Friday, September 28, 2007

A Presidential Politics/Baseball Update!

Last month, I exhaustively researched and detailed the presidential candidates' baseball bonafides. Despite my status as the world's foremost expert on this subject -- I think I'm the only one who cares -- Allison King of NECN obviously doesn't read my stuff in preparation for her role as a moderator, and during Wednesday night's Democratic debate, felt it necessary to ask each of the candidates to answer whether they supported the Yankees or the Red Sox.

Hillary, Dodd, and Richardson picked the Yankees, Red Sox, and Red Sox respectively which, Clinton and Richardson's demonstrated fan bigamy aside, more or less conforms with their previously-stated rooting interests.

Biden, Gravel, and Edwards picked the Yankees, Red Sox, and Red Sox. These choices perplex me. As I pointed out last month, Biden is a Phillies fan. If he can't stand up to the questioner's false Yanks-Sox dichotomy and give a shoutout to his boys, how can we expect him to stand up to Ahmadinejad? As for Gravel and Edwards, I couldn't find any stated rooting interest for them in August and have thus written them off as baseball fans. They probably picked the Red Sox because they were in New England. Yeah, that's just as spineless as Biden, but less offensively so in that they don't seem to be betraying anyone over it.

Three cheers for Obama and Kucinich! Each of them rejected the horseshit premise of the question altogether and went with their Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indian hearts. These are men with courage of conviction. These are men I can get behind. Going forward, Shyster is wholeheartedly endorsing Obama for President and Kucinich for, er, um. Yeah.

OK, I'm not that crazy. I'll endorse Kucinich for nice cushy ambassadorship and continue to respect his fidelity to all things Tribe.

And . . . .The Whiff

Remember back in the day when, if someone was getting near the single season strikeout record, the manager would sit him so as to save him the ignominy? Well, that doesn't happen anymore, as Ryan Howard was allowed to hack his way to history last night, breaking Adam Dunn's whiff record.

Not that benching Howard is an option given how brutal the playoff scramble is this year in the NL. No, the Phillies will gladly take his .265/.391/.567, 43 homers and 128 RBI no matter how many strikeouts accompany it, thank you very much.

Would You Believe That Barry Bonds Drinks Elk Semen?

In honor of Barry going gentle into that San Francisco goodnight, here's a bit of Plimptonian Sidd Finchery from a couple of clever wags at SF

Yet contrary to Anderson's public reticence, Leftwich claims during their time as cellmates the chemically enhanced trainer shared one shocking anecdote after another about Bonds and BALCO. Among the revelations, according to Leftwich:

• Desperate to combat the testicular shrinkage that can occur with steroids use, Bonds injected human growth hormone directly into his genitals during the 2002 playoffs — with disastrous results for both him and the Giants.

• In early 2003, owing to the performance-enhancing drugs coursing through his body, Bonds suddenly began lactating, forcing doctors to excise his mammary glands.

• Wary of taking steroids since the BALCO flap broke, Bonds, intent on maintaining his edge, now supplements his diet with "Barry's brew," a homemade high-energy drink made of elk semen that has yielded its own troubling side effects.

As the 2007 regular season — and Bonds' time with the Giants — draws to a close this week, the sordid details threaten to further tarnish Bonds' legacy.
Too clever by half, it seems. By the end of the piece the quotes become a bit too outlandish and the details -- the source stole $755? Anderson does 714 push ups a day? -- too contrived to allow the thing hold together as A+ satire. Of course, if it was totally dry it would probably take in enough people to prompt a lawsuit.

Fun, though. Especially the anagrams of the authors.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Last Real Pennant Race?

I'm (1) an Atlanta Braves fan; and (2) a sucker for well-researched, well-written articles with high quality photos, so I should be in love with Robert Weintraub's piece on the 1993 NL West race over at And on some level, I am, because it's a great article.

Still, I have a hard time getting misty over this alleged last race because the thing that Weintraub (and everybody else for that matter) cites as contributing to the end of great pennant races -- the addition of the wild card -- isn't functionally different than the split into divisions which happened 24 years earlier. Weintraub says:

After the strike of '94 did away with the pennant races and the World Series, the wild card took effect in 1995, with the Yankees and Rockies the initial lucky recipients. The drama of late-season baseball has been transferred from occasional but memorable all-or-nothing contests between great teams, to annual lower-stakes games between the good-to-mediocre. Could be an apt metaphor for the culture at large.

Of course it wasn't all-or-nothing then either, mostly because there was no "all" about it for the 1993 Braves. I distinctly recall the day the Braves finally clinched. I was in Cleveland, watching the Indians play the White Sox in the final baseball game to ever take place in Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Several notable things happened that afternoon, and here they are in descending order of significance to me on that day:

1. A wobbly Bob Hope sang "Thanks for the Memories" from home plate after
the game was over;

2. Albert Belle beat out Frank Thomas for the AL RBI crown, which sort of
pleased me because I was then in the process of developing a lifelong loathing
for Frank Thomas for some reason;

3. I impulsively keyed a car in the stadium parking lot that had parked
with its bumper touching that of my precious 1987 Chevy Cavalier RS;

4. The out-of-town scoreboard showed the Braves win over the Rockies and
the Dodgers posting a large lead over the Giants, which I would later learn held

Why did my favorite team's triumph in the Last Great Pennant Race rate so low for me? Because I knew even then that it was only a minor victory. The NLCS loomed, and I was fully aware that a 104-win season meant absolutely nothing if my Bravos couldn't take four of the next seven from the scruffily inferior Philadelphia Phillies.

And they couldn't. Atlanta's reward for prevailing in a draining 162-game fight with the Giants was a loss in six games to a Phillies team that, had this all occurred before divisional play, would have been sent home already, just like the Giants were. The ultimate highs and lows of 1993 ended up being experienced not by Atlanta's Fred McGriff or San Francisco's Barry Bonds, but by Toronto's Joe Carter and Philadelphia's Mitch Williams. And Weintraub complains of mediocrity being rewarded today?

Given that both the league championship series and the wild card-driven divisional series are relatively recent inventions which pale in history, pageantry, and memory to the World Series, the concept of "all-or-nothing" doesn't come into play if all that is to be gained is a trip to an intermediate level of the playoffs. If "all or nothing" is what we're after, give me 1908, 1951, 1962, or 1967 over 1993. Since 1969, give me the high drama of a competitive League Championship Series like 1986 or 1992. In all of those cases the losers went home and the winners went on to the Fall Classic where, even if they didn't ultimately prevail, they will always be remembered.

1993 was great -- a humdinger, actually -- but it's remembered mostly because it was recent and because it was last, not because it was unprecedented, better, or even all that special.

Why Does Randy Hundley Get a Free Pass?

A rehash of the infamous Froemming-Pappas pefect game fiasco at For what it's worth, Pappas is still bitter and Froemming is still overplaying his role as Captain Integrity. We got it, Bruce: you are a monk, unconcerned with man's earthly motivations or desires, caring of nothing other than the sanctity of the strike zone.

Still, I'm still inclined to come down on Froemming's side of things, mostly because Pappas' general position remains "given the situation he should have given me the call" as opposed to "those were strikes!" Pappas is just like any other human being, so in the past 35 years I have little doubt that those pitches have moved closer and closer to the strike zone in his mind. It's over, Milt. Let it go.

This was the first time, however, that I heard this part of the story:

Larry Stahl, a .232 career hitter, stepped to the plate as the only Padre between Pappas and perfection . . . with the count full -- just the second time all game that Pappas got to three balls on a hitter -- Hundley gave the sign for a third straight slider.

Wait, Milt Pappas has just retired 26 men in a row, has an eight run lead, and is 1-2 against a guy with a career line of .232/.292/.351, and Hundley called for three straight sliders?!! What kind of game plan is that? How about three straight heaters? I'd even take two sliders and a heater, but for God's sake, why is he throwing junk at a guy who is only slightly more likely to do anything with a fastball than my aunt Ruth would have been?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Darling and Hernandez

ESPN's Jeff Pearlman rightfully lauds Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez's work in the Mets' broadcast booth:

. . . Darling is part of what has to be considered major league baseball's top three-man broadcast team, along with play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen and analyst Keith Hernandez. The SNY trio is funny, insightful, and -- most importantly -- brutally honest. When the Mets blew yet another pennant race game to the Washington Nationals Tuesday night, Hernandez trashed stars Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, holding little back as their defensive gaffes helped New York lose yet another critical contest. Darling willingly chimed in that pitcher Jorge Sosa was inexplicably, inexcusably out of position on a play. It's the sort of stuff fans need to hear . . .

We're certainly entering an age where the vast majority of ex-players -- not just the big names -- are set for life as a result of high salaries from their playing days. While this may cause many to avoid taking broadcasting, coaching, or managerial jobs because, hey, they don't have to, one hopes that it allows for some much-needed independence in those who do take those positions. Personally, I'd much rather hear Keith Hernandez (intelligently) criticize the failings of one of my team's players than listen to someone like Joe Simpson apologize for them for fear of offending team management.

I'm an adult. I can handle it. And it may actually teach me something about the game, too.

Branding it is

Ball 756 is going to be branded with an asterisk and sent to Cooperstown.

Ecko's attention whoring notwithstanding, such an outcome seems like the most appropriate one in terms of reflecting the history of all of this. Shooting it into space would have been stupid. While my normal sensibility would be to let an historical artifact stand unadorned (I have been greatly disappointed by recent efforts of "interpretive centers" to deal with controversial issues) giving it to Cooperstown branded with an asterisk seems to capture this particular ball's uniquely historical nature.

There are a lot of milestone balls, and all of them more or less look the same. This one will stand out and, in its own way, more accurately reflect the time which produced it than a clean, but slightly scuffed ball ever could.

The Merc Sets a High Bar

The San Jose Mercury News has lost itself in HGH hysteria:

Major League Baseball wants fans to believe it is actively engaged in catching players who use performance-enhancing drugs. The sport drew headlines last week by announcing it "hopes" to have a blood test available next year to catch players who use human growth hormone.

Too bad the test most likely won't be ready for years to come.

The notion that baseball is "doing everything we can" to catch players who abuse the rules, as an MLB spokesman said last week, is a gross exaggeration.

So now, apparently, the test of baseball's seriousness regarding PEDs is how quickly its ownership and management -- which consists of art dealers, media executives, car salesmen, and an increasingly senile shipbuilder -- develops a scientific test which has heretofore eluded chemists, scientists, and Olympic doping officials who have been dealing with this stuff for decades. Such a criticism, it strikes me, is akin to saying that the NAACP isn't serious about advocating for its members because it hasn't yet stopped racism. Sure, baseball -- like the NAACP for that matter -- may have some serious flaws as to how they go about addressing these concerns, but rapping them for not yet solving the chronic and possibly intractable problems they face is asking a bit much, no?

But the Merc goes on:

The United States Anti-Doping Agency is the organization that works with professional sports leagues and the United States Olympic Committee to thwart the use of banned drugs. The agency's research budget to develop new tests was a paltry $2 million in 2006. In contrast, Major League Baseball's revenues were $5.2 billion last year . . .we'll know baseball and other professional U.S. sports are getting serious about catching future cheats when baseball's contribution to the agency's research budget is greater than, say, Barry Bonds' salary ($15 million in 2007).

Setting aside the fact that there is no mention of the contribution of football, hockey, basketball, or the Olympic Committee -- baseball, it seems, is solely responsible for stopping PEDs -- how are baseball's gross revenues, or even the salary of its marquee players, relevant to its contribution to Anti-Doping efforts? I make a decent living as an attorney, and I have broadleaf growing in my front lawn. While I'm sure the problem will remain a chronic one, I've tried to address it as best I can. By the Merc's logic, however, I am not serious about it unless I pour a couple thousand bucks into the effort. The relative risk posed by my weed problem and the benefits gained by solving it are irrelevant, it would seem.


The World Anti-Doping Agency used a test for HGH at the most recent Summer and Winter Olympics, but not a single athlete tested positive, suggesting that the test needs to go back to the labs for further work.

I'll concede that it's improbable that no Olympians were doping, but doesn't this beg the question of whether it's reasonable to criticize baseball for failing to have an effective HGH test? If the World Anti-Doping Agency -- an organization tasked with eradicating PEDs from an event which has been a PED magnet for decades -- is still getting fooled, how can we expect baseball to have cracked this nut by now?

Look, PEDs are a problem, and baseball was admittedly late to take note of it. However, as the example of the Olympics, football, cycling and, indeed, the whole damn war on drugs shows, the use of illegal drugs is not a problem that is going to instantly go away. To pretend that it could if we simply developed the right test or passed the right law is silly, and by criticizing baseball's alleged lack of seriousness on this basis is in and of itself unserious.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nickels and Dimes in Miami

Teams and coaches part ways every year, and you figure that there are plenty of reasons for departures. Performance. Personality clashes. Other opportunities. It's just like any other job. Money is probably a common point of dispute as well, but rarely do you actually hear about that publicly because, let's face it, teams that pay backups seven figure salaries aren't often going to go to the mattresses over a few thousand up or down for a coach, and even if they are, they aren't going to take that fight to the newspapers.

Not so for the Florida Marlins:

Pitching coach Rick Kranitz has left the Marlins because of what sources described as a dispute over his salary for next season . . .[Fredi] Gonzalez had said Sunday that he expected the entire staff to return. Beinfest said Kranitz last week was offered a contract and raise for 2008, but would not elaborate. Kranitz's current salary is not publicly known, but a source said the Marlins offered him a $5,000 raise. Kranitz thought he deserved more, the source said. Another source said at least one other coach wasn't happy with his raise but was not angry enough to leave.

Look, if you're a pitching coach and your pitching staff goes from fifth best in the NL to dead last in one season you should count your blessings that you're not getting canned, and making a fuss over a bubkis raise may be inadvisable. That said, it reflects pretty poorly on the Marlins as an organization that they are so publicly nickeling-and-diming coaches. Unless of course they are simply broke in which case maybe they should consider a move to a better market.

Oh wait . . .

Perspective in Cleveland

The always-reliable Terry Pluto takes a walk down memory lane to a time when being an Indians fan, while always enjoyable on some level, wasn't nearly as rewarding as it is today:

From 1960 to 1993, the Indians never played a meaningful game in September. They never won more than 86 games. In those 34 seasons, they had six winning records and 18 different managers.

We had a stadium where the sinks leaked, the toilets didn't always flush and parts of the old runways smelled like an animal died but no one could find the corpse. We had one good year of "Super" Joe Charboneau in 1980. We had Larvell Blanks being so upset with manager Frank Robinson that the infielder known as Sugar Bear threw his uniform in a trash can and lit it on fire. We had Bozo the Clown once throwing out the first pitch. We had deodorant being given out to fans on Mother's Day. We had 70,000 fans for Opening Day and barely 5,000 in the stands for the games the rest of April . . .

. . . But most of us never had a team like this when growing up, and it helps to remember that.

Backing In

As the season winds down there has been a lot of talk about how the Red Sox, Mets, and the Padres are sputtering and clanging their way into the post season (if they're lucky, anyway). It's probably worth mentioning, however, that out of all of the teams that would make the playoffs if things were to end today, the Padres are the only ones without a winning record over their last 20 games, and even they are at .500 as the bulldog goes to press.

For fun, let's look at how the world champs from the past decade wound up the regular season (record is for the final 20 games):

2006 St. Louis Cardinals: 8-12
2005 Chicago White Sox: 12-8
2004 Boston Red Sox: 12-8
2003 Florida Marlins: 14-6
2002 Anaheim Angels: 11-9
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks: 12-8
2000 New York Yankees: 5-15
1999 New York Yankees: 13-7
1998 New York Yankees: 13-7
1997 Florida Marlins: 8-12

Three teams won it all despite finishing below .500 in their final twenty, with the 2000 Yankees serving as the gold standard for backing their way in.

Does it help to be hot late? Sure -- seven out of the last ten champs were playing winning baseball as the season wore down -- but it's not essential, and none of the current crop of contenders should be written off simply because they back their way in.

UPDATE: OK, maybe we can write off the Padres. Which only helps my point here, because the Phillies are 13-7 in their last 20. Helps my point in the previous post too, as Philly is a much larger television market than is San Diego.

FOX, TBS Printing Money

It's looking like it will be a lucrative postseason for TBS and FOX:

Thanks to robust advertiser demand, Fox has pre-sold about 90% of its spots in the World Series and the American League Championship Series, and TBS is more than 80% sold for all of its games in the postseason divisional-baseball series and the National League Championship Series.

"A number of categories are driving the spending, including consumer electronics, automotive and entertainment companies," said John Rash, senior VP of Campbell Mithun, the media buyer.

Helps to have both New York teams, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles represented in the playoffs. By the way, that sound you hear is the Fox brain trust rooting for Philly to pass San Diego for the Wild Card.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Boras Tampering? That's Unpossible.

Clearly Scott Boras didn't become Scott Boras by being stupid, so I am highly skeptical of the stories about him talking to the potential new owner of the Cubs about signing Alex Rodriguez. He knows talking about A-Rod's future prior to actually exercising the opt-out is against the rules even if John Canning, the Cubs' likely future owner, doesn't. Even if he does risk having such a conversation, Boras is savvy enough to have set it up in such a way that no one could ever prove that he was within three states of Canning during A-Rod's lifetime, let alone discussed his contractual status.

Speaking of Canning, given what we know about how owners are chosen, I am not surprised to learn that the front runner to land the Cubs is a Friend Of Bud's. I am somewhat surprised to learn that the man who will likely soon be signing checks for the Cubs is also the CEO of the company that will soon own the Topps Baseball Card Company. It's always good when you can corner the market on something, but for a guy with as much money as he seems to have, you'd think that he could find a better market to corner than that of venerable, yet underachieving mediocrities.

Meanwhile, Mark Cuban sets his sights on Upper Deck and the Yankees . . .

Barry's Perks

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the special treatment Barry Bonds received from the Giants over the years. Most of it -- the recliner, the personal trainers, etc. -- you've heard before. Here's one I hadn't heard:

Bonds received preferential treatment before he wore his first Giants uniform. Shortly after first signing the outfielder to baseball's richest contract, six years and $43.75 million, the Giants showed in a surprising announcement just how willing they were to do Bonds a favor. They were giving him Willie Mays' number.

The Yankees never offered Mickey Mantle No. 3 (Babe Ruth's number), and the Braves never considered giving Andruw Jones No. 44 (Hank Aaron's number). A retired number is a retired number. But Bonds was going to wear 24, the number the great Mays wore during his cherished career as a Giant.

Though Bonds never got to wear 24 - fans and columnists complained, and he settled on 25, which his dad, Bobby, wore - the groundwork was laid. Bonds wasn't just a special player on the field but someone who'd receive special favors off the field from an organization going to great lengths to satisfy the game's premier player.

Seems crazy now, but I can't recall all that much of a stink being raised that the time. Maybe that's because stinks were smaller back in 1992 given that no one aside from some research scientists and a handful of assorted geeks were online then and thus things weren't so easily blown out of proportion. That aside, I'm struck by two thoughts upon reading this article:

1) I don't really have a problem with giving a special player -- and I mean a truly once-in-a-lifetime player like Bonds -- special perks. Barry was unequivocally the best player in baseball at the time he was signed by the Giants and remained so for the length of his tenure. If I were running the team I would have given him a fifth locker and a spare ottoman if he asked for one. While some people would say that such preferential treatment sows division, my response would be "coffee is for closers." You want to be treated like Barry? Play like Barry. It's really that simple.

2) If you're in the business of bestowing perks, you had best remain prepared to take them away lest you cede all of your authority. The line should have been drawn at allowing suspected steroid traffickers like Greg Anderson onto the premises. MLB and the Giants did background checks on the guy. They knew the score, but continued to let him in the clubhouse. It's naive to think that Bonds wouldn't have had access to and used steroids if these guys were barred from the premises, but at least the Giants and, by extension, Major League Baseball itself wouldn't be implicated in all of this, as they most certainly are.

And this, more than his sociopathic personality or ego is why Barry Bonds has remained so calm about the steroid controversy swirling around him for the past several years. He knows, as anyone who has thought much about the issue should know, that he is not dangling by himself. The Giants and Major League Baseball are as well, and if George Mitchell or anyone else affiliated with baseball decides to make an example out of him, everyone gets hurt, because no one would take a stand when it mattered.

That leaves public scorn as the only arrow in the quiver of those who seek to take Bonds down. Public scorn, however, is something Barry has been dealing with since long before anyone had heard of the cream and the clear, and it bounces off of him like Gatorade bounces off of a stain-proofed recliner.
Barry's safe, and he knows it.

Someone Please Tell Felipe That It's Not A Real Job

A nice story from the New York Times about the relationship between Alous Felipe and Moises. The opening hook has me scratching my head, though:

But Felipe Alou, the proud, disciplined father, ultimately decided not to come and watch Moises Alou, his son, scald hits for a team that is wrestling for a division title. Alou is a special assistant with the San Francisco Giants, and he said he felt uncomfortable being in attendance as a Giant who has an obvious interest in one of the Mets.

“It’s kind of awkward when you’re working for another team, even if it’s your son,” Felipe said.
Felipe Alou was basically kicked upstairs by the Giants after last season, when he was fired as manager and rehired for the special assistant's role. A role, it should be noted, that was more or less promised to him as a retirement incentive back when he was hired to manage the Giants in 2002, as opposed to one that was filled by someone prior to Alou assuming it. A role, it should be noted, which doesn't require him to leave his home in Boynton Beach, Florida.

In other words, though it's a position for a man who has been important to the Giants for decades, it's a figurehead position. One in which, one presumes, Felipe can do as much or as little as he'd like, and if the choice is between doing absolutely nothing and constantly calling Brian Sabean with advice, Sabean would likely prefer the former.

Given all of that, I suspect that Felipe's reluctance to go watch his son play the Marlins has way more to do with not wanting to be seen attending a baseball game in Miami -- which is an almost universal feeling in south Florida -- than it does with worrying about being disloyal.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Good Yontif, Mr. Braun

It's after sundown, Yom Kippur has begun, and Ryan Braun is in the lineup.

What that means for his soul is between him and his God. It's a net plus for the Brewers, however, as Braun is 2 for 4 and, as of the top of the eighth, has scored the go-ahead run against the Braves.

A Naming Rights Crisis in Cleveland

There's a reason why the Cleveland Indians are having so hard a time finding a naming rights partner for their stadium that they need to hire an outside search firm: Most of the largest local companies (i.e. potential naming rights partners) have awful names or simply don't fit for some reason or another.

Don't believe me? Here's a list of the largest companies in Cleveland and an assessment of their suitability as a naming rights partner:

The Progressive Corporation: "Progressive Field" is probably the best of the bunch -- very New Dealy/WPA, no? Unfortunately, Progressive is known for offering quotes of its competitors along with its own quote. If you call the ticket office at Progressive Field, who's to say that they won't tell you that your entertainment dollar would be better spent that evening by going to see Portia Surreal at the Velvet Dog ?

National City Corporation: The name sounds banky and everything, but it's kind of oxymoronic when applied to a stadium, isn't it? That aside, given their recent troubles, they probably aren't about to splurge on a stadium name.

Eaton Corporation: They're big, they have money, they seem stable, and the name is generally inoffensive. Given the wide-ranging nature of their business, however -- the description of their core business consists of a 53-word, three semi-colon sentence -- they seem a bit above the whole naming-rights milieu. They're like a real world Extensive Enterprises, and if I'm a Tribe fan, the last two people I want to see in the owners' box are Xamot and Tomax.

The Sherwin-Williams Company: I use their paint, but the logo and slogan is a bit anachronistic. In this age of overly-sensitive plaintiff's lawyers and environmentalists, they may be better advised to simply say "cover your wall" or something. Then again, that may interrupt a longstanding project.

Keycorp: As the single largest client of Shyster's law firm, allow me to say how perfect and utterly appropriate it would be for Key's gleaming name to appear on one of our nation's finest ballparks, and how much its sterling reputation would add to the glory of Indians baseball.

The Travelcenters Of America Foundation: They should buy the naming rights to the road games.

T&A Operating Corporation: If the people of Phoenix rejected "Pink Taco" for their new football stadium, I can't see a Midwestern, working-class city like Cleveburg getting cozy with T&A.

The Cleveland Clinic: It's all good until Sizemore, Hafner, and Sabathia wind up on the disabled list at the same time some year, at which point the jokes and puns will grow brutal in a hurry. While we're talking about the Cleveland Clinic, I'd like to note that about six or seven years ago, I went there with a close friend to visit his father who was in the ICU with heart trouble. After our visit but before heading home, we stopped in the lobby of the finest heart hospital in the world to get a quick bite to eat. The restaurant: McDonald's. Talk about synergy!

Nacco Industries, Inc.: I worry about the impact such a name would have on team chemistry. Nacco manufactures lift trucks, mines coal, and makes toasters. These things don't seem to go together, do they?

Officemax North America, Inc: "Tonight, the Indians take on the Tigers AT THE MAX!!!" OK, I kind of like this one.

Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc.: According to their website, AIT has seven "core values" as a corporation: Honesty, Integrity, Caring/Fairness (that's two, but we'll let that slide), Openness, Quality Dedication, Promise Keeping, and Personal Mastery. Look, that may be great and all, but if they're really committed to all of those admirable things, they can't possibly be making any money. Naming rights are expensive, and are thus only affordable to amoral companies thirsting for cash above all else. Sorry, AIT.

American Greetings Corporation: It sounds friendly and welcoming, and their cards are quite nice, but my sense is that the hardcore sports fan isn't going to get behind the idea of American Greetings Stadium, any more than he'd get behind the idea of striking a deal with the 1-800-Flowers people.

Ferro Corporation: "Ferro Field" has a nice ring to it, but this is like the fifth one of these companies that break the Lloyd Dobler rule -- they buy, sell, and process a lot of things that are processed, sold, and bought -- yet never by individual people. Spending money on naming rights for this kind of company will have exactly the same effect on consumers as those BASF commercials several years ago. Even if they make the things I use better, they don't make anything that I use, and I can no more easily drive to Target and purchase a box of Ferro as I can buy a gross of BASFs. If I was a shareholder of one of these companies and I heard they spent millions on naming rights, I'd probably consider a lawsuit.

So, pretty slim pickings in Cleveland. Seems like nothing could work. In that case, how about this, Larry Dolan: permanently retire the offensive and degrading Chief Wahoo, partner with a real Indian tribe (of the non-casino owning variety) and give the place a name that celebrates and honors Native American heritage. It may not make you any money, but it would be a wonderful thing to do, no?

The Unbearable Lightness of Tomáš Čása

The playoffs are starting!

In the Czech Republic, that is:

Krč Altron worked hard to hang on to the crucial third-place slot in the Extraliga baseball league, keeping them out of harm’s way, or rather, out of the path of Draci Brno during semifinal play. Now, as the playoffs begin, the team must contend with MZLU Brno — and likely without star right fielder Tomáš Čása . . .But the possible loss of Čása — a .313 hitter with five outfield assists — to graduate school in the Netherlands could weaken the chances of Krč’s modest lineup against MZLU’s Leoš Kubát (7-1, 1.01) and Vojtěch Jelínek (3-0, 1.60).

Far be it from me to disparage the quality of the Czech league, but if your star right fielder is going to skip the playoffs for grad school, you may not yet be a major league. You don't see Vlad doing that anyway.

But hey, relegation!

The playoffs pit 12-time champion Draci Brno against fourth-place Arrows Ostrava, while Krč tussles with MZLU. Winners of each five-game series advance to the Czech World Series in October. Meanwhile, the league’s bottom-dwellers battle it out to avoid being cast into next month’s relegation series against top teams from the second division.
Which frankly, I prefer to the single elimination play we have here in the States. After all, Einmal ist keinmal.

"Living La Vida Sosa"

Not my words, Sammy's:
If things don't work out in Texas, Sosa plans to play somewhere. He is confident other teams would call him . . . And if not, Sosa could go back to what he was doing during his year away from baseball. "When I wasn't playing, I was having a good time too," Sosa said. "I was living la vida Sosa."
The only thing that makes me cringe more than "living la vida Sosa" is the prospect of someone giving Sammy "living la vida .253/.308/.467" Sosa a roster spot next season.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Braves "shut out" Marlins

That word you keep using; I do not think it means what you think it means:

From an AP wire report on, though I presume it will have been changed by the time you click the link.

Easing Back Into Things After a Brief Absence

No, not me. I just went a day without blogging. I'm talking about the guy writing for the Christian Science Monitor who is "trying to become a baseball fan again," after not caring a lick about it since 1970. It's my guess that if one has been able to survive that long without baseball -- most of us get the shakes simply trying to make it from November to February -- one probably doesn't need it in one's life all that much.

But while I'll admit I'm having trouble relating to the guy, I wish him well all the same. What's more, if this guy insists on trying to reacquaint himself with the game after being away so long, it's the least I can do to provide him with a general overview of how the game has changed in the past 37 years that will help him ease back into things:

  • Since you've been gone, the Yankees have gone from bad to good to OK to bad to good to obnoxiously good to overrated yet annoyingly still good;

  • When last you cared about baseball, the Pirates and Orioles were the class of the game. That has changed somewhat;

  • Two state of the art stadiums opened up in 1970; Three Rivers and Riverfront. The state of the art was in a pretty sorry state in those days;

  • As is the case today, the average Major League baseball player in 1970 made multiple times the salary of hard working everyday Americans. The difference is that in 1970 that multiple was around four while today that multiple is around forty-seven;

Not that there aren't some things that are still exactly the same as they were in 1970. Vin Scully's still around. No one likes Pete Rose. Jim Edmonds was fragile and Royce Clayton couldn't hit, although in 1970 that was because they were infants. Julio Franco is contemplating retirement. It's really the same game.

With that, I wish the author good luck. Perhaps we can even kick off his return to the game with a friendly wager: I'll give him 100-1 odds on a Senators-Expos World Series.

Who had September 19th in the pool?

Talk about long odds. I would have guessed that Griffey's season-ending injury would have come in May or June. Still, you gotta hand it to Junior for demonstrating that year-in-year-out consistency we've all come to admire.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rain(making) Delay

Shyster laments the fact that he can't devote himself full time to writing about baseball, as doing so would make Shyster extraordinarily happy (and would likely triple his output). But, alas, that isn't yet possible, and on occasion, Shyster has to toil for The Man. Today is one of those occasions.

Shyster will strive to be back on the ball this afternoon. In the meantime, enrich the right side of your brain by checking out Josh Wilker over at Cardboard Gods and enrich the left side of your brain with Maury Brown at the Biz of Baseball. If comparative studies are more your bag, here's a fun exercise: compare and contrast the ways in which bloggers for disappointing teams cope. Here's denial and here's schadenfreude.

See you later today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

But Beckett Has Them at $425 Million (MT only!)

Topps shareholders are urged to reject the latest $375 million buyout offer:

Tornante Co, run by Michael Eisner, former chief executive of Walt Disney Co. and buyout firm Madison Dearborn said in a statement that the price was "more than a full and fair price" for the baseball card company.

"If Topps shareholders feel differently and vote against our deal this week, we wish them well, but our price is final and we will not increase it," the investor group added.

Shareholders are due to vote on the deal on Wednesday. A number of proxy advisory firms have advised investors to vote down the deal, including Proxy Governance Inc, which argued the deal did not appear to place a fair value on Topps.

Seems the difference in value comes down to the existence of gum stains and some worn corners on the stock certificates. None of this would have been an issue if someone at Topps had remembered the hard lessons of 1971 and not used black borders. Sources close to the transaction opine that a deal may still be reached, however, if Torante and Madison Dearborn are willing to throw in a stack of commons that would fulfill many of the outstanding items on the shareholders' want-lists.

(LaCock goodness stolen from Josh Wilker, and will be removed if he deigns it so)

Ken Holtzman Brings the Noise

Back in June, I noted that former A's and Cubs starter Ken Holtzman's managerial debut -- at the helm of Petah Tikva of the Israeli Baseball League -- wasn't exactly one for the ages. Following that game, his Pioneers went on to lose another 31 of 40, finishing dead last in the IBL's inaugural season.

Normally when a team performs that poorly, the manager will talk about the progress he saw as the season progressed, maybe going so far as to make a modestly optimistic prediction for next year. What say you, Ken Holtzman?

The playing fields . . ."would reach the level of high schools in our country." The teams were "chosen at random and in a strange manner." As for the players, Holtzman said, "none can reach even semipro baseball in the United States."

"There is no chance that baseball will succeed in Israel," Holtzman went on. "People here relate to baseball the way people in America relate to soccer. They see it as something very boring, and it will never catch on. You can't make a big impression because there is no culture of baseball, and the facilities are the worst possible."

Holtzman also heaped criticism on league organizers, whom he accused of rushing into the first year of play without proper preparation on the ground. "They opened the league a year too soon," he said. "They should have waited."

Ok then, it sounds like Kenny wasn't fond of his time in the IBL.

The landscaper with whom Holtzman seems so upset is Geller Sport, Inc., a New England company which was given the "field engineering" credit for the IBL. A quick review of Gellar's athletic facility CV reveals an arguably thin client list, but in their defense, they are clients who are likely able to be a bit more liberal with the sprinklers than those in Ra'anana and Modi'in. Holtzman had to expect some divots, right?

What about the overall criticism of the IBL, its organization, and management? The IBL's Director of Baseball Operations, you may recall, is none other than Dan Duquette. Members of the league's advisory committee may be familiar to some of you too: Bud Selig, Wendy Selig-Prieb, Randy Levine, Andrew Zimbalist, and a man whose reporting I pumped up in this space merely a week ago, one Martin Abramowitz.

These are all people who should kinda know what they're doing. As such, if Holztman's criticisms are even 50% accurate, and the talent and organization of the IBL leaves as much as he says is to be desired, it seems like these folks have a lot of 'splainin' to do.

Wither 756?

Mark Ecko of Ecko Unlimited has purchased home run 756 and plans to give fans a chance to vote whether to:

a) Give it to the Hall of Fame as-is;

b) Brand an asterisk into the hide of the ball with a hot iron, and deliver it to Cooperstown in that condition; or

c) Blast it into space on a rocket.

Ecko says he's doing this to "democratize the debate over what to do with it . . . the idea that some of the best athletes in the country are forced to decide between being competitive and staying natural is troubling."

I know what you're saying: "Blah, blah, grandstanding, attention-whoring blah."

But don't doubt the Ecko! This isn't the first time he has purchased a rarity at auction and followed it up with grand promises. Last year he was the winning bidder on two white rhinos, which he pledged to place in a permanent safe-haven. Seems that there was no truth to that rhino steak party rumor those dudes from FUBU were spreading, and the rhinos are now living as large as anyone can expect to live in a place like Oregon.

So I guess what I'm saying here is that if you vote for (b) know damn well that Ecko ain't playin'.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Don't Hate Don Sutton Because He's Beautiful

The Washington Nationals held a baseball clinic for women on Saturday.

It was called "Baseball 101," and the participants heard from virtually every member of the coaching staff as they explained the aspect of the game they coach. It was also an opportunity to reach out to a different portion of the fan base. This was the first time the event had been held, and Al Maldon, vice president of external affairs, said that the team would continue to sell women on baseball and softball.

Fair enough. And it sounds, more or less, like they had an interested and, in some cases, knowledgeable group of women taking the clinic. Then someone let Don Sutton talk:

After the clinic, Nationals TV broadcasters were the featured guests at a lunch for the participants. Carpenter and Don Sutton, as well as reporter Debbi Taylor, spoke and took questions from the audience. Sutton talked about his playing days, but emphasized a record he claimed to hold that the female audience would appreciate. "I was the first player to bring a hair dryer into the locker room," he said.

You know, I'm not nearly as upset at Sutton for condescending to a female audience by talking about hair care as much as I am shocked at the fact that he, of all people, doesn't know that you're supposed to let permed hair air dry.

I can't wait to see Rick Ankiel's commercial

Shawne Merriman gets a Nike spot that celebrates superior -- one may even say enhanced -- speed, strength, and stamina. But don't worry -- it's OK if a steroid-user is featured in a commercial if he's a football player. The NFL has had its testing in place a few years longer, so he's not a bad influence on kids the way a baseball player would be.

In other news, as long as you are a football player, you can be accused of a double murder, plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges in connection with that murder, testify in a murder trial against your buddies who were standing next to you at the time of the killings, and a few years later, quietly settle the wrongful death claims brought by the orphaned children of the murder victims and still sign a lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armor.

Barry Bonds, however, is still marketing poison.

The White Rat Speaks

Whitey Herzog, interviewed on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Cardinal's 1987 NL championship. As usual, Whitey is good for some fun:

Despite losing, he said, he enjoyed that World Series. "We didn't play with (Jack) Clark or (Terry) Pendleton, who were about 60 percent of our RBIs and our home runs," he said. "I'm not making excuses, because injuries are part of baseball. But God almighty, it was kind of embarrassing some of the nights the lineup we had to put out there."

Well, Clark and Pendleton were 27% of the RBIs and 50% of the team's home runs, but the point is well-taken. I'll admit, that even though I watched that entire World Series (age 14) I had completely forgotten that the Cards went into battle without Jack Clark and his 173 OPS+ that October, only to be replaced by the likes of Jim Lindeman and Dan Driessen. If it weren't for the air conditioning in the Metrodome and the absence of Jack Clark, methinks St. Louis would have won that sucker.

Herzog's voice grew louder. "Now, let me ask you something," he said. "Am I right, they're building a new stadium, but it's going to be an outdoor stadium?" That's right, Whitey. "Oh, jeez," he said. "I can remember playing those games in Bloomington (outside at Metropolitan Stadium). Gawd dang that place was cold, because that wind was predominant, came from the right-field corner to the left-field corner, and we were in that third-base dugout. That was something. "When I saw that they finally passed that thing to build a stadium, I was hoping they would build a nice, retractable roof stadium.

You and me both, Whitey. I'm guessing that the Brewers are going to make some dough in the coming years hosting early-season snowouts for the Twins.

"You know, I was talking to Red Schoendienst the other day, and he said they had
just had their 50th anniversary of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves," Herzog said. "Now, how many of those gol-darn guys are still living? Think about that! They all got to be 80 or more! When you think about that, that's something.

Until I read that I would have bet you $1000 that Red Schoendienst was no longer alive. Looking now I see that he's "only" 84, but I distinctly remember having a 1965 Topps Red Schoendienst card in which he looked no less than 60 years old.

Oh, and to answer Whitey's question, seven of the eight everyday starters from the 1957 Braves are still living (R.I.P Eddie Mathews and Bill Bruton), but four of the five starters and the relief ace have gone on to the great bullpen in the sky. Overall, the mortality rate for guys who played for the 1957 Braves is 44.7%. It's 100% for managers, with Fred Haney's death in 1977 really skewing that number.

"Now, you think about this 20th anniversary. How many of those guys do you think
will be around 30 years from now?"

At present all of the 1987 Cardinals are still alive. I'll start the bidding, however, at Bob Forsch and Doug DeCinces (both 57).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Equity Seat Rights

An Chicago entrepreneur wants to fund new baseball stadiums by combining the demand for, say, Florida Marlins tickets with the attractiveness of today's real estate market:

Lou Weisbach has a solution: sell seats to fans on a multiyear or permanent basis, just as if they were real estate. Here's how it works: Fans contract with teams to own their seats for a set period - from five years to ten years to perpetuity - at a fixed price, paying in a lump sum annually. The teams, in turn, get a reliable source of cash flow to pay down debt or fund new stadium projects.

. . . Fans could then pay up to trick out their seats just as they would invest in improving a home, with leather cushioning and seat-side instant-replay screens. Stadium Capital will also help establish secondary markets for fans to sell their seats at market prices. So if the team does well and demand for seats rises, fans can cash in.

If you think the mortgage industry is in trouble now, just wait until companies start extending interest-only ARM loans to Marlins fans who want to install a La-Z-boy on the club level of Loria Stadium.

Mel Hall

Former major leaguer Mel Hall once said of his time playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines that "we just don't look fearsome out there in pink and white."

How do you feel about blaze orange, Mel?

Congress in Bed with Major League Baseball

Literally: North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad is married to MLB lobbyist Lucy Calautti. This is no revelation, obviously, as a quick Google search reveals that this has been footnoted in stories about baseball's relationship with Congress for several years. But hey: new to me!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why Mark Cuban Will Never Own a Baseball Team

Evan Weiner of the New York Sun talks about how cool it would be to have a third Major League team in New York, and then hits on exactly what will prevent it from happening:

Another obstacle is a 1922 Supreme Court ruling that granted baseball an anti-trust exemption and monopoly status. One of the effects of the 1922 ruling is that owners can block any franchise shift . . .The only recourse in overturning the 1922 ruling is to get Congress to write new legislation and have the President sign it into law. There seems to be no incentive for anyone in Congress, though, to overturn the ruling to put another team in the area, nor does there seem to be any willingness from any owner to sue his fellow owners.

Of course the reason why there is no willingness on the part of any owners to sue to overturn Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National Baseball Clubs is because Selig has made it a priority to block anyone but his closest buddies and those who wouldn't think of rocking the boat from purchasing teams during his tenure. If you don't believe me, ask yourself: if you were the owner of a team that had a stadium that looked like this (and that is a picture taken during yesterday's Marlins-Nats game) wouldn't you want to move to New Jersey or sue for the right to do so? You wouldn't if you were Jeff Loria, however, because you owe everything you have to Selig and the sweetheart deals that got you out of Montreal, down to Miami, and no doubt garnered you all kinds of other treats we don't know about.

Baseball's antitrust exemption is about the biggest sitting duck in Anglo-American jurisprudence. While baseball has successfully fought off challenges to their golden goose on occasion, none of the subsequent cases have strengthened Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore in any appreciable way, and in reality, it's hanging by a thread.

The 1953 case of Toolson v. New York Yankees, Inc. represented a strained "well, we don't suppose Congress meant to include Baseball when it wrote the law" analysis that simply wouldn't fly with today's Supreme Court. Later cases characterized the exemption as "an anomaly" (Flood v. Kuhn in 1972) or went so far as to actually hold (on the trial court level anyway) that the exemption doesn't apply to relocation (Piazza v. Major League Baseball in 1993), only to have the court punt to Congress in the former instance or have the case melt away due to a settlement/payoff in the latter. The other sports -- hockey, football, basketball, golf, boxing -- have repeatedly tried to get the same sweetheart deal from the courts in the past, and have been rebuffed every single time because, unlike the Supreme Court in 1922, latter courts have tended to, you know, actually apply the damn law.

If there was an honest to goodness controversy regarding baseball's antitrust exemption before the courts -- a case in which an even moderately litigious owner was trying to move his team to Newark or Schaumburg or San Jose, only to be rebuffed by Major League Baseball -- the antitrust exemption would go away faster than you could say "Al Davis." That won't happen, however, because Bud Selig won't let anyone he doesn't trust on this point into the exclusive club that would grant someone standing to sue.

UPDATE (November 7, 2008): My thinking about all of this has evolved in the 13 months since I wrote it. Fresher takes can be found here and here.

Dodgers To Celebrate 50 Years in LA LA Land

It will be one big celebration next year in Los Angeles:

The Dodgers will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 2008, with a float in the Rose Parade and a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame.

"Baseball truly became a national pastime when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles," Jamie McCourt, who owns the team with her husband Frank, said Wednesday. "Many Angelenos fell in love with baseball when they fell in love with the Dodgers."

Bah. They'll still have four fewer years and three fewer pennants in L.A. than the old PCL Los Angeles Angels.

Each month of next season the Dodgers will highlight a decade of the team's history in Los Angeles. In April, they will mark the 1950s, in May the 1960s, in June the 1970s, in July the 1980s, in August the 1990s and in September, the team will host a reunion of Dodger players.

Wow, the throwback jerseys for each decade should be awesome! Remember those wacky 1960s jerseys? How about those crazy 70s jerseys? And who could forget the 80s and 90s threads?

Beginning Wednesday, fans can vote online for the top 50 moments in Dodgers' history and the all-time Los Angeles team, with results revealed next year.

I'm not sure about the 50 moments (Gibson's dinger would have to be number 1, right?), but here's my stab at an all-time L.A. Dodgers team:

C: Piazza. And it's not even close.

1B: Garvey. Yeah, he's Satan and all, but who was better in L.A. than him?

2B: Lopes. You were expecting Lenny Harris?

3B: Cey. Sensing a pattern? I guess I could break up the 1970s crew and put Guerrero here, but I don't think I could bear to see that defense.

SS: Maury Wills. One of the most overrated players ever, but at least he occasionally posted an OPS+ above league average, which is more than one can say about Bill Russell. Things I didn't know: Pee Wee Reese hung around for on season in Los Angeles. Intellectually I knew that he started in 1940 and lasted for 18 or 19 years, so I probably should have deduced that he made the move out west, but I can't bring myself to picture him in a hat that doesn't have a little B on it.

RF: Reggie Smith. Didn't play in L.A. as long as some other guys, but had some fine years.

CF: Willie Davis. Of course, we're only in year one of the Juan Pierre Epoch, so Davis is probably just keepin' it warm . . .

LF: While he was really only the primary starter in left for one season (1987) I gotta hide Guerrero somewhere. Sorry, Dusty, Kirk, and Tommy.

Ah, the pitchers. This is much easier.

SP: Koufax
SP: Drysdale
SP: Sutton
SP: Valenzuela
SP: Hershiser
CL: Gagne

MGR: Walt Alston. Yeah, Lasorda has a couple of years in L.A. on Alston, and yeah, more people tend to associate L.A. Dodger baseball with Lasorda (Alston first made his bones in Brooklyn) but Alston had the decency to pass away twenty-three years ago. Lasorda is still alive, and if he gets voted on to that all-time team, that's just going to give him an opportunity to spout off about some damn thing or another, and who wants that?

Fun fact: Did you know that, despite winning nine pennants, the Los Angeles Dodgers have only won 100 games twice? I was surprised to see that. In that same 50-year span, the Yankees have won 100 games nine times. The Braves have won that many games six times. The Orioles and A's five times. The Reds, Tigers, Mets and Giants did it three times. Like the Dodgers, the Phillies did it twice, followed by a handful of single-timers. If you had asked me that two hours ago, I would have bet serious money that the Dodgers had done it more than any of those teams except the Yankees and the Braves.

At this point I think it's safe to say that I've gone about as deep into the Dodgers as I care to without the participation of Alyssa Milano, so that, as they say, is that.


A story about the struggles, and occasional successes, of Cuban baseball players in the United States. Seems that while agents and scouts salivate at the prospect of tapping into the allegedly rich Cuban baseball talent pool, successes have been few and far between.

I have never understood why so many people assume that Cuban baseball talent is on a different, higher level than talent from other places and that, by gum, once they finally confirm that Castro is dead, the floodgates will open and high-end Cuban talent will flow like water onto major league rosters. I suppose it has to do with the knowledge of how baseball-crazy Cuba is combined with the fact that so few players have actually made their way to the United States compared to, say, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. That makes for a pretty blank canvass onto which people inevitably paint pictures in overly-optimistic hues.

But if the example of the Dominican Republic has taught us anything, it has taught us that talent, while abundant, doesn't simply hang low from the trees, waiting for scouts to pluck it. The teams that have had success in the Dominican are the teams that have really worked the island, spending countless hours scouting and countless millions on baseball academies and signing bonuses.

Why anyone suspects it will be any different in Cuba is beyond me. The population of the Dominican Republic is not all that much smaller than Cuba's. While no Shangri-la, The D.R. is more prosperous than Cuba, which is likely to translate to more kids playing ball than working in fields or begging in the streets. As was the case with the D.R. (and Texas, Florida, and California for that matter), the teams that do the best in Cuba will be the ones that put the most effort and money into scouting and player development. The talent will come, but it will take a lot of time to fully mature, I think.

There are no free lunches when it comes to developing talent.

Christine Brennan's Double Standard

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan has a curious double standard when it comes to cheating in baseball vs. cheating in football.

When it comes to steroids in baseball, Brennan's tone is one of betrayal as she tries to imagine a world that has not gone mad and where children aren't corrupted while desperately trying to imagine how wonderful everything would have been if this horrible nightmare hadn't occurred:

Think, for a moment, about how different our view of steroids in sports would be if we never knew that Barry Bonds said he took performance-enhancing drugs. Can you picture how this nation's lack of knowledge on a topic as important as steroid use might have played out? . . . Instead, we know . . . Parents know. Children know. Coaches and teachers know . . . The U.S. Congress knows and has held hearings that have revealed to us the true character of at least two other former heroes, McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro . . .What the Chronicle did — unwittingly of course, by just breaking the news — was trigger a nationwide awareness of a steroid problem that has trickled down to our children in numbers far too large to ignore.

When it comes to Belichick's videotaping of the Jets' signals -- which, unlike steroids before 2004, is clearly in violation of explicit NFL rules -- Brennan laughs it off as an "antic" and takes a walk down memory lane:

But no one should be surprised. There's cheating in the NFL? That's news? Wouldn't it be more newsworthy if there were no cheating in the NFL? New England, in particular, has developed a bit of a history for this kind of antic. Once every 25 years, the Patriots produce a head coach who decides that he must use all the technology available to him to win a football game.

In recalling the famous snow plow game against the Dolphins from 1982, Brennan adopts the tone of a father who catches his son stashing Playboys between the mattresses. "That little rapscallion! Heh, I guess he thought he'd pull a fast one on me [flip, flip, flip] . . .ah, I remember when I was 14 . . ."

I would have no problem with the double standard if Brennan would make an effort to explain the basis for it. Instead, even in the Belichick column, she makes a passing reference to steroids as being in a class all their own, while practically laughing off all other forms of cheating as "antics" that, while worthy of punishment, don't' cause her to implore us to think of the children.

While one could very well mount a legitimate case that steroids represent a different and more sinister form of cheating than secret videotaping, spitballs, pine tar, and other forms of rule-breaking and trickery, Brennan can't be bothered to make it. As such, one is left to wonder if her differing treatment of the two issues is based on a preference for football over baseball, a preference for Bill Belichick over Barry Bonds, or both.

What say you, Christine?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will Glavine Stay or Will he Go?

If you read the NY Post yesterday, you were left with the impression that Glavine is most likely coming back for another season in 2008. A more expansive story on, however, makes it sound much more like he will retire:

"If I felt good at the end of the year, it would be hard to walk away," Glavine said. "But I also know I want to be home more, too . . . Last year, it was more about whether or not I was coming back here. This year, I think it's whether or not I'm playing the game of baseball. That's a different decision, and I think it's a bigger decision for me to make."

I can't tell if the Post was cherry-picking quotes to make it sound like Glavine is more likely to stay or if the story came from a different, backpedaling interview with Glavine. It sounds to me, however, that the fundamental questions have changed for Glavine, and unlike prior years he is now actually considering his will to play. Yes, he implies that falling short of a championship might lead him to come back again, but it's not like Glavine doesn't already have a World Series ring and, perhaps more importantly, played the key role in the deciding game of that World Series.

If I had to bet, I'd bet that Glavine retires this fall. He has his 300 wins. He has accomplished everything he can in the game. And, while the New York press often says that he has established a new home-away-from-home in New York, the prospect of leaving Atlanta a few years ago had him in tears, and the family still lives there.

If I'm Tom Glavine, I'd think that it's a good time to go home.

Wait, Guillen was Holding Back?

Ozzie Guillen gets an extension. And cites one of the reasons for the White Sox' troubles this year:

"This is the worst summer I've had because I was too soft," said Guillen. "I was kind of worried about what people were going to say about me. I could care less what people say as long as I win."

Yeah, it's been a shame seeing Ozzie keeping it all bottled up inside. It's always the same with those strong, silent types, playing it close to the vest, keeping that stiff upper lip until, one day, all of those suppressed feelings come flooding out in words or deeds that will soon be regretted. I mean, just look at the tragic repression and clipped words of this tortured soul, obviously in anguish over what people will think about him:

Oh, shut the [deleted] up!" Guillen barked. "I know you like A.J. but there's no reason for you to make lineups and [deleted]."

"I don't care what A.J. thinks," Guillen said. "I make the best lineup. I want to find out what Toby Hall can do for this ballclub, find out right away how we are going to use him. I never said A.J. was in a platoon."

"Believe me, I'm tired of you guys and this bull[deleted] every god[deleted] day."

North cut Guillen off: "Hey, Ozzie, clean up your mouth. Clean up your damn mouth when you're talking on the radio and talking to me. Have a little respect, all right? Don't go talking to me like you're talking down to somebody."

"Don't you ever talk down to me. Don't ever talk to me like I'm some ... Yeah, you better hang up the damn phone."

Thank God he's seen the error of his ways and plans to let loose going forward. In other news, if you're looking for any White Sox beat writers, they're easy to spot: they're the ones with mile-wide smiles wearing industrial-strength flak jackets.

Last Call for Clomid and Nolvadex

It seems that baseball is considering adding fertility drugs to the banned substances list.

It never fails. Someone gets on their high horse about PEDs, and the next thing you know they're the ones in the cross-hairs. Of course, I'm talking about anti-steroid crusader, Dale Murphy:

Murphy, who lives in Alpine, Utah, and has eight children, regrets that he was not more vocal [about steroids] at the time and believes the silence hurt the next generation of players. He fears that they believe they can get away with cheating because they have seen their role models do it. That is part of his motivation for creating the foundation.

Dale Murphy: blessed with strong swimmers, or fertility drug abuser?!! You make the call!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why I Love Ernie Harwell

Even if he didn't single-handedly (or voicedly) teach me what baseball was during late-1970s Tigers broadcasts on WJR, I would love Ernie Harwell. Why? Because despite the fact the man will turn 90 early next year, he has refused to let old-fogeyism cloud his considerable judgment about the game. From Harwell's column in yesterday's Detroit Free Press:

Now, with the wild card, several communities keep on running a baseball fever in September, regardless of how big a margin the division leaders boast . . .

. . . Are today's fielders much better than they were 10 to 50 years ago? I think so. Today, sensational catches -- especially by outfielders -- happen with astounding regularity. The trademark play of this decade is the leap at the fence, changing a potential home run into a putout. I've never seen so many great catches . . .

. . . Have you noticed that major league careers are getting longer? The increase is because of a couple of factors. First, the big money is a real incentive to stick around an extra year or so -- even if skills are starting to diminish. Second, most of today's players keep in better condition than their earlier counterparts. And, with the larger salaries they can afford personal trainers or their own workout facilities.

Notice the absence of paeans to an alleged Golden Age in which every pennant race mattered, when they clearly did not? Notice the failure of a knee-jerk "the men in my day could pick it better than any of these loafers today" rants? Notice the ability to acknowledge the fact that players today make more money while avoiding use of the words "greedy," "pampered," or "spoiled"?

You see none of those things because unlike so many others, Harwell, despite his years, continues to look at the game with a clear and objective mind. At the same time, his decades and decades of experience allow him to toss in an old Babe Ruth story just for the hell of it, showing that it is possible to both celebrate the old and praise the new. If only the fogeys half Harwell's age could do the same thing, the state of baseball writing and commentary wouldn't be so damned wretched.

By the way, reading these columns, I get the impression that some editor at the Free Press gave Harwell a dictaphone and told him to record whatever the hell occurred to him whenever he felt like it and that he'd have one of the interns transcribe it for publication. Allow me to say that if this was the case (and even if it wasn't) this was the single best decision an editor has ever made in the history of newsprint.

Return of the Multi-Use Stadium

Well, not exactly, but the Sacramento River Cats are modifying Raley Field to hold classical music performances, graduation parties, and other non-baseball fare:

The venue -- including a covered open-air patio and a small building with dressings rooms, food service area, restrooms and office space -- could accommodate 60 more events at the stadium. A smaller venue lowers the cost, making it more feasible for groups to rent part of the stadium.

I suppose that's a reasonable and efficient use of real estate that lies fallow all but 70 some nights a year, but here's hoping they don't trot out Raley's famous $8.75 draft beers when the class of 2011 graduates from Rio Americano High School.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Drip . . .drip . . .drip . . .

It's been curious how the Signature Pharmacy thing has led to the slow drip of a name a day (Ankiel, Glaus, and now Jay Gibbons) instead of one big blockbuster of a name-naming story. Here's a crackpot theory for which I have no information but which would make a world of sense:

Major League Baseball itself is leaking the names.

Think about it. On Thursday, it's revealed that Mitchell has a list of 45 guys he wants to talk to. The names came from somewhere, and a list of athletes affiliated with Signature is just as good a guess as any. The players, however, are telling him to pound sand. The very next day the trickle starts. Could it be that someone affiliated with baseball is working the spigot in the hopes that fears of exposure would motivate cooperation?

I stand by my belief that the Mitchell investigation is a whitewash and a sham, and if I were representing players I would tell them to stay the heck away from it. That said, if you were a major league ballplayer who knew his name was on some steroid/HGH list, wouldn't you be thinking that it would be better for that story to break after you had already spoken with Mitchell so that you could release a statement -- and have MLB release one too -- that focuses on your cooperation and candidness? Especially when the alternative is "Neither Shlabotnik nor his agent returned calls seeking comment?"

Like I said, just a theory, but I'm having trouble imagining anyone with a better motive.