Rules Of Denial For PED Suspects

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For athletes accused of using performance enhancing drugs, we’ve seen the list of don’ts in action. They’re repeated over and over again with denials, accusations, shifting of the blame, finger pointing (literally and figuratively), shouting and adamant insistence of innocence that, by and large, turn out to be lies.

Maybe it’s time for some new tactics and advice that, naturally, no one will listen to.

Short and sweet

Did your English teacher ever use this phrase when teaching writing? Did you listen? Probably not. There’s a perception that the longer the response, the more complete it is and with that, the believability rises.

It doesn’t. The more you say, the more traps you set for yourself and the larger number of statements can be fact-checked.

Ryan Braun is the latest example of an accused PED user who’s either the unluckiest guy in baseball or is consorting with the wrong people who keep getting him into trouble. When his name came up in connection with Anthony Bosch’s Miami clinic, he released a written statement that was quoted by the New York Times in this piece. A clip relevant to Braun is below:

Braun issued his own denial on Tuesday night, saying in a written statement that during the course of preparing for the appeal of his positive test last year, “my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant.” He said Bosch answered questions for his lawyers about testosterone levels and the possibilities of tampering with urine samples.

“There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch’s work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under ‘moneys owed’ and not on any other list,” Braun said. “I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch. I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter.”

Braun has a lot to say when he’s accused. When he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in 2011, Braun wasn’t proven “innocent.” He got off on technicality due to the supposedly fractured chain of custody for his urine sample and because the since-fired MLB arbitrator ruled in his favor. Then he held a press conference doubling down on the outrage.

Now his name came up again.

I don’t know what he did or didn’t do, but I do know he needs to refer to his attorneys when something like this crops up and stop yapping so much. The longer the explanation; the more extensive the litany of excuses; the greater number of people you reference as having done X, Y, and Z, the guiltier you probably are.

The more you whine the worse you sound

See Lance Armstrong’s decades of denial and how ridiculous his head shaking, shrugging, feigned disbelief that anyone dare mention him as a PED case and how foolish he looks now to understand why moaning and groaning at the injustice is a waste of time and energy—especially if you’re guilty.

Armstrong, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez have all provided flimsy excuses of one degree or another. All got caught. All continued to lie. Palmeiro was the previously alluded to finger-pointer. It still stuns me that people believed that these individuals were clean. Looking at the bulked up bodies and numbers and realizing that there are certain things that the human body simply cannot do naturally is the first signal that something was amiss. But when a person has been catered to for his entire life because of his athletic prowess, his “heroism,” his skills, and winked and nodded at by his bosses, what’s he supposed to do? He’ll lie, make a mess and wait for someone else to clean it up because that’s what’s gone on from the day they were discovered as “different” than the other kids.

If there’s a quirk of statistical performance, you’re going to get accused

The case study of a player whose recent performance was called into question not as an accusation but as a legitimate curiosity as to how it was happening was Raul Ibanez in 2009 during his MVP-caliber first half with the Phillies. Ibanez was enraged that he was mentioned as a possible PED user, but he wasn’t accused. It was reasonable to wonder to how Ibanez could suddenly develop into an upper echelon star at age 37. He never tested positive and his performance took a nosedive after the first half with the Phillies.

Did the National League spent the first four months of the season figuring out his weaknesses and challenging him? Did they latch onto his holes until he became the same good but not great player he always was? Or did he stop using something for fear of getting busted? He never got caught so his record is clean, but given the era and the numbers, was it a wrong to ask? Fellow players think the same things if another player who’d never exhibited certain attributes for his entire career is suddenly hitting 400 ft. home runs with an alarming and unbelievable frequency. Many times they’re right.

Lawyering up doesn’t make one guilty

There’s a common belief that asking for an attorney or referring all questions to legal representation and refusing to comment is a tacit admission of guilt. That’s a myth. If an individual is innocent, there’s no reason to talk and say things that might be perceived as incriminating. If an individual is guilty, the worst thing he can do is what Braun did and yap, yap, yap as if he’s trying to convince everyone that in spite of the frosting dripping down his shirt, he didn’t eat the cake.

Perhaps it quiets the storm down to a certain extent when publicly pronouncing oneself innocent and playing stupid, but if there’s proof of guilt, it’s going to come out eventually and not only will the player be branded a cheat, but he’ll be a liar as well.

“Not me” didn’t work for Jeffy and it won’t work for you

This speaks for itself.

Two words are the simplest and “not me” ain’t them. They’re easy to remember but difficult to follow. Even so, players would be wise to heed them:

SHUT……UP!!!!!!!!

It’s for your own good.

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Why, A-Rod? Here’s a Simple Answer

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A-Rod’s healthcare provider goes before the medical board

The initial reaction to reading this piece in the New York Times about the man, Anthony Bosch, who Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, and others allegedly allowed to treat them is, “You let this guy inject you with stuff?!?”

On further thought however, all this newest PED scandal does is speak to the desperation of players and people in general to maintain their youth, perform and possibly make a lot of money regardless of potential consequences to their health and reputations. A-Rod is the biggest name on the list and while his future place in history is essentially secured for better or worse, it’s become clear that A-Rod has had one main thing in his life—baseball—and without it, there’s little there to satiate his pathological need to be the best at all costs. The outside interests, investments, Hollywood starlets, money, and accolades he’s received have stemmed from his accomplishments on the field and he’ll do anything to extend that ability to perform.

Much like a life extensionist who’s willing to go to an anti-aging clinic of dubious qualifications (Bosch is said to be a graduate of the Central America Health Sciences University), A-Rod is smart enough that he knew the ramifications if he got caught again, but apparently determined that it was worth it to take the chance to maintain a level of performance that created the A-Rod persona in the first place.

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Braun Needs To Shut Up

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Someone needs to tell Ryan Braun to shut his mouth, walk away and be happy that he got off.

Regardless of guilt or innocence, he needs to keep quiet.

The transcript of his statement and question and answer session with reporters show that he’s not going to do that and the only end result will be Braun making a bad situation worse.

Here’s the transcript of the statement and here’s the Q&A.

If Braun is going to imply that the tester was involved in somehow spiking his urine sample then he’s treading across a dangerous line that’s not only going to promote backlash from MLB itself, but also the testing service whose business hinges on their appearance of propriety in how they do their jobs.

You can read about the Braun allegations and the tester here on NYTimes.com.

To think that the administrator of the test would spike the sample for whatever reason is ignoring several facts—his tenure working for the company; that he would be subject to losing his job and could presumably go to jail while opening his employers up to a lawsuit and being run out of business.

Each suggestion is absurd individually. The statement about the chaperone for the test “just so happen(ing)” to be the administrator’s son as if there was some pre-hatched plot against Ryan Braun is absolutely ridiculous.

When you combine the scope of the post-overturn defense with the conspiracy theories and read them rather than watch Braun’s impassioned insistence upon his innocence, Braun sounds like a paranoid fool.

Braun’s answer regarding the tester during the Q&A following his press conference is equally as idiotic:

Do you believe the test collector tampered with your sample?

“Again, I honestly don’t know what happened to it for that 44-hour period. There are a lot of different things that could have possibly happened. There were a lot of things that we heard about the collection process, the collector and some other people involved in the process that have certainly been concerning to us. But beyond that, as I’ve dealt with this situation, I know what it’s like to be wrongly accused of something and for me to wrongly accuse somebody else of something wouldn’t help anybody.”

Considering Braun’s and his attorney’s decision to use the storing of the sample in the administrator’s home as a basis for their appeal, the above non-accusation accusation is along the lines of a “when did you stop beating your wife?” style question.

This is not the road Braun wants to take.

The biggest mistake isn’t the crime itself. The biggest mistake is when the accused get acquitted and decide that getting away with it isn’t enough and they have to clear their names.

They don’t know when to quit while they’re ahead.

This “clearing my good name” stuff is done for the sake of marketing and maintaining the concept of cleanliness, true or not.

I have no idea what Braun did or didn’t do, but now he’s going so far out with proclamations of innocence that he’s only going to do more damage to himself and increase the scrutiny surrounding him.

The hardest thing to do for an athlete is to accept that he can’t competitively win a battle like this and that he needs to leave it alone.

Braun got off on the charge of the failed drug test and it was the right decision on the part of the arbitrator, but now he’s walking right back into trouble by conscious stupidity rather than poor timing and bad luck.

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Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun Wins by Split-Decision

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You’ll hear both sides debate the Ryan Braun drug test issue like the conservatives who think guilty is guilty regardless of how the evidence is gathered and liberals ranting and raving that the rights of the innocent are protected when the rights of the guilty are upheld.

Did Braun take a substance to help his performance or did he get caught using something else that wasn’t a PED, but was on the list?

It all goes back to the fine print of the rules and the clumsy, self-serving, stupid way this whole case was handled.

You can read it in detail here on NYTimes.com; briefly, here’s what it comes down to:

  • Braun took a urine test.
  • There was no nearby FedEx center open for the test administrator to drop the sample off, so he took it home and stored it in his fridge.
  • He shipped it on the next Monday.
  • There was no evidence of tampering on the sample, nor to the bag in which it had been placed.
  • Braun had elevated levels of testosterone and failed the test.
  • But then, the story was leaked.

The final bulletpoint is the key to the whole thing.

Braun had rights. Those rights were undermined. That fact has made this an important decision to stop the prevalent whispers that come out in what’s supposed to be a confidential process.

Baseball can proclaim that the revelation of the 2003 list of PED failures helped bring about a “cleaning up” of the game; that in the end, something good came out of the failure to adhere to the rights of the players who, in spite of their supposed guilt, shouldn’t have had their failed tests revealed in the first place.

The union should’ve destroyed the list and didn’t, so it’s their own fault.

But everyone—players, agents, union reps, front office people, owners and MLB executives—were either directly involved in the PED use or just let it go for their own ends.

Once the groundswell of protests at records being demolished and dwarfed, they reacted.

It’s pure marketing and pandering to customer desires: they wanted more scoring, they got more scoring; as people got angry at the overt manner of players bulking up and shattering records, baseball outlawed steroids and HGH and started testing for them.

It’s similar to the angry reactions to repeated stories on ESPN and other “sports news” outlets for continually talking about Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin regardless of whether the players warrant that level of coverage—it’s what the paying customers want.

Confronted with a public outcry and governmental intervention at activities that it both tacitly encouraged and turned a blind eye to, baseball enacted testing and levied harsh penalties for using a list of drugs that might or might not have been prototypical “performance enhancers”.

Is there a place for, “Well, he was guilty anyway so what’s the difference?”

In reality, yes, there is a place for that.

But in the legal system where Braun is part of a union and the union and regulating committee have entered into a binding agreement as to how it should be handled and Braun is vehemently voicing his innocence and won’t back down, there was no choice other than to exonerate him.

The rules of the treatment and testing program can be read here on a PDF file.

When would it end if innuendo, speculation and public response were the determinative factors in whether an individual saw his reputation and ability to make a living compromised by something that hadn’t been handled properly? If one link in the chain is corrupted, the whole thing has to be tossed out.

Braun and every player in the MLB Players Association have rights—rights that were negotiated and are legally binding.

He’s the reigning National League MVP and the validity and perception of his entire career up to now hinged on this decision. If there was any doubt as to its accuracy, he had to be found not guilty.

When the union agreed to the testing program in order to keep labor peace and “clean up” the game, there was no provision that a failed test would be out in the media five months in advance of his hearing so the player had to hide in his home and keep silent on an allegation that he denied.

Being innocent until proven guilty is relevant and if baseball is angry at someone, they should be angry at whomever decided it was a good idea to let the media know that Braun failed the test in the first place because since the other procedures—agreed to by the union—had been followed, the tipping point was that the public knew about Braun’s failed test before his appeal had been heard.

If it hadn’t been leaked, Braun would undoubtedly have lost his case.

It isn’t so much that Braun is “innocent”, it’s that people with knowledge need to keep their mouths shut. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s the person who leaked the story to begin with.

Don’t think that these dropped nuggets aren’t intentional and strategic in an attempt to preclude a player from winning a case such as this and it was the overthinking and attempts to be clever on the part of baseball that has again sabotaged their attempts to be aboveboard.

It was a circular circumstance that got Braun off.

It’s appropriate because there are few entities that are as adept at the circular firing squad as Major League Baseball.

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Hall of Fame 2012—Larkin and Raines and Pray for the Sane?

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Let’s talk about the Hall of Fame candidates for 2012.

I use every aspect of a player to assess his candidacy from stats; to perception; to era; to post-season performances; to contributions to the game.

Any of the above can add or subtract credentials and provide impetus to give a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Because the Lords of baseball, the owners, media and fans looked the other way or outright encouraged the drug use and performance enhancers, that doesn’t absolve the players who used the drugs and got caught.

Regarding PEDs, here’s my simple criteria based on the eventual candidacies of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds: if the players were Hall of Famers before they started using, they’re Hall of Famers; if they admitted using the drugs—for whatever reason, self-serving or not—or got caught and it’s statistically obvious how they achieved their Hall of Fame numbers, they’re not Hall of Famers.

As for stats, advanced and otherwise, it’s all part of the consideration process; certain stats and in-depth examinations make players (like Bert Blyleven) more worthy in the eyes of open-minded voters than they were before; the era and what they were asked to do (i.e. “you’re here to swing the bat and drive in runs” a la Andre Dawson and Jim Rice) fall into this category of not simply being about the bottom-line. Their career arcs; their sudden rise and fall and other factors come into the equation.

In short, this is my ballot and what I would do if I had a vote. If you disagree, we can debate it. Comment and I’ll respond.

Barry Larkin

Larkin should wait a bit longer.

He was overrated defensively and only played in more than 145 games in 7 of his 19 seasons. Larkin was a very good player who’s benefiting from certain factions promoting him as a no-doubter with the weak-minded sheep unable to formulate a case against him and joining the wave of support.

Alan Trammell is in the same boat as Larkin and is barely getting any support at all.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Alan Trammell

Trammell was a fine fielder and an excellent hitter in the days before shortstops were expected to hit. He’s being unfairly ignored.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe, but not by the writers.

Jack Morris

Morris was a durable winner who doesn’t have the statistics to get into the Hall of Fame. To be completely fair, his starts on a year-to-year basis have to be torn apart to see whether his high ERA is due to a few bad starts sprinkled in with his good ones and if he has a macro-argument for induction. It was that endeavor which convinced me of Blyleven’s suitability and I’ve yet to do it with Morris.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? His percentage has risen incrementally but with three years remaining on the ballot, he’s got a long way to go from 53.5% to 75% and probably won’t make it. The Veterans Committee is his only chance. They might vote him in.

Tim Raines

Are you going to support Kenny Lofton for the Hall of Fame?

By the same argument for Lou Brock and Raines, you have to support Lofton.

And how about Johnny Damon? And if Damon, Lofton and Raines are in, where is it going to stop?

The Hall of Fame building isn’t going to implode with Raines, but it might burst from the rest of the players who are going to have a legitimate case for entry and going by: “if <X> is in, then <Y> should be in”.

Let Raines wait.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Jeff Bagwell

How does this work? Someone is a suspect so they receive a sentence of exclusion when nothing has ever been proven? Bagwell’s name has never been mentioned as having been involved in PEDs and the silly “he went from a skinny third baseman to a massive first baseman who could bench press 315 pounds for reps” isn’t a convincing one to keep him out.

Bagwell’s a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No. Bagwell is going to get caught up in the onrush of allegations of wrongdoing and people will forget about him.

Mark McGwire

Under my Bonds/Clemens criteria, McGwire wasn’t a Hall of Famer without the drugs, so he’s not a Hall of Famer. McGwire admitted his steroid use and apologized as a self-serving, “yeah, y’know sorry (sob, sniff)” because he wanted to work as the Cardinals hitting coach.

An apology laden with caveats isn’t an apology. He’s sorry in context and that’s not good enough.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Juan Gonzalez

Gonzalez won two MVPs and his stats weren’t padded by playing in Rangers Ballpark to the degree that you’d think because the numbers were similar home and road; Gonzalez has a viable resume but will get caught up in the Dale Murphy category and be kept out.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Edgar Martinez

I’ve written repeatedly in response to those who say a pure DH shouldn’t get into the Hall of Fame: it would’ve been more selfish for Martinez to demand to play the field for the sake of appearance so he’d have a better chance at the Hall of Fame.

He was a great hitter without a weakness—there was nowhere to pitch him.

Martinez is a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe.

Larry Walker

He batted .381 in Colorado with a .462 on base and 1.172 OPS. That’s going to hurt him badly.

But he was a Gold Glove outfielder who rarely struck out and had good but not great numbers on the road.

He was never implicated in having used PEDs.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? I don’t think so.

Rafael Palmeiro

In my book, arrogance and stupidity are perfectly good reasons to exclude someone.

Palmeiro could’ve kept his mouth shut or not even gone to speak to Congress at all—the players weren’t under any legal requirement to go. He didn’t jab his finger in the faces of the panel, he jabbed it in the faces of you, me and the world.

Then he got caught.

Then he piled sludge on top of the gunk by offering the utterly preposterous excuse that he didn’t know how he failed the test.

This is all after he began his career as a singles hitter…in Wrigley Field!!

Conveniently, he got to Texas and came under the influence of Jose Canseco to become a basher.

Don’t insult my intelligence and expect me to forget it.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Bernie Williams

Combining his stretch of brilliance from 1995-2002 and his post-season excellence, he’s not an automatic in or out; over the long term he might garner increasing support.

He was never accused of PED use and is a well-liked person. Looking at his regular season numbers, he falls short; memorable playoff and World Series moments will help him as will his Gold Gloves (in spite of the numbers saying he wasn’t a good center fielder).

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Possibly.

Larkin and Raines might get enshrined in 2012 by the “we have to have someone” contingent which pretty much proves the silliness of the way players are voted in, but it will only be those two.

Ron Santo is going in via the Veterans Committee and he’s dead; Tim McCarver is deservedly going in via the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting and a large crowd won’t gather to see McCarver as the only one speaking in August. So politics and finances may play a part for this class.

Raines and Larkin had better hope they get in this year because in 2013, Clemens, Bonds, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Craig Biggio are on the ballot.

I’m quite curious about Sosa to the point of supporting him because: A) I’d like to see the color of his skin now after a strange Michael Jackson-like alteration from what he once was; and B) I want to know if he learned English since his own appearance (alongside Palmeiro) in front of Congress.

It’s worth the vote in a non-linear sort of way.

Apart from that, it’s 2012 or wait, wait, wait for Larkin and Raines.

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The Latest On Ryan Braun

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Since the positive test has been reported to not have been a performance enhancing substance, it’s a process of elimination to determine what Brewers outfielder and National League MVP Ryan Braun supposedly took to prompt the failed test.

The LA Times provided a list of the banned substances in the baseball’s collective bargaining agreement here.

If the PEDs are off the table, what could Braun have taken and was it inadvertent? If it wasn’t a PED, could it have been a recreational drug? Could have have drunk a couple of energy drinks and his testosterone levels were spiked unknowingly?

The source in this Tom Haudricourt piece says that there was never a result like this in all the years of testing and MLB Trade Rumors links multiple stories on this subject with varying reports on whether it was a PED or not.

If Braun’s telling the truth, that indicates an anomaly somewhere.

Would Braun have taken an amphetamine? I would presume that recreational drugs wouldn’t be subject to a suspension, so what was it?

On the other hand, was this something Braun has taken before and had yet to fail a test? Would he be stupid enough to take something during the playoffs he’d never taken without knowing what the ingredients were? Or did he run the risk in the interests of helping his team advance in the playoffs?

When a player gets caught doing something he shouldn’t do and is publicly shamed, his denials aren’t worth very much—unless he’s telling the truth.

With all the rumors being leaked, there’s no conclusion to be reached until the appeal is heard and it’s revealed exactly what happened.

The words “never”, “ever” and “nearly impossible” are used in the stories again and again.

But everything is a “never” until it happens. Judging from the way the Braun camp is insisting that he didn’t do anything wrong, I think it’s a possibility that there’s a reasonable explanation. 

Then things will probably get even messier because if the first big name player who failed a test after the new CBA was signed is able to win on appeal, it sabotages everything the MLB testing system is designed to do in the first place.

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MLB CBA Analysis: HGH Testing

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The clearest and easiest to understand explanation of the multi-pronged new labor agreement between MLB and the Players Association is found here at Baseball Nation.

I’m separating my take on the new deal into segments.

First the HGH test; below is the clip from the above-linked piece on HGH:

Testing for Human Growth Hormone
The players and owners agreed to limited blood testing for human growth hormone. During 2012 spring training, players will have blood drawn and will be monitored for their physical reaction to the blood test. The blood samples will be tested for HGH and will then be destroyed. (Recall, however, that when urine tests for steroids were first introduced, the urine samples were supposed to be destroyed. They were not, and the FBI then seized the urine samples during its investigation of BALCO Labs.)

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Anyone who’s followed performance enhancers in bodybuilding and sports knows that the chemists are forever trying to come up with something new, undetectable and relatively safe.

Laymen and the self-righteous don’t want to hear that steroids and HGH are not dangerous if used in the proper dosages and administered by a qualified medical/sports supplement professional.

But that’s a different argument.

The average fan wants to know that the records they’re seeing set are “real” without any common denominator definition of what “real” is and no assigned blame to MLB’s overlords and team owners who cast a blind eye out of convenience to what they knew was going on; to what they tacitly encouraged.

Be that as it may, this will put forth the pretense of “cleanliness”.

Bear in mind that the players will find something else to give them a boost.

They always do.

Regarding said players, it will be an interesting case study in reactions and handling of pressure and scrutiny.

For those whose careers took wondrous and unexpected leaps from nothingness to stardom, an immediate suspicion will permeate the baseball world; if they get off to slow starts or have a noticeable body change early in 2012, the whispers will begin immediately.

Was Jose Bautista a late-bloomer?

Did John Axford‘s rising velocity result from a mechanical tweak?

Was Kevin Long’s alteration of Curtis Granderson‘s swing responsible for his burst of power?

Why was Jacoby Ellsbury suddenly able to hit home runs and stay healthy?

These are not accusations. They’re just questions. They’re going to be asked and it’s not unreasonable to ask them.

If there is a marked difference in the way a player looks or performs, first it will be whispered; then it will be said; then it will be accused.

And barring a series of leaks like the 2003 tests, we won’t know who passed and who failed. If the players are smart, they’ll make sure—under threat of legal action against MLB—that those samples are destroyed as they’re supposed to be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the names won’t come out somehow.

This isn’t good for the game or bad for the game; it just is.

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Somewhere Suzyn Waldman Is Shrieking For Roger Clemens

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Roger Clemens‘s trial for perjury ended in a mistrial pretty much before it got started after prosecutors tried to slip evidence the judge had ruled inadmissible into the proceedings while showing video of Clemens’s appearance before Congress that started this whole mess.

We’ll never know whether there were powerful people with whom Clemens is friendly pushing to make this disappear, but Clemens is  connected with former President George W. Bush and a whole host of other political luminaries.

These things happen. Phone calls are made. Whispers are exchanged. People are spoken to.

Whether the government starts all over again against Clemens; gives up; or some other chance occurrence happens to make this more difficult to pursue will clarify what’s really going on behind the scenes.

The government drones will attempt to save face and bring this back into court if the double jeopardy motion is denied.

Even if another trial is allowed, this is going nowhere.

Roger Clemens isn’t going to do any jail time one way or the other.

And somewhere Suzyn Waldman is shrieking with delight.

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Will Alcatraz Reopen To House Vicious Criminal Barry Bonds? (And Other Questions)

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After all that money, work and media coverage, the government was able to convict Barry Bonds for obstruction of justice.

That’s it.

It’s ironic that Bonds—whose keen batting eye and propensity to walk became as much a hallmark of his career as his home runs, attitude and polarizing personality—is essentially “walking” on the most serious charges against him for lying to a grand jury in the BALCO investigation.

What was the point of all this?

You can read about the verdict here—NY Times Story—but I ask again, was it worth it?

Will anyone think that the prosecution of Bonds will be a deterrent for some layperson who’s considering lying in front of a grand jury? And will it make a bit of difference in the scope of a case? If a prosecution wants to try someone for something, they’re going to do it—it’s not hard; and I understand the position that no one can be allowed to flout the system of justice with the arrogance and self-importance that Bonds and Roger Clemens have, but this was a colossal waste of time, energy and government resources for something that wasn’t going anywhere to begin with.

The government didn’t openly say they were either going to retry Bonds or let the case go, but if they choose to go forward with another trial, then the travesty becomes an exercise in egomania; the circus becomes a morality play of fantasy with no discernible endgame.

One has to wonder about the pragmatism of the combatants. Would the government have been better-served to offer Bonds an acceptable plea deal with a fine rather than go through all this for no gain? Would Bonds have been better off taking said plea deal? A plea of no-contest or something to that effect to spare the world of this absurdity?

While the government spent a ton of money to try (and pretty much failed) to “get” Bonds, Bonds too must have spent a large portion of his fortune to defend himself. According to Baseball-Reference.com (scroll to the bottom of the page), Bonds earned somewhere around $188 million as a player; this is independent of ancillary income from endorsements, memorabilia sales, appearances and other avenues to accumulate cash; but Bonds never received the Alex Rodriguez contracts in which he was guaranteed $300-400 million regardless of what he did for the rest of his life. Lavish lifestyles take a toll on one’s finances and I doubt Bonds was scrimping on his spending. Combined with his divorces and support for his children, you have to wonder how much money he’s going to have left after the lawyers are paid.

To exemplify the transitory nature of this whole morass, here’s a clipping from the Times article:

The jurors ultimately chose to convict Bonds on obstruction of justice because “he was entirely evasive” in his answers in the grand jury, the jury foreman, Fred Jacob, 56, said.

“He was often dodging the question,” Jacob said. “He would just talk about something else.”

You could say the same thing about Sarah Palin during a debate or interview when she verbally wanders off like an escaped mental patient and doesn’t answer the question that was asked nor does she stick to the subject upon which it was based.

Can we put her on trial and throw her into a halfway house as well?

It would certainly do a greater service to the country if former Governor Palin were tried and incarcerated as an enemy of the state (and intelligence; and sanity) than it did for Barry Bonds.

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For analysis and truth of this kind, check out my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

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Manny’s Fate Mirrors Shoeless Joe’s

Books, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Spring Training

The Barry Bonds prosecutors are lucky in the respect that they’re trying such a reviled and seemingly clever figure who wouldn’t be so oblivious as to allow people to inject him with substances whose origin and content was unknown.

They may win the case; they may lose the case, but if they lose, it won’t be because the jury sees the defendant as so bewildered that they believe him when he says he didn’t know what he was taking.

Had they been prosecuting Manny Ramirez, the fight would’ve been muddled by Manny being Manny.

Manny Ramirez retired from the Rays on Friday because of a failed drug test—NY Times Story.

Rather than face the embarrassment of the 100 game suspension and go through the whole process and media firestorm to play in August and September for a team that has gotten off to a rotten start and may be far out of contention, he walked away.

But was it a mishap? Did Manny again take PEDs and either believe the person administering the drugs that they were undetectable? Did he think there would be a viable explanation if he did get caught?

Or was it something else?

Did Manny do this intentionally without doing it intentionally?

I believe Manny wanted to retire. Perhaps he hadn’t admitted it to himself; possibly he still felt he could play; or it could be that he subconsciously did this so he’d be able to have an excuse for walking away without accounting for how it would tarnish his already diminished image as one of the best right-handed sluggers in the history of baseball.

Following his surprising signing by the Rays, the “package deal” with Johnny Damon (engineered by Scott Boras) was a win-win-win for everyone involved. Manny would be motivated to prove he could still play and get another contract after this one; there was a neat storyline of the reuniting of two popular members of the Red Sox from the early part of the decade; and the Rays got themselves a hitter who—while fading—was still a threat that had to be pitched to cautiously.

But it had a bad omen from the start.

Manny didn’t look like he was thrilled with the circumstances; with the short money for a player of his stature ($2 million); or that he could no longer do the things he once could on the field.

He didn’t look like he wanted to play.

At 39, with all he’s accomplished and the money he’s made, the most important factor for a player of that caliber is desire. If the desire isn’t there, then the Rays and Manny are better off that this happened. It was a passive aggressive maneuver designed to get him out of a situation he no longer wanted to be in to start with.

In the tradition of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Manny played into the image of the harmless bumpkin because it was good for marketing and allowed him to do whatever he wanted with the built-in excuse of, “Oh, that’s just Manny,” as if no other explanation needed to be provided.

Sadly, Manny’s tremendous career appears destined to go the way of Shoeless Joe.

Jackson has a black mark casting a shadow over his greatness because of his complicity in the Black Sox scandal. It supersedes anything he did before and after. No one cared that he couldn’t read; that he played brilliantly in the 1919 World Series; that he was manipulated by his more sophisticated teammates.

He knew of the plot; did nothing about it; got caught and ruined his legacy.

Manny is a household name and recognized based only on the utterance of his first name; he’s one of the best power hitters and clutch players of this generation; his act made him a lot of money.

But Manny has an asterisk next to his name because of repeatedly failing drug tests for PEDs; because of passive aggressive behaviors that belied the presumed gentle mindlessness of a socially backward hitting savant.

If he wanted to retire, he should’ve retired.

He didn’t.

Both Shoeless Joe and Manny are destined for the same fate—deprived of recognition in the Hall of Fame because of their guilt in moments of greed, stupidity or ignorance.

Both thought their images and reputations as innocuous, gentle souls would carry them past that stigma of transgression.

It never cleared the name of Shoeless Joe Jackson.

And it won’t clear the name or justify the career of Manny Ramirez.

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Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available and will be useful for your fantasy leagues all season long. It’s not a “preview”; it’s a guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll hash out the details.

I’ve started a Facebook fan page. Like it today.

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