December 27, 2006

96 Baseball Players Are Freaking the Hell Out Right Now

Brace yourselves, people:

The names and urine samples of about 100 Major League Baseball players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs three years ago can be used by government investigators in their probe of steroids in sports, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

These are samples from 2003, when baseball implemented "anonymous" testing (yeah, apparently they were just kidding about that part) to investigate the depths of the steroid problem; when 96 tests came back positive, they implemented stricter testing in '04. The numbers were well below the "50%" estimate of Jose Canseco, but they're hardly insignificant -- and keep in mind these tests were 1) announced months in advance, and 2) don't catch HGH.

Anyway, if these names are leaked, and at this point I can only assume they will be, it looks like we're all in for another bracing round of disillusionment. The information ought to help efforts to evaluate the true impact of steroids on the game, but I do worry that this whole thing is beginning to take on the air of a witch hunt.

Yeah... That Headline Is Unfortunate Now

So I have a piece in the Voice this week on the Rangers... when I filed it, last Thursday morning, they had just lost three games in a row after a five game winning streak; I took a relatively positive tack about how the team has regained respectability in the last two years.

Now, of course, they've lost SIX straight and are in full-on panic mode. Oops.

Still, I'm standing by it -- they're only three points out of first, and they still have a solid shot at making the playoffs, if not going very far. I mean... you know... assuming they ever win another game.

Okay, apologies to the 98% of you who don't care about hockey. Nate Silver over at Baseball Prospectus thinks the Yankees might want to hang on to Randy Johnson. Now, when the BP guys talk I listen, because they're smarter than me; but in this case I just can't see it. Whether or not a trade would mean that Barry Zito comes into play, I don't know; I say they should use any prospects they get back to make a play for Dontrelle Willis who, despite his recent troubles with the law, is an awesome pitcher with an outsize personality who would absolutely own New York. Plus, if he lived here... he could just take a cab home.

December 26, 2006

There Is A Santa Clause

According to various reports, the Yankees are talking to the Diamondbacks about trading Randy Johnson. This would be, if Brian Cashman can pull it of, a flat-out brilliant move. Johnson hasn't been terrible, just thoroughly mediocre; with all due respect to his remarkable Hall of Fame career, he's now 43 and coming off back surgery. And yeah, he had 17 wins last year, but that's a hugely misleading stat when you consider that Johnson LED THE MAJORS in run support, with 7.51. Even Sidney Ponson could have won his share with that kind of support. Johnson's not exactly spreading sunshine around the clubhouse, either. Some of the New York Giants beat writers have taken to calling Michael Strahan The Big Grumpy... man, I wish I'd thought of that phrase myself.

If the Yankees can get back just a few decent pitching prospects, this is the move of the year -- even if you have to kind of suspect that Johnson will come back to win the Cy Young out of spite.

Oh, and -- Happy Holidays, people.

(EDITED TO ADD: the Padres, Dodgers, and Angels are also said to be interested. I... don't understand. Does $16 million just not seem like much with the current salary explosion? Heck, as much as I mock him, I'd take Gil Meche and his $11 million over Johnson next year; he'll never be as good as Johnson can be, of course, but also his spine far less likely to burst into flames and explode on the mound.)

December 17, 2006

Please Don't Take My Melky Away

You know, looking at the issue rationally, I can see why the Yankees might want to trade Melky Cabrera. He's shaping up to be a very good all-around player, but it's hard to argue he should get playing time over Abreu, Damon, or Matsui, all of whom are superior hitters, and he's better than you need your fourth outfielder to be. His value is high after a surprising and exciting rookie year, and the Yankees need pitching, not offense.

That said, much of what I enjoy about baseball is not particularly rational. Watching Melky Cabrera emerge as a real major leaguer, getting better almost every game, was probably the single most enjoyable thing about last season. He made one spectacular catch and many very good ones, found his home run stroke, and played a major role in keeping the team afloat when two of their superstars went down (not to denigrate Terrence Long's many contributions, of course). So yeah, Mike Gonzalez could be useful. But come on. Can't they let me enjoy one lousy feel-good story?

Plus, if they do this, Robinson Cano is going cry. Seriously. Just don't.

[UPDATE: I have re-channeled my Knicks rant into a (hopefully) more coherent piece on the Voice website. Incidentally, I can't believe they just beat Utah in a great game. Never a dull moment, is there?]

December 14, 2006

Dare You To Say His Name Five Times in Front of a Mirror

According to Newsday, the Yankees are looking into Doug Mientkiewicz as part of a platoon (with Andy Phillips or maybe Josh Phelps) at first base. Several things about this: first, you know you've been paying too much attention to baseball when you can spell Mientkiewicz correctly on the first try. Second, the headline to this story provokes disturbing mental images: "Mientkiewicz's Leather Goods" sounds like the East Village's most terrifying sex shop.

Moving quickly on, I like this idea because Doug M., while not much of a hitter, plays very solid defense -- at least that's my recollection from watching him with the Sox several years ago. He's been injured a bunch the last few years, so it's hard to evaluate his numbers, and he is a risk. But if they can get him relatively cheap (whatever that means in this market) I think it makes sense. With the Yankees' lineup, they can afford to carry some glove guys; and Giambi, though to his credit he always wants to play the field, should probably be saved from himself.

Stay Classy, Greater Tampa Bay-St. Petersberg Area

The Devil Rays, now officially reeking of desperation, will play a series with the Texas Rangers next summer at Disney World. According to the article,

"We hope these games whet the appetite of fans from Central Florida and they'll take us up on our offer to come sample Rays baseball and our fan experience at Tropicana Field," Devil Rays president Matt Silverman said.

Hey, Matt, you know what might make fans take you up on your "offer to come sample Rays baseball"? WINNING MORE THAN 61 GAMES. Also, perhaps investing something beyond pocket change into your team, thereby attracting a pitcher more impressive than the mighty Casey Fossum, would be of some help. Given the team's status as a perpetual punchline, I'm amazed they even managed to draw 16,000 fans a game.

Last year at this time they were wondering if changing the name of the Devil Rays to something a little less Satanic might help attendance. For fuck's sake, it's been 10 years and the team has never even sniffed a winning record; get your heads out of your collective asses before your team is mercifully contracted.

Thank you.

P.S. FieldTurf sucks.

December 13, 2006

Much Ado Etc.

The Red Sox, Matsuzaka and Boras (does anyone else keep typing "Borat" by accident, or is that just me?) seem to have come to terms after all. Man... I knew I shouldn't have bought into the negotiating hype, and I held out for weeks, but last night I finally caved; I'm ashamed of myself. I will take revenge the only way I know how by refusing to ever, as long as I live, refer to Matsuzaka as "D-Mat," no matter how much Scott Boras wants me to.

If SI's Jon Heyman is right, it's in the neighborhood of $52 million for six years. We are now living in a world where my first thought when looking at those numbers is, "oh, that's reasonable."

Meanwhile, in thrilling Yankee news, the team didn't tender Aaron Guiel a contract by the non-tender deadline... I know it's hard, but try to contain your passionate feelings on the subject. Brian Cashman's been awfully quiet recently, hasn't he? Is this the part where we suddenly look around and go, "hey, why have all the birds stopped singing?" and then gasp in shock as they trade A-Rod, or something?

Alternately, perhaps Cashman's just been laughing too hard over Gil Meche's $55 million five year deal to use the telephone coherently.

December 11, 2006

Nick Greeen: NOT a Scott Boras Client

It may be good news for the Yankees, but I still don't like what appears to be the looming bungling of the Matsuzaka signing -- I can't stand Scott Boras, even when it's the Sox he's trying to screw over. Of course being unscrupulous, creepy, and manipulative is par for the course for an agent*, but he takes it to new levels, and often, I think, it's not even in his clients' best interests. Matsuzaka wants to pitch here, the Seibu Lions want him to pitch here, and the Red Sox are willing to pay him a lot of money to pitch here. I want to see that gyroball of his in HDTV at my neighborhood sports bar; and then I want Hideki Matsui to knock it out of Fenway. Why does this have to be so difficult?

As usual, Buster Olney has an insightful take on the Boras situation; I wholeheartedly agree. Ken Rosenthal at Fox says the deal will get done, but Peter Gammons does not seem so sure.

Meanwhile, Jack Curry's article in the Times yesterday focused on erstwhile Yankee back-up 3B Nick Green, who showed up at the Winter Meetings looking for work -- and on the same day as Barry Bonds, no less. Hey, say what you want about Green's offensive prowess, but there's absolutely no way the dude is on steroids; in fact the article almost makes you wish he would start juicing. First, his own agent is spouting the baseball version of "Attractive? Well, she's got a great personality":
“The one thing we wanted to get across is that Nick is obviously a very strong character guy,” O’Connell said. “Obviously, talent is No. 1 when teams are making decisions. But makeup is important, too, and that’s something we wanted to show teams about Nick.”

...“I’m not begging for a job,” Green said. “I didn’t want to seen as a guy just begging for a job.”
To add insult to injury, Green then went out to a nightclub with our old pal Jim Leyritz, where he was turned away for wearing sneakers. No, really. Will somebody please for the love of God hire this guy? I know he can't hit, but he can field, he comes cheap, and this is excruciating.

Finally, non-baseball-related thoughts on MSG's 50 Greatest Moments show, which between the Knicks and the Rangers I've seen altogether too many promos for: first, Matthew Modine's new mustache makes him look like a child molester; and second, if I hear that Tyrone Wells Dream Like New York song one more fucking time, I'm either going to embark on a brutal murderous rampage or download it from iTunes. I honestly don't know which.

*Full disclosure: I used to work at a talent agency and, yes, I'm still bitter.

Update: Soxaholix quite rightly points out that while everyone assumes Boras is responsible for masterminding this mess, there's no particular reason to assume Matsuzaka himself isn't behind him every step of the way.

Like Shooting Mysteriously Injured Fish in a Barrell

Per Newsday,

"The Cardinals have asked to view Carl Pavano's expansive medical records, according to a report in yesterday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch".

Why do you think the Cardinals requested those records?

  • A) A good laugh.
  • B) Cost-effective paperweight.
  • C) Walt Jocketty lost a drunken bet at the winter meetings.
  • D) They made Jeff Weaver into a World Series star, and it went right to their heads.
  • E) They made Jeff Weaver into a World Series star, and now they plan to use that same secret DNA-altering alien laser technology on Pavano as well.
Okay, okay. I can already see this is going to be a problem, so I promise to limit the number of Pavano jokes to no more than one a week in the future. In the meantime, however... vote now!

December 10, 2006

The South Bronx Never Looked So Good

No wonder Andy Pettitte fled Houston: he was afraid outfielder Luke Scott was going to blow his brains out.

Choice quotes from the ESPN article on athletes and their little friends (hat tip to Can’t Stop the Bleeding, which got to these first):

"An athlete gets paid a lot of money," he said. "And someone who is after that, a thief, a mugger or someone who steals from people, they are taking a chance with the law that if they get caught, they are going to jail or face some other problem."

With a broad smile, he added, "In my case, you are going to get shot."

"Last year, we had a lot of people come in from New Orleans to Houston shortly after Hurrican Katrina. There were a lot of people walking the streets. I knew my surroundings. I wasn't in that good of a part of town and it was 1 o'clock in the morning," Scott said. "I was by myself and no one was around. I just took my gun and put it right there."

Scott lifted his shirt to reveal his handgun tucked down the front of his pants, the handle slightly visible.

"I saw this guy about 30 feet away. I'm just watching him, minding my own business and, as he approached me, I said, 'Can I help you with something?' Just like that."

Reenacting the incident, Scott demonstrated how he lifted his shirt to reveal his Glock.

Okay then! When the Astros visit the Mets this season, I'm staying indoors.

December 07, 2006

Let the Acid Flashbacks Commence

The Mets have chosen HoJo over Rickey Henderson as their new first base coach, selfishly prioritizing actual coaching ability over entertainment value. Bastards.

However, I'm much consoled by the news that Andy Pettitte is coming back to the Yankees. !!!. I'm going to try and be rational about this -- he's older, he's had persistent elbow troubles -- but, basically, WHOOOOHOOOOOOO! It may not be logical to expect Pettite to lead the Yanks back to playoff respectability, but I can't help it. I always liked him, and was sorry to see him go; god knows he's preferable to Ted Lily, as we all found out the hard way. And don't get me started about Gil Meche. In any case, it's only a one year deal (with a player option for the second), so the Yankees are unlikely to rue the decision for too long. Refreshing, isn't it?

The downside of this, of course, is that we can all expect to spend much of the season wallowing in memories. At some point, the team is going to have to find a new identity for itself, with the vast majority of those late-90s teams already gone. But... maybe not just this instant. Anyone for Game 5 of the 1996 World Series on Yankee Classics?

December 05, 2006

The Best News I've Heard All Week

From a note at the bottom of a NY Post article:

Minaya confirmed Rickey Henderson could be a candidate for the Mets' first base coaching job.

If there is a God, this will happen.

December 01, 2006

You, Sir, Are No Kenesaw Mountain Landis

First, for those of you who are interested in basketball, I have an article on the Knicks in this week's Village Voice.

In baseball news... Bud Selig is retiring! Well, okay, not for three more years. But still! Guess we'll all have plenty of time to summarize his Reign of Blandness in the years to come; I find myself oddly reluctant to give him credit for things, even when he deserves it, as with the Wild Card and revenue sharing. More on this later... perhaps in 2008. God, I get bored just thinking about writing about him.

Better news: Tom Glavine's returning to the Mets. I was surprised when he didn't re-sign right away, but he was tempted by the Braves because he lives in Atlanta and wanted to spend more time with his family. Which is all very admirable, but... man, we're talking about a team that can't sell out their ballpark during the playoffs. Blech. (Okay, I've never liked the Braves. It's not especially rational: they made some arrogant remarks before the '96 series, and then there was John Rocker. That's not really enough reason to dislike an entire team for a decade, but what can I say; I just don't like the look of them. Plus the Tomahawk Chop creeps me the fuck out).

Bernie Williams may or may not be back this year (again). It's a strange situation with Bernie -- in 2005 everyone thought he was done; the fans applauded his every at-bat and chanted his name. But... then he came back. And he had a very solid year under the circumstances, especially if you try very hard not to think about his fielding. He got an ovation and a hit during the last game of the regular season, which he also managed; that was nice, but still, it didn't feel final, and he didn't get to play at all during the fiasco against the Tigers. I want closure, and I always love watching Williams play (again, we're going to pretend there's no fielding involved here), but at the same time, saying goodbye to a player for three full years is just exhausting.

I just heard someone on SportsCenter speculate that a Manny Ramirez trade might eventually result in Barry Bonds coming to Boston. Whaaa? I assume they were just talking out of their ass (sadly I was in the kitchen and didn't see who it was), because that would be a disaster of epic proportions. Barry Bonds + the Boston media = felony assault charges. I am therefore all for it, but I would be way beyond stunned if it happened.

The Yankees announced they're raising their ticket prices next year. Also, the sun will rise tomorrow morning in the East.