Monthly Archives: June 2007

IT MUST BE THE WATER

Whatta week… The world watched the Yankees get stomped by Colorado in the oxygen-challenged field that was supposed to clear the way for the Bombers’s big hits. Instead the Yanks were swept and outscored 13-5. And the Red Sox were ushered out of town by the unlikely buzz saw better known as the Seattle Mariners.

And interesting times seem to beget interesting times. This week, two of MLB’s bubble players made inroads towards bullying themselves into the Hall of Fame. For one, Toronto’s Frank Thomas hit his 500th home run and said Dylan he was proud because he “did it right,” a shot to others who’ve had their names muddied by steroid abuse rumors. He hit his 500th blast in Minnesota’s doomed Metrodome, where he hit his very first homer while playing as a rookie in 1990 for the White Sox, a team he stuck with through 2005. The pitcher this time around was Carlos Silva. I put that tidbit in there because we share a last name but that’s where the similarities end. The poor guy didn’t have the foresight to be Portuguese. Though being Portuguese would have not helped his chances in the Major Leagues. I think there was only one Portuguese MLB player and he was no good and no one ever spelled his name right and I could really be just a rumor, anyway, and well, I could go on because the guy probably just should have stuck to soccer.

And this week Houston’s Craig Biggio weaseled himself into Hall of Fame contention despite this season’s .250 batting average and, well, a pretty average career. If they had a category for tenacity in Hall of Fame voting, this would be a no-brainer. After all, the 41-year-old second baseman was tossed out trying to turn his 3,000th hit into his 659th career double, sixth on the all-time list. Not bad company. And we don’t really need to get into his run for the “hit by pitch” record, do we? Tenacious, sure, but there could be another word for that sort of behavior. However, as average as he’s been — certainly in the last few years, I’d hate bear witness to his being the first 3,000+ hits major leaguer (aside from Pete Rose) to not get into Cooperstown. But I’d get over it. Then again, Frank Thomas’s career may push the Hall of Fame voting envelope, as well. With the exception of Big Mac McGwire, who was passed over in his first HOF ballot, last year, every eligible player to hit 500 has been given a fancy induction party. And they are all good names. Hall of Fame names. Names like Aaron, Ruth, Mantle, Mays, Williams. Do Griffey, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Thomas also belong there? Lou Gehrig fell a few shy of 500 homers but still got in. Can you say overall numbers and contribution to the game? Some of these contemporary players have something other than homers in their corner. Others are one-issue players. Times, they are a changin’.

photo credit: http://www.cluas.com/

MLB IN BED WITH HIGH SCHOOL STEROID TESTING PROGRAMS

But I suppose it’s better than the alternative…

That’s right. If you think MLB is slacking on the steroid-and-other-questionable-drugs problem dogging the league, you’re may have a solid argument. But it’s not like the league doesn’t care. Case in point: last year MLB donated $1 million to the Taylor Hooton Foundation, named after the 17-year-old Texas high school pitcher whose parents link his 2003 hanging suicide to depression caused by steroid withdrawal. His mother found him in his bedroom. She hasn’t walked upstairs since. Almost two years later, Taylor’s father sat in a front of congress Terminator to talk about the effect steroids had on his son’s short life. You may remember that congressional circus. Others invited to testify? Let’s see. Mark McGwire and his famous blathering. Raphael Palmiero’s and his wagging finger. And, for some levity, Jose Canseco’s smirk. In the late 1990s, I’m sure the elder Hooton would have been pleased as punch to be on the same guest list as those sluggers.

A year after the testimony, MLB gave money to the the Hootons’s foundation. The foundation was established to educate kids and others on the dangers of steroid abuse. See? MLB isn’t completely out to lunch. It’s about the kids. It’s not about the money, homeruns, pitching wins or asterisks. Those are considerations for adults to debate upon. Adult ballplayers make choices. Kid ballplayers have peer pressure. So we have the Hooton Foundation to help adults make good choices for the kids.

One such good decision was made on June 15, 2007, by Texas Gov. Rick Perry when he signed into law legislation that dedicates $3 million to test high school students for steroids. Florida is waiting for similar legislation to be signed by their governor. And there are other states entering the mix, to varying degree of success. New Jersey had a policy implemented last year. Much like the Florida proposal, New Jersey dedicates about $100,000 to steroid testing. The Illinois Teaching Assn. isn’t waiting around for the legislature. Indeed, Association leaders are looking at the 2008 school year to incorporate steroid testing into its sports programs. But the math is lacking. Prices for steroid tests run upwards of $100 per analysis, as compared to about $5 for a standard/recreational drug test. Interested parties are tossing about ideas such as 1) passing on the price of the tests to the co-eds by increase prices at school sporting events, or 2) guilt the legislature into writing the check.

And, as in politics, sometimes the legislature’s willingness doesn’t even matter. With the second highest number of high school athletes located in California, you’d think someone there would be on top of this policy measure. And someone was! In 2004, the California Legislature showed its avant-garde nature by passing a high school steroid testing program. The program would have been the first in the country but for an executive veto. Heck if MLB can figure out that steroid testing would scare high school steroid users out of their Hollister shirts, what Neanderthal elected official would think otherwise? Well, that’d be the only governor who admitted to using steroids during his professional athletic career: Arnold Schwarzenegger. To date, no testing policy is in place in California. It begs the question: Just who is The Terminator in bed with?

photo credit: Film Posters

WILL I MISS THE BIG ONE?

I think I need to fire my social secretary. I missed a chance to join former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romey for a baseball game. Sure, I needed to pony up $100 for the chance at the privilege (and probably wouldn’t have) but I still was behind the populist curve. The date to donate was June 12. And that hurts because I’d like to think I’m cooler than Mitt Romey. And, to further show my inability to live on the edge, I also missed the date to enter a contest to join Alyssa Milano at a Volcano Dodgers game. Deadline to enter that was June 15. Sure, I didn’t have to pony up a c-note for the Dodgers raffle but, had been lucky enough to win the two Dodgers tickets she put on the block, I’d have to shell out about $500 just to get to LA. Then there’s subway fare. Not that it’d get me very far. And certainly nowhere near the baseball park.

And, while I was at Saturday’s Seattle game (at a game time of 2:02, it didn’t take much effort, even with the two little ones), I missed Ken Griffey, Jr., jack two out of Safeco Field last Sunday to pass Mark McGwire on the all-time homers list. Oh well. And I think that’s all I ever really wanted to see this weekend. So, we’re taking bets on what else I’ll miss this year. Since I’m always a season behind in fashion, some priceless baseball moment will also likely slip by. What might it be?
photo credit: Kids Cosmos

If Griffey doesn’t have a personal vendetta, he can borrow mine

But let’s first talk about the man of the hour. The Texas Rangers gave Sammy Sosa a chance as a 18-year-old recruit from the Dominican Republic. Then the team gave him a chance as a 38-year-old veteran player bucking retirement. Say what you want about the Texas Rangers and their worst-in-the-league record, the team is a softie for Sammy Sosa. Sure they traded away the future Smile of Swing after an underproductive 25 games in 1989. Griffey_bobblehead But he hit his first major league home run in his early days with the Rangers (in Fenway Park, against Roger Clemens). And, though he hit some of his most famous homers while playing for the Cubs, it looks like he’ll hit his last with the Rangers. For those new to this news, in 1998 Sosa and Mark McGwire had a friendly rivalry while working towards successfully obliterating Roger Maris’s single-season home run record of 61. After Maris’s record was history, the duo traded the title over the last couple weeks of that season, ending when McGwire won the contest, finishing the season with 70 home runs. Sosa finished second with 66 homers but won the year’s National League MVP. Roger Maris’s record had stood for 37 years but has been passed six times since 1998, the last of which was in 2001 when Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, the current single-season record. It’s no secret that this flurry of home runs is blamed on unsubstantiated, though alluring, reports of steroid abuse on the part of Sosa, McGwire and Bonds. And then there was this little snag about Sosa using his corked “practice” bat in 2003 during a game.

So, what’s Sosa up to these days? We’d say, as of last night, 600 home runs, total. After taking a couple humbling years off (that included rejecting a $500,000 offer to join the Washington Nationals), Texas signed him to a minor league contract this winter. By opening day, the former Slammin’ Sammy won a starting place in the Rangers outfield. Last night made Sosa only the fifth player to reach the 600-homer benchmark. The list in front of him includes Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714) Barry Bonds (748, and counting) and Hank Aaron (755). Unless he regains his homer form that awarded him 60-plus homer seasons around the Millennium, Sosa will be getting comfy in that number five spot.

But maybe not. The next one in the 600 club will be Ken Griffey, Jr., who just walloped Number 582 of his career. I expect, wherever Sosa ends up, Griffey will surpass him. I think it’d be a personal goal of his. On the career home runs list, he’s behind the five mentioned in the previous paragraph, Frank Robinson (586) and is one behind McGwire. While Sosa and McGwire were grabbing the headlines in 1998, Griffey was busily notching up his second consecutive 56-homer season as a Seattle Mariner. Unlike the three others who passed Maris’s record, Griffey has not been dogged with accusations of steroid abuse.

Perhaps Griffey will pass McGwire this weekend when he returns for the first time to Seattle after requesting a trade to warmer climates (and choosing Cinncinati?) after the 1999 season. I’m sure I won’t be the only one this weekend at Safeco Field hoping that he does pass McGwire. Sure, he left Seattle in a huff but we’ve all matured and, well, much like the Rangers pretty ineffective GM, I’m a softie. But I’m also a hard ***. I’d love nothing more than to see Griffey pass Sosa’s career record, wherever it ends up. I can be very patient when I need to be. OK, maybe I haven’t matured that much…

photo credit: CBS Sports Store

DOES MIKE BODDICKER WANT THE BONDS BALL? (Or, if that tablecloth could talk).

He was a bit of a heartthrob of mine as a teenage Orioles fan: pitcher Mike Boddicker. Movie star good looks, boyish grin. Not terribly different from Cal Ripken, Jr. – as long as he kept his hat on. (Really, Cal lost his hair very young, not that it would have stopped me from marrying him but, not only did he look too old for me, he really was.) Anyway, growing up an Orioles fan, we took what we could. The Baseball Gods gave us Cal Ripken so I make sure that they stay on my Christmas card list. Sure, when I was far too young to give a ****, there were guys like Boogalicious Powell, Brooks Robinson, Frankie “wouldn’t say that to his face” Robinson and Jim Palmer, who really looked pretty good in his Boddicker Jockey underwear, even to a sqeamish sixteen-year-old girl. (OK, you don’t have to fess up to it, but don’t tell me you didn’t notice.) But now, I had Boddiker, and for his best years, too, having won 20 games in 1984 and with a 2.79 ERA. This all happened when I was at Walter Johnson High School. You read that right. Some of my friends in Bethesda, MD, went to high schools named after Walt Whitman, Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson and I went to one named after a Hall of Fame pitcher. The therapy bills mount.

Back to Boddicker. Only a couple of his years are truly worthy of note and I’ve already hit on one of them. But he stuck around until 1993. Most of those last years he was in middle relief, as what happens to pitchers who are getting too old, too slow and too unpredictable. It’s hard to see a heartthrob get discarded, but it’s baseball. And I still had Cal. Meanwhile, I had aged, too, so hair was becoming less important, anyway.

But, Boddicker clearly had some time on his hands in those waning years. Could he have been rummaging through teammates lockers while they were on the field carrying the banner for the city? Very unlikely but not a bad rumor. Regardless of what he did in the lockrooms, Boddicker has emerged as quite the sports memorabilia collector. He has a Sports Illustrated cover signed by his hero, Roberto Clemente, as well as all of Clemente’s other SI cover issues. He has a signed Babe Ruth card and a Joe Dimaggio rookie card, among many other things, including some interesting stuff from Muhammad Ali.

After his rookie season, 1983, when he was third in the American League for the Rookie of the Year, the 25-year-old Boddicker was invited to a party and was seated with DiMaggio and Ted Williams. It was there that he failed to seize the opportunity for a truly unique piece of memorabilia: a tablecloth with a sketch by Ted Williams depicting the physics of a curveball. ****, there’s probably twelve of them, anyway. Check eBay. In recent years, Boddicker even collected a whole team, the Augusta Greenjackets, which is primarily owned by Cal Ripken.

Will he be jockeying for Barry Bond’s 756? Anyone’s guess. Now that a Dallas auction house has removed the $1 million bond (citing public safety reasons) on the big Bonds ball, it could go for a bargain.

So, many ballplayers are like many of us. They have heroes. Oh, and, Mr. Boddicker, my kids and I put our cards in a shoebox, too. Call me old fashioned. But not only do I have nothing good to trade, but I don’t have the time to file cards into plastic sleeves. Open box. Insert handful of cards. Done.

DECISION ’07

There are few things that can get the American public talking like a close, suspense-filled vote. And few things that make me rile more than watching someone turn into a pimp. So, let’s explore these seemingly disparate topics. In our May 1 post on the Savvy Girls site, I poked friendly fun at Derek Jeter and his line of creams to make Everyman as soft and supple as he’s Bonds_5492_1always dreamed about. Or what Jeter always dreamed about. Now, the Yankee shortstop shows up in a recent Sports Illustrated pushing not only his skin care line but, a few pages later, a line of watches. Skim through a few more pages and you’ll see him touting the benefit of some alien-green sports drink that seethes from his sweat glistened skin. A frightening trifeccta. But the sold-out boy (who likes to listen to Fat Boy Slim) wasn’t cover boy that week. Rather, the spotlight went to San Francisco’s Barry Bonds, who appeared as natural as a treed giraffe. Indeed, this May 21st, 2007 cover was an antithesis to his peacocking pose at the plate on his first SI cover fifteen years ago. The magazine’s famous  curse didn’t stick on Barry that year. After he adorned the May 4, 1992 cover, Bonds finished storming through the beginning of the season en route to his second Most Valuable Player award and second All-Star game appearance.

And the MVP awards kept coming throughout his 21 year career  – seven, total – and so did the All-Star fan love. What will this season bring? Flouting the cover Bonds_507_1 shot, maybe the jinx will finally catch up with him. With All-Star break festivities planned for Bonds’s home stadium, wouldn’t it be an embarrassment if Barry didn’t play? Indeed, that may happen. However, this year, it may just be fan repulsion – not injuries – that will keep him home instead of rounding it. Fans speak with their votes. And what they are saying is they like Bonds on the bubble. Could Barry Bonds really be given the shaft? Sure, it’s possible. But it’s also possible that the reason is not as scandalous as you may think. When you consider the competition for the three National League starting outfield slots, it’s pretty stiff. There are some naturally talented and supremely respected guys vying for the spots. Earlier last week, Bonds fell off the short list and into the number four spot, behind the leader Carlos Beltran (NY Mets), Ken Griffey, Jr. (Cinn) and Alfonso Soriano (Chi Cubs). With the 6/28 date looming for final All-Star voting, he’s Bubble Boy, alright. It may come down to as few as a thousand votes. This may all be a little unnerving to the home run king-in-waiting. And to think he won’t have Ralph Nadar or a hanging chad controversy or anyone else to blame for his troubles this time.

LITTLE LEAGUE LITIGATION TWO-STEP

Jackie and I had mothers. And, though Jackie isn’t a mother, I am and would remain one even if I ran away, as I often threaten. Alas, there is no reversing some biology or stretch marks (I promise that you don’t want to see that link…) so I stay put to see how it all might turn out. And some of our best friends are either mothers, wanting to become mothers or are avoiding it like the TB virus. Anyway, the experience that we have with mothers gives us a pretty good Justice_2 perspective about when things are getting out of hand, mother-wise. There are those things that we discuss privately and those things that deserve a public slap on that out of hand.

In the public flogging category, is the Staten Island, NY mother who is suing the national Little League association and a coach for bad coaching. It seems the offense occurred when the boy was 12 and went sliding into second base. I don’t know if he was safe, or not, but he was soon out of the game because of an injury traced back to the slide. AH HA!  Can you spot the villany? Jean Gonzalez can. She thinks that the League’s beloved coach, who’s logged several years in the position, is guilty — GUILTY, I say — of not teaching her son how to properly slide into a base.

And what of the Winston-Salem, NC tyke who’s parents say he experienced "extreme pain and suffering" after losing two teeth from being hit in the mouth with a ball during practice. I remember losing teeth as a kid. There was a lot of pain and suffering. Once, returning from watching my big brother race his carved wooden car in a Boy Scout event, I fell on some concrete stairs and bashed my teeth into a knot. Cue the pain and suffering. I wonder what the statute of limitations are on such suits. Sure my dental angst happened circa-1974 but just think of the dough we could get from the deep pockets of the Boy Scout organization. And the concrete stairs were on the grounds of a public school. Better than suing my dad for forgetting the flashlight. I’m smelling green.

Man, perhaps these parents should keep their kids safely inside and playing with their Nintendos. Oh wait, some family already successfully sued the company on behalf of their son, who got carpel tunnel from playing too much on his Xbox … Do you think these are the same parents that sued over a new infliction known as "Blackberry Thumb." As much as I hate to say it, the Blackberry suits are also true.

photo credit: "Justitia (die Gerechtigkeit)" by Jacques de Gheyn II