Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Mike Gill Show: Rocket Science…

As per usual I have gotten the skinny for my segment on ESPN 1450’s Mike Gill Show. There’s probably no surprise regarding a couple of the subjects:

  • Is Roger Clemens any different from Barry Bonds?
  • If you had a HOF vote: would you vote for Clemens?
  • Is it better to admit guilt, or do these guys look foolish for the way they have come out (Andy Pettitte, Fernando Vina, Brian Roberts etc.)
  • The Phillies are looking at Geoff Jenkins, Mike Cameron and Bobby Kielty--whom do you like?

Is Roger Clemens any different than Barry Bonds?

No, I don’t see a difference. One cannot discount the race issue when looking at how these names are being handled by the media. Having said that, it’s not as simple and cut and dried as that. It does illustrate a common media perception regarding race however; an intense white athlete is viewed as fiery, a competitor and driven to win. An equally intense black athlete is often labelled as a malcontent, a troublemaker and a first class butthole.

Personally, I do see some differences in their abrasive personalities. Clemens strikes me as antagonistic while Bonds tries to remind people of his superiority. It’s one thing to deal with a pain in the gluteal region, quite another to deal with someone who actively tries to make you feel inferior. Further, one is being tried for perjury the other is not.

If you had a HOF vote: would you vote for Clemens?

Yes, I don’t buy the ‘evil, cheating, dishonourable, defiled player’ schtick the media regularly feeds us. I think former major league trainer, Larry Starr, summed it all up best, “I don't totally blame the players, they didn't abuse the system. They used the system.” The fact is, it was the system, tacitly set up by both union and management. We can discuss all day the questions regarding Fay Vincent’s memo, the commissioner’s right to set major league policy etc. it doesn’t change what was understood by the parties … juice your brains out.

Getting back to Starr’s comments, "The commissioner's office, Bud Selig and that group, and the players association, Don Fehr and that group, they sit there and say, 'Well, now that we know that this happened we're going to do something about it.'

"I have notes from the Winter Meetings where the owners group and the players association sat in meetings with the team physicians and team trainers. I was there. And team physicians stood up and said, 'Look, we need to do something about this. We've got a problem here if we don't do something about it.' That was in 1988.

They knew, they did nothing, nobody stood up and blew the whistle. Nobody invoked the ‘probable cause’ provisions in the collective bargaining agreement’s drug policy. It was like greenies back when Jim Bouton wrote “Ball Four”; amphetamines were a controlled substance, illegal without a prescription but everybody knew about it, nobody objected, and nobody threw up a stop sign.

Here’s the thing, while steroids enhance performance in a way greenies cannot, I’d like you to consider the following: greenies allow players to be in the lineup when they otherwise might not be able to; so we look at guys like Robin Yount (3142 hits), Tony Gwynn (3141 hits), Dave Winfield (3110 hits), Craig Biggio (3060 hits), Rickey Henderson (3055 hits), Rod Carew (3053 hits), Lou Brock (3023 hits), Rafael Palmeiro (3020 hits), Wade Boggs (3010 hits), Al Kaline (3007 hits), Roberto Clemente (3000 hits). Did greenies allow them to get into the necessary games to reach 3000 hits? Does that affect their Hall of Fame worthiness?

Before you answer ‘of course not’ consider, there was a time when players like Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker and Tim Raines were viewed as future Hall of Famers. Trammel and Whitaker are on the outside and Raines may have trouble getting 25% of the votes.

What happened?

They never reached the magical 3000 hit plateau. Raines walked 1330 times, had he been less patient, was more aggressive and sacrificed a higher OBP for the sake of extra hits there would be no question about his deservedness. Since he opted for substance over style, he is penalized for it. We have no guarantee that guys like Yount, Winfield, Brock, Boggs and Kaline would have made it. Craig Biggio embarrassed himself in his struggle to reach 3000 hits. He was a lock (in my opinion) at the end of 2006 however if you don’t get to 3000 then all bets are off.

Do we off guys who needed amps to get to 3000 hits? No, that was the system as it existed then. I see no reason to change the rules in mid-stride. The way I see it, everybody wants to punish the players for a system created by those seeking to exploit those talents for lucre. It’s time to admit everybody screwed up and move on. We had an era fuelled by performance-enhancing drugs, like any era (deadball era, pre-1947, Astroturf/amps, juice), you pick the best of the bunch for the Hall of Fame.

It seems to me that it’s not unlike paying junior a dollar for every cookie he swipes from the cookie jar then telling him that he’s not getting Christmas because he stole cookies. The media is being awfully obnoxious besides, they knew, heck I knew and wrote about it for seven years ago. I find their indignation not unlike somebody who finds religion while standing on the gallows.

Is it better to admit guilt, or do these guys look foolish for the way they have come out (Andy Pettitte, Fernando Vina, Brian Roberts etc.)

Sports fans like to forgive. They take comfort when heroes are revealed to be human. To see the greats stumble helps reassure us that just because we’re ordinary there is potential greatness in all of us. However, it has to come with full disclosure. A half-truth or admitting to what everybody already knows convinces no one and makes the situation worse. Talk to us in our language--we’ll understand. For example, I think Mark McGwire juiced primarily because he was having so many physical problems.

Imagine if McGwire went before the committee and said the following:

To play in the big leagues is every kid’s dream. It was mine, the first time I put on a major league jersey and walked onto the field for the first time I thought I had gone to heaven. It was everything I thought it would be and more. However, when you’re a kid, you never imagine that your own body might betray those dreams. When that happens, it becomes a nightmare--one from which you cannot wake up. I had that nightmare, time and again, my body broke down; every time I limped off the field and on to the disabled list, all I could think about was that I’d never walk back on. I saw doctors, I saw specialists, I did the work--nothing helped. It was all slipping away. It felt like that nightmare you have when you’re in trouble and you scream for help but nobody hears you--or you try to yell and nothing comes out.

Eventually I did come across something that did help. It made me stronger, it got me back on the field and the kid in me was back. Right now, I am ashamed to state, that the ‘thing’ was anabolic steroids. Please understand, I didn’t take it cheat, to set records or to make more money. I took them because they let me live the dream again. As you get older, your priorities change. Other things become important, like being a good father and a good person. The passage of time allows us to realize the mistakes we did when we were younger. Taking steroids is one of those mistakes--it sent the wrong message and I know some kids are using these things because I did and I have to live with that. I am here today to try in some small way to undo the damage my actions caused. I hope my actions from this time forward will demonstrate just how sorry I am.

Do you think anybody would’ve vilified McGwire? We all have dreams as kids, we all do stupid things when we’re young--we’ve been there, we all have regrets. I think most would have understood where he was coming from. The half-baked things that pass for mea culpas don’t ring true for us. Maybe they are telling the truth--however, they carefully couched words makes us suspicious. We’ve told half-truths, elasticized the facts so we don’t look so bad--it’s one thing to see our flaws in another, quite another to see our own B.S. being sold to us as a bill of goods.

The Phillies are looking at Geoff Jenkins, Mike Cameron and Bobby Kielty--whom do you like?

I’d opt for Mike Cameron despite being older than Jenkins is. He enjoys a wider skill set and may return to his 30 HR level in CitiBank Park. I wouldn’t go beyond a two year with a team option for third for him.

Stuff …

I’ve done two more columns on the Mitchell Report (wheeee!); one for THT that will run Friday and a follow up to the first one on MSN that I hope will go live soon. Anyway, speaking of HOF eligibility, the names Pete Rose and Joe Jackson have been invoked quite a bit recently. The debates about Jackson continue in some quarters but it’s important we separate myth from fact. One thing used by Jackson’s detractors to prove he was in on the fix is the seven triples hit to left field during the 1919 World Series.

That’s only half-right--the Reds hit seven triples but only one to left field. Here’s the breakdown of the Reds septuplet of three-baggers in the Fall Classic that year:
Game 1:

Bot. 4th--D. Ruether ... Triple (Deep LF-CF); Neale Scores; Wingo Scores
Bot. 7th--J. Daubert ...Triple (Deep RF)
Bot. 8th--D. Ruether ... Triple to CF (Deep CF); Neale Scores

Game 2:

Bot. 4th--L Kopf ... Triple to LF; Groh Scores; Duncan Scores

Game 5:

Top 6th--E Roush ...Triple to CF (Deep CF); Rath Scores; Groh Scores

Game 6:

Bot. 4th--G Neale ...Triple to RF (Deep RF)

Game 8:

Top 5th--L Kopf ... Triple (Deep CF-RF)

Have some fun with that. Finally, I’d like to link to a wonderful column written for THT by Lisa Gray (our Jacquie Robinson--first female writer for THT) entitled Times change, some attitudes don’t. If you don’t think she understands her subject matter, just consider--she’s an African American living in the Deep South and she never finished high school.

Of course, when you read her column it’s hard not to laugh at folks like Bill Conlin or Stephen A. Smith who feels their education entitles them to a platform. Lisa is exhibit A for ‘it’s what you know is more important than where you learned it.’ She may not have a journalism degree but she does have a writer’s pedigree.

Best Regards



Anonymous said...

ooooooooh thank you so very much for the props!!!

and you know, i really have a hard time vilifying these athletes for using roids/HGH. i really do.

i know a lot of em really WERE desperate and trying to heal. i know a LOT of em were looking for SOME edge to get in/stay in. and i wouldn't be real too surprised if barry lamar Himself really DID say - well, i guess i see which way the wind is blowing. playing clean is a fool's errand because playing roided up is what is being praised/rewarded.

FINE!!! (as us females say. and you know what THAT means.)

now i know you might could say that frank thomas said NO, that junior griffey said NO, and that barry could have too. but you know, we all sinners in our own ways, and barry's demon was having to prove himself to his daddy and couldn't nothing stand in the way. NOTHING. even though the man passed some 3 years ago, barry lamar still can't find peace. i know i'm not supposed to, but i feel sorry for him.

it is the one competition he can never win because he lost before he ever started...


Jonathan said...

Ok, trick(y) question...if you would vote for Clemens, what about Rose? Does he still get the shaft because the rule he broke wasn't tacitly allowed? The moral quagmire deepens...