I don’t know about you, but as a baseball fan, today I feel totally broken hearted.
If you’re a sports fan, and more specifically a fan of Major League Baseball, it’s difficult to feel anything but sorry for yourself following the events of the last few days.
Already a damaged sport, baseball, which has forever been known as America’s favorite pastime, may have suffered a blow it’s unable to fully recover from.
Alex Rodriguez, the golden boy of the sport and arguably the most talented athlete who plays it, admitted yesterday he was guilty of using performance enhancing drugs between the years of 2001 and 2003.
The A-Rod story has already been beaten to death (and deservedly so) but I wanted to talk about something I feel has now become an even bigger issue, which is the integrity the game still has (if any) along with the importance it will have moving forward.
Talking about Rodriguez briefly, you can give him all the credit you want for being honest and admitting his use, but that simply doesn’t cut it.
He cheated. Plain and simple, and as clear as can be.
The man was “A-Fraud’ in every sense of the word.
Hall of fame? Forget it.
If I had a vote, there isn’t a chance that he, or anybody linked to using steroids belongs among the immortals of the game who may have been everything from drunks to racists, but also earned their immortality by playing the game the way it was supposed to be played.
There cannot be a spot in Cooperstown for a player who knowingly gave himself an illegal edge in a sport most will agree he never needed to begin with.
Of course anybody who is familiar with the kind of person Alex Rodriguez has revealed himself to be, he’s a selfish, superficial, self conscious and as he proved during his interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons yesterday, utterly disingenuous.
(Watch it for yourself below)
Sure, he admitted to using these illegal substances, but as Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated points out, his interview raised more questions than answers.
Ironically, for a player who is as obsessed with being bigger than the game as Rodriguez is, his use and admission may be the very thing which pushes baseball to the point of no return.
If it hasn’t already, baseball is on the cusp of losing it’s innocence.
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Remember how simple it was when we were kids?
For almost all of us, we knew we weren’t going pro. We knew we weren’t going make millions playing a game. But it was that game we came to love.
We loved it because it just felt pure to play.
Having a catch in the backyard. Little league at bats. High school try outs.
No matter how far you went, just playing was more than enough.
The real treat was always seeing the big boys make it look so easy at the ballpark.
Seeing our idols in person was as cool as it got.
They became our idols and our heroes.
These men were larger than life, and were getting paid- lots, and lots of money- to play a game we would have given years of our life to spend a day playing on the big stage.
We looked up to these people because we saw them as everything we knew we couldn’t be.
Of course as we get older, we learn some of the harsh realities that life reveals to us.
At some point, sooner than later for most, we learn that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, we won’t turn into a piece of candy no matter how much of it eat and girls, in fact, don’t have cooties.
Of course the other truth we learn is that human beings, as wonderful as they may appear, make mistakes.
That applies to everyone from our teachers to our parents to the very athletes we thought were infallible.
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Professional athletes aren’t perfect, no matter how many records they’ve broken, championship’s they’ve won or gold medals they’ve earned.
Forgetting about Major League Baseball for a moment, you have Kobe Bryant, among the brightest stars in the NBA who a few years back was accused of rape, and although he had the charges against him dropped, his image was permanently altered.
You have Michael Phelps, who despite winning eight gold medals wasn’t able to swim his way out of a photograph which showed him smoking out of a bong. Phelps was suspended three months and his image has also been tarnished.
Speaking of Olympians, while not discriminating gender, Marion Jones also was a gold medalist who was found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs and had to relinquish the medals she earned.
The NFL most recently has Giants wide receiver and Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress shoot himself in the leg, ending his season and ruining his teams chances of repeating as champions.
Of course baseball takes the cake when it comes to the star power of the mistake prone.
Look back at the last fifteen years, and think of the biggest names the sport has produced:
Three come to mind, and those names are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez.
Wouldn’t you know it, all three find themselves at the center of the steroids storm. While Rodriguez gave his admission yesterday, allowing him to salvage a shred of respect, Bonds and Clemens have steadily denied their alleged drug use since the allegations were first made.
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As baseball continues to struggle with it’s image, the biggest hit isn’t take by the sport, but rather by the people who invest their time and money in it.
I’m talking about us. The fans. The kids and the teenagers and parents who grew up loving this game, continued to love it as we got older and for those of us lucky enough have passed on that love to our children.
We are left watching press conferences and reading tell all books and watching staged interviews instead of worry about why our favorite team hasn’t signed that all star left fielder or why our team’s best player, with a runner on third and nobody out, ahead in the count 3-0, couldn’t work out a walk or find a way to get that runner in.
Instead of cheering for records to be broken we are now forced to cheer for them to withstand the test of time.
I think I speak on behalf of all baseball fans when I say that as bad as a season may end, or as bad as an at bat may go or a pitcher’s start may be, those are disappointments you learn to live with. As they always say there’s always next year for your team to get back on the horse and try again.
But finding out one of your hero’s turned out to be nothing more than a liar and cheater? Where does that fan turn?
After spending the money on the jerseys, and after driving hours and hours to see them play and arguing with your friends until you lose your voice that your favorite player is better than theirs, what are you left with?
Baseball, and sports for that matter, are intended to be our escape from reality. However what happens when we need an escape from our escape?
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The main point I was hoping to make is actually more of a question I’ll propose:
Has Major League Baseball become nothing more than a fraud?
Has our beloved pastime been battered and bruised so badly that it’s unrecognizable?
I’m not sure the sport is beyond rescue, however with the Alex Rodriguez revelations, baseball is dangerously close to losing the faith of its loyal fan base.
Sure, the owners will still make their money and the players will still get their paychecks but what about the fans?
In an economy that continues to free fall, and ticket prices that continue skyrocket, baseball hasn’t helped itself in an effort to convince fans to spend that extra dollar and show up for a product that is holding on by a thread.
When the sport’s biggest names have turned out to be nothing more than cheaters, why leave the couch and pay money to watch the selfish, greedy villains disappoint us more with their actions off the field than on it?
At what point do we stop watching all together?
The saddest reality is that such a question needs to be raised.
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I’ll end with this, a quote from the movie of all movies when it comes to baseball, Field of Dreams.
“The one constant through all the years…has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past…It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again…”
Whether or not the sport is capable of reminding us why we fell in love with it in the first place has never been more uncertain.
Flip the switch, pull the curtain down and tear it up already.
Shea Stadium was given an early farewell last night, thanks in part to yet another devastating loss by the New York Mets.
In falling 9-6 to the Chicago Cubs, this loss hurt as much if not more than any other this season.
And for all the blame the bullpen has (rightfully) earned this season, last night’s loss primarily gets credited to the offense, who failed miserably late in the game.
In the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, the Mets had runners on third base with nobody out, yet combined, they were able to muster only a bases loaded walk in the 8th, which at the time tied the game at 6-6.
There were two very questionable decisions made by the manager and one of his coaches, which were not sending Jose Reyes- the franchise’s all time stolen base king in the 7th inning which in turn led to Daniel Murphy lining out into a double place, as his rocket line drive landed harmlessly in the glove of first basemen Derek Lee, who stepped on first to retire both Murphy and Reyes.
In the 8th inning, following a Carlos Delgado lead off double, Carlos Beltran ripped a single to center, which could have potentially scored Delgado. Unfortunately, third basemen Luis Aguayo held Delgado at third without hesitation, preventing the tying run from even attempting to score. While Delgado would eventually score following a bases loaded walk, Jose Reyes couldn’t produce any bases loaded magic two nights in a row, grounding out weakly to second to end the threat.
And then came the ninth inning, where its safe to say and hope of the Mets making the playoffs came to a near dead end.
Murphy lead off, and laced a ball into right-center field, hustling his way all the way to third for a triple. Nobody out, runner on third, and up came the face of the franchise, the captain in waiting, the guy Mets fans wanted at the plate: David Wright.
Lou Piniella decided to allow his reliever, Bob Howry, to pitch to Wright instead of walking him and Delgado, in attempt to set up a potential double play with forces at any base.
Despite the fanfare surrounding him and the MVP talk which once again picked up some steam during the last week, Wright has been anything but valuable this season with runners in scoring position, hitting an inexcusable .242 in those situations, worked the count to 3-0, before fouling off a couple of very hittable pitches, only to chase a fastball well out of the strikezone, stranding Murphy at third. Piniella decided to have his reliever walk both of the Carlos’ to load the bases, and Howry proceeded to get Ryan Church to ground out to second, forcing Murphy at home, while Ramon Castro struck out.
If all of the air wasn’t sucked out of Shea following the Mets’ inability to score more than one run during those final three innings, it certainly was a half inning later, when with two outs and nobody on, Luis Ayala , in his second inning of work, allowed a single to Ryan Theriot, who after stealing second, scored on a bloop single to right by Lee. The final knockout punch was delivered by Aramis Rameriz, who crushed a home run off Ayala with a runner on, punctuating what would turn out to be a very forgettable night at Shea for New York.
The loss was crippling, not only becasue it was once again of the self-inflicted variety, but because with the Phillies getting mauled at home by the Braves, the Mets could have tied up Philadelphia in the loss column, while also maintaining their one game edge in the Wild Card- something of course they were unable to- as the Brewers took care of the Pirates in Milwaukee.
This loss certainly tops them all, and despite how bad the bullpen has been, and even despite Oliver Perez coughing up the 5-1 lead his team gave him, the Mets were gift wrapped an opportunity to put themselves in prime position to erase the nightmares of last season, needed nothing more than a fly ball from their third basemen.
For what it’s worth, and its hardly consolation after a loss last night, Carlos Delgado all but put penciled his name in next seasons opening day line-up after coming up huge once again last night. With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the third, Delgado took advantage of a distracted Carlos Zambrano, who seemed to allow Reyes’ antics running down the third base line get into his head, as he served up a grand slam to the Mets first basemen.
Delgado also doubled to lead off the 8th, and eventually would score on that bases load walk, and did all he could to help get his team past the demons of last season’s collapse which seem to taking in Shea’s final days along with the fans.
Johan Santana can’t pitch every night, but it seems like down the stretch unless he’s on the mound, the Mets find ways to lose these pivotal late season games. Jerry Manuel seems hesitant to pitch his ace on short rest this weekend, although the situation may force his hand if come Saturday the Mets find themselves in an elimination game.
It just doesn’t get much worse than it was last night at Shea Stadium, which will now likely host it’s finall games Sunday, following another brutal loss which took the Mets’ playoff destinty officially out of their own hands, and puts their postseason hopes very much up in the air. And ironically, had David Wright done just that with a fly ball, we would likely be having a very conversation this morning.
But he didn’t, and the team took one step closer to missing out on playoff baseball for the second time in as many years, doing so in an eerily similar fashion, while taking all of the life out of ballpark dying to breathe some October air one more time.
Sadly, it appears those hopes, along with the team, are already flat lining.
So we know the story by now, Willie Randolph was unceremoniously let go by the New York Mets in the most disgraceful of ways, having been flown cross country to manage a game his team would win, only to fire him in the middle of the night.
This just didn’t sit right with me, so I decided to ask around and find out why exactly this went down the way it went down.
Plus, my anger and frustration about the whole thing needed to be balanced with something to laugh about.
If you live in the New York area, you should be able to appreciate most of the references.
10. After losing out to Emmitt Smith for a spot in the latest Just for Men advertisement, he was offered a spot in a new Giuseppe Franco Procede commercial, but declined, which must have ticked off team brass that had set up a meeting between the two.
9. During his final meeting with team management, he was asked what his ultimate goals were for this season, and upon revealing they included “going to Disneyland”, he was granted his wish. (Randolph was fired with the Mets in Anaheim)
8. Knowing that a possible firing was imminent, an opportunity fell into the laps of ownership with their trip out west, knowing that Joe Torre was now managing in Los Angeles, Willie was convinced to fly cross country by being promised a chance to spend all of his free time with Joe.
7. When catering in from Subway for post game meals, Willie was told the sub’s would no longer be freshly toasted, upsetting the manager and causing an even greater rift between himself and his superiors.
6. Management found out Willie was an avid Soprano’s fan, and so after Jets head coach Eric Mangini was given a cameo in a final season episode, Willie wasn’t pleased. To appease their manager, they executed a Soprano’s style hit on him, having Omar Minaya fly out despite assuring his manager everything would be fine. Omar was originally against the idea, but when Stevie Van Zandt was unavailable (Silvio Dante), Omar took matters into his own hands.
5. Was told that should the phrase “the Yankee way” be uttered one more time, his job was as good as gone. At that moment, Jose Reyes popped his head in the room, smiling ear to ear thanking Willie for a gift he found in front of his locker, a DVD set featuring the 1996-2000 Yankee Championship teams. After Jose quietly tip-toed out of the room, management took one look at Willie, and the rest as they say, is history.
4. In a private meeting with ownership, he was asked to comment on his working relationship with GM Omar Minaya, and said while he felt the two worked well together, suggested that it would be in the best interest of both him and the organization to hire Isiah Thomas. Management considered the idea, but decided Isiah would probably end up creating too many off the field distractions, something they believed Minaya wasn’t capable of.
3. After watching an episode of Celebrity Apprentice following Sunday’s doubleheader, Willie joking commented to owner Fred Wilpon that “it’s a good thing we’re not on that show, because you’d have probably canned me months ago”. After an awkward pause, Wilpon politely told Willie to enjoy his flight.
2. Was told he’d be given job security if he agreed to manage the rest of the season wearing the Mr. Met costume, but refused only because he was afraid of the racial connotations he would expose himself to wearing a giant white baseball for a head. When he said he’d sooner manage wearing a Mickey Mouse costume, making the decision to fire him minutes from Disneyland too poetically appropriate to pass up.
1. Was told for the final time that he would not be released from his contract during the season to audition for American Idol, and upon Willie being visibly displeased with this decision for the 4 consecutive year, management told him they had come up with a compromise, but refused to elaborate saying “lets put it this way, you’re definitely going to Hollywood”.
On April Fools Day, the Mets probably were hoping their joker was merely pulling their leg.
Well, a leg was pulled, but unfortunately for the ballclub, that leg was attached to the body of one Pedro Martinez.
Pedro left his start Tuesday night in the bottom of the 4th inning after he appeared to sustain an injury to his left leg, while following through on his delivery.
Pedro retired Matt Treanor on a ground out, but Treanor would be the last batter Pedro would face, as he gingerly was helped off the field and disappeared into the Mets clubhouse with the training staff.
During the 8th inning on SNY, Mets reporter Kevin Burkheart stated he had caught up with Pedro on his way out of the ballpark, who told Burkhart he “heard a pop” in his left hamstring.
The early word was a strained left hamstring, and was listed as day-to-day, however anybody who has been watching baseball for an extended period of time knows that hamstring injuries are almost never a day-to-day injury, and you can add onto that the fact that Pedro is 36 and a pitcher who relies heavily on his legs for his success.
Matt Wise gave up a game winning homerun to the Marlins Robert Andino, the first of his young major league career.
The Mets may have lost the game in 10 innings, but the news was all centered around their veteran right hander.
With his history of injuries, one shouldn’t be surprised that Pedro hurt himself, however the timing really acts like a punch in the stomach when you consider all the good vibes surrounding him coming out of spring training.
He gave us the spring cliche “greatest shape of my life” rant which you had no choice but to believe based on how sharp he looked down in Port St. Lucie.
Unfortunately, only 3 1/3 innings into his first start of the year, on the first day of April, Pedro might be spending more time back in St. Lucie rehabbing yet another injury.
The injury puts even more strain (no pun intended) on an already thing Mets rotation, with Orlando Hernandez on the disabled list still building up arm strength to pitch 6 major league innings.
Mike Pelfrey currently is serving as the teams fifth starter, and is slated to pitch Saturday in Atlanta.
Thanks to off-days, the Mets may not have to replace Pedro’s spot in the rotation for at least a start or two, and only time will well what the health conditions are of both he and El Duque.
Mets fan hoping to see Pedro toe the rubber at Shea Stadium’s final hope opener will most likely end up seeing either Oliver Perez or John Maine when the curtains go up for the final time at the big blue ballpark in Queens.
For now though, the concern rests in the left leg of the Mets self-proclaimed former ace and resident number 2.
Knowing Pedro, day-to-day is as reliable a diagnosis as a meteorologist telling you the forecast is partly cloudy with a chance of showers.
And when it comes to Pedro Martinez and the Mets, the forecast just got worse.
Johan Santana was acquired over the offseason to bring his Cy Young left arm to Flushing and provide a stabilizing force atop the Mets rotation.
After one start, the Mets and their fans had to be feeling pretty good about their new southpaw.
Don’t expect to be hearing any talk of missing Carlos Gomez or Phillip Humber, not after Santana struck out 8 batters over 7 strong innings of work to help secure an Opening Day victory for his new ballclub.
David Wright broke the game open in the top of the fourth, as he cleared the bases with a 3 run double off Marlins lefty Mark Hendrickson.
Wright finished the day 2-4 with those 3 RBI, while the Mets also got production from Carlos Beltran with two doubles, Jose Reyes who had two hits and an RBI, along with Angel Pagan and Ryan Church who contributed an RBI a piece.
The story however was Santana, who beautifully mixed a live fastball and dancing changeup which kept Marlins hitters off-balance all afternoon.
He allowed a mere 3 hits, and walked two, with his only blemish coming in the result of a Josh Willingham 2 run shot in the bottom of the 4th.
The bullpen was solid, as Matt Wise, Scott Schoeneweis, Jorge Sosa and Aaron Heilman combined to pitch the final two innings, without allowing a run.
With the game on the line in the bottom of the eight, manager Willie Randolph called upon Schoeneweis an Sosa to face a batter each, leaving two runners stranded.
The Mets hope their 1a can be equally as dominant as their 1 was today, when Pedro Martinez takes the hill tomorrow night against Marlins righty Rick VandenHurk.
Interestingly, the Mets opened their season in much the same way they ended last season, facing a young Marlins team with a veteran southpaw on the mound for them.
Fortunately for the orange and blue, the lefty was Johan Santana, and the results were just a bit more satisfying.
What a difference an ace makes.
Without question, one of the best times of year has arrived.
March Madness is drawing a close with the Final Four a week away, however Opening Day (and im not talking about two games in Japan- no offense to you Red Sox and A’s fans out there) is upon us.
The blue skies.
The green grass.
The Royals and Devil Rays are still in contention.
It must be opening day.
With that, the start of a baseball season isn’t complete without predictions.
And with that, lets get it started…
AMERICAN LEAGUE STANDINGS
New York Yankees 97-65
Boston Red Sox 93-69
Toronto Blue Jays 82-80
Tampa Bay Rays 78-84
Baltimore Orioles 66-96
Cleveland Indians 95-67
Detroit Tigers 92-70
Chicago White Sox 85-77
Minnesota Twins 76-86
Kansas City Royals 70-92
Seattle Mariners 89-73
Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim 85-77
Oakland Athletics 79-83
Texas Rangers 71-91
Wild Card- Boston Red Sox
New York Mets 94-68
Atlanta Braves 89-73
Philadelphia Phillies 87-75
Washington Nationals 82-80
Florida Marlins 73-89
Chicago Cubs 88-74
Milwaukee Brewers 85-77
Cincinnati Reds 80-82
Houston Astros 79-83
St. Louis Cardinals 77-85
Pittsburgh Pirates 73-89
Los Angeles Dodgers 91-73
Arizona Diamondbacks 90-72
Colorado Rockies 84-78
San Diego Padres 81-81
San Francisco Giants 67-95
Wild Card- Arizona Diamondbacks
2008 POST SEASON
Yankees over Mariners 3-0
Red Sox over Indians 3-2
Mets over Diamonbacks 3-0
Dodgers over Cubs 3-1
Red Sox over Yankees 4-3
Mets over Dodgers 4-2
Mets over Red Sox, 4-2
American League MVP- Derek Jeter
National League MVP- David Wright
American League Cy Young- C.C. Sabathia
National League Cy Young- Carlos Zambrano
American League Rookie of the Year- Joba Chamberlain
National League Rookie of the Year- Kosuke Fukudome
-Robinson Cano wins the batting title
-The Rays are in contention on Sept. 1
-Barry Bonds hits 15 Homeruns for Oakland
-Felix Hernandez throws a perfect game
– The Royals run off 12 straight victories late in the year, avoiding a 100 loss season
-Mark Teixeira is the only player to hit 50 homeruns
-The Diamondbacks have two 20 game winners (Webb and Haren)
-The first no-hitter in Mets history is thrown by Oliver Perez
-Joe Torre wins Manager of the year
-Matt Holiday approaches Dimaggio’s 56 game streak, and falls short at 48
-The Detroit Tigers miss the playoffs, and Jim Leyland loses his job at seasons end.
-Josh Beckett wins less than 15 games
-Vlad Guerrero fails to hit .300
-Ozzie Guillen resigns by August 1st as the White Sox seem stuck in neutral
-The final game at Yankee stadium sees the Red Sox clinching ther second consecutive AL pennant
-Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies find themselves back on the outside looking in, and Charlie Manuel finally loses his job
-Ryan Braun proves to be a one year wonder, and is sent back down by June 1st
-Unable to tolerate the pain in his elbow, Albert Puljos misses the final 3 months of the year
-Randy Johnson wins 3 games, starts only 12, and retires in July.
-Miguel Tejada is released by Houston prior to the trade deadline.
Other Notable Storylines to watch in 2008
At least one shoe-in, first ballot hall of famer-to-be is suspended 50 games for steroid use
Other Veterans who probably should have retired after last season: Tom Glavine, Jamie Moyer, Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, Orlando Hernandez, Ken Griffey Jr.
100 Years Since The Cubs sipped Championship Champagne
Can the Mets recover from their ’07 collapse?
More Milestones- 500 HR for Manny, 600 for Griffey, 300 wins for Big Unit to name a few
Joba Rules- To Start or not to Start
Breakthrough Players to watch- Dustin Pedroia, Troy Tulowitzki