Archive for December, 2004

What to do?

Tuesday, December 7th, 2004

I was reading the USA Today this morning and I stumbled across the opinion section of the sports page. In it, at least 3 people had written letters about how they were fed up with baseball and all of its dishonest behavior. The main focus of all three letters was Barry Bonds, who is the most recent player revealed to have used steroids. They raised the valid question about what should be done with Bonds and his chase to pass Hank Aaron.

Those letters started to get my brain thinking about what my opinion on the whole situation is. For the most part, since the beginning of last year when players began checking into spring training “noticeably smaller”, I tried to use the tested old plan of “close your eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist.” If I didn’t see it, then it wasn’t there. As a fan, it’s my right to try my best to ignore an issue so big it could single-handedly bring down the sport I dearly love. The problem is, Major League Baseball has also seen fit to follow the same age-old plan.

Fan’s Conversation with Selig
Fan: Mr. Selig, there is a growing steroid and drug problem these days.

Selig: There is? I don’t see it, are you sure?

Fan: Mr. Selig, you have your eyes closed.

Selig: I don’t have time for this. I have to get back to working on a deal that would put election candidates pictures on all the bases. Think of the revenue that would generate for our sport.

Bud Selig, the MLBPA, and the rest of the suits that run Major League Baseball have been closing their eyes to a problem that has existed for far too long. It’s time to wake up and realize that the slap on the wrist penalty scale for drug abuse is not working. If it was, why did Camaniti die? Why did Strawberry waste his career? Why did Barry Bonds head swell to the size of a watermelon compared to his rookie year? The fact of the matter is it’s time for a change. It’s time for both the owners and the players to step out, put their differences aside and save the game of baseball.

Everywhere I read, players talk about how they love and cherish the game of baseball. Ripken said it, David Wells says it (in his book “Perfect I’m Not”), and Selig says it. If you all cherish this game that much, then why is no one outraged at the news of the game’s most heralded slugger cheating? Here is my plan.

Drug Testing: Drug tests will be given randomly throughout the entire CALENDAR year, not just the season. You never know when you may be tested or how many times.

1st Offense: 1 year suspension and mandatory drug rehab
2nd Offense: Banned from baseball.

I believe in forgiveness. I understand a guy may make a mistake and accidentally buy something over the counter and fail the test, but with this penalty system in place, you better make darn sure you know what you’re putting in your body or pay the price.

I also believe that MLB and sports in general need to get guys like Victor Conti, BALCO’s lead man, in the lab with their drug testers and use his knowledge to design tests that will not be as easily fooled. He has told interviewers that he would love to be the lead man in charge of the Anti Doping Agency. It’s really not a bad idea. If you’ve ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can with Tom Hanks, you know that one of America’s greatest counterfeiters of all time eventually joined the FBI as a head of investigation. Some of the best detectives are criminals themselves. Get Conti in there and pick his brain.

Until baseball steps up and opens its eyes, our sport will continue to sink deeper and deeper in controversy. Every spring will be greeted with accusations rather than acclimations. Every World Series will be marred with scandal and resentment rather than joy and celebration. The record book will become more and more tainted and irrelevant. Worst of all, the fans will become more and more jaded. Maybe one day the suits will realize, hopefully it won’t be too late.

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The team that used to play at Wrigley

Monday, December 6th, 2004

Cade McNownHats off to the Chicago Bears for showing some life last week. Since Rex Grossman’s injury we’ve been forced to watch a couple of quarterbacks with the accuracy of Vince Evans, the pocket awareness of Peter Tom Willis, and the arm strength of Shane Matthews. Chad Hutchinson is at least a step up to the Tomczak zone, and with home field advantage they gave the Vikings a slap upside the head. It can’t get any worse than it’s been, but don’t expect 3 TDs a week from the new #9; after all, in preparing for the game, the Vikes only had years-old game film to prepare for him with. Expect reduced production, but even half of his output would be better than Krenzel and Quinn. He used the tight end, found a few receivers now and then, and didn’t look panicked.

One thing I lke about this Bears team is that their secondary managed to get into Randy Moss’s head and kept him down for most of the game, and hearing that Marcus Robinson, a receiver I was fond of as a Bear, got to catch a TD pass that didn’t end up beating the Bears was even okay with me. A good week. I remember when I lived in desolate Woodstock, IL, definitely Bear country, that the mood of the town was affected by a Bears win or loss. If they lost, enough people were just a little grumpier, and if they won they were looser and more prone to spontaneous outbreaks of smiling into the awful, freezing cold winter air that it seemed like the whole town was a little happier.

At 5-7 and with a lot of teams to leapfrog, I wouldn’t hold my breath about making the playoffs, but at least now we can expect the offense to outscore the defense the rest of the way.

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Sunday Morning News

Sunday, December 5th, 2004

Good Morning!!! Here is your news, courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times

CUBS’ TO-DO LIST

Closer: The top two free-agent relievers (Troy Percival and Armando Benitez) are off the market, meaning a trade is the best hope. The Cubs still might take a chance on former Tigers closer Ugueth Urbina.

Second base: Part-timer Todd Walker has a deal on the table, but the Cubs continue to court Tony Womack. The 35-year-old is coming off a big season with the Cardinals and could fill their need for a leadoff hitter.

Shortstop: Interest in Orlando Cabrera has cooled. The Cubs still would love to sign Edgar Renteria (another leadoff possibility), but they most likely will settle for a one-year deal with Nomar Garciaparra.

Outfield: Carlos Beltran remains the biggest prize on the free-agent market. The Cubs might pull off a surprise and land the switch-hitting center fielder, but they must dump Sammy Sosa — without eating too much of his contract — to make it work financially.

Trade bait: Aside from Sosa, the Cubs would love to deal reliever Kyle Farnsworth, and the Braves are said to be interested. Don’t be surprised if failed closer LaTroy Hawkins also is dealt.

WHITE SOX’ TO-DO LIST

Starting pitcher: General manager Ken Williams still will hold on to his dream of acquiring left-hander Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks, but he would be better off trying to steal away Cubs castoff Matt Clement from the Indians. Williams also is gunning for right-hander Jaret Wright.

Shortstop: Omar Vizquel spurning the Sox for the Giants still stings. Orlando Cabrera might be an option because manager Ozzie Guillen isn’t sold on Juan Uribe, prompting talk the Sox might pursue Nomar Garciaparra.

Right field: With the Magglio Ordonez era over, the Sox are targeting the oft-injured Jermaine Dye as their future in right field. If Williams can’t sign a free agent, expect him to trade for a new right fielder because Joe Borchard is not the answer.

Trade bait: The switch-hitting Borchard should bring interest from other teams and might benefit from a change of scenery, where his $5.3 million signing bonus won’t be an issue. First baseman Paul Konerko remains the Sox’ hottest bargaining chip. Don’t be surprised if he is traded before Opening Day. Jon Garland is the Sox pitcher most likely to be traded.

The Fighting Illini won again on Saturday afternoon, this time against unranked Arkansas. Don’t let that non ranking fool you though. Arkansas is a young team that features 3 freshman playing big minutes for the Hogs. I have to say, in the first half, Illinois looked decent. The looked about as good as I expected after using everything they had in the game against Wake. They had a nice lead at half. The second half however was a different story. They played incredibly sloppy and slow paced. It was not their style at all. In the end, Illinois pulls out the win. Look for them to be # 1 when the polls come out on Monday, ahead of Kansas.

Last Game: Illinois 72 – Arkansas 60
Next Game: Monday vs. Chicago St. – 8pm est
Season Record: 6-0

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Steroid comment and more delays on the rest of the wimpy awards

Friday, December 3rd, 2004

I’d like to go on record as saying that EVERYONE is at fault for the use of steroids in major league baseball. The individual player who takes the steroids is most at fault. The league is at fault. The player’s union is at fault.
The player’s union has an opportunity here. They can allow more stringent drug testing and clear the players’ names. They can use it as a concession to get something they want from the owners; I don’t care. This is the time for the union to step up and put it all to rest. Why won’t they do that?
Two reasons:
1) It would probably show that at least 5 percent, and possibly more like 20 percent, of players use some sort of banned performance enhancing drug (my estimates, no source). That would be damning and irrefutable and would probably upset fans to the point that they would, as a collective, spend a little less money on baseball. Which means reductions in salaries.
2) The salary structure in baseball is driven by the high end of salaries. Bigger salaries at the top mean bigger salaries for middling free-agents and higher arbitration settlements, which means happier players and a stronger union. If they announce that they’re implementing a real drug testing policy, the Jason Giambis will put up slightly smaller numbers. That means slightly smaller contracts. If you add thirty pounds of muscle to your already proven major league ability, you are able to increase your bat speed, which increases your margin of error when hitting deep fly balls. If five deep fly balls clear the fence, you’re a 50 homer man instead of a 45′er. If fifteen more screaming line drives shoot through the gaps due to an extra 2 miles per hour generated by more muscle power increasing bat speed, you’re a .300 hitter instead of a .285 hitter. That makes a difference in salaries.
So it’s not going to happen. Perhaps the current token drug policy will be upgraded to a token drug policy with a frown, but nothing will change.

I have given the players the benefit of doubt until recently. If I were nineteen years old and I could hit a curve ball with projected 15-20 homer power as a major leaguer in 4 years, and I had the chance, with a rigid workout regime, healthy eating, and lots of batting practice, to upgrade to a 30 homer guy, I’d do it. If I could take all of that and take steroids and turn my career from that of a very good player into an all-star, I’d do it because I’m nineteen and invincible. When I’m forty I’ll pay the price. Fortunately, I have slow reflexes and no discipline, so the opportunity never came up. If it did, however, I’d be hard-pressed to resist the lure of steroids, especially when I could see immediate results such as steroids give.
But it would be my fault if I did it. It was my choice. Ken Caminiti, Jason Giambi, and who knows who else — look at the guys with unnaturally muscular builds, like Sosa, McGwire, Sheffield, Bonds, and so on, and I think it’s okay at this point to smell a rat.

I am lazy and haven’t finished the Wimpy awards. Stay tuned. Bako’s place in Wimpiness will be documented, I swear it!

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Helpful Hint – Site Syndication

Thursday, December 2nd, 2004

Are you frustrated with the lack of offseason news? Are you tired of clicking blog after nonupdated blog each day only to be disappointed? If so, I would highly recommend taking advantage of the great power of site syndication. When I first started my blog on blogger, I was clueless about everything, especially about what site syndication was and why it was useful. Let me take a minute to enlighten you on what exactly it does for the readers. So pay attention readers.

By using a site’s syndicated feed, various news readers can pick up the feed, and monitor the site for new updates. One of the best news readers for blogs these days is a site called Bloglines. It allows you to create an account for free and subscribe to as many sites that offer syndication as you care to read. This is especially helpful for those pesky blogs that you love, but never seem to be updated often.

Here is a screenshot of what bloglines looks like.

When you log into bloglines, it allows you to see exactly who has updated and how many times. You see a snapshot of all the blogs you read without all the annoying clicks. If you want to stay up to date with this and many other sites this offseason, I really recommend doing it via Bloglines. If you have any questions about how to get started, please contact me, and don’t forget to subscribe to The View From The Bleachers.

Shameless Plug – Part II

There is a new blog on the market these days called The Goat Riders of the Apocalypse. It’s run by the author’s of Cub Fan Nation, Uncouth Sloth, Rooftop Report, and The Cubdom. Give it a look and see what you think.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T…

Wednesday, December 1st, 2004

…Find out what it means to Dee. Ok, sorry for the corny opening, but it’s time for some respect for the best team in the nation. Wake Forest? Not anymore, after an absolute blowout at the hands of my Fighting Illini. It’s time that people see how good and complete this team really is. With the best backcourt in the nation (yes, I said best in the nation) and a front court featuring an underrated yet agile James Augustine and Roger Powell, it’s hard to see how someone can beat this team right now.

After the last game, when we beat Gonzaga, I thought that maybe the Zags were overrated and Illinois just shot well. All day I was thinking about the big game tonight. I worried about it. It’s not very often your team gets a chance to play the # 1 team in the land on your home court. I hoped and prayed they wouldn’t come out flat. Instead, they did nothing but whomp on Wake. Here are some highlights:

  • 91 points scored on the # 1 team in the nation

  • Held Wake to 39.7% shooting
  • Had 28 team assists
  • Shot 55% from the field
  • Shot 42% from 3 pt (11-26)
  • 1st win over a # 1 team since beating Magic Johnson’s Mich. St. 1979 team
  • Coach Weber’s Bright Orange Suit (ugly, but blinded the opposition)

Hopefully now, when the polls come out, Illinois will get the R-E-S-P-E-C-T they so richly deserve.

Last Game: # 5 Illinois 91 – # 1 Wake Forest 73
Next Game: Saturday @ Arkansas
Season Record: 5-0

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