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Friday, February 13, 2009
The best thing about the major league season are games which are, in and of themselves, meaningless. Wednesday night tilts between teams only marginally in contention, about 17,000 fans enjoying a beer and a game on a nice summer night. We can enjoy them for their own sake without worrying about WHAT IT ALL MEANS, and go to sleep most nights without thinking about difficult things which angry up the blood.
Spring training reporting is a lot like that inasmuch as it is the season when articles that kind of meander around fifteen different subjects and make no real points start popping up everywhere. Reporters are crawling around spring training trying to get their sea legs back and find something to write about, and no matter how silly the results, I always find enjoyment in them, especially at the end of a week like the one we've just had.
The Mets are going to win the World Series because their pitchers like to play golf together? Great. Bring me more. Some guy has four different gloves he's breaking in? Can't get enough. There will be dozens of these kinds of stories over the next few weeks, and I'll enjoy every single one of them no matter how silly they are.
I like important stuff just as much as the next guy, but please, for a little while, deliver us from meaning, baseball. That's your greatest glory, and we thank you for it very, very much.
I probably need to put an end to all steroid-related snark on this blog, because I'm never going to be able to do it better than this.
This morning I posted Jorge Costales' response to my anti-Marlins stuff, and now Will Wilson has a response to Jorge's response, taking specific issue with Jorge's argument that the Marlin Money was designated for entertainment-related purposes to begin with:
Governments (politicians) earmark specific revenue and expenditure streams in order to artificially restrict the universe of available decisions. "We can't dip into that pot of money for the XYZ program. That stream is entirely devoted to ABC." It doesn't have to be so; it is only a bookkeeping fix. In reality, money is money is money.
From an article with the headline "Next generation must restore baseball's purity":
THE DAY after Alex Rodriguez's disillusioning steroids admission, local top baseball prospect Jason Castro was at Canyon Middle School speaking to a group of about 200 youngsters about the importance of education, the rewards of hard work and the dangers of poor associations.
Emphasis supplied. And now some definitional assistance:
Pure: (adjective) 1. free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes; 2. containing nothing that does not properly belong; 3. free from moral fault or guilt;
Sanctity: (noun) 1. holiness of life and character; 2. : the quality or state of being holy or sacred : inviolability
Restore: (transitive verb) 1. to give back; return; 2. to put or bring back into existence or use 3. to bring back to or put back into a former or original state
Someone please point me to a single time in the game's history where purity and sanctity existed, and if you can't, please explain to me how a state of affairs which never existed can possibly be "restored."
The steroid era has brought about enough problems which need to be fixed as it is. Why make the job harder by setting the goal so unreasonably and unprecedentedly high?
Lost in yesterday's let's-strike-Barry-from-the-record-book silliness is the fact that Bud Selig did make an official statement on Alex Rodriguez yesterday:
On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am saddened by the revelations concerning Alex Rodriguez's use of performance-
He seems to have walked things back from those off-the-cuff comments to USA Today, which is a good thing. I guess the lesson here is never let Bud just riff, because he's going to say something stupid if he does.
This statement, in contrast, is not stupid. He (a) reminds those calling for blood that this related to the pre-suspension era, implying that the critics' hopes for suspensions or what have you are misplaced; and (b) notes something which all of the reasonable pundits -- myself included -- have neglected to acknowledge, which is that Rodriguez was wrong to use steroids. Whatever you say about the testing and the union and the blowback and the implications for the future and history and everything else, I think we can all agree that, in an ideal world, no one would be using steroids to enhance performance. No we don't live in an ideal world, but unless you're just a hopeless cynic, I don't think you simply abandon efforts to attempt to attain the ideal. That should be the Commissioner's job, anyway, at least as long as he's somewhat thoughtful and realistic about it. Maybe that's asking too much of Bud himself, but there are a lot of smart people in Major League Baseball who probably spend a lot of time reigning him in.
There's no perfect way to wrap up this saga, and there's certainly nothing that Bud Selig can say that will put an instant end to a long-term problem. But he can remind people that this was a past transgression and that there has been what most people understand to be a reasonable testing regime in place for several years now. History, as messy as it can be, will eventually sort itself out. To the extent there is further discussion about steroids in baseball, it should focus on things like making the testing better, adapting to changes in the doping world and in the legal supplement world, and tackling the big picture philosophical issue of what does and what doesn't constitute illegitimate performance enhancement, because advancements in technology are only going to make this issue thornier.
I've slagged on the Marlins' stadium across a dozen posts by now, so it's probably time I grant some equal time. Here's a comment on my post about this from Wednesday, from the guy who probably knows more about this deal than the dudes who are going to vote on it later today, Jorge Costales:
I suspect that this will not change minds, but the type of public funds to be used for the stadium are tourist-based taxes and are specifically designated for entertainment related purposes. So the stadium is competing with arts and convention centers, not the type of infrastructure improvements you note or the police services noted in the comments. In fact, today’s Miami Herald editorial endorsed the stadium deal.
Jorge, by the way, maintains an excellent blog on the subject, so if this stuff interests you, by all means check it out.
Last year, when Roger Clemens first filed suit, I noted that one of the reasons why defamation lawsuits are suckers' games for the PR-conscious is that so often the outcome is determined by things other than whether the actual statements at issue are true or false. There are many exceptions and nuances to defamation law, and there's a huge and often impossible-to-meet burden of proof when public figures like Clemens are involved. The result: oftentimes even lies, if properly-intentioned or uttered in a certain context, are deemed acceptable under the law.
I'm fine with this, of course, because these exceptions and nuances are what help protect free speech. However, if you're a high-profile defamation plaintiff they can be dangerous, because the general public -- about whose opinion you are concerned -- is very likely to view even a procedural or technical loss as vindication of the allegedly defamatory statement. Put more simply, when it comes to public opinion, it's about wins and losses, and even if a loss is due to something other than who was or wasn't actually lying, the public will deem the loser the liar.
This is what Roger Clemens is about to find out:
A U.S. District judge in Houston dismissed most of Roger Clemens' defamation lawsuit against his former personal trainer Brian McNamee Thursday, agreeing that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear most of the case and that McNamee's conversations with George Mitchell were protected by his immunity deal with the government.
No, the suit is not totally dead, but given that Clemens has learned another hard fact of defamation lawsuits in the past year -- that bringing one often brings one more bad publicity than having let the original defamatory statement lie in the first place -- he would be well-advised to cut his losses and quit now. He's Roger Clemens though, so he'll probably just rub some Icy Hot somewhere, bark at his lawyers and continue fighting on. We need people like that in this country -- you never know when we may be invaded by the Martians or something -- but it won't be a good thing for him personally.
Anyway, assuming things do end here, Clemens is way, way worse off than he would have been had he never started this business to begin with. Despite the fact that nothing in this court's ruling actually establishes that McNamee was telling the truth about Clemens, Clemens' loss on technical grounds will forever be treated by the public as confirmation that he was the liar. And maybe he was the liar -- I'd say the odds are in favor of that -- but if he didn't file this suit he could have at least gone through life informally telling people his side of things and working quietly to rehab his public image.
Such a tack would have been tantamount to a no-decision in which he pitched poorly but no one really blamed him for the ultimate outcome. Those things are forgotten and, rightly or wrongly, aren't held against a guy by the fans at large. Now? There's a big L next to his name, and people will always consider him to be the loser, even if he had no run support and the runs were unearned.
An Ohio court reaches the perfectly reasonable conclusion that an NCAA rule which effectively prohibits a 17 year-old kid from responsibly consulting professionals when trying to determine the course of his future violates the law:
In a landmark decision, an Ohio judge today ruled in favor of Oklahoma State lefthander Andrew Oliver in his lawsuit against the NCAA. Erie County judge Tyge Tone ruled that the NCAA cannot restrict a player’s right to have legal help when negotiating a professional contract and ordered Oliver’s eligibility to be reinstated.
This ruling should come as no surprise considering that the NCAA is wrong about pretty much everything it does. If the rule in question applied to non-athletes, it would prevent a computer science prodigy from speaking to a career counselor before enrolling on an academic scholarship. I have this feeling that such a thing wouldn't be tolerated nearly as long as scores of stupid, self-serving NCAA rules have been tolerated, mostly due to the bogus cult of amateurism it fosters and exploits.
In any event, good for the fine courts of the Great State of Ohio for getting this one right. Let's hope it holds up on appeal.
Mike A. at River Ave. Blues -- who kindly shot me a copy of the decision -- has a take here. He's less pleased about this than I am due to what Scott Boras or someone might do now that this rule is gone. I haven't thought about that aspect too deeply, but it's not as though Boras hasn't been in the living room of every top high schooler anyway, so I'm not sure how this changes anything.
Also, check out The Common Man's take. He believes that the Rule 4 draft may be in peril.
Things to read as you realize that there are some things in life you never would have noticed if they had not first been pointed out to you:
And it's not a softball, Jason. It's, um, an ancient example of a "bat and trap" ball, which shows you just how historically-reverent we here at THT truly are!