Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Mike on Saturday, February 12, 2005

"We like our players hurt."

I don't think you're going to find a team in baseball that shares that sentiment. In fact, most teams do their best to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. It's good business. A team just isn't going to win as many games as it should if its best players are missing significant amounts of playing time.

This brings me to the Baseball World Cup that could happen as early as next March. Are major league teams supposed to be expected to allow some of their players to go and play in these meaningless exhibition games? What happens when a major star goes down to injury in one of these games? Will their team just take the injury in stride? How about the fans?

These games certainly will be meaningless. I think we can assume that either the United States, the Dominican Republic, or Cuba will find a way to win. Maybe Japan will put up a fight, and that would be really cute, but who honestly cares? So one country will come away from the tournament with some sort of bragging rights or something. Great. It's not even like we will be seeing anything new with World Cup games. The same players that make up the major leagues will just be divided up based on their nationalities and play against each other.

Now there will be another set of real games that major league players can risk getting injured in. I've heard people argue that since the World Cup will take place when Spring Training would normally be occurring that players won't end up being any more worn down than they normally would. That's just foolish. There is a clear difference between the type of easy going games that take place in Spring Training and the type of winner-takes-all games that would be expected in a World Cup.

Pitchers are going to be expected to bear down and pitch like it's the playoffs. These type of innings take a toll of arms over the course of a year. I don't want the pitchers on my team wearing down in September because they've already spent their share of arm strength for that month. I'm sure other fans don't want to see this happen either.

Are teams going to be expected to just let their players go and play in this tournaments? Legally, there are questions to be answered. Is the team still going to be responsible for the contract of a player who is hurt in World Cup play? What if the injury doesn't show up until later in the year because the player is afraid of losing money?

~ Mike


### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###

Posted by Mike on Thursday, February 10, 2005

First Impressions Mean Everything

Pedro Martinez has had little trouble making headlines this obsession and once again he's made the news by surprising us all. He showed up, get this, early for Spring Training. Red Sox fans, management, and players have spent the last few years collectively going insane because Pedro supplied a seemingly limitless supply of excuses as to why he couldn't show up early enough to get ready for each new season. He's now in New York though and apparently in his time in Boston did learn something about public relations. What better way to set the tone for the new season than to show he's willing to sacrifice for them?

None of this really matters because bedrock a competitor and will bring his best to the mound every time he pitches. Are a few meaningless days of preparation in February really going to make a difference in performance for a pitcher who is one of the all-time best? No, the real difference is that in attitude. Pedro showed up early because he doesn't want his entrance into New York to turn into a media fiasco as it would if he arrived at his traditional time. That's fine, I've got no problem with that because it's the smart thing to do, but it looks like some Red Sox fans are starting to view Pedro as the next Roger Clemens.

I'm not going to defend Roger right now because that's a more difficult task but I think Pedro is in need of defense. Pedro gave the Red Sox seven years of phenomenal performance that included a pair of Cy Young Awards, the pitching Triple Crown, and culminated in a World Series victory. He seemed to enjoy his years with the team and only left because he received a much more lucrative contract offer than what the Red Sox were willing to give him. After he left he went out of his way to say that he enjoyed his time with Boston and loved the fans. He also said that he didn't feel the Red Sox did everything that they could have to bring him back to the team. It would have been better if he had kept his mouth shut about respect and his treatment by the front office but he didn't because that has never been the kind of guy that Pedro is. All of a sudden he had given some fans all the ammunition that they needed to throw him under the bus. They started to focus on all the things he had said or done wrong in his Boston tenure and seemed to forget about all that he did right. Showing up late to Spring Training, mini-vacations in July, brooding because he was second fiddle to Curt Schilling, feuds with Jimmy Williams, and acting like a loose cannon to name a few of his shortcomings. He was characterized as classless and petty when he was probably alluding to closely to the truth for some fans to tolerate.

He seemed to have really enjoyed his time in Boston, that much is easy to believe, but it also seems like he hasn't gotten along with the new front office. There are always two sides to every story and right now there has been little questioning of the practices of the current Red Sox ownership and management. I just can't believe that they are innocent in all of this. People like John Henry and Larry Luccino don't get where they are in the world by being nice businessmen. They get there by being ruthless and always acting in their best interests. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a bad thing for them to be ruthless because it will result in success, but Pedro was burned by their practices and he called them on it. That's going to happen sometimes and it can hurt some fans more than they'd like to admit but turning on the player who speaks out isn't the right way to acknowledge the situation.

Bash Brother

I guess I just don't understand what the fuss is all about. Baseball has been having its share of troubles with steroid rumors, accusations, and revelations the last couples years and all of a sudden Jose Canseco is back in the news. His new book is supposedly going to reveal a number of players who Canseco knows were using steroids during his playing days. Do we really need Jose Canseco to tell us anything? He's a player who threw away all the talent in the world, abused steroids, is arguably as dumb as a rock, and has had trouble with the law since finishing his baseball career. He just isn't a credible source.

Okay, let me put it another way. What do we trust more? Do we trust our own eyes and intuition more than we trust Jose Canseco? I certainly do. Since that is the case then do we really need Jose Canseco to tell us that Mark McGuire's numbers and HR record were aided by steroid use? It's not like spotting steroid users is really such a difficult task for the casual fan. Huge ballplayers like McGuire seem to have become more common in recent years and it only seems logical that they're aided by some sort of unnatural means. We see players come up all the time who are small and quick and then transform into muscular monsters by the end of their careers. That is if they manage to stay healthy long enough. So do we really need Jose Canseco to tell us what we already know?

But he's back in the news because the sports media can't let baseball get away from its past. The strike in the early 90s nearly killed the sport but it managed to survive because when it returned it was exciting. There was more scoring in general and there was the home run race between McGuire and Sosa. The fans finally returned in force but it seems like baseball is now paying for the means necessary to save itself. Between Balco, Bonds, Giambi, Canseco, and the new drug testing policy that the government essentially forced on the sport there hasn't been a week in which baseball and steroids haven't been a headline.

The players seem to want steroid testing, the fans want it, and baseball needs it. A newer and tougher version is finally here but only time will tell its true effectiveness. This whole steroid controversy is starting to get very old and tired so can we just let the past stay where it is focus on the present and the future of baseball?

Uh, what were they thinking?

I'm kicking back and watching a rebroadcast of game 7 of the 2004 ALCS and I can't help to wonder what Terry Francona and Pedro Martinez were thinking in the 7th inning. I know this particular inning was rehashed over and over months ago but I still can't understand what logic was behind what occurred.

On the one hand is Terry Francona who decided to end Derek Lowe's night after 6 innings and bring in Pedro Martinez. Lowe pitched a fantastic game but he seemed to be cooked and there wasn't any good reason to send him out there for another 3 outs. Fine, that seems logical to me, so there's little to wonder about that move. The man who replaces Derek Lowe? A certain Pedro Martinez. All of a sudden the crowd comes back to life and there is a terrifying feeling for Red Sox fans that the Yankees aren't quite done scoring runs. After the game I remember Francona, Pedro, and even Schilling wondering aloud why the Yankees fans came back to life when they saw Pedro take the mound? A chorus of "Who's your daddy?" and an echoing "Paaaaay-Droooooe" were fueled by the whipping boy status that Pedro had achieved with his late season comments about just not being able to beat the Yankees. Apparently some of the members of the Red Sox were unaware as to how much the Yankees fans had really latched onto Pedro's words?

This all would have been fine if Pedro had come out of the bullpen throwing bullets and quickly quieted the fans. Instead he decided to go with his high-80s fluff fastballs and promptly gave up a few runs. Whoops. It wasn't like Pedro didn't have his "A" stuff in reserve when he took the mound. After he gave up those two runs he seemed to sense the moment, the 7th inning of game 7 of the ALCS, and all of a sudden his velocity jumped almost 10 mph. Instead of throwing 87-89 mph he finished the inning with 95-97 mph heat. In all seriousness, what the heck was he saving his arm for in the 7th inning of game 7 of the ALCS?

~ Mike


### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###

Posted by Ben K. on Monday, February 07, 2005

Canseco's Steroid Revelations Put MLB in a Tough Spot

This column is posted at 360 The Pitch. You can read it all here, but I'd prefer if you clicked here to check out the new site.

The story no one in baseball wants to hear — rumors about steroid use — reared its ugly head once again this weekend.

With little more than a week left before pitchers and catchers report to training camps in warm locales, the steroid scandal is once again splashed across the sports pages of newspapers across the country. This weekend’s revelations focused around former Major Leaguer Jose Canseco and his upcoming book entitled Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big.

According to the New York Daily News, Canseco delivered on his promise to name names and point fingers. He accuses former teammates Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi of shooting up. He reportedly implicates famous sluggers who played with him on the Texas Rangers and even goes so far as to take a swipe at President George W. Bush, claiming that Bush knew that his players were using performance-enhancing drugs when he owned the Rangers in the 1990s.

Players, managers, and agents have of course already begun their damage control. Tony La Russa and Dave McKay, two coaches who led the A’s during Canseco’s time with the team, disputed the leaked material from the book. In The New York Times, La Russa stuck up for his former star slugger. “He's hurting for money and he needs to make a score. What's a more sensational thing to say, and who's a more sensational target to pick than Mark?” he said.

Meanwhile, the Daily News claims that the leaked book, set to hit stores right at the start of Spring Training on Feb. 21, is already creating a stir among the higher-ups in Major League Baseball and the Players Association as they prepare for the worst. Yet, the issue is not a clear cut one, and it will only become further complicated as more information about the book is released. In the end, baseball could use this latest diversion to leave steroid use firmly in the past.

First, as La Russa pointed out, there’s the issue of Jose Canseco’s credibility. Truth be told, Canseco is not the most reliable of sources. He’s always had a tumultuous relationship with the media and has been into and out of trouble more often than he’s been traded. Anything he says should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

However, since Ken Caminiti’s 2002 admission to steroid use during his MVP season and the BALCO testimony that rocked the baseball world this winter, more people have been willing to listen to these steroid allegations. As ESPN contributor Mark Kriedler wrote back in 2002, “But what Ken Caminiti is saying, if you’ll take the time to find his words, is that the Jose Cansecos of the baseball world are far more right than wrong.”

Second, compounded with the issue of Canseco’s credibility is the unfortunate (for the author, at least) timing of the book. This winter saw more than its fair share of steroid stories. Leaked Grand Jury testimony sealed the fates of certain sluggers while the development of a new steroid policy showed that baseball was ready to address a serious problem. Now, Canseco’s book really does seem like the icing on the cake. By releasing the book now, it is as though Canseco just wants to cash in on a public itching to hear more about what All Stars, what future Hall of Famers, and what average players juiced up during the past 15 years.

In response, already embattled Major League coaches such as La Russa and McKay are vehemently backing their players. But is that the right move to make? I don’t think Canseco’s book should be taken for much more than a gossipmonger trying to pick up a quick buck, but that’s only in terms of the namedropping. The real message of Canseco’s warnings — that, at one point, 80 percent of Major Leaguers used steroids — is much more likely to be true, and this isn’t something Major League Baseball can sweep under the rug .

It’s admirable that managers stand behind their superstars, but that is not the right move to make anymore. With a public that grows increasingly skeptical anytime a La Russa says that a Mark McGwire, a known user of Androstenodione, is completely innocent of using performing enhancing drugs, it’s time for Major League Baseball to reassess its responses to these steroid revelations no matter how dubious the source may be.

This raises a sticky question: Should Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association out steroid users in an effort to reclaim the purity of the game? If players stepped forward or were outed by their peers, the argument goes, the public would begin to believe those who claimed not to be users. These moves would also restore confidence in the integrity of today’s game. But considering the strength of the Players’ Association and the delicate nature of the controversy, it’s probably not the best idea for players to out their peers and thus alienate what could be a large percentage of the union. However, coaches and teammates could be better off if they remained silent on this issue instead of rushing to the defense of every nice guy or hard-working player implicated in the scandal.

In the end, Major League Baseball is in a Catch-22 situation. They shouldn’t publicly out those who used steroids during the Juiced Era, but those involved in the game shouldn’t be turning a blind eye to reality. This isn’t to say that Mark McGwire is definitely guilty and that Jose Canseco is telling the truth. But if Major League Baseball is truly intent on leaving the steroid scandal in the past, the iron wall of support for all players should come down.

Records and personal achievements of superstars from the past 15 years will always be in doubt in the public mind. Here’s to hoping that the next 15 years won’t produce an environment for any more asterisks, suspicions, syringes, or gossip-driven books.

### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###