Archive for the 'NY Yankees' Category
Rebecca Glass wonders whether Joe Girardi should have gone to Mariano Rivera in the seventh inning last night:
…. Here’s the leverage argument:
Because of the importance of the situation, with the tying runs on base and the Angels’ best hitters (Hunter-Guerrerro-Morales) due up, Girardi should have gone to Mariano Rivera.
It’s a claim that much of the MSM and their readers/viewers will brush off as being too reactionary, but it’s based on the single, simple premise discussed above:
Teams should use their very best relievers in the highest leveraged situations.
At the time, there is utterly no way to predict that the ninth inning will matter or how much it will matter. What you know, however, is that at the time, the two potential tying runs on base are the two most important runs you want to prevent from scoring if you are the Yankees.
She is absolutely right. Watching the game, I was aghast when I saw Burnett come out for the seventh. In my view, the hitters had just gotten him off the hook for his horrible start to the game, the bullpen was fully rested after Sabbathia went eight innings and then they had a day off…. I mean, no matter how you slice it, there was no reason whatsoever to allow Burnett to continue in that game. Not to mention, as Don Zimmer used to say to Joe Torre –when Girardi was his catcher, by the way– “it gets late early in the postseason.” For Girardi and the Yankees, it’s late now. Girardi’s error could cost his team everything, and his error was clear the minute it was happening. If you were in the Yankees dugout, how did you not wonder what the hell was going on? What do you think Derek Jeter was thinking as he watched Burnett sweat his way through the 8th and 9th place hitters on the Angels?
The Yankees were nine outs from the World Series, with a two run lead, a shaky all season long starter who had already been raked, and every reliever in his bullpen was available. And in case you are still wondering if I am over reacting, let me make it even clearer:
GIRARDI HAD RIVERA AVAILABLE FOR SIX OUTS IF THE YANKEES DIDN’T SCORE ANY MORE RUNS
That means that all Girardi had to do was get three outs without allowing a run, in an inning in which the lineup was #8 hitter, #9 hitter, and Chone Figgins, who was 2 for 31 to that point in the postseason. To get that job done, he used the aforementioned shaky AJ Burnett, who allowed two base-runners in about ten seconds, and then –with the tying runs on base and nobody out in a game in which the Yankees were nine outs from going to the Serious– Girardi went to Damaso Marte, easily the worst pitcher on the Yankees playoff roster, if not the worst pitcher in the entire playoff universe. Damaso Marte. The same Damaso Marte who appeared in 21 games in 2009, threw 13 innings, allowed 14 earned runs and posted a 9.45 ERA.
How is that sequence even remotely defensible? I’ve been looking all day, and am still waiting for the dozens of articles questioning the choices Girardi made in that inning. Here’s one, from Jesse Spector, of the NY Daily News:
…. the burden of a collapse in this series would fall squarely on Girardi, who has made decisions in both losses that are indefensible. In both Games 3 and 5 in Anaheim, Girardi’s management of the Yankees’ pitching staff left fans saying to themselves, “What the hell is he thinking?” And that was before Alfredo Aceves coughed up Game 3, and before A.J. Burnett let the tying runs get on base in Game 5. From the time that Aceves came in, and from the time that Burnett stayed in after a long top of the frame, Girardi’s decisions had “mistake” written all over them. Both proved catastrophic.
Is that it? The umpires are getting raked for their mistakes. They’re writing about how Nick Swisher made the first and the last outs in that fateful seventh. They’re talking about the lousy broadcast coverage, the lack of insight, how Scoscia misused Brian Fuentes, how Fuentes shouldn’t have thrown that fastball to A-Rod. Girardi’s complete mishandling of the bottom of the seventh inning seems to have happened in a vacuum. I was screaming at the television, from the minute he sent Burnett out there, I mean, that was a farce. Here’s the heat Girardi has taken for it, the MLB page for Sports Illustrated has the following headlines:
Breathless ninth drains emotion from all
Angels’ aggressive approach pays dividends
Game 6 critical for Yanks’ Series rotation
From ESPN’s MLB page:
Managing their thoughts
Here’s what I would’ve chosen:
Loss falls on manager
Alex Rodriguez has sportswriters and talk show hosts all atwitter as they struggle to come up with adequate comparisons to his performance thus far this postseason. Of course, Giants fans know exactly who he is reminding everyone of, while theBud the Selig-imposed gag order on writing,m saying or thinking positive things about Barry Bonds is still in effect.
Bonds 2002 17 G 45 AB 18 R 16 H 2 2B 1 3B 8 HR 16 RBI 27 BB 6 SO .356/.581/.978 1.559 OPS
A Rod 2009 07 G 27 AB 9 R 11 H 1 2B 0 3B 5 HR 11 RBI 4 BB 4 SO .407/.469/1.000 1.469 OPS
Turns out, the comparisons are actually pretty much right on. A Rod is having a Bondsian postseason. He’s way off in the walks, but teams pretty much walked Bonds every chance they got that year, so he’s never gonna get there. But, he’s got the power, the on base percentage is right there, and he’s actually got a better batting average so far. He’s gotta do it for another seven or ten games, but. still in all, he looks great side by side with the greatest postseason performance in baseball history, which is saying something.
UPDATE: David Pinto also notices the lack of walks:
…. They pitch to him because the Yankees lineup behind him is pretty potent. This isn’t the Giants, with Bonds and a bunch of nobodies. Teams need to make an effort to get an out with A-Rod at the plate, otherwise they’re just playing to the Yankees OBP strength.
I’ve always believed that Bonds was walked as often as he was because he was so universally hated, but that’s probably the Giants fan in me being so pissed that they could get away with walking him so constantly.
Teams started walking him for real in 2001, after he started the year with 11 home runs in 75 April at bats (he ended the season with 177 free passes). But those ’01-’02 Giants were the best Giants teams of the last twenty years. Besides Jeff Kent, who was a truly great hitter, the Giants during that time had a still terrific Rich Aurilia, Benito Santiago was pretty good, David Bell had a terrific year in ’02, Reggie Sanders had 23 home runs in ’02. In ’03, the team started being weaker, Grissom and Jose Cruz Jr. each had 20, but Bonds ended up with 148 walks in 130 games played. In ’04, things got out of hand. Grissom and Feliz had 22 home runs, but they were useless as the second and third best hitters on the team. Bonds walked 232 times that season, 68 of them intentional, and probably another 50 or 60 as semi-intentional, and virtually no team paid a significant price for avoiding him.
So really, only once in that time did Bonds have someone even close to the hitter Texeira is, in 2002, when Kent hit 37 home runs. I remember it feeling different at the time, but now that I’m looking back, Pinto’s right.
Or monkey off his back?
WOW!!!! That’s a hell of a game, and a hell of a win. I’ll try and get something out for Monday.
The latest steroid scandal is old news. I wrote about teams bringing in doctors to talk to players about the positive aspects of using steroids years ago, and the Mitchell Report mentions it as well. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to hear a player, even one who is out of the game, talking candidly about the issue:
…. Merloni’s exact quotes, according to The Boston Globe, were: “I’m in Spring Training, and I got an 8:30-9:00 meeting in the morning. I walk into that office, and this happened while I was with the Boston Red Sox before this last regime, I’m sitting in the meeting. There’s a doctor up there and he’s talking about steroids, and everyone was like, ‘Here we go, we’re going to sit here and get the whole thing — they’re bad for you.’
“No. He spins it and says, ‘You know what? If you take steroids and sit on the couch all winter long, you can actually get stronger than someone who works out clean. If you’re going to take steroids, one cycle won’t hurt you; abusing steroids it will.’
“He sat there for one hour and told us how to properly use steroids while I’m with the Boston Red Sox, sitting there with the rest of the organization, and after this I said, ‘What the heck was that?’ And everybody on the team was like, ‘What was that?’ And the response we got was, ‘Well, we know guys are taking it, so we want to make sure they’re taking it the right way.’ … Where did that come from? That didn’t come from the Players Association.”
Steroid Nation’s piece goes on:
…. In fact, there were occasions when physicians presented steroids in a favorable light, in particular Dr. Robert Millman, of Cornell. Here is what John Rocker said about a presentation:
The loudmouth former reliever said he and then-Rangers teammate Alex Rodriguez, among others, were advised in spring training of 2002 by management and players’ union doctors on how to use steroids in a way that is “not going to hurt you.”
Rocker said a doctor hired by the Players’ Association pulled aside himself, A-Rod, Ivan Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro following a spring training lecture and candidly told them how to use steroids.
“Look guys, if you take one kind of steroid, you don’t triple stack them and take them 10 months out of the year like Lyle Alzado did,” the doctor told him, Rocker said yesterday during an interview on the Buck and Kincade Show on WCNN-680 The Fan in Atlanta. “If you do it responsibly, it’s not going to hurt you.” (italics, mine)
My steroids category link is taking too long, but I’ll find the piece I wrote back in ’03 or ’04. Old news, but still good news. I’m all for transparency. The people who profited from the home run explosion, the owners, GM’s, and baseball officials who are pointing fingers need to be put to the same scrutiny players have been. About time.
Having just learned that A-Rod will undergo surgery for a cyst in his hip, my mind wandered back to a story, or perhaps it was a rumor that another Yankee had undergone a similar procedure. Was it in “Ball Four,” that I had read that Mickey Mantle had a cyst in his hip –caused by an infection due to a dirty needle used for a vitamin B shot– that caused him to miss significant time?
Using Baseball-Reference.com, I can see that Mantle missed significant time in 1962 and 1963. Was that what happened?
And if it did, doesn't it raise the question of whether A-Rod's cyst was caused by an infection? An infection that could have started because of a dirty needle?
Two questions come to my mind:
1. Now that we know that forty years ago, elite athletes were already well aware of the powerful effects of steroids, isn't it possible that Mickey Mantle may have been experimenting with steroids?
2. How come no major news media outlet has taken the steps to ask what, exactly, is the cause of the cyst that A-Rod has?
A few answers come to mind right away. First off, none of these so-called “keepers of the flame” will investigate whether their hero could have been sullied by the steroids cloud, so the Mantle question will be left for us to ponder. And as for the question about A-Rod, no one has asked it because nobody thought of it, until now. All I ask is a plug from the writer who picks up this thread.
UPDATE: Well, no plug.
The NY Daily News did some investigating, and came up with this:
…. “Because A-Rod kept changing his story about his steroid use,” said Dr. Lewis Maharam, the medical director of the New York Road Runners Club, “it made us skeptical about his hip issue, thinking it could be steroid-related. It is not. Avascular necrosis of the femoral head is linked to steroids and sometimes described by the lay public as a cyst. This is not what he has.”
Meanwhile, two former players have come out with their own personal tales of steroid woes. The first one is an in this Philadelphia Daily News story by Paul Hagen:
…. He was, he said, largely unaware of steroids when he signed his first professional contract. Of course, back then his fastball was consistently in the mid-90s and he could throw it effortlessly and without pain.
That was before the elbow operations. Still, he persevered. He worked his way through the minors. He said he still knew little about performance-enhancing substances. He reached the majors and began to have some success. Then he began to have more problems with his elbow and shoulder and faced further surgery. He worried that he might not make the team the following spring. He began looking for ways to recover more quickly.
“I felt pressure that I put on myself,” he says. “It wasn't external. When you struggle for a while, you realize that maybe your performance isn't up to par because you were playing through some injuries. But the bottom line is, the performance wasn't that good. “I had surgery right after the season. And spring training was only 6 months away. So I was looking for something to help speed up that process, to try and regain my health as quickly as possible. Because I felt that pressure of having to perform and compete and throw the ball well right out of the gate or I was going to lose that job.
“I was supposed to be in my prime for a pitcher. But my physical skills deteriorated to the point where it was like, 'OK, I've got to address this or I'm not going to be able to play at this level.' “
He began asking some of the veteran players if they had any suggestions. About this time, he also became acquainted with a guy who worked out at the same health club he went to during the offseason.
“He wasn't involved in baseball in any way, shape or form,” the ex-player says. “And just by looking at him, you knew he wasn't much of an athlete. He was a big guy who carried a lot of weight on him. Let's just say he was on the lumpy side and it was obvious he wasn't in the gym training for the next body-building event. “Over time we became friends, and as it turns out his work is focused on the health and fitness field,
as he had a master's degree in exercise science and nutrition. He ran a small practice out of a family doctor's office, where he counseled people on health and nutrition issues. He incorporated a lot of homeopathic and natural cures into his program, and I had become more interested in that.”
Eventually, he made an appointment. They talked at length about maintaining a healthy diet. And then the conversation moved to a different level.
“He started talking to me about growth hormone and anabolics,” the ex-pitcher says. “I was very ignorant about it at the time. But with this guy's educational background and experience, I really had a strong conviction that he understood what he was talking about. To my surprise, he talked about anabolics in a much more positive light than I had ever heard before.”
Well, of course that would be a surprise. The demonization of all drugs not endorsed for profit-making by the powers that be means that any information disseminated about them be made up of lies and distortions. We wouldn't want people to make informed choices when there's no money to be made.
And over the NY Daily News, Darryl Strawberry opened up his mouth and made headlines:
…. “Hell, yeah, I would have used (steroids). Are you kidding me?” Strawberry said as he kicked off a week as a guest instructor at Mets camp, during a defense of Alex Rodriguez. You know what, it's just the point of being in sports. In our nature we're competitive creatures. We have a tremendous drive and high tolerance and all of these things in us. I'm not saying that was the right thing to do, but if somebody asked me if I would have faced it, what would I have done if that was going on in the era of the '80s, it definitely probably would have been in my system, too. I probably would have been a part of it, too. And I wouldn't have denied it, because you guys know I don't deny anything.”
Refreshingly candid, although Darryl seems to have forgotten about his tougher times, when he did, in fact, deny a lot. But, hey, at least he's being honest, unlike Reggie Jackson, who clearly played in a time in which amphetamine use –at the least– was widespread throughout baseball; but Mr. Jackson wants us all to know that he's saddened by A-Rod's admission that he used PED's.
Yes, I'm sure Jackson never used anything to get an edge. I'm sure that during his whole career, he was a clean as the driven snow.
Here's an idea. If all of these sad ex-baseball players want to do something to help clean up the game, to end this charade, to make the stories be about baseball again, and not whether this guy or that used this or that; they should all come clean.
That's right, open your mouth, and have something come out that's worth listening to. Every living baseball player knows, absolutely knows that either he used something stronger than coffee, or he knows that most of his teammates did. If baseball's fraternity is so strong, then they should all line up together, and tell the fucking truth. They should all stand up and say something like this:
The truth is that elite athletes use anything and everything to gain an edge.
The truth is that if you're not in this world of elite athletic endeavor, you cannot understand, you cannot possibly fathom what goes on. You cannot come close to dealing with the pressures, the constant pain, the fear, and the rewards of an elite athlete. You cannot grasp what it's like to live the life of a superstar, nor can you really understand what it's like to be the 24th guy on the team.
We do. We're living it. We pay the prices, we reap the rewards, we make the decisions.
And then they'd ask the one question that ends any debate:
If you were told that you could take a drug that would earn you and your family millions of dollars, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing you to reach the pinnacle of your dreams, would you use it?
If you were told that using this drug would enable you to stay in the game, after you started to notice you were on your way out if it, would you use it?
If you were good, but could be great, or even the best ever, would you use it?
No one could honestly answer that question unequivocally, either way. You couldn't say absolutely no, and you couldn't say absolutely yes.
You'd have to be there. And if you've never been there, and you still think you know the answer, all you're doing is yelling at the rain.
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.
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 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.