatment facility, or a gym, or a GNC, can see the results.
We all want to be better, and we all will do most anything to achieve that end. There's nothing new about that. It's part and parcel of being an American, and America's influence is global. In the world of competitive sports, the end almost always justifies the means. Using PED's is just one of the ways athletes place themselves in harm's way. One of my favorite players just passed away. Brad Van Pelt was THE linebacker for the NY Giants when Bill Parcells and George Young drafted Lawrence Taylor. He died in his sleep at the age of 57, a familiar story for the families of retired football players. Retire athletes die younger, have many more physical problems, and generally live in a world of constant pain once their playing days are over.
To say that they shouldn't use PED's because it could harm them is disingenuous at best.
BEING AN ELITE ATHLETE IS TO PUT YOUR HEALTH AT RISK EVERY SINGLE DAY.
We live in a culture that has embraced the pharmacological fix. That our athletes do shouldn't be thought of as wrong; it should be expected.
Joe Posnanski wonders whether, after all this time, that maybe, just maybe, Mark McGwire is the one baseball player who got it right:
…. looking back you have to wonder if McGwire is the one guy in this whole absurd steroid mess who actually got it, the one guy who has come out of this thing with his dignity reasonably intact. McGwire refused to lie to make himself look better. He refused to turn over any of his friends. He also refused to make any admissions, which is looking like the wisest move of all.
McGwire: Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in
front of television cam
eras will not solve the problem. If a player answers no, he simply will not be believed. If he answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations.
Well … that was prophetic.
…. And the lesson might be that Mark McGwire really did have it right. People keep trying, but it's becoming more and more apparent that there's no going back and fixing those years before baseball tested for steroids. There's no making many people feel better about that time when offensive numbers exploded (for reasons that, no doubt, go beyond steroid use). There are no new apologies, no total admissions, no way to rewrite history.
We are where we are.
Jon Pessah had a column at ESPN yesterday that was noteworthy for two reasons. One, it was a detailed accounting of all of the laws that have been broken by IRS uber-Agent Jeff Novitzky in his pursuit of Barry Bonds, and two, because it was only about four years too late:
…. Until September 2003, Novitzky was an anonymous IRS special agent working drug and fraud crimes in Silicon Valley. Then his investigation into BALCO blew the lid off steroids. Soon he had the backing of Congress, President Bush—who included steroids in a State of the Union—and the U.S. attorney general, who announced the BALCO indictment on national TV. That’s a lot of clout for an IRS agent. Maybe too much.
That’s certainly how it looked in 2004 when Novitzky raided Comprehensive Drug Testing, the nation’s largest sports-drug testing company. What happened on that day is complicated but boils down to this: Novitzky walked into CDT with 11 armed agents and a search warrant for the confidential test results of 10 baseball players with ties to BALCO. Hours later, he walked out with more than 4,000 medical files, including those of every major league baseball player, a bunch of NFL and NHL pros, and workers from three businesses. Maybe one that employs you.
Three federal judges reviewed the raid. One asked, incredulously, if the Fourth Amendment had been repealed. Another, Susan Illston, who has presided over the BALCO trials, called Novitzky’s actions a “callous disregard” for constitutional rights. All three instructed him to return the records. Instead, Novitzky kept the evidence, reviewed the results and received clearance from an appeals court to pursue 103 MLB players who, those records revealed, had tested positive for steroids. (That investigation is pending another appeals court decision, expected this fall.)
An IRS watchdog unit has found cause to question the agent’s methods too.
…. Now the Novitzky era reaches a climax with the March 2 trial. Whatever the verdict, Bonds’ reputation has been ruined. And since U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and President Obama have said leagues—not governments—should police steroids, Novitzky’s crusade will likely end. And that leaves a question for the rest of us to ask: Was it really worth it?
Finally, after seven years, ESPN publishes a column in which the very questionable witch hunt of one of the top baseball players of all time is actually questioned. That’s some investigative unit they’ve got over the at the network.