Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

A Failed Drug Test, A Phone Call, and the Truth Shall Set You Free

February 10, 2009

One can only speculate how the final weeks of the 2004 baseball season unfolded for New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Perhaps Alex was jogging in Central Park, too preoccupied to notice the missed call that went straight to voicemail on his cell phone. Unable to recognize the number, Alex would have listened to the message with concern and trepidation.

The caller would have been none other than Gene Orza, chief operating officer of the Players’ Union, calling to warn the newly-minted highest paid player that bad news lay in store. Alex may have been startled but barely surprised at the message: he would have to be tested once again for performance-enhancing drugs. After all, the homerun hitter had taken the same test just one year earlier.

Although the information above is merely speculative, what we do know as fact is what follows.

In 2003, while with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez underwent an experiment that was instituted by Major League Baseball and approved by the Players Union, one that called for the testing of baseball’s athletes. The test was administered in an effort to address the growing number of baseball players using performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez and his fellow players were under the impression that the results would be made anonymous and later destroyed, with the only penalty for positive results being the burden of having to take the test again.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez and 103 others, the results came back positive. In turn, they were scheduled to take the test again at the start of the following season. Months passed, the guilty parties were re-tested, yet the original evidence of the positive results was never destroyed as agreed ending up in the hands of the federal government.

Fast forward to February 2009, SI.com, the web site of Sports Illustrated, leakes Rodriguez’ test results to the public. In an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons, Rodriguez willingly admits to using a banned substance during the 2001-2003 seasons and now feels confident that he has gotten the “monkey off his back.” He recalls his days as a Texas Ranger using such words as “naïve, stupid, and young.” Throughout the interview, the former three-time MVP pleads incessantly and asks several times for his fans to forgive him. “I am deeply sorry and I apologize,” Rodriguez said. “I’m ready to move on.”

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Bonds and His Lawyers Drive in the First Run

February 6, 2009

With the all the hubbub surrounding Joe Torre’s controversial expose’, the Yankee Years, reduced from steamy to lukewarm, an even more disturbing storyline has begun to resurface. Major League Baseball’s most popular nemeses, performance-enhancing drugs, have been clogging the front pages of Sports sections all across the country in anticipation of the Barry Bonds perjury trial set to begin on March 2nd. Many such dignitaries such as, Michael Wilpon of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, have stated that they really don’t have any interest in discussing the most talked about perjury trail since Marion Jones and that honestly they don’t really care.

With respect to a handful of teams, most organizations feel they have bigger fish to fry with solidifying their rosters before the hot stove switch is turned off. Perhaps, as a Mets fan, you may have found attending the second act of the Million Manny March more compelling than comparing whose urine is whose.

Fortunately, there are those of you who welcome some closure regarding this disappointing chapter in baseball history. After reading about the recently released evidence against the all-time homerun hitter, it makes for a seemingly open and shut case. Not only do the plaintiffs in the case have enough clout to link the semi-retired slugger of testing positive for a designer steroid THG, the fertility drug clomid or “clear” and a form of testosterone not naturally produced by the body, they have produced what they consider to be a doping calendar that has the initials, B.B., right next to the month that it adheres to. The calendar shows days of the week when, in this case, Bonds would be scheduled to receive the specific treatment of enhancement. Lawyers for Bonds have been working day and night trying to get this evidence excluded, arguing that it could not be authenticated. Unfortunately for the government, a decision was made yesterday to warrant this part of the evidence inadmissible.

According to the NY Times, the most difficult evidence for the Bonds camp to overcome, a tape-recorded conversation, in 2003, between Bonds’ former business manager, Steve Hoskins, and Bonds’ longtime trainer, Greg Anderson was ruled admissible. Anderson is heard on the tape saying to Hoskins that he had injected Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs and that they were not detectable under baseball’s drug testing program at the time. After a falling out with Bonds, Hoskins mentioned to the authorities that Bonds occasionally found himself in the midst of “roid rages.”

Experts who are following Bonds situation closely have stated that with all the attention being given to the case, the presiding judge is going to have to be extra careful that the jury involved has not been prejudiced by the information.

Lowe Settles for the Southeast

January 15, 2009

In mid-February, the Mets will be making the necessary arrangements in preparation for this year`s pitchers and catchers. GM Omar Minaya has stated that all those who attend with the exception of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine have an outside chance of solidifying the back-end of the starting rotation. Reason being, those three pitchers have already earned their respective spots.

Since the start of the New Year, the Mets` front office has made it a top priority to sign durable and playoff-ready starting pitching with the hope that they will go deeper into ball games reducing the possibility of an over-worked bullpen. Veteran right-hander Derek Lowe is someone who could fill that void. However, that option is now null and void for the Atlanta Braves have succeeded in snagging the right-hander by simply offering a contract worth $60 million over four years.

“When you get a horse like Lowe in the rotation, that takes so much pressure off the rest of the rotation,” Atlanta reliever Blaine Boyer said. “This is good for the bullpen, the starters and all of the position players. This does so much good for the psyche of the players and the fans.”

With the recent departure of long-time Braves` pitcher John Smoltz, and the uncertainties regarding starters, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson, Lowe`s services now seem much more vital than before. In the past, Lowe has stressed the importance of finishing out the end of his professional career with a ball club that will be able to provide an instant chance of reaching the post-season. On the other hand, the Atlanta Braves have struggled the past three seasons siting rebuilding as the reasons for their lack of competitiveness in an ultra-competitive NL East.

In my opinion, this was a good move for the Mets. They have had past experience with signing veteran pitchers who are in the twilight of their careers. Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine both with exceptional pedigrees were brought in to help a Mets ball club get back to the World Series and we all now how that turned out. If the Mets organization does not fulfill the need for another starter via free agency, they most definitely will choose from within.

“I feel good about my situation,” lefty prospect, Jonathon Niese said this week from his home in Defiance, Ohio. “I’m going into camp fighting for a job, and that’s basically all I’m worried about.”

Book Review: The Bad Guys Won; Jeff Pearlman

January 5, 2009

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What better way to pass the time during these winter months than sitting in your favorite chair indulging yourself with a book. Better yet, how about a book that features passion, desire, true grit, a little tomfoolery, and the New York Mets. Former Sports Illustrated baseball writer Jeff Pearlman gives that and more with The Bad Guys Won, an off-beat chronicle of the entire 1986 Mets baseball season.

Pearlman’s take on the unforgettable season provides first-hand knowledge of the on-the field, off-the field excitement and administers his own wit and sarcasm to formulate dead-on character profiles of each member affiliated with the lovable, Scum Bunch. Even through a cloud of drugs and alcohol, Keith, Darryl, Doc, Mookie, Nails, Ron, and the rest of the gang clinch the NL East in convincing fashion by winning 108 regular season games.

In 1986, GM Frank Cashen orchestrated his most unique roster of ball players this side of the Whitestone Expressway. That group of guys brought along their rough and tumbles style to the sport’s biggest stage and went on to acquire baseball’s ultimate prize. By taking the divisional series in the middle of the night from Mike “scuff’” and the rest of the Houston Astros and pulling off the “improbable” to capture a World Series ring from the highly-respected Boston Red Sox, the Mets defied convention and revealed a tough competitiveness that is unmatched by any New York Mets team. The book nears its conclusion with a last minute jaunt by Keith Hernandez who was forced to hop over a metal fence near City Hall just barely making the start of the commemorative ticker-tape parade in honor of the Mets down Broadway.

Whether it’s Mets manager Davey Johnson’s proclamation that his team’s pedigree is the class of the division, or an after-hours romp which leads to four New York Mets being bailed out of a Texas jail, this New York Times Bestseller should be included in any loyal Mets fan’s bookshelf.

Harper Collins
287 pages

The New Year’s Day Report

January 2, 2009

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On April 13th, some 102 days away, the Mets will be playing their first ever game; weather permitting, at the newly-constructed Citi Field against the San Diego Padres.

But for now, the Mets’ new home has been made to stand idle. It will continue to wait patiently through the harsh winter months. Occasionally, a blanket of white snow will cover its baselines and a cold rush of wind will blow through its grandstands. With the turning of the clocks that lay ahead, we will be forced to replace our wool hats and scarves with lighter jackets and baseball caps. In anticipation of this year’s baseball season, there is a confidence that this one will be just as special, if not more so, than last season. As we remember the house that Shea built, we begin to open up our arms to a new facility which will represent a chance for the Mets to reverse their downfalls, redeem their most telling disappointments, and entrust a foundation which will give them strength and security.

The next few months will be an important time for the Mets organization as they lay their groundwork in hopes of success. The decisions that were made or will be made during this off-season will be an attempt to provide us with some answers to our most important questions.

Will the bullpen, stripped of its skeleton, be able to live up to its investments?

Will Jerry Manuel, an interim manager turned manager, be able to steer his team through the ups and downs of an entire season?

Will the core players of Wright, Reyes, Beltran, and Delgado continue to represent the organization’s stability?

Will John Maine’s contribution in the starting rotation equal that of his piers?

Will Daniel Murphy’s star continue to rise?

Until that day in April, we will only be able to ponder.

Mets Turn Their Attention to Starting Pitching

December 31, 2008

When I heard the breaking news regarding a three year deal worth $36 million that was offered to Derek Lowe, the name, Tom Glavine, came to mind. Again, here is a proven starter with post season experience who is riding out the back end of his career. Unlike Glavine, who was striving for baseball immortality in capturing his 300th victory, Lowe’s major concern is to get back to the East Coast.

“With me, it’s all about winning,” Lowe said. “I’ve already had contact with clubs that are interested, but they’re not ready to win.”

Prior to the winter meetings, Lowe’s agent, Scott Boras had high hopes for his client. Short of a private helicopter to shuffle his “top priority” back and forth to the Hamptons, Boras was negotiating for a contract that fell in the range of $90 million over five years. With those criteria, Boras’ intentions for Lowe are for him to finish out his career while earning $18 million a year.

“Scott is looking out for my best interest. He’s done exactly what I’ve been talking about,” added the former Dodger pitcher who will turn 36, next spring.

Mets’ GM Omar Minaya, apparently, thought otherwise. With respect to New York’s offer, the Mets’ brass felt that Lowe’s credentials would only warrant a price tag of $12 million a season.

When you look at Lowe’s overall numbers, the one interesting statistic that jumps out at you is that since 2002, he has started an average of thirty-three games per season. Lowe’s durability stems from his relaxed style of pitching which has earned him the luxury of avoiding any extended period of time on the disabled list. His body of work has evoked many a ground ball which is what makes him so appealing to a Mets’ ball club who witnessed they share of fly balls last season, i.e.; Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis’ grand salami on September 21st against young lefty Jonathon Niese.

“The team with the best chance of winning, year in and year out is where I want to go,” Lowe said.

For his career, Lowe has won more games than he has lost amassing a 126-107 won-lost record. In the past two seasons, he has equaled his strikeout total at 147.

Move Over Mariano

December 31, 2008

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The Mets’ newly-acquired free agent, closer Francisco Rodriguez, participated in his first New York press conference earlier this month. And, I must say. I was thoroughly impressed. He showed no lack of self-confidence and reinforced his competitiveness. When asked how he would tackle the transition of pitching in New York. He replied, “I’m a city boy.”

Rodriquez, who grew up in Caracas, Valenzuela’s largest city, gave his assurance to the media that the bright lights of the Big Apple would not faze him. “I welcome the challenge and will make the necessary adjustments,” he added. When the topic regarding his over-the-top celebrations upon closing out games was addressed, he proceeded without hesitation by stating, “I do it for the fans and I feed off of their energy.”

Rodriguez’ herky-jerky motion has recently been a cause for concern in which some have speculated that it may lead to a possible injury. In K-rod’s defense, he replied, “this aspect of the game is out of my control.” Some scouts feel that Rodriguez has lost a little off his fastball. But, overall, he says he feels comfortable and has worked hard in perfecting his secondary pitch; a lethal change-up which is also shared by one if his new teammates, Johan Santana.

Santana, who is also from Valenzuela, is a master of the change-up and probably would not hesitate in advising Rodriquez with a few pointers on how to make it even more deceptive to hitters.

This is Our Last Goodbye

December 27, 2008

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After reading an article regarding the preliminary talks with free agent pitcher Derek Lowe, I took a look at the updated aerial views which allow for you to see the current demolition of Shea Stadium. If you haven’t seen them by now, the area which housed the field level seats has been carted away. Perhaps to a landfill in which a seagull has choked on some popcorn kernels left over from the Shea Goodbye ceremonies or a peanut shell that had still been lodged inside one of the seats. It’s just a matter of time when we will be able to witness the dismantling of the upper deck section of the ballpark and bring the overall project to a close. I would think.

The thought of never seeing another Mets’ game at Shea Stadium only began to dawn on me when those orange seats were exonerated. For some reason, watching the field disappear before my eyes; didn’t bother me. I had never been lucky enough to make my way onto the actual grass.