Sunday, November 17, 2013

A-Double Standard. A-Big One.


Do you hate steroids, and other performance-enhancing drugs? Do you want players who've used them on your team? Would you recommend that another team sign some?

This winter, (Mets general manager Sandy) Alderson needs to be a little more aggressive — as he’s vowed he will be — and go for more sure things when it comes to offensive weapons. In that respect, he needs to try to bring in two of the Biogenesis 12, who took their 50-game drug suspension penalties from MLB last summer without protest: Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta...

There is one other added advantage in signing Cruz or Peralta. Both of them have demonstrated they know how to beat a drug test...

In listening to the buzz around these meetings, competition for Cruz and Peralta looks to be a lot fiercer than it is for (outgoing (?) Yankee Curtis) Granderson — at least in these early days of the free-agent season.
-- Bill Madden, New York Daily News, November 12

Hmmmm. Guess Bill Madden only cares about steroid usage when A-Rod does it.
-- Lisa Swan, Subway Squawkers

*

Alex Rodriguez got caught once, before the current penalties were in place.  He had lied about it before. But when pushed to the wall, he confessed.  MLB has talked big since, but as far as the general public knows for sure, they've got nothing in this Biogenesis scandal that says A-Rod has used again, and the evidence they have revealed has been shown to be seriously compromised

Just as the evidence was seriously compromised in the Roger Clemens trial, leading to the verdict of not guilty, which, legally, was correct.  Being a dickhead is not a crime, and Clemens was not on trial for that.

A-Rod, Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds challenged MLB, and Sammy Sosa played baseball for a fool.  All have become pariahs, to the point that the first is facing an attempt from MLB to push him out of baseball forever, the last three already have been, and the last four have already been denied election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.  (Their second time around is approaching, but don't expect them to get in this time, either.) And don't expect the Baseball Writers Association of America, which votes on recently-retired players and hates A-Rod, to elect him the first time he's eligible, either.

In contrast, Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi cooperated, and are now looked upon as good guys.  Giambi doesn't have the stats to get into the Hall anyway.  Andy does, and, because of what is known about him and the reasons he gave, his chances of getting in are decent.

Mark McGwire refused to confess at the "St. Patrick's Day Massacre" Congressional hearing in 2005, but neither did he challenge them, and he later confessed.  He will never get into the Hall, but he has been allowed to work in baseball again -- and in uniform, no less, as hitting instructor for both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

You know who else challenged baseball at that hearing? Curt Schilling.  He, like Palmeiro, sat there and decisively denied ever having used steroids.

That bloody sock.  Why has that damn thing never been tested?

And then there is David Ortiz.  Big Papi got tested.  He got caught.  He lied about it.  He got exposed.  He lied about it again, effectively using the O.J. Simpson line of "looking for the real cause" of his positive test.  He still lies about it.

And yet, not only is Ortiz allowed to continue playing professional baseball, but he was named World Series MVP last month.

DAFUQ?

"Oh, but, Mike, you see, Big Papi is a nice guy!"

So was O.J.  So was Ted Bundy.

"But Big Papi's great with kids!"

So were Hitler and Stalin.  So, in a different way, was Jimmy Savile.

"But... but Big Papi gives to charity!"

So do al-Qaeda, Hamas and the PLO.  So does Don Imus.  So did Al Capone.

"But... but... but... But Big Papi is a role model for kids looking to get into baseball!"

So was Pete Rose.

"But... but... but... But Big Papi is an icon for Latinos!"

So is Fidel Castro.  So were Juan and Evita Peron.

"Come on, Mike, you know Big Papi isn't as bad as those people! It's not like he ever had anybody killed!"

True.  Nor has he ever killed anybody himself.  Or even tried.  As far as we know.  Whereas that cannot be said of his former Red Sox teammates Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

Ah, there it is.  Papi, Pedro and Schilling are still regarded as Red Sox heroes.  While Manny and Clemens are now considered persona non grata in New England.  (Someone will have to explain to Manny what that means.)

*

Remember the Mitchell Report? It mentioned Yankees A-Rod, Clemens, Pettitte, Giambi, his brother Jeremy Giambi, Chuck Knoblauch, Mike Stanton, David Justice, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, . 

It did not mention Papi or Manny.  Nor did it mention Bronson Arroyo, who later confessed.  In fact, it mentioned no players who played for the Red Sox in their 2004 World Championship season, and only 2 who played in their 2007 title season: Eric Gagne (whose steroid use had already caught up with him through injuries and cast his Dodger achievements into doubt) and Brendan Donnelly.  Neither was a key figure in the Sox winning the Series that season.

But maybe my Yankee fandom has caused me to miss the true conspiracy here: It's not that MLB wants to protect the Red Sox and "get" the Yankees.  It's that they don't like to be embarrassed.  They don't like to be made fools of.

1970: A pair of goofy pitchers, Denny McLain and Jim Bouton, embarrass baseball (through very different means).  McLain got suspended 3 times, and was out of baseball by Opening Day 1973 -- although that was due to injury as much as anything else.  Bouton denies to this day that MLB forced him out, that injuries and ineffectiveness caused him to retire in 1970.  He may have a point, as nobody stopped him from making his comeback in 1978, and the Commissioner then was the same man who tried in vain to get him to recant his memoir Ball Four: Bowie Kuhn.

Walter O'Malley screwed over Dodger fans and Giant fans in the New York Tri-State Area in 1957.  He's in the Hall of Fame, albeit long after his death.  Marvin Miller got the reserve clause overturned.  He died a year ago, and don't expect him to get into the Hall anytime soon.

The aforementioned Squawker Lisa made a point of the double standard toward A-Rod, and one of her commenters, a Steve J. Rogers (not to be confused with Captain America or the old Montreal Expo pitcher), said, "This is true. Be a Grade A POS to the media and a general trainwreck = GO AWAY. Be quiet about it to the national media, or contrite-ish (Giambi, Pettitte) and the media lays off, except when up for HOF votes!"

Maybe that's it: Maybe it's a case of, "Do what you have to, just don't embarrass us with it.  We don't care if you make yourself look bad.  We only care if you make us look bad."
 
*
 
I saw the ESPN SportsCentury piece on Bill Tilden, generally regarded as the greatest tennis player of the first half of the 20th Century. After he retired, he made big money giving tennis lessons to famous people and their children. All his Wall Street and Hollywood friends knew he was not only gay but liked teenage boys, and it didn't seem to matter to them.
Until he got caught. He was arrested for fooling around with a 14-year-old boy in 1946 and a 16-year-old in 1949.  At which point he became radioactive to his alleged friends.  "Tilden? Nah.  Heard of him, but never met him."
 
About the only one who didn't abandon him was Charlie Chaplin -- whose taste for young flesh was much wider-known, but "at least" it was female and slightly legal.

Tilden, born into a very wealthy Philadelphia family, was removed from the University of Pennsylvania's alumni list, despite his contributions to the school.  He was expelled from the city's Germantown Cricket Club, on whose tennis courts he had learned the game.  And yet, when the Associated Press did their 1950 polls on the greatest athletes of the first half of the century, Tilden was named the greatest tennis player, by a wider margin than any winner in any sport.  This within months of his getting out of prison the second time.

If this had been in the ESPN era, instead of at the dawn of television, who knows if he would have been similarly honored -- or interviewed.  I do know that, when they did the SportsCentury piece on O.J. Simpson, years after his acquittal on murder charges but also after he was found liable for the victims' deaths in a civil trial, he sat for an interview for it.

*

The Alex Rodriguez story is far from being written.  If this were a movie trilogy, we'd still be at least in the early minutes of the third film.  Maybe even wrapping up the second.

But in having gotten caught themselves, with questionable evidence, Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB management as a whole have done something I didn't think possible: They made A-Rod look like the more honest side of the debate, the most trustworthy, the more sympathetic.

Bill Veeck, who liked to make the baseball establishment look bad (and didn't get into the Hall until after he was dead), once said, "Baseball must be a great game, because the owners haven't found a way to kill it."

They haven't yet found a way to kill A-Rod's career, either.

Maybe they never will.  Maybe he'll get through this, and play until it's his own body, rather than Selig or Selig's successor as Commissioner, that makes the final judgment that he can't play anymore.

But that column on the Mets' offseason priorities, written by Madden, as much a part of the baseball establishment as any sportswriter can be, shows just how futzed up the baseball establishment is.

Who cares if they used PEDs, the Mets need to sign Player X and Player Y.

But Player A? On whom you've got nothing? And has been saying so, the latest of several instances in which he's embarrassed baseball in public?

To hell with him, right?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: You don't have to like Alex Rodriguez.  You don't have to want him to play even one more game for the Yankees.  You don't have to excuse his behavior since he arrived in February 2004.  You can even believe he's guilty as sin.

But you have to accept the truth.  Right now, the truth is as follows:

* Truth: Our country's legal standard is that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

* Truth: Said guilty must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

* Truth: Such proof, this time around, has not been presented in regard to A-Rod.

* Truth: The 200-plus game suspension that MLB has ordered goes above and beyond the rule that MLB itself prescribed for a first offense.

* Truth: Under the rule that MLB itself prescribed, whatever A-Rod may have been caught using is a first offense.

* Truth: Presuming the preceding, MLB is thus adding a suspension above and beyond the 50-game mandate not for the offense itself, but for his fighting of the charges.

* Truth: MLB has let some players get away with worse behavior, including behavior regarding PED use.  (Remember: Pedro was never suspended for hitting a batter, not even 1 game.)

* Truth: Sportswriters ranging from Bill Madden in New York to Ortiz's apologists in Boston, and talking heads on ESPN and Fox Sports, have extolled the talents and virtues of PED users other than A-Rod, including several Red Sox, the ones we already know about, and the ones we suspect.  (I'm not even going to get into Sox fans doing the steroids chant at certain players, including A-Rod, and cheering orgasmically for Ortiz.  That's a rant for another time.)

As the late Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, liked to say, You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

Your opinion is that A-Rod is a sleazeball who has embarrassed both team and sport? I share that opinion.

Your opinion is that he should no longer play for the Yankees, or for anybody else? On any given day, I might be willing to share that opinion.

But the fact is, as far as we know, Major League Baseball has got nothing on him in these latest charges, and thus he is an innocent man being unfairly persecuted and prosecuted.

Sooner or later, MLB is going to have to present its case in a formal setting, instead of just talking about it.  Or to decide that the pursuit is no longer worth it.  Step into the batter's box or go back to the dugout.  Fish or cut bait.  Shit or get off the pot.

Until they present their evidence, and can show that their evidence is actually proof, Bud Selig and company need to shut the hell up.

And they need to start treating everybody in a similar situation equally.

They can start by rescinding Ortiz's World Series MVP award.  I know they'll never rescind the Sox' 3 World Series wins with that big fat lying cheating bastard on their roster.  But they can send that particular signal.

As Bill Maher says of wearing an American flag pin, It's, literally, the least they can do.

But they won't.

Because that would be admitting that they were wrong.

And they would, then, be making themselves look foolish.

And Major League Baseball doesn't like it when anyone makes them look foolish.

What the hell, they can't stop my blog.

Maybe they can buy me off.  I could use the money.

Who knows, maybe I would take up A-Double Standard as well.

Would I? Most likely, we'll never know.

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