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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Or at least he was during the WBC:
Cubs catcher Geovany Soto tested positive for marijuana use while playing for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic last March, the International Baseball Federation announced Thursday.
And before anyone says anything, I am 100% in favor of legalization of marijuana and not just for medical purposes. Why anyone gives a hoot and a half about an occasional joint is beyond me. As for baseball, I only care about reefer insofar as it compels a player to eat too many nachos afterwards, thus causing the guy to be out of game shape.
T.J. Simers doesn't get all of the Manny outrage, but he's not even pretending to be objective about it. In today's column he fields the emails of those angry at him for being a Manny apologist. He doesn't duck the charge at all. For him, it's all about the entertainment factor:
"Your idolatry of Manny is ludicrous," is the way Shirin Patel put it in an e-mail, rewriting an earlier headline in The Times, but hey, if Manny needs me to be his mule so he can keep going like he did a year ago, I'm here for him.
Granted, Simers' schtick is to poke people and see what happens when they're poked, but that doesn't mean that he hasn't got a point here. It ties in with the "Comment of the Day" post from yesterday: No matter how much time some of us spend hashing out the behavior of ballplayers -- and lord knows I do -- these guys are still just entertainers. For the most part, then, the stakes are pretty low. At least if you're not expecting athletes to be role models for kids, which I don't. So when Simers says something like this:
Here's the dilemma, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn later on it led to the split of Jon & Kate: Do you continue to grill, grind and grouse about Manny's reluctance to come clean, or do you revel in the added entertainment he brings to every game? Manny has made a mistake in not appearing more repentant, in not being more forthright, and in not throwing himself on the mercy of Dodgers fans who embraced him unconditionally. But it's not going to happen, so does the grudge become more pressing than the entertainment escape his play provides?
I have to answer "no." Manny is by no means my favorite player in the world, but there's all manner of crap Ramirez could still do that wouldn't keep me from enjoying his game. And if your answer is "yes," -- if you're going to let your problems with Manny outweigh the entertainment of it all -- don't you have to ask yourself if you're really watching baseball for the right reasons in the first place?
Via Sons of Steve Garvey, here's Eric Collins and Steve Lyons during last night's Dodgers-White Sox game:
Lyons: Do you follow some of the other whacked-out statistical categories that are nouveau to the game of baseball?
That's just a taste, my friends. Read the whole transcript and ask yourself whether you would have any chance at keeping your job if you exhibited such hostility to the developments in your field. Not harmless ignorance, people, hostility.
(Thanks to Jon M. for the link)
I don't read the New York tabloids that often, so until YankeeFanLen sent me this link the other day I had never seen any of Bill Gallo's sports cartoons, at least not that I know of.
On one level I appreciate the effort and the artistry involved. And it certainly takes one back to newspaper days of old (really old: check out the dancing girls with the "cha cha" music playing in the background here), so good for Gallo to keep plugging away at this.
But really, can you find much if any difference between these and the "Kelly" cartoons at The Onion? The obvious labels, the obvious (hmmm . . .how should I put this . . .) elder-sensibility. It's right on the nose, isn't it?
Tuck! -- are you in the same union as Gallo? Can you mention to him that ballplayers don't go out cha-cha dancing anymore?
Rangers' outfielder Marlon Byrd is either really brave, really stupid, really trusting or some combination of the three:
Marlon Byrd wouldn’t be pulling down $3 million as a Major League baseball player without getting a second chance from an obscure community college after he nearly had a leg amputated more than a decade ago. So shrugging off Victor Conte’s reputation as a notorious steroid pusher, he says, isn’t difficult for him.
I can't imagine that Victor Conte is so stupid that he would go back to peddling designer steroids to high-profile athletes after doing federal time for that very thing. But still, if you're Marlon Byrd, is teaming up with Conte the smartest thing you've ever done? Byrd's drug tests are probably the highlight of the year back at MLB central. The Feds probably own five houses near Conte's just so they can be more comfortable during surveillance.
All of that said, the article contains all kinds of details about Byrd's relationship with Conte and the stuff he's taking, so it's interesting reading. My only other shallow observation: I don't understand the world of supplements at all, but upon reading this I can't help but wonder how much of that business is about selling confidence and the placebo effect as opposed to these outrageously complicated-sounding compounds actually making a ton of difference from a physiological perspective.
Singer songwriter Todd Snider was on NPR last night, and though I always kind of liked him before, I really, really, like him now. Here he is talking about a song on his new record:
"America's Favorite Pastime" is a song for the unprepared. It was inspired by the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball player Doc Ellis, who, in 1970, pitched a no-hitter under the influence of LSD.
You can hear the whole song here. It's pretty damn spiffy.
Also, in a portion of the interview that didn't air on the program, Snider goes on a bit more about baseball. You can hear it here. Among the highlights:
I guess what I'm saying is that, aside from the musical talent, history of drug abuse and bipolar disorder, Todd Snider and I are the basically the same person.
But definitely listen to that song.
Marlins 5, Orioles 2: Ricky Nolasco has been a completely different pitcher since his little jaunt to New Orleans to get his pyloric valve opened or whatever the hell is was. In his four starts since his return, he's given up two earned runs, two earned runs, one earned run and last night zero earned runs. Good thing too, for if he did not find a job, he no doubt would have been arrested for vagrancy.
White Sox 10, Dodgers 7: Randy Wolf had nada and Cory Wade's "relief" pitching was anything but. By the time they were done it was a 9-3 game that was for all practical purpose over. But this loss is morally justified. I mean, how dare the Dodgers be allowed to play when Manny Ramirez should be suspended? It's a slap in the face, that's what it is. If a kid gets suspended from school, do they not burn the building down as a lesson to others? If a soldier is caught hording rations, do the generals not summarily execute the whole platoon? I know it's in the rules that the Dodgers still get to play ballgames, but it shouldn't be. They should all have their contracts voided and be forced to sell linoleum at Color Tile or something. Won't someone think of the children?
Mets 11, Cardinals 0: Let me get this straight: David Wright -- the guy who went 4 for 4 last night and is sitting at .356/.444/.510 is a guy Mets' fans have been complaining about for a good portion of the season? I'll never understand New York baseball. Cardinals pitchers, by the way, combined to strike out exactly zero Mets.
Rays 7, Phillies 1: Pat Burrell's two-run homer in the second proved to be all of the offense the Rays needed, but he picked up an another RBI anyway. I'm not sure what Phillies' fans think of that, but I'd kind of like to think that they're happy that Matt Stairs is getting some playing time now, which he wouldn't be if Burrell had hung around. Who doesn't root for Matt Stairs?
Pirates 10, Indians 6: Workers on the "Carl Pavano for Comeback Player of the Year" campaign feel today how the folks at the McCain campaign felt the day after the Katie Couric-Sarah Palin interviews aired.
Blue Jays 8, Reds 2: Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Vernon Wells all homered off of Bronson Arroyo in the first and Scott Richmond pitched seven strong innings in what was never really a contest.
Red Sox 6, Nationals 4: Papi went 2-3 with a homer and 3 RBI -- including the 1000th of his career -- as the Red Sox take the second game in this home-away-from-home series (41,000+ once again, and most of 'em weren't Nats' fans). Red Sox' hitting coach Dave Magadan was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. How does that even happen? If you're Francona, don't you tell Magadan to sit down and shut up? Or was it one of those deals where Magadan just called the ump that name you're not allowed to call umps from the dugout?
Brewers 4, Twins 3: Great moments in defensive decision-making: The Twins are ahead 3-2 in the eighth when J.J. Hardy singles and Jason Kendall hits a double scoring Hardy. Except the relay throw skipped by Joe Mauer, so Kendall went to third. Nick Blackburn was backing up Mauer, and rather than just eat the ball and face the pitcher's slot in the order, whips the ball back towards third to try and get the advancing Kendall. Ball goes wide, Kendall goes home, and that's basically the ballgame.
Tigers 5, Cubs 3: That's six straight for Detroit, as they extend their lead to five games over the Twins. Contrary to what I said yesterday, Magglio Ordonez did get the start, and before the game he pulled a Vlad, cutting off his hair. Result: 2-4. Screw science, I say causation, not mere correlation.
Yankees 8, Braves 4: Things were going smoothly for Atlanta until Kawakami was nailed on a comebacker off the bat of Joba Chamberlain. I missed it -- I was reading "Tip-Tip, Dig-Dig" to ShysterBoy at the time -- and I'm kind of glad I did. He was hit on the base of the neck, which as recent history has shown, is a pretty dangerous place to be hit. Jeff Francoeur hit a homer for the Braves, but don't worry, he still sucks.
Royals 4, Astros 3: Miguel Olivo may be on pace for 168 strikeouts against six walks, but he hits a homer once in a while too, and the one he hit in the 11th inning last night won the game.
Rangers 2, Diamondbacks 1: Danny Haren can't buy a break, as he once again pitches well with little run support. The Rangers snap their losing streak at five and remain in first place by the skin of their teeth.
Mariners 4, Padres 3: Brandon Morrow the starter had his longest and best go of it yet (5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4K). Yuniesky Betancourt injured his hamstring and will be out for a while. The game story casts this a negative. I have this feeling some Mariners fans may not feel quite the same way.
Giants 6, A's 3: The Unit, who gave up one run on six hits, struck out six and walked one in seven innings, looks pretty good sandwiched in between Lincecum and Cain these days. I don't know that the Giants have enough offense to get there, but they could be a dangerous team to face in a short series should they snag the Wild Card.
Angels 11, Rockies 3: Just yesterday, Rob Neyer said that Jason Marquis was about to turn into a pumpkin due to his poor strikeout rate. Looks like it's midnight (3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R). Yeah, he struck out four in those 3.1 innings, but it's probably because the Angels were coming out of the shoes to swing at that hittable stuff. Vald-the-bald, by the way: 2-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI. Let's hear it for short hair!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Another outraged column about Manny's rehab assignment, this one from Bill Plaschke. I'm struck by this:
Manny Ramirez playing for the triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes is as weird as the word "isotope." . . . When Manny Ramirez is old and gray and sitting outside the locked doors of Cooperstown, he might reflect on this summer as the best 50 games of his career. Or is it 42 games? Or, really, was he ever gone? It's all Isotopes to me.
Is there a field besides sports writing where it's acceptable to flaunt your ignorance like this? Just checking.
Beyond that, not much new apart from the fact that Plaschke has gone beyond those who are outraged that Manny isn't being punished enough to actually suggesting that Manny is benefiting from his suspension:
During the suspension, Ramirez had reaped all the rewards of being a Dodger without any of the responsibilities.
The dude was fined $7 million for violating a work rule. How that's "reaping the rewards" is beyond me, but Plaschke sure as hell doesn't mention that fact. Would Plaschke be given a proportional penalty if he was found to have committed plagiarism? I kinda doubt it.
What all of these columns seem to boil down to is anger at the fact that there has been no sturm und drang associated with Manny's suspension. That there have been no tears. That there has been no grovelling or self-flagellation. Which is hilarious when you think about it, because for years columnists criticized baseball for first ignoring and then taking an ad-hoc approach to this stuff, comparing it unfavorably to the NFL's orderly and businesslike PED program. The minute baseball actually discovers and penalizes a major star in a drama-free and orderly fashion, however, everyone gets bent out of shape.
I think that, with this comment, J.W. gets at the core of a good third of the baseball debates that go on around here and elsewhere:
I agree that Manny doesn’t deserve adulation or admiration. Neither does A-Rod (for cheating on his wife, etc.) But this brings us to a difficult question regarding entertainment. Can we divorce entertainment from the men and women who play the role of entertainer? Can we like Woody Allen movies and still disapprove of his conduct towards his wife and one-time step-daughter? Can we watch and enjoy Roman Polanski films? Can we listen to Chris Brown’s music? Michael Jackson’s?
I can usually ignore the personal baggage and enjoy the entertainment. Usually. "Chinatown" and "Annie Hall" are two of my favorite movies, but I have a much harder time watching "Manhattan" and "Tess." I guess what that means is that if the performance is really, really good, I'm willing to put aside the baggage. Or heck, maybe it's all just the performance talking because "Chinatown" > "Tess" and I don't know that I need to reference Polanski's issues to not like the latter as much as the former.
But it is worth thinking about. Do those who disapprove of Manny, Manny, Manny (and others) disapprove of the transgression or of the person? Is there even a valuable distinction to be made there? More relevantly, is it possible to enjoy baseball while disapproving of those who play it?
My answer to that last question is an obvious yes, within limits. Steroid use really doesn't bother me that much from an enjoyment-of-the-game perspective. I enjoyed 1998 and 2001 and all of that stuff, and I'm not now going to pretend I didn't. I'd have a hard time watching Roger Clemens pitch today, but that's because of the Mindy McCready business, not the juice. Not that philandering baseball players in general bother me -- no one knows what goes on in anyone's marriage so it's probably best not to judge too harshly unless you have all of the facts -- but Clemens was messing with a kid on an emotional level at the very least.
Let's see what else: I have no tolerance for domestic violence, so the Brett Myers and Bobby Chouniards of the world can die in a fire as far as I'm concerned. Some of my favorite artists and just about all of my favorite writers were drunks, so while I'd wish people wouldn't do that to themselves, it's not going to keep me from enjoying what they do. Pete Rose turned out to be a piece of crap, but if he were playing in 1973 form today and all of that stuff hit the fan I'd enjoy his game until the moment he was banned. Basically, if you avoid violence, cruelty and the mistreatment of kids, I'm probably going to still buy your product even if I wouldn't seek you out at a party.
I guess that still leaves me conflicted about Polanski. But man, there's no way I'm going to give up one of my favorite DVDs. Forget it Jake; it's "Chinatown."
On Monday, I suggested that the Yankees' protest of Sunday's New York-Florida game was a waste of time that, if successful, could cause them more trouble than it would be worth. Yesterday, the league saved the Yankees from themselves.