Results tagged ‘ Roger Clemens ’

Nobody Elected to HOF: We Deserve It (Revised)

Well, this is it. Kindly pay your piper. Welcome those chickens coming home to roost. Please enjoy your Hall of Fame Day of Reckoning.

The anecdotal accounts – and an invaluable “exit poll” – foresaw that the Baseball Writers Association of America would elect nobody as part of the class of 2013, and though I grieve for Dale Murphy and Craig Biggio and several others, there is a certain poetic justice to it.

We all knew. The players who used, the players who didn’t, the owners who enabled it, we reporters who covered it, we fans who bought tickets and cheered anyway. Some of us didn’t want to admit we knew until they went after Bonds and Clemens, or until Canseco’s book, or until McGwire’s temporal displacement in front of Congress, or until that container of Andro showed up in his locker in ’98.

But we knew.

We saw utility infielders popping opposite field home runs and part time guys slapping 20 homers and superstars hitting drives that would have set distance records in golf. We saw before and after photos of the Cansecos and the Bondses and we suspended our disbelief.

We all deserve nobody going into the Hall this year save for Hank O’Day and Jake Ruppert and Deacon White. Only O’Day – in his post-pitching career as an umpire – and the bespectacled White were ever accused even of myopia, let alone actual PED-use.

I am not casting stones from inside the glass house. I’m guilty, too. It was the day they gave the 1986 A.L. Rookie of the Year award to Canseco (whose moral standing in this mess has gradually gone from last place to about 4th from the top because he alone was utterly, if mercenarily, honest). One of the runners-up told me off-the-record “you do know that Canseco uses those drugs they give to the East German Women Swimmers, right?”

He didn’t even know they were called steroids.

I did what digging I could, and kept an ear to the ground, but how many sources were enough to tell that story?But in 1988, just after Ben Johnson was thrown out of the Seoul Olympics for a positive steroid test, I got a series of four sources – including some of her opponents – who told me that Florence Griffith-Joyner was just as steeped in scandal as was Johnson. I promptly went out and butchered the story. I was trying to write a revelation that should have sounded like “other Olympic runners say this” and included a recitation of the math that she was now breaking records so profoundly and so quickly that if the pace continued, by the year 2188, a runner would actually finish a race before she started it. Instead, I turned it into something that sounded like “I think she’s on them drug things.” She and her crew threatened suit, I retracted the story, and not long after Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post had the same experience with his “Canseco Cocktail” story. As well-meaning as we each were in trying to expose the putrid mess, we both set back its revelation by some (presumably small) degree. I’m sorry.

About two months after she got back from Seoul, Flo-Jo, who had promised to sue me and CBS and Carl Lewis (who had made the same charge at a speech at the University of Pennsylvania, on videotape, and then claimed it was off the record), and who had promised to keep running until she won Gold in her “home” Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, abruptly retired. We never heard from their lawyers again. She died in 1998, more than a year shy of her 40th birthday. For the record, I think she too either didn’t know – or willingly disbelieved – that there was anything more than perseverance to her unprecedented series of record-breaking performances. I think she suddenly found out, which is where the retirement – and the legal silence – came in. But it’s just a guess.

In any event, the next time I tripped over something substantial, I kept it to myself.  A pro sports team orthopedist remarked on the sudden devastating, nearly career-ending, bizarre injury to a star baseball player. He said that there were only three ways to accomplish what the guy had done to himself: a hereditary circulatory problem or the repeated injection of anabolic steroids into the same place in the body or a horrific car accident (“By that I mean,” he told me, “having a car dropped on top of you from about 25 feet.”) Having burned myself on the Flo-Jo thing I was not prepared to repeat the process. And now I knew that there was one baseball star on steroids and maybe another one had just had his career virtually ended by steroids and there were not enough sources to mine and certainly nobody to pool notes with.

And then the bottle of “andro” showed up in McGwire’s locker. I can remember that week hearing the late baseball writer Leonard Koppett tell me on my show that nobody cared, that it wasn’t cheating, that it was nothing worse than vitamins or maybe, maybe, “greenies.” To his eternal credit, the author and former pitcher Jim Bouton not only disagreed, but got it exactly right. Some day, he says in the interview, baseball will have to reckon with years and years of records that will be artificially inflated, distorted beyond all measure, by the effects of a drug that lets you keep working out when the guys next to you – or before you, chronologically – have to drop the barbell. It was Bouton, after all, who had written in the eternal Ball Four that if a pitcher could take a pill that guaranteed him a) 20 wins and b) that he’d die five years sooner, he would’ve swallowed it before you finished that “b)” part.

So I pushed the Andro story – wrote a piece for Playboy in 1999 in which I picked up both Bouton’s point and the fact that baseball was going to lose the breathless charm of “chasing the home run record.” I pushed that story and every little hint of the truth dropped over the years, by the late Ken Caminiti, by Canseco, by Curt Schilling. But by then, almost nobody cared. I stood atop the right field corner at Fenway at the Home Run Hitting Contest the night before the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway and ooed and ahhed with the rest of you as McGwire hit 650-foot blasts beyond the wall at the other side of the ballpark. And I knew it was mostly the drugs and while I could still preserve enough of my own disbelief to know it wasn’t real, I could see how the results of the PEDs could be as addictive to the fans and the owners’ bottom lines, as the drugs themselves could be the players.

By 2002 I was carrying a printed list of the players I had been told by various sources were “using.” Printed out and folded up inside my scorebook. I’d show it to colleagues and team executives and even other players and get confirmations or denials or additions. But I never even emailed it to, nor copied it for, anybody. With delicious irony, the legal rules protected the rule-breakers.

My conscience is relatively clean. I’ve been yelling about the Emporers’ Clothes for more than fourteen years. Yet it literally still keeps me up at night. Did so last night before today’s announcement. Biggio will probably get in later, and I think the Veterans’ Committee will soon note that Dale Murphy has the same OPS+ as Jim Rice, and was at worst the second or third best hitter of the era that matched his days as a starting player, and the collateral damage to them and the other deserving clean players will be transient. I do think there’s something delicious about the fact that the Baseball Writers have never even been consistent about what merits election to Cooperstown, and this time they all had to figure it out at the most complex moment in voting history, and that because none of them was likely to reach the same conclusion, for everybody who voted Bagwell but not Bonds, there was somebody who voted Bonds but not Bagwell, and none of them got in.

But they all deserve that kind of self-abnegating communal shame. As do we. They did it. We watched it. Those of us who didn’t care, and those of us who cared but couldn’t reveal or stop it, deserve similar if not identical fates.

The path to Steroid Hell was indeed paved with good intentions. And Jim Bouton’s pills. And the drugs that he didn’t know the name of that the guy told me about 26 years ago that they also gave the East German Women Swimmers. And the stuff we saw with our lying eyes and just pretended wasn’t real.

1983

1983

1988

1988

Not Convicted? Not The Point (Updated)

This is the first time in my life – and this wish began when I was nine or ten – that I’m glad Santa never answered my request that he bring me a Hall of Fame ballot.

Watching the handwringing by the voters has been entertaining and curiously satisfying (you ignored Dale Murphy for ten years? Great – you deserve Bonds and Clemens). But one part mystifies me: The argument, repeated again and again in various fashions, that one somehow has to vote for Bonds or Clemens or anybody else because these players were never found guilty of steroid use and are legally just the victims of accusation.

Ever heard of Eddie Cicotte and Buck Weaver?

They were the only-slightly-lesser figures behind Shoeless Joe Jackson in the 1919 World Series scandal, numbers two and three in the skills chart among the infamous “Eight Men Out.”  And like Jackson, they were convicted of nothing. Not of taking bribes, not of deliberately losing the Series to the Reds – nothing. Acquittals all the way around.

Now they were likely helped in this by the disappearance of tearful confessions to the prosecutors and the Grand Jury (although technically we must call them “reputed confessions” since, conveniently or not, they did vanish before the trial). Nevertheless, all three of them (plus Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Lefty Williams, and the unfortunate eavesdropping utility man Fred McMullin) were banned from baseball for life without the possibility of appeal by brand-new Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and his unilateral decision has been the rationale for keeping them out of Cooperstown.

I’ll add some numbers later to flesh this out but I think at least Jackson and Cicotte are Hall-of-Famers and I support forgiving them and electing them (and, yes, Pete Rose for that matter). Had Jackson been hit by a bus and not by a ban in 1920 he would’ve been part of the first Cooperstown class of 1936. Cicotte might have needed a couple more strong seasons to get in, but he had just crossed the 200-win plateau and the parallels to the career of R.A. Dickey are unmistakable (to say nothing of the easy comparison to Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes – though Cicotte’s “Shine Ball” may have been illusory and he may have been nothing more than a hard-knuckleball pitcher who had finally ‘gotten it’ around 1917).

Weaver’s qualifications appear to have needed the testimony of witnesses to elevate it to Hall of Fame status. He could’ve used another five years which Landis denied him. Most relevantly he alone among the expelled players adamantly maintained his complete innocence.

From a Hall of Fame perspective, of course, it doesn’t matter. They were convicted of nothing and at the very worst it appears Weaver was guilty of not snitching. They’re not in the Hall and they’re never going to be. And for better or worse, that’s the precedent for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa – and Bagwell and Piazza, for that matter. To quote the movie nominally about Shoeless Joe, “There are rules here? There are no rules here!”

Parenthetically I don’t think any of them, Bagwell and Piazza included, get elected. There are a lot of voters and this is way too complicated for many of them to reach the same conclusions about which players get the benefit of the doubt and which don’t. The highest percentage any of these guys get will be around 51 (75 is needed). And somewhere Cicotte and Weaver and Shoeless Joe will shake their ghostly heads and say that letting mortals judge immortality is bad enough without letting them do the judging without any real rules to guide them.

Statistical Postscript

The Baseball Reference version of WAR gives Cicotte a whopping career number of 54.5, and that’s for only thirteen seasons. He is cradled neatly on the all-time list between Hall of Famers Joe McGinnity and Whitey Ford, and ahead of the likes of Three-Finger Brown, Eppa Rixey, the aforementioned Burleigh Grimes, and Mariano Rivera. His last four seasons produced WARs of 11.2, 3.0, 9.2 and 4.7, and it should be pointed out that this is a case where the old and new methodology concur. Cicotte (and if you’re wondering, it was pronounced ‘See-Cot’ with an even emphasis on both syllables) was 28-12, 1.53 in the 11.2 season and 29.7, 1.82 in the 9.2 season.

Weaver fares less well – a WAR of 18.2 (for only nine seasons) but his OPS was only .692 and his OPS+ 92. What is tantalizing is that his last season – ended when the scandal broke and the White Sox suspended them all on September 28, 1920 – was far and away his best. A man who had hit .300 exactly once (and exactly .300 at that) was now hitting .331 and slugging .420 a month after his 30th birthday. He had been getting better each year since 1917 and was wrapping up a break-out season.

Interestingly, Joe Jackson’s WAR was only 59.6 (Home Run Baker territory) but he too had really only played nine full seasons and 1920 might have been his best (12-121-.382 when his past career highs had been 7-96-.408). He hit .356 lifetime and was only 33 and his park/league adjusted OPS, 170, is tied for the seventh best all-time.

The Night I Realized Bobby Valentine Was Clueless

The world remembers Game Two of the 2000 World Series for one thing, and one thing alone: Roger Clemens throwing the shattered bat of Mike Piazza at, or near, Mike Piazza.

But for me, standing at the far end of the Yankee dugout, covering the Series as part of the Fox telecast, the bat event was an asterisk to the real headline. Because that was the night that I became convinced Bobby Valentine didn’t have the slightest idea what he was doing.

Lost in the Clemens saga still churning more than eleven years later, was a) the eight innings of two-hit ball he fired at the Mets (the back half of consecutive starts in which Clemens threw 17 playoff innings, gave up no runs, one hit batsman, two walks, three hits, and struck out 24 of the 58 batters he faced); b) the Mets’ incredible ninth inning rally that almost gave Clemens a no-decision; and c) Valentine’s decision during that inning, that might be the dumbest World Series managerial move since Casey Stengel completely messed up his 1960 pitching rotation.

Again, the context. Mostly because of their own baserunning lunkheadedness, plus the fact that Todd Zeile’s fly ball missed being a home run by maybe eight inches, the Mets had lost the Opener of the Subway Series the night before. Now, in Game Two, Clemens had made them look nearly as bad as he had made the Seattle Mariners look eight days before. Oh, and even though Piazza thought Clemens had thrown a bat at him, neither he, nor Valentine, nor anybody else in a Met uniform had even retaliated, let alone charged the mound or anything.

So as the Mets came up in the top of the 9th, down 6-0, they were as dead as Jacob Marley’s ghost in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Clemens had exited, stage right, to go let the adrenalin drain out of his system (along with whatever else was in there). Coming off his best major league season, Jeff Nelson was brought in to face the heart of the Mets’ order, and Joe Torre even took out David Justice for the slight defensive upgrade Clay Bellinger would represent in left.

But it did not exactly go to plan. Edgardo Alfonzo led off with a sharp single to left, and Piazza promptly got some delayed revenge by putting a Nelson pitch off the pole in left to cut it to 6-2. By this point, Torre had hastily gotten Mariano Rivera up. When Robin Ventura singled to make it three straight hits to start the ninth, Rivera was summoned, and nearly blew the game on the spot. Zeile hit another one to the wall in left, with the wind holding it up just enough to reduce it to a nice jumping Bellinger catch at the fence.  But Benny Agbayani singled, and with Lenny Harris up, Jorge Posada lost a Rivera cutter and the runners moved up to second and third. Harris tapped back to Rivera who got Ventura at the plate, and the Mets were down to their final out – which was when Jay Payton walloped a massive three-run bomb off Mo and all of a sudden the Yankees’ insurmountable 6-0 lead was now a 6-5 heart-stopper, with the Mets just a baserunner away from turning over the line-up and sending up sparkplug Timo Perez with the tying run on.

Please remember this specific fact: the Mets were down to their last out, but having scored five in the ninth and rattled Mariano Rivera, they now had a chance – no matter how small a chance – to pull off a split at Yankee Stadium with three coming up at Shea. You may also remember that in midseason they had lost their other-worldly defensive shortstop Rey Ordonez, and had been forced to trade utility wizard Melvin Mora to Baltimore for Mike Bordick. Bobby V had already pinch-hit for Bordick an inning earlier with Darryl Hamilton, and went to his back-up shortstop, Kurt Abbott. If for some inexplicable reason Valentine now chose to leave Abbott in to face Rivera, he would be sending a lamb to the slaughter. Abbott had never seen Rivera or his cutter before. He was a lifetime .256 hitter with a .304 on-base percentage. After this night, only fourteen more major league at bats awaited him, and that was mainly because despite a pretty good glove and a deceptive slugging percentage, Kurt Abbott just wasn’t a major league hitter.

What happened next was explained at the time as a simple proposition. Bobby Valentine was out of shortstops, and, after all, Abbott had hit six homers during the regular season, in only 157 at bats. That none of them had been off a righthander since August 7, and that righthander was Jason Green (18 career minor league innings), and the other dingers had come off Terry Mulholland, Brian Bohanon, Jason Bere, Alan Mills, and Jose Mercedes, and that Abbott was carrying a 7-for-37 slump, seemed to have been left out of the equation.

More over, Valentine might have been out of slick shortstops, but he was hardly out of shortstops. He had at least seven defensive moves left. Joe McEwing had played four games at short for the Mets in 2000 and was still on the bench. McEwing, Matt Franco, and that night’s DH Lenny Harris had all played third during the season, and Robin Ventura could’ve easily slid over to short if the Mets had pulled off the miracle of forcing a bottom of the 9th. If that move sounded too risky, McEwing and Harris had also played second, and could have gone there with Alfonzo switching to short. Still not comfortable with pinch-hitting for Abbott? Bubba Trammell had produced a pinch two-run single the night before off Andy Pettitte. Valentine would trust Trammell enough to start him in right in the Series’ decisive game – he could have gone in to the outfield and Agbayani or Payton played first, with Todd Zeile going to third and Ventura to short. Or the same ploy could have been used with Harris, who played ten games at first for the ’00 Mets.

But, no. Bobby V knew he didn’t have any shortstops. So, having scored a remarkable five runs in the 9th – three of them off the greatest reliever the game would ever know – he sent up Kurt Abbott  to try to finish the miracle. Imagine if the Mets had tied that game? Regardless of the outcome – even if the Yankees had promptly won it in the bottom of the inning thanks to an error by McEwing or Ventura at short or Bubba Trammell somewhere – the invincibility of the Yanks would have been punctured. Instead of a near-miss utterly overshadowed by the affair of Clemens And The Bat, it would have been the greatest ninth-inning comeback in World Series history.

Instead, inevitably, Kurt Abbott struck out. Looking.

The Mets lost the Series in five games, and until you just read this, it was unlikely that you remembered that “The Clemens/Piazza Game” ended with such an unlikely rally, cut short by a manager who wouldn’t pinch-hit for his good-field no-hit back-up shortstop.

But Bobby Valentine is supposed to be a great in-game tactician. Just like he’s supposed to be a no-nonsense skipper who’ll instill discipline into a flabby Red Sox team – presumably teaching them to respect authority by returning to the dugout in an embarrassing disguise after he had been ejected by the umpires. Like you have to listen to the umpires or something. And don’t tell me the Abbott decision is ancient history. As far as his major league managerial career goes, the decision to let Rivera eat Abbott alive was just 326 games ago.

Good luck, Red Sox fans.


							

I Guess I’m A Former Old Timer (Updated)

This is an all-time first:

I am turning to the sports pages of The New York Post to discover something about my own baseball-related career:

For the last several years, political commentator Keith Olbermann has served as an in-stadium play-by-play man for the Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day. But the Yankees are making a change, The Post has learned.

The Yankees were not happy with Olbermann posting a photo on Twitter earlier this season of a coach signaling pitches to their batters in the on-deck circle. So they decided to bounce the liberal loudmouth and will have Bob Wolff and Suzyn Waldman provide the commentary for today’s game instead.

Look, it’s their Popsicle Stand and they can do what they want. More over, the Yankees – to use the Post’s phrase – once “bounced” Babe Ruth, to say nothing of Bernie Williams, and Yogi Berra twice and Billy Martin five times. I’m making no comparison, of course. But in that context, I’ve got no complaint there. I wasn’t going to say anything about this, in fact.

And then somebody from the Yankees leaked it to the paper.

On a personal level, however, I do know that I have a legitimate complaint in one respect. Old Timers’ Day is today, and I’ve been doing the “color” on the public address system for the last ten years, and one year prior to that as well (not the play-by-play; that is, obviously, entirely the province of Hall of Famer Bob Wolff and it’s my honor to sit next to him; Suzyn Waldman has usually been with us to do Old Timers’ interviews during the game). After eleven years of doing this, I think it would’ve been fitting if the Yankees had told me rather than let me hear it from somebody outside their organization the week before the event. It just seems like you’d want to preserve the dissemination of details about your company’s decisions like that to your company, rather than have a guy hear a rumor and then have to call up and ask.

I can’t vouch for the legitimacy of the motive described in The Post because this is the first time I’m hearing about it. But on a macro level, that does worry me in terms of the suppression of information. I might have been sitting in the stands when I tweeted the photos in question, but I saw nothing that any eagle-eyed guy in the press box couldn’t have seen (and trust me, they started looking). There was a coaches’ assistant in a Yankee jacket and a Shamwow-Seller’s Headset with a radar gun sitting three rows back of home plate signalling pitch speeds to Alex Rodriguez and other Yankee players in the on-deck circle on Opening Day this year, and I took a picture of it, largely because to see the signals, Rodriguez had to basically look right over my head.

The Yankees explained that the radar gun they used for their scoreboard wasn’t working that day, and the coaches’ assistant, Brett Weber, was simply supplying information the players usually got from the scoreboard. It was technically a violation of a rule prohibiting the transfer of such information from the stands or press box to the field. My point in tweeting the photo was that it didn’t seem to me to be cheating (after all, it was information about the last pitch, not the next one) — it just seemed weird. And after asking that Weber be vacated from his seat for one day, MLB accepted that explanation and he was back the next game – on the proviso that he not do any more signaling. And I haven’t seen him do any more signaling.

The problem, of course, is that Weber signaled all last year, too, and not just pitch speeds. He had a clipboard and some thin cardboard with which he seemed to be explaining to players in the on deck circle what kind of pitch they had just seen, and where it was. After the storm about the tweet broke, I talked to several friends of mine who happen to be American League managers. One real veteran gave me particular kidding grief about it and when I said it wasn’t anything new and had started the year before, he said “The hell it did. They’ve been doing all the years I’ve been coming to this place and the old Stadium and we complain and complain and nobody’s ever done anything about it before.”

For generations – and I mean pretty much since Jacob Ruppert bought the team in 1915 (or maybe it was from the time it moved from Baltimore in 1903), the Yankees have been notorious for trying to manage information. I can remember the day in a playoff series when they went after a fly with a cannon. We were setting up the interview stand in the clubhouse as the Yankees moved to within a few outs of eliminating advancing. Suddenly, the door opened and as intense a series of obscenities as I’d ever heard resonated through the room. It was a player who was not happy about having just been removed from the decisive game before its conclusion. Obviously, we in the Fox crew were being given a great courtesy – a few extra minutes to make our “set” look good. None of us would have dreamed of reporting what the player did – the definition of a gamer who had every right to blow off steam – or to whom his invective was directed. We were reporters, and we were “there” – but we were there under controlled and agreed-to conditions. The threats started to pour out of every Yankee exec who had contact with any of us that if we reported a word of it, there’d be hell to pay and jobs and contracts threatened. And we were all dumbfounded by the overreaction. We got it – and still the Yankees yelled and threatened.

There were far more dire consequences threatened about a story about Roger Clemens nearly getting into a fist-fight with a fan during the subsequent World Series. I had obtained a videotape of the confrontation, but had already decided not to run it, because it showed only Clemens’ response, not the utter and unjustifiable provocation by the fan. It would’ve made a great front page for The Post, but the video not only told just half the story, in doing so, it completely erased the truth of the story and replaced it with images that implied Clemens was entirely at fault. As I say, I had already decided not to run it, told the Yankees I had it, and that I would have to run it if the story got out some other way. And while at least one executive understood my dilemma and thanked me completely for my journalistic restraint, others made efforts to somehow seize the tape from me, or prevent my network from running it (even though we weren’t going to).

I should also point out here that of all the story-suppression efforts, I never got any of them from George Steinbrenner himself. Not even when the story was about how a couple of other reporters seemed to be very close to confirming some very ugly rumors about the owner himself. I contacted the club, mostly to find out if the stuff was true (and potentially to break it myself), and while some of his underlings freaked out, Steinbrenner himself told me he had no complaints. “That’s your job. I get it.”

It’s also kind of a shame that whoever from the Yankees leaked this information about Old Timers Day to The Post put Yankees’ Vice President/General Manager Brian Cashman on the spot. In my previous capacities at SportsCenter, and later as the host of the Playoffs and All-Star Game on NBC, and of Game Of The Week and the World Series on Fox, I have often reported things Cash didn’t like, but he’s always been professional and pleasant and there are few in the media who have had the slightest serious problem with him (a record that very few other Yankee figures of the last 40 years can claim).

The day that The New York Daily News published the story of the tweetpic of Weber, four fingers raised, I happened to be at the ballpark and got corralled by the beat writers who were trying to figure out what it was all about. In the middle of this, Cashman came over to explain, and to say it was no big deal from the Yankees’ point of view (as I said it wasn’t from mine) and to very publicly reassure me that the team had no problem with what I did, or with me.

Today, this statement seems to be inoperative.

Back on that brilliant spring Saturday in April, Cash even had a joking explanation for this:“He was just ordering four beers, Keith,” Cashman said with a laugh.

So I showed him the picture I didn’t tweet and asked him (with my own laugh), if that was the case, if they really didn’t have a bigger problem than just improper hand-signaling:POSTSCRIPT: You will find this silliness in the comments. It’s worth it

I believe this also stems from Keith Tweeting a picture of Jorge Posada’s name crossed out on Joe Girardi’s lineup card on the day Posada asked out of a game. As he was NOT a ‘reporter’ that day, in my opinion, Keith had no right to post that picture other than to fuel his own ego to simply prove he can. Also, KO was obviously trying to embarrass the longtime Yankee catcher who was probably at the all-time low of a generally nice career. Who kicks a guy like that when he’s down? As a baseball fan, I find that itself is unforgivable.

FYI, I’m not only a 20+ year Olbermann fan, but a frequent and loquacious defender of his and the Posada incident has soured me so much I’m sad to say I’m starting to lose faith in his political message around which I have long based my own beliefs.

While the truth may never come out, don’t discount the Posada incident as a reason for Keith’s exclusion from this prestigious Yankee event.

Go Yanks!

Yeah, this is pretty dumb. The tweeted picture this poster has gone nuclear over was of a copy of the printed line-up/scorecard sheets the Yankees give out in the press box and to every spectator in the suites areas who asks for it. It showed where I had crossed off Posada’s name on my sheet and written in Andruw Jones’ name. It was obviously my handwriting. And I tweeted it only to illustrate tangible proof that even the Yankees had been crossed up by Posada’s unwillingness to bat ninth.

Where on earth would I get a copy of Joe Girardi’s line-up card, during a game?

Ten Years After

Forgot completely about this.

October 22, 2010 (now yesterday) was the tenth anniversary of the Clemens-Piazza World Series Game, in which I had three cameo roles. I was the dugout reporter charged with trying to find out what the hell had happened, I was the guy who first interviewed Clemens after the game, and I wound up with the smallest piece of the bat.
For the record, I’ve always actually believed Roger Clemens’ story, though he articulated it so poorly. When Mike Piazza’s bat shattered, at least four projectiles left the area of his hands: three pieces of bat, and one ball. Clemens couldn’t be certain that the blur coming at him was not the ball. In the split second he had, he grabbed it, found it indeed wasn’t the ball, and tossed it. Supporting evidence: What? He tried to break Piazza’s bat in hopes of getting a projectile at him (rather than using the ball again)? And as crazy and hopped up as he was, if he had aimed the bat shard at Piazza, wouldn’t he have hit him?
Hopped up?
Check this scan of a print of a freeze frame from our interview. Ten years after, it still makes me laugh:
Clemens2000.jpg

Joe Torre Is Not An Un-Person

I unreservedly like Tim McCarver’s work. I have compared his analysis before the last pitch of the 2001 World Series to Mazeroski’s home run to win the 1960 World Series. For all his stylizing and odd constructions, I’ve found his game analysis, especially his “first guessing,” to be almost universally insightful and correct.
But he’s dead wrong about this Joe Torre stuff. And not just for the unfortunate imagery he used during Saturday’s broadcast from Yankee Stadium at the end of the sad week in which both Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner died. Tim is wrong on the facts.

“You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they had taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot ‘em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out of the pictures. In a sense, that’s what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there’s no sign of Joe Torre at the Stadium. And that’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it.”

McCarver has apologized for the imagery (you hate the Yankees? Fine. The “rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel” is stern enough, we don’t have to bring Hitler and Stalin into this). But he sticks to the contention that the Yankees have “airbrushed” Torre from their history and should have retired his number by now.

Let’s address the number first. Torre has been gone for only two-and-a-half seasons. Nobody else has been assigned his old uniform number 6. In examining the retirements, the Yankees have shelved fifteen numbers representing sixteen players (both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey wore number 8). Mariano Rivera’s 42 will be automatically retired upon his departure from the Bronx, in keeping with the baseball-wide retirement of the number to honor Jackie Robinson in 1997 (and doubtless Rivera will get his own ceremony since he’s clearly earned it).

Fourteen of the sixteen honorees were, at the time of their uniform retirements, either still working for the Yankees, out of baseball, or deceased. When Casey Stengel’s number 37 was put away for good in 1970, it had been a decade since he had last managed the Yankees and half of one since he had last managed the Mets. He still had a largely ceremonial vice presidency with the Mets and still suited up for short stints during spring training. Berra was managing the Mets when the number he and Dickey was retired in 1972. By then Yogi, too, had been away from the Yankees for a long time – eight years.

There is some logic in delaying, especially for individuals still living. I found what is in retrospect a hilarious blog post from September, 2007, declaring that the Yankees would “surely” be one of three teams to retire the number of a veteran player: Roger Clemens. Yeah, and don’t call me Surely.

Thumbnail image for IMG_0183.jpg Clearly the Yankees are honoring Torre by not handing his old number to anybody else. But has he been under-represented in terms of imagery at the new Stadium? McCarver acknowledged he saw some photos of his old friend in the park and did had not meant for the “airbrushed” imagery to be taken literally.

Turns out there are 21 photos of Torre on display at the new Stadium. One of them is just Joe and Steinbrenner, giant-sized, at one of the park’s street entrances. I saw a couple of others of note tonight in the Bronx, in my first visit since McCarver’s remarks. This would be the entrance to Suite Number 6 down the first base line. The motif is pretty straight forward for each suite – a series of photos of the Yankees who wore each number, even a list of them in the alcove just outside the door. And the pride of place in terms of photography goes to the odd image you see at the left. In fact, let’s get a little closer and see just who that particular Number 6 happens to be: IMG_0184.jpg


I’m not sure who that is with him, but that would be Joe Torre on the left. And the idea that he is somehow being dissed by being shown back-to-the-camera denies the purpose of the photograph: each suite emphasizes the Yankees who have worn that number. 

Off point, no, I do not believe there is a Suite 91 featuring nothing but photos of Alfredo Aceves.

Now, the image above is a small, untitled photo, correct? Doesn’t emphasize Torre’s vast contributions to the remarkable streak of four titles in five years? Try this, from the main concourse of the stadium, behind the ground level seats, down the left field line.

IMG_0189.JPG

Prime location? Two beer stands and a men’s room?

Each Yankee championship team is remembered with a three-photo display. It starts with 1923 in the farthest corner of Right Field and then moves chronologically back towards the plate and out to Left. And who are the guys in the farthest right panel?

IMG_0188.jpg

That’s right: the late George Steinbrenner, Rudolf Giuliani, and dressed for a very cold parade day from 2000, Joe Torre. 

I’ll repeat myself here. I’m a fan and friend of Tim McCarver’s, and Joe Torre is my oldest baseball friend. I’ve even worked with them both. And I know the Yankees could have done better by Joe, and his exit was unceremonious and poorly-handled by the club. I would also argue that the Yankees are the most self-important, overly-serious franchise in overtly pro sports (I can think of about 27 college programs that would at least give them a run for their money).

But Timmy was just wrong, in style and in substance. Neither literally nor figuratively have the Yankees excised, erased, airbrushed nor Memory-Hole’d Joe Torre. Doubtless the day will come soon, perhaps even while he’s still managing elsewhere, that they will formally retire the number and give him the big ceremony he deserves. To see a conspiracy in the fact that the day has yet to come is, at best, to overreact.

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!

Ortiz Versus Manny

This just sums up two guys:

The New York Times outs David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as two of the players on the 2003 Steroids survey.
Ortiz – with some help in the phrasing, but this is doubtlessly him – issues a statement of confession: 

One, I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive. Two, I will find out what I tested positive for. And, three, based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with my club and the public. You know me — I will not hide and I will not make excuses.”

Meanwhile MLB.Com quotes Ramirez, before the Dodgers-Cards in St. Louis: 


“If you guys want to talk about the game and what happens now, I can sit and talk for two hours. But something happened six years ago, I don’t want to talk about that. If you want more information, you have the number for the union. Call them.”


Can we talk about what has now happened twice in six years? Can we talk about what happened this spring? Can we talk about how Dodger fans can look at themselves and the standings in the mirror?

Get lost, Manny.

Now you know why you will never see Manny Ramirez in Cooperstown. Unless he’s there with Clemens, signing in front of the CVS.

The Rocket Gets To Cooperstown

This town isn’t often surprised by celebrities. It has, after all, hosted every Hall of Famer not posthumously elected, and until a few years ago it used to be visited by two major league teams a year in an annual exhibition game.

That was until Roger Clemens showed up in front of the CVS.
Just as the post-induction crowds were thinning out, Clemens suddenly showed up here, walking down Main Street unescorted at dusk, signing autographs for most of a clot of 100 or so people that came out of the shops and restaurants as the buzz spread that it really was him. He didn’t stop to chat, and he wasn’t sightseeing. The explanation was simple, and provided by other Dads in from out of town, with their twelve-year olds in tow. Clemens was merely escorting, and watching as, his youngest son Kody competed in a Cooperstown Dreams game – the little league-ish competition that has re-loaded the kid supply around here.
So, if like me, you thought you’d never see Clemens in Cooperstown, you’d be wrong – I just saw him. Thus, after three days of Pete Rose and now The Jettisoned Rocket: Cooperstown, Village of The Damned?
MARK BUEHRLE IN COOPERSTOWN?

The caretakers of history here were already promised Dewayne Wise’s glove and several other artifacts from Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. Lord knows what they’ll want now that Buehrle has taken a prospective second consecutive perfecto longer than anybody else, and retired a record 45 in a row. Did he wear anything in both games with which he could part? Would you give up your glove, your cap, your spikes?
I watched Yu Darvish’s spikes from The World Baseball Classic get unpacked in the processing room here today, and got to play in the secret vaults some more between another day of research.
You ever heard of The Temple Cup?
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OK, here is the real star of the show, a little more clearly:
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If the teams had taken it more seriously, today, this surprisingly light trophy might be “Baseball’s Holy Grail.” It was competed for by the teams finishing first and second in the National League after the 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1897 seasons, in a bid to re-create some of the post-season excitement created by the early World Series before the wars of 1890 and 1891 and the subsequent absorption of the American Association by the N.L. In three of the four years, the runners-up won, but the regular season champs claimed the title anyway. There were two sweeps of the best-of-sevens, and the other two ended 4-to-1, and after the ’97 Temple Cup, they called Pirates’ owner William Temple and gave him his Cup back.
For now it rests in cold storage at the Hall, though will soon be back on display in the 19th Century section. I’m sorry it didn’t get taken seriously; it is a cross between the Stanley Cup and the fictional cup presented to Charles Foster Kane by his newspaper staff in “Citizen Kane,” later found after Kane’s death in an endless storage area. “Welcome home Mr. Kane, From 467 Employees of the New York Inquirer.”
ROSE POST-SCRIPT:

Bud Selig has now made his point clear: he’s not budging on Pete Rose.
That wasn’t the point of my reporting on it, nor Bill Madden’s, nor anybody else’s.
The point is, there is now pressure, from at least three key Hall of Famers whom Selig respects, on Bud to reverse course. Repeating from last night: Joe Morgan, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson could be the only three Hall of Famers who would actual vote to admit Rose. The issue is whether or not Rose is made eligible for election by the Veterans’ Committee. And the reporting of this new pressure is not advocacy, it is informational.
And it’s true.

 

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