That The Greatest Scandal That Absolutely Ever Was has come down to a faceoff between Rodriguez and Selig is proof enough of what a comic opera the whole escapade has been from the beginning. The hysteria over PEDs in baseball — and, thus, in every sport — has unfolded the way in which all drug hysterias in the history of this country have unfolded. It has been fueled by misplaced moral panic, anecdotal evidence, anonymous slander, and a fundamental disregard for legal and constitutional safeguards — all in the service of what has been sold as a greater good by executives and media members who became famous or wealthy in the pursuit. It has been an exercise in simplistic moralism, so why shouldn’t it come down to one villain and one hero? The whole thing has been a scary story for children right from the jump.
Rodriguez seems to have very few friends in baseball, and probably deserves to have even fewer than he does. His image has been leaking hot air ever since he joined the Yankees. And yes, he is floundering in a vain attempt to rescue the reputation he personally fed into the wood chipper. But, in his battle with Selig, it’s important to remember that — while Rodriguez is fighting for his reputation, and Selig for his legacy — they’re also both fighting just as hard to avoid something else. Neither one wants to be the lasting face of the steroid era. The commissioner would like to fit Rodriguez for the role, because that’s the only way to save Selig’s legacy; this makes his pursuit of Rodriguez look less like an attempt to rescue the game and more like an elaborate attempt to cover his own historical ass.
Should the Yankees imitate what the Red Sox did last winter?
Over at River Ave. Blues, Joe Pawlikowski doesn’t think it’d work.
That said, I’d enjoy watching Shin-Soo Choo play for the Yanks.
[Photo Via: Getty Images]
Big story in the Times today detailing the sordid case against Alex Rodriguez:
In the nine months since Mr. Rodriguez and more than a dozen other players were linked to a South Florida anti-aging clinic that is believed to have distributed banned substances to professional athletes, baseball officials and the Yankee third baseman have engaged in a cloak-and-dagger struggle surpassing anything the sport has seen. The extraordinary investigative tactics, playing out in multiple locations, reflect Major League Baseball’s resolve to prove one of its stars cheated, and that player’s determination to discredit baseball officials.
Witnesses for both sides in the pending arbitration proceedings claim to have been harassed and threatened. Some were paid tens of thousands of dollars for their cooperation. One said she became intimately involved with an investigator on the case. And some witness accounts have shifted, leaving each side scrambling to defend the sometimes inconsistent stories provided by former employees and associates of the now-defunct clinic, Biogenesis of America.
The dispute — which involves lawsuits in Florida and in New York, and a battle over grand jury transcripts in Buffalo — has become so extensive that Major League Baseball has once again turned to its go-to consultant for complicated problems, the former senator George J. Mitchell, whose law firm is assisting with the growing caseload.
These details have been gleaned from dozens of interviews conducted by The New York Times over several months with witnesses, current and former law enforcement officials and lawyers involved in all sides of the dispute, and from documents obtained by The Times relating to M.L.B.’s case against Mr. Rodriguez, as well as police reports and lawsuits. Several witnesses and lawyers insisted on anonymity when discussing any aspect of the case because they have been ordered not to speak about the matter by the independent arbitrator who is hearing Mr. Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game doping suspension stemming from the Florida clinic investigation.
[Photo Credit: Umar Abbasi]
There are 23 large iron lamps affixed to the ceiling. The tints of neon light they throw down into the indoor batting cage, a concrete room tucked deep into the guts of Yankee Stadium, vary according to when they were last smashed out by errant balls and replaced. Under these lights, largely out of sight, Bam Bam (or “Sir Bam Bam” – but we’ll get to that later) is at the pinnacle of the game that promised much, disappointed more, and then came through for him after all. Across the street, the much brighter lights under which he and all that he was supposed to be receded and then disappeared have been leveled, along with the rest of the old Yankee Stadium.
From up close, the blunt crack of a Major Leaguer striking a ball with a bat – even on a tee – will startle almost anyone every single time. Not Bam Bam. He doesn’t even flinch anymore. He watches, and then places yet another ball onto the batting tee for his latest charge to smack into the netting that encases them both.
It has been 24 years since he first arrived at Yankee Stadium; 20 since the Yankees pawned their phenom off to Japan. This is his first time back, the culmination of one of the most interesting journeys in baseball, a bridge from the place baseball was to where it seems headed. His family is in town from Curacao on one of the last days of a season long since lost, with another loss a full seven hours away. But Bam Bam, who wore World Series championship rings on both his middle fingers before changing into a pair of San Francisco Giants shorts and a T-shirt, is mending the mechanical defect in the swing of a 27-year-old backup catcher five at-bats – one hit – into his first big-league call-up.
That’s the beginning of Leander Schaerlaeckens’ fine portrait of Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens. Head on over the SB Nation Longform and dig the rest of it.
Meanwhile, if you’ve never seen this legendary bit of hambone acting, you’re in for a treat.
Specially tailored for Bronx Banter, dig this awesomeness from our man Craig Robinson:
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be that same guy again,” he said. “I’m 33 this year, but pitching against San Francisco the other night, I felt like back to myself more so than any other start. It wasn’t velocity — I was 90 to 93 — but just pitching inside, being aggressive, throwing fastballs in hitters’ counts. Just going out there and being a bully. That’s something I feel like I was before and kind of lost that this year.”
…“I’m just talking about going out and pitching like I did the other day (against the Giants),” Sabathia said. “Grinding games out. That’s something I feel like I didn’t do a good job of this year. Getting runners on base and being able to get a double play. Giving up a run or two, and being able to shut the inning off. I feel like I gave up too many big innings and big situations. We come out and score a couple of runs off a tough pitcher, and I come back and give the lead right back. That’s stuff that I didn’t do, or I don’t do, and it happened this year. I think that’s what I say when I talk about coming back and being right.
“I think I’ll be back to myself. I know a lot of people have written me off and said I’ve thrown too many innings and whatever, whatever, but I’ll still be here and still be accountable and still be the guy that signed up in 2009.”
He’s a likable guy, easy to root for. We’ll be pulling for him.
Meanwhile, here’s tonight’s lineup. Phil Hughes gets the start. Will it be his final outing in pinstripes?
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Vernon Wells RF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Brendan Ryan SS
Chris Stewart C
Never mind the chill in the air:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
[Photo Credit: Michael Wolf]
oh, okay. Yankees announce that CC Sabathia suffered a grade 2 hamstring strain in last start, and is done for the season.
[Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]
Excerpted from From Black Sox to Three-Peats: A Century of Chicago’s Best Sports Writing (University of Chicago Press), edited by Ron Rapoport and featuring stories from the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Daily News, and the Chicago Defender, among other papers. It’s an excellent collection, and this week we’ll be selecting a story every day to give you a taste. First up: Westbrook Pegler’s “The Called Shot Heard Round the World,” from the Chicago Tribune, Oct. 2, 1932.
There, in the third ball game of the World Series, at the Cubs’ ball yard on the north side yesterday, the people who had the luck to be present saw the supreme performance of the greatest artist the profession of sport has ever produced. Babe Ruth hit two home runs.
Now, Lou Gehrig also hit two home runs, and Jimmy Foxx of the Athletics or any other master mechanic of the business might have hit three or four home runs and you would have gone away with the same impression that a factory tourist receives from an hour of watching a big machine lick labels and stick them on bottles of mouthwash or pop. The machine might awe you, but would you love it?
The people who saw Babe Ruth play that ball game and hit those two home runs against the Cubs came away from the baseball plant with a spiritual memento of the most gorgeous display of humor, athletic art and championship class any performer in any of the games has ever presented.
The Babe is 38 years old, and if you don’t know that he is unable to hike as far for fly balls or stoop as nimbly as he used to for rollers coming to him through the grass, that must be just your own fault, because he would not deceive you. As an outfielder he is pretty close to his past tense, which may mean that one more year from now he will be only a pinch-hitter. He has been breaking this news all year to himself and the customers.
Why, when Bill Jurges, the human clay pigeon, hit a short fly to him there in left field and he mauled it about, trying for a shoestring catch, he came up off the turf admitting all as Jurges pulled up at second.
The old Babe stood up, straightened his cap and gesticulated vigorously toward Earl Combs in center. “Hey!” the old Babe waved, “my dogs ain’t what they used to be. Don’t hit them out to me. Hit to the young guy out there.”
The customers behind him in the bleachers were booing him when the ball game began, but they would have voted him president when it was over, and he might not be a half-bad compromise, at that. Somebody in the crowd tossed out a lemon which hit him on the leg. Now there are sensitive ball players who might have been petulant at that and some stiff-necked ones who could only ignore it, boiling inwardly. But the Babe topped the jest. With graphic gestures, old Mr. Ruth called on them for fair play. If they must hit him with missiles, would they please not hit him on the legs? The legs weren’t too good anyway. Would they just as lief hit him on the head? The head was solid and could stand it.
I am telling you that before the ball game began the Babe knew he was going to hit one or more home runs. He had smacked half a dozen balls into the right-field bleachers during his hitting practice and he knew he had the feel of the trick for the day. When his hitting practice was over he waddled over toward the Cubs’ dugout, his large abdomen jiggling in spite of his rubber corsets, and yelled at the Cubs sulking down there in the den, “Hey, muggs! You muggs are not going to see the Yankee Stadium any more this year. This World Series is going to be over Sunday afternoon. Four straight.”
He turned, rippling with the fun of it and, addressing the Chicago customers behind third base, yelled, “Did you hear what I told them over there? I told them they ain’t going back to New York. We lick ‘em here, today and tomorrow.”
The Babe had been humiliating the Cubs publicly throughout the series. They were a lot of Lord Jims to him. They had had a chance to be big fellows when they did the voting on the division of the World Series pool. But for a few dollars’ gain they had completely ignored Rogers Hornsby, their manager for most of the year, who is through with baseball now apparently without much to show for his long career, and had held Mark Koenig, their part-time shortstop, to a half share. The Yankees, on the contrary, had been generous, even to ex-Yankees who were traded away months ago, to their deformed bat boy who was run over and hurt by a car early in the season, and to his substitute.
There never was such contempt shown by one antagonist for another as the Babe displayed for the Cubs, and ridicule was his medium.
In the first inning, with Earle Combs and Joe Sewell on base, he sailed his first home run into the bleachers. He hit Charlie Root’s earnest pitching with the same easy, playful swing that he had been using a few minutes before against the soft, casual service of a guinea-pig pitcher. The ball would have fallen into the street beyond the bleachers under ordinary conditions, but dropped among the patrons in the temporary seats.
The old Babe came around third base and past the Cubs’ dugout yelling comments which were unintelligible to the patrons but plainly discourteous and, pursing his lips, blew them a salute known as the Bronx cheer.
He missed a second home run in the third inning when the ball came down a few feet short of the wire screen, but the masterpiece was only deferred. He hit it in the fifth, a ball that sailed incredibly to the extreme depth of center field and dropped like a perfect mashie shot behind the barrier, long enough to clear it, but with no waste of distance.
Guy Bush, the Cubs’ pitcher, was up on the top step of the dugout, jawing back at him as he took his turn at bat this time. Bush pushed back his big ears, funneled his hands to his mouth, and yelled raspingly at the great man to upset him. The Babe laughed derisively and gestured at him. “Wait, mugg, I’m going to hit one out of the yard.” Root threw a strike past him and he held up a finger to Bush, whose ears flapped excitedly as he renewed his insults. Another strike passed him and Bush crawled almost out of the hole to extend his remarks.
The Babe held up two fingers this time. Root wasted two balls and the Babe put up two fingers on his other hand. Then, with a warning gesture of his hand to Bush, he sent him the signal for the customers to see.
“Now,” it said, “this is the one. Look!” And that one went riding in the longest home run ever hit in the park.
He licked the Chicago ball club, but he left the people laughing when he said good-bye, and it was a privilege to be present because it is not likely that the scene will ever be repeated in all its elements. Many a hitter may make two home runs, or possibly three in World Series play in years to come, but not the way Babe Ruth made these two. Nor will you ever see an artist call his shot before hitting one of the longest drives ever made on the grounds, in a World Series game, laughing and mocking the enemy with two strikes gone.
Westbrook Pegler (1884-1969) was one of America’s most widely read sportswriters during the Golden Age of Sports in the 1920s. He then turned to political reporting, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for articles on union racketeering, and wrote columns that were reviled in many quarters for their mixture of personal invective and right-wing politics.
Derek Jeter’s near-magical ability to hit his mark in the big moment, to rise to the occasion, has been the subject of some of this century’s worst sports writing, and sparked an understandable backlash in baseball fans who got sick of hearing him slobbered over. But even those who rolled their eyes when the sports media went off on one its over-the-top paeans to Captain Clutch would concede that Derek Jeter deserved a large percentage of that slobber.
So this season — a “nightmare,” as Jeter has repeatedly called it — has been jarring, even though we all know even the most larger-than-life stars are just people, and that people age and their bodies change, and that the end of the road for athletes is rarely neat or easy.
When Jeter came off the disabled list for the second time this season on July 28 (after just a one-game return earlier in the month), he did it yet again: In the very first pitch of his very first at-bat, he homered. “He’s back!” crowed the headlines. But he wasn’t; Jeter strained his calf four days later. Determined to help the Yankees with their tantalizing playoff hopes — only one game out of a wild-card spot, going into Thursday, despite everything — he came back in late August… this time for all of 12 games.
That makes 17 total games played in this lost season. And Jeter is 39. The number of players who have performed at a high level at that age, let alone those who’ve come back from very serious injury to do so, is not very large.
[Picture via It's About The Money]
Tough night for Austin Romine who took a foul ball off the noggin late in the game. And we’re hoping Ivan Nova and Alex Rodriguez aren’t badly hurt too. Meanwhile, the Yanks acquired the gifted fielder Brendan Ryan yesterday. Over at Sports on Earth Jack Moore thinks it’s the best available solution.
Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa offers three options of what to do with Phil Hughes and David Huff.