No Suspense Necessary for the A-Rod Suspension Appeal

CBA, History, Management, Media, PEDs, Players

A decision on Alex Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing to reduce or overturn his suspension is reported to be imminent. There’s no suspense here, however. It’s fait accompli. And he’ll lose.

Do you really and truly believe that MLB is going to undercut itself by reducing Alex Rodriguez’s suspension from 214 games to something less? Anything that will allow him to play this season?

Think again.

In spite of A-Rod’s litany of high-priced, smooth-talking and experienced lawyers, the entire appeal process was a non-starter. Like Captain Kirk standing before the Klingon tribunal trying to convince them of his innocence of the murder of their Chancellor, A-Rod has no chance of winning this appeal; no possible benefit from it other than garnering some sympathy from those who see how unfair it’s been. Forgetting the Trekker fiction, this show trial was only entertained because A-Rod had a right to it and is pursuing every avenue to try and reduce his penalty and get paid for at least a portion of the next season-and-a-half. In reality, it’s like a trial in North Korea. If MLB could put him before a firing squad and purge him from their sight (and the Yankees’ payroll), they would do that. That’s the equivalent of this supposed arbitration hearing meant to give A-Rod his say.

Because A-Rod has become the poster child for the flouting of the flexible and self-serving rules baseball has enacted regarding performance-enhancing drugs, they have to keep using him to validate their new tough stance on the behavior of players who ignore and try to circumvent the testing process.

This is not a defense of A-Rod.

He repeatedly lied and formulated different methods to use the drugs that he clearly doesn’t believe he can perform without. From the lies to the feigned contrition to the Biogenesis revelations to his public displays regarding the suspension and pleas for widespread sympathy to his plight, A-Rod is not worthy of mercy for what he did. But in the context of MLB and its own complicity in PED use, A-Rod should not be punished like this unless Bud Selig and his minions are taken to task as well.

The 214 game suspension is exemplar of MLB’s “get tough” tack to warn the players not to do it again; that their punishments have teeth and there won’t be the wink-and-nod at PED use there was post-1994 to the flashpoint hearing before congress in which Rafael Palmeiro‘s finger-wagging did more to antagonize the public than any anti-social Barry Bonds gesture of self-entitled arrogance ever could. There won’t be the “yeah whatever” suspensions that are so impotent that it’s worth it for an average player to use the drugs to make himself an All-Star and get an All-Star contract even if he gets caught. A-Rod is the key to send that message. It’s not the fact that A-Rod was getting busted again and again that spurred this massive and unprecedented suspension. It’s that he was the sexiest name they could have ever asked for as evidence that they were serious about putting forth the perception of cleaning up the game.

No matter your position on A-Rod and whether or not he’s deserving of what amounts to a death penalty for his career, it’s impossible to claim that this arbitration process is a fair one. It’s being heard by Fredric Horowitz, the hand-picked arbitrator employed by MLB. He is not finding in favor of A-Rod under any circumstances. Horowitz is relatively new on the job after replacing Shyam Das when Das was fired after—to MLB’s shock—finding in favor of Ryan Braun when Braun appealed his failed drug test after the 2011 season.

The other members of the three-person panel are MLB COO Rob Manfred and legal counsel to the MLBPA David Prouty. Prouty will obviously find in favor of A-Rod. Manfred is even more in MLB’s corner than Horowitz and testified for MLB. How can he be viewed as a fair judge?

A-Rod’s histrionics, desk-kicking, hand-slamming, storming out of the hearing and running right into Mike Francesa’s warm studio embrace aside, this is not an evenhanded hearing with an independent judiciary making the decision based on facts. From the beginning, the process was weighted to convict. Talking out of both sides of their mouths regarding legality and fairness, the head of Biogenesis, Anthony Bosch, was paid for his testimony. MLB purports itself to be as reasonable and objective as a court of law simultaneously using tactics that would immediately call the testimony of the star witness into question. They have Manfred testifying against A-Rod in a case in which Manfred will have a substantial say in the decision. If it sounds like North Korea, it may be because these are the methods used in North Korea.

The problem with MLB choosing not to come to a closed-door agreement with A-Rod regarding a suspension that both they and he could live with is that there’s always the potential of a federal lawsuit turning baseball’s heavy-handedness and dictatorial edicts back on itself as happened with collusion and the reserve clause. Both times baseball thought they’d win easily. Both times they lost badly. Both times it cost them an exponentially greater amount of money than if they’d just decided to treat the players as partners rather than a beaten down society of hindrances to furthering their own ends.

MLB has been notoriously clumsy in using its corporate connections and power in high places to its best advantage as the NFL does. What are they going to do when A-Rod—with nothing left to lose and seeing no logic in backing down now—chooses to toss it to the courts for an injunction allowing him to play in 2014 while the case winds its way through the legal process? Wouldn’t it have been easier to shun the attempts to use A-Rod as the conduit to wash away all baseball’s collective sins? To quash it for the good of everyone who looked the other way while the public was oohing and aahing at the record-breaking power numbers and other byproducts of the drug use? Would A-Rod have taken a 100 game suspension just to get it over with? They’ll never know. From the beginning, they were hell-bent on getting the conviction because they hate A-Rod and want to use him as their fulcrum to leverage the rest of baseball to fall in line; as the case study of what can happen if they take the same road he did.

The A-Rod decision is imminent and we know the result. But this case is far from over. And it’s MLB’s own fault if they lose again.




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Jack Clark’s Albert Pujols PED Accusation

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Jack Clark’s accusations about Albert Pujols being a PED user were based on third-hand evidence from a source that has vehemently denied Clark’s claims. Clark was fired from his radio gig amid the backlash.

The baseline points between Clark’s allegations and the lack of evidence need to be separated. Clark shouldn’t have gone on the air and come up with these unfounded declarations of Pujols’s guilt, but would anyone be shocked if it came out tomorrow that Pujols is a PED user who patronized a more discreet clinic than Biogenesis? Or if he was smart enough to go to the Dominican Republic to get his boosters while paying in cash so there’s no paper trail?

Pujols went from a nondescript 13th round draft pick of the Cardinals to this era’s Joe DiMaggio. Today’s public, jaded by the continued lies and betrayals of the game’s stars, would not be surprised in the least if Pujols was outed tomorrow with legitimate proof of his guilt.

As far as we know, Pujols has never failed a test nor been caught with evidence of having cheated to achieve his greatness. Because he was drafted late and turned into an all-time great isn’t a reason to accuse him. It is suspicious, however, that Pujols was a skinny kid, roundly ignored coming out of the draft and blossomed into the best hitter of this generation. There have always been questions surrounding Pujols’s stated age of 33. Is it out of the question that he was a PED user, lied about his age and is better at covering it up than anyone else?

The above-linked piece from HardballTalk calls Pujols’s denial “forceful,” “specific,” and “different” from those that usually come from athletes. Pujols threatened to sue Clark. Are the denials more forceful, specific and different than Rafael Palmeiro jabbing his finger in front of congress? Than Alex Rodriguez? Than Ryan Braun? I don’t think so.

The public is quick to accept any player’s guilt with PED use because it’s become standard operating procedure to lie, lie, lie and hope it goes away only to be found guilty and issue a terse statement of admission with faux contrition. Fans and media are inherently skeptical of the achievements of any player. When one has the first pick of the first round draft pick bona fides like A-Rod, it’s more likely that that level of player will achieve A-Rod’s heights without drugs. Except he didn’t. For Pujols, the disbelief is more stark because of the transformation he underwent physically, analytically and in his performance. He was skinny and became huge. He wasn’t a prospect as an amateur and every team passed him by for thirteen rounds. He became a future Hall of Famer with video game statistics. Considering the number of players who’ve been caught, questioning Pujols is perfectly reasonable.

Clark was wrong for saying it the way he said it, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely wrong that Pujols used PEDs. He might have. We don’t know.

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From North Dallas Forty To Biogenesis

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Major League Baseball’s ham-handed investigation into the Biogenesis Clinic and the players who might have been involved in PEDs after being named as clinic clients is an attempt to appear as if they’re on top of the situation done in a way similar to how the National Football League would’ve done it. Except the way in which MLB is handling it is the way the NFL would’ve handled it in 1970, not 2013.

The tour-de-force account of how the NFL operated back then was the 1979 film North Dallas Forty as the protagonist, Phil Elliot is struggling through injuries and the refusal to “play the game” and the “game” isn’t football—it’s going along to get along, taking shots of painkillers, playing injured (different from playing hurt), being used and willing to be used to fill the masochistic need to play the actual on-field sport.

In the movie, the North Dallas Bulls with their megalomaniacal and exceedingly wealthy owner, iconic and cold-blooded coach, and hard-partying teammates (*wink wink* at the “similarities” to the Dallas Cowboys) prepare for the next week’s game. Early in the film, Elliot experiences a break-in at his home and catches the perpetrator in the act who threatens Elliot with a gun and flees. In the penultimate scene, the break-in was revealed to have actually executed by a private eye who had been hired by the club to get dirt on Elliot with the complicity of the league to catch disposable, independent-minded players like him smoking pot and using an excess of painkillers in order to exploit the violation of league rules not to pay their salaries when they’re dumped as Elliot eventually was. Left out of the equation was that Elliott was smoking pot with the team’s star quarterback, but the club couldn’t very well function without the star quarterback and cutting Elliott filled the dual function of sending a message to the rest of the team that they’d better behave or suffer the same fate of not only being cut, but also having their reputation sullied throughout the league and face a suspension for drug use if they didn’t do as they’re told.

Elliott’s quote regarding his marijuana use, “If you nailed every guy in the league who smoked grass, you wouldn’t have enough players left to field the punt return team,” still resonates today in every sport and with every drug—performance enhancing and otherwise.

MLB is trying the same type of thing sans the illegalities (that we know of) with the Biogenesis case in their over-the-top show of trying to extract information from the head of the clinic Anthony Bosch to the degree that they’re paying him and, according to other potential witnesses, “bullying” with threats and empty promises of help in a legal case if they cooperate. The problem for MLB is this when thinking about the tactics similar to those used in North Dallas Forty: the movie was from 34 years ago and it was adapted from a book published 40 years ago about the way the game was run in the 1960s.

And that’s what MLB is doing. They’re using methods from the 1960s to garner information in 2013.

The problems with the way in which MLB is reportedly running this investigation is manifold and goes far beyond the Cold War-era strategies. Let’s just say, hypothetically, that this Biogenesis clinic was used by players in today’s NFL and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who was at the top of the hill in this new scandal instead of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Would the entire structure be handled differently? Better? More competently?

Selig is essentially seen as a doddering figurehead whose main job descriptions is that of a functionary. It’s not far from the truth. His performance as commissioner has been a byproduct of what is good for the owners’ pockets rather than what is promoted as good for the game. While the PEDs were rampant throughout baseball and were used with the tacit approval of everyone in an effort to draw fans, restore the game’s popularity following the 1994 strike, and accrue money for the owners and players alike, there was Selig with a faraway gaze either clueless as to the reality or willfully ignoring it. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.

Selig’s performance in front of Congress along with the players who showed up that fateful day was humiliating in a myriad of ways. From Rafael Palmeiro’s finger-wagging lies; to Sammy Sosa’s “me no speaka the Inglés”; to Mark McGwire not being there to talk about the past; to Curt Schilling clamming up after his yapping for days before and after the fact, baseball has never acquitted itself well when self-preservation came to the forefront at the expense of stating the facts.

Has baseball improved since then? Has Selig gotten the message? Let’s just compare Selig with his NFL counterpart Goodell. Only people inside baseball’s front office know how alert Selig is to the Biogenesis investigation or anything else. Perhaps it’s a matter of, “Don’t tell me what I don’t want to know so I don’t have to lie about it later.” But this is an indicator that MLB should’ve tossed someone overboard when the entire PED scandal initially broke to send the message that a new sheriff was in town and things weren’t going to be done the old way. And I use old in every conceivable context of the word when discussing Selig. That would’ve meant that Selig had to go a decade ago, and he probably should’ve.

Would Goodell be so disengaged to not know every aspect of what’s going on with an investigation of this magnitude? Would he not take steps to control the message and how it’s framed as politicians—like Goodell and Goodell’s father Charles, a former United States Senator from New York—do and did? This is the fundamental difference between MLB and the NFL. Goodell is smooth, smart, and cagey. He’s available yet insulated; touchable but unknowable; protected and in command. Selig on the other hand is cadaverous and scripted, but unable to follow the script; he’s anything but smooth and the disheveled clothes, $10 haircut and bewildered countenance that was once somewhat charming lost its luster as he had to get to work to restore the game’s validity. What makes it worse when having a figurehead as commissioner is that baseball doesn’t appear to have taken steps to place competent people behind the scenes to pull the levers to keep the machine greased and running well. It’s people charging headlong into each other and having the bruises to prove it.

If Goodell makes the implication that the witnesses will be assisted in a criminal investigation as was alluded to in the ESPN piece linked above, you can bet that the NFL and Goodell himself will have the connections to follow through on the promise.

MLB? What are they going to do about it? Are they even capable of helping anyone? Would they know who to call and would that person even take the call as he would if he heard, “Roger Goodell is on the phone,” instead of “Bud Selig is on the phone,”?

Not much thought was put into any of this going back to allowing of players to get away with PED use and then the about-face due to public outcry, the banning of substances and the potential fallout of doing so. They want to clean up the game, but keep it entertaining to the fans. Did it ever occur to them that the reason that so many man games are being lost due to injury stems from the tendons and ligaments becoming weakened from carrying the extra muscle built through chemical means? That players can’t play 150 games and toss 225 innings and maintain performance without chemicals? That they aren’t going to be able to beat out a dribbler on the infield in August by chugging cups of coffee and cans of Red Bull as they would from their trusted amphetamines (greenies)? That the risk/reward for players like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and anyone else whose name was caught up in Biogenesis was such that there was no reason not to do it?

What’s 100 games in comparison to the half a billion dollars in contracts—just for playing baseball alone and not counting endorsements—A-Rod will have made once his career is over? What’s 100 games in exchange for Braun’s MVP and the minute risk (Braun’s just unlucky, arrogant and somewhat stupid) of getting caught? What’s 100 games in exchange for a slightly above-average talent like Cabrera being given a contract for $16 million almost immediately after his humiliating suspension and public lambasting?

Until MLB does something about the laughable penalties, players will keep trying to navigate their way around the tests and punishments because it’s worth it for them to do it given the likelihood that they’ll get away with it.

Attendance and TV ratings are down all around baseball. In large part it’s because the fans who jumped on the bandwagon at the excitement of the home runs have little interest in watching Joe Maddon outmaneuver Joe Girardi with tactical skill. They want homers and if they’re not getting them, they won’t bother to watch. This new “get tough” policy is falling flat not just because of the maladroit manner in which it’s being implemented, but because there’s no integrity behind it. The owners are interested in one thing: the bottom line. Many are as blind as Selig was to the PED use and only came around when the evidence was plunked on their desks with the widespread demand to “do something” about it to “save the game.”

Using the 1960s as a guideline for running the Biogenesis investigation in 2013 forgets that back then, there wasn’t the constant flow of available information with real time stories, opinions and criticisms appearing immediately and going viral. Back then, MLB would’ve been able to get in front of the story using friendly, like-minded reporters who were willing to do the Max Mercy thing from The Natural and “protect” the game. In other words, they would protect the people who owned the game against the ephemeral presence of the players who come and go and who were using drugs to undeservedly place themselves in the stratosphere of legends that was once rightfully limited to Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Bob Feller. Now there are bloggers, reporters and networks gathering information as it comes in. It can’t be controlled.

For MLB to put forth the pretense of being all-in for the Biogenesis investigation is the epitome of wasteful hypocrisy. They can pound on doors, stand on rooftops and proclaim their commitment to stopping PED use. They can threaten, cajole, demand and make empty promises, but that’s not going to alter the reality that the changes to the game have to be foundational and not a self-serving attempt to clean up a game that has been infested from the top to the bottom due in large part to the inaction of MLB itself.

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The Invisible Rose

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As ridiculous as it sounds for Pete Rose’s name to have been expunged from mere mention on Topps Baseball Cards as baseball’s career hits leader, what were they supposed to do and why is it even a story?

All the context provided makes perfect sense. PED users such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro haven’t been banished as Rose has. Accused, suspected and prosecuted for perjury, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are still listed on all records. No one has ever sought to remove O.J. Simpson from any of the NFL record books. Did Rose, as a player, do worse things that these people?

For all his activities and selfishness, Rose always played the game on the up-and-up. Charlie Hustle was a hustler and a self-promoter. His headfirst slides were done to garner attention to himself even when they were totally unnecessary. The running to first base on a walk was a trademark to stand out from the crowd. He accumulated praise for maximizing limited abilities as if he couldn’t play at all and clawed his way to the top of the record books, but it’s ignored that amid all the salable perception of “Rose made it with a lack of ability,” it’s not true. He was a great player and would have been a great player even if he’d behaved as lackadaisically as Robinson Cano does.

It’s a matter floating morals. Compartmentalized into legality, illegality and semantics, Rose is off the MLB officially licensed products while players who have done far worse to the game itself are still there. MLB was complicit in the use of performance enhancers and has put up a front of trying to eradicate the sport of this type of drug use, but that front is somewhat laissez faire, knowing that for as many suspensions, tests and investigations they perform, players will still go to the Biogenesis Clinics around the world and seek a method to dance through the raindrops and beat the tests. By all reasonable accounts, Ryan Braun got away with likely PED use to win the MVP in 2011 and avoided a suspension on a technicality. Then his name was discovered in the records of Biogenesis.

The rules for inclusion are what they are and because of Rose’s lifetime banishment, he’s not permitted to be mentioned. Of course it’s silly and selective, but Rose isn’t being singled out any more than the PED users are receiving a pass. It’s just the way it is.

The only reason this is a story is because it’s made into a story and Rose has pleaded that he wants his name reinstated—probably because it can make him more money. Perhaps Topps is trying to drum up interest in the cards in the event that collectors will see the omission of Rose as a future novelty if he’s ever reinstated, posthumously or not. Who’s going to Topps for recordkeeping anyway? And who’s going to MLB for propriety and logic?

No one.

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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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A-Rod Upstages the Super Bowl

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Jim Harbaugh. John Harbaugh. Ray Lewis. Colin Kaepernick. Randy Moss. Joe Flacco. And…Alex Rodriguez?

The easiest thing to do in this latest media firestorm surrounding A-Rod would be to set up a table in New Orleans at or around Super Bowl XLVII and let him join in with the frenzy to save time and airfare for everyone. A-Rod has a talent for jumping to the forefront of big events in which he is not participating. In 2007, during the Red Sox-Rockies World Series, it was announced that A-Rod was opting out of his Yankees contract. Blame for the “mistake” in timing was doled on agent Scott Boras. Because Boras is seen as the epitome of evil and a Svengali who latched his claws into the fatherless A-Rod at a young age and unduly influenced him to make decisions he wouldn’t have made if left to his own devices, it’s easy to turn him into the fall guy whether it’s true or not.

Boras no longer represents A-Rod and his problems have gotten worse, not better.

The latest is A-Rod’s name popping up in the notes of a shady anti-aging clinic in Miami—NY Times Story.

I suppose it’s possible that he’s innocent. We can ask the simplest questions: Why would anyone be stupid enough to write the actual name of the client instead of using a code? Why don’t these players just get up and go to Mexico, Switzerland, Iceland, Japan, Mars, Jupiter or anywhere they can simply do what they need to do using a false name, pay in cash and come back with no paper trail and no one the wiser? Why would A-Rod continue to poke the eyes of anyone and everyone for (considering his plummet in the past several years) what amounted to zero return?

A-Rod will be referred to as arrogant, but that may not be the case. It may be insecurity and, in a weird way, a certain nobility of trying to live up to the money the Yankees are paying him by taking PEDs to be able to perform. There will be comparisons to Lance Armstrong, but as far as we know, A-Rod has never wantonly destroyed the lives of those who tried to expose him in an effort to prop up a front of philanthropy and honor. The only person he’s succeeded in destroying is himself. He’s not as arrogant or stupid as he is oblivious.

That obliviousness hasn’t extended to ignorance of reality. He’s still cognizant of plausible deniability and legal ramifications. You won’t see A-Rod sitting in front of Congress denying PED use and wagging his finger in their faces a la Rafael Palmeiro; you won’t see him on 60 Minutes like Roger Clemens. You might see him pleading his case to the media as Barry Bonds did once a sufficient amount of time has passed and he thinks it might be safe to argue his Hall of Fame worthiness. For right now, A-Rod is smart enough to keep quiet and lawyer up.

Major League Baseball itself is again left running into one another like some slapstick comedy worthy of Benny Hill, trying to spin their inability to get in front of these stories and cleaning up the mess after the fact. They knew about this Miami clinic and were investigating it in the hopes that a bolt of lightning out of the sky would provide them with cause to suspend the players who used its services. They were unsuccessful.

A-Rod is the glossiest name on the list, but it’s no shock for him to wind up in the middle of incidents such as these. Gio Gonzalez, whose career has taken a wondrous jump to “ace” is on the list. Nelson Cruz was a journeyman until age 28 when he hit 33 homers is on the list. Melky Cabrera we already know about. Yasmani Grandal is a yet-to-be-established kid and is on the list. Bartolo Colon was trying to hang on and is on the list.

The fine line between developing and using outlawed “helpers” to improve is no longer blurred. It’s gone. Every player is under scrutiny. Which is the real Gonzalez? Did he naturally evolve from his initial opportunities in the big leagues in 2008-2009 when he showed flashes of great talent with terrible results to the rising star in 2010-2011 and then third in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2012? Or was it in 2009-2010 when someone whispered in his ear that if he went to this Miami clinic, they’d provide him with potions to send his career into the stratosphere?

Any statistical evidence is presented with the benefit of hindsight and all players are suspect.

For A-Rod, we’ll never know if everything was a creation of PEDs or if he was using them at age 25? 28? 30? 35? to perform and make a ton of money; to maintain; to return from injury and live up to his contract. The one thing he has in common with Armstrong is that he’s not credible in anything he says even if, at some point, he decides to “confess.”

A-Rod’s career with the Yankees is over. The Yankees are said to be poring over his contract to try and find a way to keep from paying him. As much as A-Rod is reviled by contemporaries, the MLB Players Association will fight for him to get every single penny on that contract from now until the Rapture and even then, they’ll have to stand in front of Jesus and find a reason not to give A-Rod his money. And they’ll lose. (When I say Jesus, I mean Christ. Not a distant A-Rod relative who did his bidding as a human shield.)

What will happen is this:

MLB will try and find a way to suspend A-Rod and these other players and fail.

The Yankees will try and get out of paying him and fail.

A-Rod won’t agree to the floated insurance scheme that a doctor says he can’t play again.

A-Rod won’t play again for the Yankees; they’ll come to an agreement to pay him off, perhaps deferring some of it so they have cash on hand and it’s not a lump sum payment.

A team like the Marlins, A’s or Rays will sign him against the wishes of MLB. A-Rod will repeat the 2011-2012 performances of Manny Ramirez and provide nothing other than aggravation and a media circus.

Some other embarrassment will occur with A-Rod because that’s like the sun coming up—once you see it happen every day of your life, you just sort of expect it.

A-Rod will epitomize the ending in the novel version of The Natural in which Roy Hobbs doesn’t redeem himself and lives his life wondering what might have been. This isn’t Hollywood, but the ending is just as predictable. Unlike Hobbs, A-Rod will be very wealthy when he fades into oblivion with a career blotted out by a giant asterisk of his own making. There are no excuses and no one left to blame anymore.

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Lance Armstrong, MLB, Drugs and Confessions of Convenience

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Lance Armstrong is preparing to provide what’s been referred to as either a confession or a “limited” confession (whatever that means) to Oprah Winfrey in a televised interview later this week—NY Times Story. In truth, it’s likely to be nominal mea culpa cloaked in semantics just short of asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid self-incrimination. If he were giving legal testimony, he wouldn’t say a word.

Much like other users of performance enhancing drugs or those who have been accused of behaving in a way that compromised their legacies and flouted the ingrained ground rules of their particular sport, Armstrong is taking the route previously traversed by other notables such as Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Pete Rose. For the most part though, Canseco, McGwire and Rose didn’t go to the lengths that Armstrong did in portraying themselves as clean, innocent victims; nor did they cross the line into threatening accusers and contemporaries with legal action, implied physical violence, loss of employment, tattered reputations and hanging in effigy for merely stating the obvious.

The rumored Armstrong admission is indicative of the inherently egocentric dismissal of long-term consequences on and off the field of play by the physically talented athlete who thinks the ends justify the means and believes that if he’s called to answer for the ends, an apology and feigned contrition will suffice. But Armstrong is somehow worse than the baseball players who made similar public admissions of what they did.

This is not to exonerate Rose, McGwire, Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds or anyone else who was involved in controversies such as PEDs or gambling, but Armstrong’s behaviors extended beyond maintaining his veneer of cleanliness and heroism. He became a champion of altruism, using his story of winning what appeared to be a hopeless fight against cancer and made millions for himself in the process by getting healthy and returning to his sport and again becoming best in the world.

Was his dedication to the Livestrong cause real? Or was it all part of the image he hoped to convey, thereby letting him function with an aura of untouchability in a circular feeding of cancer survivor —> champion cyclist —> generous giver of time and money —> abusive bully that gave him the freedom to behave any way he wanted because of the good things he did counteracting the bad. As distasteful as it is to imply that a person milked having cancer, Armstrong certainly fits the profile. He helped a lot of people, but he harmed a lot of people and made a lot of money while making aggressive denials of drug use.

The baseball people denied what they did hoping it would go away. It didn’t go away. Rose, after his suspension from baseball for gambling, ended up incarcerated in a halfway house for tax evasion. Rose, Canseco and McGwire admitted what they did in one form or another for reasons that were steeped in self-interest.

Canseco wanted vengeance against baseball for, as he believes, blackballing him. In a strange way in spite of the ongoing and somewhat entertaining (check his Twitter account) train wreck his life has become, Canseco deserves accolades for revealing who used PEDs during his time in baseball. Canseco got the ball rolling to at least try to eradicate PED use from the game.

McGwire admitted he used steroids because he wanted to take a job as the Cardinals hitting coach and unless he addressed the issue, he wasn’t going to be capable of doing the job without being a distraction. With the crocodile tears and expressions of regret, it was absurd that he denied PED use until he needed to admit it to have a job in baseball. Once he admitted it though, it went away and he was able to function as a hitting coach for Tony LaRussa and has since moved on to the Dodgers to work in the same capacity. He’s liked by the players and respected in the job.

Rose’s admission was an all-too-late attempt to have his lifetime suspension removed and possibly gain admission to the Hall of Fame. He also wanted to sell a book. Rose (fresh with a new reality show) may care to a certain extent about his enshrinement as a player, but with him the majority of what he’s done in his life has had a foundation in money and wanting to accumulate a lot of it. A Hall of Fame plaque would potentially increase the fees he charges for autographs and appearances. It’s doubtful Rose, at age 71, wants to get into baseball in any on-field capacity, as a front office person or broadcaster. As great and intense a player as Rose was, his known intelligence on the field could be a boon to players as a spring training instructor. The argument as to whether he should be allowed in the Hall of Fame would be dealt with by the voters, but Rose being able to go to a ballpark as a former star wouldn’t harm anyone.

The one thing they all have in common with Armstrong is that none are sorry for what they did, but sorry when it conveniences them to be sorry. Armstrong is different in that he steadfastly denied drug use and utilized an underlying threat of danger if his accusers continued making the assertion that he did use banned drugs to win his Tour de France titles.

Armstrong was a rainmaker. Logically, no one with a brain could have bought the line that out of every person who completed the grueling bicycle race, the only one who did it clean—and won!!!—was Armstrong. It’s not even that he lied so consistently and adamantly, but that he was litigious, nasty and obsessive in bolstering that lie. The real Armstrong was hidden by shady informers, drug dealers, corporate entities, disposable employees, enablers, protectors and interference-runners because Armstrong was necessary. Eventually it got to the level where there was no longer a point in denying it as it became so glaringly obvious that he’s guilty.

Because Armstrong came back from a battle with cancer and became an icon of charitable contributions, it doesn’t automatically free him from being held responsible for what he did. Now, under siege and without choice in admitting his guilt to get on with his life, he’s planning to kindasorta admit his guilt. Armstrong is said to be concerned about criminal charges and with good reason. The linked NY Times piece above says that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is “unlikely” to reopen an investigation into Armstrong for a variety of potential crimes such as fraud, money laundering and drug trafficking. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office avidly pursued perjury charges against Clemens and Bonds knowing that they had little chance at a conviction and even if they got a conviction very little—if any—jail time going to Clemens and Bonds.

What Armstrong is accused of doing is far worse than anything Clemens and Bonds did as they were lying to protect themselves and Armstrong was clinging to an empire he’d built. Armstrong has proven to be narcissistic, greedy and bordering on sociopathic. It’s a good bet (one that Rose would undoubtedly take) that Armstrong is eventually going to wind up doing some jail time for his crimes. He’s going to be broke, will probably write a tell-all book (as Rose did) admitting everything to make himself some quick money to settle lawsuits, pay fines and obliviously think he’ll be able to convince a vast majority of readers that he’s sorry. He doesn’t seem to get that the public simply wants him to go away.

When all is said and done that’s exactly what he’s going to do and not by conscious decision. Instead of choosing to recede into the background, however, it’s going to be in handcuffs with cameras following him, lightbulbs flashing, and news stories of a a fall from grace that was unavoidable from the start, except no one wanted to admit its inevitability. There’s no longer an option. Armstrong’s self-serving “confession” won’t alter the fact that he’s not sorry and doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. The public, media, his fellow athletes and most importantly, the government will see it differently. They will have the final say. In situations such as this, they always do and Armstrong can’t force them to say what he wants them to say anymore.

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No Connection Between Baseball and the Clemens Verdict

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You can read the news details here on NYTimes.com.

For our purposes, let’s look at the Roger Clemens trial and its aftermath.

Not guilty doesn’t mean innocent.

If Clemens or his defenders are going to take the not guilty verdict as a proof of innocence of having used performance enhancing drugs, they’d better think again. The standard of proof in a criminal trial has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. This case was shaky from the start relying on testimony from a witness, Brian McNamee, who didn’t have the greatest credibility and, if the allegations were true, was a participant in the use of the drugs by Clemens. When McNamee’s own ex-wife contradicted his testimony and Andy Pettitte backtracked on having knowledge of Clemens’s drug use, the case was doomed.

Did Clemens lie under oath in front of congress? Of course.

Did the government prove that case? Did they ever have a chance at convicting him? And was it worth it to spend the amount of money, time and other resources they did for a case that wasn’t likely to result in any significant jail time—if he had to serve time at all?

No.

In a strange way justice was done in the court of reality.

Does Clemens deserve to get into the Hall of Fame? Will he?

It’s obvious that Clemens did use PEDs to rejuvenate his career. But anecdotal evidence and the leaked findings of the Mitchell Report don’t constitute enough to warrant his exclusion from the Hall of Fame. The writers—many of whom have their own biases and look for reasons to keep players out—could keep any player from Babe Ruth onward out of the Hall of Fame.

Because there are no ironclad rules for induction based on statistics or anything else, there are no rules for exclusion either. We can debate it, but when egos and self-important gatekeeping is involved, few minds will be swayed.

Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame because he was not a creation of PEDs as certain players like Rafael Palmeiro were. Clemens was a Hall of Famer before he was accused, therefore he’s a Hall of Famer after he was accused.

It’s too soon to say whether or not he’ll get in. I don’t think it’s as easy to determine one way or the other until there’s a vote. For a player like Mark McGwire, he was a creation of the drugs. The same goes for Sammy Sosa. They’re not getting in.

For players like Clemens and Barry Bonds, they were great without the PEDs and they used them to lengthen their careers or maintain competitiveness by doing something that the majority of baseball was doing with the tacit approval of baseball itself.

If the drugs weren’t banned, how can they be punished for doing something they weren’t officially caught doing and that no one said they shouldn’t have done until after the fact?

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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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A Natural Progression/Regression

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I’m not sure what fans were expecting from Derek Jeter.

He’s not hitting for any power and his range in the field is reduced; he hits into a lot of double plays; doesn’t steal bases; and is a declining player.

The Yankees overpaid for him this past winter because he’s Derek Jeter; if he was Derek Smith and the club was looking at him for what he is and not for what he was, he might not have been re-signed at all.

But the brutality with which fans respond to those they once worshipped when they begin the inevitable fall is startling. The negativity surrounding Jeter has become so prevalent that Yankees fans who partake in the Jeter-bashing should be ashamed of themselves. It all stems from being spoiled because Jeter was the totem for playing clean and winning; that he never disappointed them with an off-field mishap but still has the personality to be portrayed as the man-about-town, squiring models and actresses and never embarrassing himself or the organization.

Of course much of it was likely inflated to sell newspapers and an image that hawked cars, razor blades and whatever else Jeter endorsed.

One hand washed the other.

Now there’s stories of regret in some segments of the Yankees organization that they allowed Jeter to hold the club hostage with what he did for them before rather than what he can do for them now and in the future.

Who knows how true those stories are?

Like the fans, what was the organization expecting?

It’s far too soon to write Jeter off as a finished commodity; one who’s living off his reputation and is not a threat at the plate any longer. He’s only had around 100 at bats this season—there’s time for him to hit. He probably won’t be what he was as recently as two years ago, but to think he’s “done” is absurd. If he was 27, it’d be a slump; because he’s 37, it’s a disaster.

Much was made of the adjustments that hitting coach Kevin Long (whose work is lauded in the Michael Kay-wing of Yankees sycophancy) made to Jeter’s stride this past spring training. Jeter used the alteration and has tweaked or abandoned it, depending on whom you ask. Drastic changes to a veteran’s approach must be taken with caution; I’m not surprised Jeter’s feeling his way through with the changes and may or may not have gone back to normal. The slow start could be a byproduct of the changes and regaining the timing he lost by adjusting his style to begin with.

The problem the Yankees now have is that they’ve signed Jeter through 2013 with a player option for 2014. As much as it’s suggested that of course Jeter is going to exercise that player option for $8 million, I don’t see it as fait accompli; if he can’t play anymore, he’s not going to wring out another year to play part-time and soil his aesthetic by hanging on; plus one would think the Yankees would come to an agreement with him to pay him to do something for the organization as he grows accustomed to a post-baseball life, whether that’s coaching or managing is up to Jeter.

The fact of the matter is this: fans, media and team all became spoiled by Jeter’s consistency and excellence; and with the use of PEDs by players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro, there was no natural degeneration of skills. The drugs were tantamount to fountains of youth and allowed those who’d reached the ages of 35-40 to play like they were 27-32.

That’s what fans remember with the knowledge that the accomplishments were not clean irrelevant. They want the Derek Jeter of 1999 or of 2009; not this.

This is what’s supposed to happen to a veteran player in the waning years of his career; they’re not meant to continue on an upswing into the 40s.

It’s called aging. And it’s unavoidable.

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