Why Do The Eloquent Guys Never Do Drugs?

A wordsmith he ain't

Mark McGwire’s interview with Bob Ley on ESPN is a poor performance.  Ley is by no means aggressive or hostile, but he puts out some fundamental questions which McGwire should answer if he wants this media blitz to settle the steroid issue once and for all.

One of the more basic questions (pharaphrasing here): “If steroids don’t help performance, why have you been apologizing for using them?  And why apologize to the Maris family?”

McGwire doesn’t answer either question well.  And I really want to be forgiving (see my previous post).

Baseball needs more Grandersons

It’s funny how we have such low standards for athletes’ speaking abilities in general.  If they say anything in a post-game interview beyond, “Well Joe I just went out there and played hard and this is a big win for us,” color us impressed.  But when an athlete is on a tight spot like this, we suddenly expect them to be rhetorical masters and are disappointed by anything less.

Curtis Granderson would know how to satisfy us in a steroids interview.  But then again, Curtis Granderson wouldn’t take steroids (I’m pretty sure).  Maybe that’s the problem.  The eloquent ones don’t do drugs.

Amen, Joe

In yet another example of why he is one of the best baseball writers working today, Joe Posnanski reacts to the reaction to Mark McGwire’s day of apologies.

Seriously – since 2005 McGwire has been pummeled whenever people found it convenient or cathartic to do so.  That means he was ripped a lot.  He never defended himself.  Now he comes out and offers his apology, one of the more thorough and believable mea culpas in the sorry steroid saga, and columnists flip out on him again.

If there’s something that makes me more mad than a player using steroids, it’s a writer assuming the righteous mantle of victimized baseball fans worldwide and throwing spears.

My Imaginary McGwire Steroid Press Conference

He had a good swing, which steroids don't give you

Mark McGwire issued a statement to the Associated Press today in which he addresses his link to steroids.  He admits using them.  This ESPN article contains the full text of his statement.  At the end of his statement he says that he will be willing to take questions about his steroid use.

I like McGwire.  I think he is a kind-hearted man, in part because of his notable record in charity work.  I also think he is genuinely not an attention hound, whether the flashbulbs be coming from the stands or congressional hearing reporters.  And, after all, we’re talking about steroids in baseball, not financial theft, rape, or misleading nations into war (high-profile Americans have done all three since 1998 and gotten better treatment than McGwire has received).

Here is a transcript of the Q&A session I would like McGwire to have with reporters.  The real thing would take 3 hours, but this is my condensed fantasy version.

McGwire: I am holding this press conference to answer any questions the media may have about my steroid use.  I am now the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, and despite what Tony LaRussa says, I won’t be playing the game again.  I think an honest, good faith conversation may go a long way to restoring fans’ confidence in the last 20 years of baseball.

There are only two rules.  I will not say where I got the steroids from.  It took me five years to admit my usage, and I will not drag others out of the closet.  Second, once spring training starts, I will not discuss this with anyone.  The regular season belongs to the Cardinals.

Reporter:  When did you take steroids?

McGwire: I took them [lists seasons in which he took them, or off-seasons in which he took them]

Reporter:  What steroids did you take?

McGwire:  I took [lists the steroids he knows, and says there are some he no longer remembers the name of]

Reporter:  Why did you take steroids?  Did you feel you were cheating?

McGwire:  I dabbled in steroids during the 1988 off season, as they were a supplement I had heard would help my workouts.  I did not seriously consider them until I started getting hurt, repeatedly, in 1993.

Did I feel I was cheating?  Yes, sort of.  I knew they were illegal, but I wasn’t doing heroin or coke, which I felt were and are a more grave category of illegal drug.  My usage, in my mind, was personal and revolved around baseball.  Baseball did not prohibit them, nor was there any mechanism for baseball discovering my usage or disciplining me for it.  Major League Baseball was not interested, as a body, in discovering that players were using steroids.  Many players I knew were also taking steroids, and I was batting against them and my team was battling their teams for the playoffs.

I was hurt, and I was told that steroids and HGH would help me heal and prevent further injuries.  I desperately wanted to play ball, to contribute to my team, and to be healthy.  I was afraid that my career would sputter out, and I acted out of that fear.  Other teams’ hitters were juicing.  I didn’t want to do less than I was capable of to help my team win.  It’s a decision I now regret, but I want you to understand that decision.

If I did not take them, my injuries continued, my team lost, and my career ended, no one would admire or even know about my actions.  Or so I thought.  I would be a failed big slugger.  I did not feel up to the challenge of being the righteous avatar for pure baseball.  I did not feel it was my responsibility, nor one I could bear.  What was important was to play the game I loved, in the environment in which I found it.  Baseball at the time was an environment in which I could use steroids without serious consequence except to my health and conscience.

Reporter:  Did you talk to your team mates or coaches about steroids?  Were there players who told you that you were cheating them, or cheating the game?

McGwire: There were occasional comments, yeah.  But people mostly kept their usage, or lack thereof, to themselves.  Everyone had team mates who used, or who probably used, so there were no collective teams who could throw stones.  And remember, steroids were leading to health, and health was leading to better performance, and better performance was leading to more money.

I can’t say for sure which home runs, or even singles, I hit because I was jucing.  But I was paid more money because I was hitting more home runs.  Which meant that the guys hitting fewer home runs also made more money.  Same with the pitchers.  I hope I did not end any pitcher’s career by hitting him hard, but you can say the same about juicing pitchers ending hitters’ careers.  An all-star getting a big contract raises everybody’s salaries.  It was true in the 1970s, the 1990s, and today.

Reporter:  So you don’t deserve the millions of dollars you were paid.

McGwire:  Teachers in Philadelphia make $40,000 a year.  “Deserve” isn’t a word that makes a lot of sense when talking about professional athletes’ salaries.  My salaries were a result of the vast amounts of money baseball owners were making from our play.  That play was tainted by steroids.  If you are flirting with the idea of fans and “clean” players deserving to be paid back, you need to talk to owners as well.

Reporter:  You are active in charity work, and whether you ask for it or not, baseball players are role models to children around the country.  How did you rectify your steroid use with your position as a role model?

McGwire:  That was a very difficult part of my life.  I guess I feel that mistakes can be, if not undone, then atoned for by hard work and good deeds.  If I did not take steroids, and my career ended, I would not have been in a position to do much charity work or be a role model.

I have tried to help the lives of children through my charity work, and I believe some of their lives are better despite my steroid usage.  What’s more, although it may seem like cold logic, my steroid usage paid me the money with which I funded that work.  I think one’s moral judgement on that fact is pretty subjective.

What would I say to children aspiring to be athletes?  Do not take performance enhancing drugs of any kind.  You short change yourself and your accomplishments.  I am sorry I took them, and if I could do things over I would avoid them completely.  They have caused me immeasurable grief.  But I do hope I can be an example, not of decision making, but of how to, eventually, own up to your mistakes.

Reporter:  Do you think people who used steroids should be in the Hall of Fame?

McGwire: That isn’t for me to decide.  I will not name names and I don’t want to be seen as a finger pointer.  But what should be made clear is that everyone, from owners to managers to players to union officials, was complicit in the steroids era.  Everyone but umpires and fans participated in some way, either by using steroids or encouraging their use or turning a blind eye.  Steroid users were not isolated bandits terrorizing the good people of Baseball Town.

Does the Hall of Fame represent the best baseball players who ever played?  Or some more idealized image of how we think of the game?  That, I think, is the fundamental question.  I know some of the best players to ever play used steroids, and I believe they would be Hall of Famers if they had not used them.  I think baseball, as a whole, needs to decide if the Hall is for baseball as it is, or baseball as we want it to be.

Reporter:  What are your thoughts on players who test positive but say they did not knowingly take steroids?

McGwire:  That is certainly possible.  You have to understand that, particularly with Latin American players, there is a lot of misinformation and exploitation out there.  Imagine you are living in a poor Dominican Republic town, 18 years old.  Baseball skills are your only feasible route to a life not dominated by poverty.  You’ve heard about steroids, but you are far from sound medical advice, you don’t know how bad they can be for you.  Some recruiter or coach says that he can make you into a major league player if you train with him and give him some of your earnings.  Would you take medicine he tells you to take?

That is obviously a hypothetical, but those sorts of situations and pressures exist.  The media has said that ignorance is an easy excuse, or that it is no excuse.  That’s probably right.  But I’ve met or heard of unscrupulous handlers who would not blink about talking a young, naive kid into taking HGH if it meant a pro contract from which the guy will get his take.

Reporter:  It sounds like you are saying that steroids, in the 1990s, were a personal failing and that you should not be held accountable to fans or the league more generally.

McGwire:  I avoided discussing steroids in Congress because I was not personally or mentally ready to do so.  Because of that decision, and because of the decision I am making by speaking to you all, I think I have received my fair share of punishment.  Taking steroids was more than a personal failing, it was an undermining of the trust between fan and athlete which pays all of our salaries and provides magic for millions.  I am very sorry for the role I played in tarnishing that magic.  But I am not a person who believes that guilty people are beyond contribution or meaningful contrition.

What I want to offer is an honest, frank look at why a successful baseball player could take steroids, and at the circumstances in the game which allowed such a problem to flourish.  I want to help curtail the speculation and accusation that detracts from the game.  I believe that players, like myself, who took steroids have an apology to make to baseball fans, but that they are not proof that baseball is no longer the best sport in the world.

Reporter:  The home run race between you and Sammy Sosa was credited with saving baseball after the 1994 strike.  Surely you heard that hype during and after that season.  Did you feel like you had defrauded America into believing in a game that was actually fundamentally rotten?

McGwire: Ouch.   And not really.  I love baseball, and I’m sorry for the role I’ve played in tarnishing its reputation.  But to love something and be terribly upset with it is better than to not care about it at all.  If I helped reinvest people in baseball, if fans found a love for the game they did not previously possess because of my home runs, I’m glad to have helped that.  Of course, I betrayed their trust by juicing, but I want to help repair that trust.  Baseball is bigger, grander, and older than any one player, or even a generation of players.  The steroids era will be a black mark on the game, but we can hand it off to a new generation of clean, classy, exciting players.  That is, I feel, what I have to offer now.  The ability to help answer nagging questions about the past, and the ability, in part as the Cardinals hitting coach, to guide the next generation of players into fans’ hearts.

Global World Series is a Great Idea

ESPN posted this brief article about the idea of a Global World Series.  Actually, what they mean is a series between the winner of the World Series and their Japanese counterparts.

The Players Union would have to agree to this, and no doubt there will be concerns over extending the already-too-long baseball season, travel time, and potential injuries.  I’m not a big fan of fixing what isn’t broken (see: Interleague Play), but I think this is a great idea.

Japanese players can play their style or ours

Baseball has lost its preeminent place in the American sporting scene to football.  Yet it’s the bees knees in Japan.  That country loves baseball, and if the last two World Baseball Classics are proof of anything, they’re really good at it.  Major League Baseball should embrace Japan as a partner in the lovely hobby of baseball love.

Here’s how to go about this.  First, tidy up the MLB season and particularly the playoffs so that the World Series ends in October.  The Japanese league championship is also held in October, so timing works.  Pacific Ocean travel is exhausting and time-consuming, so the 7-game series should alternate years between a Japanese and an American venue.  Because this is an international exhibition, and weather is a problem in November, the American series should not be played in the home stadium of the World Series winner, but rather a rotating venue with little chance of rain or snow-outs.  Baseball can cherry pick its venues (Seattle, Los Angeles) at first to ensure good attendance until the concept gains momentum.

Speaking only for myself, I’d love to watch this series.  I want to know who the best players are in Japan, and I want to see them compete against Americans.  The World Baseball Classic does not reliably set that up often enough.  This might also help stem the tide of Japanese players coming to the US.  As much as I love Ichiro!, America’s money and (allegedly) higher caliber of play is threatening to reduce the Japanese leagues into a farm system.  Letting Japanese players with “the zeal of a challenger” get their fix in this series might be enough to prevent them from bailing on their homeland league.

There are some problems with the idea.  First, it will undermine the WBC’s current monopoly on international baseball competition.  Second, finding an American city interested in a 7-game series between a Japanese team and not their hometown team may be problematic.  But as the 2008 World Series showed, nothing takes the wind out of a series’ sails like horrible weather.  I think it’s worth taking the hit in attendance in order to ensure playable conditions.  Furthermore, I expect the money in this for the MLB is in television rights, not seat prices.  So price it cheaply until it gets big.

Here’s my personal data point: I hate the Yankees, and was very unhappy that they won the 2009 World Series.  Yet if Philly had a domed stadium, I would buy a $50 ticket to watch the Yankees play in Philly against the Japanese champions.  File that away, MLB marketing drones.

I would be surprised if this happens, because I think the Players Union will not like it.  A team that just won the World Series will not want to fly to Japan for two weeks immediately afterward.  But as a fan I’d love to watch that matchup, it contains the potential for great baseball and international bragging rights, and would be an important step in baseball’s embrace of the international baseball community.

Please, Joe Mauer, Stay a Twin (update)

Resident Boston wacko Jonathan Papelbon provides some interesting quotes in Gordon Edes’ recent ESPN column.  The article is mostly about Papelbon’s off season and contract status.  One quote that drew my attention is the following: 

Closers are millionaires too, you know

“But what do I have to give up to be in that marriage? Understand, I’m in the prime of my career. Why would I give up something? I’d give up something if it’s fair to both sides, but I want to do things for my fellow closers, just like Mo paved the way for me. I want every closer out there, man, to get every penny they deserve.”

I have speculated that the Players Union pressures big free agents to follow the most money, in order to inflate the salaries of lesser players.  I don’t know if that is true, but Papelbon provides evidence that such thinking is certainly floating out there.

——-

Also, Roy Halladay, as expected, left the Blue Jays.  However, he took less money in order to play for a contender.  Some ASC props to you, Doc, for being a classy competitor (to the extent that signing a $20 million dollar per year contract can be said to be a classy move).

Edgar Martinez > Dan Shaughnessy

Somebody named Dan Shaughnessy hacked into SI.com on Monday and posted an article about why he’s not voting for Edgar Martinez for the Hall of Fame.  I suggest you read the article now, before it gets taken down by the site admins.

Shawnhessy doesn't like numbers

Oh wait, seems like Dan Shaughwhatever is a columnist for the Boston Globe.  Huh, that’s weird, I thought Sports Illustrated catered to a national audience.  Oh well.

Here is a tasty sample platter of Shoonbussy’s reasoning for not voting for Edgar (with acknowledgement to the Fire Joe Morgan guys for pioneering this style of textual rebuttal):

I just can’t bring myself to put him in Cooperstown alongside Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
But how about putting him next to Carlton Fisk, Lloyd Waner and Joe Medwick?  They’re all there, too.

Each Hall voter applies his own standards, and mine often references the famous line that Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart applied to pornography. Stewart argued that he might not be able to define what was pornographic, “but I know it when I see it.”
Ah, okay, so you’re making shit up as you go along.  I’m glad you’re in charge of enshrining people.  I’d hate for those hallowed halls to be defined by some kind of rigorous bar against which players are measured.

Edgar Martinez was a very fine hitter, but I never said to myself, “The Mariners are coming to Fenway this weekend. I wonder how the Sox are going to pitch to Edgar Martinez?”
Oh wait, I think we’re getting to the gist of it here.  Let’s keep going.

It was different with players like Eddie Murray and Jim Rice.
The reasoning emerges.  See it yet? 

A lifetime .312 average is impressive and Edgar’s OPS puts him in an elite class. But he wasn’t a home run hitter (309), he couldn’t carry a team, he didn’t scare you, and (sorry) he rarely played defense.... Edgar Martinez was a fine hitter and got on base a lot. But he was a corner infielder who didn’t hit a lot of homers and then he became a guy who spent the majority of every game watching from the bench.

Okay.  So Dan Shooboody thinks that teams weren’t afraid of Edgar Martinez, he didn’t hit home runs, and he didn’t play defense.  Let us address this, as succinctly as we possibly can.

Not photoshopped.

1)  Dan Shudthumper thinks Edgar is not a Hall of Famer because The Red Sox weren’t afraid of him.  I looked up numbers, and that’s valid.  Edgar only hit .299/.395/.469 in 69 games in Fenway.  However, how did The Edgar do against some other teams (in away games)?

Angels (.319/.423/.489) in 97 games
Rangers (.282/.381/.508) in 78 games
Orioles (.327/.436/.574) in 56 games
Red Sox (.299/.395/.469) in 69 games
White Sox (.315/.423/.514) in 68 games
Twins (.371/.454/.610) in 69 games
Yankees (.337/.439/.545) in 68 games

You can bet that sports writers in St. Paul and New York knew when The Edgar was coming to town.  And if one team can get a player out, then surely Jim Rice is not a Hall of Famer, having hit only .264/.305/.449 against the Angels in 148 games.

2)  Edgar did not hit home runs.  Well, he hit 309 in 7,213 at bats, or 1 per 23 at bats.  Jim Rice hit 382 in 8,225 at bats, or 1 per 21 at bats.  The big difference?  Jim Rice hit them in Dan Shankapotomus’s home town

Our boy pulls out the ol’ calculator-hate-card in this article (quoted below), but he does mention Edgar’s .300/.400/.500 career line.  So on the off-chance that he actually knows what slugging percentage means, let’s point out that Edgar’s career was .515.  Jim Rice’s career slugging was .502.  Slugging is a rough measure of your power.  Edgar didn’t hit 500 home runs because he was busy hitting 500 doubles.  Jim Rice hit 73 more home runs and 141 fewer doubles in 1,112 more at bats.

Corner infielder needs to hit home runs, eh?  Perhaps you would have preferred Vinny Castilla, or Ken Caminiti?  Are you suggesting they were more appropriate corner infielders?  That they knew their roles better?

3)  Edgar didn’t play defense.  Yeah, he was a DH for much of his career.  But Paul Molitor, himself a DH and a Hall of Famer, put it nicely.  Speaking about being a DH and under Hall consideration, he said: “They’re not going to hold it against you.  It’s part of the game and should be included as such.”

It’s part of the game.  It’s patently unfair to deny someone membership in the Hall because they played your least favorite position.  To Dan Shawshank, The Edgar’s real sin was not being a DH in Boston. 

Here, again, is David Schoenfield’s great article laying out Edgar’s case for the Hall.  He includes all those numbers which Dan Shawnofthedead thinks are ruining the game (if analysis is ruining the fun of a game for you, you must not like the game that much).  But, as Dan Stickinthemud says,

The stat geeks, those get-a-lifers who are sucking all the joy out of our national pastime, no doubt will be able to demonstrate that Edgar was better than Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby. I’m not buying. Stats don’t tell the whole story.

And for Dan Shouldntbevoingforthehall, the whole story is that Edgar didn’t play in Boston.

Edgar for the Hall

Edgar Martinez Drive runs along the south side of Safeco Field

Do the right thing: Edgar in 2010

ESPN editor David Shoenfield does us all the service of laying out the case for Edgar Martinez’s rightful place in the Hall of Fame:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4755544

Griffey’s race home from first in 1995 may have saved baseball in Seattle, but it was Edgar who lined the double down the third base line which sent him home.  While Griffey will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, it would be perhaps more fitting that Edgar be the first player elected to the Hall as a Seattle Mariner.

Do it.

The All-Cut Team

The days of veteran players getting contracts because they’re veterans is over.  Teams are looking to fill roster spots with young, cheap talent.  Want more proof?  Look at this team constructed of players who were non-tendered last week:

Garrett Atkins

My oh my, how quickly we have fallen

C  John Buck
1B Ryan Garko
2B Kelly Johnson
3B Garret Atkins
SS (none; apparently SS is in short supply)
LF Johnny Gomes
CF Jeremy Reed
RF Ryan Church
DH Jack Cust
  
SP Chien-Ming Wang
SP Tim Redding
RP Jose Arredondo
RP Seth McClung
CL Matt Capps

How many of those players, just within the last few years, were hot commodities?  It’s a brave new world.

Ace Swap

Roy Halladay

Doc would be one of the 3 best pitchers in the NL

There will be more about this as details emerge, but a deal is in the works that would send Roy Halladay to Philly, Cliff Lee to Seattle, and a lot of prospects flying around like shrapnel.

It remains to be seen if the upgrade from Lee to Halladay (if one can even call it an upgrade) is worth the prospects Philly will give up.  My initial reaction is two-fold:

  1. If anyone can pull Cole Hamels’ head out of his ass, it’s Roy Halladay.
  2. I hope the Mariners are trading Brandon Morrow to somebody.  He is and will always remain for me not Tim Lincecum.

More Yankee Fantasyland Nonsense

Meet the next great Yankee outfielder.

The Yankees are on the verge of acquiring Curtis Granderson for a bunch of crap.  Besides being a better commentator than most of the guys on Baseball Tonight, Curtis Granderson is really fast and really good at hitting home runs off of right-handed pitchers to right field.  In short, he’ll be amazing in Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have, once again, video-game-afied their batting order.  How many Yankee fans playing MLB 2009 altered rosters to “trade” for Granderson?  How many fantasy baseball teams will be less potent than the Yankees batting order? It’s much easier to hate the Yankees when they just sign everybody’s best players.  It’s not fair when they start trading for them, too, and really good guys at that.

Damn this.