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Opening Day 2016

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

The long and painful winter is now officially over and yesterday was opening day. Humphrey Bogart said, “That’s baseball, and it’s my game. Y’ know, you take your worries to the game, and you leave ’em there…”

I totally agree with that, sadly I don’t live in a major league city and I’ll be out of town when our Triple-A Baltimore Orioles affiliate opens its season on Thursday, but even so I am thrilled that baseball is back.

Amid all the craziness of the world, our totally insane political scene in the United States, the threats of war, terrorism, continued problems in the Middle East, the Korea Peninsula, not to mention the instability in the European Union which could affect a lot of political and economic issues, baseball is a calming influence in my life. I agree with Sharon Olds who wrote nearly thirty years ago, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”

Today I am wearing my San Francisco Giant’s hat, and an autographed replica Giants road jersey with the number 36 on it. The number belongs to Hall of Fame Pitcher Gaylord Perry, and it is signed by him. I grew up with the Giants as a kid, and Perry is interesting because not only is he in the Hall of Fame, but he admitted cheating, throwing the “spit ball” after it, and other forms of doctoring the baseball were banned. Since I teach ethics I love the irony, but then as they say, “those that can’t do, teach.”

As far as opening day, my two favorite teams, the Giants and the Baltimore Orioles both won. A good day all in all. 

Until tomorrow,

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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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History

Celebration by the Bay (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

I was just about to go to bed but had the MLB Channel on when I began to pay attention as Harold Reynolds began to say in the top of the 5th inning of the Giants-Astros game “to Call your friends because history is being made by Matt Cain.” On a night were Met’s pitcher R A Dickey pitched a one-hitter and in a season that had already seen 4 no-hitters including a Perfect Game by Phil Humber, this was more than amazing.

Matt Cain on firing Strikes:  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The first Cain was not known for his pitching skills and ended up with a mark that remained with him the rest of his life, not mark any of us would want. Tonight another Cain, Matt Cain now has a mark, but not like the biblical Cain, Matt Cain pitched the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB history and the first in the 130 years of the Giants Baseball Club.

I have been a Giants fan since I was a kid. Back on August 24th 1975 my dad took my brother and me to Candlestick where we saw Ed Halicki no hit the New York Mets. In 1976 John “the Count of” Montefusco no-hit the Braves in Atlanta. It was almost 33 years before the Giants got another when on July 10th 2009 Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Padres facing 28 batters, one more than a perfect game due to a fielding error.  Hall of Fame pitchers for the Giants to pitch no-hitters have included Christy Matthewson, Carl Hubble, Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal.  But no Giants pitcher had ever pitched a perfect game.

Melky Cabrera’s Leaping Catch at the Wall  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The perfect game is one of the most miraculous and magical moments in all of sports simply because anything, a bad pitch or an error or a bad call can end the bid, who can forget the call by Umpire Jim Joyce that kept Armando Galarraga from a perfect game in 2010. The novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game does such a wonderful job of portraying the miracle. It seems that nights like this, the pressure, the miraculous and unbelievable catches made in the field and the ability of a pitcher to get out after out. Cain understands this, he has taken 5 no hitters into the 7th inning during his career and never got the no-hitter.

Gregor Blanco Making his Diving catch in the 7th  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game. During the 2010 World Series Cain pitched 21 1/3 innings without giving up a run. This year he is 8-2 with a 7 game winning streak and a 2.18 ERA.  The performance was one of the best ever even in a perfect game. Cain dominated with 14 strike outs tying the Major League mark set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Cain helped his cause by getting a hit and scoring a run. The first pitcher since Dennis Martinez to get a hit in a Perfect game since Dennis Martinez in 1992.  Cain threw 125 pitches, the most in a perfect game in MLB history.

Buster Posey celebrates with Matt Cain  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Several great defensive plays helped bring on the magic. Melky Cabrera made a leaping catch at the left field wall in the 6th inning and Gregor Blanco who came out of nowhere to make a diving catch going toward the wall on the warning track on a hit that looked as if it would be the first hit and go for extra bases.

The Giants also set a record by scoring 10 runs in a Perfect Game.

Matt Cain left his mark on Baseball tonight and hopefully he will continue to give those that love the game more of these memories.

Now I need to try to calm down enough to get some sleep.

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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Cheating in Baseball: The Case of Barry Bonds and it’s Relationship to Modern America

Barry Bonds was convicted of one count of Obstruction of Justice in his trial on perjury charges. The obstruction count came as a result of Bonds’ 2003 Grand Jury testimony.  The three perjury charges were deadlocked and the judge has the option of retrying them.  Bonds’ defense team asked for the verdict to be set aside and the judge did not immediately rule on the request.  The Bonds legal saga is not over as a decision to retry the deadlocked perjury charges, the judge acting on the defense motion to set aside the guilty verdict and the outcome sentencing and any appeals are still to come.

Meanwhile the steroids era just will not go away as Roger Clemons is soon to stand trial for lying to Congress about his alleged steroid use and Manny Ramirez ended his already tarnished career with yet another positive steroid sample.  Ramirez should have known better. He was on the list of 103 players that tested positive in 2003 and he was suspended for 50 games last year for a positive test while playing on the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fact that he was caught once again suggests that he was either incredibly arrogant or stupid or possibly both.

Unfortunately they are not alone. In fact 6 of the top 14 home run leaders (in italics) of all time are tainted by steroids only one of whom is still active.  Jim Thome who is also active has not been implicated in the steroids scandals but will still likely be scrutinized simply because he hit a lot of home runs during the era.  The sad thing is that the use of steroids according to some was so prevalent that almost anyone who set records during the era tainted or not will be viewed with suspicion.  As for Bonds people made up their minds about him years ago and there is little middle ground when it comes to him. The only thing now is how baseball will deal with the records of Bonds and the other players of the steroid era and admit him or any of them into the Hall of Fame.

1              Barry Bonds           762

2              Hank Aaron            755

3              Babe Ruth               714

4              Willie Mays             660

5              Ken Griffey, Jr.      630

6              Alex Rodriguez      617

7              Sammy Sosa          609

8              Jim Thome              590

9              Frank Robinson     586

10           Mark McGwire      583

11           Harmon Killebrew 573

12           Rafael Palmeiro                    569

13           Reggie Jackson      563

14           Manny Ramírez                    555

Now some like Palmeiro went and shook their fingers at Congress and then popped positive, not smart but so many others could very well have done steroids that have not been caught that we will never know.  There are numerous reports which implicate others most of whom will never be prosecuted or banned from baseball.  But thanks to IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitsky who transferred to the FDA to pursue elite athletes Bonds, Clemons and other legends of various sports have been singled out for prosecution in what amounts to a witch hunt designed to bring down the biggest names in sports.  In the case of Bonds this has cost the taxpayer over 50 million dollars.  In an era of massive deficits is this a good way to spend our money to get a guilty verdict on just one charge after almost 8 years of work?  To me it seems that Novitsky and his team have made a special effort including violating court prescribed limitations of search and seizure at the BALCO labs and to ensure that the case was tried in the media before Bonds ever went to court.  Do the math: 1 player, 8 years, 50 million dollars and 1 guilty verdict on one count of 5 that went to trial and 4 that went to the jury.

That being said I believe that Bonds knowingly took steroids as did so many of the players of his era and though Bonds has not admitted anything I imagine that he started to take steroids because of the wild success of those that were taking such as Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa neither of who had all of the natural talent and ability of Bonds who was on course to be a Hall of Famer before he started using.  I wish that he had admitted that he did back in 2003 it probably would have done much to help end the era as well as put others on notice and it is likely that instead of being ever in our face the Steroid era would be in the past.  The conviction even on the one count of obstruction says much in how he is perceived in court and in public. While Bonds has many supporters he also has many detractors.

I think as does Bob Costas that Bonds should be elected to the Hall of Fame, not on the first ballot for sure because unlike McGuire and Sosa he was heading to hall of fame well before his numbers became inflated after the 1997 season.  Despite the fact that steroids undoubtedly had some impact there were many others that took steroids and still couldn’t hit, many that couldn’t get out of the minor leagues. To quote Minnesota Twins outfielder Shannon Stewart who was interviewed by Minneapolis Star Tribune sports writer Paul Reusse:

“The truth is, there were so many guys taking steroids for a few years, and they couldn’t hit like Barry Bonds. In my opinion, a guy hitting with a corked bat is taking a bigger advantage than someone who was on steroids….If Bonds was doing all of this … you still have to hit the ball. He still was going to hit 40 or 50 (each season), with or without steroids.”

Zach Moore compiled an interesting and enlightening portrait of Bonds’ performance before he began allegedly using steroids in 1998. I post it here with the link because with or without steroids Bonds would have made the Hall of Fame based on his pre-1998 statistics.  True he may not have topped Aaron or Ruth in Home Runs but the numbers and the company they put him in are impressive.

“Bonds’ stats prior to the 1998 season include a .288 batting average, a .408 on-base percentage, and a .551 slugging percentage. He had 1,750 hits, which included 321 doubles, 56 triples, and 374 round trippers. He drove in 1,094 runs, while crossing the plate 1,244 times himself.

He did all that while also walking 1,227 times. Bonds was not only a threat at the plate, but once he got on base, he stole 417 times. He did all this while only striking out 958 times.

In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, which was written just before the 2001 season during which Bonds hit 73 home runs, he calls Bonds “the most un-appreciated superstar of his lifetime.” That is one reason for Bonds’ desire to use steroids, according to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams in Game of Shadows.

In the section of the Abstract where James ranks his 100 best players at each position of all time, James ranks Bonds the third best left fielder ever, only behind Ted Williams and Stan Musial.

James also calls Bonds “probably the second- or third-best hitter among the 100 listed left fielders (behind Williams and perhaps Musial), probably the third-best baserunner (behind Henderson and Raines), probably the best defensive left fielder. Griffey has always been more popular, but Bonds has been a far, far greater player.”

The astounding part about this is that James wrote this before Ken Griffey Jr. started getting hurt, so he could still vividly remember Griffey gliding around centerfield, robbing home runs, stealing bases, and that beautiful swing.

On the next page, James then went on to list his 10 best players of the 1990s; Bonds leads that list, with Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros coming in second, the 10th player on that list is Greg Maddux. I say this because James goes on to say, “the No. 2 man, Biggio, is closer in value to the No. 10 man than he is to Bonds.”

We tend to forget how good Bonds was, even before he went on this steroid-aided home run tear of recent years sometimes.

I can’t compare his 12-year career statistics with any one player because his ability to do everything does not allow that. Instead, I’ll use a few different Hall of Famers to nail home the point.

His .288 average is higher than both Rickey Henderson’s .282 and Carl Yastrzemski’s .285.

He hit 101 fewer home runs then Stan Musial in about eight less seasons and also hit 13 more home runs than Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

His on-base percentage was one point lower then Manny Ramirez’s current .409 career mark, and it tied Jackie Robinson’s career OBP.

Listen carefully to this next statistic, with his 12-year all-natural career, Bonds’ career slugging percentage of .551 would be eight points lower than Musial’s, six points lower than his godfather Willie Mays’, five points lower than Mickey Mantle’s, and only three points lower than Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s.

Bonds had 15 less career runs scored than HOF centerfielder Duke Snider.

He finished with 29 less hits than HOF infielder Lou Boudreau.

Kirby Puckett’s 1,085 RBIs were nine less than Bonds’ sum. His 321 doubles tied Yogi Berra’s.

Bonds’ 1,227 base on balls are still more than future Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, and Manny Ramirez’s current totals. He even had more than walk machine Jason Giambi, and he did it in only 12 seasons.

Bonds’ 417 stolen bases put him in the top 65 all-time.

Another testament to his incredible combination of speed and power is that he is one of only four players in the 40/40 Club (home runs and steals). He actually did it during 1996 when he was clean.

The other three members of that club are fellow abuser Jose Canseco who did it in 1988, Alex Rodriguez who did it in 1998 when he was still with the Mariners, and Alfonso Soriano who did it in 2006.

After only 12 seasons in the Major Leagues, Barry Bonds was unquestionably a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/40505-were-barry-bonds-and-roger-clemens-hall-of-famers-before-steroids

Additionally Bonds before 1998 was a 7 time Gold Glove winner, 3 time MVP and 6 time Silver Slugger Award winner. For a complete list of Bonds accolades see the Baseball Almanac page at http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/awards.php?p=bondsba01  Even after he was alleged to use steroids he won the 2004 Hank Aaron Award, the 2004 Most Valuable Player Award, 2004 Players Choice Outstanding Player of the Year Award, 2004 Players Choice Player of the Year Award, 2004 National League Silver Slugger Award and 2004 Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award.  In a sense despite a widespread suspicion that he was using steroids the players and media recognized him as the best in the game. Then they didn’t seem very concerned about the possibility that he might have cheated. Now many in the media who made their money promoting Bonds condemn him as do many fans that have since abandoned him.  To me it is hypocritical.  Yes I think that he cheated but that takes little away from his pre-steroid accomplishments.

Because of the alleged steroid use and the subsequent investigation, trial and conviction he will be remembered as a cheater. However morally he is no different than all the players of the Steroid eras who abused PEDs but who were nowhere close to his skills and performance.  Bonds was certainly was an amazing player. His overall numbers would very well be lower without steroids especially the home runs, but he very well may have been the greatest overall player since his Godfather Willie Mays even without them.  Not many players can say that.

Bonds biggest problem was that he displayed a sense of arrogance toward the game and the law, the same arrogance that made him such a fearsome hitter even before steroids. The same is true with Roger Clemons, quite probably the greatest pitcher of the modern era. Like Bonds before him Clemons’ refusal to deal with the issue of his alleged steroid use forthrightly before Congress; will likely end in some kind of criminal conviction and Clemons in his first 14 seasons was certainly a Hall of Famer. I won’t go into his statistics here but they are also covered in Zack Moore’s article.

Are there men that cheated in the Hall of Fame? Yes one of the most flagrant being Gaylord Perry who admitted after his retirement and before his election to the Hall of Fame that he threw the “spit ball” which was illegal his entire career.  Players who “corked” bats were common but most were never caught because unlike today their bats were never inspected.  Pitchers used the spit ball, emery boards, diamond rings and sandpaper to alter the baseball to give it extra movement.  Since all ballplayers are human beings I have no doubt that had the technology to produce PEDs been available between the end of the Dead Ball era in 1919 and the late 1980s when they arrived on the scene that players would have abused them in order to increase their performance, win games and extend their careers.  Likewise they would have been cheered as much as the home run leaders of the 1990s were until they were exposed.  All one has to do is take a look at those who are known to have cheated as documented in this ESPN article http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/cheaters/ballplayers.html  a number of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

My contention in this article is not that Bonds did not cheat the evidence certainly looks like he used steroids which were banned when he allegedly started using. Instead I would say that Bonds has been unfairly singled out by people in the government, the media and even in the game that would rather tear down a man than to place his actions in the broader context of the game, the era, human nature and history.  This will happens to Clemons too but not many others.

Meanwhile the government bails out financial institutions and industries that have defrauded the American public and helped impoverish the nation. We excuse the illegal and unethical lives of politicians and Presidential Candidates so long as they our on our side of the politic spectrum or failing that against the party that we oppose and we give churches and clergy who harm innocents a pass and say that the accusers are persecuting the Church. We worship celebrity and idolize people with talent or looks but not much else but we will do our best to destroy athletes who break the rules of their game.  Isn’t that somewhat hypocritical.

To put things in context I am 51 years old and coming up on 30 years in the military between the Army and Navy. In order to get the highest category of score on my Physical Fitness Test I have to perform at almost the same level as I did as a young Army enlisted man, ROTC Cadet and Officer. Likewise I have to meet almost identical height, weight and body fat standards.  On the physical side I can still outperform many young men 20-30 years younger than me. I deal with nagging injuries to my knees, shoulders and have a very fragile ankle that I have sprained or broken so many times that it is not even funny.  I suffer chronic pain. If someone had a way other than Icy Hot and 800mg Motrin to ease the pain and help my performance I cannot say that I wouldn’t take it, I probably wouldn’t break the law if it was illegal to use but if it wasn’t illegal but merely questionable I might use it.  I have another 5-7 years left before I expect to retire and like Mickey Mantle said “I always loved the game, but when my legs weren’t hurting it was a lot easier to love.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Mark McGuire, Tony LaRussa and the Dirty Secret of the Steroid Era

Mark McGuire’s Admission of Steroid Use Has Provoked More Debate About the Steroid Era

Mark McGuire admitted that he used steroids in the 1990s during his electric home run barrage that for a time anyway gave him the single season home run title.  The summer of 1998 was one that captivated baseball fans and America as McGuire and Sammy Sosa slugged their way to what many would think would be baseball immortality.

Jose Canseco’s Claims of Rampant Steroid Use in Baseball Seem to have Been Born Out

First came the allegations by Jose Canseco that he had McGuire regular shot up with steroids in the clubhouse of the Oakland A’s whose manager just happened to be Tony LaRussa. McGuire vehemently denied his former friend and teammate Canseco’s allegations in the book Juiced even last night in his interview with Bob Costas, however McGuire now suffers a credibility gap after his denials back when Canseco published his book and later.  The claim which can be boiled down to “Yeah I did steroids but not like that” doesn’t hold water to me as much as I want to believe McGuire who I really do think is a good person, fantastic ballplayer and a man who gave a lot back to baseball and his community during his career.  Canseco was heavily criticized for the tone of his book but the allegations seem to be more right than wrong.

Sammy Sosa Went From Hero to Zero After Steroids and Corked Bats

However, even as many dismissed Canseco’s charges and baseball turned its back on him others came under suspicion including Sosa and eventually Barry Bonds and pitching great Roger Clemons.  As one superstar after another either was accused, implicated or had their name come up on a list of players who had allegedly tested positive in a screening done by baseball the scandal grew in proportion to McGuire’s massive arms.  An entire era was tainted and every player even those who had not done steroids or other banned performance enhancing drugs were viewed with suspicion.

At the same time the self righteous attacks on the players by many in the media which in a sense rightly accused them of cheating missed a number of important issues.  The first in my opinion of is the responsibility of baseball’s management and ownership which had turned a blind eye to what the players were doing and the fact that these players were not the first to cheat in one way or another.  A secondary note is that for a time in the 1990s many of these substances had not been banned by the game and that some, especially HGH are legal in other countries and with the continual advances in pharmaceutical development may eventually be legal in this country.  Thus what was yesterday’s “banned substance” may end up being tomorrow’s “miracle drug” but the players who were then “criminals” or “cheaters” will still have their names sullied by a culture’s inability to keep up with technology.

Tony La Russa and Other Managers Have to Shoulder Some Responsibility for the Steroids Era

The responsibility of management is demonstrated by LaRussa who in his nearly two decade association with McGuire cannot have missed McGuire’s and others steroid use.  Baseball teams are somewhat like small elite military units, players, coaches and managers live in a very small world, a world in some sense protected by the clubhouse door.  Owners, managers, coaches and other staff in particular the physicians; trainers and strength and condition coaches know what is going on with their highly paid players. It would demonstrate the height of incompetence for a staff not to know what their players were doing.  The fact that many claim ignorance of what players tells me that they are either lying or so incredibly unaware of their surroundings that it would be impossible for them to manage at the professional level.  Add to this that LaRussa, a lawyer is no dummy; he knows people and can read what is going on and his claim that the first that he knew of McGuire’s steroids use was when McGuire called him yesterday it is hard to believe.  However, in defense of LaRussa I do believe as he told “Mike and Mike” on ESPN that he believed that he felt bound by some of the things going on in the game regarding players unions and other factors that he and others were slow to respond. Other managers, coaches and team owners, while not lawyers are certainly adept at knowing people; and could not have been unaware of the use of steroids and other banned substances by their players. Good coaches know when players are lying.

This is not just a player’s issue it extends to management and also to the players union, the media members who on a daily basis associated with players, coaches and managers and even ownership who turned a blind eye to the obvious.  If steroid abuse was a big deal that they thought was wrong they all, including the player’s union should have instituted stringent testing measures when the allegations about major stars began to surface.

Likewise there is baseball’s knowing tolerance of cheaters in the past, to include current members of the hall of fame.  It was common knowledge that in earlier times players were using amphetamines to quicken their response on the field, while others played drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs.  Then there were the players such as pitcher Gaylord Perry who in his biography after he retired from the game admitted using the “spit ball” which was never legal during his career and was still voted into the Hall of Fame.  To now throw these players under the bus while not holding ownership, management, coaching staffs, team medical staffs and even the media responsible for not policing this and nipping it in the bud is absolutely hypocritical.  If we want to apply a standard we have to be consistent in the way that we do it.  If Gaylord Perry can be in the Hall of Fame after admitting to using an illegal pitch why can’t the players who used steroids? I can see little moral difference between the two.

Now did McGuire and others actions harm the game itself?  In one sense yes, using these substances they did cheat, but they are not the first and will not be the last to do so. Likewise the fact that they used these drugs places the records that they set in the strange netherworld of trying to determine how much of their performance was effected by the use of these drugs.  Unfortunately there is no quantifiable way to do so.  McGuire says that he does not think that they did but apologized to the son of Roger Maris.  In another sense no, like the players who cheated before them and were not banned from baseball, who did not have their records questioned and who in some cases are in the Hall of Fame did no real permanent harm to the game.  Baseball still survived and maybe one day like Gaylord Perry they will be appreciated.  I doubt that will happen anytime soon but it may.

That is the dirty little secret.  I wish McGuire and all the rest of those implicated in any way with steroids had come clean years ago.  I wish that managers like LaRussa had not tolerated this or had come up and said that they did not believe it to be wrong if indeed as LaRussa says that he believes McGuire when he says that he did it because of career threatening injuries.  If that were to happen to me I am sure that I would use any means to stay in the game and I will not condemn McGuire for this.  Instead baseball ownership, management, the player’s union and the media have tried to have it both ways.  They turned a blind eye to what was happening and many are now crying crocodile tears and throwing the players who made them millions of dollars under the bus.  At least LaRussa has brought McGuire who regardless of his use of steroids is one of the greatest hitters to play the game back into the game to be a hitting coach. I commend LaRussa for doing this as it shows that men like McGuire do not need to remain outside of baseball.  I do hope that other organizations will have the decency to do the same with others of this era.

To me it matters not if any of them get in the Hall of Fame, however if they admit their use even belatedly they should be forgiven and allowed to be part of the game that for a time they were the centerpiece of its success.  Who can ever forget the magical summer of 1998 and how we all were enthralled by what took place on the diamonds that year?  Can anyone who watched the home run derby ever forget it?  I won’t and I still will never forget the day that McGuire broke the record even if the record is tainted because of his use of steroids.  The records are now tainted and nothing can change that. The reputations of McGuire, Sosa and others ruined. But for a time it was magic and it is now time to move forward as we cannot change the past but we can learn from it and make sure that it does not happen again.  Baseball means too much to America to remain stuck in an era that is now an unfortunate part of the history of the game.

By the way, only a few weeks left until spring training.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Oral Passes, Tiger Crashes, Baseball Dances and Odd Thoughts

A few thoughts for the mid-week…

First an Icon of American Religious life passed away yesterday.  Oral Roberts died at the age of 91.  Regardless of one’s views of his ministry, theology or lifestyle Reverend Roberts was a trendsetter. For better or worse he was a major influence on American religious life. Roberts in his television ministry, crusades and university helped to bring Pentecostalism into the mainstream of American life.  His positive message of “Something good is going to happen to you” inspired many who were not Pentecostals.   The University that bears his will likely be his legacy in merging his beliefs with an institution that became regionally accredited breaking out of the simple unaccredited Bible College tradition that was a hallmark of Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism.  There are some that loved him and some that loathed him but one cannot deny his influence on the American religious life and culture.  His departure from the scene leaves Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Paul Crouch from the pioneers of modern Christian media.  While Roberts was controversial in terms of some of his pleas for financial support and criticism of his lifestyle, he never seemed to me to have the angry edge of other early televangelists including Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Fallwell (in his early ministry) and others.  Having worked in a television ministry while I was in seminary back in the early 1990s I am not a big fan of  television ministries from the standpoint of the huge amounts of money involved and potential for abuse.  However one cannot deny the impact that Oral Roberts had on the American religious scene.

Tiger Woods has crashed hard and I pray that for the sake of him and his family that he will be reconciled with his wife and make amends.  I have no double that he will return to greatness on the PGA Tour but for now I hope that he is able to reclaim his life.  As much as his actions speak poorly of him as a person I am disappointed with the media which has used every opportunity to take him down further.  Of course this was aided by his media advisers who let him be a target and did not pre-empt  things that they obviously knew would come to light.  Can anyone say Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon?  I hope that the media frenzy around Tiger dies down so he and his wife can attempt to salvage their marriage if it is even possible now.

The Phillies, Blue Jays and Mariners deal to bring Roy Halliday to Philly and send Cliff Lee to Seattle looks to me like a bad deal for the Phillies, Halliday is a great pitcher but unproven in the post-season and the Phillies gave up their best pitcher and top pitching prospect to get him.  The addition of John Lackey to the Red Sox makes their rotation very strong.  The departure of Hideki Matsui for the Yankees to the Angels helps the Halos who had lost Chone Figgens and Lackey.  The Angels will need to find a good starter to replace Lackey.  The Yankees picked up Curtis Granderson from the Tigers at very little expense to them.  The Giants have not done much as of yet and the Orioles acquired starting pitcher Kevin Millwood from the Rangers and came to terms with Matt Albers and Cla Meredith.  The Orioles could use some power in their offensive lineup.

Barry Bonds agent Jeff Borris stated last week that Barry Bonds would not return to playing baseball.  Bonds has not played the last two season but not retired.  His name will be forever linked to the steroids controversy and his reputation tainted for years to come.  I do not know if he will get in the Hall of Fame, but if the players from the 1940s and 1950s who used amphetamines can be admitted and Gaylord Perry who admitted using the spit-ball, which was illegal can be in the club I see no reason not to admit Bonds.  Many players have been named in the scandal but only Bonds has been pursued by investigators and prosecutors who have spent millions of dollars of our tax money over the past number of years to attempt to catch Bonds.  However, their misconduct of investigators and prosecutors themselves who violated the law in attempt to gather evidence to convict Bonds is shameful and their inability to get charges to stick shows the weakness of their case.  It is time for the investigation of Bonds and the others to end. Let baseball fans, writers and players determine their future.

The Most Valuable Network which I had been invited on in the summer to write The View From 102 went Tango Uniform last week.  I had been unable to post as they had been going through a transition that did not work out. I am contacting media outlets who are taking writers from MVN to relaunch the View from 102.

The Navy released the promotion zone message for FY 2011.  I am right in the middle of the zone for consideration to the grade of Commander.  I hope that I make it.

My Bishop for the Armed Services visited this week for a trip to the USS Carl Vinson.  We had a nice time with him and I deeply appreciate him.  Bishop Woodall is a dear friend.

I am looking at a couple of writing projects for actual books.  As they develop you may see snippets of them here.

I watched two of my favorite Christmas movies last night Scrooged and Christmas Vacation. They are classic albeit a bit twisted.  Would you expect anything else from me?

In less than two weeks I will have oral surgery to emplace my implant where the Undead Tooth of Terror used to live. While I look forward to getting something back into the empty slot were the Undead Tooth of Terror lived, thrived and survived I am not looking forward to the surgery, the anesthesia or the excavation and drilling process.

Christmas is coming and I am nowhere near ready.  Maybe I should move my celebration to January 6th, the Russian Orthodox Christmas…more time plus post Christmas sales….hmmm….

I have duty tomorrow, get to stay in house at the medical center.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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