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Ryan Braun Versus the Other Cheaters: The Biogenesis PED Scandal

Milwaukee Brewers slugger and 2011 National League MVP copped a plea deal with Major League Baseball yesterday regarding the mountain of evidence that implicated him in yet another Performance Enhancing Drug scandal. The deal was that he would be suspended for 65 games without pay effectively ending his season.

The scandal involving the Miami Florida based Biogenesis corporation involves many more players than Braun. The biggest fish caught in the MLB dragnet is New York Yankees Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez who currently leads active MLB players in home runs. Rodriguez has not played a Major League game this season and after doing time in rehabilitation and minor league games is injured yet again. Since he is an admitted user of PEDs it stands to reason that he will endure a heavier punishment than Braun. Reports indicate that he is attempting the reach some sort of deal with MLB but most do not believe that a deal will be cut.

Somewhere close to 20 other MLB players may be caught up in the Biogenesis scandal. It is an indication that even though most of us would like to believe that the “Steroid Era” is over, that it is not. Far too many players are still evidently finding ways to use PEDs.

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Ryan Braun proclaiming his innocence of  testing positive of PEDs at Spring Training 2012

All that being said we have to come back to Ryan Braun, who before his initial positive tests for PEDs was considered to be one of baseball’s “good guys.” He is well liked. Many people stood up for him when he was accused the first time. When he tested positive for PEDs he lied or denied the allegations.

Unlike many previous players accused of the use of PEDs who couched their lies in more obscure and less definitive Braun’s comments were bold faced lies. In December 2011 in response to the initial tests he stated “This is all B.S. I am completely innocent” and in February 2012 stated “There are a lot of haters- a lot of people who doubted me and a lot of people who continue to doubt me.” When the allegations of his involvement with Anthony Bosch and Biogenesis came to light in 2013 he said “I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch.”  

So Braun lied. A lot of people do when under pressure. But Braun did something that nobody else in baseball did when confronted with the use of PEDs. Like Lance Armstrong he went on the attack. He, his allies and his lawyers went all out to destroy the reputation and livelihood of the man who took his test samples. They went after Dino Laurenzi, the attacked his integrity they attacked his honesty and his character. They did their best to destroy a man who was simply doing his job. That is the real crime here. Laurenzi lost his job and was treated as a pariah.

On the other hand Braun accepted the National League MVP award for the 2011 season, the one in which he tested positive. Braun was caught in 2011. He lied about it, He lied to his team mates, his fans, the media and even got other professional athletes to defend him, knowing all the time that it was all a lie. He got away with it for a time and in the process did all he could to destroy the life and reputation of another man who did nothing wrong, other than not get to a FEDEX drop box quickly enough because of the late hour. At the opening of Spring Training in 2012 he even had the nerve to attack the MLB anti-drug program. It was arrogant, filled with hubris and when I saw it I lost any modicum of respect I might have had for Braun.

The 65 game suspension is far too light in my mind, not because of his use of PEDs but because of his lies, his destruction of another man’s livelihood and his hubris in deciding to do it again. I hope that Laurenzi is able to take Braun to court and strip him of everything and In hope that MLB will strip Braun of his 2011 MVP title.

Mr Braun deserves no sympathy and his actions to admit his guilt were not heroic. They were just another means of a sociopath to attempt to manipulate public opinion to make himself look better and set the stage for a comeback where he can play on people’s inherent need for a redemption story. I would like to believe him but I cannot.

I know that others have done PEDs and that a host of record holders have been implicated including one of the game’s greatest pitcher’s Roger Clemens and Home Run king Barry Bonds. I also know that some other big name players besides Rodriguez are caught up in the Biogenesis scandal. I only hope that unlike Braun that these men behave as men and take responsibility for their actions without the self serving, narcissistic, and sociopathic machinations of Mr Braun who even when admitting guilt practically played the victim.

That would be good for them and for baseball. This era has to end. While I am not satisfied with the 65 game deal that Braun got I know that for once MLB seems to have the upper hand against offenders. I hope that this will lead to the game being cleaned up. That may be a forlorn hope, but judging from the reaction of many players to the current bunch of cheaters the tide just might be turning.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Well Golly! Gomer Pyle Gets Married and A-Rod Gets Outed Again

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Surprise, surprise, surprise! 

What a day. America’s favorite funny fictional Marine Gomer Pyle, officially came out of the closet and married his battle buddy of the past 38 years. The marriage occurred in the newly gay state of Washington. The marriage came just five years after he received an honorary promotion to the rank of Corporal from Marine Lieutenant General John F Goodman and about a year and a half after the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell rule was ended.

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Now, Pyle’s decision to marry doesn’t offend me at all because it has nothing to do with baseball and something happened today in baseball that did offend me. Alex Rodriguez, sometimes in better days known as “A-Rod” and after his initial admission of using Performance Enhancing Drugs, or PEDs as “A-Roid” and by his HGH and other PED dealer Anthony Bosch as “Cacique” appears to have have been outed by the Miami New Times. The evidence appears damning.

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No A-Rod wasn’t outed as a homosexual, but rather for using PEDs after he told God and everybody that he wasn’t the old “young and dumb” A-Roid of 2001-2003 but the older smarter and cleaner A-Rod. He told Jeff Passan in response to Passan’s question “have you used performance enhancing drugs since 2003?” “I have not. I would not.”

But the allegations and suspicions dragged on as Rodriguez battled injuries and saw his on field performance plummet. Today’s bombshell tore apart the web of lies that he surrounded himself with during the interregnum of 2003 and today. It was a period that he signed a monster 10 year 275 million dollar deal with the Yankees. Now, mid-way through that contract, with A-Rod still due 114 dollars the Yankees, are scrambling to figure out a way to unload him and his contract.

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I don’t feel sorry for them. They made the deal with Rodriguez knowing of past allegations and had to deal with the fallout when he admitted using them in 2009. The Yankee method of getting greedy to obtain the best ballplayers that they could afford blew up in their faces. Now they have to deal with it, which since I am an Orioles fan I say, good on them.

I hope that Jim Nabors does well. He has always been a decent and caring person who I have admired. Heck I remember hearing allegations that he was gay back in the 1970s and it was like so what.

A-Rod on the other hand was probably one of the most talented players of his generation. He was a high school phenom that the scouts could not say enough about. He could hit for power and average, he was graceful in the infield and was fast. A few years ago when he reached the 600 home run plateau people were predicting that he would break the all-time home run record set by fellow accused PED user Barry Bonds. But for whatever reason that was not enough. He had to jump into the boat of scandal and cheating a second time, knowing that baseball, after years of turning a blind eye to it was scrutinizing everyone and that the media was watching. And to compound his problems he went to a man already known for dispensing PEDs for his fix. That wasn’t smart. Even less smart was issuing a statement denying it again because no one believes him anyway.

I don’t know why he had to go back to the well again after telling everyone that he was clean. Perhaps is was the desperation that he felt from his decreasing performance and injuries compounded by the hubris that he would not be caught, then… Shazam!

What more can be said?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cheaters and the Baseball Hall of Fame: The Hypocrisy and Arrogance of the Baseball Writers of the BBWAA

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“Cheating is baseball’s oldest profession. No other game is so rich in skullduggery, so suited to it or so proud of it.” Thomas Boswell

I love baseball. Everything about it. The good, the bad and the ugly. It is a game that to me represents the human condition better than any other game. I am amazed by the feats of ballplayers of today and yesterday. I am also a realist and know that like the rest of us, that baseball players are human. I believe that God speaks to me though baseball and there is no other place in the world that I feel more at peace than watching a ballgame in a ballpark. It is an elixir for my soul.

However baseball, despite its perfection as a game is a game played by, written about and watched by a very imperfect cast. Including me. I know a lot of ball players, men who have played in the Majors and Minors and I admire them. I admire their dedication and the sacrifices that they make to be the best. I admire the fact that many toil in the obscurity of the Minor Leagues for years before even getting a chance to play “in the show.” Not many actually get careers in the Majors, and a decided minority have the lifetime performance to even merit being honored in the Hall of Fame.

The Baseball Writers who decide on the election of baseball players into the Baseball Hall of Fame decided that this year, that no players should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was due in part to their interpretation of the rules that allow for the writers to consider issues of character can be considered in the voting process. It was the first time in four decades that no players were elected to the hall.

The vote was seen as the writers judgement on the players of the steroid era, an era that until it became unpopular was heralded by many of the same writers as a time of revival in the sport. The same writers that reveled in the domination of Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the pitchers mound, the great home run race between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, the massive home runs of Barry Bonds or the stellar performances of so many other players of the era. The cheerleaders became the morality police. Not that the use of PEDs was right by any means but the moral indignation of the writers that chose to use their vote or lack of a vote as a means of punishment seems to me to ooze hypocrisy.

I am sure that is the case.

Not that I am in favor of cheating or cheaters. However that being said, the bar that these players are being held to is higher than that of baseball cheaters of previous generations, of which some are honored in the same Hall of Fame that the writers exclude those of the steroid era. It seems to me to me that the writers are being just a bit hypocritical and cynical concerning the history of the game and the Hall of Fame.

That is easy for them to do because we Americans, possibly more than any other people love to tear down our heroes and those that excel at what they do. We are one of the most moralistic peoples on the face of the earth, and nowhere more does that moralistic tenor show up than in baseball. Football and basketball, cheating is not so bad, but cheating in baseball that is somehow a greater sin than almost anything in our society. Tax cheats, adulterers, academic cheats and plagiarists as well murderers and other stellar members of society, including lawyers and politicians find it easy to damn baseball players for cheating.

However, the Hall of Fame membership includes many of the best in baseball as well as some pretty lousy human beings who just happened to be great baseball players. It is a place of history where the disgraced members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox have a place, though not as members. It is a place that has enshrined admitted cheaters of previous eras. It is a place that has enshrined racists, bullies, wife beaters drunks philanderers adulterers and even an accused murderer.

It is also an institution that for decades excluded some of the best ballplayers who ever played the game because they were black and had to play in the segregated Negro Leagues. It’s greatest snub was to the legendary Negro League, player manager and later Major League Coach and scout Buck O’Neil, who it never admitted.

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Buck O’Neil Out, Ty Cobb in

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Ty Cobb was a violent man and as racist as they come. He once assaulted a fan, a fan with no arms for jeering him. He attacked a black groundskeeper for attempting to shake his hand and then attempted to strangle the man’s wife when she came to his aid. Babe Ruth would show up drunk for games and slept around with any attractive woman of the female persuasion. There are a host of unsavory characters in the Hall of Fame besides the admitted cheaters and suspected cheaters of bygone times. Hell, Hank Aaron and admitted to using amphetamines what were then known as “Greenies” and players testified under oath that Willie Stargell, another first ballot Hall of Famer not only took amphetamines but dispensed them to team mates. They used them to perform better and they were not alone. Thus to me the self-righteous indignation of the writers against the players of the Steroid Era and that of some fans is just that.

The cheaters didn’t just include drug users although the fact that players have been juiced for decades was known in early 1970s. The Mitchell Report on the use of performance enhancing drugs made this comment:

“In 1973, a Congressional subcommittee announced that its staff had completed an “in depth study into the use of illegal and dangerous drugs in sports” including professional baseball. The subcommittee concluded that “the degree of improper drug use – primarily amphetamines and anabolic steroids – can only be described as alarming.”

That was 1973. But cheating hasn’t been limited to performance enhancing drugs. The were men who threw illegal pitches or altered baseballs. Managers and organizations that specialized in stealing the signs of opposing teams, corking bats and many other tricks and sleights of hand designed to help them win games.

When Sammy Sosa was exposed for his use of a corked bat then Chicago Cubs General Manager Andy McPhail said: “There is a culture of deception in this game. It’s been in this game for 100 years. I do not look at this in terms of ethics. It’s the culture of the game.”

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Rogers Hornsby, the amazing Second Baseman of the St Louis Cardinals who batted over .400 three times in his career said “I’ve been in pro baseball since 1914 and I’ve cheated, or watched someone on my team cheat, in practically every game. You’ve got to cheat.”

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Pitcher Gaylord Perry wrote in his autobiography before he was elected to the Hall of Fame “I’d always have it (grease) in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn’t be professional.” Mind you that the “spitball or grease ball” had been illegal for decades when he made his admission.

Yankees great Whitey Ford admitted his cheating. “I didn’t begin cheating until late in my career, when I needed something to help me survive. I didn’t cheat when I won the twenty-five games in 1961. I don’t want anybody to get any ideas and take my Cy Young Award away. And I didn’t cheat in 1963 when I won twenty-four games. Well, maybe a little.”

Hank Greenberg, one of the premier power hitters of his day discussed how the stealing of signs helped him. “I loved that. I was the greatest hitter in the world when I knew what kind of pitch was coming up.”

Hall of Fame managers like Leo Durocher and Earl Weaver, have been quoted, even if they meant it in jest, advocating cheating. Durocher said “Win any way you can as long as you can get away with it.” and Weaver reported told a pitcher “If you know how to cheat, start now.”

To me election to the Hall of Fame should be a place of history where the greatest performers in the game should be enshrined. It should not be a place where writers, many of whom no longer actively cover the game sit as modern Pharisees pointing out the grain of sand in the eye of the accused players while ignoring the logs in their own eyes.

The use of the drugs probably has harmed the health of those that used them. The records set in the era will be debated. But there are so many other things that affect records. The 154 game versus the 162 game season, the Dead Ball Era, the segregated era, the war years where greats like Ted Williams missed their best years because they were serving in the military all affected the game and influenced who was inducted and who was not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In baseball records are also kind of fuzzy because of changes in the game. Additionally characteristics as innocuous as the differences in baseball stadiums, their dimensions, geography, turf and weather conditions on hitting and pitching play a huge part in any players career.

Baseball fans and players will make their own judgements about the character of individual players as well as the historical significance of the Steroid Era. The era was not good for baseball despite the records set because it brought to light a culture that existed for at least a century. A culture that is not just a baseball culture but part of the American culture, a culture that honors liars and cheaters in politics, law, banking and a host of other professions including religion.

Well that is enough for tonight. Let him who is without sin throw out the first ball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Blowing out the Candle(stick)…Power Goes out During Big 49ers – Steelers Game

I hesitate to call Candlestick Park old. It opened the year that I was born just across the bay.  I have never been to a 49er’s game but saw the Giants a number of times at the venerable yard. However even in the 1970s it was cold and dank, especially during the summer.  Monday night however the old stadium lost power twice the first time just before kickoff and the second during the second quarter of the game between the 49ers and Steelers.

The stadium has been the scene of some of the most memorable moments in sports history. One was “The Catch” when the 49ers defeated the highly favored Dallas Cowboys on January 10th 1982. Tight End Dwight Clark leaped to grab a pass from Joe Montana in the NFC Championship game, a game which ended the decade long Cowboys dominance of the conference.

It was also the site of the 1989 World Series.  The cross bay Oakland Athletics had taken the first too games in Oakland and the pre-game activities were in full swing when  a massive earthquake, the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck Northern California. Measuring 6.9 (7.1 surface wave) the quake hit at 5:04 PM on October 17th 1989 and was the first earthquake ever recorded on national television.  I was a seminary student and I remember sitting in front of my television in our run down East Fort Worth home, a neighborhood known for its frequent appearances on the TV show COPS.  Judy was in the kitchen getting something to drink if I recall and I watched the event occur. It was surreal and being from California I knew that it had to be a bad quake.

The Giants never won a World Series will playing at the “Stick” despite having some of the greatest players to ever play the game grace the field.  Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Bobbie and Barry Bonds, the Alou brother’s outfield, Felipe, Manny and Jesus who became the first “all brothers” outfield in 1963. Of course there were pitchers like Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.  49ers greats Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young and Ronnie Lott all made their names in the cavernous confines of Candlestick.

 

The 49ers moved to the Stick in 1971 from Kezar Stadium while the Giants moved to the new Pac-Bell or AT&T Park in 2000.  The Beatles player their last full concert there on August 29th 1966.   The biggest event I ever saw at Candlestick was Giant’s pitcher Ed Halicki no-hitting the Mets back on August 24th 1975.

The power outage was called embarrassing by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and the Pacific Gas and Electric had no immediate explanation for the outage. The fact that it happened on a nationwide broadcast of Monday Night Football gave it fare more attention than in might have received. Fortunately for the 49ers approval of a new stadium in Santa Clara are almost done and by 2015 the team should be in its new home so long as the ghosts and demons of the Stick don’t find their way south.

Blessings,

Padre Steve+

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Musings at the end of Busy Week, the Penn State Scandal and Barry Bonds Sentence…Padre Steve has a “Gracie Jane” Moment

It has been a very busy and tiring week.  However I am in good spirits and though tired am feeling more in the Christmas spirit.  Ho.  I’m not up to more than that yet but it is a start. When we get back to North Carolina from our next excursion to home in Virginia on Monday it is time for some housecleaning and decorating for Christmas. We have been so busy with Judy’s surgery, recovery, travel and work around the Virginia house the month has gone by fast than I could imagine. I mentioned to a coworker that it hadn’t even felt like theChristmas season  because we were so busy.  Thankfully I have gotten a bit better sleep and have a couple of evening where I could actually stop and rest my brain by doing some reading and writing.  I still have to do the mid-month bills but that will be my arithmetic for the week. However all week I have felt like doing a Gracie Jane type article, finally

Anyway a few “Gracie Jane” thoughts…

What is up with Jerry Sandusky, his lawyers and the knuckleheads that ran the Penn State Football program and Athletic department?  I could never have imagined what is continuing the be revealed and the banality with which such evil was tolerated and covered up for years.  Nor can I imagine a more loathsome defense team and their arrogant yet inept handing of the case. I can understand trying to defend your guy but these guys are second rate yokels.  This is no O.J. Dream Team and they are rapidly securing their place in legal and moral infamy with their defense strategy.  Johnny Cochran would never had let Sandusky continue to hang himself and speaking of hanging himself I was aghast at the comments of former Penn State Senior Vice President Gary Schultz to the Grand Jury that after allegedly being told about the sexual contact between Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in a shower in 2002 that “I had the impression that Sandusky wrestled the boy in the shower and grabbed his genitals.”

He went on to say that “Not all inappropriate conduct is criminal” and that “I don’t know if it’s criminal.” I don’t know about you but if anyone even hinted to me that they were reporting such an act my next call would be to the appropriate police authorities and child protective services offices.  The only thing Schultz and the University did was to tell Sandusky to not bring the kids on campus.  The fact that he knew about a 1998 incident where the police were involved and had a copy of their 95 page report Schultz refused to report the incident to police saying that “The allegations came across as not that serious. We had no indication that a crime occurred.”  However he was were told by both Paterno and the witness former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary and Paterno even contacted Schultz on a Sunday. Not exactly SOP for something “not serious.”

Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley are being charged by prosecutors with lying to the Grand Jury. Their lawyers maintain their innocence but the more that we learn the worse the situation looks. Yes they are innocent until proven guilty and a jury will decide that when they and Sandusky go to trial.

I know that I’m starting to sound like Boston Legal’s parody of Nancy Grace “Gracie Jane” but all of these guys look guiltier every day and their sleazy lawyers look like lowbrow hacks.  You can be sure that Jerry Seinfeld and Kosmo Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles would run these guys out of his office.

Enough said about those guys but what about Barry Bonds. The prosecution threw everything that they could imagine at the former Giants slugger and only got a “guilty” count on a single charge of “obstruction of justice” for misleading Grand Jurors in 2003.  Today Bonds was sentenced to 30 days home confinement, a $4000 fine, 250 hours community service and 2 years probation. Now many believe that Bonds used steroids and he may have. That being said I cannot imagine spending millions of dollars to investigate and prosecute Bonds and only come out with this verdict and sentence.

The prosecutors could have given up this case at several points when their charges were thrown out and evidence deemed inadmissible.  But they continued and got their verdict but at what cost? The lead prosecutor called the sentence “a slap on the wrist” and the fine “laughable.” But really why would any of us want to spend even more taxpayer money keeping Bonds in prison when our country is in so much debt? I think that Judge Susan Illston got the sentence right and if it prosecutors believe that it was a “slap on the wrist” they have nobody but themselves to blame.

When I took a Military Law course back in college our instructor made a comment told us that he felt that if we didn’t feel that evidence would support a guilty verdict at a General Courts Martial that we should probably resist preferring charges in an Article 15 Non-Judicial Punishment proceeding. This is basically a misdemeanor proceeding handled by the unit commander that is  is not considered a criminal conviction at which a defendant can request trial by Court Martial instead of accepting the commander’s judgement.  As a company commander and Brigade Personnel Officer I worked with some excellent prosecutors.  The prosecutors in the Bonds case got embarrassed and deserved this.  They wasted millions of dollars of our tax money to try to convict a man of cheating in baseball by using steroids.

Bonds supporters will support him and his detractors will continue to criticize him for “cheating.”  People will make up their minds and Baseball will have to come to terms with how it will handle the records and legacies all of those that played during the Steroid Era.

Anyway my Gracie Jane moment is over for the night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Quiet Achievement: Jim Thome Hammers Two Home Runs to join Elite 600 Home Run Club

Jim Thome Hits Number 600 (AP Photo)

“Not only is he a great player, but he’s a great individual… I think he was a little apprehensive about passing me up. I said, ‘Jim, I passed a lot of guys up myself along the way. I hope you hit 100 more.'”  Harmon Killebrew on Jim Thome passing him on the home run list with 574 Home Runs in 2010.

There was little build up or fanfare leading up to the Twins and Tigers game tonight. There should have been as one of baseball’s “good guys” did something that only 7 other Major leaguers had ever done, hit 600 home runs.  Maybe it is because he now plays for the Minnesota Twins who are in the midst of one of their worst seasons in recent memory.  Minneapolis is not exactly the center of the sports media universe like New Yorkwhere almost every at bat of Derek Jeter was covered in his quest to reach the 3000 hit mark.  However to me it doesn’t matter. I have been a Jime Thome fan for a long time and while I may be in North Carolina I was watching live when ESPN switched from the Giants-Braves game to the Twins-Tigers game to cover Thome’s at bat in the 7th inning.

A Smile and a Handshake (Getty Images)

Thome came to the plate after hitting home run 599 a two run shot off of Rick Porcello during his previous at bat in the 6th inning.  He was facing Tigers pitcher Daniel Schlereth and with a 2-1 count and two runners on base Thome hit Schlereth’s pitch over the Left Field fence for number 600.  He rounded the bases at Comerica Park in Detroit to a standing ovation given by the Tiger fans as well as his teammates and his family who were also in attendance who also greeted him on the field. On the scoreboard the home team congratulated Thome’s achievement;Detroit does recognize great baseball achievement’s even when it comes at the bat of an opponent.

It was a special moment that all baseball fans should celebrate and that non baseball fans should also take note of because Thome accomplished this huge feat, a feat even great than Jeter reaching 3000 hits Out of the 17,000 plus players that have played in the Majors only 8 have hit 600 or more home runs while 28 players have over 3000 hits.

Thome Honored by Teammates and Opposing Fans

Thome has struggled with injury this year and has not had his best year. He is beginning to show his 40 years the oldest player to reach the 600 mark, the previous being the then 38 year old Sammy Sosa in 2007.  Despite this he was the second fastest player to reach 600 home runs reaching it in at bat 8137 games as opposed to Babe Ruth who by far reached it faster than anyone else needing only 6921 at bats to reach 600 on his way to 714.  In reaching the 600 mark Thome joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa in the 600 club.

Thome reached the mark without a lot of fanfare or for that matter controversy. He was never tainted by the steroid controversy and is one of the nicest people in baseball, not hesitating to talk to children that come up to him in public or people that knew him in his early days.  His teammate Michael Cuddyer said “He is the nicest, gentlest, kindest guy you will ever meet … When he walks in a room, everyone watches everything he does. It’s the way he treats people, it’s the way he respects the game….”

His manager Ron Gardenhire said “He’s like Babe Ruth around here…The fans here get all mad at me for not playing him every day.”

Thome is known around the league for his work ethic and will to win.  He worked hard at his craft initially beginning as an outfielder before being converted to Third Base.  Unassuming he once said “I always had to work to be good, because I never was very good. I mean, I always had to work to get where I wanted to be. It was never easy. It still isn’t. It still isn’t.” He is called by some today’s Harmon Killebrew, a complement by any standard of measurement.  I’m sure that Harmon is looking on now cheering and probably telling Saint Pete stories about just how big of an achievement that Thome’s feat is because Thome won’t do it when he meets Saint Pete.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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One, Two, Three Strikes You’re Out: Federal Prosecutors blow the game in Clemens Mistrial

Roger Clemens leaves the Courtroom after the Mistrial- Photo Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

First it was the lengthy and painful investigation and trial of Barry Bonds where Federal Prosecutors came up short on their primary charges. Today it was the rapid mistrial called by Judge Reggie Walton as the prosecutors opened their case against Roger Clemens on the first day of Clemens trial.  To me they looked like the prosecutors thatAlanShore(James Spader) made fools of in the television series Boston Legal.  This was supposed to be a “slam dunk” for the government and instead it was a debacle.

Assistant US Attorney Steven Dunham opens his case -Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

 Today lead prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney Steven Dunham went against the Judge Walton’s ruling by introducing evidence of former Clemens team mate and friend Andy Petitte’s wife that Petit had told her that Clemens had admitted using HGH. Walton had already deemed the video admissible in rebuttal. Instead Dunham introduced it invoking Walton’s ire and lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin asked for a mistrial.

Rusty Hardin argues for the Defense-Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

Walton granted the mistrial even though prosecutors argued that the judge could simply instruct the jury to disregard the evidence.  Judge Walton remarked “I don’t see how I un-ring the bell,” in that they could not know the effect of the evidence in jury deliberations.  Walton noted that “Government counsel should have been more cautious,” noting the cost to taxpayers already incurred and that “I think that a first-year law student would know that you can’t bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly inadmissible evidence.” A direct comment that the prosecution’s case hinged on the testimony of and evidence supplied by former Clemens trainer Brian McNamee.

Counsel Approach the Bench Judge Reggie Walton takes control and declares a mistrial-Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

The government considered Pettitte’s testimony essential because he is viewed as “critical witness” because of his honesty and good reputation.  This was even more important after Wednesday’s opening arguments where Hardin managed to turn the trial into one of the reliability of the prosecution and its key witness, McNamee.

That happened after Dunham on Wednesday morning showed a capped needle, a syringe and three cotton balls which the prosecution said contained steroid residue and Clemens’ DNA. It seemed to be a strong start, but then Dunham was warned about the testimony of Petitte’s wife.  Then he elected to reenact Clemens’ Congressional testimony using an FBI agent and a former Congressional staffer leading a columnist to write “by mid-afternoon the jury had to despise Dunham.”

Hardin on the other hand held the jury in his hand weaving a trail of government investigators canvassing the country to find evidence with which to convict Clemens and only having McNamee’s testimony with which to attempt to send Clemens to prison.  Hardin put the prosecutors and McNamee on trial showing a map of 72 locations across the country where the government went to prepare 229 investigative reports.  Hardin pushed the prosecution hard and gave the jury a lot to think about regarding the evidence and the reliability of their chief witness.  I think that this is most likely why Dunham introduced the Pettitte video most likely hoping to make an impact on the jury while having Walton simply let them off with a warning.

The play didn’t work. It was like a pitcher having been warned for throwing at a batter doing it a second time and getting tossed from the game. However in this case with wasn’t just the pitcher tossed it was the end of the game.

Judge Walton: “I don’t like making orders and lawyers not abiding by them. This clearly runs afoul of my pre-trial rulings.” AP Photo

Judge Walton has scheduled a new hearing for September 2nd to determine if there will even be a second trial.  Given Walton’s statements today one has to seriously believe that he will not order a new trial. A gag order imposed by Walton is still in force and it is believed that Walton considers that a case of double jeopardy exists and that Clemens may be immune from further prosecution. If there is a second trial it probably will not take place until 2012.

In the end it is another case of over eager government investigators and prosecutors spending millions of taxpayer dollars to target high profile athletes.  The fact is that for baseball the Steroid Era is over.  It is likely that hundreds of players took varieties of performance enhancing drugs.  The evidence of this is the marked decline in home runs and run production as well as injuries to older players that were less frequent than during the era.

As for those implicated as users they will be judged by the fans, their fellow players and the sportswriters who vote players into the Hall of Fame.  Those innocent will be under as much scrutiny as those that have admitted or actually tested positive.  Those that used whether they ever tested positive or not cheated, but cheating  in sports is something that is not the job of government to police or Congress to investigate.  Those that love the game of baseball will view records set during the era with suspicion because that is what baseball fans and writers do. We examine statistics and records; we live and die by them.  But the fact is that baseball records are often products of their times.  There were few home runs in the “dead ball era.” Many of the great home run hitters played in hitters parks and were surrounded by a strong supporting cast that forced pitchers to pitch to them.  Many players that held records played in a shorter season, 154 vice the current 162.  The National League doesn’t play the Designated Hitter which has extended the careers of many hitters whose defensive skills are declining to the point that they are a liability in the field and would have had to retire in previous times.  From their inception until last year players used amphetamines to increase their alertness.  That was legal and baseball did nothing about it until last year.  In days past pitchers used the spitball, cut or sanded balls to get an edge.This was illegal but many did it and Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry admitted this even before being elected to the Hall of Fame.

What I have never thought right was Congress calling hearings and grilling ball players while the country was at war and suffering from a terrible economic downturn.  That was a waste of time and taxpayer money.  The one good thing is that it forced Baseball to get its act together regarding PED use, testing and enforcement.  I am glad for that.

As far as the prosecutions they have been terrible a waste of taxpayer money and the results bear that out.  It is time to end this mindless pursuit, let the players live their lives in retirement and let the fans, writers and their colleagues judge them.

Rusty Hardin and Clemens after the Trial Photo- Mark Wilson, Getty Images

As Clemens left the courtroom he was hounded by reporters and photographers, some even trying to get his autograph he had to push his way through like someone trying to escape a Zombie attack. As he did so an inebriated man waving a cane shouted “Leave the man alone! Leave the man alone!”  Maybe it is time that we do, not only with Clemens, but Bonds and all the others that Federal investigators, notably Jeff Novitzky and prosecutors have investigated for years on our dime.

“Leave the man alone!” I second that.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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