Do You Want to be Cleared or Creamed, Magglio?
Three years ago Jose Canseco stood atop his self-erected soapbox and laughed “I told you so” after outing numerous ballplayers in his book Juiced, players who eventually were fingered elsewhere. Now his critics are starting to say the same about Canseco. First, his publisher on his follow-up book, Vindicated, gave up on him, as well as his contributing writer; then, he got a new contributor: A National Enquirer writer who helped pen O.J. Simpson’s If I Did it. This past week came more bad publicity for Canseco. Apparently he told Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez, winner of the AL batting title last year with a .363 average, that he would be outted in Vindicatedunless he helped finance a movie adaptation of Juiced. If true, Canseco’s offer technically amounts to blackmail, and the Tigers, after being informed about the matter by Ordonez, contacted the FBIbefore Ordonez eventually decided not to pursue the case. Sadly, Canseco just can’t seem to help himself.
Will the Judge Issue Bonds an Intentional Walk?
Barry Bonds and his lawyers came to court this past week and asked U.S. District judge Susan Illston to drop the Federal government’s indictment case against him on the grounds that the questions he was asked by prosecutors during his infamous 2003 grand jury testimony were “vague, ambiguous and confusing.” Questions like: “Did Greg Anderson ever supply you with performance-enhancing drugs?” “Did you ever take depotestosterone?” “Did you ever take clomiphene?” You can’t say the tongue-twisting names of the drugs confused Bonds; he apparently repeated the names back to the prosecutor perfectly in his responses. Like the bulldog in the Looney Tunes cartoon once said: “It just don’t add up!”
Exiled to the Kids' Table
St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols went in front of the local media earlier this week at the end of the Cardinals’ fan fest, but he wasn’t going to say anything until representatives for St. Louis TV station KTVI left. Why? It was KTVI that ran with the story of Pujols being named in the Mitchell Report hours before it became public last Decemberonly to discover that, oops, Pujols wasn’t in the report. While Pujols has every right to be angry at KTVI (and New York-based WNBC, which initiated the story), he should be just at angry at Rafael Palmeiro, Brian Roberts and other players who have forever soiled the public’s trust in major leaguers by categorically denying steroid useonly to be later caught holding the needle. So we have every inclination to believe Pujols when he says he’s come by his impressive numbers naturally, but we also share every suspicion that, someday, the real truth may emerge.
Anything for Revenue
Baseball toyed with the idea of putting corporate sponsors on major league uniforms a decade ago, only to have the general public respond with a big, fat, “Not!” Now MLB has allowed the Boston Red Sox to display the logo for EMC, a Massachusetts-based data storage firm, on the sleeves of their uniforms for their season-opening series against Oakland in Tokyoa city that, if you’ve seen the pictures, is one giant billboard in itself. But you needn’t worry, purists; the logo comes off the uniforms when the Sox return stateside.
Can Success Find a Way to Tampa Bay?
In a couple of months Ed and I will be posting our annual preseason forecast for the 2008 major league campaign, but here’s one early, bold prediction I’m itching to make based on player movements of the winter: Watch Tampa. The (nee-Devil) Rays, who have finished last every year but one since beginning operations in 1998, have made some smart moves during the offseason, trading trouble children Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young for some potentially solid supporting cast members while re-upping with comeback phenom Carlos Pena and up-and-coming starting pitcher James Shields. Given how much of a mess the Baltimore Orioles have become, you can bet good equity that the Rays will surpass them in the standings, and if their league-worst bullpen of a year ago can wise itself up, Tampa may even make a run at the .500 mark for the first time in their existence. Yes, the Rays still play in the deadly AL East, but you got to start somewhereand for once, the Tampa front office actually appears to be taking the prospect of winning seriously. Eric
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh...
You know times are rough for your baseball team when the players start dissing management at Fan Fest. Several Pittsburgh Pirate players, most notably star hitter Jason Bay, publicly expressed frustration this past week that the front office has made little or no moves to make the Pirates more competetive and, if anything else, to avoid a major league record-tying 16th straight losing season in 2008. "I said I think it's pretty obvious that this group of guys is not going to get it done," Bay said of the current Pirate roster. He also expressed surprise that he wasn't traded during the offseason. The Pirates, in response, symphathize with Bay but said that other teams were tight on giving up talent, especially prospects, that the Bucs were hoping for in exchange for some of the team's more seasoned players, like Bay. Remember when the Pirates said that beautiful PNC Park would make the team more competitive? Apparently not.
Coming Soon to TGG
Look for (finally) our 2007 updates in the Yearly Reader section in the next week or two, as well as Ed Attanasio’s new They Were There interview with former major leaguer Dario Lodigiani, who played from 1938-46.
In honor of the Chicago Cubs' 100th anniversary of their last World Series title, This Great Game is counting down the 40 years between 1909 and 2007 in which the Cubs came nearest to winning another. We begin our Tragical History Tour of Wrigleyville this week with:
40. 1914 78 wins, 76 losses
Fourth Place, 16.5 games back
Though not as dominant as they had beentheir 1914 performance would be, by the record, the worst for the club since 1902the Cubs remained close in a very tight NL race, closing to within three games of the lead in early September before they, along with everyone else in the league, were steamrolled over by the “Miracle” Braves of Boston. All in all, it was a tortuous transition year for the Cubs, suffering from the off-season loss of second baseman Johnny Evers (who moved on to become the clubhouse leader in Boston) and the virtual expulsion of owner Charles Murphy, who had angered Cub fans with his unpopular trades of popular players while enraging fellow owners in both leagues with his penchant for violating league rules and codes of conduct, both written and unwritten. The Cubs did benefit from 20-game winners Hippo Vaughn and Larry Cheney, as well as first baseman Vic Saierwhose 18 home runs, a terrific number in the deadball era, still fell one short of Gavvy Cravath’s major league-leading 19.
No Silicon Valley Endorsement for Bud
The San Jose Mercury News was not particularly thrilled with the contract extension of Bud Selig’s reign as baseball commissioneror with the idea that an ex-owner should be running the game. “Based on past reports and testimony from last Tuesday,” the Mercury News stated on its opinion page this past week, “Congress should tell baseball’s owners to accept an independent commissioner or lose the game’s antitrust exemption, ending owners’ monopoly of the sport.” The editorial further noted that owners were likely happier with the increased revenue the game has received under Selig’s watch than the steroids epidemic that has shattered their credibility: “The sad truth is that the owners have been willing to line their pockets while thumbing their nose at those who care about the integrity of the game.”
Playing With Future Fire?
Philadelphia general manager Pat Gillick debunked the assertion that defeating Ryan Howard at arbitration might sour the big slugger’s trust for the Phillie front office. Gillick told the Philadelphia media, “(The arbitration process) is not tough at all…All it is is a difference of opinion on numbers. That’s all. The club thinks its number is appropriate, the player thinks his number is appropriate. That’s all there is.” Actually, there is more, if Gillick goes in and explains to the arbitrator why he wants to pay $3 million less than Howard is seekingand in explaining it, he will have to throw out some negative lobbying points that Howard may remember when negotiating in the future with the Phillies or other clubs. Remember how Scott Rolen came to view the long term at Philly, Pat.
My Josh, What Happened to You?
The Dallas Morning News has a terrific Sunday article on newly acquired Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton and the incredible struggles he has faced with drug and alcohol addiction. Check it out here.
There's Brewer Blood in One of Us
TGG’s Ed Attanasio finally pinned down as truth what had been rumored for years: He's a cousin of Milwaukee Brewer owner Mark Attanasio. We’ll leave it to Ed, who has mastered the art of name-dropping, to explain how it took this long for him to realize he was related to one of baseball’s Lords.
YouTube Clip of the Week
Back in 1987, while famed Chicago Cub broadcaster Harry Caray was recovering from a stroke, famed Cub fan Bill Murray filled in as Steve Stone’s sidekick for a game against the Montreal Expos on WGN. Not to be missed is Murray’s analysis of his pre-game batting cage hacks, his philosophical take on the Cubs’ wretched start at Wrigley Field, and his introduction of the lineups. (“Leading off for the Expos, Casey Candaele. He’s no good.”) Click here to check it out; part one of five.
The "All" of Fame: Check it Out
Currently topping out opinion section is This Great Game’s “All of Fame,” our tongue-in-cheek look at the history of baseball, with many of the exhibits within featured in detail throughout TGG. The “All” is, as our headline for the piece describes, a primer of sorts for the site, especially for those who’ve never visited. Check out the "All" right here.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.