Tagged: MLB

Letter to the Editor

I had a comment on my last post and my response to it became so long that I figured I may as well make it another post.

The comment came from Julia over at Julia’s Rants. Here’s the comment:

Scott – I
don’t think you can compare the possible use of PEDs (a CHOICE someone
makes) with someone who struggles with alcohol abuse (NOT a choice). I
have to agree with those who feel that McGwire, Clemens, Bond and
others don’t deserve to be in the HOF because of use of PEDs. I also
agree that Pete Rose doesn’t belong in the HOF because of gambling.
When a player makes the decision to do something that violates the
rules of Baseball then they have to live with the consequences. There
is a difference between behavior that we might not approve of – but
doesn’t violate MLB policy – and behavior that does.

~Julia

Here’s my response:

DISCLAIMER!: Julia, this is not an attack on you and please don’t take it that way. My response was just so long I wanted to make it a post. I respect you and your opinions, this is just my response.

Jules,

I can certainly see why the majority of people don’t believe accused steroid users belong in the hall of fame, and their argument is certainly legitimate, as is yours.

But I have to disagree with you when you say we can’t compare steroid use with something like alcohol abuse. First of all, everything is a choice. Addiction – whether it is alcohol, gambling or tobacco – is no exception. We make our choices in life and when those choices become too overwhelming, we are quick to write it off as “not our choice” so we feel like it’s not our fault. It was always our choice, just like using steroids is a choice.

I never liked the term “Performance Enhancing Drugs” because it doesn’t tell the whole story. A lot of things can be considered “performance enhancing” – coffee, red bull, cigarettes, even Gatorade – but steroids has medical risks if not used properly, which is why everyone is in such an uproar. But somehow, we label anabolic steroids as “Performance Enhancing” and they sound like a forbidden fruit instead of a medical necessity, as it sometimes is. There are plenty of major leaguers playing today only because they were prescribed steroids to help them return to play. Everyone who ever had Tommy John’s surgery has steroids to thank for the rest of their career. Should we consider all of the stats they accumulated afterward as “cheating.” No, because they have a doctor’s note, McGwire, Bonds and Clemens don’t.

There’s still way too much smoke around steroid use in baseball to let it effect Hall-of-Fame voting just yet. Some say that steroids enhanced Mark McGwire’s performance “significantly,” yet there are no positive tests, no court ruling, nothing, just a suspicious statement at a congressional hearing five years ago and the word of Jose Canseco. Damning as it was, I don’t think it’s right to keep Mark McGwire out of the hall because we suspect he used steroids.

My point is, Hall-of-Fame voting should be based upon on-field performance and nothing else. There are a thousand different things athletes use to enhance their performance, anabolic steroids is just one of them. Mark McGwire supposedly used steroids when there was no steroid policy, so he broke no rules. Yet, we continue to act as a society who judges people on standards we ourselves can never meet. At our jobs, we use all kinds of things to “enhance” our performance. But should a business person be denied a raise because he used a caffeine pill to stay up all night and finish the presentation? Should my writing be considered “phony” because I use spellcheck?

Don’t get me wrong. I am definitely against steroid use in baseball, but not because I’m afraid of someone hitting more homeruns than someone else. I’m concerned because of the danger of their use. Plain and simple. Without doctor supervision, steroids can be dangerous or even kill you, and that’s why I want to keep them out of sports. 

The crusade against steroids is something I support but not if it is going to be a witch hunt against former players. We aren’t going to remove the numbers from the record books so we can’t take them away from the player either. Major League Baseball is going to keep McGwire out of the hall but they have no qualms about celebrating the magic of the summer of 1998 at the same time.

I support the cause, but I won’t support hipocracy.

~Scott

P.S. Pete Rose gambled when he was a manager, not a player. He broke the rules after he put up the numbers and played the game. Ban him from managing, ban him from commentating, that’s all fine, but you can’t keep the all-time hits leader out of the Hall-of-Fame because of something he did as a skipper.

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Solutions Oriented

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There’s
nothing I hate more than hearing someone rant and rave about a problem they are
having yet they are unwilling to do anything to fix it. I have a simple life
philosophy: “If you have a problem,
either do something about it or shut up.”
Sounds harsh and cynical but it’s
kept me sane.

Looking back
on my last few entries I realize that I’m beginning to rant. My collective
opinions are warranted but not much more than a big “shame on you” to much of
the baseball world. So by my own principles, I must come up with a solution or
shut up until I have something else to talk about; which brings me to another
good life philosophy: “Judge me not by
your standards, judge me by my own.”

I should
write a book.

So the big
problem I see right now in Major League Baseball is how out of control players
salaries have been. The Yanks spent a quarter-billion on two pitchers, Raul
Ibanez is getting $10mil a year and the Boston Red Sox are calling Scott Boras’
bluff on a phantom $195 million offer.

I have
always defended higher salaries in all of pro sports. On average, a
professional athlete makes $200,000 or so a year (check me on that, I’m almost
definitely wrong). So while it seems every athlete is making millions, that
figure is only reserved for the elite. Besides, an athlete only plays 10, 15
maybe 20 years if he stays healthy. 8-12 years, I think, can be considered a
good career. That’s a lot shorter than the careers you and I will have, and we’ll
be paying far less in medical expenses. Finally, as far as superstars are
concerned, organizations are making millions be marketing their names, so why
shouldn’t they get a good chunk of that revenue?

My solution
however, would avoid a good amount of inflation that has driven up prices. It
would be a system much like that of golf and Hollywood, where you earn your
paycheck more than you do in baseball. It seems that every winter the top free
agent wants more than the top free agent got the year before, even if last year’s
top gun was much better.

Sound
familiar Matt Ryan?

A Hollywood
actor’s salary is mostly determined by how long he has been in the biz and how
well his movies have done. Newcomers like Shia LeBouf and that kid from Juno are
making a few hundred thousand to maybe a couple million which Brad Pitt and
Johnny Depp are making 25 to 30 million per movie. Sounds semi-elitist but no
one has complained so far. (except maybe Tom Cruise, but he only has himself to
blame)

So let’s say
that the free agent signing period looks a little different from now on.
Players will still only be allowed to negotiate with their current team first
before testing the market, but their worth will be determined a little
differently.

I call it the “Free
Agent Value System.”

Hit 30 homeruns in a season? That’s $250,000!

Have an ERA under 3.00? Nice! $500,000!

Been with one franchise for 10 years! Kudos! $1,000,000!

MVP? WOW! $5,000,000!

The league
will have a set of accomplishments that determines a player’s “value.”
Essentially, the market will be turned into a giant EBAY website: the value
system determines its worth (not what the agent says it is) and negotiations begin there.

Of course,
the highest bidder won’t be guaranteed a victory, but it would allow more teams
to be in the running. Look at it this way: Have you heard the names Tampa Bay
Rays, Cincinnati Reds or Kansas City Royals very much this off-season? Didn’t
think so.

Is the
system perfect? No, but it’s interesting to think about. It spreads opportunity
around without spreading money around, and it levels the playing field without
simply instituting a salary-cap. It also works both sides of the plate,
so-to-speak. It will bring down salaries for some but raise salaries for
others, so it may be easier to get the players union on board. It does,
however, change the playing field for agents (awwww, poor babies) who now have
to get a little more creative.

What do you
think?

There’s More to Life

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The subject of this column was not inspired by baseball, I
know, but nonetheless it brings up and interesting topic.

Those of you who don’t just follow baseball may have heard
of a young man named Myron Rolle this weekend. For those of you who did not,
allow me to fill you in:

Myron Rolle plays safety for Florida State, which is great
but nothing no one has accomplished before. He’s a talented player, projected
to be a first round draft pick should he enter the NFL draft. The problem is;
Myron may not be interested in playing safety in the NFL, no, he may be much
more interested in becoming a brain surgeon.

No, that’s not a typo.

Brain surgeon.  As in
the guy who’s going to remove the brain tumor from every Cubs fan’s skull if
they don’t win a world series anytime soon.

Florida State played Maryland yesterday which didn’t mean a
whole lot in a grand scheme of the monstrosity known as the BCS (which is a
conversation I’ll have to have with Barack Obama later). And while his teammates were
busy playing the first half, Myron was busy trying to become a Rhodes Scholar.
That’s right, a Rhodes Scholar. A distinction normally suited for future
presidents, supreme court justices and a few other scientists but not normally
football players. Myron broke the mold on that one.

Not only is the guy a freaking genius, he graduated from FSU
in just five semesters! Let me put that into perspective for you: I’ll be lucky
to graduate from Penn State in five years!

The topic that interests me is this: What should Myron Rolle
do come the spring?

This topic has meaning because it raises an important
question in sports today. A lot of young athletes are recognized earlier and
earlier to the point where high school sports become nationally recognized from
time to time. LeBron James had his high school games televised on ESPN, and
this was way before we knew he could do what he does now in the NBA. Now
occasionally you have guys like LeBron and Tiger Woods who burst on the scene
and become superstars in their sport. But more often than not, you find a young
man who thinks he is going to spend his life playing a sport only to find that
his career is short lived.

I was almost one of those young men.

All my life I was convinced I was going to be a professional
baseball player. So convinced, in fact, I cared about little else besides
getting my next baseball fix. I was smart enough where I could pass by grade
school without putting forth too great an effort, a plan I still use today in
college. I was obsessed, to say the least, I even convinced my uncle to be my
agent when I made it to the show.

My parents did the right thing in warning me that a career
in baseball would be amazing, but highly unlikely. My rebuttal was usually
something along the lines of “baseball is my dream, there will be plenty of
time for everything else when I’m done.” I probably should have listened. But I
was a teenager.

 I believed baseball was my destiny until I reached high
school and discovered that all my plans were for naught. I was 5’8″ 140 pounds,
played second base and even though I had taught myself to switch hit, I
tirelessly tried to be the next Mickey Mantle. I would have settled for the
next Yogi Berra.

I’m not bad at baseball; I’m just not Alex Rodriguez. Hell,
I’m not even Ivan Rodriguez. I’m average, mediocre, good at best. Even still, I
take my glove to big league games hoping someone will get hurt and they’ll have
to call me in from the stands to play right field. A guy can dream.

So while a couple guys I played little league with were
drafted by MLB teams, I was forced to explore alternative I never wanted to
explore, which was anything else besides baseball. I have since found my niche
but I feel I am one of the lucky ones; one of the few who are able to find a
place to fit outside of that which they love. It’s not an easy task to take on,
but one that so many young men and women have forced upon them.

Take Rolle, for example. His options include the NFL or
medical school; a choice any red-blooded American would be happy with but so
few actually have. Many would chose sports because it’s more American, it’s
more to our liking. There are plenty of surgeons out there, right? He can
always become a doctor after his career is over, right?

Maybe, it if it were guaranteed, I might agree. But it’s not
guaranteed.

Say Myron does decide to go to the NFL and plays a few great
seasons.

Say he even makes a couple pro-bowls and wins a super bowl.

Let’s also say he breaks his hand; shatters it even. Then
what?

Maybe it’ll heal, maybe it won’t. Hopefully he can still use
it to perform surgery, but then again, maybe not.

Then his football career and his surgical career are both
over.

I hope nothing like this happens to such an extraordinary
human being and I hope upon hope that Myron is successful in whatever endeavor
he pursues. He represents everything that a student athelete should be and he
should be an inspiration to everyone.

The fact of the matter is, however, that things like this
can happen.

These games we play are more than a game to so many of us.
They are more than a sport, more than just competition, more than a way of
life. They are a passion. They get inside us and beg to be fed day in and day
out. Baseball is still a leech in my brain today even though my potential
career is as good as dead.

More often than not, however, they remain just that, a
passion. Those who are like me are convinced that nothing else matters in life besides
sports only to realize they may have been premature. Myron Rolle may not be
able to teach us anything about physiology or organic chemistry, but if he
teaches us nothing else, he has taught us that there is more to life than
sports. I know, I know, its blasphemy to speak such things, but it’s true, and
we need to remember that every once in a while.

Sports are great. I wish more people were as infatuated with
sports as you and I. I wish we settled our differences in athletic competition
instead of war. But at the end of the day, sports are just sports.

They are a
part of life, not life itself.

The State of Baseball Address

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Ok, so I’m in a little bit of a political mood.

President-Elect Barack Obama is going to deliver the State of the Union Address
for the next four years, so I thought I’d begin my own “State of Baseball
Address.”

barack-obama.jpg

Oddly enough, I see a lot of similarities between baseball and the U.S. right
now and not all of them are good. If you think about it, I think what’s wrong
with the economy right now is almost parallel to the problems Major League Baseball
has faced since 1994. Like the government, MLB officials have been adamant about
sticking to old philosophies and hoping they will eventually work the way they
should. Bush said that the economy’s “fundamentals” are good, but that’s just
it. The fundamentals are good, but everything else isn’t.

Major League Baseball’s lack of a salary cap is similar
to the free market system. Each team is a separate business free to do what it
likes. Teams in small markets like Kansas City and Tampa Bay struggle to
compete while the mammoths like New York, Boston and LA can freely afford
hundreds of millions to field the best teams. Every so often you get a team like the ’08 Rays or the ’94 Expos who can compete with a good core and young talent. But eventually, Longoria, Upton, Crawford and Pena will want more money that Tampa Bay can’t afford. So their time of glory is short-lived.

 

Is it fair? Absolutely.

Just? Of course.

Does it benefit everyone? Hell no.

 

Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Philles
and Mets that run in big markets don’t want a change because the current system
is slanted in their favor. Kind of like the so called fundamentally sound U.S.
economy that gives tax breaks and incentives to huge companies. But if you want
to look at a league that is beneficial as a whole, look at the NFL.

pg2_a_goddell_selig_in_300.jpg

 If Major League Baseball is the U.S., then the NFL is
Europe. No one team has any advantage over another economically and every year,
the playing field starts off level. They share revenue evenly across the board
like free healthcare for everyone. Anyone can compete year in and year out. In
the NFL, you have a Tampa Bay Rays team every year, it’s called the NFC South.

 

As much as I am a baseball purist, I want to see the
whole league benefit. Baseball used to be
America. World Series scores used to make front page news over world wars.
When women were called on to save the factories, they were called on to save
baseball too. (Seriously, they made a movie about it!)

 

Somehow, though, baseball has been surpassed as the
nation’s sport of preference. Why? Because it’s a lot more fun for everyone
when your team has a good chance to win every season. Teams like Tennessee and
New Orleans have a legitimate chance of winning, and even one or two down years
usually lead to a few years on the high.

nfl3.jpg

 Baseball purists want to keep the game the way it is, and that includes Bud Selig. How long, though, are baseball fans going to accept the excuse for major fundamental flaws as “part of the game”? 

It’s time to level the playing field somehow. A salary cap alone won’t solve the problem, because teams like the Yankees will find a way to offer players $140 million bonuses. Maybe caps on offers? Caps on bonuses? How about every trade or free agent has to go through waivers so each team has a chance to make an offer instead of going right for the big markets.

I don’t know the answer, but I am willing to work on one. There needs to be one.

 

With the economy the way it is, it seems criminal for any team to spend that kind of money on one person. Men who work an assembly line are struggling to feed their children while guys like Sabathia and Manny are about to cash in big-time for playing a sport. That concept gets lost sometimes, but it never goes away.

 

Maybe it’s time baseball took a step forward and joined
the 21st century.

Maybe it’s time America did the same.

~SL