Tag Archives: peds

The True Harbinger of Spring: Baseball and America in the Age of Trump

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Nine days ago Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of Winter, but on Wednesday spring begins. Not the actual season of Spring but real spring, as pitchers and catchers begin to report to Baseball Spring Training. My long winter of dealing with the monotony of Up Armored Slowed Paced Rugby, also known as American Football is over. Thankfully during that period I did have European Football, particularly Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga to help me through the winter.

Spring is a good thing unless you like me are very concerned with what happens on the Korean Peninsula following the Olympic Games in particular what is a very real possibility of war that easily through intent or miscalculation on the part of the North Korean, or maybe more so the Trump administration could escalate to to something that none of us want to contemplate; thus I can agree with Sharon Olds who wrote during the height of the Cold War, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”

This week is the true beginning of spring. I know that spring does not actually begin until March, but even so amid the continuing winter, spring is showing its first sign of dawning as pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. As Bill Veeck once said, “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.”

I grew up with a love for baseball that was cultivated by my late father, we didn’t always agree on much, but he imparted to me a love for the game that knows no bounds.

For me that is true. From the day the World Series ends I wait in anticipation for the beginning of Spring Training and I can agree with the great Rogers Hornsby who said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Now don’t get me wrong I really love Soccer, I like Hockey, and American Football is just a diversion to hang out with friends over a beer, but in the end they are merely sports, were Baseball is a refuge with profoundly religious meaning to me. As Bryant Gumbel once said, “The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.”

I think that unlike so many other sports and entertainment that baseball has a healing quality that is good for society. Walt Whitman wrote, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

In a time like ours when the United States is wracked by the chaos of the daily Twitter rampages of President Trump and his defiance of all the norms of society, his disrespect for the Constitution, law, and simple human decency it is nice to remember that as Bill Veeck noted: “Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.” I wish that was the case in Washington D.C. where the President and his gang of supporters in Congress and the Right Wing media is doing their best to re-write both American history as well as every political and society norm that has held the country together during even the most perilous times. They would be called cheaters in baseball, they are worse that baseball’s PED users because they are not just cheating they are trying to re-write the rules of the game to cover their misdeeds.

Conservative and former Republican commentator George Will wrote:

“(Barry) Bonds’ records must remain part of baseball’s history. His hits happened. Erase them and there will be discrepancies in baseball’s bookkeeping about the records of the pitchers who gave them up. George Orwell said that in totalitarian societies, yesterday’s weather could be changed by decree. Baseball, indeed America, is not like that…”

The only problem is that Will wrote that before Donald Trump. I just wonder if indeed Trump will succeed in changing the very fabric of the American experiment.

When I came back from Iraq the ballpark was one of the very few places that I could go and feel absolutely safe. There is something comforting in looking out over that beautiful diamond, smelling the freshly cut grass, the carefully manicured infield, and taking it all in. In fact for me tit still is one of my few truly safe refuges where war, terrorism, political and religious hatred, and the endless ideological battles of conservative and liberal pundits and politicians take a back seat, even those of Donald Trump. As the concerns of the moment fade away as I take in the beauty of that beautiful green diamond I find a peace that I seldom find anywhere else; and yes, that includes most churches where I find neither peace, nor God. Maybe that’s why I believe in the Church of Baseball. Unlike church there’s no guilt and it’s seldom boring.

I guess that is why it baseball matters so much to me, and why in spite of all the terror that the President triggers within my soul, that the seemingly insignificant act of pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training means so much. For me it is a symbol of hope.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, faith, Political Commentary, PTSD

All About A-Rod: Alex Rodriguez Just Keeps Digging

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Today Alex Rodriguez brought out his heavy duty digging equipment with which he will bury whatever may be left of his career. He decided to sue both MLB and the MLB Players Association in Federal Court in order to try to have his 162 game suspension lifted.

A-Rod’s hubris is amazing. It is not enough that he was one of the most talented players of his generation, who had he not used PEDs would have probably been a Hall of Fame player. However, he admitted to using them in 2009 after he had gotten the New York Yankees to buy in to a massive 10 year contract, at the time the largest ever proffered to a baseball player. Despite poor playoff performances and declining productivity A-Rod did not seem grateful to his organization nor his teammates. He suffered injuries that may have been made worse by his PED use.

When he “came clean” it fooled many, including Peter Gammons, a veteran baseball journalist. Gammons said of Rodriguez at the time: “No, I did not know Alex Rodriguez would reveal what he revealed. No, I have never interviewed anyone who drained himself more intensely as he tore off his mask for the world to see.” I hoped that his admission would spur others to come clean and help usher in a new era where the use of PEDs would be scorned by every player. I had great hopes for A-Rod after the admission.

Then within months of his admission he was going back for more. Rodriguez was named as the number one culprit in a major PED scandal and last year MLB suspended him for 211 games, which he appealed with the help of the players association.

The second infraction in which detailed testimony was provided about Rodriguez’s use by the director of the Biogenesis Labs, Anthony Bosch was damming. It showed A-Rod blatantly defying baseball and his team beginning in July of 2010 and continuing through the end of the 2012 season. Those disclosures brought additional distraction and turmoil to the Yankee Clubhouse.

The case went to arbiter Fredric Horowitz, who reduced the suspension to the 162 games of the 2014 season and the playoffs. Before the report was released, Rodriguez’s legal team sought to have a redacted version of the arbitration hearing entered into the record. That has ensured that the entire report was made public. The report is ugly and it makes Rodriguez look even worse. Both the lawsuit filed by Rodriguez and the Arbitration Panel Report are available here: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/ARODMLB01132014.pdf

Rodriguez has consistently shown that he has little or no respect for his fans, his teammates or the organizations that have paid him so handsomely. The lawsuit against Baseball and the Player’s Association was expected by all, but it will backfire. There are rumors that Rodriguez may try to attend the Yankees Spring Training. He knows that by doing this he will keep the attention on him but the blowback will be great, and it will disrupt the time that the Yankees need to prepare for the season.

I think that the courts will uphold the suspension and that it is very probable that Rodriguez has played his last game in Major League Baseball. I for one hope that this is the case. His arrogance, hubris and bold faced lies and narcism make other PED users look positively honorable.

I have written a number of articles about the Steroid Era and PEDs. I am not a hard ass and do not favor banning players when the managers that turned a blind eye for years are going to the Hall of Fame, and the organizations which turned a blind eye in pursuit of profit are not penalized.

That being said, Rodriguez’s case is different. He not only violated the policy of PEDs but he went back to the well in a most egregious manner. His lawsuit and statements by his lawyers only add fuel to the fire that his is stoking around himself. Even those who might be in his corner or at least been sympathetic to him, are being tarred by the lawyer’s statements.

Alex Rodriguez could have been an exemplar player after admitting PED use in 2009. All he did was have to stay clean. But his desire to break the home run record and the 800 home run plateau led him to destroy his career and reputation. In the process he betrayed his teammates, his fans and himself. Mark Twain said “There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.” Rodriguez has no ability to conceal his vanity, it is on display for all to see.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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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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Opening Day 2013…and Be a Blessing to Us

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“Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”  ~Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987

It is good to have survived the last five months. The Mayans were wrong about the end of the world and despite the the best efforts of the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers, in spite of Sequestration, North Korean Nukes, Al Qaida terrorists and troubles brewing around the world and at home we finally made it to Opening Day.

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Some for me baseball, maybe more than any other thing brings a sense of order to my universe. Some of my earliest memories involve baseball. I played in my back yard, in sandlots, parks and real baseball fields. I learned the game from my late father and when he was deployed to Vietnam my mom would come at watch my Little League games. Most of my broken bones have been the result of injuries sustained on the baseball or softball field, which make me look forward to my next assignment at the Joint Forces Staff College all the more since the faculty and students play ball almost all year round.

I have always loved the game and like Walt Whitman seemed to believe that there is something healing about it like no other game. Whitman said that baseball is “our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

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I wonder sometimes if Whitman would think that perhaps the Dominicans and Japanese appreciate “our game” more than us? Considering how well they do in international competition and how many of “our” star players come from those countries and others he might have something to say about it. Perhaps that the game transcends America itself and allows Americans to appreciate men like Ichiro, Big Papi, Robinson Cano, Pablo “the Big Panda” Sandoval, Jose Reyes, Hideki Matsui and many more, 243 on Opening Day 2012 that were on Major League rosters, over 100 being Dominicans.

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Now as for me I think that is a sign of the greatness of this game. It is a game that I think more than any transcends culture. To watch the enthusiasm of the players and fans of the non-US teams in the World Baseball Classic was a joyful experience for me. I don’t know maybe in our faced paced thrill a minute ADD inducing  and violence addicted American culture we have forgotten the joy that this game can bring. Maybe we are too cynical and have even done damage to it with the Steroid and Performance Enhancing Drug use scandals.

I don’t know, I could be wrong but I do think that a trip or two to a ballpark every year would be a good thing for every American. In fact I don’t even think that it would need to be a big league ballpark because the joy and mystery of the game can be found anywhere there is a baseball field where boys of every age find a bit of magic in  the crack of a bat, running out a grounder, stealing second base or striking out the side.

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The great Jackie Robinson said something that I think is incredibly profound: “Baseball is a curious anomaly in American life. It seems to have been ingrained in people in their childhood…. Baseball is, after all, a boy’s game, and children are innocent of evil. So even adults who are prejudiced revert to their childhood when they encounter a baseball player and they react with the purity of little children.”

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So to all of us who looked so forward to this day. Yes it is a day that comes every year, and for some people the season seems too long, the games too many and the pace, well not fast enough. But that being the case it is a human game, a game that I think allows has a spiritual sensitivity unfound anywhere else in sports. Yes it is a game, it too is a business and well for some people like me a religion.

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This weekend I plan on getting to a game or two at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish in Norfolk Virginia. I won’t make the home opener, but I will get some of the Norfolk Tides opening home stand.

I hope to see you at the ball park this year. Trust me. It will do you good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Thoughts on Super Bowl XLVII

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Well the NFL Season is now over and the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII by a score of 34-31. It was a very competitive game with many twists and surprises.

I have always been a 49ers fan, well before the days of Joe Montana. I have nothing against the Ravens and had they been playing almost anyone in the NFC I would have been cheering them on.

I like both of the Harbaugh brothers, John and Jim. I love their competitive spirit and the way that they have brought their teams to such a level of excellence. I like the way that both adjusted during the season, with John replacing his offensive coordinator and Jim replacing his starting quarterback. I think both were proved right.

On the purely football side of the equation I was disappointed in the result of the game. I felt, and still feel that the 49ers are the better team and will be a factor longer in the NFL than the current rendition of the Ravens.  That being said the Raven’s deserved to win, they made the plays that needed to be made, Joe Flacco was outstanding and the 49ers underperformed. Now I expect that within the next couple of years that the 49ers will win the Super Bowl and Jim Harbaugh, his team and their young quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be vindicated with a Super Bowl ring.

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But Sunday was a day for the Ravens. Joe Flacco was simply amazing and continued a remarkable playoff run without an interception while facing three of the best defenses in the NFL during the post season. He ran his offense well and they responded. He made the big plays when he needed to and The Raven’s defense also found ways to hold, sometimes with what I thought was help from the officials in their non-calls in critical situations. That aside, Flacco was amazing.

Likewise the 49ers had plenty of chances to win the game, despite the officiating and have only themselves to blame for the loss. They had several chances to score touchdowns, tow of which ended in field goals and one which died with under two minutes left in the game. The Ravens made better adjustments to the 49ers offense than the 49ers did to the Ravens.

Had any of another plays gone differently the 49ers might be a six time Super Bowl Champion today. But that did not happen and the Ravens are the Super Bowl Champions. Joe Flacco deserved the MVP award. The game was competitive and the final score was in the balance until the very end of the game. Since so many Super Bowls have ended up in blowouts this was a good thing. I may not have liked the final score but it was a good game.

However at the beginning of the third quarter it didn’t look like it. The Ravens took 21-6 lead into the half after the 49ers secondary blew coverage on a Flacco pass to Jacoby Jones and Jones made the 49ers secondary look bad. The Ravens then took 28-6 lead on a 108 yard kickoff runback by Jones to open the 3rd quarter. I looked at my friend John at Gordon Biersch and said, “the game is over.”

Then the lights went out and after a 34 minute delay it seemed that the 49ers were a different team. They dominated the second half and had a chance to win the game with 2 minutes left, but couldn’t pull it off despite having a first and goal and the Ravens won.

A few thoughts on the game, some personalities and the festivities.

NFL: Super Bowl XLVII-CBS Sports Press Conference

The CBS Broadcasting Team: Not good, wish that Fox Sports had the deal. Much better announcing and commentary. To me it felt like the CBS crew was the home team play by play group for the Ravens. They ignored blatant bad calls and gave the officials the benefit of the doubt even when it was obvious that calls were bad, even when Jim Harbaugh challenged a Ravens first down which was obviously short, and won. I was disappointed in the coverage and expected far better.

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Opening Ceremony: The Rendition of America the Beautiful by the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and Jennifer Hudson followed by the National Anthem by Alicia Keyes brought tears to my eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZt749TIW-4

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Halftime Show: Better than the typical Super Bowl halftime show but something that I would not tune in to watch as a stand alone event. Beyonce Knowles has very athletic and attractive thighs which were worth the look and did not to be lip synced to.

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The Lights Go Out: When the lights went out I wondered what was going on. I wondered about a terrorist attack for a moment but figured that it was probably the spirits of people that died in the Super Dome during Katrina trying to get attention. That makes more sense than the power going out 10 minutes after the halftime show.

Commercials:

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The most memorable one was the one that made my stomach churn. That was the Godaddy.com commercial called The Perfect Match http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-1oixpSShs.

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The Budweiser Clydesdales commercial called Brotherhood http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2prAccclXs was excellent as were the M&Ms Love Ballad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2prAccclXs 

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the Gildan Getaway http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMcMgPGpspY . 

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Doritos Goat 4 Sale http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d8ZDSyFS2g

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and Wonderful Pistachios Crackin’ Style http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE6iiiDdTNY 

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Ray Lewis: I have tired of the show of Lewis hiding behind the Bible and God while two men lie dead following a murder in which he was involved. I admire him as one of the greatest Linebackers to ever play the game and on-field leaders. Since the NFL  elects players to the Hall of Fame purely on their on-field performance I am sure in a few years there will be a tearful induction ceremony for Lewis.  But between the murders, for which Lewis took a plea deal in exchange for testimony against his companions, who were acquitted as well as allegations of PEDs which have sunk the careers and reputations of Major League Baseball players are answered I cannot join in the tears of joy shed for Lewis at winning the Super Bowl in his last game. I am just glad that he won’t play again. Yes God loves, God forgives and God redeems, but there is the little thing called murder and God’s justice. To hear my Christian friends fawn on Lewis and excuse him from any responsibility in the murders that he was connected to while condemning women who have had an abortion is abhorrent.

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John and Jim Harbaugh: Possibly the best pair of NFL coaches ever. They both could end up winning multiple Super Bowls and both be in the Hall of Fame. Having them compete against each other and seeing the fire with which both teams played the game was an experience in energy, emotion and exceptional coaching talent that should make the NFL better for at least the next decade.

The Future of the NFL: As any reader of this site knows I am a no-holds barred Baseball fan for whom that sport is a religious experience. Football to me is just a game, even when my favorite team is playing. That being said, the NFL has managed to package its product better than any sport. Even with the latest controversies regarding PEDs and concussive head injuries and the crippling effects of them and other injuries on former players I believe, unlike some that the NFL is in no danger of going away anytime soon. Americans enjoy the NFL and comparisons of the NFL to the demise of Professional Boxing as one of America’s favorite sports are ill founded at best.

A Final Thought about the Game: I didn’t like John Harbaugh running the safety to run down the clock at the end of the game. The reason is that that kind of play is simply another means of running out the clock and ensuring that the opponent doesn’t get a last chance to win. Call me old fashioned but I find this particular facet of football quite unmanly. The late Earl Weaver put it well: “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”

Just saying.

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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Baseball in February: The Freedom Classic and an MVP Beats a Drug Charge

I was able to go to a baseball game today. It is hard to believe that there are ball games going on outside of Spring Training but NCAA College Baseball has been underway for over a week. Today drove up to Kinston to take in a game between the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. The occasion was the Second Annual Freedom Classic.

It was a cold day with temps in the low 50s and winds blowing 15-25 miles an hour but I was able to get together with my friends in Kinston to watch a game for the first time since the Kinston Indians final season ended with a loss to Frederick in the Carolina League Championship series on September 15th.  Though the weather was cold it was good to be back with my friends watching a game at a wonderful baseball venue.  I hate the fact that the Indians owner sold them without a replacement team and did not offer the city a chance to find an owner that would keep the team in Kinston. But at least there was baseball in Kinston this weekend.

Of course spring training is underway and all of the teams are working out.  Lots of moves were made in the post season following one of the most dramatic seasons in baseball history. Big names moved, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the Angels, Prince Fielder to the Tigers, Ozzie Guillen taking over the Marlins and a host of other situations.

But despite all the positives there was a cloud during the post season involving the National League MVP, Milwaukee Brewers Left Fielder Ryan Braun reportedly failed a drug test for Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs).  Braun appealed the results of the test and Friday it was announced that Braun won his appeal based on issues with the chain of custody of the sample. Evidently the collector of the sample who was required to immediately send the sample to the testing lab via FedEx held onto the sample.

Braun was out proclaiming his innocence today. He was articulate and appeared humble but at the same time there are still questions in many people’s minds about the test and if he was clean or not.  Having been in the military for over 30 years I have been repeatedly drug tested and as a Company Commander had to oversee a unit drug testing program.  When I heard about the process used and the actions of the collector I was appalled. Chain of custody does matter in any type of drug test that can impact someone’s career no matter what line of work they are in.  Failure to safeguard samples undermines the integrity of any drug testing program and there are cases every year where positive results are thrown out because of a chain of custody violation.

I learned about the importance of chain of custody as a Company Commander back in 1986. I had a soldier test positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. We were sticklers about maintaining a solid chain of custody and based on the test results and the un-impeachability of the chain of custody I offered non-judicial punishment under Article 15 and reduced the soldier in rank. Since the soldier was otherwise a good soldier and back then a commander did not have to separate a soldier under pay grade E4 for a first drug related offense I elected to keep the soldier in the Army. The soldier appealed the sentence as is his right and to my surprise I was called to my higher headquarters and had my ass chewed by the group commander and Sergeant Major for not maintaining the chain of custody. I knew that was not the case but the Platoon Sergeant who had accompanied the soldier to the headquarters for the appeal inadvertently left the chain of custody documentation on his desk. When the group commander reviewed the paperwork he thought that the chain of custody had not been maintained. Within 5 minutes I produced the original documents which changed the nature of the conversation, the sentence was upheld and the ass chewing stopped. But I learned that the chain of custody for a drug test or paperwork regarding a failed drug test needs to be airtight to maintain the integrity of the system.

In the case of Ryan Braun I have my doubts, I but the incompetence of the collector who did not adhere to established rules of shipping a sample brought the chain of custody into question. If Braun was indeed innocent as he maintains then he will always have a cloud that follows him. If he lied and the test was really positive then justice was not done because chain of custody was called into question.

The little things do matter.

Since I got home I have had the MLB Channel on all night, that is so much more relaxing than almost anything else on television. Only about a week until the first Spring Training games begin. It may be cold but spring is in the air.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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