Results tagged ‘ Mark McGwire ’

Nostalgic Photo Day

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Nothing better than at this coldest, least baseballish hour of the year, than to let the wayback machine work its magic and show us some classic images.
Two of these are screencaps right off MLB Network and they own them and don’t you dare, etc. To the left is, of course, the nonpareil third baseman of the Orioles Brooks Robinson as he stud- what the heck is he wearing?

This is from 1971, when the Orioles experimented, mercifully only briefly, with orange tops and orange pants. Apart from the glow-in-the-dark quality, it meant that Robby’s enormous teammate Boog Powell got to wear both these beauts and the all-red jobs of the 1975 Cleveland Indians. The latter led to Boog’s immortal self-description: “I look like a big red blood clot.” Frank Robinson wore them both too, without any such quality humor, but then again, by Cleveland, Frank was a manager.
Below is a famous image of a famous home run: Chris Chambliss’s 9th Inning job off Mark Littell to win the 1976 ALCS for the Yankees. I was at that game, sat in the seats for most of it, but was actually sitting next to Dick Schaap in the press room as Chris got his slice of immortality. The chaos that ensued has been well documented, but until this aired on MLB Net the other day I had never noticed one detail. Look closely behind Chambliss as he turns first and heads for second:
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Do you see him? The guy in the light blue sleeves, reaching down? The guy is stealing first base! Chambliss is perhaps ten feet past the bag and all bedlam is breaking loose, but this guy is already making off with the props. Good grief, he has to have planned it!
The next two shots are entirely my own, and of much more recent vintage. This would be the view from our Fox Sports Net booth above the right field roof at Fenway Park at no less an event than the Home Run Derby at the 1999 All-Star Game. So besides the display of model rocketry by Mark McGwire that night, and the impending All-Century Team event and the Ted Williams lovefest the following evening – look at that sunset!
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I said “look at that sunset!”
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McGwire Highway Revisited

I am advised by the impeccable Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the stretch of asphalt to be de-named after Big Mac (see lengthy tedious post below) and rechristened in honor of Mark Twain, had, long before Mac, been part of the Twain Expressway. So the great writer has not somehow been overlooked by Missouris Department of Transportation. Of course, this does mean that the DOT has gone back from McGwire to Clemens.

Not So Big Mac After All

A full week of exhibition games in, and Mark McGwire is clearly not on his way to setting a single-season record for confrontational interviews. Not even TMZ-style ambush. 

Sure, sure, they’re pulling his name off his highway in Missouri and given it to Mark Twain (begging the question: they’re just now getting around to honoring Mark Twain?). But this today, from the local paper in Naples, Florida, seems to be more representative of the overall tone to the start of the McGwire post-steroid, post-I-did-it-for-my-health-interview, era:

“There is a lot of negativity and failure in baseball. It’s nice to talk about how positive it can be. I’m a positive person,” McGwire said.

With that apparently not ironic use of “positive” there, presumably psychiatrists have just upgraded Mac a few notches in preparation for their upcoming Psychology Rotisserie Draft. But we move on.
There are three ways to read the slow start to McGwire Season. Firstly, it’s just that, a slow start. The real tests start Friday when the Cardinals play the Red Sox, and then next Monday as they begin a virtual playoff series with the Mets (also Saturday, a week from Thursday, the 28th, and 30th – should you want to start circling your calendar). The players are irrelevant; the writers mattered. One can infer from giving New York’s Grouchiest five separate shots at Mac, that the schedule was either drawn up long before McGwire’s hiring, or somebody in St. Louis really doesn’t like Mark.
The second theory is that McGwire’s return really is no big deal, positive or negative, and the writers have correctly gauged the spirit of the times. Since the writers only correctly gauge the spirit of the times once every 12.7 years (and when they do, 60 percent of them ignore it and write anyway), I’m not putting a lot of money on this one.
The third one, I think, is the likeliest. Mark McGwire is simply being forgotten to death. The first evidence of this syndrome – a kind of psychological universal asterisk – was apparent when ESPN’s Barry Bonds Reality Show bombed. It did not generate controversy, it was not attacked as exploitive, it wasn’t even criticized as bad TV. It was just that outside the Bay Area and a small circle of other admirers, nobody wanted to hear from or about Barry Bonds, ever again. As if by a collective unspoken will: Barry Bonds hit more home runs, and Henry Aaron is still baseball’s all-time home run leader.
Perhaps this invisible fog is now enveloping McGwire. Nobody’s raising a stink, because nobody takes him seriously. 
Maybe the Missouri Department of Transportation should have re-named the McGwire Highway after another former Cardinals hero: Roger Maris.
FROM A RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK:
Imagine if this had happened a little later in baseball’s history – it wouldn’t have been labeled “trivia.” When the Dodgers played an exhibition against the Braves in Vero Beach on March 11, 1967, two late, one-inning defensive replacements for Los Angeles included first baseman Sadaharu Oh, and third baseman Shigeo Nagashima. There’s even an Associated Press wire photo of one of the Japanese immortals, Nagashima, taking a throw as Atlanta’s Jim Beauchamp slides into third. The photo is not on the net, only in a digitized version of the Chicago Tribune’s hard copy, so it’s tough to be certain but it appears Nagashima is wearing not a Dodgers’ uniform, but his Tokyo Yomiuri Giants’ garb.
FROM A PERSONAL NOTEBOOK:
Belated thanks to all who have posted comments lately with well wishes for my father, who continues to fight his illness, more than two weeks after he lost wakefulness, and more than six months after he was first hospitalized. Your support is of great value to me (and my thanks to MSNBC for its understanding in this time, and, for that matter, MLB.Com, for providing this oasis where I can immerse myself in the game between trips to his bedside). This is, in fact, what baseball is for.

I’d also like to welcome new reader Bill Simmons, who has been kind enough to tweet about my note here last week already ceding him the dumbest sportswriting award of 2010 for his laugh-out-loud funny argument that the comeback of Tiger Woods (caught having repeated trouble with his putts) will be more difficult than that of Muhammad Ali (persecuted by the federal government for the color of his skin, his stance against the war, and his religious conversion, and effectively banned from his sport for two years).

Mr. Simmons tweets:

I’m furious that my Tiger column distracted America from a detailed and only mildly creepy case for Johnny Orsino’s Hall of Fame candidacy.

via UberTwitter


This is pretty standard stuff for Mr. Simmons. Make a fool of yourself comparing Tiger Woods (loss of advertisers) to Muhammad Ali (loss of income, threatened loss of freedom), so change the topic – to an admittedly trivial column about a trivial moment from a marginal catcher named John Orsino.

Mr. Simmons resumes:

KO, please know the feeling is mutual. You’re my worst case scenario for my career in 12 yrs: a pious, unlikable blowhard who lives alone.

via UberTwitter


This assumes that Mr. Simmons’ career now is where mine was twelve years ago (anchoring SportsCenter, then my own MSNBC political show, anchoring NBC Weekend Nightly News, writing a best-selling sports book, etc). In fact, this assumes that this is Mr. Simmons’ career, which is remarkable. Also, anybody who could write as many words without saying anything of consequence really should throw around the word “blowhard” as frequently as he would a street sewer cover.

Also, I don’t think “pious” necessarily means what he thinks it does.
Having made his point 50% of his words ago, Mr. Simmons still continues. As usual:


I feel bad about saying Olbermann lives alone. I forgot about his cats.

via UberTwitter


Mr. Simmons apparently uses, for factual research, old parody sketches from “Saturday Night Live.” I’m not surprised. That was Ben Affleck. Thanks for playing.
I am surprised, however, to be able to shed some light on something that has been a prominent topic of late around the internet: the prospect that Mr. Simmons is leaving ESPN. Admittedly I am something of an authority on this process. Nonetheless, I was stunned to receive several emails from some of Mr. Simmons’ bosses there, thanking me for pointing out the absurdity of, and the embarrassment to ESPN provided by, the Woods/Ali comparison.
About five years ago, I guess, somebody said Tony Kornheiser was the most uncontrollable, unmanageable talent in the history of ESPN. I was, of course, crushed (although I believe I got honorable mention). When ESPN bosses are writing me for helping them about somebody they claim has now lapped Tony and myself, I am left to conclude only that if Mr. Simmons does leave ESPN, it may not be entirely of his own choosing.
And we now encourage Mr. Simmons to again falme the comments section under various identities, to his heart’s content. This is a managed site, and they can take ‘em down. But enjoy yourself.


The Real Test Is Of The Union

In a second chance to make a first impression, MLB is set to implement blood testing for Human Growth Hormone in the minors later this year – according to sources quoted by the estimable Michael Schmidt of The New York Times.


Schmidt says MLB’s decision comes on the heels of the first positive test for HGH, that of a British Rugby player.
The science is still behind the curve on this, but even the possibility of a breakthrough makes it incumbent upon the Major League Baseball Players Association to act, and act quickly. Executive Director Don Fehr has long said that when a reliable test was available, the union would have to look at it. That the process is not perfected is no excuse; Fehr needs to sign on to some sort of exploratory testing program on the big league level, if not this season, then for 2011.
Mark McGwire and the friends were hardly the only ones to be damaged by the Steroid Era. The owners have, at best, looked like hypocritical enablers, and, at worst, like passive-aggressive pushers. The lethargic pace of steroid testing, and the nonsensical, train wreck that is welcoming McGwire back to uniform this spring, has given the union the opportunity to look like the guys who are truly interested in preserving the integrity of the game, even at the partial expense of membership.
Rightly or wrongly (wrongly, I think; the owners probably had more knowledge than union non-player leadership, at least early on) the MLBPA draws the bulk of the public’s blame for the steroid test foot-dragging through the ’90s and ’00s. This – and I write this as one who has supported the union’s moves, stances and purposes, almost uniformly, since the ’70s – is the players’ chance to erase much of the perception in the fans’ minds that they care only for their wallets, and not for the sport itself.
Just come out and say you’re for HGH testing, in the majors, as soon as it is practical. 
Do it now.

McGwire 4: The Koufax Confusion

Mark McGwire’s excuse has indeed resonated in some quarters, and I’ve already seen some claims that “Sandy Koufax took steroids – and for the same reason – for his health!”

Different stuff, known now by a different term, and administered under a doctor’s prescription and supervision. Stuff you yourself may have been given.
The origin points are a) an interview Koufax gave upon his retirement in which he references being “high” during games from all the drugs, and b) a passing reference inside Jane Leavy’s fabulous book Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy.

Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus explained it more than two years ago in a post (subscription required):

I was able to get in touch with Jane Leavy to clarify. I asked Ms. Leavy if she meant corticosteroids or if Koufax, a player of the same era that we know steroids and HGH made some small inroads into the game, now had to be lumped in with the “juicers.” Leavy states she meant corticosteroids, the same type of “cortisone injection” that we see performed so often in baseball to this day.


So, no, Sandy Koufax did not take the “steroids” Mark McGwire took, for the same reason McGwire claims he took them. He took cortisone injections (cortico-steroids; they used the back half of the word as shorthand in the ’60s; we now use its front half) for the same reason probably a quarter of major league pitchers have taken them, the same reason I took one in each of the last two years – a specialist physician determined it was safe, it would alleviate pain, and do less damage than surgery. And it broke no rule nor law.
Parenthetically, I received steroid drops for my eyes the other day. I had no idea they existed. This also provided the only laugh of the entire McGwire MLB Net interview – when he talked about how no steroid could immediately effect one’s hand-to-eye coordination. He’s literally correct (though all honing of physical strength can lead to improved coordination, too), but if he’d only known about “Eyeball Steroids” he might have dropped the subject just to avoid the confusion.

McGwire 3: The Advisor

In The New York Times, my friend Rich Sandomir has an extraordinary piece on the arranging of the Costas/McGwire interview, and the rest of yesterday’s ‘limited hang-out,’ as a component of the Mark McGwire Contrition Tour.

Sandomir doesn’t address if this was McGwire’s batcrap crazy idea, or it was designed by somebody else: that everybody will believe he took steroids, often by injection (“I preferred the orals”), solely for the purpose of healing his tortured body, just so he wouldn’t waste the gift “from the man upstairs” and to avoid the shame of hearing “teammates walking by saying, ‘he’s injured again.”
But he does reveal that there was somebody involved in this strange dance, conveniently transcripted here. McGwire has a damage control advisor, and he’s Ari Fleischer, the former Press Secretary to President Bush. I vowed long ago not to mix baseball and politics here, and I’m confident that I’d be saying the same thing if this were Robert Gibbs from the current White House: if this was Fleischer’s plan, he owes McGwire a refund. If it wasn’t, he needs to tell Mac never to suggest it again.
It will to some degree fly with a small percentage of the public, and l point to the irony of a comment yesterday by somebody posting under the name “Mantlewasarockstar.” Let’s accept McGwire’s premise – even though this took place long after the heartbreaking death of Lyle Alzado, and the sudden retirement of Florence Griffith-Joyner, and the other horror health stories of steroids abused. Last night he told Costas he had started his heaviest use of steroids in the winrer of 1993-94, to try to regain his health.
But by McGwire’s admission, he “broke down in ’94. Missed three quarters of the year. I go into ’95 and I broke down again. I could have been – but for some reason I kept doing it.”
He did it to get healthy, got less healthy, but kept doing it? From 1993 through at least 1998? This has now sunk to the level of the Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds denials: ‘I, as a top athlete dependent on my body for my multi-million-dollar income, had no idea what I was putting in my body. Coulda been dangerous pharmaceuticals. Or flaxseed oil. Or something Miguel Tejada got at a sample sale at a Dominican drug store.’
More over, if you’re buying this, Mr/Ms Mantlewasarockstar, and it really still was some kind of firm conviction this was about body repair and not artificially-increased home run power – body repair is by itself artificially-increased home run power! Consider the name under which you comment: Mickey Mantle. 
What would Mantle have been like with a miracle elixir that let him come back from injuries? What would Maris have been like (it wasn’t just the bad taste of public reaction that led him to retire seven years later – he only played two full seasons after he broke Ruth’s record)? Or Albert Belle? Or every sore-armed pitcher whom McGwire faced, or faced at less than full strength, or would never face at all?
If something improper, immoral, illegal, or unethical was used by Mark McGwire to get himself back on the field, and if it really did nothing whatsoever to add enough power to get transform just thirty of what had been his fly ball outs, into the stands each year – it, by itself, was a performance-enhancing drug. In some ways it becomes even more of a performance-enhancing drug: it didn’t just improve what he did from, say, 40 to 70.
It increased it from 0 to 70.
Plug: we’ll deconstruct parts of the MLB Network interview with McGwire, tonight on Countdown.
UPDATE: You’ll notice a comment comparing the euphoria effects of amphetamines to the hypothetical effects of steroids as McGwire misunderstands them. Clearly I wasn’t explicit enough, so consider that the sentence I wrote above, “What would Mantle have been like with a miracle elixir that let him come back from injuries?” as actually reading, “What would Mantle have been like with a miracle elixir that let him come back healthy from injuries, as opposed to a drug that temporarily left him too stoned and/or strung out to care.”
Also, “FAIL”? When did the condescending use of this word as an argument-ender jump the shark, 2006 or 2005?

McGwire 2: Apology As Rationalization

The question from Bob Costas, paraphrased: Could you have had those homer-to-at bats ratios, and could you have hit 70 homers in 1998, without steroids:

“I truly believe so. I was given this gift by the man upstairs.”
Which gift was this, Mark? The gift of steroids?
Mark McGwire, who in his statement this afternoon seemed to understand something at least of the damage he had done to the game, has undone this tonight in the Costas interview on MLB Network. 
He insisted he used steroids only to restore his health after his physical trials of the early ’90s: “My track record as far as hitting home runs, the first at bat I had in Little League was a home run. They still talk about the home runs I hit in high school, they still talk about the home runs I hit in Legion – I led the nation in home runs – they still talk about the home runs I hit in the minors. I was given the gift to hit home runs.”
Seriously?
“All I’ve wanted to do was come clean. I’ve been wanting to come clean since 2005.”
Then do so. Saying you used steroids, but denying the steroids had anything to do with your ability to hit more and longer homers – and to not even connect the idea that even if it was merely for purposes of restoring physical health, that still means the steroids contributed to your ability to hit these homers – does not constitute an apology, an acknowledgment, or the truth.

THREE UPDATES (8:15 EST): Why did McGwire repeatedly insist he’d been looking for the opportunity to come clean since 2005? Why not earlier? 
Secondly, is the connection not clear in McGwire’s mind? That steroids permit the user to work out more frequently, to rebound more quickly from the wear and tear of exercise and weight-lifting? That as dedicated to the hard work in the weight room as one might be, it is the steroids that physically enable the user to increase the frequency of that hard work?
Thirdly, props to the MLB Network group: Matt Vasgersian, Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal, and my friends Joe Magrane, Harold Reynolds, and of course Bob Costas, for not simply rubber-stamping McGwire’s ridiculous disconnect between the steroids and the productivity.
This apology is about one percent more substantial than Jason Giambi’s. And it came five years later.

Hall of Famers and Numbers Without Wings

They don’t give me a vote.
I was once gratified to read somebody argue that they should, but if I remember correctly this was written by somebody else who also didn’t get a vote, but probably should. 
The logic behind that assertion will presumably decrease as time goes by. But it is staggering to consider that for decades, writers elected – or prevented the election of – dozens of players who they literally never saw play in a game that mattered. By the time Ron Santo was first seen by future Hall of Fame voters working in Baltimore, Boston, and all the other American League cities save for Chicago, L.A., and New York, he was a worn-out 34-year old part-time second baseman who had already hit 337 of the 342 homers he would ever hit. Seeing them on television has been the actual qualification for some large number of voter-nominee interactions since television began.
But I digress. Capsule summaries of the candidacies of those on the new ballot just released Friday:
Roberto Alomar: No, just barely. I don’t think he was as good as Sandberg and I always said Sandberg shouldn’t go in before Joe Gordon. I’m not judging Alomar on the spitting incident, I’m judging him on the fact that for whatever reason, at age 34 he not only turned from a superstar into a fringe major leaguer, but he also turned into a millstone around the neck of a franchise. The bad taste may fade with time, but right now I couldn’t vote for him.
Harold Baines: Yes, just barely. He’s hurt by the 2,866 hits – he’s in that Buckner zone. Everybody else who got to Buckner’s level of hits (2,763) has gotten in, or will, or is Pete Rose.
Bert Blyleven: Definitely. Fifth all-time in strikeouts now (passed by Clemens), by any measure one of the game’s great curveballers, and 287 wins. And by the way, those 3,701 strikeouts? They came with only 1,322 walks. 

Andre Dawson: Yes. Farcical he has had to wait.
Andres Galarraga: I just don’t see it. 399 homers in the power era just doesn’t get there.

Barry Larkin: A great player and one of my favorites, but I don’t recall ever during his playing career having had even that Alomarian sense that this could be a Hall-of-Famer. If we’re looking to put a Reds shortstop in Cooperstown, it should be David Concepcion.
Edgar Martinez: The first test of how the DH-as-position will resonate through history. I can see electing pure DH’s but to me the batting bar is a little higher for them than other batsmen who field. Two batting championships and a RBI title is not sufficient. Ferris Fain won two batting championships, too, and I don’t see a big argument for him in Cooperstown (and he did it in consecutive years, too).
Don Mattingly: Sigh, no. I wish. The back injury killed his chances – he dropped from superior to slightly-above-average. For competitive fire, diligence, class, yes. But we don’t do it that way.
Fred McGriff: Amazingly, yes. Here is the silver lining to the steroid era. Suddenly his 493 homers and ten 30-home run seasons look surprising, even refreshing, considering the worst thing he was ever accused of taking were Boring Pills. No offense, but when the Yankees had to bribe Toronto to take Dave Collins off their hands in the winter of 1982-83 and the Jays said “OK, but you have to take Dale Murray off our hands – and we want this kid McGriff,” the Yanks would have been better off saying “take Mattingly.”
Mark McGwire: Hall of Fame? For what? For pretending to Congress that nothing happened before that steroid hearing? Fine. You got your wish. Nothing happened. Your lifetime numbers are 0-0-.000. And by the way, why is it ok for him to just waltz back in as batting coach of the Cardinals? Would we let Bonds come back in? This is unacceptable, and it gives credence to the very disturbing claim that race is at play when it comes to the punishment of steroid cheats. Mark McGwire is a steroid cheater.
Jack Morris: Another beneficiary of a little perspective. I used to flinch at that 3.90 ERA. There seems very little doubt that Tom Glavine will go in on the first ballot at 3.54. I’m looking more at the 254 wins and the clutch performances. Aye.
Dale Murphy: Yes. Preposterous that he’s had to wait. Two-time MVP, thought he was tailing off at the end of one season so he went to the Instructional League that fall to work on his hitting, turned himself from a defensive disaster to a star centerfielder, and was cooperative with every fan, reporter, and vendor. During his era as an every-day starter, 1978 through 1991, he was baseball’s leading home-run hitter, and he’s not in because he hit 398 homers and not 400? And we’re seriously considering Edgar Martinez before him?
Dave Parker: To be fair, something of a victim of expectations. But when he came up he was thought to have been the best all-around talent to ascend to the majors perhaps since Mays. 339-1493-.290 with 147 steals, two batting titles, and no homer crowns, isn’t very much, I’m afraid.
Tim Raines: No. It is very close. Maybe the steals should earn him a spot. The rest of the offensive production just doesn’t.
Lee Smith: Here’s a startling question: who led his league in saves more often during his career? Lee Smith, Mariano Rivera, or Trevor Hoffman? The answer is Smith (four), though Rivera (three), and Hoffman (two) can still do something about it. But doesn’t it at least suggest Smith’s 478 saves should be taken seriously, too? I vote yes.
Alan Trammell: No. I wish it were otherwise.
I do want to see how many guys vote for Shayne Reynolds.
THE UNEXPECTED BENEFIT OF WATCHING MLB NET’S ‘ALL-TIME GAMES’:
There are at least two big heavy fascinating books devoted to no less a topic than the attempt to record all of the uniform numbers worn by big leaguers. It may not fascinate you, but it fascinated two guys, including the eminent researcher Mark Stang, to take the time to do the research, and two publishers to pay the costs.
That’s why an odd vigne
tte from an odd MLB Network choice for one of its “All-Time Games” is fascinating – to a few, anyway. It’s a black-and-white video of the Montreal Expos outlasting the Pittsburgh Pirates at Jarry Park in Montreal on September 2, 1970. And at mid-game, rookie announcer Don Drysdale starts commenting to his partner Hal Kelly about the odd spectacle he’s seeing in the visitors’ bullpen. 
This – and forgive the photographed screen grab – is the spectacle:
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COURTESY MLB NETWORK

The righthander in mid-pitch is John Lamb (of the Pirates’ odd Lamb/Moose/Veale pitching staff). The lefty awaiting the throw is George Brunet, and he is not an outfielder loosening up his arm to replace Roberto Clemente. He’s a lefthanded pitcher – one who pitched fifteen seasons for nine different teams, plus thirteen more in the American minors, plus teams in Mexico up until nearly the day he died in 1991 – whom the Bucs had obtained from the Washington Senators three days earlier.
And he is wearing uniform number 4. Drysdale says to Kelly that Brunet is going to change the number as soon as possible because: a) pitchers just don’t wear “low numbers” like that, and b) Brunet has told him so. Left unspoken is the fact that Brunet, listed at 6’1″, 195, was probably closer to 220 by the time he got to Pittsburgh, and they probably gave him number 4 because, in that first year in which double-knit unis were ever used in the majors, it was likely the only shirt they had that fit him.
Both those big heavy uniform books show Brunet wearing only 22 for Pittsburgh. Yet, there he is, a few moments later, years ahead of Toronto’s Number 7 Josh Towers, actually getting into his second game as a Pirate, wearing the number they would eventually get around to retiring in honor of Ralph Kiner.
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COURTESY MLB NETWORK

As an utter sidebar, I loved watching this game until I realized that the second of my two trips to Montreal as a kid to explore unbeatable, electric (and frigid in August with aluminum seats)  Parc Jarry, was exactly one week before this game was played. Alors! This game is newer than the last time I actually saw that old field!

Big Mac, Big Mistake

So the last time we saw Mark McGwire he was giving the worst possible answer to questions from Congress about steroids. And then he vanished without a trace, and the location of his supporters and defenders shrank to one area code in Missouri, and every day somebody hoped he’d figure it out: his reputation was shot anyway, he wasn’t going to the Hall of Fame, he had been given by fate a license to tell kids not to get involved with performance-enhancers and thus redeem much of his own unacceptable but easily forgiven perfidy.

Instead, crickets.
In March, that ludicrous “I’m not hear to talk about the past” announcement will have been five years ago. And now we are informed that McGwire, who never had a reputation as much of a student of the game (although he was secretly tutoring several Cardinals including Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday, and they swear by him), and who never addressed his past, will suddenly emerge from nowhere to coach the Cards’ hitters next season. 
Just a guess here, but he might get a question about PED’s from the media, and he might get an occasional taunt from the fans. Look, this isn’t going to be 1998 in terms of reportorial attention, and it’s not like hitting coaches run out to the plate as pitching coaches do to the mound so the booing will probably be at a minimum. But who thought this was a good idea, or one that won’t be mocked, debated, and questioned in every city except St. Louis? If Tony LaRussa feels the 2010 Cardinals will need a distraction from questions about their pitching, hitting, fielding, and team chemistry – he just provided it.
THE CURSE IS OVER
I congratulate the National League Champion Phillies who made it to the World Series without my help (snark) for the first time ever. There go any free tickets I might have gotten in the next few years. I’ll live.
I suspect the Yankees will win the Series in six, possibly five. I would expect the Phillies to pound A.J. Burnett mercilessly in Game Two but otherwise be largely thwarted by the Sabathia/Pettitte combo. A monster Series out of Dennis Werth, himself the stepson of a long-ago Yankee, would be the key to an upset.

It Disgusts Me

When I think of Lou Gehrig, I see him in a hotel room somewhere in the summer of 1938. It is the middle of the night, nearly silent, sweltering in Cleveland or St. Louis or Washington. If there is any air conditioning it is feeble and no match for humidity sitting like a giant sweater on the city.

The pain has been growing, almost imperceptibly, for months, maybe years. Worse still his inability to make his body do what he wants it to do has deteriorated. The discomfort may have awakened him, but it’s something else that has caused him to reach for the alarm clock, and instead knock it to the floor with a sour ring. This may have been begun years earlier – his eventual successor Babe Dahlgren told me he was playing first for the Red Sox in 1935 when Gehrig rounded the bag, slipped, and just could not steady himself to stand up.
He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and it will be months more of pain, and confusion, and fear, and denial, and dread, before he has even heard the phrase. And then the world will close in on him: in March, 1939, he will stagger through spring training. In May he will take himself out of the lineup. Weeks later he will be at the Mayo Clinic. In July he will be honored at Yankee Stadium and initially be asked not to speak to the heartbroken crowd, for fear that just the sound of his words, his acknowledgment of what is so terribly wrong, will reduce 60,000 people to tears. By the following spring, working for the underprivileged and troubled youth of New York City, he will pose, smiling, at an office desk. Only later will it be revealed that the pencil he holds had to be placed there, and his fist closed around it, by somebody else’s hand. Barely two years after the diagnosis, exactly 16 years after his legendary streak began, it will all end.
And yet in the Bronx 70 years ago today, Lou Gehrig composed himself in such a manner, with a strength that eclipsed even what he showed on the ballfields of the ’20s and ’30s, that he could give one final measure of himself with such honesty, with such courage, with such a simple and direct connection to the human condition, that it is quoted, somewhere, every day.
And when those who have followed him in the game he loves, honor him, and this country, and themselves, by having those words read in every ballpark in the major leagues on this 4th of July, they emphasize all that is good and brave, despite the unbeatable odds and ultimate “bad break” we all face eventually, about the game, about the nation, about life itself.
But first, let’s take you out to San Diego where Manny Ramirez is just back from a 50-game suspension. For cheating. For cutting corners. For breaking rules. For lying. For deception. For letting down his teammates. For contributing to suspicions against every honest player. For raising a giant middle finger to sportsmanship. For abusing the fans. For risking that for which Lou Gehrig would’ve given anything – his own health.
Ramirez, of course, homered today in his first at bat. And some people cheered. As if he were just back from an injury, or a death in the family. As if he were a hero. As if he were an honest man. As if he were somehow worthy of sharing the meaningfulness of this day with Lou Gehrig.
Credit to Fox’s Tim McCarver – who has never gotten enough of it for this one quality he has shown, often at such great risk to his own security and even employment – for his honesty in pointing out the inappropriateness of the reaction to Ramirez’s return. He is not making a comeback. He is out on parole and it will be years – if ever – before many of us will believe he did not do something illegal, improper, or immoral, this morning.

And shame on the broadcasters who decided to treat Ramirez’s return as if it were something to be trumpeted, rather than what it is – something to be ashamed of. This trumpeting is barely about Manny Ramirez – this applies to McGwire and Bonds and Palmeiro and Rodriguez and all the rest, caught or admitted.
This is Lou Gehrig’s day. The rest of the juicers may come back and play tomorrow and there will not be boycotts. The Dodgers will probably go to the World Series, carried in part by a great flaming fraud like Ramirez. And judging by the brainless response of fans who would cheer anybody if they hit the ball 425 feet for their team, and boo anybody if they hit the ball 425 feet for their opponents, there will not even be significant repercussions. 
But today, there should have been. Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and the others of the PED era did not belong in baseball today, and that they did not show the requisite awareness of their own shame, only makes it worse. Lord, send us a ‘roider who has the presence of mind to say: “On this day I do my penance; I don’t yet belong on the field even with just the memory of this man, I hope you’ll forgive me and I can again earn your trust.”
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