Friday, December 28, 2007
The answer? No. By no means should Pete Rose be let into the Hall of Fame. Not even posthumously. And here’s why.
In the light of the steroid discussions of the past several weeks, we’ve heard a lot about cheating in terms of the difference between winning and losing. The difference between winning a losing is the very fabric of what makes sports worthwhile. Though I certainly believe that steroids are a serious offense, it doesn’t compromise that fabric in that big of a way. The instances of players juicing is an example of players doing whatever they can (even if it means unethical things) to make sure they win the game on the field. Same with the spitball. For those who were not reading over the holiday, my beef with steroids isn’t that they’re cheating; my beef is the fact that they’re cheating AND that steroids are harmful substances.
What does compromise the fabric of all sports—the difference between winning and losing—is when a party doesn’t do whatever they can to win the game on the field. If a baseball manager makes strange decisions (I don’t mean leaving in Pedro or pitching Scott Proctor everyday) that might not be in the interest of winning the game, that’s a BIG problem. A problem much bigger than cheating to gain an advantage.
Right now you may be thinking, “but Pete Rose never bet against his own team!” Right. For 14 years, you’d probably be saying that he never bet on baseball, until he finally admitted to that just to try to get himself into the Hall of Fame…and to sell a few books. That’s like when Barry Bonds admitted to doing steroids…but not knowing what they were. Pete Rose lied through his teeth for 14 years and finally admitted a partial truth in a hideous act of obsequiousness. Before and after the “admission,” he hasn’t stopped whining about it.
People may also argue that he’s the all-time leader in sixteen different categories (according to Wikipedia). It’s a disservice to the game to keep perhaps the all-time best hitter out of the Hall of Fame, they may say. It’s a ridiculous argument. This is like saying that if you have enough hits, you are above the law. You may say that the law is too harsh, and that Rose should be let in once he dies. But the real one doing the disservice to the game is Rose himself.
There is a precedent to the discipline levied on Rose. That precedent, of course, would be the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Though the Black Sox were not even convicted by a court of law, eight players were banned from baseball forever by the first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. This was a very strong (and no doubt controversial) move, but Commissioner Landis recognized a problem. If there wasn’t a very, very strong disincentive to become involved in gambling, the fabric that makes sports worthwhile—both sides trying the best they can to win the game on the field—is in jeopardy. Furthermore, it would tie the game of baseball and baseball players to organized crime (mob kingpin Arnold Rothstein is rumored to be the one behind the Black Sox scandal).
Every baseball player knows it. Pete Rose knew it. If you’re caught betting on baseball, it’s all over for you, no matter what. It’s been that way since 1920, thanks to tough, courageous measures on the behalves of baseball commissioners. We all know that the current commissioner is not only illiterate, but gutless, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rose in the Hall of Fame in the next few years. However, if that happens, it’s a disgrace to the game. Pete Rose knew he couldn’t bet on baseball, and he knew the consequences. He did it anyway and deserves absolutely no sympathy.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
I wanted to pop on really quick to wish DV and all of our readers a Happy Holidays. All the best to you and your families.
What has come to be known to people who know me as "The Blog" has now been in existence for almost one year. It was around this time last year that DV and I decided we were going to attempt to put this thing together. What that has turned into is exactly 404 posts, including this one, and who knows how many comments.
Those numbers are pretty amazing to me. Well over a post a day, and probably an average of about five comments per day, which is even more significant. All of this is thanks to our moderately sized, yet incredibly loyal and baseball intelligent readership.
I (and I know this goes for Danny too), have had a lot of fun with this. Really, lot of fun. Way more than I could have imagined, especially interacting so frequently with Boston fans. But everyone on this site, both New York and Boston, are really, really good baseball fans, which is what makes this so fun. On multiple occasions we have had Red Sox fans sticking up for Yankees players in an argument with a Yankees fan, and vica versa. While there have also been instances of bias, just the fact that we have had one such occurance where a fan takes his opinion over his team speaks to the level of fans that we have on this site.
I don't view this as a place for DV and I to write our opinions and for everyone else to read them. I look at this as a place for DV and I to start discussion, and go from there. It is the comments section that makes this thing go, and the success we have had getting intense yet articulate debate going there has been way beyond anything I anticipated.
So thanks to all of you for allowing DV and I to do this. I hope we have an even better second year. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The latest assessment that I've read came in Sunday morning's Boston Globe. Written by Nick Cafardo, the article has a few quotes from Perry, who basically concluded that steroid users will eventually be let into the Hall of Fame.
To Cafardo's credit, he basically summed up the most logical argument about "steroids vs. spitballs." He writes, "The difference between Perry's cheating and the cheating going on nowadays is that a little spit or Vaseline wasn't going to hurt anyone. Steroids can kill you." Pretty much.
I remember reading Perry's tell-all autobiography back-to-back with Game of Shadows during Spring Break 2006. And I came up with the same conclusion. Perry's constant practice of doctoring the ball seemed sneaky, but extremely clever. There is nothing clever or subtle about steroids.
The spitball, by the way, was banned from baseball after the 1919 season for a few reasons: First, there was the flu epidemic, and throwing people's spit all over the place probably wasn't a good idea to prevent an outbreak. Second, players were having trouble seeing the ball, as it was stained by tobacco juice. It had nothing to do with "cheating" or "fairness."
Though he absolutely cheated a few times, Perry eventually got caught and was punished. George Brett got punished for his pine tar incident. Billy Hatcher, Albert Belle, and Sammy Sosa got punished for their corked bat incidents. The New England Patriots were punished for their cheating crime.
But none of those incidents of cheating actually harmed people, except for Eric Mangini's feelings. The use of performance-enhancing drugs (especially when many of these ballplayers have no idea how to use steroids properly) is much more serious than any of these other things because they present many risks to people's health and well-being. The use of these drugs by young athletes is a problem, and stiff penalties in baseball might mitigate these problems. Furthermore, it puts the players' health at risk as well--both the ones who have no remorse about juicing and the ones who feel that they must juice to keep their jobs.
Yes, fairness is an issue, as it is with the spitball, video cameras in football, and corked bats. But in this case, it is a secondary issue.
Friday, December 21, 2007
We need someone else here to talk about the past. Jose Canseco is really the only one who’s done it so far. Ken Caminiti, Jason Giambi and Jason Grimsley have done it to a lesser extent. But beyond that, there hasn’t been anybody else talking about more of the story behind steroids in baseball. In the wake of the Mitchell Report, especially after so many players have admitted to the accusations within the report, right now is the perfect time for people to talk about the past.
The two people who come to mind the most would be Brian Roberts and Roger Clemens. The only dirt in the Mitchell Report on Roberts would be that he had conversations with Larry Bigbie about juicing. But sure enough, he admitted to doing it. And good for him. Also good for Pettitte, Fernando Vina, and all of those other guys. But as everybody in the entire country has concluded, the Mitchell Report addressed a very limited amount of things. Nobody wanted to talk; nobody wanted to participate. Rightfully so: If you snitch, you are like Eric Mangini, and nobody wants to be like Eric Mangini.
However, there are ways that guys can illuminate more details about this troubled past of baseball so that the information can be used productively going forward during baseball’s war on steroids. Radomski didn’t sell juice to either Roberts or Clemens. Those guys got it from somewhere else. It’s time to say how they got it.
Why Clemens? Well…he’s been the focal point of this entire fallout. He’s been called out specifically by John Smoltz and Curt Schilling, two prominent players who once admired him. (Good for Schilling—if you haven’t read what he wrote on 38pitches.com, you should. It was comprehensive, frank, and admirable.) Clemens has an option to prevent his legacy from being in the same place as Barry Bonds’s. Clemens has more credibility than Jose Canseco, who was the first to do it. And Clemens allegedly did drugs for a long, long time.
And he has a Hall of Fame plaque on the line. If he issues something significant enough—and I think he can—to change the game, I’d say he might have a chance to still make it to the Hall despite the steroids. He can get in by being an “innovator.” And to tell you the truth, Jose Canseco deserves to get in because of that as well. His true intentions aside—he has been the biggest catalyst as far as steroids in baseball go.
Obviously, this should not involve naming names. Bud Selig doesn’t know this because he didn’t read it, but the Mitchell Report (around page 135 of the PDF document) in detail described how strong the culture of silence and the insistence of keeping things “in the family” are. But not only are we talking about betraying the trust of your colleagues and becoming a pariah like Canseco did. We’re talking about drug dealers, which might put these guys’ livelihoods and even lives at risk. So no, I am not advocating naming more names for the safety of the informants. As I’ve said before, the names are incidental.
I want Roger Clemens to come right out and say that he did one kind of juice or another, starting in the year 1997 in Toronto. I want him to say that whenever they had games in San Diego, they smuggled stuff across the borders. I want him to say that he and Canseco, when teammates on my beloved 1995 Red Sox, started to have conversations about the costs and benefits of doing steroids and growth hormone. I want him to say that was referred to an unnamed dealer by an unnamed teammate. If he did (and I bet this is the case), Clemens should say that he got his stuff from a whole bunch of different sources: players from foreign countries, clubhouse attendants, Tony Montana, personal trainers, dudes in the gym, whatever. I want to know when he got the shipments (not August 4, 1998 or something, but I want to know whether he just got big shipments in March and used them all season, or if he got smaller shipments nonstop throughout the season. When was the big time to use: during the baseball season or during the off-season while recovering and building muscle? You know, doing his incredible workout regimen.
And it doesn’t have to be Clemens. I want to hear about the whole anatomy. If it’s Brian Roberts who wants to be a hero and issue a tell-all confession like Henry Hill did in the courtroom during the last scene of Goodfellas, so be it. But Clemens would probably be the best guy for it. He has absolutely nothing to lose, as his name is all but ruined at this point. His career is most likely over now. And if he does it, he helps baseball in a way that balances out the artificiality of his on-field performances over the last half of his career. It’s a way to differentiate himself from Bonds and McGwire, who refused to (respectively) tell the truth or talk at all.
In short, no names, but information. How did baseball players get juice? How often did they use juice? What kind of juice did they use, and how often did it change? Did most guys actually know what they were doing, or did they use it irresponsibly (like Giambi et. al named in the Canseco book)? This is stuff that would make the Mitchell Report and its aftermath a lot more complete, a lot more redeeming, and a lot more useful as baseball moves forward.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Even though Bud Selig didn’t read the report, I’m pretty sure even he knows that there were a lot of names dropped. They dropped the names of players who either had paper trails or even had conversations with Radomski or his clients. They dropped the names of managers and team executives, notably Theo Epstein’s, who acquired both Brendan Donnelly and Eric Gagne despite the fact that they were “juice guys.”
Mitchell insisted repeatedly in the report that the use of these names was simply to provide context for a larger problem: That there were many rings like the BALCO ring and the Radomski ring. Any of the names dropped on this list...any names dropped on the phony MSNBC list...none of them should really surprise anybody. The incentives to juice in the last 15-20 years in baseball significantly outweigh the incentives to not juice. A main complaint to baseball players who actually talked to Mitchell was "I'm not juicing, but he is, and he might take my job." Clean athletes shouldn't have to deal with that, because it inspires a desire to start using as well. Take it from me. I know that I have competed against dopers in track and field. I know of two teammates in the last eight years who were on illegal stuff.
The line of thinking that the names are the most important part of this report is not using this report constructively. Figuring out what the punishment should be for the guys who were stupid enough to get caught may be a highly-contested issue (just look at the previous comment sessions), but a much higher priority has to be keeping this from continuing. If that means “making an example” out of the guys who were dumb enough to get caught, so be it. ESPN reported that scientists are still years away from detecting HGH use through a urine sample. Therefore, short of negative publicity and the significant inherent health risks (which athletes apparently don’t care about), there is still very little disincentive for athletes to use HGH or other undetectable performance-enhancing drugs. And this is something that MUST be addressed by both MLB and the union. A good first step would be to read the report.
As far as the names go, do any of them really surprise you? The answer should be no. Do any of the names on the phony MSNBC list surprise you? It was irresponsible journalism for sure, but still, no, none of those names surprise me. I think because of the widespread use of steroids and HGH during the last two decades in baseball (in direct violation of many 35-year-old league policies, as outlined in the Mitchell Report), it is our responsibility as baseball fans to cast a doubtful eye on everyone who played. Unfortunate, yes. But this is what happens when players act like jackasses collectively and executives act possibly worse.
To address the issue discussed in over 30 comments in the last few days (by the way, thanks to everyone who spoke up), in my eyes, it is totally just to throw everyone who was caught under the bus. It doesn’t mean you can continue to idolize the players who weren’t caught, because that’s just the way the game was, is, and will continue to be until baseball successfully implements an effective drug policy. But once again, the names listed in this report are purely incidental; the name-dropping is just to make the real point—the way these drug networks work so that MLB and the union can find ways to stop similar activities—seem less confusing and more concrete.
Implicating certain individuals in this steroid probe does not warrant the hubbub that has resulted in it. All it should really do is change the previous attitude of “this guy possibly is a roidhead” to “this guy probably is a roidhead.” As far as “turning on” individuals like Bronx has said he would—and as he clearly has—it really shouldn’t be that much of a turn. Every guy to be named in this probe and any future probe should not throw anyone for a loop—it should just confirm all of our worst suspicions.If MLB and the Players’ Union basically re-grow a pair (that is an oblique steroid joke), these “worst suspicions” will be significantly reduced. It’s silly for anyone to think “HAHA, they caught the cheaters, Steroid Era: 1985-2007,” because the steroid era is still very much alive. It is so sickeningly simple to use but not get caught in the current testing program. Once again: They do not test for HGH. According to the Mitchell Report, 79% of active players in 2002 wanted a drug testing system. Five years later, I think it’s safe to say that that number is higher. So it’s time to abandon the nonsense that is happening right now, re-open the collective bargaining agreement, and implement a real drug testing system. After that, there will be a much lesser need to talk about asterisks, backne, and all that crap. Instead, in between November and March, we can talk about what we want to talk about again: Baseball.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Now I will admit very clearly that on Thursday, I had a bit of a problem doing my job. My phone was blowing up off the hook. I was getting emails. I was getting the fake list in the email and showing it to people. Simply said, I wasn't doing my job very well at all. However, the stuff I had to review on Thursday wasn't one of the most important documents in the history of my industry. Nor am I the head of the company.
So how is it, in three days, that Bud Selig couldn't review 409 pages of the Mitchell report? I mean, Harry Potter nerds (which include at least two frequent blog readers, I know for sure) can crank 800 pages in like 15 hours. And as far as I know, those books didn't have large pictures of checks and airbills. The Mitchell Report is not that hard of a document to read in a short period of time.
So this is an assignment to everyone here: What on earth was so important in Bud Selig's personal or professional life that he couldn't read the Mitchell Report in its entirety in three days? Instead of just saying he didn't read the thing, he should have at least done the Manny Ramirez thing and talk about his sixth or seventh sick grandmother...or at least something. I still can't get over the fact.
The other thing the commissioner said that made my eyes bug out of my head like Reche Caldwell was the fact that he used the word "continue," as in "baseball will continue to have a strong drug testing program to deter the use of performance-enhancing drugs." Oh my God. Selig obviously didn't read the document. The whole reason HGH is all the rage in baseball instead of steroids is the fact that THEY DON'T TEST FOR IT! But the fact that there is no blood testing and therefore is no HGH testing is apparently okay because they are "continuing" to have a good drug testing program. It's good to know that Selig is "continuing" to learn from the mistakes of the past fifteen years.
Meanwhile, Donald Fehr, head of the MLBPA, decided to play the "everyone feel sorry for me" card like A-Rod did on 60 Minutes Sunday night. Mitchell and the other meanies didn't give him the report until the day of. Mitchell and his meanies threw the MLBPA under the bus. Mitchell and his meanies dropped the names of players who disgraced the game but obviously didn't deserve to be embarrassed. Give me a break.
Mitchell threw the MLBPA under the bus by calling them "uncooperative," and Fehr, like a true third-grader, said the union-speak version of "nuh-uh." There are specific documents from the union listed in the report. Anyone who can read (sorry Bud Selig) can infer how uncooperative they were. The union is there to protect its players. Why not try to protect both the good name and the livelihood of union members who aren't juicing instead of protecting the secrets of the ones who did? The guy is a joke.
Fehr also spent a good five minutes patting himself on the back by "re-opening" the collective bargaining agreement twice to help institute a tougher drug policy in Major League Baseball. However, he continued to show defiance and is unreceptive at best when it comes to considering a blood test to determine whether a player is taking HGH. It's not hard to test for HGH with blood. It's not too hard to help MLB reach the cutting edge of drug testing compared to other sports. However, it is hard when you have a very strong labor union that is not looking out for the interests of its most virtuous members, instead sticking by their scummiest members who are more interested in signing lucrative contracts instead of keeping the sport more respectable than the disgraced sport of professional cycling.
Just want to say thanks to everyone who is actually reading my senior thesis on the Mitchell Report. I will have one more installment, likely being written Monday.
First, a problem lies in what they should do with these guys who were indeed caught. There are various levels of proof throughout the report. There are guys like Brian Roberts, who are implicated through hearsay. There are guys like Clemens, who has nine pages of narrative with many sources cited, both from a tell-all trainer as well as journalistic articles. There are guys like Rondell White, who has so many personal checks written to Kirk Radomsky that he might as well have put "steroids" on the "memo" part of the check. Since the time I started writing this mega-post, Clemens has denied all charges, Pettitte said he only used HGH twice, and other ballplayers will likely follow by denying these charges.
If you've been keeping up with the comment threads, one of our most loyal readers, who has a very tough stance on drug use, wants whatever records achieved by "juice guys" to be stricken from the records, just as they do in track and field. The majority feel that lesser punishment is in line. But if someone is to be punished, how much of a burden of proof is necessary? For some, just the mention in the Mitchell report is enough to indict. For Tim Kurkjian of ESPN, he needs proof of what drug is in question and needs to physically see Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens inject it into their butts. Baseball is not necessarily a criminal court with a high burden of proof. There are various degrees of guilty, and most people, including Kurkjian, want the criminal court burden of proof.
Another problem lies within the incompleteness of this report. The way it is perceived right now is sort of like if the feds got Gaspar Gomez and the Diaz Brothers (rival drug dealers in the movie Scarface) to talk about their drug clientele. They take the information from Gomez and the Diaz brothers, put the names in a report, and call the problem solved. Whoever's not listed in there obviously must be innocent. Those guys who were named in the fake MSNBC list must be totally absolved not only of the accusations, but of all suspicion. This is certainly not the aim of the Mitchell report, as the Radomski drug ring, the Signature drug ring, and the BALCO drug ring are just a few of what could be dozens, hundreds, or thousands of steroid rings that involve baseball players.
To return to the Scarface analogy, this would be if they ignored Tony Montana's empire or any other empire in all the other cities. I mean, they would be ignoring Mercury Morris's drug usage. Which is silly. The people named in the Mitchell report just happened to be the unlucky ones who were associated with the snitches. There are other players, including Boston Red Sox players, who are not associated with the snitches. A lot of fans missed this, and good for Mitchell to address the fact that these guys are a small fraction of the cheaters.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
First, the good. Many months, pages, and millions of dollars later, the Mitchell report is finally out. No more speculation on what will be there. A bad point, which I will hit later, is the fact that the information Mitchell got was very, very limited, but good for him for admitting that it's as limited as it is. Jose Canseco being pissed that A-Rod's not in there? Come on. He's missing the point.
The point of this report (not the investigation, but the report) was to outline the anatomy of a few specific drug networks and explain how they worked. The report explained the detail of the BALCO stuff, which was already explained in the book Game of Shadows, but it more specifically outlined the details of the Radomsky network. Referrals, personal checks, FedExes, and Express Mail receipts. There was absolutely nothing subtle about it, and many of the people who got busted are absolutely the dumbest steroid users of all of them because of their extensive paper trail. Players' reasons to do drugs were mentioned in a few instances, like Mo Vaughn's instance. These instances, after a bit of thinking, make a reader understand why a player would want to do this. Not that it makes it excusable. But the report definitely sheds a light "behind" who did what.
In the case of Denny Neagle, who was very good at producing a paper trail, the report noted that Neagle was already very familiar with HGH, inferring that Radomsky was one of many drug sources. Also a very notable disclosure as the Mitchell report tried to make the most out of very little information. I was impressed.
The most impressive thing about it is that it does give many recommendations, and as a result of 1) Mitchell's reputation, 2) the hype around this report, and 3) Congress looking for a reason to come down on MLB, I am confident that these recommendations will become a reality. A more comprehensive drug testing policy that tests for HGH. A transparent third-party testing policy. No, by no means are these recommendations groundbreaking. But it's different coming from someone in whom the sport invested $30 million instead of coming from some dude "from the Bronx" or some dude who claims he is "The GM." We can only hope this takes a lot of punch away from the MLBPA, which I believe is the strongest force against drug testing progress. Without MLBPA hindrance, I believe the Mitchell report is the first step toward the same stratosphere as track and field and cycling (which, obviously, are still several steps behind the dopers. Baseball as it stands, are several miles behind the dopers).
In my next post, I will address what went wrong with this report.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I think the boys over at RiverAveBlues.com said it best with one of the points that they made. Roughly, this is the synopsis. If you are named in the Mitchell Report, that doesn't mean you took steroids. If you weren't named, that doesn't mean that you didn't.
That's pathetic, and is why this doesn't resemble an investigation at all. Naming only a small percentage of names, some of which may not even be 100% accurate as their isn't hard proof in many instances, while knowingly leaving off hundreds and hundreds of users, and accepting that reality without digging further, is laughable.
I have no problem with Mitchell or anybody involved in the investigation personally. That much is obvious, I know they are all great people. What I have a problem with is Selig and people at baseball sending people on this publicity goose chase in the first place, the results Mitchell got, and anybody accepting this as a serious step forward in regards to the performance enhancing drug issue in baseball.
That's why I'm moving on. I love this game. I love watching, talking, analyzing, reading, writing about it. And I am still going to love it just as much next year as I did in the past. I'm not going to let this silly investigation get in my way.
It's just unfortunate something more wasn't done with this time, energy, and resources, as DV so aptly pointed out yesterday, to make the game even better.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
That is also sarcastic. This 21-month investigation has been an embarrassment, a total waste of time, money, and resources. I predict that a few days from now, it will be clear that Mitchell embarrassing himself and putting a negative mark on an otherwise tremendous career. If being involved with the Red Sox during this entire investigation isn't enough.
If you aren't part of the Colby contingent reading this blog, right now is a suitable time to learn that Mitchell's first job after graduating was mowing the lawns at Colby. While Howard Bryant of ESPN.com throws Mitchell and friends under the bus much more thoroughly and eloquently, I'm going to simply say that this entire report is 1) reactive instead of proactive, 2) a witch hunt, and 3) a half-assed effort and a total bag job just to make the government authorities shut up.
A great deal of time, money, cooperation, and other resources has been spent preparing this report. Moving forward, what is it going to do for baseball? Nothing. Mitchell and friends are going to tell us a story about how baseball, and specifically those 50-80 players, screwed up big time and let a big drug problem permeate the sport. Cool. We already know that story, and we sure as hell know there are more than 50-80 guys who did it. What is this going to do to the future of baseball? Is it going to result in stronger drug testing? No. Maybe instead of writing this little story, MLB should have worked with Congress in whipping the Players' Union harder for actual HGH testing in the game. Maybe they should have negotiated harder to lengthen the suspensions or toughen the penalties. As I said earlier, "50 games? Well worth it." What's 50 games if it's the difference between being paid $10 million and $40 million? Nothing. Which is exactly the net effect of this Mitchell Report. All it does is throw people under the bus. It does nothing proactive or productive at all. It's a waste of our money.
Secondly, I work about three-quarters of a mile away from Salem. Whatever happened over the border is nothing compared to the witch hunt that was the Mitchell investigation. Reports came out last night that the report is dropping names of "All-Stars and MVPs." I predict that the MVPs named include...Jose Canseco (wrote a book about it), Jason Giambi (is sorry about it), Ken Caminiti (talked to SI about it), and Barry Bonds (is going to jail for it). Real earth-shattering. Mitchell is going to name 50-80 guys, and he and MLB are hoping that we are really going to shower our hate on those 50-80 guys. That's pretty bogus, because more than 50-80 guys did drugs during the time period under question. At this point, so many guys did it that it's somewhat unfair to single out Manny Alexander while ignoring 10 other guys. Sure, it'll be nice to have someone to throw under the bus, but it's incomplete and it's a witch hunt.
It will be nice to rag on these 50-80 guys because they are probably the 50-80 stupidest steroid users during this time period. I believe I wrote this before, but how retarded are Paul Byrd and Rick Ankiel for getting drugs and paying for them with their own credit card? Whoever is named in this report most likely has a long paper trail. Mitchell is too professional to base these accusations on hearsay. And leaving a long paper trail when you are in the business of illegal drugs is something that will get you whacked if you're doing it with an organized crime syndicate.
Lastly, this investigation is hideously incomplete. I don't think Mitchell talked to nearly enough people. He never talked to Canseco. He didn't talk much to a lot of other guys, as Howard Bryant explained in his argument. It seems like a totally half-assed job. And why wouldn't it be? It's for a totally half-assed purpose. Does baseball really want to clean up the game? No freakin' way. They just want to show this report to everyone, pass the blame cake to everyone implicated in the report, and move on like nothing happened. After reading these 302 pages, baseball wants everyone to "close the book" (ha ha) on the steroid problem. Problem solved. Mission accomplished. While everyone's doing HGH without being tested, MLB is patting itself on the back for a job well done. If HGH or whatever new drug becomes a big enough problem, that's when MLB will reconvene and write another fairy tale. See you in ten years.
We'll probably talk about this report more when we see who these 50-80 names are. We'll probably all see players from our favorite teams. Oh well. They shouldn't have broken the law. And baseball shouldn't have let them break the law as easily as they did. Baseball is making a half-assed effort into bringing justice to the game--or at least to keep the appropriate authorities happy. Maybe it's making players fearful to do drugs because they don't want to be named in a report like this.
That's the only thing the Mitchell report has done to clean up the game from Friday December 14, 2007 on.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Reports have been swirling about who is involved on the Giants side. Who knows. Here's my take.
My suggestion, and I've read this in a few other places, is to get creative. Yes, Matsui has great value, and can get you some return. He won't get you as much as his numbers would indicate, however, because he is 33. Makes sense. My only question is, if this is the case, why not make Matsui a part of a package that can in fact get you something big? Why use a piece like Matsui to just get a marginal reliever? Even a pretty good one?
My suggestion would be to incorporate Ian Kennedy in the package and go after Tim Lincecum. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense for the Giants. Yes, they give up a bigtime arm, one of the best young ones in the game. But in return they get what would be the best bat in their lineup, as well as the Minor League Pitcher of the Year (not to mention a flyball pitcher in a massive ballpark, in the NL). Without giving up offense, they get offense. They give up pitching, but get a lot back. And they give up no age, service time, or money on the pitching side, which is a huge plus.
It also makes perfect sense from the Yankees side of things. They give up a great bat, but it is one they don't need with all the excess offense they always have (especially because he no longer hits in October). They also give up a really good pitcher with a high ceiling, but get one back with just as much, if not more. The one reservation from the Yankee standpoint, which I am totally on board with, is that Lincecum has injury written all over him. He's tiny, has a violent motion, already has a significant workload, and throws 100 mph. However, this risk is somewhat negated with A. Lincecum has no injury history, and he has always thrown this way, B. IPK could get hurt as well (albeit less likely because of his impeccable motion/delivery), and C. Lincecum can DEFINITELY pitch out of the pen in the late innings. He has the stuff and did it in college (in between starts, no less). With the wealth of young starters the Yankees have, they could really benefit both the 2008 team and the future with a fastball and hammer curve like Lincecum's (with bullpen experience) pitching the 8th or 9th innings.
The only wrench I can see is that the Giants get hung up on the fact that they are giving their best pitcher away and not getting Joba or Hughes in return, who people consider to be the Yankees' best pitchers. First, this is dumb. IPK was Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Not only could he be be the best of the bunch, but even if he isn't, he could be really, really good. Good enough to be a lot of other team's best youngster, as there is a legitimate chance he'll be in 2008's Top 10 prospects, definitely Top 25. The Yankees' shouldn't get punished for having a lot of good young pitchers. Second, the Yankees are giving Matsui as well, which is significant. If Sabean wants Joba or Hughes, you could make the case the Yankees could make a Joba or Hughes for Lincecum trade strait up trade and lose (same could be said for IPK, but let's not get into that...the fact that Lincecum can pitch out of the pen is of great value), so they would DEFINITELY lose a Matsui PLUS Joba or Hughes for Lincecum deal.
This sounds good to me. Let's make it happen.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The relief pitching market has gone absolutely haywire, and Eric G. is just another example of this. I'm calling him Eric G. because by the end of the week, I will be writing about another Eric. I have a hunch that the other Eric, who has a big mouth and is camera shy, probably won't be too happy around 4:15 Sunday afternoon.
I mean, a small part of me says good for Eric G., as a $10 million contract may relieve the issues that started in July 2007 and may some time resurface on a psychiatrist's couch in Montreal somewhere. A small part thinks this is sad because another Boras client got a big payday for no apparent reason (please refer to last night's post). But the biggest part of me wants to throw up because of the tremendous inefficiency in the free agent relief pitching market.
First of all, and most importantly, since the closer role was brought to baseball in the Dick Radatz era of the 1960s, how many closers have really had long-term staying power? Not many. Even lately, there have been far more Billy Koches, Dan Kolbs, Mark Wohlerses, Keith Foulkes, Jeff Zimmermans, and Heathcliff Slocumbs than there have been Mariano Riveras, Trevor Hoffmans, Jeff Reardons, and Lee Smiths.
Stated simply, lots of relief pitchers, especially closers, have 3-4 good years, then fade back into obscurity. Being a relief pitcher itself is a crapshoot. I have cited this guy's stats a lot of times, but look at Rudy Seanez. His ERA+ ranges from 71 to 151 year-by-year. It went from 151 to 83 to 75 to 133. It is asinine to throw a lot of money at these guys, because like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Throwing a lot of money at these guys is like eating a box of chocolates if you have a severe peanut allergy. They might make you happy, but they might end up giving you hives and sending you to the ER.
Billy Koch had four straight years of 30+ saves. He had 19 for the rest of his life. And it's not because he changed roles on his teams. Who's to say that Scott Linebrink and Francisco Cordero, both of whom are over the age of 30 and both of whom signed lucrative four-year deals, aren't going to turn out like that? It happens just about as often as it doesn't happen.
Buster Olney writes that Milwaukee signing Gagne to only a one-year deal is a good call, even if it is for obscene dollars. At least the peanut allergy guy can only break out into hives for one year instead of four. Yes, I can't believe I'm agreeing with the thought that this deal is a good idea for the Brewers.
But back to my original thought. The Brewers and whoever else may have been bidding in this neighborhood for Eric G., who imploded in a Red Sox uniform the way Alex Rodriguez implodes in October, have to be out of their freaking minds. Acquiring this guy even for one year is taking a tremendous, tremendous risk. I ripped the Red Sox for thinking about signing this guy for $5 million a year last year because he had only pitched 15 1/3 innings in the previous TWO seasons. Wonder why he blew up the way he did?
The fact that in 2005-6, he pitched only 15 1/3 innings still stands. The way he performed from July 23, 2007 until the end of the season is further evidence that this guy is not worth ten million dollars. But somehow, world-renowned bad, bad man Eric G. got a $4 million raise.
God bless amERICa.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Happy anniversary to Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox. It was December 6, 2006 when the organization acquired--in the same day, no less--both Julio Lugo and Nancy Drew for a combined $106 million. Thursday at work I categorized it as the worst day of my life. Poor Pat really got an earful when that one happened; he can attest to that.
This is the part where I would talk about how much of a genius I am, but that wouldn't be fair. Everybody in the world, except briefly my boys Matt and John (who are essential HYD Baseball readers), were in agreement that wasting a roster spot apiece for each of these two guys until 2010 (2011 for Drew) was a bad idea. Despite my assertions that M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is A Major Issue), people still insist that the Red Sox' spending doesn't matter because "it's not my money." What bothered me equally about this deal is the number of years given to each of these guys.
Lugo was habitually a Red Sox killer in Tampa Bay, but after being tradedto Lost Angeles, he was relegated to a platoon player role. Maybe there was a reason for that, I argued, because at the time the Red Sox were already in love with the guy.
If that "maybe" wasn't proven in his two months in LA (.219/0 HR/10 RBI), I don't really know what could prove it. I remember telling Matt that Lugo was a borderline major leaguer. After December 6, 2006, he was a borderline major leaguer making $9 million a year and taking up the starting shortstop role on my favorite team until I'm 25. That made me queasy. Matt told me to just wait until the Julio Lugo era played out. Okay, fine.
If the two months in LA didn't prove that Lugo wasn't any better than a glorified Alex Cora, maybe his six months in Boston removed all doubt. People talk about how much Roger Clemens earned per pitch. Taking into account only his offense (and I know tomorrow morning my boy Craig will talk about his defensive "brilliance," the story of Hercules, or other myths), Lugo got paid over $53,000 for every time he didn't make an out in 2007. This guy was supposed to be a leadoff hitter, and his OBP was .294. He hit .089 with a .310 OPS in June. He struck out more than twice the amount of times he got a hit in that month.
It wasn't just one bad month either. He hit .209 in May. On July 2, his cumulative batting average was .189, dead last out of every person with enough at-bats for batting title eligibility. If Dustin Pedroia had a season like Lugo's, especially the first half, he would have been banished to the Greenville Drive. If Alex Cora posted a campaign this bad, he would have been designated for assignment faster than J.C. Romero.
I will post the second half of this post below, so you can read it in two parts at work tomorrow.
The other part is the Mystery of the $70 million contract. Why did the Red Sox sign JD Drew? Once again, I told Matt specifically that the guy was a glorified Trot Nixon. An injury-prone right fielder on the wrong side of 30 who struggles against lefties and might not be qualified to play everyday. Except Boston could have gotten Nixon for one year and $5 million where Matsuzaka pimped out Drew for 5 years and $70 million.
Drew was hyped as the next Mickey Mantle a long, long, long time ago. Maybe it was because his agent, Scott Boras, had him hold out for a year and play a season in the Northern (independent) League. But at the major league level, he has been, in no uncertain terms, more of a disappointment than Mark Prior. Over the course of his career, he has never exceeded 100 RBIs or 31 home runs. Yes, he hit .320 one year. So did Trot Nixon (.315 to be exact). Yes, he walks a lot. But a number-five hitter is supposed to hit the ball hard and for power. There had been reports that he doesn't like to play hurt, and that he's a lackadaisical player who actually thinks the things Manny Ramirez said. He sucked against lefties (.259 in his career). He was grossly overpaid in Los Angeles, but opted out of this contract, bringing immense joy to True Blue Nation (get used to the name). The Red Sox signed him anyway.
Once again, everyone hated this signing. You already know how I felt. But once again, some people held out hope that JD Drew wasn't going to be awful and that he would do something with the fact that the Red Sox had the worst stats out of the 5-hole in the major leagues in 2006. Of course, that changed in 2007--but not at all thanks to JD Drew.
One hundred and thirteen of his at-bats (24.2%) involved outs hit to either the second baseman, first baseman, or pitcher. He only got 126 hits, which is dangerously close to that previous total. Drew was benched against lefties after hitting .224 against them. He hit .171 in May. The supposed #5 hitter had as many home runs (11) as Rick Ankiel did in 41 starts. The guy with a swing tailor-made for Fenway Park waited four months to hit his fourth wall-ball off the Green Monster. He almost doubled his career high in double plays. If you want more dirt on Nancy Drew, please refer to this link. Just make sure you have an afternoon to devote to reading it.
The problem is, this season, no matter how horrible, isn't even that much of an anomaly for Nancy Drew. His 2002 stats (the year after the .323 year, at age 26) are just as nauseating. Yes, he bounced back slightly, but there is a reason Drew is a zero-time all-star. He's just not that good. Everyone expected him to be short of terrible in 2007, and now they're saying the same for 2008. Having that home run in the ALCS helps.
Though he might be better next year, most replacement-level players are better than he was in 2007. After reviewing his 2002 numbers, anyone can hopefully tell that 2007 wasn't that much of an anomaly. He's just not that good.
I'm not sure what the purpose of this two-part post was. Maybe it is venting. Maybe it's putting those two guys' 2007 seasons to rest. Maybe it's a big "I told you so."
Either way, I am not holding out much hope that 2008 will be much better than 2007 for either of those guys. In 2007, I predicted they would be a $106 million disaster. My 2008 prediction is more of the same.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Hideki Matsui isn't the star he was '03-'05. He isn't the most clutch hitter in the Yankees lineup anymore. But you can mark him down for 100/100/20/.295 every year. On 80% of the teams in the Majors, that's one of your best hitters. On a 25% of teams, that's someone they don't have one of. 100/100/20 is pretty darn good. The Yankees just don't need it, especially because Matsui doesn't hit in October anymore either.
If Coco Crisp, at a lousy 60/85/6/.268, is a bargain and bigtime trading chip at $10.5 million over the next two seasons (correction: combined) in the outfield, then so is Matsui at $13 million per.
Matsui is particularly attractive to an NL team looking for a bat, because he will probably abuse National League pitching. He is streaky, but I'd say he'd be less so in the NL, and would probably relish being "The Man" in a lineup, something he was in Japan, but never was in New York because of the surrounding talent. A lot of teams would be happy with his career averages, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a hike in production in a new setting, like San Fransisco.
San Fransisco, in turn, has the kind of pitching the Yankees would want in return. I don't know how high they could go on the Giants ladder for Matsui alone. And I also know that no package where Matsui is the key name can net Lincecum. But Noah Lowry? Matt Cain? Maybe. And that would be great for the Yankees. Add another young arm for a bat you don't need. A very mini Hanley Ramirez trade, the kind of trade that I love, makes a lot of sense.
Changing topics (and sorry I've been writing about multiple topics in seemingly every post lately), HankSteinJr., who never gets tired of talking, spoke about his desire to be self-sufficient. He wants to win with Yankee-raised players.
As everyone knows, I'm all about this. The entire list of quotes was music to my ears. He talked about patience. He talked about holding onto youngsters. He talked about how the Yankees have the best young pitching in the minors and majors. He talked about more being on the way. Basically, he wants to turn the Yankees into a machine. Create a situation where you get at least one Cano/Philly/Joba every year, to the point where there isn't enough room for all of them. This would take a few years. And Boston might continue to be a notch above during those years. But if it ever happened, it would be tough for Boston or anybody to turn it back.
All true stuff. All sounds great. All very possible. The Yankees have the resources to build a farm system where, even if they had a 10% success rate, the team would be stacked. They can sign and sign and draft and draft at what is huge money compared to what everyone else would pay but chump change to the Yankees. It would be a beautiful thing. And it was beautiful to hear the Yankees' owner, after three decades of operating all over the place, talk about doing it that way.
I'll enjoy it until HankSteinJr. trades three of them in two weeks.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Joba Chamberlain was voted ESPN The Magazine's "Who's Next?" winner. Good to see everyone else buys into the hype. Listen, I like Joba. A lot. I think he has star written all over him. I just think Phil Hughes does to. Just because Joba is a fan favorite doesn't mean he's a better pitcher. It also doesn't mean Phil Hughes should be traded. Philly was a fan favorite too, once coined "The Franchise", before someone who threw harder came along. Throwing hard doesn't matter. Getting outs does. Last I checked, they both get a lot of outs, and are both 21 years old. Joba being Next doesn't matter. The only thing I care about is that they both throw their Next pitch in a Yankees uniform.
While I'm on this topic, how disgusting is ESPN? Who's Next? Who's Now? Who cares! Can we get something of substance? Something that pertains to sports news and analysis? Something that isn't the cheesiest thing I've ever seen, read, or heard? Outside of .com, which will only take you so far, you can't go anywhere near ESPN if they don't have a game on, and even then you might need to put it on mute. It's so gross.
The Detroit trade. I don't know where I am, majority or minority. But I couldn't be more unimpressed. Yes, they are going to have a great lineup. But I don't think Dontrelle Willis is that good, and that is in the NL. Since he is moving to the AL, I consider this a trade for just Miggy. And the Tigers gave up six prospects, including their two best (Maybin and Miller), to get this one player. That's a lot.
Simply put, still don't think the Tigers have enough pitching to get serious. I've documented my feelings on fastball/slider only pitchers in this day and age in this space on numerous occasions. I don't think they can really exist anymore, for many reasons. The Tigers now have the most prominent fastball/slider only righty (Bonderman) and lefty (Willis) in baseball. Both posted ERAs over 5.00 in '07, and neither won more than 11 games. That staff is Verlander and hope for the best. Who cares that they added a huge bat?
The Mets are starting to kick a little bit this off-season. Good thing. I was starting to wonder if they still existed. After the biggest regular season collapse in history, it is amazing that they have been able to fly under the radar the way they have. While this tickles me to no end (because Mets fans were so obnoxious when they were in first place and the Yankees weren't, calling New York the Mets city...we all know how that one ended up...it is great to see the Yankees dominate the off-season as well), I would like the Mets to catch their heat.
After the way that season ended, and considering all of the pieces they are missing on the pitching side, how do they not go get Santana? It appears they are finally getting involved. They are the rare case where Santana is a great fit, all prospect and financial prices considered. The Mets have a great offense, one that is built, particularly in the NL, to win now. But their pitching is absolutely miserable, starters and the pen alike. They also have a fairly mediocre farm system, one that certainly isn't growing in a way where they could sit back and let the kids take over. They are a team that needs to win now, and they do have a few top prospects. They should take them (Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, and Mike Pelfry), and trade for Johan Santana. He'll be untouchable in the NL, and will be a great attraction for CitiField (just as cheesy as ESPN, btw). Not to mention a way to help the whole organization and fan base get over that collapse.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Scott Boras announced today that he is suing Yum! Brands for royalties his client, Jacoby Ellsbury, deserves. In Game 2 of the 2007 World Series, Ellsbury, a member of the Boston Red Sox, stole second base. This stolen base implemented the offer of a free beef taco to everyone in America from Taco Bell, a division of Yum! Brands, in the "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" campaign. Boras claims that his client's contributions generated a great deal of "marketing revenue" and that his client deserves a cut of said revenue.
"I was thinking somewhere in the vicinity of one hundred percent," Boras said.
As the clock struck midnight last night, Boras promptly faxed forty pages worth of notes and projections to how much money Taco Bell made through the "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion. His estimates of $40 million are almost double the assumption that the fast food chain gained $8 million in free advertising (according to CNBC) and $12 million in profit margin through sales of other products while customers picked up their free 77-cent taco on October 30, 2007.
"Jacoby Ellsbury is singlehandedly responsible for a staggering amount of Taco Bell's revenue in the 2007 fiscal year," said Boras. "He may be only 25, but he projects to be a better spokesman than even Peyton Manning. And that guy's pretty good, if you like six-foot-five, 230-pound quarterbacks with a laser, rocket arm."
Taco Bell executive Robert Savage was shocked and chagrined by the effrontery of Boras, stating that if there were any other talks, he would have been open to tossing a few dollars to Ellsbury, who is making the major league minimum as a rookie this year. "I never got a single phone call from him or any offer to settle," Savage said. "There was no prior communication."
Savage was also irked by the timing of this announcement. "I don't think there is a coincidence that Boras sent this fax to a Mexican-American food chain on the first minute of Cinco de Mayo." Savage said he had already received phone calls from the Mexican embassy, claiming that the timing of this publicity stunt was disrespectful to the magnitude of Cinco de Mayo, a holiday celebrated in both the United States and Mexico, two of the countries most passionate about baseball.
According to the Boras document, Ellsbury wants a series of "marketing incentives," as October 30 broke the all-time record of taco transactions in a three-hour period. Boras and Ellsbury are requesting a total of $40 million: $7 million for eclipsing the fifth to second largest transaction totals in the history of Taco Bell. They are requesting an additional $12 million for beating the all-time record set between 11PM and 2AM on May 25, 2006, reportedly a result of the munchies encountered by Taco Bell junkie J. Lester and friends in Nashua, New Hampshire.
When Ellsbury was contacted, he was unaware of any of these legal proceedings. Fellow Boras client Johnny Damon, currently the New York Yankees' fourth outfielder, called us to offer the following statement: "Jacob E. Ellsbury, um, got disrespected by Taco Bell, um, just like I got, um, disrespected by the, um, Red Sox. He's just one of many, um, players who, had to replace, um, me."
Jacoby Ellsbury, as noted in the comments section of the last post, has climbed aboard the Scott Boras bandwagon. I understand that Boras does a very good and comprehensive job in getting his clients the most money. But at the same time, he engages in predatory negotiating practices. I have said this many times already, but I would say that selecting Boras to represent you is basically to say that you prioritize things other than winning when it comes to your baseball career. That is not okay with me and I don't want people like that on my favorite team. I know it's inevitable, especially with a team that 1) isn't afraid to overspend on baseball players and 2) has a good relationship with this slimeball. But after the way this winter started for Boras, I was hopeful that players would realize the stigma that is associated by being a Scott Boras client.
Maybe they do, but they just don't care. And it hurts especially hard when it's Ellsbury that knows but doesn't care. I was looking forward to rooting for a guy who can hit, run, and play center field, but isn't a total idiot with a big mouth and bigger ego. I thought there was the opportunity to keep this guy as a somewhat cost-effective way to win games. But now there won't be any long-term deals, just arbitration fights and losing the guy to free agency. And those headaches will be taking place shortly after the best off-season of my life (the 2011 offseason, when we are finally free toniiiiight from Nancy Drew).
Rationally, this is not that big of a deal. But when I'm trying to be human--optimistic and emotional--this one hurts really bad. I have been very critical of Boras clients on the Red Sox because, after all, they're Boras clients. It's hard to think of them as Red Sox because they either 1) screwed the Red Sox or 2) will soon screw the Red Sox. No franchise needs guys like this. I really hope Ellsbury is traded for Saltalamacchia. Coco Crisp is not that bad, and having Saltalamacchia will prevent another long, arduous, soul-sucking Boras negotiation regarding Captain Intangible. Solving a catching problem for a long time, as well as taking two more Boras clients off the books, would be a better solution for the Red Sox than acquiring Santana.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Pat and I spoke this weekend, and we feel differently about this issue. I would actually consider this trade worthwhile if the Red Sox only had to relinquish Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, and Michael Bowden. Likewise, if I were the Yankees, I would consider this trade if it meant Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Alan Horne. You don't know what Ellsbury, Lowrie, Bowden, Hughes, and Horne will be. They might be Jeff Bagwells and Dan Harens...but they might be Sam Militellos and Brian Roses. Pat cited the #1 pitching prospects in the last 10 years: for every Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett there is, there are four Zach Grienkes and Scott Ruffcorns.
You know what Santana is. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. Though he might not be three years from now, he is now, and he can be somewhat counted on for next year. It would be the difference between an AL East race and a blowout for the Red Sox. It would be the difference between having a chance to win in October without relying on Alex Rodriguez and, well, losing in October.
The stumbling block for me, as I just wrote a few days ago, is the money and the years. I would not want my team to outspend the Yankees overall, only to see him go 13-12 with an ERA of 4.50 when he's 34. I would not want my team to outspend the Yankees overall to see him undergo Tommy John surgery at the age of 32. Independent of how the prospects do, that's a lot of money for little production. Kind of like JD Drew.
Pat, on the other hand, is from the school that the money doesn't matter. If Santana were on the free agent market looking for $30 million a year for six years, it is worth the risk. Sure, his arm might fall off. But if having him there means they can one World Series without compromising future World Series, it's worth it. Pat has a lot of faith in the ability of these young guys. He thinks they have the potential to be rare enough that you can't just get them in the free agent market, being unable to overlook the Becketts and the Verlanders while looking at the Ryan Andersons and Paul Wilsons. He raises good points. He'd rather spend unprecedented money on guys who are good instead of paying high money for stiffs. The way you save money in the baseball business is retaining prospects. Hard to argue.
But both of us conclude that the Red Sox and Yankees are in too deep. Whether you're from Pat's school of retaining prospects or from my school of not spending money when you don't need to, this situation is the same. You can clearly notice the risk here, like the surveillance vans around all the Mercedes Kip Raines had to boost in Gone in 60 Seconds. The risk is way too high. It's not like Hillary Clinton paid someone to create a hostage situation for the Red Sox and Yankees here. They can leave these negotiations at any time.
Just walk away.