Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'll Take Steroids for $250 Million, Alex

The steroids scandal in baseball has been raging in the press lately, and next to political talk radio I listen sports talk radio. Who needs music at my age, anyway?

I want to begin with a statement that I was never a fan of Alex Rodriguez, nor Barry Bonds, nor Roger Clemens, nor Manny Ramirez, though I recognize[d] their talents, and have enjoyed watching their play. I am not defending them becaue I like them, nor because they are or were on a team I root for.

Rather, I feel that the steroids scandal is a prime example of two dynamics: 1) the inherent corruption and incompetence of Bud Selig [the other possible title for this post was "Bring Me the Head of Bud Selig" but I thought better of it], and 2) that sports writers don't actually like sports, and rather, hate sports and are jealous of athletes.

First, it is clear that Bud Selig is a man that has never recognized the gift that he has been given, and rather, has crapped all over being commissioner of baseball from the word go. It was on his watch that there was the STRIKE, where a World Series was not played. World War II didn't stop the World Series. Baseball was going through a self inflicted death spiral. Attendance was down, youth interest was ebbing, and people started to stop caring.

Enter the 1998 season. This is the season that saved baseball. I don't care if you, my readers, don't like that statement. It's true. Mark McGwire, as nice a guy who ever played the game, and Sammy Sosa, the Dominican version of McGwire, made a run at a hallowed statistic, Roger Maris' single season home run record. And they both beat it, and the baseball world was overjoyed. The Maris family was part of the celebration. And everyone, EVERYONE knew at least McGwire was taking something for a little oomph. Hell, he had it in his locker for all to see: androstenedione, aka andro.

Andro is a precursor to steroids, which is like saying you're not drinking gasoline, but rather petroleum. There were some questions, but mostly people, and by people I mean the sports media and the writers, were concerned about juiced balls and different bats [ash v. maple].

The point is that everyone, EVERYONE ate at the same trough, had their ratings go through the roof, and we were all happy about it.

Now, a couple of miscontents, and you know who you are, Mr. Canseco [apparently still on the sauce], Ms. I'm Writing a Book About A-Rod Tipping Pitches After I Ruined Those Duke Lacrosse Players' Lives, Mr.'s We Are Writing About Roger Clemens Because Baseball Was Headed To A Reckoning, and the rest of you, think they are going to somehow save the world by revealing that, gasp, athletes try to be the best athletes they can.

Oh, Lord. How can this be. Not baseball. Is. Nothing. Sacred.

All of you self appointed defenders of sports morality, please stop. You have now successfully ruined baseball for a generation, all for the sake of the greasy dollars in your wallets. The two groups of people who have not benefited from this are the two most important ones: the fans and the players. Without either, the sports writers have nothing to write about..........[suddenly I hear crickets].

So, the results are that all of the great players from my childhood to the present are now irrevocably tainted because a few pencil necked geeks have a numbers fetish. And yes, dear readers, that is what this comes down to.

You see, basbeall, unlike every other sport, has a numbers fetish. No other sport holds number as dear as baseball. In baseball number are meant to be immortalized, while in other sports records are there to be broken, pure and simple. That's why there are just celebrations, and no equivocations, when someone in the NFL, NBA, NHL, or any other sport, be it cycling, NASCAR, Formula 1, etc., breaks a record.

That's why the predeccesors of today's writers, who hated athletes as much as today, drove Roger Maris, as stand up a guy there was, nearly to insanity, because Roger had the temerity to approach a hallowed number.

And even after he broke Babe Ruth's record, basbeball failed to honor him, and put an asterisk there, as he out-Ruthed Ruth's Ruthian accomplishment over 23 more games than Ruth. Happily, this has since been corrected.

However, as Ruth has fallen by the wayside over the years, and since 1998, when Ruth was relegated to 3rd and then 4th on the single season HR list, the grumbles have grown louder. It reached a fever pitch as the hallowed 755 suddenly seemed to be in reach of one of the most reviled, yet most talented players to ever lace up spikes, Barry Bonds.

And since I believe that most of the numbers fetish begins with Ruth, let's take a hard look at the Babe. I want to begin by saying that, like everyone who ever loved basball, Babe Ruth is like a god. I am in no way intending on tearing him down, only to put him, and his accomplishments, in perspective.

One, he is the greatest athlete to ever play a sport, and that's just because he put baseball on the map, and lead the way for all other major sports. He was also a titan in his time and hereafter. He pitched as well as he could hit, which is unheard of to this day. But he was an overweight, hard drinking womanizer. He very likely showed up hungover to games. Yet he put up his enormous numbers.

In fact, Ruth's numbers were so out of proportion that he hit more homeruns in some seasons than some of his competing teams. Hmmmmmm.......

Now, steroids were not invented in the 1990's. They were invented in the 1890's. Am I saying Ruth took steroids? No. But he could have, and no one would know.

Amphetamines were also big, and were often used like vitamins, injected regularly.

Cocaine was also legal back then, and it was acceptable to do. Am stating that Ruth did cocaine? No I am suggesting that it was available and he might have done it for a pick-me-up before day games.

Further, Ruth never took a pitch from an African-American or Latino player, notwithstanding that the Negro Leagues had some of the best players of the day. Therefore, there is no debate that Ruth's Ruthian accomplishments at times came at the expense of some second rate pitchers.

Also, back in those days, the homerun was more elusive, and Ruth is the one who made the homerun popular. And I am sure that various owners discovered that Babe Ruth's homeruns put fannies in seats. We know that pitchers in the more recent past have grooved pitches for the benfit of batters, most famously to one Mickey Mantle. Therefore, it is not unlikely one or more of Ruth's famous 714 was through some charity.

Also, Ruth never played a night game, and relief pitching, much less middle relief, was unheard of. All of this tends to show that Babe Ruth is the bigger anomaly, rather than hitters in the 1990's starting to hit 40+ homeruns. Remember, the 1990's is a time of great expansion in the Major Leagues, and for the sake of argument, pitching got watered down.

In short, if you want to label eras and put asterisks on records, start with Babe Ruth.

So here we are, now an entire generation devoid of heroes. Even the guys who were probably clean - the Tony Gwynn's and Griffey, Jr.'s, are under a cloud of suspicion because of when they played. And now Mike Piazza. And for what? Doing what we wanted them to do all along - hit the stuffing out of baseballs.

And we also have had Hank Aaron stepping into the fray. Look, I love Hammerin' Hank as much as the next fan, and of all people he should understand that numbers are not meant to stand. I know he spent a long career amassing his numbers, and he deserves all the credit history has for him. Plus, he did it in the face of death threats and racism, which only increase his accomplishment. But numbers are meant to fall, and that's all there is about it.

And it would be no slight on Mr. Aaron if, in his heart of hearts, he knows he would have taken something to increase his already incredible talents, or to elongate his great career. After all, these are men playing a boy's game, and what a game it is.

And also, for the sake of argument, it is not impossible that Hank Aaron might have had an upper on an off day - there are legends of coffee pots labelled "leaded" and "unleaded" in dugouts during his days in the league. And even if he didn't partake, the bulk did.

But now for people to step in, after the fact, after stuffing their faces in 1998 like they were at a Roman Orgy, and call these players cheaters is abominable. It isn't cheating the sport is it isn't agains the rules. It isn't cheating if the sport doesn't test for substances, while it does test for marijuana. And if a large proportion of the players are using - there are over 100 players in the Mitchell Report, making that about 15% of the players, and we all know that number is woefully low - then that's the game, and therefore not cheating.

And now we have the case of Manny Ramirez. While I admire the man's bat, I would not want him on my team. I don't like athletes who only care about salary and not winning. Don't get me wrong - I don't begrudge a man looking out for himself, but quitting to get traded is terrible.

Manny has been suspended for taking a hormone known as hCG, aka human chorionic gonadotropin. Some say that men who take this hormone do so to elevate testosterone levels after long steroid use as the testes shrink as a result. Some men just need it for other medical conditions. Either way, I couldn't give a rat's posterior. In reality, it is no one's business who is doing what or why. Maybe the Dodgers have a right, as they pay Manny for his physical condition. But why should Manny have to ask permission to MLB? Let's be frank about it: let's say Manny's condition is the embarasssing kind, where this is about a testicle problem. Few men, much less modern day elite athletes, want to tell anybody about shrinking testicles. And does anyone think that if Manny asked MLB in secret that the news of his small testicles wouldn't be making front page, or at least back page, news all over the country in less time than it takes him to run to first?

See, there is this thing called doctor/patient privilege, and this is why it is there. Medical records are secret and confidential for a reason, and salacious details like this are one of them. And so what if past steroid use, before the current testing regime was in place [tests which he never failed] caused him to need this hormone? It returns right back to it is none of our, nor MLB's, business. Is MLB going to start to practice medicine? I should hope not. It can barely run a league for the second most popular sport in the country.

And it is inescapable that it is the writers who are to blame for this scandal, as they are the ones lining their pockets with their exclusive book deals and their source free allegations. It is they who put this front and center. And it is they who make an issue out of it, and it is they who vote for admission to the holiest of holies: Cooperstown.

This is what it all comes down to. The Hall of Fame. And now we have every writer opining twelve ways til Sunday about who should get in, whose numbers are tainted, and who's a disgrace and/or a cheater. Ya know who the cheaters are: the writers. They are cheating me of my pasttime and my joy. I love homeruns and power pitching. Are you telling me that Roger Clemens, jerkoff that he is, didn't bring it every time he stepped onto that mound? That it wasn't his arm whipping that ball at 95 mph? I don't care what workout he did, or what he took - that was him. And to try to take him away from all of us to sell some cheap, badly written books, based upon some loser with a needle he kept in a soda can, is lousy, pure and simple.

Does anyone know what "chain of custody" means?

If Roger Clemens isn't great, and doesn't eserve the Hall, then who does, Mr. Sports Writer? Because I have two utterly devastating syllables for all of you holier-than-thou-pontificating-I-should-get-a-real-job losers: Ty Cobb.

If Ty Cobb deserves the Hall, then I don't know what else to say to the writers.

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