Today’s news is powered by a classic baseball cartoon (goodness knows we could all use a laugh right about now) …
- BP.com’s Joe Sheehan points out the media frenzy and the unfairness towards A-Rod’s actions:
The reaction to Rodriguez’s press conference has been at best apathetic, and at worst, critical. His demeanor, his word choice, his expressions, his inflections have all been picked apart, and he’s been given no credit for the details he provided. There’s an assumption that he’s being deceptive, duplicitous, and insincere. Whether this stems from the dislike so many people have for this very insecure man, the dislike of his agent, or the general disdain for the successful and wealthy—let’s face it, sports coverage has devolved into thinly disguised class warfare—this most open moment has been dismissed, and Rodriguez has been given no credit for providing it.
Contrast that with the reaction to the press conference at which the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman openly discussed his… oh, wait, that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because the NFL doesn’t have a vested interest in making its players look bad to gain the upper hand in an unending war against its own product. The NFL would never sustain a story like that through multiple news cycles, never allow PED use to overwhelm the story of training camps opening, never contribute to speculation that its game and its stars were somehow less than because of their behavior.
The other day, Bud Selig whined that he shouldn’t be held responsible for the so-called “steroid era,” claiming that he wanted to talk about the problem as far back as 1995. As I’ve mentioned, Selig has flipped on this issue a few times, sometimes claiming to have been fighting it for a while, sometimes claiming he didn’t know there was a problem. …
- Steven Goldman of Pinstriped Bible finished up with this thought after viewing the news conference:
Of course, none of these concerns go to the bottom line, which, as A-Rod correctly pointed out, is that he had his best season in 2007, and there has been a testing regimen in place for a few years now, one that seems to have been successful in nailing quite a few players. There remains little evidence that steroids do much more for ballplayers than build muscle, or that Rodriguez’s numbers were affected in any significant way. He remains one of the best ballplayers in the business and also one of the hardest to like. From the point of view of winning pennants, one out of two ain’t bad.
- Jayson Stark gets some interesting comments about the whole A-Rod deal from the one and only Mike Schmidt:
… when Schmidt was asked directly if he thought he’d have gotten caught up in trying performance-enhancing drugs had they been part of his era, he answered: “Most likely. Why not?”
“A term that I think has been overused a lot, especially by Alex, is ‘culture’ — culture of the era he played in,” Schmidt said. “We had a culture when I played. There was a culture in the era when Babe Ruth played. And in the ’60s, there was a culture. It’s just that way in life. And apparently — I wasn’t involved, but from hearing everybody — that was the culture of the ’90s and the early 2000s. The temptation had to be tremendous to the young men playing major league baseball back then.”
But when he was asked if he thought that being “young and stupid” was an acceptable explanation for what A-Rod did, Schmidt said: “Young and stupid may be better [when you're] 12, 13, 14, as opposed to 23, 4, 5 and 6.”
- Here’s my nomination for worst opening paragraph to an A-Rod news conference reaction piece (not surprisingly, its in the Post):
It wasn’t as bad as R. Budd Dwyer’s last press conference 22 years ago, when the Pennsylvania treasurer shot himself to death on national television. But yesterday’s performance by Alex Rodriguez was full of holes.
- MLB’s own “Department of Investigations” wants to speak to A-Rod:
… Rodriguez will be asked to give a full account of how extensive his drug use was and who the “cousin” is who Rodriguez says injected him with a drug believed to be the anabolic steroid methenolone. Rodriguez said they bought the drug, which he termed “boli,” from a pharmacy in the Dominican Republic.
“They’re more interested in what happened in the States than in the Dominican,” one source said.
Representatives from MLB’s department of investigations are expected to ask Rodriguez whether his cousin, whom Rodriguez declined to name, had access to major league clubhouses and other players, and whether he or Rodriguez ever distributed drugs to other players. Under baseball’s labor agreement, Rodriguez cannot be punished for any banned substances he took before 2004, but he could be punished if MLB were to determine that he supplied drugs to other players.
- A-Rod isn’t the only Yankee caught in the PED quagmire. Andy Pettitte is STILL dealing with Congress regarding Roger Clemens’ alleged use of PEDs:
The Associated Press reported that federal prosecutors interviewed Pettitte last Tuesday as they continue to investigate whether Clemens lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. …
The AP reported that Pettitte had already told Congress much of what investigators wanted to know, and that it is unclear if Pettitte has been called before a grand jury. Because Pettitte has already given a sworn statement, prosecutors do not necessarily have to use the grand jury to make their case.
- PeteAbe has promising news on top prospect Austin Jackson:
After playing in the Arizona Fall League, he took a month off and then moved to Pensacola, Fla., to train at the Athletes’ Performance Institute in Gulf Breeze.
The facility is affiliated with Dr. James Andrews. It’s where Manny Ramirez has been working out.
“I got stronger, faster and cut down on my body fat,” Jackson said. “I was there for about a month and a half. It was a great experience.”
- Pete also has notes from the first full squad workout, including this:
Joe Girardi said that Hideki Matsui will not play any outfield in spring training because of his knees. He also conceded that once the season starts, Matsui would only play the outfield in an emergency. They want him working on getting knees healthy enough to run the bases. I guess now we know why Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher are still on the team. …
Derek Jeter talked for a long time about A-Rod and the game’s drug issues. I’ll post the audio later. But in summation: He’s disappointed in Alex but believes he is sorry for what he did. Jeter also is angry at the time he played being known as the “Steroids Era” because everybody didn’t do it. He wishes that he had spoken up to the union years ago but its too late to go back and correct that.
You can certainly understand Jeter’s frustration. He doesn’t want his accomplishments overshadowed by what the cheaters were doing.
- The Times’ Jack Curry has more on Jeter’s thoughts:
Jeter said that he still has respect for Rodriguez “as a player” because Rodriguez stated that his steroid use was in the past. When Jeter was asked if he believed Rodriguez’s story about his cousin buying him a banned substance in the Dominican Republic, Jeter said that he did.
“I give everyone the benefit of the doubt,” Jeter said. …
And, for the record, Jeter, whose father was a drug and alcohol counselor, said that he has never used any performance enhancers.
“I’ve never taken performance-enhancing drugs, I’ve never taken steroids,” Jeter said. “I mean, that’s it.”
- MLB.com’s Dodger beat writer Ken Gurnick quotes Torre as saying he will retire from managing at the end of his contract (after 2010), but wishes to remain in baseball.
- Maury Brown of the excellent ‘Biz of Baseball’ site has an analysis of the signing bonuses given to the 2008 first round draft picks. (The Yanks were not able to sign their pick, HS pitcher Gerrit Cole, who opted to go to UCLA).
- Happy 47th birthday to Alvaro Espinoza. Espinoza spent 3+ years with the Yanks, and his BEST season was a line of .282/.301/.332 with 60 Ks and only 14 BBs in 544 PAs (1989). In fact, Alvaro’s .050 ISO in 1989 is the 4th-lowest for any batting title qualifier with fewer than 20 walks in a season in the DH era. He followed that up with the 5th-lowest BA (.224) and the lowest OBP (.258) for anyone with as many PAs (472) as he had in 1990.
- Tim Burke hits the big 5-0 today. Burke finished up his career by toiling for both the Yanks and Mets in 1992.
- On this date in 1935, Lou Gehrig re-signs with the Yankees for $30,000, $7,000 less than he asked for, but still making him the highest-paid player. The 32-year old first baseman will hit .329 with 30 HR and 119 RBI.
- On this date in 1957, the Kansas City Athletics ship pitchers Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, and Jack McMahan, and infielders Clete Boyer, Curt Roberts and Wayne Belardi to the Yankees. In return they receive pitchers Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Rip Coleman and Jack Urban, OF Irv Noren, plus infielders Billy Hunter and Milt Graff. Roberts didn’t go to New York City till May 4, while Boyer went a month later. Hunter and Urban don’t switch until April 5. The veteran Shantz and Boyer will be valuable pickups for New York, with Shantz leading the American League in ERA this year, and Boyer a tough defensive 3B for eight years in pinstripes. The A’s will eventually admit that when they signed Boyer for a $40,000 bonus in 1955, it was on behalf of the Yankees, with the understanding that they’d later ship him to NY.