Feb 20

Pete Rose Not In The Cards

There is nitpicking, there is pettiness, and there is Major League Baseball policy, which is in a category by itself. There’s no other way to explain my reaction to what I just read.

TOPPS baseball cards, of which I have tens of thousands, banned Pete Rose from its 2013 set. TOPPS not only won’t have Rose’s picture on any cards, but also won’t put his name on the back in a feature called “Career Chase,’’ where a current player is listed to how close he is to the all-time record. Since Rose has the record with 4,256 hits – his name won’t be found.

urlRose was banned from baseball for gambling on the sport, including on his own team, and because TOPPS has the exclusive right to produce MLB-licensed cards, Rose is ineligible to be listed. According to the letter of the contract, TOPPS is within its right to omit Rose, but this comes off as petty and vindictive by both the card maker and MLB.

The object of the game is to hit the ball, and nobody did it more than Rose. It’s like when Stalin had his opponents’ names and pictures stricken from the Russian history books. Stalin had them killed and names erased, but it doesn’t alter the fact they existed. MLB and TOPPS can’t issue an edict on Rose otherwise.

Rose exists and excelled at his game. In the process, he generated millions of dollars in ticket sales, memorabilia and souvenirs for MLB. If MLB wants to ban Rose from holding a baseball job I have no problems with that. However, banning Rose from all things baseball is petty and cruel spirited.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum, and despite its strong ties with MLB, it is still a museum. History is not neat and clean, it is messy and tumultuous, and its characters not always emblematic of the best human stock. The Hall of Fame is loaded with those who drank, cheated on their spouses, were racists who never wanted Jackie Robinson in the game, and even murdered.

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Feb 10

What I Make Of Piazza Admission

I concede disappointment in Mike Piazza’s admission in his autobiography he took androstenedione, but only because it further lends to speculation he might have used PEDs.

From andro to steroids is the logical, but unsubstantiated conclusion. Once again, Piazza denied using steroids, but this certainly won’t enhance his Hall of Fame chances. Piazza received over 50 percent of the vote, but still was far short of induction. Part of that percentage was from my vote, and for that I still have no regrets.

My criteria was there was no admission of steroid use; he never failed a drug test; was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report; and nobody accused him on the record. There was only the subject of columns pointing out his back acne. To me, Piazza had the statistical career to warrant induction and the acne is only innuendo. As a journalist, I don’t operate on speculation.

Andro was not a banned substance by MLB when Piazza claims to have used it, nor was it illegal. Steroids, however, are different in that before they were banned by MLB, they were illegal in society without a prescription.

Regarding PEDs, Piazza wrote:  “Apparently, my career was a story that nobody cared to believe. Apparently, my success was the work of steroids. Had to be. Those were the rumors. … It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids. I didn’t.’’

Of course, Piazza could by lying. Lance Armstrong lied. Pete Rose lied. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa lied. It wouldn’t be a shock, but for now I believe him and do not regret giving him my Hall of Fame vote.

 

Feb 10

What To Make Of Schilling, Braun And A-Rod

There are several things I want to bring to the blog on a regular basis, something you can depend on. Beginning with a Sunday column centering on the main story of the week.

It is a shame, but the week leading up to the start of spring training was dominated by stories of PEDs. It will never end. There will always be somebody wanting to gain an edge. There will always be cheating. Is it human nature? Yeah, I think so, sadly.

First, Alex Rodriguez. Is anybody really surprised to hear he’s in trouble again? It’s bad enough to be linked again to PEDs, but to come out and say MLB and the Yankees are out to get him? Why not leave well enough alone?

He already hired a big-time lawyer, so he should let his mouthpiece do the talking for him. Sure, the Yankees will try to void his contract, but the MLB Players Association will make it a costly fight. It’s not my money, but if I ran the Yankees I’d go for it, just to send a message.

Rodriguez was not suspended after his admission, so if he’s suspended this time it will be for only 50 games. Bud Selig needs to take that step.

The decision the Yankees must make is whether they believe Rodriguez will ever be healthy enough to be a viable player again. If they decide no, then they might has well try to buy him out or release him outright rather than have him be a distraction for the next five years.

Either way, it could cost them $114 million. And, no way will Rodriguez retire and walk away from that money.

Ryan Braun is proving to be a disappointment and somebody not to be trusted. Yes, he got off on a technicality, but I’m not buying his reasoning his named popped up in the Florida case because he was getting information for his defense. If you’re Braun, you have access to the best lawyers and medical advise available. Why wouldn’t you seek help from a professional instead of going to a shady clinic in a strip mall, one with a checkered history with MLB? If nothing else, wouldn’t the Players Association give him that advice.

Finally, there’s Curt Schilling, who can be a blowhard at times. Including this one. To come out and accuse a member of the Red Sox staff of suggesting he use PEDs while standing in the middle of a crowded clubhouse is absurd.

Although Schilling didn’t mention any names – only that they were no longer with the organization – didn’t mean it couldn’t be figured out who he was talking about. It is highly unlikely, that in a crowded clubhouse, with media access that this would happen. If such a suggestion were made, it would be in private.

 

Dec 10

Adding PEZ To Mets Memorabilia

Of course I have baseball cards. Over 50,000 at last count dating back to 1952. Yes, I might be called an old guy, even though many in the 1950s were purchased well after I was born and picked up at flea markets and garage sales, long before baseball cards became an industry.

I was out yesterday and a sign caught my eye: PEZ Visitor Center. Yes, PEZ, the old fashioned candy created in Austria in the 1920s was what I learned.

On display were hundreds of theme dispensers, ranging from Will and Kate, to Elvis, to Star Wars, to college football, to Peanuts characters and Bugs Bunny. The only PEZ I remembered growing up was a Popeye, which they had on display, but not for sale.

There was Ohio State and Michigan. Mets and Yankees. I didn’t even know they had MLB. There’s one of each, and you can even order them online at  I was thinking of picking up one of each team. Maybe later.

It got me to thinking of all the various types of memorabilia I’ve collected over the years other than the cards. There were Sports Illustrated issues featuring prominent Mets events and players. There was even one of the Tom Seaver trade to Cincinnati. I know, I know, that one stings.

One year the TOPPS company inserted metal coins in the packs. I believe it was 1964. I got a Ron Hunt. Another year they inserted decals.

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Nov 18

Which Team Is More Dysfunctional, The Mets Or Jets?

Getting ready to watch football with the NFL Red Zone, so thankfully I am not tied down to the Jets-Rams.

TV football in New York is absolutely terrible without Red Zone because you’re tied into two teams each week, but I digress.

I was thinking which is the most dysfunctional New York franchise, the Mets or Jets?

The Jets are in the news because the Mets have faded into the woodwork until February.

The biggest disparity between the teams is economic, despite each being in a sport with sound financial footing. Each NFL team – as with each MLB team – has a predetermined foundation in the tens of millions before selling a single ticket. Both have loaded ownerships, but the difference is Woody Johnson is willing to spend while the Wilpons make their decisions against the backdrop of the Madoff scandal.

The fundamental difference is the Jets are willing to spend, evidenced by first pursuing Brett Favre, and then giving loaded contracts to Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Derrelle Revis.

In fairness, the Mets showed a similar desire with Johan Santana and Jason Bay, not to mention Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez, but the last two years have been on an austerity kick.

The most obvious similarity is both share the city with a more successful and stable older brother against whom they’ll never match.

Another common thread is the lack of direction from the top as to where and how to spend.

The Mets’ bullpen has deteriorated along with their outfield and offense. Meanwhile, the Jets’ offensive line is weak, along with their offensive skill players and pass rush.

The bullpen and offensive line are fundamental building blocks in the respective sports, and neither team can compete if things remain the same.

The direction of both teams is like the Washington D.C., roadmap – it goes in all directions.

The Mets failed to build their bullpen after the 2007 collapse, and then moved into Citi Field with the stated goal of building with pitching and defense only to sign Bay.

It has been downhill since, with the real possibility of losing David Wright and R.A. Dickey. If they do, the Mets will begin another rebuilding program, just as the Jets could be after this season if they continue to implode and Johnson fires GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan, which could lead to the trading of Sanchez.

After the collapses of 2007 and 2008, preceded by losing in the 2006 NLCS, the Mets severely overestimated their team and attempted to patch their holes with veterans – Santana, Rodriguez, Bay, etc. – but are now going the farm system route.

Trouble is, there’s little underneath that’s major league ready.

Meanwhile, the Jets thought they’d compete with the Favre signing, but after he left began the Sanchez Era.

With a strong defense and sound running game – you do remember “Ground and Pound’’ don’t you? – to complement Sanchez, the Jets played, but lost, consecutive AFC Championship games. They overestimated themselves in defeat.

How the Ryan tenure began is how NFL teams are usually built. They attempted to open up their defense, but did so at the expense of the running game. In addition, the Jets never complemented their strong secondary with a pass rush.

Then, with their quarterback’s confidence fractured, the Jets inexplicably traded for Tebow for a fourth-round pick and then signed him for three years. Adding Tebow meant adding a quarterback who needed a different offensive system.

As the Mets had a disjointed clubhouse, the Jets had a poisonous locker room, marked by snakes Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. The backbiting continued this week with the verbal torching of Tebow.

Your guess is as good as mine as to determining what the Jets want to do with their inept offense, which has not been helped by their porous defense, which gives up over 150 yards a game on the ground.

Also, both teams play in divisions with rivals they can’t seem to catch in the Phillies and Braves for the Mets and Patriots for the Jets.

That brings us to a final similarity: It could be a long time before the Mets or Jets are relevant again.