Dec 01

Teams Silent On Hall Candidates Piazza, Bonds, Sosa And Clemens

The calls started to come the other night from other Hall of Fame writers asking if I intended to vote for Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. As a Hall of Fame voter the past decade I take the responsibility seriously.

Because of their connection to performance enhancing drugs, I did not vote for Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro, the latter whom I covered when he was with the Orioles. Palmeiro certainly didn’t look bulked up at the time. I had been on the Yankees’ beat for several years when he waved his finger at Congress and said he never used steroids. I believed him.

PIAZZA: Will he make it to the Hall?

My guess, and it’s only a guess, is he thought after that display he wouldn’t be tested. I liked Palmeiro and it pains me to leave him off, At 3,000 hits and 500 homers, achieved mostly before his testimony, he was a given. He’s fallen off the radar since his retirement which leaves me wanting more.

Of the candidates, the only one I am sure of is Craig Biggio. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are a definite no now because they have been implicated or tested positive. There is evidence as to their use. Piazza is different and I don’t know about him yet. He hasn’t failed a drug test and wasn’t accused in the Mitchell Report.

I don’t care about the newspaper articles of his back acne. What gives me pause is his autobiography is coming out in February, deliberately held back by the publisher until after the Hall of Fame announcement. I am wondering why. If Piazza didn’t use steroids, then why not come out and scream it? He has friends in the press in New York. Why doesn’t he say something?

I’ll probably wait on Piazza until next year depending on what he says in the book.

What is also interesting is the silence from the teams. Not a word. In previous years, teams would bombard the voters with emails, similar to what the colleges do when they have a Heisman candidate. Nothing, not a peep from these teams. Makes you think they know something, and it isn’t good.

Not only their silence speaks volumes, but the Giants and Cubs seem to be distancing themselves from Bonds and Sosa, respectively. Sosa is a two-time cheater in my book, using steroids and a corked bat. He can pretend not to understand English before Congress and bleach his skin white after retirement, but he can’t hide. We know what he is.

With the Mets, a franchise in desperate need of positive news, there’s been no public support for Piazza, a player who said he wants to go in wearing their cap. (The Hall of Fame decides the cap with its basis on where that player made his mark.) The Hall’s thinking with Piazza is he’d wear a Dodger cap. Clemens would wear Boston, Bonds would wear San Francisco and Sosa would wear the Cubs.

I don’t think that will be an issue on the first ballot.

Continue reading

Jun 22

Mets Against Yankees, Interleague As A Whole Ran Its Course

What does interleague play and Roger Clemens have in common?

Both were products of a time when baseball’s management was at war with its players. Management, and that includes commissioner Bud Selig, were so adamant against player salaries rising and free agency, that they were willing to kill the 1994 World Series.

When play stopped late in the summer of 1994 – the Yankees and Montreal Expos were the elite of each league – the gap was so wide that no resolution could be reached and Selig eventually killed the World Series.

It would continue to the spring of 1995 and Selig’s brain-dead proposal of replacement players. Several times the owners were found guilty of collusion and dealing in bad faith by the courts. But, those facts didn’t matter. Baseball was in another work stoppage and the public didn’t care about the wars between millionaires and billionaires, and was rightfully turned off.

Baseball, in dire need of getting back the public, and in turn the taxpayer support to continue building new stadiums across the country was desperate. With the tradition of the World Series already trashed, let’s go the whole route and kill the concept of the leagues, the foundation for nearly a century. That brought us the gimmick of interleague play.

From there, major league baseball and the commissioner stuck their heads in the sand when the balls started flying at record paces in 1998. The home run duel between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated baseball fans, and even brought us the heart warming moment of McGwire embracing Roger Maris’ son the night he broke the single season home run record.

It was steroids that fueled McGwire and Sosa, and other sluggers as well. Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and Luis Gonzalez. There have even been whispers about Mike Piazza.

Only, when prying eyes of the media and Congress questioned the pinball scores in the major leagues were steroids seriously discussed. It also took a high school kid dying to fuel the investigations.

Of course, pitchers weren’t immune, and that brings us to Clemens. The sport knew something was going on, but as long as there wasn’t anything in the books, the balls kept flying and people kept filling the seats. MLB didn’t care because it was making back the millions in losses from the strike of 1994.

Interleague play was a gimmick that briefly sparked attendance in some parks, but has waned. During this last week of games, attendance was below its capacity everywhere. The only time this week capacity was reached was in Philadelphia, but that was for a National League game against the Rockies.

The Yankees didn’t sell out for the Mets, the White Sox didn’t sell out for the Cubs, and the Mets haven’t sold out this weekend. Things have run its course.

As for the steroids, that has run its course for several years. The gimmicks and fast fixes are being rejected.

Maybe the commissioner will notice.

 

 

Jan 11

Jan. 11.10: McGwire comes clean.

McGWIRE: More than milk gave him that body.

McGWIRE: More than milk gave him that body.

Saying he knew this day would eventually come, Mark McGwire released a statement today to the AP admitting his use of steroids. McGwire hit 583 career homers in 16 seasons, and before the steroid era he would have been a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

McGwire has been barely a blip of the Hall of Fame radar screen since his retirement. Many writers, myself included, said they wouldn’t vote for McGwire or any other player linked to steroids. His admission will cause for some soul searching from those writers, myself included, as to their stance now.

Honestly, an admission doesn’t alter the fact he cheated, but it’s a way of being honest to the fans and to the game. For that, whatever McGwire’s motivation, deserves some consideration. I’ve always been a believer in second chances so I might be leaning in that direction. So, in that respect, personally I’m glad he did this as it will erase the cloud hovering over him.

In the Never-say-Never Department, McGwire, now a hitting instructor with the Cardinals, could be activated says manager Tony La Russa. Should that happen, the clock would go back and wouldn’t start ticking until he retires for good. It would be interesting to see the reaction McGwire would receive, but it would be more interesting to see if he has anything left for real.

McGWIRE: Whiffs in front of Congress.

McGWIRE: Whiffs in front of Congress.


Some excerpts to his release:

* “I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.”

• “I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected.”

• “I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn’t take any, and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids, and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.”

Technically, McGwire never lied to Congress, he just looked weak saying he wasn’t there to talk about the past. Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Rafael Palmeiro – all with 500 career homers – have been linked, or suspected of using steriods.

Do you feel better about McGwire now, or didn’t it matter either way?