Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Holy cow! Goodbye, 2007!

SEASONINGS: Pitchers and catchers report in 6 weeks or so! But even though I still want to hold on to football a little longer, a lot of the talk lately has been about baseball—the Mitchell Report, of course! What can we learn from the report? That steroids has pervaded the entire sport. That some great players used them to boost their stats out of this world. That some borderline players used them to make sure they stayed on the roster.

To me, Andy Pettitte was the biggest surprise on the list, especially since he comes off as an “Aw, shucks,” church-going choir boy who would never break a rule to save his own life. True, he said he only used human growth hormone one time, to help recover from an injury, but just being named in the Mitchell Report is enough to sow doubt, no matter what Pettitte claims.

Roger Clemens? No shock there. Even though the Rocket vehemently denies all the allegations, the proof seems to be in front of the public’s eye. How else to explain his superhuman ability long past the age when most players are finished? How else to explain his extra-beefy physique over the second half of his career? With the publication of the Mitchell Report, it seems obvious—suddenly, Clemens’s career arc mirrors that of Barry Bonds. It will be interesting to see how Clemens defends himself on national TV in the upcoming weeks.

And there really isn’t anyone else who is much of a surprise, although I was sad to see some other names, such as Miguel Tejada and Benito Santiago. They are a stain on the game if they are really guilty—and with the number of players named, how could at least some of them NOT be guilty?

I have to laugh when I hear people talk about taking away these guys’ numbers because they did the juice. The steroids era existed, and we all just have to deal with it. Taking away a player’s home runs changes a lot more than just the player’s own stats. It changes the scores of games, affects scoring statistics for the whole team, affects pitching statistics for the other team—and on and on. All we can do is hope that someone can come along and break some of these records cleanly. A-Rod comes to mind for the home run records, but Jose Canseco, whose credibility is pretty good right now, said he was surprised A-Rod wasn’t included in the Mitchell Report. What do we think about that?

Over in the NFL, the first five seeds are locked up in each conference, leaving the Titans and Browns on the edge in the AFC and the Saints, Redskins, and Vikings vying for the last spot in the NFC. How about the fact that the NFL caved in to the fans and the government and will show the Pats–Giants game on Saturday night? The game was only supposed to be on the NFL Network, but due to its significance, it will now be on both NBC and CBS, as well.

The big debate is over whether Tom Coughlin should try to rest his starters so that they’re fresh for the playoffs or seriously try to thwart the Patriots’ perfect season and risk injuring any of his best players. Coughlin says he’ll play the starters and try to win, but we’ll see. Once the Giants go down by three or four touchdowns, don’t be surprised if you see some of the second- and third-string players out on the field!

Happy 2008, everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Okay, sports fans, even though it goes against my better nature, I was going to write another piece excoriating James Dolan, Isiah Thomas, and anything to do with the New York Knicks’ part of Madison Square Garden. (Hey, the Rangers are only a point out of first place, so at least SOMEONE at MSG knows what they are doing!) I know it doesn’t do any good to rant and rail against Dolan—he doesn’t listen to anyone but Thomas anyway, so why waste the space?—but it’s somewhat cathartic, and basketball fans can sympathize. Let’s face it, whether you love the Knicks or hate them, you must realize that their position as league laughingstock does more harm than help to the NBA as a whole.

Just my luck, Mike Lupica wrote a piece in the New York Daily News today that sums up how I feel perfectly. For your edification, I thought I’d post it here. (By the way, I discovered this week that there are quite a few sports fans that dislike Lupica—can’t figure out why, since I think his sports opinions are usually dead on. If any Lupica-haters are reading this, it’d be great if you could weigh in on why you feel that way and enlighten me.)

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season!

For Knicks followers, change is fantasy

by Mike Lupica

James Dolan and Isiah Thomas have finally become a bad remake of a bad television show out of the past, the one known as “Fantasy Island.”

It really is just the two of them now, their own “Fantasy Island” off 33rd St. Except this isn’t some made up television show. This is the real thing, Dolan’s Garden. And with these people in charge, there is no chance at the kind of happy ending you used to get on television, just another season when the Knicks try to grub their way to a win total between 30 and 40, try to grub their way to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Dolan and Thomas are the only two people left in town who believe Thomas knows what he is doing with the Knicks. We are only 20 games into this, and the biggest headline so far, other than blowout losses, is that Thomas can’t coach any better than he can general-manage.

Somehow this matters deeply to everybody at the Garden except Dolan. He doesn’t listen to his fans, he doesn’t listen to anybody, with the exception of Thomas, who constantly tells him things are just swell.

Dolan and Isiah lost again Monday night. Lost twice, in fact. The Knicks lost another basketball game, this one to the Mavericks. They got blown out for only a half this time, instead of for an entire game, which gave Thomas the chance to focus on a brief comeback at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, making it sound as if the Knicks actually had a chance to come all the way back and win.

Anybody who was there knows better, saw in the first half that the Mavericks could do whatever they wanted to the Knicks, whenever they wanted. It was fitting that when the Knicks did get the Mavs’ lead down to seven for the last time, they immediately committed a turnover without getting a shot to the iron, then saw Josh Howard drive right down the middle for a layup, even laying out Eddy Curry along the way.

So that was the second loss of the day, after it was game, set, match for Dolan and Thomas against Anucha Browne Sanders once and for all, the official and humiliating end of her sexual harassment case against the two of them. Browne Sanders had already beaten them out of $11.6 million. But Dolan and Thomas, together always, vowed to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court if they had to. Monday that all went away and Dolan had to write her a check.

Even then neither he nor his basketball coach had any grace.

At the fantasy Garden, Dolan issued a statement that said he paid only because NBA commissioner David Stern made him. Said the whole thing was a miscarriage of justice. Thomas once again said he was innocent. Which means that Dolan’s statement really should have read this way:

The commissioner has no idea what’s he’s talking about, but I’m paying her, anyway.

Of course. At the fantasy Garden, Dolan and Thomas are always right, everybody else is wrong. At the fantasy Garden, a failed comeback is always more significant than falling behind by 20 points in the first place. At the fantasy Garden, the coach gets into it with some fans near the Knicks bench and when called on that afterward in the interview room, he can’t even tell the truth about that.

He says he was just trying to focus his players.

Thomas loses two straight games to the 76ers, who hadn’t won two straight games all year, and after the second one, a 28-point loss at the Garden, he says, “We need better ball movement.”

And you scream at your television set, “From whom?” Which big ball mover is he talking about? Eddy Curry? Zach Randolph? Jamal Crawford? Stephon Marbury?

As always, in the dreamy world in which he and Dolan exist, you know he wants you to believe that this dysfunctional team put itself together. But that is what you do when you have run out of coaches to throw under the team bus to save yourself.

Thomas’ first big move, the one that will ultimately sink him, was to bring Marbury and his huge contract here. As soon as he did, he talked about all the expiring contracts he would soon have. Now, in a rather amazing irony, Thomas hopes to stick around long enough for Marbury himself to become one of those expiring contracts. Isiah Thomas has come full circle. While the Knicks just keep going in circles.

At the fantasy Garden, Dolan confuses stubbornness with loyalty. At the fantasy Garden, he compares Isiah Thomas to Glen Sather, someone who actually won and won big as a front-office guy before he got to New York.

At the fantasy Garden, Thomas hears people calling for him to be fired, night after night, and hears “passion.” So he doesn’t know what he is seeing at the Garden or what he is hearing. Knick fans treat him the way the jury treated him in that trial, which means they know he is the opposite of innocent.

Tuesday Thomas said this:

“I fight till I die. It’s not about giving up or quitting. To me it’s win or die. And I literally mean death. I don’t mean walk away, I mean death.”

As always, his own little world. His and Dolan’s. No one knows exactly what he means by all that big death talk. Knick fans just know the guy’s killing them.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Tainted 11: The Mitchell Report Looms

The Mitchell Report, the findings of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's 20-month investigation into performance-enhancing drug use that has tarnished some of the game's greatest stars and records is going to be released to the public next week.
What will it tell us? Whose baseball careers, if any, will be ruined? How will it change the American pastime? And maybe most importantly, what will MLB do in response to the report?
Early leaks tell us that the report will reveal the names of 11 current free agents who took steroids.
Critics of the report are already lining up, denouncing the report as being one-sided and outdated, but one thing is for sure – major league players from across the continent are more than just a little concerned about what the document contains.
"Well, it ain't Merry Christmas or Happy New Year for somebody," Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
One question that a lot of people are asking is -- who is George Mitchell? The 74-year-old former chairman of The Walt Disney Company was once offered a spot on the Supreme Court by President Clinton and famously challenged Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra hearings. He is a political veteran with an impressive pedigree.
But, what’s his agenda? Every politician has one. Will the report be objective? Is this thing going to be honest and candid, or are we looking at another Warren Report?
One thing that may taint Mitchell’s background is the fact that he is also a director with the World Series champion Red Sox, a role players say makes him hopelessly conflicted and a pawn of Commissioner Bud Selig, who appointed him. Players also claim Mitchell refused to show those accused the evidence he had against them, denying them a chance to refute the allegations.
For now, Selig claims not to know what's inside the report. Suffice to say, midway between Boston wrapping up the Fall Classic and the start of spring training, there are plenty of jittery people around the majors.
"Obviously, it can't be really good," New York Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "If there's some really, really big names I'm sure it's going to be a real impact in some ways."
Outfielders Jose Guillen and Jay Gibbons, linked in media reports to receiving human growth hormone, were suspended Thursday for the first 15 days of next season. The penalties are an indication how baseball might treat any players named by Mitchell.
Although some say Bonds' home run record -- and milestone ball -- should be marked with an asterisk, Mitchell noted the Hall of Fame vote in which Mark McGwire was picked on just 23.5 percent of ballots, nowhere near the 75 percent needed for induction.
That election in January was considered the first test on how history will view a period when bulked-up stars amassed bulked-up stats.
"If nothing else, the results of the Hall of Fame voting last week, and the reaction to it, offer fresh evidence that this issue will not just fade away," Mitchell said then. "Whether you think it fair or not, whether you think it justified or not, Major League Baseball has a cloud over its head, and that cloud will not just go away."
To some, the drumbeat of suspicion is falling on deaf ears. A lot of people no longer care about this subject.
"Now when it comes out, more people seem to be numb to it," said former Milwaukee manager Ned Yost: "I don't care one way or the other, to be honest with you."
Hired by Selig in March 2006, Mitchell and his staff spent millions of dollars interviewing people and collecting evidence. Their task: Provide a history of what happened off the diamond during a time when home run marks that had lasted for decades fell as suddenly strong sluggers changed the balance between pitchers and hitters.
Previously undisclosed names could be tied to steroids and HGH, thanks to the cooperation of former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. A national investigation led by the Albany, N.Y., district attorney's office also is believed to have provided evidence to Mitchell.
Active players largely have resisted cooperating -- the Yankees' Jason Giambi is the only one known to have spoken to the inquiry. Although this wasn't exactly Sing Along with Mitch, retired players have spoken with Mitchell, who did not have subpoena power.
Selig's decision to launch an official investigation followed the release of "Game of Shadows," in which San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams said Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs for at least five seasons beginning in 1998.
Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron's career home run record in August, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he lied to federal investigators about using performance-enhancing drugs.
The home run king was arraigned in U.S. District Court on four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice stemming from a Nov. 15 indictment. If convicted, he could spend more than two years in prison.
Bonds, currently a free agent who hopes to play in 2008, has denied knowingly using illegal performance enhancers. He nonetheless became the face of steroid allegations while dozens of other major and minor leaguers tested positive.
"I think we're all eager to get this era behind us and to get steroids out of this game, growth hormone out of the game, get things that change the competitive balance other than hard work and a desire to be the best ballplayer you can be," Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
To former World Anti-Doping Agency leader Dick Pound, baseball is an outlaw sport, refusing to agree to WADA's standards for testing and discipline.
But athletes in U.S. team sports, protected by collective bargaining agreements and American labor laws, have no interest in international standards.
"I think if you look at attendance, if you look at the health of the game right now, that would suggest that fans have digested what information exists and perhaps assumed that the problem has been addressed, at least for the moment," San Diego Padres chief executive officer Sandy Alderson said.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

I wanted to thank Ed so much for weighing in on the best team in the NFC after my last post. As much as it pains me to write it again, this past week, by thumping Green Bay, the Cowboys proved it—they are the best in the conference. Where did Tony Romo come from? I want that guy on MY team! Romo (along with the likes of Tom Brady) goes to show us all what a completely inexact science the draft is—more confirmation that the people in sports don’t really know as much as they think they do (or as much as they want you to think they do).

But back to Dallas. This Cowboys team is so good that, unlike San Diego, they are able to overcome their creampuff of a coach, Wade Phillips, and still kick some butt. I admit to being very surprised by this. At the beginning of the season, I think I ragged on both the Cowboys and Chargers for their choices of new head coaches. Seems like I was only half right. Somehow, Phillips is enjoying a career year as a coach, and this previous T.O. Team Turmoil is running smoothly on all cylinders. Meanwhile, in the AFC, the Chargers are still on top of the West, but they are not nearly living up to their billing after going 14–2 last year under Marty Schottenheimer. This team possibly has more talent than the Cowboys, but they continue to struggle toward the end of the season as if they were wading in molasses and their esteemed coach, Norv Turner, has them headed for playoff oblivion.

Yeah, yeah, I know some of you might be thinking, “Ah, well, the Packers would’ve beat Dallas if Brett Favre hadn’t been injured in the second quarter.” I submit to you that this sentiment is just a bunch of hooey. What about the Packers’ defense? It seemed stymied by the Dallas offensive attack. And speaking of offensive, it’s amazing that the word can be used in this connotation rather than its more “offensive” meaning, as it is usually applied to Terrell Owens. Ever since Bill Parcells left the Cowboys, T.O. has had the biggest ego in the room. Since there is no other ego with which he might clash (his ego is plainly many times the size of Creampuff Phillips’s), he has subsequently kept his mouth shut and let his play do the talking for a change. Unprecedented!

Is Dallas good enough to get to the Super Bowl? Probably. Are the ’Boys good enough to win? Only if they get really, really lucky.…

SEASONINGS: Other notes from around the league:

A real shame about Sean Taylor. And a shame that the criminal element is once again being associated with the NFL, no matter how innocent (or not) the involved player may be. With the way the Redskins lost in the final seconds to Buffalo, you wonder if they’re done for the season after this emotionally draining time.

Watch those Vikings! After their second impressive win in a row (smoking Detroit a week after picking off Eli Manning four times and crushing the Giants), Minnesota is back in the playoff picture. With the return of RB Adrian Peterson and a remaining schedule featuring some reeling teams, the Vikes have a chance to go on a bit of a run for one of the wild cards.

I can’t believe the Giants beat the Bears when Eli Manning looked worse than Rex Grossman for most of the game. But when it counted, the Giants defense held the Bears to a minimum of points and “Too Easy” Eli had enough left to lead two touchdown drives in the last 7 minutes, saving Tom Coughlin’s job in the process.

After losing to the Jets, I think the Dolphins are going to go winless! I guess it’s a weird kind of symmetry to match their unbeaten season in 1972—something to take the wind out of the sails of anyone who wants to brag about 1972 today. Also, the 1972 record could be threatened this year anyway—by the Patriots—adding another layer of intrigue to the Dolphins’ struggles.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The BCS is B.S.!

This whole BCS thing is a big load B.S as far as I’m concerned. Why NCAA Div. I football won’t embrace the idea of a playoff system is beyond me and this season should be a prime example of why such a format is needed. The powers that be in college football should be ashamed of themselves – how long are you going to drag this sport down and hold fans throughout the country hostage? People want a clear-cut winner and it’s not rocket science to figure out how it should be done.
All of the lower-level divisions in college football have a playoff system. It works well and takes all of the guesswork out of the equation. You have one champion who got there by winning the tournament. You don’t need a computer to tell you who the best team is.
Besides, have you tried to figure out the method that this computer uses to determine who the two top teams are? Albert Einstein would have problems understanding it on his best day. It’s a mish mash of things like strength of schedule, opponents’ records – and a whole lot of other stuff that nerds at MIT would probably have difficulty grasping.
When the season started out, everybody was talking about USC. But, they lost to Stanford. Then it was LSU. Then THE Ohio State University. West Virginia got some recognition for a while there, as did Oregon and Arizona State. But, they all lost. After that, everybody got excited about Cinderella teams like Kansas and Missouri. All of them fell like dominos during the course of the season. But, in the end it will be Ohio State and LSU in the Finale – two teams that were in, out and now back in again.
And what about Hawaii? Why doesn't a legitimate star quarterback like Colt Brennan (see photo) deserve a chance to play on the big stage? Just like Boise State last year, Hawaii ran the table without losing a game, but don’t get to go to the Big Show because they play in what’s considered a weaker league and don’t merit a shot at the championship. That too, is B.S., in my opinion.
So, now that we have these big-wigs’ attention, how about a playoff system? I’ve heard all the objections to such a system and have a response for each.
Objection #1: The bowl games are traditional and sacred and cannot be jeopardized.
Response: A playoff system won’t hurt the bowl games. Use the bigger bowl games as playoff games and then create one Championship Game to be played in a different city each year, so that fans from all over the country can get a chance to see it.
Objection #2: The season will be too long if we have a playoff tournament at the end.
Response: You call yourself colleges? How hard is this to figure out? You shorten the season to nine games, eliminating the normally lopsided non-conference games that are stuck in there to fill out a schedule and are customarily blowouts (exception: Michigan vs. Appalachia State). A 16-team playoff would only add four more games to the schedule, with only two teams playing in the fourth and final one.
Objection #3: How would the playoff money be distributed?
Response: Well, now we’ve come to the real question. All along, it’s been all about the money. Every conference wants what they feel they deserve, and in the end – let’s admit it – they’re all greedy. So, what you do is take every conference in football – regardless of how many teams from each of them is in the playoffs – and you distribute it evenly. Sure the Pac 10 and the Big Ten will object. Who cares?
So, that’s my take on the concept. Select 16 teams and let them knock the crap out of each other. The last one standing wins. Let it be decided on the field and not by some passionless computer. This way, everybody wins.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Hi, everybody!

I’ve been running like crazy this holiday season—just got back to California from our new house in Seattle (no, we have not officially moved yet), and I’m on my way to Connecticut to visit the family for Thanksgiving. While I was up in Washington, I see that Barry Bonds went and got himself indicted. Boo hoo! Since Ed masterfully covered the specifics in his last post, I thought I’d just put up this opinion piece from last Friday by George Vescey of the New York Times. What a great piece! I especially like the part about A-Rod. (Nice to see that Scott Boras finally screwed one of his own clients royally!) Even though I don’t like A-Rod much myself, I, too, would root for him to break Bonds’s home run record any day—at least until there is evidence that the Mighty Rodriguez himself used something illegal! (Not that I’m saying he did….)

So, enjoy!

The Truth Could Have Set Bonds Free

by George Vecsey

This day never had to come for Barry Bonds. He could have avoided yesterday’s indictment by parceling out just enough truth to satisfy a grand jury.

Back when the first grand jury was convened in 2003, Bonds could have quivered a bit and said he had been a bad slugger by going for the quick fix and deceiving the American public. He could have promised to never do it again. And he could have walked, free to break Babe Ruth’s record and Henry Aaron’s record without this infamy hanging over him. Americans love a good confession.

But the truth is not in Barry Bonds, who is so far outside the limits of reality that he did not see the advantage to a little show of humility, a little flash of honesty.

Instead, he put a spin on his connection with the notorious Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Now he has been indicted, not for using performance-enhancing drugs, but on four counts of perjury involving his testimony to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice.

Right now it is not clear if this grand jury will take up the suspicions raised in The San Francisco Chronicle about Bonds’s possible liability for tax evasion for over $80,000 in cash income. That could be a separate case.

At the moment, Bonds is in more trouble for lying than for whatever he used from the chemists at Balco. Despite the visual evidence that players were bulking up, baseball did not get around to imposing testing and penalties for performance-enhancing drugs until Bonds’s home run totals were as swollen as his cap size and his shirt size.

He is stuck on 762, unlikely to ever get another job offer. The ludicrous joke here is that Alex Rodriguez, who on Wednesday was baseball’s No. 1 egomaniac, groveling back to the Yankees, has now become baseball’s great clean hope.

After allowing his agent to publicly stiff the Yankees during the World Series, Rodriguez is apparently close to agreeing to a new contract that would include a hefty bonus for breaking the career home run record of the aforementioned Barry Bonds.

A-Rod is not the only Yankee who reeks of contradiction. The Yankees also own the services of a shell of a player named Jason Giambi, who set the public example to Bonds of how to flick away the aura of guilt.

Appearing before the original Balco grand jury, on Dec. 11, 2003, Giambi testified that he had taken steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone, and for apparently testifying truthfully he was granted immunity.

The grand jury was not after Giambi. It probably was not even after Bonds, even though Bonds (and the few supporters he has left) contend that the Balco investigation was always about getting him. This only shows how detached he is from reality.

“You use the consumer to build your case against the manufacturer,” Travis T. Tygart of the United States Anti-Doping Agency said last March, before he became chief executive of that agency. The hope is to keep harmful and illegal drugs from impressionable children and adults who are trying to emulate negative role models like Giambi and Bonds.

Giambi, the son of a banker, is a reasonable person. He understood that he would harm himself if he lied to a grand jury. He took some public criticism for a short time and then settled into his continual decline. Bonds strutted and denied and blustered and bullied, as he has done to most people around him all his life.

Probably Bonds’s greatest victim was Greg Anderson, his trainer, who went to jail because of his refusal to testify about Bonds’s involvement with Balco. Yesterday, shortly after Bonds was indicted, Anderson was ordered released from jail. It is not apparent whether Anderson finally sang or whether he had no more value to the investigators. The odds are heavy that Bonds will never make it up to Anderson for stalling the investigation.

Bonds surely has money salted away, but his prospects for employment are not great. The San Francisco Giants let him go after the season, having sold tickets for his miserable trudge toward Aaron’s record. Who would hire a 43-year-old lead-legged slugger facing five felony charges?

He could get off. Indictment does not mean conviction. But this process will make him a pariah in the free-agent market. Any team that would dream of hiring him would be doing it as a spectacle.

Everything is tainted. His image. His record. The ball he hit for No. 756. Never mind the debate over sticking an asterisk on the ball in the Hall of Fame. Baseball has no business putting an asterisk on Barry Bonds. The asterisk belongs on Major League Baseball, for allowing the players union to bully it into avoiding testing and penalties.

Now, baseball is tottering along, waiting for George J. Mitchell’s investigation to produce the astonishing revelation that performance-enhancing drugs were prevalent in the past generation. Jason Giambi has already testified to that, but Barry Bonds couldn’t go that far. Now baseball roots for good old A-Rod. Only 245 to break the record, and not a moment too soon.


SEASONINGS: Yeah, yeah, Dallas is definitely the best team in the NFC—the Cowboys proved it by taking it to the Giants last week for the season sweep. But they (or whichever NFC team makes it to the Big Dance) will still get their clocks cleaned by the Patriots or whoever represents the AFC in the Super Bowl, so all you Dallas fans might as well stop celebrating already! No one ever remembers who came in second!

Friday, November 16, 2007

BONDS INDICTED! (finally.)

Barry Bonds was indicted on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice yesterday, striking a blow against baseball's all-time home run leader in his ongoing struggle against allegations of steroid use. The indictment, which many people felt was fading fast and would never happen, is finally here.
This is not just local or regional news, this is a report that has taken a spot on the worldwide stage. President Bush even issued a statement yesterday about the indictment. When was the last time you heard a U.S. President comment about a baseball-related incident? This is big, no doubt about it!
Bonds, 43, was charged with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction by federal prosecutors at a California District Court in San Francisco. These are serious charges and even more severe than many people anticipated.
Each of the perjury charges carries a jail sentence of up to five years, while the obstruction charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. (Maybe he and O.J. will be sharing a cell in a prison’s “Hall of Shame” athlete’s wing.)
The charges mark the end of a four-year investigation into whether the former San Francisco Giants slugger lied under oath to a grand jury probing the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
It certainly constitutes a devastating end to what had been a magical year for Bonds, who passed Hank Aaron to become baseball's all-time home run scorer on August 7.
According to the indictment, Bonds allegedly lied when he claimed he did not knowingly take steroids issued to him by personal trainer Greg Anderson, who served three months in prison after pleading guilty to steroid distribution. Anderson, who’ll be forever remembered as a stand up guy for not ratting out his friend, was released from jail yesterday.
"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other professional athletes," the indictment read.
A seven-time National League MVP, Bonds is the most central figure linked with grand jury investigations launched in 2002 against Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative - known popularly as BALCO.
Allegations and speculation of steroid use have followed Bonds for the last five years, questioning the legitimacy of the all-time records he currently owns.
Aside from his career homer record of 762, Bonds also holds the single-season record of 73 - a mark he established in 2001.
"This is a very sad day," the Giants said in a statement.
"For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era.
These are serious charges.
Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law."
According to the indictment, Bonds allegedly lied when he claimed he did not knowingly take steroids issued to him by personal trainer Greg Anderson, who was sentenced to prison for contempt of court on refusing to testify against Bonds.
According to a report on ESPN on Thursday, a federal judge ordered Anderson released to prison.
"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other professional athletes," the indictment read.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement early Thursday evening regarding the federal prosecutors' decision.
"I have yet to see the details of this indictment and while everyone in America is considered innocent until proven guilty, I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely," the statement read.
"It is important that the facts regarding steroid use in baseball be known, which is why I asked Senator Mitchell to investigate the issue.
"I look forward to receiving his report and findings so that we can openly address any issue associated with past steroid use.
"We currently have a testing program that is as good as any in professional sports, and the program is working.
We continue to fund research to find an efficacious test for HGH and have banned amphetamines from our sport.
We will continue to work diligently to eradicate the use of all illegal performance-enhancing substances from the game."
MLB Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr also released a statement addressing the indictment.
"I was saddened to learn this afternoon of the indictment of Barry Bonds," Fehr said in the statement.
"However, we must remember, as the U.S. Attorney stated in his press release today, that an indictment contains only allegations, and in this country every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Parts of this report were taken from cbssportsline.com and mlb.com.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

$168 Million? No One Wants to Be Like Mike Right Now!

Michael Jordan got taken to the hoop and slammed on like never before this week when his ex-wife Juanita scored a $168 million dollar settlement. Jordan made history on the basketball court and has now done it again in a different court. A winner in life but obviously a loser in the game of love, MJ erred when he evidently didn’t make Juanita sign a pre-nuptial agreement back when the couple tied the night in 1984.

What are these athletes and celebrities thinking about when they fail to get pre-nups? Are they crazy or just duped into thinking that their significant others won’t try to take them for everything they possibly can once the music stops? Haven’t they learned anything from the long list of victims?

And why on earth did this woman get so much? I never saw her playing for the Chicago Bulls, or doing all of the endorsements or making all the really bad animated films! I’m sorry – and I know a lot of women will disagree with me – but how is she in any way entitled to $168 million? To say that she helped him earn his money throughout the course of their marriage is laughable.

I’m not saying that Michael shouldn’t give her anything. Maybe $5 million and the house, that should be enough. But, $168 million? That’s ludicrous! And do you know who will be getting approximately 33% of that money? That’s right – the attorneys. What a joke.

Every man in the world is hurting for you right now, Michael. But, you brought this on yourself. Any chance of coming out of retirement or taking up baseball again, because I don’t think anyone is interested in making Space Jam II.

This appeared yesterday on Celebrity Stink at http://www.cinemablend.com/:

Considered to be one of basketball’s greatest players ever, NBA legend Michael Jordan has agreed to pay his ex-wife Juanita, over $168 million as part of their divorce settlement, the costliest on record. It outsizes the former record-setting $156 million settlement singer Neil Diamond paid to his ex and puts the potential $64 million payoff in the Paul McCartney-Heather Mills divorce stranded in the nosebleed seats. Jordan and his ex are still friends since separating in September 2006. The couple married in 1984 and had three children together. For such a potential financial bombshell, the couple kept their split relatively quiet. After attempting to reconcile, they finally agreed to divorce. She has custody of their children and continues to live on their estate outside Chicago. Even with this payoff, she is still only receiving about one third of Jordan’s entire wealth. Jordan has held the NBA record with 10 all-time scoring records, six NBA MVP awards and six NBA championships. Even though he has not held a basketball in over four years, he continues to wow marketers with his remarkable staying power as a selling icon, catapulting him into the financial stratosphere. Other astronomical divorce paydays have been Steven Speilberg’s divorce from actress Amy Irving with a $100 million settlement. Billionaire Revlon CEO Ron Perelman just keeps paying it out every time he changes wives: Wife No. 1 only got $8 million, but Wife No. 2, journalist Claudia Cohen $80 million, Wife No. 3 Patricia Duff $30 million and Wife No. 4, actress Ellen Barkin, $60 million. Actor Michael Douglas paid his –ex Diandra, $45 million and Titanic director James Cameron sunk Linda Hamilton with a $50 million settlement.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Gee, thanks for the overwhelming response on my last column, people! Anyone out there reading this? I’d still love opinions on whether people would stick with their old teams or adopt the hometown ones upon moving out of state, if anyone would care to expostulate.

If not, I’m not bitter. I’ll move on.…

SEASONINGS: Congratulations to the Red Sox for winning the World Series again. They’re starting to be more like the Yankees than the Yankees. And truth to tell, their fans are starting to bug me even more than the entitled Yankees fans who, once upon a time, accepted winning a championship every year as their birthright. C’mon now, Boston fans! Just because the Patriots are undefeated and the Celtics look like they are the new Beasts of the East doesn’t mean that you have to drill it into everyone’s face how great your teams are! Everyone hates a poor loser, but a bad winner is worse. Show some class and try to remember that it’s just a game, folks! If your teams are the only thing you have to brag about, maybe you should get out more.

Even though Boston is supposedly the center of the sports universe these days, could the Yankees have found more ways to make the news? With the Joe Torre and A-Rod sagas, the apparent passing of the ownership torch from George Steinbrenner to the two little Bosses, his sons Hank and Hal, and the need to sign the free agents who have been the lifeblood of the team since the 1990s, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, it seems like post-Word Series baseball news around the country has been all Yankees, all the time.

What about A-Rod? How selfish can you get? I hope Scott Boras gets run over by a truck for his audacity in trying to steal the spotlight from the Red Sox with his A-Rod opt-out announcement before the last game of the Series was over. Please, please, please, I pray that all the baseball owners have the guts to tell A-Rod to take a hike, along with his $350 million demands. Wouldn’t it be great if he couldn’t find a job unless he took a pay cut? This guy obviously cares way less about his place in the game than his place as the #1 money-maker of all time. So what’s his Hall of Fame plaque going to say? “A-Rod had a huge ego and was dysfunctional as a teammate and a person. Although he broke Barry Bonds’s all-time home run record and made more money than any player in history, he had a propensity for disappearing in big games in the postseason and never played in, let alone won, a World Series game.” Woo-hoo!

Over in the NFL, is there even a reason to watch anymore? Now that the Patriots have defeated the Colts, anyone else is just meat tenderizer. What’s to stop the Belichick-Brady juggernaut as it chugs toward the first perfect season since the league went to a 16-game format? Nothing, as far as I can see. But let’s remember that anything can happen—that’s why they play the game. I remember in 1998, the 13–0 Broncos played the 5–8 Giants in the Meadowlands, and John Elway’s team was defeated by a last-second TD from QB Kent Graham (who?) to Amani Toomer (now the Giants’ all-time receptions leader). The Patriots still may have a loss or two in the regular season if they have injuries. Plus, every team will get up to play them even harder now, and the Pats players will all start to feel the mounting pressure as they near the end of the season without a defeat.

I have to admit that I still think the Colts might have a chance in the postseason if they meet the Pats again. Remember, they were without Marvin Harrison and a couple of others last weekend. If Indianapolis can play New England at full strength, they might have a better shot at a win. After all, the game in Indianapolis last week was no blowout. Then again, the injury factor is the wild card in all this. If the Patriots lose any key players, the dream could be over—but that’s the case anywhere in the league.

Yet again, I’ll say what we all know and have known since the start of the season: Whoever represents the NFC in the Super Bowl will lose to the Pats or Colts. (Does anyone get tired of hearing this already?)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More MLB Players Added to "Unnaturals" List

The MLB steroids scandal is growing faster than Barry Bonds’ head. Now it has been revealed that other prominent major leaguers, who up to now weren’t suspected of any wrongdoing, took performance enhancing drugs as far back as 2002. The allegations keep coming to light as more and more of these steroid peddlers are getting caught.
I have a feeling that this situation is going to get worse before it gets better -- as we learn more about who took steroids and when they took them. It may finally reach a point where all baseball records broken between 1996 and 2005 (to be known throughout history as the “steroid era”) will be erased from the books, because no one can be sure which records are tainted and which ones are legitimate.
It’s a dark period in major league baseball, there’s no doubt about it. Pretty soon, the question won’t be about who took steroids, but rather about who didn’t. Baseball should take these most recent allegations to heart and start being even tougher on steroids. If the problem isn’t checked once and for all, it could surely ruin this great game forever.
This appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning and was featured as a front page story:
Former major leaguers Matt Williams and Ismael Valdez also purchased performance-enhancing drugs, in 2002, from a Florida anti-aging clinic that was raided in February as part of an investigation by the Albany, N.Y., district attorney into alleged illegal drug sales, the newspaper said.
Major League Baseball began testing for steroids in 2003. HGH was banned in January 2005.
Power-hitting outfielder Jose Guillen bought nearly $20,000 worth of steroids and human growth hormone from 2003-05, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.
The Chronicle received details of the players' orders in records from a source the newspaper didn't identify. Those records contained shipping and purchase orders, payment information, Social Security numbers and customers' birthdates, the paper said.
Guillen, 31, spent last season with the Seattle Mariners, batting .290 with 23 homers and 99 RBI. He split the 2003 season between Cincinnati and Oakland, and the Chronicle said business records indicate he had some of the drugs shipped to the Oakland Coliseum that year. He played for the Anaheim Angels in 2004 and Washington Nationals in 2005. Attempts by the Associated Press to reach him via cell phone were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Last week, the Mariners declined their $9 million option on Guillen's contract for next season. He has until Wednesday to decide if he wants to exercise his part of the mutual option at $5 million. If he does, the club can void the deal and pay him a $500,000 buyout. That would make Guillen a free agent.
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong told the AP the team remains interested in keeping Guillen.
"We thought he was an outstanding teammate. We were happy to have him. We know nothing about what happened in the past," Armstrong said. "I continue to admire and respect him greatly.
"Before I feel anything negative about Jose, I need to see something tangible or real."
Armstrong also said if Guillen exercises his option, the Mariners would need to investigate the allegations.
"I for sure would have to talk to Jose about this," Armstrong said.
Guillen just completed his 11th season in the majors. Records show he ordered more than $19,000 worth of drugs -- three kinds of human growth hormone, two types of testosterone and the steroids stanozolol and nandrolone -- from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center between May 2002 and June 2005, the Chronicle said.
Williams was a five-time All-Star during his 17-year major league career with San Francisco, Cleveland and Arizona. He was playing for the Diamondbacks in 2002 when records indicate he purchased $11,600 worth of growth hormone, steroids and other drugs, the Chronicle reported.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

We have decided to pack up and leave the San Francisco Bay Area, so we bought a house across Puget Sound from Seattle, and our plan is to be moved up there by early next year. Fortunately, I still plan to keep blogging with my man, Ed, so you’ll all hear from me whether you want to or not!

The move has brought about some interesting debates in our household. My darling wife, Laurice, says that we should become Seattle Mariners fans. I, however, have been an Oakland A’s fan for the past eight years or so (and a season ticket holder the last three), and the idea of dropping everything to turn around and root for a division rival doesn’t sit well with me.

Of course, I recognize that a fan’s relationship with his or her team is a complex thing that doesn’t necessarily depend on logic to make it work. I grew up rooting for New York teams—the Mets, Giants, Knicks, and Rangers (and for some strange reason I don’t remember anymore, the Miami Dolphins)—and when I moved to California from the East Coast. I took my love for my teams with me. It was only after a couple of years attending A’s games (the Coliseum was easy to get to, games were very inexpensive back then, and the A’s, under GM Billy Beane, were on the upswing) that I decided that I could adopt the A’s as my American League team and still be loyal to the Mets in the National League. Whenever those rare interleague games between the two have occurred, I’ve always come down on the side of the Mets.

For reasons that I’m not quite sure I can articulate, I never really took to the baseball Giants, the 49ers, the Raiders, the Sharks, or the Warriors, though I attended games played by all these teams except the Niners. I watched the Mets on the Internet and the Giants and Dolphins on the local sports bar’s satellite system. The Knicks were only good for a couple of years before they became unwatchable anyway, and though I’d call myself a Rangers fan, I’m not really much of a hockey aficionado in the first place. (No loss to me, then, that we don’t have a hockey team to watch in the Seattle area.) I saw my favorite teams live when they came into the area, and except for the Athletics, I mostly became used to rooting for the visitors.

Well, it’s good to support the local team, Laurice says. I agree with her there, but I tell her it’s not that easy to just switch, especially to rooting for a division rival. And in football, even though the Seahawks are not a division rival of the Giants, I’m not sure I could see myself cheering for any other NFC team.

But Laurice doesn’t understand why I would have such a hard time changing allegiances. She thinks that sports fans are disloyal to their teams all the time. Why do some fans boo their teams when they do poorly? Why do fans stop watching games as frequently once their teams are out of the running for the playoffs in midseason? Why do fans curse at a bad swing for a strikeout, a dropped pass that would have been a sure touchdown, or a blocked shot that leads to a fast-break jam on the other end of the court? She says this behavior is hypocritical. You should always—ALWAYS—support your team and its players, no matter what.

I try to explain to her that most fans boo and curse because they feel strong competitive passion for their teams, and poor play is disappointing. It is rare, I say, for the classy sports fan to boo when his or her team is really trying. Likewise, a sophisticated fan will usually not boo a player unless the player has long failed to live up to an expensive contract or failed to play to his potential. As for not watching a poorly performing team, that’s the competitive spirit at work again. People are less likely to want to watch a team that has no chance to win a championship. After all, isn’t that why we watch in the first place? To see our teams win? But one can curse and boo and watch fewer games out of frustration with a team and still continue to love the team. At least, I think so.

So we’ll have to see what happens to my loyalties over the years I spend in Seattle. Will I end up leaving the A’s for the Mariners? Will the Seahawks replace the Dolphins as my second-favorite football team? Five years down the line, who knows?

Does anyone out there have an opinion on this? If so, I’d love to hear it! Do you think it should be simple to change allegiances from a team you have rooted for over a period of years to the team in your new hometown? Or would some of you stick with your old teams, no matter where you go? What’s your thinking behind your reasoning? Inquiring meatheads want to know!

SEASONINGS: So after all my notes this season about how Colorado was hanging tough in the NL West, who’d really have thought the God Squad would have made it to the World Series? Even though the Red Sox are up 2–0 heading into Game 3, I have to hand it to the Rockies for overcoming so much adversity to make it so far. But if God is really watching them, what purpose could he have in helping them get all the way to the World Series and then letting them lose? Seems pretty fishy to me! (Or is a comeback just around the corner…?)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bye Bye Bobblehead!

Barry Bonds is whining again. This time he’s complaining about the fact that the San Francisco Giants let him go. He said that the Giants would have already won a World Series championship if he was the team owner. He also said that San Francisco fans are his “family,” yet I have seen the man snub fans on several occasions with my own two eyes. If they’re his family, it’s a dysfunctional one.
The fact is that releasing Barry Bonds when they did was a very astute move by the Giants. With his bloated salary, huge head and enormous ego, Bonds had become a major liability in the City by the Bay.
Many of my friends who used to be big Barry supporters will now admit that it was time for him to hit the road. He will be more valuable to an American League team anyway – somewhere he can play Designated Hitter. Bonds needs a fresh start in a new city where the fans aren’t accustomed to his antics yet.
This appeared today on www.cbssportsline.com
The 43-year-old home run king heard a long list of his accomplishments read during a special speaking forum Wednesday night hosted by the Commonwealth Club, then was asked by KGO Radio host Ray Taliaferro if he had really reached all those feats.
Fourteen All-Star game selections. A record seven NL MVPs. Eight Gold Glove awards.
"I did, and then I got fired," Bonds told a group of about 450 people in the audience. "Shame on me, huh?"
Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron's home run record with No. 756 on Aug. 7, was told last month by Giants owner Peter Magowan he would not be brought back for a 16th season in San Francisco.
Bonds, dressed in a dark suit jacket and tie, entered to a roaring standing ovation and repeatedly drew loud applause from an adoring crowd through the nearly 90-minute forum. They chanted, "Barry! Barry!" One person hollered, "We love you." Others took pictures on cell phone cameras or sported shirts with Bonds' No. 25.
Yes, this was a glorified pep rally in a swanky downtown San Francisco hotel featuring five ovations and two of those standing -- for a star baseball player who didn't even stick around when his team paid tribute to him with a video presentation during the final home game of the season. Outside the ballroom where he spoke, Game 1 of the World Series between the Red Sox and Rockies at Fenway Park showed on a TV.
"I don't have fans in San Francisco -- this is my family," said Bonds, who used to bounce around the clubhouse at Candlestick Park as a boy while hanging out with his late father, Bobby, and Hall of Fame godfather Willie Mays.
When Taliaferro asked about Bonds' many splash-hit home runs, the slugger replied, "They call it McCovey Cove, but I've rewritten it a little bit."
That part of San Francisco Bay beyond the right field arcade of the Giants' waterfront ballpark is named for Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
Bonds, who just completed his 22nd major league season, has 762 career home runs. Taliaferro read select questions from members of an audience that included actor Danny Glover, one asking Bonds whether he would play for $5 million and bat fifth for San Francisco if that were an option for 2008.
"I told Peter Magowan, 'If I'm a part-time player, I'm still better than your full-time player, and it's a wise idea to keep me,' " Bonds said.” We still have time. Things might change."
Bonds also said that if he were running the franchise, the Giants would have won a World Series by now. They fell five outs short in 2002, and one thing the slugger is still missing on his remarkable resume is a championship ring.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

So Joe Torre’s a goner in New York. The Yankees blew this one. How could they imagine that anyone else—Don Mattingly, Tony LaRussa, Joe Girardi, anyone—could have a better chance than Torre to take the Yankees back to the World Series? Although Yankee-hating is a passion of mine, I admire and respect Torre and can only hope that he goes to a team I like after this. And I have a feeling the Yankees may fall on their collective face a bit for the next year or two while they try to get over the loss of a surefire Hall of Fame manager who deserved a better shot to stay on.
I firmly believe, even though the Yankees organization denies it, that the team made Torre an offer they knew he was going to refuse. I saw an article by columnist John Harper in today’s New York Daily News that expressed my view perfectly. Whaddya think?

Yankees did not have the guts to fire Joe Torre
by John Harper

The Yankees probably think they played this just right, but they aren’t fooling anybody here. It’s obvious they didn’t want Joe Torre back, no matter what they’re saying. They just didn’t have the guts to fire him.

So now we know what the new Yankee hierarchy was doing for two days in Tampa: coming up with an exit strategy that Hank and Hal Steinbrenner apparently thought would leave no blood on their hands.

At least George Steinbrenner took the heat for his notorious firings over the years, no matter how illogical some of them might have been. The fact that he wasn’t heard from at all during this “process,” as GM Brian Cashman repeatedly called it, is surely the most telling sign of all that the old Boss is gone for good as Yankee fans knew him.

Instead, the Yankees came up with an offer they had to know that Torre would either find insulting or see as a set-up—or both. If they were going to offer him a salary that cuts his pay by one-third—players’ salaries can’t be cut more than 20%—then at the very least, they had to offer him a two-year deal.

It’s not that the $5 million Torre turned down isn’t plenty of money—that’s just not the point. A one-year deal, especially after Steinbrenner’s public threat to fire him, was, at best, the Yankees telling the world they didn’t have a better alternative.

You can’t do that to any manager, especially the highest-profile manager in baseball who is expected to lead a locker room full of superstar egos and huge salaries. Players surely would have seen it as a complete lack of confidence, and no matter how much they may respect Torre, such a perception could erode any manager’s ability to lead.

As for the contract incentives, based on winning in October, there’s a reason no team has ever done that before: it’s ridiculous. What, Torre is going to try harder to win playoff games with an extra million riding on each round?

How could the Yankees, of all organizations, make this about money, anyway? This is a franchise that overpays for or plain wastes money away every winter on players such as Kyle Farnsworth, Kei Igawa and Jaret Wright, to name a few of the most blatant examples of recent years.

Don’t mistake this as a Poor, Poor Joe slant. It’s about handling a difficult situation with the kind of class with which Torre managed the Yankees for 12 years.

On that count, the Yankees couldn’t have done worse. If they wanted him out, based on early playoff exits the last three years, that was their right, even if it’s ignoring the more difficult task of making the playoffs every year, especially this year.

Indeed, if the Rockies’ berth in the World Series isn’t proof enough that MLB is moving more and more toward NFL-style parity, consider that the Yankees are the only one of the eight playoff teams this season who made it to October last year, never mind the last 12 under Torre.

And for this, the brass offers him one year? How did this make sense? Emasculating Torre was somehow going to make him a better manager in October?

So it looks very calculated. And whatever role Hank and Hal Steinbrenner played in this, maybe they could justify it as somehow following the wishes of their father, but surely Cashman had to be embarrassed by the way this played out.

Unless he too wanted Torre out. There were indications this season that after all his years as a Torre supporter, Cashman wouldn’t have minded a change himself.

The Joba Chamberlain rules were one obvious example that he didn’t trust Torre with one of his prized young pitchers, and his public criticism of how openly Torre talked about those rules was a sign of friction.

It’s well-known around the Yankees that Cashman had become a devotee of statistics, to the sabermetrics philosophy of building a ballclub. Whether he wanted a manager in that mold, nobody knows for sure, but knowing Torre better than anyone else involved in this decision, he had to know the manager would walk away from this.

How could any of the Yankees bigwigs think that after everything Torre has endured in recent years, from last year’s near-firing, to Steinbrenner’s humiliating threat two weeks ago, to 10 days of indecision, he could accept such an offer?

And if they truly did want him back, thinking he was still the best man for the job, how were they not willing to even negotiate with him?

And how is it that, after two days of hiding from the media, they organized a conference call with New York reporters by about the time Torre was getting into a cab to go back to the airport?

No, the Yankees didn’t want Torre back, and he was smart enough to realize it. So he goes out with his dignity while the Yankees look small for letting it end this way. Better that they’d had the guts to fire him.


SEASONINGS: Well, so far in the NFL, I was wrong about one thing for sure. I guess it was wishful thinking on my part to think that the Giants would tank this year, leading to the unceremonious dumping of head coach Tom Coughlin. Not that I want the G-men to do poorly—far from it! But I’m no fan of Coughlin, and I just didn’t think the players were buying into his system. Turns out, they are! Steve Spagnuolo’s attacking defense has turned into a force to be feared. The pass rush is ferocious, and rookie corner Aaron Ross adds a dimension to the defensive backfield not seen in years around Big Blue—someone who actually can make an interception! If QB Eli Manning can just settle down behind his terrific offensive line, he has too many weapons for the Giants not to score points.

Which in a roundabout way brings me to my next point. (Wait for it, wait for it….) I said that the Cowboys were probably the best team in the NFC, but that the powers in the AFC would treat them like chaff to be blown away in the wind. Now, after New England’s 48–27 thumping of Dallas last week, does anyone believe me? So I was right about this—except…

The Giants are rounding into a solid team this year. Looking ahead to the Dallas–New York rematch on November 11, the Giants play the 49ers and Dolphins before that meeting, and the Cowboys play Minnesota and Philadelphia. There is every chance that this could be a meeting between a Cowboys team that is 7–1 or 6–2 against a surging Giants team that could be 6–2. I think that this game will determine who will win the NFC East, and the winner, along with the Packers, could be considered the best in the conference.

Of course, no matter who is the best in the NFC, I still think they would get thrashed by either the Patriots or Colts.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Interview with Ed Mayer, the Other "Mr. Cub"




Ed Mayer played for the Chicago Cubs for two years, in 1957 and 1958. A San Francisco native and a Lowell High School graduate, he won the MVP award in a high-school all-star game played at Seals Stadium and received the trophy from none other than Babe Ruth himself. Mayer made his pitching debut against the New York Giants and gave up two home runs – one to Willie Mays and the other to Hank Sauer. They were the only dingers he would ever surrender. After playing for the University of California, Mayer played in the minors with the Cardinals, Red Sox and Cubs, with stops in C, B, A, AA, AAA, Mexico and Cuba before making it to the major leagues. After his baseball career came to and end, Mayer worked for 25 years as a teacher. He currently lives in San Anselmo, California and enjoys playing the piano, traveling throughout the world and designing crossword puzzles.

A UFO sighting in the minor leagues: “This is a great incident, and don’t think I’m crazy, because I am not crazy, believe me, and it’s been verified by so many people. We were in Class B ball, or C ball, in Georgia in either ’54 or ’55, I forget which. And it’s a night game, and I’m in the third base dugout. And we’re just watching a guy on the other team warming up. And, all of a sudden, this round disc comes over the stadium – silent, about 200 feet up maybe, spinning slowly, red, white and blue lights. And I said to the guy next to me – do you see what I see? He said, “Yeah! Holy cow! What is it?” We were just enthralled looking at it, and it stayed there silently for about 10 or 15 seconds, looking down, obviously – because they were right above the pitcher’s mound. And then all of a sudden, it went out of sight in about 3 seconds. With no sound, just pfffft…just like that! And right now today, we don’t have the capability of doing what that thing did. That was a UFO. It was absolutely unbelievable. In fact, after it happened, I even went over to the left field corner and asked somebody, “Did you see that?” and they said “Yeah.” Then, I went over to the right field corner and asked somebody else, and they said, “Yeah.” It was for sure. So, I am a believer now. That made me a believer.”

A HR to Willie Mays: “I gave up just two home runs in my career – to Willie Mays and Hank Sauer, both in my very first game against the Giants. And when they hit them, I said to myself – that’s it; nobody else is going to hit a home run off me. And nobody did. I remember the Mays home run like it was yesterday. It was the first inning and I got the first two guys out and Mays stepped up to the plate. I said to myself, I know who Willie Mays is, I’ve heard of him, but so what? So, I threw the ball, and he hit a line drive which I thought would either be caught by the center fielder or hit the wall, but it went straight up into the stands – a rope. The guy’s a great hitter. The best hitter I ever played against, that’s for sure. Frank Robinson, Stan Musial – they were good. But, Mays is the best I ever saw.”

Racism in the minor leagues: “We were going through Georgia on a bus, and we pulled over to get some gas. I was in the low minors – “A” ball. So the whole team gets out of the bus, and we walk up to a Coke machine. We line up, and everyone was getting sodas, and Earl Wilson, one of our black players, was in line right in front of me, just waiting his turn. He went to put his nickel in – it was a nickel back then – and the gas station attendant came out and pointed a gun at Wilson, and said, “No n—r is going to buy a Coke out of my machine.” And Wilson wasn’t used to this kind of treatment, because he was from San Diego. And I sure wasn’t used to it being from San Francisco. I mean, we had black players in high school and we never thought about it. It was never a big deal. And so I grabbed Wilson by the shoulders, and I turned him around and pushed him back on that bus. I told him that I would buy him the Coke. And I bought two Cokes and gave him one. The sad thing is that that guy with the rifle probably could have gotten away with shooting him and then said that he had done something to him, because that’s what was going on down in the South back then. I saw racism a lot in baseball, even against me, because I’m Jewish. When I was at spring training with the Cubs, I was told that I couldn’t go into a place called the Olympic Club in Phoenix, because I was Jewish. They told me I couldn’t go in there. In AAA, when I was with Omaha in 1956, a fan yelled a bunch of racist stuff at me while I was pitching, calling me “Jew Boy” and things like that.”


When the game was pure: “I played in an era when nobody was taking anything. I never saw one pill or anything. Never saw anyone ever taking any pills. The players looked normal back then. You look at Ernie Banks. You look at Stan Musial – any of the old guys – they looked normal. Their arms and their bodies looked normal. Not all beefed up like they are today, like Sammy Sosa. There’s no doubt these guys are doing something. It’s bad for baseball, because it’s illegal, it’s no good, it’s not fair and I believe that when Bonds breaks the record it will be tainted. It’s a shame. No one was cheating when I played. I never looked at anyone back then and thought, ‘Wow, he looks different.’”







Monday, October 15, 2007

Colorado Rocks Baseball World

The Colorado Rockies are the big story of baseball’s postseason. If you would have told me a month ago that this team would win 20 of 21 games and be one win away from playing in the World Series at this point, I would have checked to see what you were smoking.
I cannot remember the last time a team has done what the Rockies have accomplished. They’re a shoo-in for the World Series at this point. I just cannot see them losing four straight to an embattled and obviously very tired Arizona Diamondback’s team.
Colorado has a perfect mix of seasoned vets and young, hungry players. They’re not hitting the cover off the baseball, but they are doing just enough to win ballgames. They are not great, but they’re good enough – and that’s all that matters.
One thing they do have is team chemistry – something the Yankees, Mets and Cubs lacked. The Rockies enjoy just being around each other and play like a team. You won’t find any selfish, self-centered, big-headed guys on this team.
And now that it appears as though the American League Championship Series could go 6 or 7 games, the Rockies look even stronger. If they can sweep the D-Backs or win it in 5 games, they’ll be able to rest all their starting pitchers and won’t have to change their rotation one iota.
It will be tough to beat either Boston or Cleveland – but, if any team can do it, my money is on the red-hot Colorado Rockies.
(This appeared on www.cbssportsline.com last night:)
DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies were one strike away from not even making the playoffs. Now, they're one win away from their first World Series. With a cold rain falling, Josh Fogg shut down Arizona's bats in his first postseason start and Yorvit Torrealba hit a tiebreaking three-run homer to fuel the Rockies' 4-1 victory Sunday night in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series.
MVP hopeful Matt Holliday also homered as the wild-card Rockies took a 3-0 lead with their 20th win in 21 games, a streak that has taken Colorado from afterthoughts to the buzz of baseball.
"Tomorrow we're going to come here just like we have been doing," Torrealba said. "We're going to relax, watch TV, and when it's time to play, we're going to try to get one more win."
And not think about their first World Series until then. "No, no, no, no, I'm not thinking about that," insisted the face of the franchise, Todd Helton, whose decade of disappointment has disappeared in one of the most incredible winning streaks in baseball history.
"We're still focused on the task at hand." About two weeks ago, the Rockies had no control over whether they'd even make the playoffs.
The San Diego Padres could've eliminated Colorado on the final Saturday of the regular season. But Milwaukee's Tony Gwynn Jr. hit a tying, two-out, two-strike triple off San Diego's Trevor Hoffman that gave the Rockies a chance.
The next day, Colorado caught the Padres. The night after that, the Rockies beat San Diego in a 13-inning, NL wild-card tiebreaker.
Since then, the Rockies have been unbeatable.
Arizona, which has scored just four runs in the series so far, must win four consecutive times against a Rockies team that is the first since the 1935 Chicago Cubs to win at least 20 of 21 games after Sept. 1, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
They haven't looked back, sweeping past Philadelphia and taking the first three against Arizona.
They will try to sweep the Diamondbacks on Monday night when Franklin Morales faces Arizona's Micah Owings in a matchup of rookies who have never faced each other's teams.
The Rockies, who this season set a major league record for fielding percentage, turned three double plays in the first three innings.
"When you can take the sting out of them early ... I think it helped our confidence," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team to overcome a 3-0 hole to win a best-of-7 postseason series. Boston did it in the ALCS against the Yankees.
"Until they win four and we can't win four at once. We've just got to get one on the board first," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "That's what we've been trying to do all year."
Torrealba connected in the sixth inning, three pitches after watching one of Livan Hernandez's trademark "eephus" offerings poke across the plate for a strike -- so slow it didn't register on the stadium scoreboard radar.
Hernandez said he knew better than to throw an inside fastball to his buddy that he played with in San Francisco, but he had used all the pitches in his bag of tricks.
"It's the last pitch I want to throw," Hernandez said. "Yorvit is one of my best friends in baseball and I know he can handle the fastball inside very good. It's just the situation. I'd thrown everything: foul, foul. I know he can hit the fastball inside. Trust me, and he hit it out."
After a 60 mph bender that he fought off for a foul, Torrealba hit a fastball 402 feet into the left-field seats, then raced around the bases pumping his fists and hooting and hollering.
"He worked me really well all season long. He tried to throw me a fastball inside, and it stayed over the plate and I hit it really good," Torrealba said.
Torrealba, who is 8-for-21 in the playoffs with seven RBI, nearly had a home run in the third when he doubled off the center-field wall. The stadium's pyrotechnics operator thought it was gone and set off some fireworks as Torrealba pulled into second base.
The real fireworks came three innings later from Torrealba, who had just eight home runs in the regular season.
"One pitch, one bad pitch all night," lamented D-Backs catcher Miguel Montero.
"That's kind of been the theme of this series so far. They've gotten that one big hit where we haven't," Melvin said.
Holliday's homer in the first inning was the first by either team in this series. Hernandez fell to 7-3 lifetime in the playoffs, allowing four earned runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Fogg, who won Game 2 of the division series over Philadelphia in relief of Morales, scattered seven hits, including rookie Mark Reynolds' solo home run in the fourth, in six stellar innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out three.
With the game time temperature hovering at 43 degrees -- and quickly dipping into the 30s -- and a light drizzle falling, the crowd showed up wearing fleece jackets, gloves, wool caps and scarves, looking like they were headed for the ski slopes west of Denver, where it was indeed snowing.
Even Montero wore a ski cap beneath his catcher's helmet. It was only fitting that the Rockies sent a pitcher named Fogg to the mound to deal with the elements in the first NLCS game in Denver in franchise history. The Rockies have not lost since Sept. 16, and this win at Coors Field was their ninth consecutive victory overall.
A cool drizzle fell all day and continued into the evening. The grounds crew didn't even remove the tarp until an hour before the game. In between innings, they brought out bags of dry dirt to keep the infield from getting too slick. In the fifth, the crews poured a wheelbarrow full of "diamond dust" around home plate.
The TV broadcast mentioned how the grounds crew ran out of the quick-dry dirt and started calling around. They said they found some in a warehouse and showed a truck rolling up to the stadium with extra bags.
Holliday, with only two other hits in this series, neither of which left the infield, put Colorado ahead 1-0 in the first inning with a high drive. Left fielder Eric Byrnes crashed into the wall chasing the ball, much to the delight of the crowd that razzed him every chance they got.
Forty-eight hours earlier, Byrnes suggested the Rockies were a lucky bunch who had actually been outplayed by the Diamondbacks in this series.
Although that drew the ire of the fans, Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said there was some truth to Byrnes' comments "and they can outplay us all four games.
If we end up winning the series, I'll be fine with that." Reynolds hit a 422-foot solo shot in the fourth to tie it at 1-all, sending a first-pitch breaking ball from Fogg halfway up into the left-field seats to quiet the sellout crowd of 50,137.
Jeremy Affeldt threw the seventh, Brian Fuentes the eighth and Manny Corpas the ninth for his fourth save of the playoffs. In Game 2 at Arizona, Corpas blew a save chance in the ninth inning.
The Rockies are trying for their first NL pennant in the franchise's 15-year history, and history appears solidly on their side.
"Nothing has gone our way so far," Byrnes said. "For whatever reason, that's the way it's been."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Those of you who read my column regularly must notice that I rarely devote any ink to the NBA. I mean, I will write some things about basketball, but compared to baseball and football, hoops just doesn’t take up much of my time.

But believe it or not, I used to be a big basketball fan. Ten to fifteen years ago, when I was still living on the East Coast, I would tune in to the New York Knicks every chance I got. In the 1990s, the Knicks were a pretty darned good team. True, they never won a championship, but with a changing core of role players around Patrick Ewing in the middle (Derek Harper, Anthony Mason, John Starks, Charlie Ward, Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson, and above all, Charles Oakley), the Knicks were sure to compete hard with the best teams in the league, and they made the playoffs every year. Sure, some of these guys were Bible thumpers (Houston, Ward), while others were as unsavory as you could get (Mason, Sprewell), but the point is that these disparate personalities could come together and still play hard as a team each night. Coaches Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy preached defense, defense, defense, and if this was a fairly ugly way to win basketball games, the New York fans didn’t seem to mind. After all, defense has been preached in New York sports as long as I can remember. The Knicks’ rivalries with teams like Miami and Indiana only made the games into better theater than they already were on the New York stage.

Unfortunately for Knicks fans, ever since 2001, when owner James Dolan took over the basketball operations of his club, the Knicks have become the laughingstock of the NBA, and indeed, of all professional sports. Although I actually detest devoting my column to berating the Knicks as much as I hate covering Barry Bonds, there is so much evidence of corruption and looking the other way while crimes are being committed in both these cases that I feel like I have to say something.

Dolan has ruined the Knicks—possibly forever. His complete loyalty to coach/VP of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas is astonishing, especially after Thomas was found guilty last week of sexually harassing fellow Madison Square Garden employee Anucha Brown Sanders. Dolan’s belief in Isiah’s innocence can mean one of two things: 1) that Dolan is a complete idiot who has his head buried up his own behind, or 2) that Dolan promotes this sort of behavior at the Garden himself and therefore sees nothing wrong with it. Of course, I choose 3) which is both.

So far, Thomas, with Dolan’s approval, has displayed no talent whatsoever in putting together a Knicks team worthy of saying it is part of the NBA. All he has done is put the team further and further over the salary cap by taking on long-term expensive contracts for players who are not worth it, keeping the team from having any flexibility to sign players who might actually help. Big busts of the Zeke era include Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson, Luc Longley, Travis Knight, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, and everyone’s favorite, Jerome James. Even though he was never a potential superstar, James is a bust of Ryan Leaf–like proportions—he received $30 million for five years but has essentially played for just half the season the past two years. His conditioning is always an issue—his nickname is “Big Snacks.” This is a 7-footer who has career averages of 4.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks a game. I bet there are guards a foot shorter who have better statistics in all three of these categories.

Who on this Knicks team can play? Stephon Marbury? Yikes! The only thing Marbury has done for anyone is create his inexpensive line of sneakers for kids. Don’t get me wrong, that was a noble project. But after hearing how crass and unfeeling Marbury was during his testimony for the sexual harassment lawsuit—and after Marbury admitted in court that he had sex with an MSG intern outside a strip club (he’s married)—it’s hard to believe Marbury participated in the sneaker company for any other reason than to try to improve and promote his own image. Marbury is a poor leader on and off the court, self-serving and self-centered—a point guard who never met a shot he didn’t like (or take)! Eddy Curry? There is no question that Curry has improved under Isiah’s tutelage, but he is still perceived as soft and doesn’t get the calls in the post that a premier big man should get. Jamal Crawford? Crawford has some talent, but he still takes too many unadvisable shots, and he will never be able to lead as long as Marbury is scowling at him across the court or the locker room. Zach Randolph is an unknown quantity for New York at this point, but he has the potential to be as big a bust as any.

So now, between Thomas and Dolan, they have not only trashed the product, since the Knicks haven’t won a meaningful (read “playoff”) basketball game in six years, they have destroyed the public perception of the team as a classy franchise and turned off millions of fans, particularly those who think sexual harassment is unacceptable. Why anyone would go to MSG this season to take in a basketball game is beyond me. (The same thing goes for hockey, as far as I’m concerned—especially in light of the approaching court date for the sexual harassment suit against MSG brought by Courtney Prince, who used to be part of the Rangers’ dance team.)

The Knickerbockers are supposed to be one of the NBA’s flagship franchises! The NBA could be making a lot more money if the Knicks were a good team—or at least perceived as respectable. No offense meant, but I’d guess a Knicks–Lakers finals would bring in a lot more dough than Spurs–Cavaliers, even with Tim Duncan and LeBron James playing in the latter. (Lucky for the league, but bad for the Knicks, Danny Ainge has gone and made another flagship franchise, the Celtics, a true contender for the first time in ages, adding Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett alongside Paul Pierce.)

Yet Commissioner David Stern is doing nothing to the men responsible for bringing such unwanted attention on the Knicks and the rest of the league. Stern was the commissioner who ushered in the eras of Magic, Bird, and Jordan, creating unprecedented interest in and success for the NBA. Now, in the era of me-first hoops and players who are thuggish gangbangers, Stern is essentially saying that it’s okay for one of the NBA’s most prominent figures to sexually harass someone while working for one of its teams. Repulsive! If the NBA didn’t have an image problem already, this would cement it!

The Knicks’ downfall has coincided with some of the changes in the NBA that have hurt its image. The game has turned into slam dunks and three-pointers on offense, with little ball movement or employment of the “hit-the-open-man” strategy promoted by such great coaches as Red Holzman back in the day. It is all too common these days see players hoisting up bricks or jamming it off the back of the rim without even taking the opportunity to run a play. In addition to a stagnant, uninteresting style of offense, many players no longer know how to defend or rebound—when they are trying to guard their own basket, a lot of guys just stand around and watch the other team’s star player go one-on-one with whoever is guarding him. Has anyone even heard of help defense? The players are completely out of touch with their fan base and care only about their money and their egos. And I can’t forget that the officiating of NBA games is now under a cloud after the huge scandal recently where referee Tim Donaghy was accused of fixing games and passing along inside information for gambling purposes.

So—that’s why I rarely write about basketball these days, unless it’s to scoff at something. Isiah Thomas is a good coach, but not so great that he should get a free pass to move forward after all the negativity he has brought upon the Knicks. He deserves to be punished by Stern and fired by Dolan. While Zeke is with the team, even if the Knicks start winning, I’m not sure I could support them wholeheartedly anymore. Additionally, Dolan himself needs to go—the Knicks need an owner who either truly knows the game or will hire someone who does and keep hands off. And until the NBA takes steps to improve its product and its chemistry with its fans, why should I watch anyway? I realize that baseball and football are far from perfect themselves, but at least my favorite teams in these sports haven’t gone down the drain the way the New York Knicks have in the last half-decade.

Is it End-of-Story for Joe Torre?


Will George Steinbrenner fire Joe Torre after losing in the AL Division Series to the Cleveland Indians? Georgie Porgie said that Torre was gone if the Yankees didn’t come back and win the series, which they lost in four games, but was it an idle threat or just a lame attempt to rally the troops?

George and Joe are very different people, in my opinion. The fact that they’ve been working together for so long is amazing, I believe.

The two men possess very disparate qualities -- Torre is a class act and a wonderful human being. Steinbrenner is a slime ball.

Torre has established throughout the years that he is a compassionate, respectful and thoughtful human being. Steinbrenner has a reputation for being a conniving, loudmouthed bully who uses his money and power to get whatever he wants.

Joe should just walk away from the Yankees. He’s won world championships and will probably end up in the Hall of Fame for what he’s achieved as a manager. What more does he have to prove?

This appeared in the New York Times earlier this week:

In his news conference late Monday night, Joe Torre tried to dissect another Yankees playoff loss and explain what it meant for his future. Watching on a television in the manager’s office as Torre choked up, the coaches struggled with what they were seeing.
“Joe treats everybody with respect, whether you’re a batboy, a coach or a trainer,” said Larry Bowa, the third-base coach. “He does everything the right way. What he has to go through, after all that he’s done, it doesn’t seem right. But we’ve all been in baseball for a long time. That’s the process.”
The painful process of parting with a manager was enough to make Bowa and the others teary on Monday. A day later, as the coaches and some players packed up their lockers at Yankee Stadium, Torre was a no-show and George Steinbrenner, the principal owner, was silent.
His only statement came through his publicist, Howard Rubenstein, who said Steinbrenner was flying home to Tampa, Fla., and had nothing to say for now. Steinbrenner will seek opinions on whether to offer Torre a new contract, but his public decree before Game 3 of the division series — that Torre would lose his job if the Yankees lost the series to Cleveland — resonates.
If Steinbrenner lets Torre go, as expected, most people around the team believe the front-runner to succeed him is the bench coach, Don Mattingly. Others believe Joe Girardi has a chance, and Tony La Russa — like Lou Piniella last year — is the biggest name on the managerial free-agent market.
Mattingly yesterday would not directly address whether he would want Torre’s job, but he said he had always made it clear that he would like a chance to manage. Yet he knows that replacing Torre, his close friend who won four World Series, would be an extraordinary challenge.
“I would think it’s like following John Wooden or somebody,” Mattingly said yesterday. “The guy’s won championship after championship, and he’s in the playoffs every year. It’s pretty much a no-win situation for someone to come in here and be able to experience what he’s done. It’s not going to happen. So as far as coming in here and taking on that job, it’s not necessarily a great situation.”
Girardi was Torre’s bench coach in 2005 before taking over the Florida Marlins and winning the National League Manager of the Year award. He clashed with management and was fired, but he is still widely respected, especially by General Manager Brian Cashman.
When Steinbrenner wanted to fire Torre last fall, Cashman interceded and saved Torre’s job. Torre had a year remaining on his contract then, but the deal is up now, and Cashman would not say if he would still recommend Torre.
“I’m not going to comment, in fairness to the process, until I have a chance to sit down with ownership,” Cashman said yesterday, adding later of Steinbrenner: “He’s always picked the manager here. Obviously, I had a great deal of input in last year’s process, so we’ll see. You can’t get ahead of the process.”
The Yankees are planning their annual organizational meetings, and before he left for Tampa, Steinbrenner’s son Hank, a senior vice president, told The Associated Press that no decisions had been made.
“I really do like Joe a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of admiration for him.”
Torre stayed at his home in Westchester County yesterday, speaking by phone with Cashman, Mattingly and others. Torre contacted the Yankees’ media relations director, Jason Zillo, because photographers were camped on his lawn, even though he had pleaded for privacy in his news conference.
The idea of La Russa replacing Torre would seem to appeal more to the vintage Steinbrenner, who craved the biggest name, than the Steinbrenner of today. La Russa’s contract with the St. Louis Cardinals is also expiring, and the Cardinals are without a general manager.
“You know how rumors are; anyone can start one,” said outfielder Shelley Duncan, whose father, Dave, is La Russa’s pitching coach. “Even my dad would tell you there is nothing substantial until action starts to take place. None of that has happened. Joe is our manager.”
Steinbrenner, 77, has a warm spot for ex-Yankees and has always held Mattingly, a former Yankees captain, in high regard. Four years ago, he called Mattingly at his farm in Evansville, Ind., making a personal appeal for him to coach the Yankees’ hitters after eight years of retirement.
When Mattingly was given the bench coach job last October, after Lee Mazzilli was dismissed, he was seen as the clear heir to Torre. Players believe Mattingly would have a similar style.
“He’s got a great baseball mind,” first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. “He and Joe were both great players. Sometimes you lose how hard this game really is, but Joe and Donnie didn’t lose that. Usually, the longer it is since you played, the better player you were and the easier the game was to you. But with those guys, they never make you feel like they’re talking down to you.”
Mientkiewicz and the other players who showed up yesterday expressed support for Torre, praising him for steering the Yankees to the postseason after a 21-29 start. Mientkiewicz revealed that Torre “let us have it” during a team meeting in Toronto in May, just before the turnaround began, and another first baseman, Andy Phillips, said he could not contemplate the Yankees without Torre.
“I refuse to think that way right now,” Phillips said. “I won’t let that thought enter into my mind.”
Most important, of course, is how seriously that thought is bouncing around the brain of Steinbrenner, who must decide — officially — whether to part with the most popular and successful manager he has had.
“His reign so far here has been terrific,” Cashman said of Torre. “You’d sign up for it right now, if you could find that. It’s been magical and it’s been incredible through ’07. What goes on going forward, in ’08 and beyond, is the discussion topic on the tabl

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Marion Jones Stops Running From the Truth

Marion Jones has finally come clean, but it’s too little too late, in my opinion. After years of angry denials, Marion Jones is ready to admit she doped.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., on Friday to plead guilty to charges in connection with steroid use, a federal law enforcement source told The Associated Press.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, and would not provide specific details about the plea.
Jones also sent family and close friends a letter in which she said she used steroids before the Sydney Games, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The Post was the first to report that Jones would come clean on doping.
Jones has at long last admitted steroid use, because she knew she was caught. If the evidence wasn’t there, she would have never made the admission, I believe. Jones would still be denying, denying, and denying some more, each denial more vehement that the last one, if she wasn’t about to be nailed.
The fact that Jones confessed at this late date is weak, as far as I’m concerned. She’s not being honest because she feels guilty. She’s doing it because the truth would eventually have come out in court. Her lawyers told her that the only way to save face now is to act contrite and step up.
But, after lying for so long, it just makes her look even worse. It’s like when Pete Rose FINALLY admitted betting on baseball after years and years of swearing he didn’t. It’s pathetic and contrived – and I don’t believe the public will buy into it for a minute. Jones would have been better off if she had just stuck to her original story. Now there’s no doubt that she’s not just a liar, but a cheater as well.
"I want to apologize for all of this," the Post reported Jones saying in her letter, quoting a person who received a copy and read it to the paper. "I am sorry for disappointing you all in so many ways."
Jones said in her letter that she faced up to six months in jail and would be sentenced in three months, according to the newspaper.
The admission also could cost Jones the five medals she won in Sydney, where she was the most celebrated female athlete of the games. She didn't win the five golds she wanted, but she came away with three and two bronzes, and her bright smile and charming personality made her a star.
In December 2004, the International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into doping allegations against Jones.
"Progress to date has been slow due the difficulty of gathering findings," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said. "The information that Marion Jones might provide later on today may prove to be key in moving this case forward."
Under statute of limitations rules, the IOC and other sports bodies can go back eight years to strip medals and nullify results. In Jones' case, that would include the 2000 Olympics, where she won gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 1,600-meter relay and bronze in the long jump and 400-meter relay.
In addition to any jail term, Jones could face a long competition ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The International Association of Athletics Federations said it was waiting for official notification from USADA setting out the details of Jones' reported admission.
If she admits to having been on drugs during a specific period, the IAAF could strip Jones of all her medals and results from the world championships and other events from that time. She won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 1999 and 2001 worlds.
"Our rules are clear if she confesses," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said.
No one answered the door at Jones' home in Austin, Texas, Thursday evening, and a message left by the AP for a phone number registered to her husband, Obadele Thompson, was not immediately returned.
The triple gold medalist in Sydney said she took "the clear" for two years, beginning in 1999, and that she got it from former coach Trevor Graham, who told her it was flaxseed oil, the newspaper reported.
"The clear" is a performance-enhancing drug linked to BALCO, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports. Home run king Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi and Detroit Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield all have been linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and were among more than two dozen athletes who testified before a federal grand jury in 2003.
Bonds denied ever knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs, saying he believed a clear substance and a cream, given to him by his trainer, were flaxseed oil and an arthritis balm.
Until now, Jones had denied doping, even suing BALCO founder Victor Conte in 2004 for $25 million. Conte repeatedly accused Jones of using performance-enhancing drugs and said he watched her inject herself.
"It cost me a lot of money to defend myself," Conte said Thursday. "But I told the truth then, and I'm telling it now."
In her letter, Jones said she didn't realize she'd used performance-enhancing drugs until she stopped training with Graham at the end of 2002. She said she lied when federal agents questioned her in 2003, panicking when they presented her with a sample of "the clear," which she recognized as the substance Graham had given her.
"It's funky, because you wanted to believe she was clean," said Jon Drummond, a gold medalist in the 400 relay in Sydney. "It's like that old saying, 'Cheaters never win.' So no matter how glorious or glamorous things look, you'll get caught and pay a price for it.
"It caught me by total surprise," he added. "It's a shock. I thought it was a closed case. It doesn't help track and field at all, except maybe by letting the world know, people always get to the bottom of things. We shouldn't be afraid of the truth, but it's sad it came to this."
Jones' career has been tarnished the last several years by doping allegations against her. In August 2006, a urine sample tested positive for EPO, but Jones was cleared when a backup sample tested negative.
She also was among the athletes who testified before a BALCO grand jury in 2003. Her former boyfriend, Tim Montgomery, also testified, and was given a two-year ban for doping in late 2005. Michelle Collins and Justin Gatlin, who also trained with Graham, were banned for doping violations, too.
Graham has a Nov. 26 trial date after being indicted in the BALCO case last November on three counts of lying to federal agents. Graham, who has pleaded not guilty, helped launch the government's steroid probe in 2003 when he mailed a vial of "the clear" — previously undetectable — to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
A woman who answered the phone at Graham's home in Raleigh, N.C., declined to identify herself, but said Graham was not home before refusing to answer any other questions. There was no answer at the door of Graham's north Raleigh home.
USA Track & Field was not aware of Jones' letter nor any pending legal action, CEO Craig Masback said.
"Anything that exposes the truth about drug use in sport is good for ensuring the integrity of sport," Masback said. "Any use of performance-enhancing substances is a tragedy for the athlete, their teammates, friends, family and the sport."
Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, declined comment on whether Jones would lose her medals until legal proceedings are completed.
"If these reports are true," Seibel said, "it is an admission of responsibility from an athlete who owed her sport and the Olympic movement much better."
Seibel added that "our position on doping is unequivocal. Doping is cheating, and under no circumstance will it be tolerated. If an athlete cheats, they deserve to pay the price for their action."
The Washington Post also reported that, in her letter, Jones said she lied about a $25,000 check given to her by Montgomery, who pleaded guilty in New York in April as part of a criminal scheme to cash millions of dollars worth of stolen or forged checks. He has yet to be sentenced.
Wells, Jones' longtime agent, and Olympian Steve Riddick, another of Jones' former coaches, also were convicted in the scam.
Bank records indicated Jones had received a $25,000 check from one of the alleged conspirators — Nathaniel Alexander who shared office space with Riddick and also was convicted. The check never cleared, according to records, and Jones was never charged.
"Once again, I panicked," the Post reported, quoting Jones' letter. "I did not want my name associated with this mess. I wanted to stay as far away as possible."