Running Local

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Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

Alomar, Tejada and the Straw

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 12, 2009

We’re talkin’ baseball, but we aren’t talkin’ Willie, Mickey & the Duke. No, it’s time for the newest preseason ritual, not Pitchers & Catchers, the Caribbean Series or claims of fat and disappointing players claiming to be in the best shape of their lives– no instead it’s Preseason Scandal time!

We have a full crop this year, and it’s about to get fuller. ARod we all know about, Tejada has been indicted for lying to Congress (that’s a crime?), and Alomar either has erectile dysfunction, a history of anal rape and full blown AIDS or one very pissed off ex-girlfriend. Next up- Darryl Strawberry, no stranger to scandal he, is cashing in on his preseason controversies with a new book from Harper Collins, Straw: Finding My Way. Ironic title, given how many times the straw found its way up Straw’s nose in the ’80s.

But hey, at least he’s on the right side of his scandals– he’s making money off of them while the others are losing money. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, boys! Just follow the Strawberry Express.

The Alomar thing just has multiple book deals written all over it. Deal one to the girlfriend, who claims she had unprotected sex for three years with Alomar despite thinking that he might have HIV– he became ill and she constantly pressured him to have an HIV test, according to the suit she filed, but she kept having unprotected sex with him because he claimed he couldn’t have AIDS or HIV. For kicks, she included in the filing her uncorroborated claim that Alomar was anally raped by two Mexicans (you have to appreciate how she managed to toss in the ethnicity, to boot) when he was 17 and that Alomar suffers from erectile dysfunction… I’m sure that in her first interview she’ll also claim that Alomar has a two inch penis and that he enjoys wearing high heels and things. Whether or not her suit has merit is for the judge and jury to decide, but this one sounds like it may have, oh, a hole or six in it.

Book deal two is Alomar’s and its thrust could follow many paths. Will it be a book about how his ex-girlfriend tried to shake him down? A tearful recounting of his life with HIV? A Wilt Chamberlain “I screwed 13,000 women and none have any diseases” romp? How about the big kahuna, the Times #1 bestseller in the batch– for years Alomar was rumored to be gay and the infamous spitting incident has been alleged to be about umpire John Hirschbeck calling him “a little fag”… could we have our first potential Hall of Famer coming out in the pages of an “Out of the Locker: My Tortured Life Denying My Sexuality in MLB”, Oprah Book Club shoo-in? Editors are already camping out in front of his house in hopes of that one.

Now, not to distract from the salacious details of a lurid lawsuit filed against a player that people love to hate, but we do have one guy in this stew who may be in danger of a trip to Federal Prison. Miguel Tejada is your general baseball bad actor– an inveterate juicer, an all around schmuck, and now an indicted liar. The Al Capone irony of this one is rich– instead of going down for his own steroid & HGH use or even for lying about his own use, Tejada is screwed over his lying about the steroid usage of ex-prospect, current nobody Adam Piatt. In an interview with Congressional staffers, Tejada denied talking to Piatt about obtaining HGH and steroids, for which he is now being charged with lying to the Congress. Now I know a lot of Congressional staffers and it is true that making them look bad has negative implications for your life if they cacth you at it and can prove you did wrong, but this? Really? Is anybody sending a CEO to prison this month for lying to Congress? How about the entire previous Presidential Administration? How about every Director of Central Intelligence since Wild Bill Donovan? I’m no Tejada fan, but he’s getting reamed out of frustration by a bunch of Congress Critters and a US Attorney who can’t find any other way to cash in on steroid mania. This is just stupid. Maybe he’ll at least get a book deal out of it though, right? I imagine it’ll be published, or at least hyped, in February of, oh, 2011.

That brings us to the book being hyped now for release around Opening Day, Darryl Strawberry’s combination of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Bronx Zoo. According to publicity releases on this one, Straw talks at length about ballplayers in the ’80s using coke and speed, drinking beer to take the edge off of the illegal stimulants, and getting head in the clubhouse during games. New ground there, eh? Just in case that doesn’t hook you, there’s also the promise of details on the nightly three and four ways the Mets engaged in after a night in the bars and clubs… or you could just go out on the net and see the real thing at any porn site. I’m sure this one will fly off the shelves at Barnes & Noble outlets all over Queens and sell, well, less robustly everywhere else.

Maybe it’ll spawn a new book from some of the Strawberry-Alomar overlap women who can write that they gave Straw head in the clubhouse while having unprotected sex with Alomar and don’t have HIV. Coming soon from (extremely)Random House, I suppose.

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Posted in Baseball, CongressCritters, Cultural Phenomena, Jerks, Publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alex Rodriguez Comes Clean

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 9, 2009

So, sometimes the least likely– and most correct– outcome is what comes to pass. Alex Rodriguez has just come clean and admitted not only to using steroids in 2003, the year that he tested positive in supposedly confidential tests, but that he started using in 2001. He relates his use of PEDs to the signing of his $252,000,000 contract with the Texas Rangers, claiming that the pressure to perform at a top level every day combined with the permissive attitude of MLB in 2001 and the stupidity of youth. He also states that he stopped using steroids in

Wonderful.

Yes, Rodriguez gets some credit for at least explicitly coming clean, going beyond what he had to do by admitting that he used not just in 2003, when he was tagged in the test, but also in 2001 and 2002. The easy outs are to say that he only used once and was unlucky enough to get caught in a test or to say that he only used that year. Either one of those would’ve been sufficient and indeed have been used many times by other players; Rodriguez did more. Good for him.

That being said, he is forever tarnished in the eyes of any serious baseball fan. That Rodriguez used steroids in three of his better years– years in which he hit 52, 57, and 47 home runs, respectively– puts question marks on everything else he did, too. Rodriguez claims that he stopped using in 2003– a plausible claim given that he got nailed in a test and apparently was informed as such by Gene Orza of the Player’s Union.

Rodriguez’ numbers were extremely good in 2001 through ’03, his admitted steroid years, but they also weren’t the best of his career. Using one of the more accurate metrics by which statheads can measure offensive performance, OPS+, we can see many better years for Rodriguez. For my readers who aren’t also readers at RotoJunkie.com, OPS+ is broken out as On Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage measured against league average, with the league average being represented as 100. During his three Rangers/steroids years, Rodriguez’ OPS+ were 160, 158, & 147– all fantastic, without question. In 1996, his second full year, his OPS+ was also 160. In 2000, his last year in Seattle, it was 162. With the Yankees in 2005 ARod’s OPS+ was 170 and in 2007 his OPS+ was a ludicrous 177.

More interestingly, when you look at Rodriguez’ numbers during his Texas/steroid years, they show something very interesting– a declining trendline.

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB
 2001 25 TEX AL 162  632  133  201  34  1  52  135  18  3  75 131  .318  .399  .622  160  393
 2002 26 TEX AL 162  624  125  187  27  2  57  142   9  4  87 122  .300  .392  .623  158  389
 2003 27 TEX AL 161  607  124  181  30  6  47  118  17  3  87 126  .298  .396  .600  147  364 

During those Texas/steroid years, Rodriguez’ OPS+, his value relative to the league, remained very high but fell each year, especially notable as Rodriguez had moved to one of the best parks for hitters in the American League. If you look at these three years as the peak of the steroid era, the last years in which steroid usage wasn’t specifically punishable in the Majors, we can see American League OPS+ leaders Jason Giambi (198 in 2001), Jim Thome (197 in 2002), and Carlos Delgado (161 in 2003) with Barry Bonds going 259/268/231 in those same years to lead the NL. All of these guys have at least been rumored to have been steroid users, as well.

It is similarly acknowledged that the Steroid Era curtailed in the years after 2003, with testing and penalties now becoming mandatory. As you look at these years, something becomes very evident– the yearly OPS+ leaders, the standouts relative to their respective leagues, say within the realm of reality. No longer do you see the insane 200+ numbers of Barry Bonds after 2004, nor do you see the 195+ numbers of Jason Giambi– you see numbers in the 160 – 180 range in the AL and the same in the NL with the exception of Albert Pujols’ super-human (perhaps literally, if you believe the steroid rumors) 190 in 2008. What this tells us is that the disparity between the juicers of the ’90s and early part of this decade has started to disappear as even the standout players aren’t so far above the average players as to make the eyes goggle. In that time, Alex Rodriguez has posted his two best OPS+ years– his 2005 & 2007 seasons in New York– and played them, allegedly and perhaps quite believably, clean. It does lend some credence to his statement today that after using ‘roids for a few years, he realized that he didn’t need them to perform.

I will never be able to look at ARod the same way again, which is particularly painful as I am a die-hard, lifelong Yankee fan and my five year old loves ARod. He cheated, plain and simple, and at the very least I could never bring myself to look at his numbers from 2001-2003 as part of any career tally, which is huge when you consider that barring injury it’s almost a fait accompli that Rodriguez will blow away Barry Bonds’ career home run record. What makes that even more ironic is that Rodriguez is absolutely right– going from the King Dome and Safeco Field, two fields that were a nightmare for hitters to the launching pad that is the Ball Park at Arlington/Ameriquest/Whatever it’s called now, one of the statistically best places for a home run hitter to play– Rodriguez could’ve put up those numbers or ones nearly indistinguishable without steroids. Most players will tell you that the effect steroids have on hitting home runs is that they let you hit the ball further; for a guy with Rodriguez’ natural talent level going into the Texas homerun haven, that boost probably didn’t make a hell of a lot of difference. In Seattle, they would’ve upped his numbers. In Texas, the gains would have been marginal. Did I recently write that nothing is ever simple with this guy?

Going forward, Rodriguez should continue to be one of the great players in the league and one of the greatest in the history of the game.

Sadly, he can never be credited accordingly. He doesn’t deserve to be.

Posted in Baseball, Cultural Phenomena, Jerks | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

With ARod, Nothing Is Ever Simple

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 9, 2009

Unbelievable talent, a huge paycheck, narcissism to spare. It should all be a pretty simple equation, but with Alex Rodriguez it’s the variables that kill you. Unbelievable talent… that seems to evaporate in October. Huge paycheck… tied up in a nasty divorce involving Madonna. Narcissism to spare… confused by his bromance-hate relationship with Derek Jeter.

It’ll drive you nuts.

Even now, with what should be the slam dunk of ARod using steroids, we have a difficult to quantify variable at play– his accuser stands to benefit materially from her accusation, which is supported only by anonymous sources.

Selena Roberts, formerly of the New York Times and currently writing for Sports Illustrated, is in the process of publishing a none-too-complimentary unauthorized biography of Alex Rodriguez. Hit & Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez , described on the publishing-trade site Publisher’s Weekly as “…an expose of A-Rod’s controversial path to self-destruction, is scheduled for release right around Opening Day.

I have no reason to believe that Selena Roberts isn’t on the level, that she doesn’t really have four excellent and bulletproof sources… except that it’s an awfully big coincidence that the biggest story she’s broken in her career happens ten weeks before her first book is released and it happens to be a hatchet job on the guy she’s breaking this story on. There’s every chance that the two are intertwined– while she was researching her extremely negative take on Rodriguez for the book, she undoubtedly deeply researched him and those who were both willing to talk poorly of him and every angle she could find to cast aspersion. Here’s the publicity statement on the book from her publisher:

HIT AND RUN:
The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez

In this extraordinary book, senior Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts will deliver an intimate narrative on how New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, the richest and perhaps most talented player in baseball, is on the verge of a personal and professional collapse so profound it would rate as one of the most dramatic falls in major league history.

Through exhaustive reporting and interviews, Roberts will detail A-Rod as a plunge-in-progress, a once-in-a-generation baseball talent tortured by an internal struggle between the polished family man he wants to be and the unabashed hedonist he has become.

The storyline will include his dalliances with strippers, infatuation with Madonna, details of his record-breaking $315-million contract, shady real estate empire and further evidence of steroid use, but will also tunnel deeper into his behavior.

Roberts will reveal the root of Alex’s identity crisis—the night his father abandoned him—and, in so doing, answer the question: who is the real A-Rod?

HIT AND RUN will reveal:
• Details about his close association with a known steroid dealer and new evidence of his use of anabolic steroids and testosterone in 2003, his MVP season with the Texas Rangers.

• A-Rod fired a member of his domestic staff for drawing horns on a photo of Madonna.

• A-Rod always uses the same pickup line on women: “Who’s hotter, me or Derek Jeter?”

• The nasty nickname that A-Rod was called by his teammates in the clubhouse (and it’s a lot worse than A-Fraud).

• A-Rod compares himself to Joe DiMaggio, telling friends that Madonna was his Marilyn Monroe.

• A-Rod speaks to a motivational guru before each game; in 2008 he cut off his family and friends to devote himself to Kabbalah.

Selena Roberts, a former sports columnist for the New York Times, is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated

That sounds even handed to me and smacks of journalistic credibility, doesn’t it?

Everyone in the baseball industry knew that Ms. Roberts was working on this book– to compile the information she claims to have  generated she would have had to have talked to hundreds of sources. She’s obviously talked to team mates and former team mates of Rodriguez, friends and foes, ex-girlfriends and dalliances, etc. She also says she talked to four people with knowledge of a sealed document who haven’t said a word in five years about what is contained in that document and who chose to disclose only that portion which dealt with Rodriguez.

The document that Roberts is claiming has generated this blow up is a 2003 confidential report on performance enhancing drugs in baseball conducted by the Player’s Union to determine if there was a steroid problem in baseball at all. One hundred and three players tested positive for banned performance enhancers, but there was no specific rule banning usage in baseball at that point and thus no penalties attached; the report was sealed and was to be held anonymously, as it has been for five years now… despite the fact that ARod was allegedly in it, despite the fact that coming out with that news during the 2007 post-season controversy over ARod’s opting out of his Yankee contract would have been much larger than it coming out know will be, despite the strong possibility of people like Roger Clemens or Albert Pujols being on that list. Now, not one but four people confirm to a reporter not only that ARod tested positive in 2003 but that a union official tipped him off to a test in 2004… yeah, it could happen. How lucky for Ms. Roberts that it happened now, when she can make a personal fortune off of it, when SI and her editors can benefit from the prestige of having the reporter who broke the ARod story and literally wrote the book on it on staff.

I have always been a defender of anonymous sources in reportage– I’ve worked around reporters and believe most of them to be honorable and extraordinarily devoted to the canon of journalistic ethics. I’m also not a fool and have had my fair share of professional experience with reporters– when there’s a question of dramatic personal gain and the story contains a substantial surprise that facilitates that personal gain, you have to ask some questions. The problem is that the answers are almost impossible to arrive at; there is no way that Roberts will ever reveal her anonymous sources, so there is no way to evaluate their veracity. It’s catch-22.

So, as always with Rodriguez, there’s a swirl of something around what should be a simple sight. Given Rodriguez’, well, flapability, this is sure to have an impact on a player who in the past has worn his emotions on his jersey’s sleeve. For  sake of finding the truth, the best outcome would be an admission and sincere apology from Rodriguez; that’s also the least likely outcome once the attorneys and Rodriguez’ ego become involved and also because it’s possible that this story is untrue, that the reporter either was too willing to believe sources that told her what she wanted to hear or she has fabricated some part of the story or some of the anonymous sources.

Nothing is ever simple with ARod. Nothing.

Posted in Baseball, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
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