Friday, December 28, 2007

The Mike Gill Show: a 2007 retrospective...

After spending some time visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame (of which I will be blasting in the near future) it became necessary to move my ESPN 1450’s Mike Gill Show segment to today at 6:05 PM. Mike has asked that we discuss the following…

Baseball's top stories of 2007
  • The Mitchell Report
  • Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s HR record
  • Red Sox win their second World Series in last four years
  • Rockies win 21 of 22 to make playoffs
  • Mets blow the NL East

Just a little dialogue about why each made 2007 a great or memorable baseball season.

The Mitchell Report

This was the most overrated story of the 2007 season. It ended up creating more questions than it had answered. First, WNBC put out a bogus list of the players named in the report causing suspicion as to whether it had been altered in the three days prior to its going public. Second, both Larry Starr and Jose Canseco—two people with a tremendous amount of knowledge about steroids in the game—went either unquestioned or underreported. In both cases, they knew the degree of management culpability adding to the perception that Mitchell wasn’t exactly neutral in his investigation.

Further, Mitchell should have involved the MLBPA in the investigation from the get-go or at the very last keeping them in the loop rather than attempting to create an adversarial environment. Of course, this made it that much easier to paint the MLBPA as the problem rather than a partner in getting to the bottom of the steroids mess. Obviously Don Fehr and Gene Orza were too much in love with their own libertarian ideologies than helping insure that the players had a workplace that didn’t require their members to ingest potentially toxic substances to obtain or retain a job in the big leagues.

Fehr and Orza truly had their heads either in the sand, or were suffering from inverse cranial/rectal inversion syndrome by—for all intents and purposes--advising the players to not speak to Mitchell not realizing that they would end up having to speak quite a bit after the fact to the media.

It really didn’t tell us a lot that we didn’t already know; rather it simply confirmed what we had suspected for quite some time. It did demonstrate that Fehr and Orza have damaged the union in a very big way. Their ideology was more important to them than creating a safe, fair working environment for their constituents. They have also inadvertently aided Bud Selig to paint himself as the man who got baseball out of the steroid era and the MLBPA as the ones primarily responsible for it. A lot of players’ reputations have been largely destroyed and they can thank Fehr and Orza for this. If Bud Selig has been laying traps to make sure the public feels he is wearing the white hat and Fehr/Orza the black (hats), the union sprang every last one of them. The Mitchell Report laid bare the total impotence of what was once the most powerful union in the world and highlighted the need for new leadership.

Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s HR record

Generally such a milestone is to be greeted with celebration and it was for the most part—in San Francisco. Bonds, Selig and the media made sure that it would be as joyless as humanly possible. We can debate for years (and probably will) how many ‘juiced’ home runs Bonds hit however the new home run king aided and abetted by the media made sure it would be a resounding anticlimax.

Whether it was waiting for the Grand Jury indictment, BALCO, steroids, Hank Aaron’s reluctance to follow the chase both parties made sure there was maximum distraction approaching 756. I found the media’s response to Aaron to be callous. To expect an elderly man to travel around the country answering the same bloody questions at each and every stop just to make the press’s job easier was inexcusable. For a group that was concerned with Aaron’s legacy, they didn’t seem to care much for Aaron, the human being. After everything he’s gone through in his life, you think folks would respect the man’s right to enjoy a quiet relaxing retirement. Instead we read tons of drivel dissecting “The Hammer’s” mindset in all this.

Bud Selig didn’t help much either. He sat by and allowed the steroid era to continue because it was good for business. He made a laughable appearance at HR No. 755 with an impressive public demonstration of pocket pool and was absent for 756. He made his bed and he should have laid in it like a man. Bonds lifelong obsession of making sure everybody around him realize that he’s one of baseball’s greatest players and they (press and peers) alike are not--made him hard to embrace. I think the overwhelming feeling when it was over was profound relief.

Red Sox win second World Series in last four years

Despite the uncertain nature of the game and the seemingly miraculous efforts of the Rockies, the Fall Classic seemed more of a coronation than anything else. Yes, there were some hopeful prognostications based more on optimism than fact, but deep down I think most expected an AL smackdown.

It confirmed that the Red Sox are just another big market team. The Patriots may go undefeated this year, the Red Sox are only less wealthy than the Yankees and Boston will never again be viewed as the underdog. Having said that, it added to the Hall of Fame cases of Manny Ramirez (already there), Curt Schilling (probably was there already, but convinced some of the remaining skeptics), David Ortiz, (not there yet but getting closer). Further, it cemented Josh Beckett’s reputation of being a big game pitcher and demonstrated that World Series MVP Mike Lowell was probably the greatest contract dump in history. Despite the warm and fuzzies of the aforementioned, the AL now views the Red Sox as the Evil Empire II.

Rockies win 21 of 22 to make playoffs

This was the icing on the cake of a wonderful climax to the National League season. All three divisions and the wild card were up for grabs in the last week of the season—as was the NL MVP. Eight teams were in the hunt and nobody had a clue. Three weeks before the season ended, Colorado wasn’t even on anybody’s radar screen. After this run they swept their way to the World Series downing two division champions without breaking much of a sweat.

It was good for baseball and overdue for the fans in Denver. A wonderful reminder that in the world of baseball, it is truly as Joaquin Andujar once opined, “youneverknow.”

Mets blow the NL East

They say what goes around comes around and that in the great cosmic balance everything eventually evens out. In 1964 it was the Phillies that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. In 2007 it was the Phillies being the miracle team. While it’s easy to lump the Mets in with the 1951 Dodgers, the ’64 Phillies, the 1987 Blue Jays etc. I don’t think it does the story (or the Phillies) justice.

The collapse was simply the flipping of two talented, but flawed teams. In the early going the Mets succeeded despite iffy pitching both in the rotation and the bullpen. Late in the season, it was the Phillies doing likewise. It just so happened that the Phils were standing when the music stopped. It was Chase Utley/Jimmy Rollins vs. David Wright/Jose Reyes, Billy Wagner vs. Brett Myers, Oliver Perez vs. Cole Hamels and Carlos Beltran vs. Aaron Rowand.

Further, it was about three relievers named Brett Myers, J.C. Romero and Tom Gordon. This trio told Charlie Manuel they were available every day and posted a 1.05 ERA in 45 appearances over the season’s final three weeks averaging over 8 K/9 IP and less than 2 BB/9 IP. It was about a confident shortstop who predicted that the Phillies were the team to beat and never wavered while setting NL records for runs scored and total bases by a shortstop while enjoying a 30/30 season and topping 20 doubles, triples, HR, and stolen bases while providing Gold Glove defense.

A Mets collapse or a Phillies team that refused to stay on the canvas and scored a KO in the 15th round? I’ll remember 2007 as the latter.

1 comment:

Pete Toms said...

Mitchell is MLB's messenger boy. In fact I think MLB is getting precisely the response from the report that they want. I hope the PA wins Guillen's grievance and he tells MLB to shove their suspension.