Archive Page 2

Yankees’ poor start a case of bad luck

If someone told me a week ago that the Yankees, in their first six games, would score 35 runs, I would be ecstatic. Nearly six runs a game! That’s fantastic.

If that same person told the Yankees, in those first six games, would only surrender 23 runs and just 17 earned runs for an ERA of 3.04, second best in the AL, I would be in shock. The pitching is outperforming all expectations, I would say.

And then, if you told me that the Yankees, with these numbers, would be just 2-4 after what many are considering a disaster of a West Coast road trip, I would say, “Hold your horses. The Yankees have just been the victims of some bad luck to start the season.”

After their 10-1 drubbing of the Los Angeles de Los Angeles this afternoon, that is exactly where things stand. The Yankees, despite a slow offensive start, are averaging nearly six runs per game. Their pitching meanwhile has given up just 17 earned runs. Yet, the team is just 2-4 sitting three games behind those hated Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

While many fans are sounding the alarm, I would like to take a step back and evaluate the first six games of the season. It’s really not that bad.

First, the Yankees defense contributed to one of these unfortunate losses. Had Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano not committed errors in key situations during Wednesday’s 9-4 loss in Oakland, the Yanks would be 3-3. Those errors were responsible for many of those AL-leading six unearned runs the Yankees have surrendered. Tighter would have given the Yankees one of those games.

Second, Joe Torre’s poor managerial decisions contributed to one loss. On Tuesday, in a game tied at 3 in the 9th, Torre went with the distracted Scott Proctor. Proctor, the last pitcher out of the bullpen, had been home dealing with an emergency operation for his young daughter. While Proctor blew the game, Mariano Rivera, the Yanks’ best reliever, watched from the bullpen. A better decision by Torre could bring the Yanks to a hypothetical 4-2.

Finally, against the Angels, the Yankees were just victims of bad, bad luck. During last night’s game, the Angels made four key defensive plays that all saved the game. Had any of those plays not been made, the Yankees could be returning home from the road trip 5-1.

That is not to say that everything is perfect in Yankee-land. We’ve seen the flaws of the Yankees up close and personal. Their defense is shoddy; they’re bench is just plain awful; and the team may be putting too much pressure on themselves to hit home runs. When they returned to basics on Sunday with run-scoring doubles and timely base hits, they won. On Friday and Saturday, everyone went up to the plate looking to hit that game-winning home run.

But for all of their losses, things aren’t looking that bad. They held the A’s, the trendy pick for World Series champions, largely in check for two games. They allowed just 8 runs to the team that defeated them in the playoffs last October. Their suspect pitchers exceeded any expectations at the start of the season. The bullpen looks better than it has in years, and Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina are throwing as well as they ever do.

One could argue that the Yanks won’t face a challenge as tough as the Angels and A’s back to back until they play a series against Toronto to end the month and one against the Red Sox to open May. If that is indeed the way the rest of April plays out, this shaky start will be a distant memory by the time the Yanks and Red Sox square off on May 1.

As the Royals come to town this week for three in Stadium, I would expect a grand homecoming for the Bombers. With a few more odd bounces and missed pop-ups by their opponents, the Yankees’ luck will challenge, and that 2-4 record could turn into a 5-4 mark by Thursday.

Stadium deal a “win-win” for the Yanks and no one else

The Yankees’ season may have started with a West Coast whimper, but back home, George Steinbrenner finally secured the elusive stadium deal he has always wanted.

On Wednesday, the New York City Council overwhelming approved the Yankees’ construction plans for a new stadium just north of the current Yankee Stadium. With this vote, old historic Yankee Stadium is destined for the junkyard while a new McStadium will take its place.

As a lifelong die-hard Yankee fan, I cannot be more disappointed. What’s wrong with Yankee Stadium? Nothing. Sure, it may not have wide concourses or enough luxury boxes to line King George’s pockets with gold, but it is a great place to see a game. It doesn’t need kids’ play areas, special food gimmicks, or trains in the outfield to draw in fans. In fact, a record-setting four million fans agree with me here.

People go to Yankee Stadium to see the outfield where Ruth played, where Mantle played, where the Yankees won World Series and captured American League pennats. It may not be the fatest stadium to get out of after a game, but it’s Yankee Stadium. Nothing can ever replace it. Ask Cubs and Red Sox fans how they feel about their stadiums. It is this same sense of history.

So while I am outraged over a definite lack of Yankee fan uproar over these plans to destroy the House that Ruth Built, I’d like to step back and look at the finances behind this deal…

One week later, Selig rushing to Mitchell’s defense

The Steroid Investigation/Mitchell Commission is less than one week old, but already, Bud Selig is rushing to the defense of his chosen investigator George Mitchell.

Since naming Mitchell the lead on what many view as an important but symbolic attempt to clean up the sport, Selig has come under fire for appointing an insider to investigate an inside problem. Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox and chairman of the Disney Corporation. Disney owns ESPN which is one of baseball’s best business partners. The sports network is also airing a reality show following Barry Bonds, the eye of the steroid storm, as he nears 714 and 755.

Yesterday, speaking in Chicago after giving the White Sox players their World Series rings, Selig tried to deflect the growing groundswell of criticism. “It’s important for somebody who understands what I call the morays of culture of this sport as well as he does. That helps in the investigation. That doesn’t hurt it,” Selig said to the Associated Press.

And right there is the problem with this investigation. One of the many characterizations of baseball throughout the steroid scandal has been of an insular culture that protects their own. The owners, long complacent in the Steroid Era, will not hang their multimillion-dollar investments out to dry. The Players Union won’t throw out any of their members as sacrificial lambs. The culture is one of secrecy, camaraderie and mutual protection.

So along comes Bud, saying that Mitchell understands “the morays of the culture of this sport.” It’s those morays that got baseball in trouble in the first place. Now, Selig is citing those morays as a rationale for appointing an insider to head up the investigation.

Selig continued the defense of Mitchell. “He has complete autonomy. He wouldn’t have taken this without complete autonomy. I mean the fact that we’re friends had nothing to do with it,” Selig said. “He doesn’t come back and talk to me. I don’t want to hear from him. And he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. So I don’t know how anybody could have more independence than Sen. Mitchell.”

This is just getting worse for Selig. In two paragraphs, he has managed to destroy any notion of an independent investigation in my mind. The worst way to convince your critics that the investigation you appointed is autonomous is by calling him a friend of yours. But there goes Bud: “I mean the fact that we’re friends has nothing to do with.” Whatever you say, Bud.

Furthermore, Selig also doesn’t want to hear from Mitchell. Well, if I had just appointed a blue ribbon panel to investigate damaging charges of steroid use in the sport of which I’ve been in charge for the last decade and a half, I would probably want to hear about the investigation. Not Bud though.

Maybe he doesn’t want to hear about the investigation because he already knows what Mitchell will find. As an owner and then the commissioner of the sport, I’m sure Selig knew what was going on behind closed doors.

In the end, this investigation is nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Selig had to respond to the charges leveled against the game in Game of Shadows. He did so by appointing a hardcore insider to investigate a game with which he quite familiar. Mitchell may uncover some drug use that would surprise no one, but to level any kind of suspension based on the information found in Mitchell’s investigation, Selig would have to be willing to risk fighting the Players Union in a labor year. He won’t risk damaging the game’s reputation.

It would have been better if Selig could have appointed someone more neutral. But in reality, there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe Mitchell really will expose a huge drug subculture. But no one will be too surprised if he does. Hopefully, we can look ahead to a season and a sport without steroids and without amphetamines and recognize that as damaging as the last few years have been, the game will go on cleaner and more popular than ever. Now if only Selig would find someone other than his friend to name to the investigation.

The Last Nine Innings a one-game chronicle of baseball evolution

For four and a half years, I have tried to forget about the events of Sunday, November 4, 2001. But as a Yankee fan, that will always be impossible. I remember every detail of that game, and I still can feel the shock of watching the impossible become possible as Mariano Rivera proved that every now and then he is human.

It hasn’t helped my psychological healing process too much that baseball writers keep insisting on writing books about that fateful game. First, Buster Olney penned The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty in 2004. Olney’s book was a masterful and personal look into the Yankee clubhouse during their remarkable run from 1996 until Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single in 2001. Olney, a long-time Yankee beat writer, used his clubhouse access to further humanize what was already a very human team and show at what cost success came to the players and coaches from the last baseball dynasty.

Now, Charles Euchner, a city planner and former college professor, has revisited Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in his latest book entitled The Last Nine Innings. Whereas Olney’s book focused on the Yankees, Euchner’s book uses Game 7 of the World Series as a launching point for an examination into the various forces behind the evolution of the modern game of baseball.

First up comes a look at the latest legal strength and conditioning techniques sweeping through Major League Baseball. Euchner uses the experiences of Steve Finley to examine how current knowledge about muscle use and muscle strengthening can lengthen a player’s career. Finley, Euchner explains, works with chiropractor Edythe Heus to strengthen the balancing and tiny core muscles along his spine. Finley doesn’t lift mega-weights, but he has honed his body in such a way that has enabled him to play, for better or for worse, past his 40th birthday.

Finley’s technique is the anti-steroid approach, according to Euchner. Heus’ regimen focuses on “creating a better sense of time and space” instead of focusing on “the execution of an isolated task,” as Euchner claims steroids do. Finley’s training regiment helps him in the field as he dashes and lunges after elusive fly balls, and it helps him focus his swing at the plate.

Next up is a look at the fundamentals of the game: hitting, pitching, and fielding. Euchner breaks down the mental aspects of these tasks. Using extensive interviews with many of the participants of the Yankees-Diamondbacks World Series, Euchner delves into the minds of some of the game’s top players. He discusses Curt Schilling’s penchant for data and scouting reports, Randy Johnson’s efforts at controlling his extremely tall and thin frame early in his career, and Roger Clemens’ picture perfect motion and nearly-insane conditioning work.

Euchner gives the other two areas of the game the same treatment. He looks at positioning fielders, swinging styles and hitting approaches. The book provides a deep examination into the psychology of baseball, an area of the game often ignored by those who follow it. Chuck Knoblauch, one of the key cogs in the Yankee dynasty, was certainly a victim of baseball psychology.

Baseball, all 162 regular season games, 30 spring training games, and the October spring, can be grueling on the players. By examining the states of mind of those playing in the ultimate game of the season, Euchner shows how the sport’s premiere players prepare for an eight-month marathon.

Moving away from the personal, Euchner looks at the sabermetric revolution encompassing the sport. What is refreshing about Euchner’s book is that the stats can co-exist with the psychology. While the players say they do not follow the new stats, it gives those watching the game from General Managers to scouts to journalists and bloggers an insight into the game. He touches upon the never-ending Derek Jeter fielding debate and looks at the improbable events of the bottom of the 9th through the lens of Win Probability. (Tony Womack’s double with one out to tie the score shifted the game in the Diamondbacks favor from 35.4 to 84.3. It was by far the single most important play of the game.)

Finally, Euchner ends with some ruminations on globalization. Alfonso Soriano, a Dominican who played in Japan, was almost the hero of the World Series while a Panamanian took the loss and an American-Cuban delivered the game winning hit. But Euchner does more than give lip service to the ever-expanding international reach of baseball. Many Latin American players sign up for a few thousand dollars to play for the Major League academies. While some Latino players have gone on to be big stars, Americans never hear about the hundreds of players who do not make it and must return to a life of abject poverty. Other Latino players are picked up by Major League teams simply to fill out roster spots in the Minor Leagues. They will never fulfill their Major League dreams or share in the dollars that the sport’s upper levels have to offer.

In the end, Euchner, unfortunately for me, cannot rewrite history, and the last 30 pages of the book were the toughest to read. I kept hoping that maybe this time the roof at the BOB would be open, and Shane Spencer’s deep fly ball would be a game-changing three-run home run. Or that the Yankees would play the infield back and Derek Jeter would catch Gonzalez’s dinky hit. Or that Scott Brosius would complete the double play giving the Yankees a chance to move that infield back with two outs instead of playing up with one. But alas, it was not to be.

Personal feelings aside, Euchner’s book provides insight into the game at a whole new level. While he touches the surface on a variety of topics that could stand on their own in a 250-page book, as Andrew Zimbalist, baseball economist notes on the cover, you will never a game with the same thoughts again. You’ll be eyeing the pitchers, looking for the physics described in the book or watching an outfield twist and turn like a dancer catching up to a seemingly uncatchable deep fly ball.

The Last Nine Innings, by Charles Euchner, is published by Sourcebooks. It is available online at Amazon.com or at your nearest local bookstore.

2006 Preview: Predicting the Junior Circuit

With four innings in the books before the rains came, Opening Night is well under way. And that means baseball is back. Today, I’ll offer up my American League predictions. Tomorrow, I’ll use my crystal ball to predict the National League.

American League East

1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card)
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles

The American League East could be in for a minor shake-up below the top spot. While the Yankees are old, aging, and overpaid, it’s hard for me to pick against this team. Randy Johnson threw 225 innings last year, and he seems to be ready to reach that mark again. This time, however, he’s comfortable. While Johnny Damon may not be worth the long-term deal the Yankees gave him, at least in 2006, he’ll lead a fearsome offense. The Bombers also have some solid relief pitching to back up Mariano Rivera this year. Kyle Farnsworth should fill in adequately for Tom Gordon, and Octavio Dotel will end up as the best off-season signing this year. By mid-year, Yankee games could be seven inning affairs as they were in 1996.

For a while, I had the Blue Jays in second, but A.J. Burnett’s recent injury scare highlights how vulnerable this team is. Their infield defense is subpar, and Bengie Molina threw out just one would-be base stealer this spring. Ted Lilly or Burnett could go down at any time. While B.J. Ryan ought to justify the long-term deal, every other piece of this team needs to fall into place for them to succeed. While the right combination of good health and good luck could make the Blue Jays this year’s 2005 Chicago White Sox, odds are not on their side.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are engaged in a stealth plan of rebuilding. They have an awesome array of arms and some position players in the farm system as well as a young core of players to complement Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. However, the other pieces don’t quite fit in Fenway. Mike Lowell is past his prime, and J.T. Snow will probably be used too often. Alex Gonzalez is as close to an automatic out as anyone else in baseball. Keith Foulke, Curt Schilling, David Wells, and even Josh Beckett’s blisters are big question marks. While the Sox could win the division, I think the wild card is more likely. And by June or July, some of the young arms should be starring in New England.

It’s hard to believe, but the Devil Rays were among the best teams in baseball following the All Star break last season. After eight seasons of mediocrity, the Devil Rays may be ready to make waves. While they won’t hit their stride until about 2008, their young, dynamic offense should scare any opposing pitcher in the American League. Carl Crawford, Johnny Gomes, Julio Lugo, and Jorge Cantu lead the hitters. But the organization’s young pitchers lag behind. This season could be a turning point for Scott Kazmir as the young stud tries to find his control. The Devil Rays will have no problem scoring runs but they will have problems preventing runs.

Finally, we get to the Orioles. Can Leo Mazzone turn around the pitching staff? Sure. Can he figure out what to do with Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, Luis Matos, and Javy Lopez? Not at all. Reports out of Spring Training say that Miguel Tejada hasn’t been himself this spring. Whether it is lingering feelings from the Rafael Palmeiro blow-up last year or his lack of B-12 vitamin shots, no one knows. But Orioles fans should be in for a long season.

American League Central

1. Chicago White Sox
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

Nothing new here really. While no one picked the White Sox last year, they are now the Central’s team to beat in 2006. The stellar rotation that lead the team to a title last year is back, but this year, Javier Vazquez has replaced Orlando Hernandez. While Bobby Jenks is not yet a sure thing in the bullpen, the Pale Hose have enough live arms to fill that gap. Jim Thome, if healthy, will provide another big bat to complement Paul Konerko, and Brian Anderson should shine in center. While they won’t reach 99 wins, they should capture another division title.

The Indians came oh-so-close to one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history last year only to fall short in the last week of play. This season, things don’t look as promising. While the young core is in place (and mainly locked up in the long term), the Indians pitching took a hit. Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson probably won’t duplicate Scott Elarton and Kevin Millwood’s contributions. An early injury today to C.C. Sabathia could be costly as well. Bob Wickman is always a little shaky out of the pen. If early season struggles plague Aaron Boone, I would expect to see Andy Marte sooner rather than later.

The Twins have the pitching to compete but the offense lags. Johan Santana should win the Cy Young Award this year (as he should have last year). Francisco Liriano should join Scott Baker in the rotation sooner rather than later. But the Twins are relying on Tony Bautista at third base, and early reports are not high on his hitting or fielding. Justin Morneau is due to break out, but he could be a dud. Jason Kubel’s health is a question mark but he could compete for Rookie of the Year. While many pieces are in place, the Twins just aren’t as solid as the Indians or the White Sox.

Once upon a time, the Tigers were more than a blip on the baseball landscape. These days, though, the outlook is grim in Detroit. A heavy pitching park doesn’t do the Tigers offense justice. The team has the offense to compete, but right now, with a costly injury to Todd Jones, they are looking at a closer-less beginning of the season. This team is a hodge-podge of oft-injured veterans and fringe players. Fourth place for another season and a shot at 81 wins is the upside.

Finally, the Royals. The Royals are bad. They have back-up infielders in the starting lineup and number four or five starters fronting their rotation. Their young arm – Zach Greinke – left the team for unknown reasons, and their reliable closer is injured. While the All Star game may land in Kansas City in a few years, the only stars on the field this year will be visiting.

American League West

1. Oakland Athletics
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

The Oakland A’s should return to the postseason this year. Whether they make it past the divisional series is a toss-up. Their rotation is well-balanced, and a healthy Rich Harden to go with Barry Zito, Esteban Loaiza, Danny Haren, and Joe Blanton will carry them far. Milton Bradley is a perfect fit for OBP-minded Oakland, and Frank Thomas could be the steal of the off-season. While Jay Witasick should fall to Earth this season, the rest of the bullpen looks great. The A’s are looking at 90 wins and a legitimate shot at a World Championship.

The Angels are pesky. The Angels are annoying. They win when they shouldn’t and they have a seemingly endless supply of top-rated middle infield prospects. However, the Angels should see their 2006 season end before the playoffs. This team is relying on hobbled players – Garret Anderson and Vlad Guerrero – as well as a few old guys and one former ESPN blogger – Tim Salmon. Jeff Weaver gave up 42 hits in just 25 innings this spring, and Bartolo Colon threw just six innings. While the Angels are waiting for their kids to grow up, this year will be an off-year in Anaheim.

No team is more fun to watch than the Rangers and no team save for the Devil Rays has less pitching to go with an explosive offense. The Rangers will turn to Kevin Millwood and fly-ball pitching Vincente Padilla to anchor their revolving-door rotation. Adam Eaton’s injury was a big blow to this team. Led by Mark Teixeira, they will score runs, but they will surrender them in bunches as well.

Was it just 2001 that the Mariners won 116 games? Since that year, it seems that the M’s have lost their golden touch. Jamie Moyer will start his 54th Opening Day and the rotation behind him has never lived up to its potential. The one bright spot is Felix Hernandez, but as the Mariners fall out of contention, they would be wise to save the youngster’s arm. Adrian Beltre should rebound from an awful 2005, and Jeremy Reed could finally have his big year. But this team is clearly at the bottom of the American League West.

Playoffs

Divisional Series
A’s over Red Sox
Yankees over White Sox

American League Championship
Yankees (but it goes to seven games)

MVP
David Ortiz

Cy Young
Johan Santana

Rookie of the Year
Nick Markakis

2006 Preview: The drug scandal that just won’t go away

This is Part Four of my 2006 season preview. Today, I’ll examine the ongoing steroid scandal and recently announced investigation. So far, this week, I’ve looked at the hapless Royals, the troubled Nationals, and the defending World Champion Chicago White Sox. On Monday, I’ll have fun but pointless predictions for you.

Following the winter of discontent, Bud Selig shocked nobody today in announcing that former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will be heading up an investigation into illegal drug use in Major League Baseball.

While this announcement had been rumored since excerpts of the damning Game of Shadows hit the pages of Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, many aspects of this investigation bear watching. Only time will tell if Mitchell’s efforts will amount to a true attempt at cleaning up the game or a witch hunt directed at Barry Bonds as he homers his way passed Babe Ruth and toward Hank Aaron.

From the get-go, this investigation has the touch of an insider effort from the ownership and the Commissioner’s Office. While a formidable investigator, George Mitchell is hardly an impartial observer. Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox. His name falls right below that of Larry Lucchino’s on the masthead.

Already, the investigation has the potential for controversy. Will Mitchell out someone on the Red Sox? During the Thursday press conference, Mitchell said he would investigate the Red Sox as he will every other team.

Meanwhile, baseball’s investigative mandate is wrought with conflict. First, Selig, in announcing the investigation, declined to mentioned Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield or Jason Giambi by name. Rather, he noted that there had been “an alleged relationship between certain players and BALCO defendant, Greg Anderson. A recent book has amplified the allegations and raises ethical issues that must be confronted head-on.”

But just how head-on will baseball be confronted this issue? Well, the adhere to the “it wasn’t against the rules before 2002” argument which I’ll address in a minute, Selig has limited the scope of the investigation. “I have asked Senator Mitchell to attempt to determine, as a factual matter, whether any Major League players associated with BALCO or otherwise used steroids or other illegal performance enhancing substances at any point after the substances were banned by the 2002 – 2006 collective bargaining agreement,” he said. “The goal is to determine facts, not engage in supposition, speculation, rumor or innuendo.”

Already, the investigation seems a little toothless. If what Game of Shadows, Howard Bryant’s Juicing the Game and Jose Canseco’s book all contain bits and pieces of the truth, then steroids were a problem in baseball long before the testing program began in 2002. In fact, this witch hunt doesn’t even touch Bonds’ 73-home run season. But there is an “unless.”

“It may be that conduct before the effective date of the 2002 Basic Agreement will prove helpful in reaching the necessary factual determinations,” Selig said. “And, if the Senator so concludes, he will investigate such earlier conduct as well. Indeed, should Senator Mitchell uncover material suggesting that the scope of the investigation needs to be broader, he has my permission to expand the investigation and to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

So now it’s getting interesting. Mitchell could potentially uncover a trail of steroid use stretching back to the late 1980s. And that investigation could find evidence of this steroid use by simply opening up a very good book. Howard Bryant detailed steroid use in baseball going back to the late 1980s and Jose Canseco’s arrival in Oakland. If Mitchell and his fellow investigators happen to crack open a copy of Juicing the Game, would that count as “uncover[ing] material suggesting that the scope of the investigation needs to be broader”? I would have to say yes.

So with something of a carte blanche from Commissioner Bud Selig, something no investigator has been granted since John Dowd went after Pete Rose, how did Mitchell respond? Well, he started off his investigation by, um, asking nicely for players to cooperate with him. “I invite those who believe they have information relating to the use of steroids and other illegal performance enhancing drugs by Major League baseball players to come forward with that information so that it might be considered in the context of all of the evidence. I further request full cooperation from all those we contact who might have relevant information,” he said.

There you have it, folks. The man in charge of baseball’s grand steroid investigation didn’t even say please. My parents would be quite disappointed. It is the magic word, after all.

So Mitchell has announced the start of his inquiry by asking if anyone, any member in that infamously frigid and unyielding Players’ Union, will come forward and implicate their teammates or fellow union members. He also hopes that those he contacts will be helpful. I hope $1 million shows up on my door step in the morning, but I’m not expecting too. It’s called wishful thinking, and it’s not going to get Mitchell anywhere.

Meanwhile, those on the field had the chance to respond to the start of the investigation. During an interview today on the NBC Nightly News, Joe Torre wondered whether or not the investigation would do anything other than bring names out into the public. He said players could not be suspended because steroid use wasn’t against the rules until 2002.

Now, as a Yankee fan, I’ve always respected Torre, but I am sick of this line of reasoning. Sure, steroid use may not have been explicitly against the Major League Baseball rules. However, it was illegal. As one of the many pieces I read about this today said (and sorry I do not have a link right now), if a runner murdered the second baseman, would that be ok with those in baseball? It’s not explicitly written in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that it’s not okay to murder your opponents. Granted, that’s a little extreme, but the point remains.

So now baseball not only has to deal with the fallout from Game of Shadows and the ongoing federal investigation into Bonds’ finances and a potential perjury charge, but the sport has to face its own internal investigation that is already rife with controversy. Adding to that is the distinct possibility that Barry Bonds will have passed Babe Ruth on the home run list by the middle of May.

It’s a tough time for baseball when Bud Selig, the champion of celebrating everything, would not commit to a celebration of Barry Bonds were he to pass Ruth and Aaron this season. As the 2006 season approaches, baseball fans seem destined for another year when the off-field soap opera matches the on-field drama of a hot pennant race. This too shall pass.

Breaking News: Bud Selig announces steroid investigation headed by George Mitchell

The following is a live blog of the press conference announcing the steroid investigation. For my analysis of the anouncement and the investigation, please click here.

I’m watching Bud Selig’s press conference. He is talking about former Senator George Mitchell’s upcoming investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball. As many of us following the sport feared, it will be a largely toothless investigation.

Playing off of the BALCO case as well as Game of Shadows, Selig is ordering Mitchell and his team to investigate illegal steroid use since the Collective Bargaining agreement went into place in 2002. This is no witch hunt for Barry Bonds and others who may have been juicing throughout the 1990s.

Rather, this is Selig trying to rectify and correct the loopholes from the original bargaining agreement. What will happen when Mitchell’s paper trail and interviews turn up THG or hGH use among baseball players? Who knows?

As Mitchell is saying right now, “Our mission is together facts not conjecture.” He wants to give everyone “a fair opportunity to be heard.” At the same time, Mitchell will have carte blanche to conduct his investigation.

Mitchell is requesting full cooperation for his investigation, but I’m sure he’ll counter a lot of opposition within clubhouses to his questioning.

On to the Q and A…

The questioners just asked Mitchell about his ties to the Red Sox. The Senator says he will investigate the Red Sox as he would any team.

Selig is now facing a question about his resignation. Should he resign, asked one of the reporters, and Selig is criticizing revisionist historians. He is, as Howard Bryant’s book made clear, promoting his testing programs. He is proclaiming the success of the program and the Minor League tests in place for the past six years.

Bud is now answering questions about the timing of the investigation. A reporter noted that the material was the same as that published in the Chronicle articles about BALCO. Selig says this information is much more specific.

Mitchell is being asked as a fan about steroids in baseball. “It is a serious issue that needs to be confronted,” he said. That’s not very groundbreaking.

Another reporter just asked if it would be better to focus on the future rather than trying to clean up something that’s already happened. Selig is avoiding the question while taking about a UCLA program baseball is funding for steroid testing development and hGH awareness. “We will continue to stay ahead of the curve,” he says.

Selig says the information collected by Senator Mitchell will be public. Unlike the original rounds of testing in 2002, this information will be public. Is it a witch hunt to out people or an attempt to clean up the sport?

Last question: Will there be a celebration of Barry Bonds as he approaches Ruth and Aaron? Interestingly, Selig is non-committal here. He says that he will come to that when the time arrives. I guess they will wait to see what Mitchell’s findings are.

That’s it for the press conference. I’ll analyze this later.

Update 4:20 p.m.: Let me clarify one point that I didn’t pick up on during the press conference: Mitchell is authorized to investigate steroid use from 2002 to the present. If he finds evidence supporting illegal drug use, he can extend his investigation backwards in time. Here’s what Selig said:

“I have asked Senator Mitchell to attempt to determine, as a factual matter, whether any Major League players associated with BALCO or otherwise used steroids or other illegal performance enhancing substances at any point after the substances were banned by the 2002 – 2006 collective bargaining agreement. The goal is to determine facts, not engage in supposition, speculation, rumor or innuendo.

“It may be that conduct before the effective date of the 2002 Basic Agreement will prove helpful in reaching the necessary factual determinations and, if the Senator so concludes, he will investigate such earlier conduct as well. Indeed, should Senator Mitchell uncover material suggesting that the scope of the investigation needs to be broader, he has my permission to expand the investigation and to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

More later.


RSS River Ave. Blues

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    Mike Axisa
  • Game 96: Make it Three in a Row July 23, 2017
    The Yankees have won the last two games in convincing fashion, with strong performances from the starting pitching, the bullpen, and the lineup (for the most part, at least). A win tonight would give them their first three-game winning streak since they won six in a row from June 7 through 12, and their first […] The post Game 96: Make it Three in a Row appe […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Trade Deadline Rumors: Darvish, Gray, First Base, Betances July 22, 2017
    The July 31st non-waiver trade deadline is only nine days away now, and already the Yankees have made their most significant midseason trade in several years. Since … the Bobby Abreu deal? Nothing else comes to mind. Anyway, here are the latest rumors and rumblings. Rangers gauging interest in Darvish According to Jeff Passan, the […] The post Trade Deadline […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Judge’s monster homer leads Yanks to 5-1 win over Mariners July 22, 2017
    Your browser does not support iframes.I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the Yankees have won two straight games and are 5-4 since the All-Star break. Crazy, I know. They might actually win a series this weekend. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The Yankees took the second game of this four-game set against […] The post Judge’s monster homer leads Yan […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Robinson hits two homers in Staten Island’s win July 22, 2017
    Here are the day’s notes: Two roster clearing moves, per Matt Kardos: RHP Branden Pinder has been released and RHP Dillon McNamara has been traded to the Giants for … something. Not sure what. Probably cash. Pinder had allowed just one run (unearned) in 11.2 innings back from Tommy John surgery. 3B Miguel Andujar is […] The post DotF: Robinson hits two homer […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 95: CC’s Birthday July 22, 2017
    The Yankees opened this four-game series with the Mariners with a nice win last night. Luis Severino outpitched Felix Hernandez and the offense put just enough runs on the board. The Yankees are 4-4 so far on this eleven-game road trip, so they still need two more wins to clinch a winning trip. That would […] The post Game 95: CC’s Birthday appeared first on […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Friday Night Open Thread July 21, 2017
    The Yankees are still out on the West Coast, which means another 10pm ET start tonight. One more of these tomorrow — that’s actually a 9pm ET start, but close enough — and then that’s it. No more West Coast night games this season. After this series the Yankees will play 62 of their final […] The post Friday Night Open Thread appeared first on River Avenue B […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: July 2012 July 21, 2017
    The calendar has turned over to July and it’s time once again to revisit the MLB Trade Rumors archives. Better late than never this month, right? Right. We’re now into July 2012 and, as always, July was chock full of trade rumors. The Yankees went into July 2012 with a 47-30 record and a five-game […] The post Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: July 2012 appeare […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Scouting the Trade Market: Trevor Cahill July 21, 2017
    After Tuesday’s seven-player trade, the Yankees loudly announced they were buyers. The trade solved many of their issues, but they still have a hole in the back of their rotation with Michael Pineda lost for the season after Tommy John surgery. A veteran innings eater who can more reliably provide solid innings than Bryan Mitchell […] The post Scouting the T […]
    Steven Tydings
  • Mailbag: Judge, Mateo, Hamels, Nola, Girardi, Taillon, Betances July 21, 2017
    We’ve got ten questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send us any questions. More than a few were rendered moot by the trade with the White Sox. A few people asked: What could the Yankees get for Judge? Several masochists emailed in asking what sort of […] The post Mailbag: Judge, Mateo, Hamels, Nola, Girardi, Tai […]
    Mike Axisa

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