Baseball On My Brain

It’s late, it’s raining, and I finally saw the Kathy Griffin CNN video

Surprisingly, I wasn’t tuned in to see Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper hosting “CNN’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Special.”

And even if I had, being a West Coaster, I would have missed this hilarity that got edited out in the rebroadcasts.

Damn Eastern Time Zone people…getting the good stuff, once again. Oh well – I’m still not moving.

And just what does that have to do with baseball, you may ask? Absolutely nothing. But I saw mention of it as I was perusing the papers looking for baseball stories, and it made me laugh when I saw it, and some days, you just need something to laugh about. Especially when it’s been raining all day, people are concerned about floods, and it’s 2:40 am.

As you may have heard, the Phillies’ J.C. Romero was one of two players who got suspended for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy.

But to me – or Mr. Schmidt – that’s not where the story is.

The issue at hand is MLB’s handling of the suspension, in particular the timing since it could have impacted the World Series. And nothing says MLB public relations fiasco like having to suspend a player during the World Series, especially when that player is playing in the World Series.

But isn’t that what it takes to get the point across that MLB is serious about fining and suspending players who break the rules?

Now I feel absolutely no sympathy for Romero – especially if all the facts in the article are true. I am so tired of players trying to excuse their behaviors by not knowing the ingredients in the supplements they are taking.

Here’s my suggestion…if you’re taking a supplement, figure out the ingredients. Ask someone. Do your homework. It’s part of the gig.

However, I am all for a player’s right to appeal a ruling – which Romero did in this case. I understand that those things can take time, so I can even live with that part of the story.

But how convenient for baseball to once again, sit on an issue that would be damning to its image and self-interest due to the time of year and game being played. To me – this is when baseball needs to step up and lay down the law, regardless of the PR mess it might create.

While I won’t contest the legitimacy of the Phillies’ World Series victory, it does leave a bit of a tainted story, as I’m sure the historians, journalist and chroniclers of baseball history will duly note.

What do you think – was baseball right to sit on the issue until after the postseason? Vote and voice your opinion in the comments.


One of the better magazine articles I’ve read in a while, but…

Rick Reilly of ESPN The Magazine put together a really interesting article about how steroids has possibly held back some minor league ballplayers, and he argues that they should sue MLB because of it.

There are certainly some interesting points and examples made, and while I’m not ready to sign off on Reilly’s argument — mainly because I don’t know enough about any of the players referenced or the situations they were in when they could have been called up. Just the fact that one of the players was in the Yankees organization almost speaks for itself…not like they’ve been in the habit of leaning on their farm system for the bulk of their roster.

But Reilly does explain what it would take for a class action lawsuit to work, and while I hate to admit it because it might mean I’m endorsing litigation, he does have a bit of a point. But again – how do you prove it? And would such a case just encourage the “everyone deserves a medal” mentality that is becoming more common throughout athletics?

In some ways, I think it does. Every sport is tainted with some kind of bias or unfair process of selecting who makes the team and who doesn’t. Just read Matt Dahlgren’s Rumor In Town, a great book I just finished, and you’ll see what I mean.

I think the fatal flaw in the argument though is the assumption that rosters are built purely on talent alone. We all would like to think it was the case, but it simply isn’t. If nothing less, some teams simply operate on the mantra that they would rather bring in an established veteran through a trade or free agency as opposed to calling up a youngster.

Definitely a novel idea, one that might even have legs, but one that I think would be fairly difficult to prove, if for no other reason than it would be almost impossible to prove why one player gets picked over another.

What do you think?

I did steroids. So now what?
February 5, 2008, 11:46 pm
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I was reading some scouting reports today and came across several guys who had received suspensions for using performance enhancers.

What bothered me was that their suspensions were listed fairly matter-of-factly; that is, the same way an injury was listed or any other potential characteristic issue.

“Struggled with hamstring issues in first two seasons, some wonder if it will reoccur under the stress of longer seasons and tougher competition.”

“Known for late nights…coaches don’t think he appreciates what he has been blessed with.”

“Suspended for 50 games last year after using performance enhancing substances.”

As I read all these reports, the question “so now what?” kept coming up.

Most of these reports were “Top 10 Organizational Prospect” documents — basically who teams are looking strongly at in their own system and what their pluses and minuses are, as well as how well they might fare in a perfect-world scenario.

My question though — how is a steroid suspension seen by the people who evaluate talent? Does it matter? Does it rank higher or lower than chronic injury or inability to get to bed on time?

I know that as a society we believe in second – and often times third, fourth, fifth, etc… — chances for our celebrities. Short of first-degree murder, we are generally willing to agree to punish someone and let them have another swing at life. I generally agree with that – in baseball just as much as in life.

But when you stop and think about it – is that really the best way to go? In the marathon that is the race to become a big leaguer, steroids and other PEDs seem like a shortcut. Once you’ve taken that shortcut, how do you go back? Do you send a guy who tests positive while in double-A all the way back down to rookie ball and tell him to start over? I doubt it. So would the chance of a 50-game suspension be worth hitting the turbo button to supercharge your career and possibly advance up a level or two?

[I know that taking steroids don’t result in an instant change in performance – so forgive me if I make it seem that way. Sometimes you just have to illustrate the point.]

The question I think we’ll all be asking as more light is shed on the steroid era is just that…so now what? Collectively and individually we’ll have to answer that question as it relates to our views on players – past, present and future.

$20 and I won’t mention you in this post.
January 25, 2008, 9:44 am
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I can’t help but think about the Canseco-Ordonez saga that bubbled up the other day.

I admit that I want to read Canseco’s book — if nothing less because it could be sensationalist garbage that makes me appreciate quality literature that isn’t written by a has-been seeking the spotlight.

At best, it could be the Mitchell Report without the niceties and properness.

What does it say about Canseco if this is true? I think the answer’s simple – that he’s a dirty rotten bum. But what does it say about Ordonez if he had paid the money? How many other players has Canseco gone to with this deal? How many have accepted, how many have said nothing, and how many will say nothing about it?

Canseco broke the bond of the clubhouse – and for that he’s probably been shunned fairly thoroughly. However – he still has the power of the pen and some shred of credibility – albeit frayed and delicate. If I was a steroid user and he came to me with that offer – I’d sure as heck have to give it serious consideration. But then how do you enforce it? And what happens if he takes your money and puts you in the book anyway? What’s your recourse?

What would you do if you were in that situation? Post your thoughts!

Malcolm Gladwell on the steroids issue

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point – two books I hope you have read by now — has two interesting posts on his website about Fernando Vina and the ethics of taking certain substances.

Read it. Post your comments. You know the drill.

Fay Vincent on the Bob Costas Show
December 31, 2007, 1:37 am
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If you haven’t had a chance, take a listen to Bob Costas and Fay Vincent talking about the Mitchell Report:

Hour 1 // Hour 2

There’s some interesting discussion – including looking at how people like Pete Rose and Gaylord Perry should be looked at in light of the steroid scandal, and how the Hall of Fame voters should be looking at the situation.

Hello Mr. Pot, this is the operator…do you accept a collect call from Mr. Kettle?

I got the latest edition of USA Today’s Sports Weekly – which serves as the jump off point for today’s post.

As you may have heard, Pete Rose made some comments that the steroids scandal makes him seem like an altar boy with regard to his betting on the Reds. He managed to slip in a reminder that if someone who used steroids can get into the Hall of Fame, then he’s got a shot to get in. Subtle.

Now — when I was a kid, I thought Pete Rose was the ultimate bad-ass…he could hit, he played hard, and he seemed to be a pretty OK guy. Granted I was under 12 for most of his career, but that’s beside the point. He was one of the top figures in baseball – and he owns a fairly significant career record.

What bugs me is that is goes back to being about him. It seems as if he’s really degraded himself to Tonya Harding-esque levels – which is painful to watch as a fan. I get the whole paying for autographs thing, and in some ways I wish I could make that kind of dough signing my name. But at the same time – it seems like a form of prostitution — except with clothes on and a pen in hand.

I’m not going to start the Pete Rose Public Image Enhancement Campaign – but I sure wish we could do something to bring him up to a little higher level of public standing. He seems to be riding other people’s coat tails – which is something I don’t think the MLB career hits leader should have to do – gambling or not.

Enough about that.

There’s a total fluff piece with Matt Damon – who is the narrator of the 2007 World Series DVD. You have to think this will sell well in Boston, but not many other places, as the article alludes to. As big a fan of baseball as I am, I wouldn’t buy it. I would keep a free copy though.

The big article this issue talks about the value of top scouts — and while it’s not an amazing article – it is a good intro into the importance of scouting. People want to talk about the scouts vs. stats war that’s raging in MLB teams’ front offices. I don’t buy it. I think we’re on the cusp of a new era of scouts who will understand and be able to synthesize both sides of the argument.

A brief piece about the effects of the Mitchell Report in Japan is worth reading — while it won’t grab attention over here as much, it’s interesting to see how other countries deal with the issue.

More to come –