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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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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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29 Years, Preparing for a Garage Sale and Roger Clemens Strikes out the Prosecution

A Young 1st Lieutenant Padre Steve on the East Side of the Berlin Wall in 1986

It was 29 years ago today that I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army at UCLA.  Time flies. Back then Ronald Reagan was President, the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union were still standing, Iran and Iraq were engaged in a brutal and bloody war, and Hosni Mubarak was just settling in as leader of Egypt. Moammar Ghadaffi was sponsoring terrorist acts against the United States and the Marines were attempting to help stabilize Lebanon.  Speaking of Mubarak it has just been reported that his doctors have declared him clinically dead following more strokes and a heart attack yesterday.  This means that if things keep going as they are in Egypt he very well could be re-elected as President.

It really is hard to believe that it has been so long and so much has transpired in the past 29 years including my own transition from the Army to the Navy some 13 years ago. One thing that I do on such occasions is to re-read my oath as a Commissioned Officer. It reminds me that no matter who the President is or which party controls Congress that my duty is always to the Constitution and the nation, above any party ideology.

In my time I have agreed or disagreed, sometimes most stridently with the various policies and politics of the men who have served as President and I have done the same with those that have served in Congress.  It serves me well to remember that regardless of which side controls the reigns of government that I know who and what I serve.

Taking the Oath again in 2006 as a Lieutenant Commander with the Marines

“I, (state your name), having been appointed a (rank) in the United States (branch of service), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

That obligation that I and every other officer takes is one that should transcend politics even when we have deeply held opinions. Lord knows that I certainly have some deeply held opinions. Anyway, it is always a good thing to think about especially when the country is so deeply divided among political, ideological and even religious lines.

That being said I am taking a few days of leave in order to get rid of a load of stuff that we haven’t touched for years but have been paying rent to keep in a storage space. Early tomorrow before it gets too hot I will be emptying out the storage space and taking the things to our guest room where we will sort through all the stuff which includes more items than I can imagine, and hopefully, Lord willing sell a decent amount before hauling  whatever remains to Goodwill or keep to sell on E-Bay.  With that we won’t have to pay for a storage space again.

Roger Clemens outside the Federal Courthouse in Houston

Finally when I was eating dinner last night it was announced that Roger Clemens was found not guilty of all counts in his perjury trail where he was accused to lying to Congress. The trial, like that of Barry Bonds was a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. It showed the ineptness of the prosecutors who having the thinnest evidence provided by some of the most disreputable sources decided to take on Clemens. I think that they wanted Clemons to plead but he wouldn’t give them that. He stared them down and like he did some many times as a pitcher struck out the side. One may have their opinions of whether they think Clemens did performance enhancing drugs and lied to Congress about it but the fact of the matter was that the prosecutors bit off more than they could chew in this case. Clemens may have done them but like Bonds there was no positive drug test. The fact is that during the steroid era a good number of players used various performance enhancing drugs. Clemens very well could have been one of them However, he still was an amazing pitcher and in my opinion the fact that his defense team totally shredded the credibility of his chief accuser Brian MacNeemee who by the way was the only person that made actual accusations that got Clemens on the now infamous Mitchell Report and which were the basis for the prosecution. The longer the trials of Bonds and Clemens went I realized that I was not watching a process of justice, I was watching a witch hunt in which Federal Prosecutors and the media feasted on them and others without much in the way of evidence. I tend not to be a fan of witch hunts. I don’t know if Clemens used or didn’t but I am glad that the trial is over and hopefully the prosecutors will find some real criminals to prosecute, maybe the bankers and financiers that about destroyed the economy in 2008. That would be a great place to start, none of them have even been charged with a crime despite their criminal malfeasance that has wreaked havoc here and around the world. But with the prosecutions latest track record maybe we better not go down that road.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Dominator 2011: Verlander voted AL MVP

2011 AL MVP Justin Verlander

For the first time in 25 years a starting pitcher was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers was named the American League MVP today in as convincing manner as he pitched during the season.

The last time a starting pitcher won this honor was in 1986 when a young up and coming Roger Clemens won it as a member of the Boston Red Sox.  The last time a pitcher won the ward was in 1992 when Dennis Eckersley won it as a closer for the Oakland Athletics.  It was the first time since 1984 that a pitcher won the MVP as well as the Cy Young award.  In winning both in the same season Verlander joined Brooklyn Dodgers’ great Don Newcombe who won them in 1956, Los Angeles Dodgers’ legend Sandy Koufax who did it in 1963, St. Louis Cardinals’ great Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain who led pitchers in both leagues in 1968, Oakland’s Vida Blue in 1971, Rollie Fingers who won it as a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1981 and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez who did so in 1984.

It is unusual that a pitcher wins the MVP. Part of the equation is that starting pitchers are not every day players and even like relief pitchers who may appear several times a week.  Because of this a starting pitcher must be absolutely dominating in all aspects of his game and do so in such a way that their team’s success is in large part attributable to their play.  This was the case with Verlander who dominated pitching this year.

Verlander’s accomplishments speak for themselves.  He went 25-4 in 34 starts, had a ERA of 2.40, held opposing teams to a .192 team batting average, struck out 250 batters while walking just 57 men.  His Walks/Hits inning pitched WHIP was a tiny 0.92.  He led every competitive category for pitching in the American League and  for that matter led all pitchers in wins and strikeouts during the season.  To top things off Verlander also had a no-hitter against Toronto coming a walk from a perfect game and he won 12 consecutive games leading the Tigers to their first division title since 1987.

The was no player in baseball that was as valuable to their team or as dominant as Verlander this year.  That may be a hard sell for those that believe that pitchers should not be considered for the MVP since they are not every day players but the numbers support Verlander’s selection as the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player.  His competition among American League position players could make no such claim, while excellent ballplayers none was such a standout that they had any real chance of winning.

Congratulations on a job well done!

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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The Night Before the Big Game: Comprehensive Exams All or Nothing

In the Funky Winkerbean comic there was a strip that one the the characters made this comment:

“There is no such thing as a “final” exam…if they were they would take you out and shoot you afterward.”

Anyway, the quote may not be exact but it does convey a truth, unless you are living in a country where academic failure is punishable in some way shape or form.  The old Soviet Bloc countries did this well….screw up in Olympic Training Camp and end up picking rotten turnips in a Gulag.  Yummy.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 24 November I take my Comprehensive Exams for my Masters Degree in Military History from American Military University.  It is a venture into the unknown.  In my degree program I performed very well.  I have a 4.0 average in all academic work to this point.  I did very well in Marine Command and Staff College and aced my studies for my Doctor of Ministry. However, this is different, it is one shot, like a World Series appearance.  The rest was regular season stuff, it mattered, but not as much.

The past 7 weeks I have been preparing, unfortunately I really don’t know what for.  The class I believe is taught by the Department Chair, a man from whom I have never taken a course. Thus although I understand the format and expectations I have no earthly idea what he will ask.  I will have to answer four questions in 6 hours.  I’m told that they probably will tie together but it is like going into a game against a pitcher that you have never seen before,  You don’t know his stuff, you don’t know how he works and all you have is your experience and knowledge to face him. As such I am out of my comfort zone with this guy.  In addition I go into the exam at a pretty low point emotionally because of the situation with my parents and just being worn down.  So I will have to dig deep tomorrow to do as well as I want to do.

Despite all of my prior preparation which has included a lot of review and even re-writing of old research papers to put on this site, I am anxious.  My stomach and gastric systems started doing backflips like when I was in California and after my return.  I hardly slept last night and hopefully will not only get to sleep early but actually get some rest before getting an early session of PT in before the exam begins at 0815 and end 6 hours later.  I will be alone with the exam.  A sign will be on my office door warning humanity to stay away.  I can certainly relate to Roger Clemons who said: “If someone met me on a game day, he wouldn’t like me. The days in between, I’m the goodest guy you can find.” For 6 hours tomorrow I will be unlikable.

If I do well I will be celebrating at Gordon Biersch tomorrow night.  If I don’t I will be drowning my sorrows there.  The beer will be the same but the mood a bit different.  It is like Tommy Lasorda once said: “When we win, I’m so happy I eat a lot. When we lose, I’m so depressed, I eat a lot. When we’re rained out, I’m so disappointed I eat a lot.” I can drink happy or sad, I would prefer to celebrate.  It is more fun.

Now I do expect that I will do well.  I want a grade of “Pass With Distinction” versus just a “Pass.”  It will take work and probably drain me as I will not have the time that I normally have to prepare and research my writing.  Heck I take a lot of time to polish what I write here on this site.  I figure if I am lucky that I will have about 65-70 minutes on each question.  I do hope that I can pull it off. But then maybe I need to relax a bit and remember what Bill “Spaceman” Lee said:

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.”

Maybe I just need to pass the damned thing and get it done with.  Well I need to get ready for bed.  Nothing much more to do. I just gotta go out and do what I’ve worked so long and hard to do. I’ve wanted a Masters in History since my undergrad days. This is for all the marbles.  I hate to lose and will be pissed at me if I do not kick this thing in the ass.  This is my World Series, at least until the next time….Ph.D. anyone?

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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One Pitch, Game or Season too Many

In 1973 Willie Mays signed with the New York Mets after being released by the San Francisco Giants at the end of the 1972 season.   It was  a mistake and was his worst season in the majors.  He showed his age, he had lost his speed.  His arm was shot and hs hitting was a shadow of what it once was. He committed errors that never would have happened early in his career.  He was unable to play on a daily basis.  He wanted to do well.  However the inability to be in the lineup on a consistant basis, lack of outfield speed, weak arm and poor hitting hurt his team.  As a Giants fan I love Willie Mays.  I believe that he is quite possibly the best player who ever lived.  It hurt to see him finish his career in that fashion.

Other players have done this as well.  They go for that last season that last chance for glory and leave not at the top of their game, but at the bottom.  They end up tarnishing their final year and a career that should have ended in triumph ends in a whimper.  A recent example is NFL great Brett Farve.  His debacle with the New York Jets after retiring from the Packers has pushed his greatness to the side.  The continuing confusion of whether he will try to return for one more year has made many former supports stop caring.  Roger Clemens in the way that he played his last couple of years, sitting out half a season to make a dramatic entrance and then not performing well in his last season left a sour taste in the mouth of many in and out of baseball.

This is not confined to sports figures it occurs in almost every career vocation.  For many this desire to stay just one more year, one more tour one more chance at glory the attempt ends in personal humiliation. They realize later that they should have gotten out at the top of their game.  When I was a young Medical Service Corps officer we had about 250 Colonels in our branch.  We only had one billet for a Brigadier General.  That was usually 3-4 year term for whoever was the Chief of the Medical Service Corps.  Additionally there were only a few actually billets for Colonel’s to command actual units.   Some of these officers would have sld their soul’s to get the star.  I’m sure that at least a few did. But with only one General Officer billet that came open every 3-4 years the chances were pretty slim for anyone to get the job. Yet we would have men well past their prime holding on, going from staff assignment to staff assignment until they hit the statutory retirement point.  Many were miserable and felt that they should have been the annointed one. Unfortunately both in attitude and for the fact that by holding on indefinitely they kept others from getting promoted they hurt the Corps.  This is not uncommon in botht he military and the civilian world, even in churches.  It often harms those that hold on, those that work for them and the institution when younger men and women with fresh ideas can’t get promoted.  Since I left the Medical Service Corps as a  fairly junior Captain to go to seminary I never had a dog in this fight, but it was intersting to observe the effect on individuals and the institution.

There are times in life as well where we go through different seasons.  Adjusting to the changes of those seasons is just as important, be they family, spiritual or vocational.  Knowing when the season is changing and having people help us through are key. Likewise for those who have a religions faith, my Christian faith is a moderate Anglo-Catholic Episcopal spirituality with a membership in the Church of Baseball.  After all the Deity does speak to me through baseball.

It takes a bit of self-awareness to know when you shouldn’t go on.  Mike Mussina retired at the end of the 2008 season.  He went won 20 games for the first time in career had a 3.37 ERA and won his 7th Golden Glove of his career.  He could have probably played for another year or two.  However, he decided to go out on top.  He left at the end of his 17th and best season.

In daily life we have the same situation.  A pitcher needs to know when to tell his manager that he can’t pitch.  Likewise the manager and pitching coach have to be able to tell when their pitchers are losing their edge. My department head knows what I have been through in my life and what I have been dealing with both personally and physically.  He trusts me to tell him when I am having trouble.  He knows how to get the best out of me without wiping me out to do it.

Sometimes people not only stay too long, but in staying to long end up hurting their team, political party, business organization or religious organization.   We have all probably known people like this.  They finish badly and seldom does someone gently come alongside and say, “Friend, you had a great run, it’s time for you to step aside and let others carry out the mission.”

I for one know that I desire to go out on top when it is time for me to leave the military.  I will be retirement eligible in about 2 ½ years.  I want my tour where I am to be the best of my career regardless of whether I retire or get promoted and remain in service.  I want people to remember me in the best possible way. If I know that I cannot do the job anymore it is incumbent on me to be honest enough with myself to admit it and go home before people say: “Yah, he was a good chaplain back in the day, but he’s lost something…he’s not the same.”   I trust that the Deity Herself will assist me in this; Lord knows that this miscreant Priest needs all the help that he can get.

Peace,

Steve+

Post Script: I saw the Tides win again tonight and bring their record to 28 and 13, the best in AAA baseball.  They won on a Justin Turner hit a walk off single to drive in Oscar Salazar with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th to defeat the Rochester Red Wings.  Kam Mikalio got the win for the Tides and Bobby Keppel took the loss for the Wings.  It was a ugly game, perhaps the ugliest I have see this year.  Each team committed three errors for a total of six errors in the game.  Wings third baseman Matt Macri dropped a routine pop foul by Oscar Salazar who then singled and scored the winning run.  Wings starting pitcher Philip Humber hit three Tides batters.  Tides Manager Gary Allenson and Designated Hitter Robby Hammock was tossed in the bottom of the 8th and Wings Shortstop Trevor Plouffe was tossed in the top of the 10th.

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