Friday, March 31, 2006

Selig's AnalSteroid Probe

Look everybody! Bud Selig is going to commence investigation on the past use of steroids by baseball’s biggest stars! I’m so excited, I can hardly contain myself. Just think: the iron fist of justice will be slammed down on Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield.

On a more serious note: this investigation is at least part sham. Some – including Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci – believe that this probe is necessary for the present and future of baseball. It somehow proves that MLB cares enough to verify these outstanding drug abuse allegations.

In the end, however, not much will come of this. There is the possibility that Selig and his team of investigators will turn up incontrovertible evidence of certain players using steroids, but where do they go from there? How do you punish Mark McGwire for his past steroid use? How do you levee justice upon the shameless Jose Canseco? And more importantly, how do you deal with convicted current players?

Hothead baseball fans will lambaste the guilty, calling for their heads – or more likely, a suspension. But in reality, Selig cannot suspend these men. The player’s union, despite their ultimate concession on the steroid punishment issue, is a group more powerful than many realize. The second a suspension is so much as mentioned in this case, their lawyers will be working ‘round the clock to piece together a rather simple case: no dirty test, no suspension.

There is another aspect to this case that warrants mentioning. How can Selig condone punishment now when he didn’t even care about steroids when they were at their peak usage? There’s no doubt he was privy to Bonds’s usage during his record breaking 2003 season, and to deny such knowledge would prove him either 1) a downright liar or 2) a horribly frightening ignoramus. In either case, he should be immediately deposed as Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

This probe is not due to Selig’s concern for the integrity of the game. If he cared about that, he would have been investigating steroid use the minute he was named acting Commissioner. But, because these juiced players brought in the bankroll, he turned his head, ostensibly figuring the problem would rectify itself, which is impeccable logic. “Players are becoming stronger and more agile from these drugs, but I think they’ll eventually stop on their own.” It’s either that or ignorance. Once again, both should be considered incompetence and grounds for termination.

For this probe to be successful, both Selig and investigators need to realize the proper course of action. The intent should be merely to unveil hard and incontrovertible evidence of steroid use. That way, the public will be informed, and the players will be shamed – though I’m sure Jason Giambi has been shamed enough already.

(Aside on Giambi: many weren’t satisfied with his pseudo apology prior to last season. I’ve always defended Jason’s position, mainly because of contractual issues. But remember this: he stood in front of a Grand Jury and admitted knowingly taking steroids. In contrast, Sheffield and Bonds – among others – kept up the “I didn’t know they were steroids” façade. Leave Giambi alone; of all the people involved in this charade, he’s been the most honest and forthright. Not that he’s been completely both, to a greater degree than his peers.)

The sad part about all of this is that with a mere censure as the most stringent foreseeable punishment, many may forget about this consequential period in baseball history. For instance, how many people remember that Bill Clinton was censured following his impeachment trial? And of those who do remember, how many said, “oh yeah, he WAS censured in 1999” after reading the previous query? A censure is like a parent slapping their kid on the wrist for wrongdoing; sure, the kid may not do it again for a week, but since the punishment was negligible, the behavior is apt to repeat.

I’ve hit an impasse in my argument, it seems. I’ve argued that a suspension cannot and will not be levied upon those found guilty in this probe, but I’ve also recognized a censure as too lenient a penalty. My solution: continue the probe and record the results in baseball annals. Attach the scarlet letter to each guilty player’s name for the rest of eternity. For example:

The single season home run record is 73, set in 2003 by Barry Bonds, who was later found to have enhanced his game with steroids and growth hormones.

An asterisk will not suffice in this situation, for an asterisk can mean anything. Roger Maris gets an asterisk for his 61 homers because he hit them under different circumstances than Babe, circumstances beyond his control. Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield – they controlled their situation. Maris’s milestone was reached because of a governing body’s decision to expand the schedule; Bonds’s milestone was achieved because he, as an individual, decided to inject himself with banned substances.

Maybe some good will come of this probe. Maybe the loonies out in San Francisco will cease blindly following the Word of Bonds. Maybe there will be some justice in baseball annals. But ultimately, the best this probe can bring is a hunger for greater athleticism. There are now a host of records set by players unnaturally enhanced. Athletes in the future should keep this in mind, and push themselves beyond their natural boundaries to naturally accomplish a feat previously attained unnaturally. That, my friends, should be what we’re all shooting for.

Question to All

I was just thinking about this a bit earlier: who is everyone's favorite Yankee? I can't imagine anyone over the age of 15 answering anything but Mo or Jete. Who else could you say? Maybe ephemeral fans go with A-Rod or Randy, but for those of us who waded through the dark ages of the 80s and early 90s, who is your favorite? Who on this team stands out as your favorite Yankee?

O'Neill was always my favorite, which is why 2001 hurt so bad. After him it was Pettitte. Now who? I guess I default to Mo at this point, with Jeter as a close second (though I'm a pretty big Giambi fan, which I'll explain later today).

Anyone on this?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mo Day?

Apparently it’s Mariano Rivera day over at the New York Post. Mike Vaccaro leads things off. Of course, I’ve all but denounced newspaper columnists – especially tabloid columnists. But Vacarro is an alum of the Newark Star Ledger, the newspaper I read in my formative years. I still read him once in a while, if only because I used to read him daily as a kid.

(Aside: his replacement was Dan Graziano, who I hate with a passion. Never have I read a more uninformed sports columnist in my life. And I bet he had to put in a good 10 years of grunt work just to ascend to his level. Kinda makes you wonder why these guys take this path to sports writing.)

Kevin Kernan is next in the order, counting down the Top 10 New York closers of all time. I’m sick of reading “Top 10 of all time” lists, and since I’ve seen enough of them ranking all closers, I have no interest in reading one concentrated in the Big Apple. Just look at Kernan’s byline picture and tell me he doesn’t look like an utter dolt. You can’t. I’ve obviously never met the guy, but he seems like a smug asshole who thinks he knows more than you about sports.

Finally, Michael Morrissey opens a piece on Mo with a quote from Kevin Millar, which had me instinctually clicking the “X” in the upper right corner of my screen.

There are two more closer-related articles in the Post today. You can find them here and here.

The other running theme in the press today was the Randy Johnson-Jorge Posada conundrum. It’s no secret that Randy had issues with Posada last year, and it’s apparently spilling over into 2006. Personally, I think it’s all in Unit’s head. He had a tough time adjusting to New York and the American League, so he blamed anything and everything for his woes. Ultimately, he settled in after blaming Posada, so that seemed like the solution. However, this seems like a fabricated fallacy that needs to cease this year.

In case you want to read some mainstream morons prattling on about the issue, here they are:
New York Post
Daily News
Hartford Courant

The baseball articles are more plentiful now, which is nice in one sense, but incredibly frustrating in another. Material is fresh when the season starts, but when those writers run out of fresh ideas, they start either regurgitating crap that wasn’t very good in the first place, or inciting their readership with moronic statements. As such, I’m going to avoid linking to mainstream media sites throughout the season. If they can come up with material, I can too. I may borrow quotes from the beat reporters, but surely won’t use them in the same context.

I’ll round off today’s entry without linking. Scott Proctor should be the fifth starter should Pavano and Small not be available for the April 15th start. In fact, even if Smally is available, I’d still strongly consider Proctor for the role. He’s obviously more effective as a starter than a reliever; that much we learned over the course of last year and this spring. The best course of action would be to start him in Columbus, get him a start there, and then bring him up for April 15th.

Of course, this is complicated because Proctor is likely low on options. I don’t know exactly how the system works, but I know Proctor has been up and down with the Yanks for two years, and surely doesn’t have many more. The team would be in jeopardy of losing Proctor if they spent an option on him now, called him up for April 15th, and then optioned him again when Pavano comes off the DL.

I just have this feeling that Proctor will prove ineffective as a reliever (once again), causing Torre to lose confidence in him. This means that he wouldn’t be available to spot start when the inevitable injuries roll in. If someone knows Proctor’s option situation (I’m short on time at this point), post it in the comments. I think that would give me a better idea as to what I would do in this situation. Barring that, however, I would certainly keep him in Columbus, starting games and building up endurance. Only call him up when needed to start, because as we’ve seen, this is where he’s most effective.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tis the Season

I rid myself of the Prediction Bug back in February as I went through my 12 Nine Questions Facing the 2006 Yankees. However, this is the time when predictions are doled out en masse, and as such I’ll stay clear of that bandwagon.

I realize that most readers of this here site come from links on other baseball and Yankees related websites, so posting links back to them may not be the most productive way to spend my time. But these people spent plenty of time on these projections, so in the off-chance that you’re a regular reader here and not on the linked sites, I’m going to provide you some reading material.

As a precursor, I want to restate my position on projections/predictions. I enjoy reading articles speculating about someone’s anticipated performance. However, I do not enjoy predictive statistics such as ZiPS and PECOTA. We already analyze baseball players like robots, figuring certain numbers tell the tale. I like that because it’s a retrospect; we look back and see exactly how a player performed. Predictive statistics take that robotic notion to another level, attempting to predict that a player will perform a certain way based on past statistics.

I bring up this point in transition to the first prediction site I’ll link to, Beyond the Boxscore. This is a Sabermetrics blog, and as such uses numbers that I don’t typically agree with. However, the predictions here are broken down into your standard Avg/OBP/Slg categories, so it’s much easier to read. After skimming this (I always skim to see if it’s worth my full attention), I kinda tossed it aside. Only two returning Yankees – Gary Sheffield and Jorge Posada – are projected to improve over their 2005 numbers. As I’ve been told, this is in part due to the team age; predictive statistics apparently kill players as they get on in years. Add them to the long list of Yankee haters out there.

Now for the hefty one: SG’s "Looking Ahead" series over at RLYW. Here goes.

Yankee Catchers
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Left Field
Center Field
Right Field
Randy Johnson
Mike Mussina
Chien-Ming Wang
Shawn Chacon
Carl Pavano
Santana, Halladay, Wright, Small
Mariano Rivera
Kyle Farnsworth
Lefty Relievers

In addition to that stack of papers, he also simulated the season using various predictive statistics. Prepare for an influx of numbers and projects as you click here to check it out. I have to admire SG for his dedication to covering the Yankees from a non-mainstream perspective.

There has been an ongoing community projection for the Yanks over at YanksBlog. Unfortunately, since the moderator, Patrick, refuses to link me on the main page, I won’t link back to them in this post (though I won’t take down their link on my main page out of respect). Their top dog, James Varghese, has done a masterful job with the projections. An archive of James’s works can be found here, which include links to the community projections. Not only are James’s views worth the read, but there are a flurry of reader opinions (as implied by "community projection") that are worth 15 minutes of your time.

We’re still awaiting the "Five Questions: New York Yankees" segment from the Hardball Times, but I’ll be sure to post a link as soon as it goes up (as if everyone that reads this site doesn’t read THT).

That’ll be it for now. If you have links to any further Yankees projections, drop me a line and let me know where to find them.

Out of Proportion

The media really cracks me up sometimes. A day after the Daily News and the New York Post ran a bit about Randy suing the mother of his illegitimate child, all the majors are in on it. Though, the two aforementioned papers kept the piece puffy, while the other two focused on the effect the situation will have on Mr. Johnson’s performance to open the season. This is how each opened their respective article:

From the Daily News:

Randy Johnson's teenage love child broke her silence yesterday - saying "it hurts" that the Yankees superstar has shunned her and is playing legal hardball with her mother.

Heather Roszell, 16, has never spoken to her millionaire dad and says her letters to him have mostly gone unanswered over the years.

"I'm not sure I even want to see him after what he's putting my mom through," said Roszell, a willowy, 6-foot-1 blond. "And I just don't think it's fair for children not to have a relationship with their parents."

An equally sassy opening from the Post (which hilariously bore the headline, “My Damn Dad Blew Me Off”):

The heartbroken love child of Yankee superstar Randy Johnson yesterday broke her silence for the first time to describe how the peevish pitcher coldly responded to letters she sent him as a little girl pleading to meet him.

"I would get cards back from him with just his signature - 'Randy,' " said Heather Renee Roszell, 16, who bears a striking resemblance to her "Big Unit" father.

The teen said she stopped writing to her dad after awhile because "I never got [more of] a response, so it got to the point where I didn't want to deal with not getting the response."

She said she can't even bring herself to watch her famous dad pitch on TV anymore.

Newsday, proving they’ll never grab the headline-hungry attentions of New Yorkers, opened with a re-hash of the situation:

Randy Johnson never specifically cited his embarrassment over shoving a cameraman in Manhattan in January 2005 as a reason for his struggles, but Joe Torre has always said it set the tone for Johnson's rocky first year in pinstripes.

Now Johnson finds himself in another sensitive situation, as details of his private life are becoming public knowledge.

A celebrity-news-driven Web site, The Smoking Gun, has posted a copy of the court petition Johnson filed last month attempting to reclaim nearly $100,000 from the mother of his first child in a dispute over how the money apparently was being used.

::Yawn:: Wasn’t this yesterday’s news? Couldn’t I have picked up a copy of the Post or the Daly News yesterday? I’m not trying to tout the two major tabloids here, but I have to hand it to them. They picked up on a hot story a day before it escalated, and could afford to run puff pieces while the others were stuck doling out the facts of the situation. In fact, the Post took it one step further, not only running the above quoted piece, but two others. George King had to get in on the action, posting his own article about the distraction factor, and Larry Brooks had to weigh in as well. Rounding out the tabloids, the grizzled David Hinckley at the Daily News offers his view, which will be ignored by these eyes.

The Newark Star Ledger took a slightly different angle, diving right into the distraction issue from the get-go:

Randy Johnson said yesterday that this week's revelation he fathered a daughter more than 16 years ago will not be a distraction as he prepares for his second season with the Yankees.

"I don't believe it is," Johnson said. "I'm ready to pitch."

Johnson is scheduled to make his final spring tune-up today in minor-league camp.

He issued a statement through agent Barry Meister: "In response to questions about my personal life, I do acknowledge that I have a daughter from a previous relationship which ended years before my marriage. I have fully financially supported her and have made every effort to protect her privacy and have tried to make decisions in her best interests. As this is a personal matter unrelated to my professional life, I will have no further comment, and I hope you, too, will respect the privacy of everyone concerned."

I’m the guy who despises the treatment of celebrities as idolatries, yet I’m hot on this issue. Not only that, I’ve gone so far as to praise the two major tabloids for turning the story into a soap opera. There is justification behind this, however. See, celebrities don’t really “do” anything to deserve the attention. They act in movies and TV shows, sure, but they get multiple chances to get it right. If athletes got multiple chances, Randy wouldn’t have let 32 balls leave the park last year.

Most surprisingly, ESPN doesn’t have anything regarding this story on their MLB index, though there are a few podcasts about it on the Yankees team page (and who the hell goes that?).

This is what you get when you play for the Yankees. Every on and off-field issue is examined with an electron microscope so finely tuned it not only picks up miniscule issues, but blows them out of proportion. Had Randy still been with the D-Backs, this would have been a one-day issue for their local paper, and that would have been it. In this day of free-flowing information, it would have gotten a feature on Pro Sports Daily yesterday, and then been out of the running by today. But this is New York, and the issue prevails.

But hey, it’s not like anyone is ignorant to what they’re walking into when they put ink to parchment for the Yankees, right?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Randy's Love Child

I often wonder how I miss out on these stories until I browse by them on Pro Sports Daily. How could a story about Randy Johnson's love child slip by me? Surely this story has been around for a bit, seeing as it was printed in today's Daily News.

Anyway, here's the story, which tells the tale of a lawsuit filed by Johnson against the ex-girlfriend, citing overpayment of child care.

Court papers reveal that Johnson first agreed in 1997 to pay $5,000 a month in child support for Heather Roszell, plus another $750 in monthly day care expenses.

Laurel Roszell claimed things turned sour last year when she asked the all star to buy Heather a car and foot the bill for community college classes.

He fired back with the legal equivalent of a high and hard fastball - demanding that she return about $71,000 in day care payments, plus $26,000 in interest because the teen was too old to be in day care, legal papers show.

"My daughter is 16 and has not been in day care for at least five years," Johnson said in a legal affidavit dated Feb. 3. "[Roszell] should not receive a windfall for expenses she did not incur."

I don't know how most child care cases work, but $5,750 per month in child care costs seems like a hefty sum. Raising a kid may cost a load, but this agreement amounts to nearly $70,000 per year, which is well more than many people take home from their 50-hour-per-week jobs.

So in that sense, I can see Randy's side. But there's a little socialist bug ticking in the back of my mind that can't understand why Randy's being so damn stingy here. According to Baseball Reference, Randy has accumulated $127,687,500 over his career, with an additional $32 million due from the Yankees. The childcare payments obviously aren't causing a dent in his budget, so why stir the pot?

Maybe it's a personal issue between Johnson and Roszell, but that shouldn't matter. I actually think this speaks to Randy's character, that he'll spend freely (though that's speculative) on the children born by his current wife, but starts nickel and diming when it comes to an illegitimate child. She's your daughter, Randy; do right by her.

Q&A With Jim Bouton is hosting its first "Community Q&A" this week. Our guest is Jim Bouton of Ball Four fame.

You can find the entry page here. Users can leave questions for Mr. Bouton over the course of the next week; The folks at Armchair GM will be emailing him the highest rated questions, from which he'll select a few to answer. Anyone can ask a question and/or rate the questions of others.

Questions should be asked here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I Am Not Obsessed With Barry Bonds

I'm just fascinated with how this whole speil is playing out in various media outlets. For instance, Bonds made appearances at two major sports news players yesterday, ESPN and FOX Sports.

The ESPN story, linked to on the main page as of 11:45 p.m. on March 27th, is titled Bonds: 'My life is in shambles. It is crazy'. In this puff piece, ESPN cites a recent interview with the Associated Press in which Bonds begs for attention, as per usual. Only in one paragraph is any sort of injury mentioned:

He appears unfazed at the plate. He's 10-for-16 with four homers in exhibition play despite being held out of San Francisco's lineup for the third straight day because of a tender left elbow.

So even when they're talking injury, they're grazing over it. Direct your attention, if you will, to FOX Sports. Bonds was not featured on the main page (as of 11:45), but had a blurb on thier MLB Index site titled, Bonds has elbow, knee examined.

Granted, we're not looking at anything serious here. As team spokesman Blake Rhodes put it, "The doctors were very happy with what they saw in the examination." But it's still relevant information. Why run a puff piece when you have hard news to report? (Simple answer: ESPN will do ANYTHING to revive the hype of their Bonds reality show.)

Most interestingly, the FOX Sports article contains a curious paragraph. I will add my own emphasis:

"If this were a regular-season game, he could probably play," Conte said. "We're trying to be ultraconservative. He shouldn't have any restrictions, but we'll see how he comes through."

Obviously, there is no mention of a Conte anywhere else in the article. Oops. It is now 11:57 p.m., and the article was posted two hours ago. Let's see how long until they catch the mistake.

The Weekend

Once again, I sit at my keyboard, unable to adequately describe my weekend basketball experience. Thankfully, this is a late day post, and I don’t have to agonize over the proper words. In essence, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a weekend of basketball more than this one – and that includes opening weekends.

The only downside to these, for the most part, nail biters is the formula behind them. There are excessive media timeouts during the first half, meaning teams have a more difficult time getting into their offensive rhythm. But everyone is pumped so they play stellar defense, leading to dwindled halftime scores – 27-25 and the like.

It was sad to see ‘Nova go down, considering I had them all the way, but we all knew it could happen. They faced a team with hefty big men and couldn’t find their shot. I was surprised they kept it close for as long as they did.

Oh, and if you aren’t pulling for George Mason at this point, either you’re an alum of Florida, LSU, or UCLA, or you have no soul.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Thompson the Clipper

We all knew it was a longshot, but Kevin Thompson isn't making the team. From the mouth of Joe Torre:

"Right now, they've penciled him in to play at Columbus."

Shouldn't be long before Bubba has Torre jonesin' for Thompson. Here's to hoping he's not peddled for a half-season rental in July.

The linked article is worth the read.