Guilty By Association; Innocent By Facts

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It’s a strange world we live in when the person who was rummaging through the garbage on his own time and by his own volition is on the side of “right” and the people who were technically doing “wrong” end up in jail and automatically vilified for the rest of their lives as a toxic name not to be associated with under any circumstances.

But that’s where we are.

The BALCO investigation began when an IRS investigator Jeff Novitzky received a tip that the lab was providing illegal drugs to its athletes and, under his own initiative, poked around the trash of BALCO and found evidence to begin building a case to stop what was essentially a victimless crime that few wanted solved.

Novitzky was the vigilante on an inexplicable crusade.

You can read the sequence of events here.

Because he was seen as a “dealer” who tried to circumvent the law and rules of the sports in which his clients competed, Victor Conte has become that vilified and toxic name.

Of course it’s not that simple.

Once the government got the ball rolling on that case it had to get a conviction to justify what one of their employees—Novitzky—was doing; it was in the media, people knew about it, purists were complaining about the shattered records and ludicrous muscular development and everyone jumped in to get their piece of the action.

But it was all after the fact. The complaints from people inside and outside of sports during the BALCO era were completely ignored for personal and institutional gain.

It’s not unlike the Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds trials that ended with no significant penalties assessed to the two aside from the destruction of their reputations, ruining of their career accomplishments and draining of their finances.

Marlon Byrd failed a test for performance enhancing drugs and was suspended for 50 games. Byrd worked with Conte. Therefore, the simplistic logic goes, it was Conte who gave Byrd the drug.

Byrd claims that the drug he took was unrelated to baseball; that it was a private matter for a medical condition and wasn’t used to enhance his performance. Byrd’s performance validates this claim. He was released by the Red Sox following a disastrous tenure. His production has taken a dive since last season and also resulted in the Cubs dumping him on the Red Sox.

Conte has been the one person whose answers to the questions of his complicity in the case have been consistent and believable. That he was doing something that’s considered against the law and rules of competition is based on a floating set of principles that aren’t inherent, but are created and stem from the judgment of others as to right and wrong. Conte was providing a service to his athletes by helping them improve their performance. Legalities notwithstanding, it wasn’t his problem that the scheduling of X drug made it a violation to use while Y drug was okay; that the heads of baseball and other sports looked the other way as a convenience to themselves.

It’s a capricious set of “rules” that were being “broken”.

Attacked because he tries to cut through the fog of athletics and the sanctimonious pretentions by the heads of the sports whose rules he supposedly violated, a misplaced connection between Conte and Byrd was presented as proof of guilt.

Conte’s main crime now appears to be telling the truth about PEDs and how prevalent they still are; that he accurately says if enforcement and eradication were really the goals, more would be done to improve the tests and procedures.

Factually, it doesn’t appear that Byrd got caught using something Conte had given him.

But that doesn’t matter.

It’s a splashy and attention-getting headline to say, “Marlon Byrd Busted With PEDS; Once Worked With Victor Conte”.

Facts are irrelevant when they would preclude the headline and the story detailing their conspiracy especially when there was no conspiracy at all.

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Curt Schilling Witlessly Follows The Lenny Dykstra Business Model

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Curt Schilling is a believer.

When he sticks to his Republican talking points, ends his self-righteous blog postings with “God bless you and God bless the United States of America” as if he’s concluding a Presidential address and appears as a prize showhorse at GOP events, he truly thinks he’s a part of the culture and is adhering to the strict principles of conservatism.

In a way it’s admirable. In another it’s stupid.

Perhaps Schilling was under the naïve impression that his Republican pals would bail him if he ran into trouble with his video game business. He was a “job creator” after all—the same type of person whose plans for expansion are strangled by a “socialist” administration bent on robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Schilling received a $75 million loan guarantee from the state of Rhode Island to move his company there from Massachusetts. The guarantee was provided by the ousted Republican Governor of the state, Donald Carcieri. Now that the former liberal Republican and now Independent Lincoln Chafee is the Governor, there’s a back and forth as to whom is responsible for the demise of Schilling’s company and what’s going to be done in its aftermath.

You can read the news story here on Boston.com.

It sounds as if Schilling’s looking for more money. Saying that he stands to lose the $50 million he claims to have left from his playing days isn’t going to elicit sympathy from the people of Rhode Island, nor is it going to persuade any “friend” Schilling has in the Republican party to stand up for him especially if he can no longer help them get elected.

Schilling’s adherence to the system is going to be his downfall. All he need do is look at how quickly Roger Clemens’s supporters ran from him once he found himself on trial for perjury. The battle lines were drawn at the congressional hearing when Clemens forcefully proclaimed his innocence of using PEDs and—according to the government—perjured himself in the process. The Republicans in the hearing were starstruck and aghast at the Democrats’ attacks on Clemens. Then their support withered away once Clemens became a detriment. Now he’s on trial and one would assume a vast chunk of his fortune is going towards legal fees.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Schilling made over $114 million as a player in his career. Those who think that’s all he made are not accounting for endorsements and other income that’s not counted in a player’s salary such as per diem benefits, licensing fees for things such as baseball cards and other enticements received by athletes that would be plenty for a normal person to live on quite comfortably. He’ll still receive his players’ pension.

It’s irrelevant whether or not the business model Schilling used to get the loan was solid enough to warrant a $75 million guarantee from Rhode Island or if Schilling was risking his own money. It’s his company and he’s responsible for it. For someone like Schilling this is a combination of the worst case scenario personally and publicly. He idealism has reverberated back on him and, in spite of his intentions, he’s left to portray himself as another victim of the economic downturn and political expediency.

He wants a bailout that neither the government nor the taxpayer are not going to want to give him. The United States couldn’t function without the banking industry and the auto industry—other recipients of such bailouts. It will survive the destruction of Schilling’s video game company.

Maybe he’ll be able to go to people from his baseball playing days to find a path out of this mess, but given his polarizing personality I can’t foresee anyone doing anything more than giving him a job as a coach or broadcaster and that’s not going to get him the money he needs. A tell-all book would make him Jose Canseco-money, but that won’t clear the debts either. No one will do what Rhode Island did and hand him a check.

Schilling sought to be an entrepreneur when he might’ve been better off holding onto his money. If he had $50 million, was that not suitable? He had to try and be a big shot and put his money where his principles were under the mistaken belief that this endeavor was a version of giving back and practicing what he preached as an overt supporter of conservative causes? Not everyone can be an innovator, a job-creator or a business titan. Some people are meant to do what it was Schilling did: throw a baseball.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

He’s learning the hard way.

Lenny Dykstra tried to create a vast empire of his own. He had a string of successful car washes that would’ve kept him comfortable for the rest of his life with little effort on his part, but he wanted more. He had to be a “player” as his ill-fated magazine “The Players Club” will attest. His schemes were ludicrous. Now he’s in jail and under siege by endless lawsuits.

Schilling was the polar opposite of Dykstra but his finances are heading for the same place. It’s likely because they both had delusions of grandeur and the mistaken thought that because they were successful as athletes and people cheered for them when they were in uniform that the blind idolatry would easily translate into the business world. If it didn’t work, well, there’s always someone to bail them out.

It’s not the case and Schilling could wind up a broken man in every conceivable sense because of it.

This doesn’t make Schilling a bad person as some suggest. But it does make him the epitome of what he railed against in his politics. No one wants to be called a hypocrite, but that’s the least of Schilling’s problems right now.

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The Francona-Red Sox Cold War Gets Colder By The Day

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The Red Sox and Terry Francona need to put aside this contentious and unnecessary public back and forth that’s been going on since Francona was ousted as manager.

Both sides are to blame. It’s passive aggressive, tiresome and does nothing but fuel the fires of 2011—fires that the Red Sox are currently trying (and failing) to put behind them.

They’re a team in flux. Right now, they’re not very good. The last thing they need is the once again prominent CEO Larry Lucchino engaging in an open, pro wrestling style feud with Francona. The former manager is still worshipped in Boston because he was running the team on the field when The Curse was broken and led the team to another title 3 years later.

This is not a defense of Francona’s entire tenure as manager. He’s been absolved of a large share of the responsibility for 2011—responsibility that should end at his desk. If he got the credit for the wins, then he gets the blame for the losses. That’s the way it works.

Factions of the front office were never overly impressed with Francona and when he was hired, the organizational edict was to have someone who would work within the defined parameters of adhering to stat based theory, running the clubhouse and handling the media.

As the clubhouse came apart, so did the team.

The Red Sox are preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, Francona was invited to participate. He declined and it degenerated into a rehash of the circumstances that led to his dismissal/departure along with a new chapter for the paperback with Francona still wanting answers and Lucchino and John Henry defending themselves for denied allegations that they slammed Francona in the process of shoving him out the door.

You can read the details here on Boston.com.

Eventually, this was going to happen.

Francona still feels bitter.

The Red Sox clearly believe that Francona could’ve done more to head off the issues that led to their collapse.

Neither side is completely right, but neither side is completely wrong either.

The commemoration is meant to celebrate the Red Sox and their storied park and now it’s going to be, “Well Tito’s not here.”

Rather than engage in a public spitting contest, all that needed to be said was, “We invited Tito. He’s always welcome here, but he felt it would be a distraction if he came and we understand that.”

Ironically, the Mets faced a similarly uncomfortable situation with the new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine when they celebrated the 2000 pennant winning club and Valentine didn’t come, in part, because Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel was under fire and the fans were openly clamoring for Valentine to take over.

It was a courtesy.

Strangely it’s Valentine who’s considered the strutting peacock with the ginormous ego, eager to get his name and face everywhere while Francona is the hard-working everyman who receded into the background and let his players accumulate the glory.

Maybe it’s not that simple.

Does it matter whether it’s a personal decision on the part of Francona or it’s because of bad blood and wounds that have yet to heal?

The reasons should’ve been kept private. Both Lucchino and Francona look petty and angry and the selfishness inherent in a he said/he said dispute of this kind might’ve had something to do with why Francona’s no longer the Red Sox manager and Lucchino has interfered with the club to the point that they’re rapidly degenerating into a train crash.

Judging by the way they’re playing, the Red Sox have bigger things to worry about than Francona and Lucchino.

Much bigger.

They’d better enjoy the celebrating while they can because, from the looks of things, there’s not going to be much joy to be had this summer and, more importantly, in the fall.

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Would Terry Francona Have Basis for a Lawsuit Against the Red Sox?

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In an interview with WEEI radio, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona lashed out against the person or persons who leaked the story that painkillers were an issue for him this season—Boston.com story.

Given his anger at how the Red Sox slammed him on the way out the door and the anonymous sources that suggested Francona had a prescription drug problem, does the former manager have a case to sue the Red Sox and the Boston Globe for slander and libel respectively?

There were two openings that Francona was up for following his departure from the Red Sox. One was with the Cubs and the other the Cardinals.

The man who hired him in Boston, Theo Epstein, is now the team president of the Cubs; presumably Epstein knew the whole story with Francona’s pain medication and what really happened in Boston; but the Cubs chose Dale Sveum as their manager. That doesn’t say anything about Francona personally; Sveum is a good choice and probably a better fit for the Cubs in their current state.

Francona was asked about it in his interview to manage the Cardinals. The Cardinals were a solid landing spot for a proven manager. We’ll never know whether his failure to get that job had something to do with the allegations—the Cardinals wouldn’t admit it if it did—but the idea of it being a reason they didn’t select him can’t be dismissed out of hand as they chose the neophyte Mike Matheny over Francona.

Francona is now out of work. His contract with the Red Sox was technically not renewed so he wasn’t fired. Having acquitted himself well as a broadcaster during the ALCS filling in for Tim McCarver, he’ll be a broadcaster in 2012 and those jobs tend to pay well.

He’s very well-liked as a person as well and if he grew desperate, he could find employment without being the manager of a team; Francona worked in the Indians front office after he was fired as Phillies manager and was a bench coach for the Athletics. But it’s a major comedown financially and in stature for a manager with Francona’s pedigree of two World Series wins to have to grovel to sit next to a manager who is undoubtedly not going to have the resume that Francona does.

This is different than the Red Sox saying Nomar Garciaparra was being a petulant, self-indulgent baby when they traded him; somewhat different from saying Pedro Martinez‘s arm wasn’t going to hold up for the length of a 4-year contract and claiming the Jason Bay‘s knees and subpar defense made him a poor signing for the amount of money and years he wanted and wound up getting from the Mets.

This is what the Red Sox do; they continued the tradition by saying negative things about Francona to justify the parting of ways as a means of self-protection for the inevitable backlash for letting the popular manager go.

If Francona has a doctor to back up his version of events and he doesn’t get a managerial position when he chooses to truly pursue one, would he have legal recourse to say the Red Sox impugned his reputation and cost him other opportunities?

I said at the time that the Red Sox—with the amount of money they spent on the 2011 team and the horrific collapse stemming in large part from lax discipline on the part of Francona—had a right to make a change if they felt another manager would handle the club better on and off the field.

But they didn’t have to spread these stories.

Could Francona sue the Red Sox?

It would be a bad idea. This is baseball. A lawsuit might lead to him being blackballed to a greater degree than an addiction; but if he feels they’re doing this intentionally and whispering lies to hurt his career in an effort to look better themselves, he has a legal right to look into it seriously if he has to.

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