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.

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Nov 30

Report: David Wright Agrees To Mets’ Offer

It appears all over but the autograph.

David Wright reportedly agreed to a contract that makes him the highest paid Met ever and keep him with the franchise through at least 2020.

WRIGHT: Agrees to deal. (AP)

Wright said he wants to retire a Met and this will do it. The Mets already picked up a $16 million option for next season and will add seven more years at $122 million. He’ll be 38 when the contract ends. After that, depending on how he feels, he could play until he’s 40 then ride off into the sunset as a club ambassador like Tom Seaver.

Will the Mets overpay for Wright? Definitely, if based on his production the past four years, but he’s valuable to the Mets on levels that transcend what he does on the field.

The Mets’ credibility with their dwindling fan base is at a low following a NLCS Game 7 loss in 2006 and subsequent late-season collapses the next two years; that they are on their third manager and second GM since 2008; the Madoff scandal that lead to $50 million slashed from the payroll; that no contract offer was made to Jose Reyes last winter; and they made no effort to improve themselves despite a 46-40 record at the break.

With four straight losing seasons, what’s the incentive to buy a ticket or watch on TV?

It would have been next to nothing had Wright been traded or left as a free agent next season.

Wright is the current face of the franchise and might arguably be the Mets’ best position player in their 50-year history. Last season he became their all-time leader in hits, runs, walks and RBI and made his sixth All-Star Game.

When he’s done Wright will be in the position he always wanted, which was to spend his career with the same organization like Cal Ripken and Chipper Jones.

Of the top five players named on the Hall of Fame ballot – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio – only one, Biggio, played his entire career with the same team. (Biggio’s teammate also played his major league career with the Astros, but was drafted by Boston.)

I wrote yesterday that signing Wright means nothing if the Mets don’t add around him and I stand by that sentiment. Keeping Wright lends an appearance of stability, that if the Mets are willing to spend, it should attract future free agents.

Getting Wright done now enables the Mets to concentrate on R.A. Dickey, whose $5 million option for 2013 was picked up. Dickey said signing Wright would play a big part in his desire to return. Dickey also said he will not negotiate during the season.

Perhaps more importantly, it should signal to the younger players – Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ike Davis – that they intend not to have a revolving door every winter and being a career Met has value.

We shall see.

Jun 19

R.A. Dickey And Roger Clemens Interesting Contrast

Earlier in the day there was Roger Clemens, one of the most talented pitchers of his era, standing on the courthouse steps after being acquitted of all charges in his perjury/steroids trial.

DICKEY: The best about sports.

Later, there was R.A. Dickey, whose salary this year probably isn’t as much as Clemens spent on his legal defense team, mow down the Baltimore Orioles with his second straight one-hit shutout.

It was a contrast in talent vs. perseverance, arrogance vs. humility, and likability.

Dickey will never have the career Clemens had, and I’m talking the pre-cheating Clemens. Just because he was acquitted doesn’t mean he didn’t use steroids. This was a sham of a trial with the government as inept in its case as the Orioles hitters were last night.

When it comes to steroid trials, the government is so useless it couldn’t have gotten a conviction with a signed confession.

The issue surrounding steroids is credibility. The public wants, deserves and needs to know what it is seeing is real. With Clemens it did not, because whatever happened behind closed doors there still is the belief he cheated.

With Dickey, whose arm forced him to go with an improvisational pitch, we know we are seeing honest effort and grit, and with it genuine joy when he succeeds.

We are done with Clemens, and have been for a long time, even before he went after Mike Piazza’s head with a fastball and later a sawed off bat in a fit of steroid rage. With Dickey, we can’t get enough of him. He is a great story of what sports should be about.

He makes us happy to watch, not disgusted.

 

Jan 10

Larkin one of the last non-controversial inductees?

Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin could be one of the last non-controversial Hall of Fame inductees. With 85 percent of the vote, he entered without the shadow of PEDs. For the near future, those on the ballot will have been linked to PEDs, or might have their induction chances enhanced because they will be going up against the scorned.

Larkin had a stellar career, one without suspicion. He was deserving in every sense.

In Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, we have our test cases for those linked to steroids for the Hall voters, of which I am one. If a player tests positive for steroids or other PEDs, or has been linked to the drugs, he won’t get my vote.

My thinking for guys under suspicion is to withhold my vote until there is more information. Is it fair? No, but I’d rather hold the vote and give it to the player later because once the vote is cast and he’s inducted it can’t be rescinded.

Next year’s ballot is disturbingly loaded with those accused of steroid use or suspected. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza among them.

For Bonds, Clemens and Piazza, it is argued they compiled Hall of Fame numbers before being linked to steroids. For Sosa, it is suggested the stretch of his career where his noteworthy stats were compiled was all steroid related. In addition, not only did Sosa cheat with drugs, but also used a corked bat.

The simple take on steroids is it enables a hitter to hit the ball further. In reality, the issue isn’t whether PEDs add an additional 50 feet to a fly ball, but the extra five that enables it to clear the wall.

Steroids enable the user to continue training during the long, hot days of summer when he otherwise might not. This continued training didn’t make the hitter stronger as much as it increases his bat speed, and this is what generates the power.

Some argue the player still has to hit the ball, which is true, but increased bat speed can turn a normal fly ball into one that barely clears the wall. It is an unfair advantage. It is cheating.

Some apologists for the steroid user claim baseball didn’t have a defined anti-drug policy until recently. While this is true, use without a doctor’s prescription is against the law. It doesn’t matter MLB didn’t have a policy in place at the time Bonds was torching National League pitching.

With the holdovers from this year’s ballot, coupled with those next year who are clean, the pickings are slim, both in terms of PEDs and career numbers, of those qualified who’ll get in as did Larkin.

I have not, and will not vote for a player connected to PEDs. It is cheating and I don’t believe that should be rewarded. Fans should watch games confident in the knowledge what they are seeing to real, but that isn’t the case with drugs.

Not only won’t they get my vote, but I believe their statistics should come with an asterisk they were compiled under suspicion of PED use. This should also be noted on their plaque if they get the necessary votes.

Under the present voting guidelines, I can’t see it any other way.

 

 

 

 

Oct 11

Something with your morning coffee ….

This Day in Baseball History

This Day in Baseball History

It was Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS in Fenway Park, one of the most intense games in one of the most intense rivalries in all of sport.

Headhunter Pedro Martinez and punk Manny Ramirez were the biggest instigators in a brawl filled game between the Yankees and Red Sox. Ramirez waved his bat at Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens after a pitch that was no where near the Red Sox outfielder which caused the benches to empty.

In the scuffle, Martinez threw 72-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer to the ground. The game later featured a scuffle in the Yankees bullpen involving a Red Sox grounds crew member. The Yankees would win the game and Clemens got the decision.

The Yankees would go on to the World Series where they would lose to Florida.

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They Said It

They Said It

The Cardinals are the first playoff team to see winter as they offered no resistance in Game 3 of their NLDS with Los Angeles to be swept out of October.

Said Los Angeles’ Casey Blake: “Anytime you win a series it’s good. But to sweep the Cardinals, it just doesn’t happen. I would have never guessed we would have swept them.”

The Dodgers will play the winner of the Colorado-Philadelphia NLDS, which is tied at a game apiece with Game 3 tonight in Denver.

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BY THE NUMBERS

0: Extra base hits by Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in the NLDS vs. Dodgers.