The Week That Was in Baseball: February 9-15, 2009
The Painful Legacy of the Steroid Era Comes Home to Roost
Wayne Huizenga Recalls 1997, With Regrets
Manny Ramirez, Paperback Writer

The State of the Game, This Week
So let’s see…Alex Rodriguez has admitted to steroids. Barry Bonds is ready to go to trial for denying what we all too well know to be the truth. Miguel Tejada has pleaded guilty, and Roger Clemens may soon have to do the same. Someone claims that Roberto Alomar has AIDS.

Exhibition baseball can’t come soon enough.

Tainted at the Top
You Oughta Know: Of the 26 Most Valuable Player Awards that have been handed out over the last 13 years, 14 have been given to suspected or admitted steroid users: Ken Caminiti, Juan Gonzalez (twice), Sammy Sosa, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds (four times), Miguel Tejada and Alex Rodriguez (three times).

Can He At Least Spell Barry Bonds' Name?
Alex Rodriguez gave his mea culpa to the baseball world for taking steroids, though it was not with total remorse. He left viewers skeptical as to how he could have forgotten what kind of drugs he was taking (but then again, you try to remember the name “Primobolan,” let alone pronounce it right), and he flashed some bite back on Selena Roberts, the Sports Illustrated reporter who broke the story on him—calling her a stalker for trespassing on his property while being thrown out and/or cited by security officials in and around Miami, where he’s been training. Roberts called Rodriguez’s comments “absurb.”

Doubting Thomas
Among those who didn’t buy 100% of Rodriguez’s admission was Texas Ranger owner Tom Hicks, for whose watch A-Rod was under while injecting the juice from 2001-03. Mixing disappointment and anger, Hicks publicly replied that he felt “betrayed” by Rodriguez and wondered if he had actually begun taking steroids in the late 1990s with Seattle, before Hicks signed him to that ten-year, $252 million blockbuster contract.

A-Rod: The Legislative Response
In the immediate aftermath of The Confession, House Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) wanted Rodriguez to come to Capitol Hill and testify. But the guy who now leads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Edolphus Towns (D-New York), apparently showed steroids fatigue and, perhaps understanding that there are more important things for Washington lawmakers to focus on—like, for instance, trying to ward off a depression—Cummings’ suggestion was squashed. We have a better suggestion for Towns and Cummings: Forget A-Rod and bring Gene Orza in instead. We all have a few questions for him.

A-Rod: The Executive Response
President Barack Obama was asked about Rodriguez in his first prime time press conference on Monday, answering that the news on A-Rod was “depressing.” “If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it tarnishes an entire era, to some degree,” said the President. “And it’s unfortunate, because I think there are a lot of ballplayers who played it straight.”

Divided Union?
Talk grew over the week of those who wanted the full list of 104 anonymous players that tested positive in 2003 to be made public. Such calls were not coming from the Commissioner’s office or team owners or Bob Costas; they were coming from players, past and present. Boston pitcher Curt Schilling, Houston slugger Lance Berkman and Hall-of-Famer Goose Gossage all made the same argument: Out the dirty players to save the reputations of the clean ones. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when union chief Don Fehr makes the rounds at spring training and talks to his membership.

Fehr retorted that the union had no chance to destroy the 104 samples because Federal agents seized them quickly after they were finalized. Meanwhile, Gene Orza finally responded to claims he was tipping Rodriguez off to an upcoming drug test by claiming he was merely letting A-Rod know that he had yet to be tested and that one would likely come by the end of the season.

They're Everywhere, Roy
Houston pitching ace Roy Oswalt is one of many self-avowed “clean” players who feel betrayed by the dirty ones. “(Steroid users) may have beaten you in the game where naturally they may not have been able to,” Oswalt told the Houston Chronicle. “It may have cost me a win or my club not getting in the World Series.” Or, Roy, it may have helped you get to one (with Roger Clemens, in 2005).

Look in the Mirror First
Commissioner Bud Selig told USA Today that he’s weighing the option of suspending Rodriguez for his steroid usage. While he’s at it, maybe Selig ought to suspend himself for looking away from the problem for all those years.

Let it Be
Another thing Selig told USA Today was that he was considering restoring Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs as the true career mark in the record books, ignoring the steroid-tainted 762 tallied by Barry Bonds. Aaron, being the down-to-earth realist that many of us should be, responded that such a move would open a Pandora’s Box in regards to the record book—i.e., should we remove this guy’s achievement or that guy’s record because we think he did steroids? It’s a minefield of controversy waiting to happen. Forget it, Bud.

It Takes One to Know One
Pete Rose, who spent years publicly denying that he bet on baseball games while manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the late 1980s, believes Rodriguez isn’t on the level. The disgraced all-time hit leader told a Philadelphia radio station, “If you’re A-Rod and you’re using (steroids) from 2001 to 2003 and you hit 52 home runs a year, aren’t you thinking about using it in 2004?” Rose told WIP. Rose also doesn’t believe A-Rod’s claim that he didn’t know what drugs he was using. The two are not strangers to one another; Rose says they often communicate via text message. “I’m a little disappointed that A-Rod took (steroids), but he’s probably disappointed that I bet on my team to win back in the ‘80s.”

Say it is So, Ryan
Ryan Howard, whose output over the last three years is equal to what Rodriguez produced in his three steroid-tainted years of 2001-03, wants everyone know that he’s clean. “For me, I don’t do that stuff,” Howard said in regard to steroids at Philadelphia Phillie camp in Clearwater, Florida. “That’s just me. Don’t do it, won’t do it. I have nothing to worry about.”

I Left My Heart in Pro Player Stadium
Just like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Wayne Huizenga’s decision to gut the Florida Marlins after winning the 1997 World Series—while losing $34 million in the process—wasn’t personal, just business. A decade later, however, Huizenga looked back and, in retrospect, says he regrets what he did. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d say, ‘OK, we’ll go one more year. I’m telling you right now at the end of this year I’m out of here’,” Huizenga said at a press conference to announce his stepping down as majority owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. “That’s what I would’ve done, but that’s in hindsight.” A year after the Marlins beat Cleveland in a seven-game World Series in 1997 with an All-Star lineup, Huizenga cleaned house, traded his stars off and severely reduced payroll while watching Florida drop to 54-108—the third worst decline, by the percentages, in major league history; he then sold the team to John Henry, who now runs the Boston Red Sox.

Steal of the Week
Bobby Abreu, who remained potent enough at the plate in 2008 to make the AL’s top ten hitter’s list in our Production Index, will make a relatively paltry $5 million this coming year for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—or the same amount of money as new teammate Scot Shields, a middle reliever. Why has everyone gone sour on Abreu? He’s shown no sign of decline at the plate, where he’s constantly given somewhere around 20 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs, 100 walks, 20 steals and a .300 average. At 35, he likely still has a few good years left, at least. Alright, so his defense isn’t the best, but no one’s embracing Manny Ramirez’s glove, either—and look at the money he’s anticipating. We know it’s a bad economy and all, but the Angels made off like bandits with this deal.

Limbo Camp
Even though Abreu and Adam Dunn finally both signed on to major league teams this past week, there’s still enough available free agent talent floating out there that union chief Don Fehr briefly considered creating a training camp for those players while all the other teams opened theirs. Maybe Fehr scraped the idea when someone told him that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t report.

One More Conspiracy Theory for Hugo Chavez
Johan Santana will not pitch for Venezuela in the upcoming World Baseball Classic II after the New York Mets “asked” him not to. One more reason why MLB trumps anything WBC-related, and why it will be difficult for the fledgling world tourney to ever gain a foothold—unless, as we have pointed out before, they move it to the end of the MLB season, not before.

It Sure Beats Social Security
About a month ago we reported about an old lady in Fresno who stumbled upon a rare card of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first professional team—and briefly had it placed on eBay for $10 before a friend desperately talked her out of it. Good thing. After consultation with a local card shop owner, Bernice Gallego put the card back online this week and sold it for $64,073 to a Houston sports memorabilia dealer.

A Little Education is in Order
Someone from the New York Daily News, who reported that probable Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar was being sued by an ex-girlfriend for having sex while knowingly afflicted with AIDS, actually went to umpire John Hirschbeck—who Alomar spat at in an infamous moment from the end of the 1996 season—and asked if he felt his health was in any danger. Hirschbeck said no. (Alomar, in response to the lawsuit, publicly denied that he has AIDS.)

Manny's Book of Manny
Manny Ramirez may not have a contract for 2009 yet, but he has a book on the way. Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball’s Most Enigmatic Slugger, an authorized biography written by Shawn Boburg and Jean Rhodes, will soon be released, and it’s already causing some negative vibes in Red Sox circles—especially with regards to Ramirez’s side of the story to his scuffle with 64-year old Boston traveling secretary Jack McCormick shortly before his trade to Los Angeles. Ramirez—actually, his wife, Julianna—claims he physically reacted to McCormick out of frustration, that McCormick had a “history of insulting Manny in front of the other players.” Red Sox manager Terry Francona was irate over the claim, saying the Red Sox “bent over backward” for Ramirez, and, it should be noted, exempted his wife and allowed her on a team flight that otherwise forbid family and friends to Houston, where the confrontation with McCormick eventually took place.

High and Dry in the Desert
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Dodgers are not make a financial killing but, instead, are getting financially killed on their new spring training facility in Goodyear, Arizona. The Dodgers have marketed a “Starting Nine” plan to secure nine major sponsorships for Goodyear. So far, they have none. (Not even Goodyear Tires is interested in promoting in Goodyear, Arizona.) Ticket sales are slow, too. The economy is part of the problem, but really, do you expect fans paying big chunks of money just to get to Arizona to shell out anywhere between $18 to $100 more to watch a glorified practice game?

Wounded of the Week
No one ever said defending a major league pennant is easy. The AL champion Tampa Bay Rays, even if healthy, will have it hard enough given the offseason weight of talent built up by divisional rivals New York and Boston, but the aches and pains are already catching up with the Rays, who were relatively pain-free in going to the World Series last year. It was announced this week that reliever Chad Bradford, who joined the Rays via trade late last season and performed exceptionally well (1.33 ERA in 28 appearances, including playoffs), will undergo elbow surgery and won’t return to active duty until June.

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Our video page has been updated with a retrospective of Barry Bonds' final game (or so we assume) in San Francisco on September 26, 2007 as filmed by our own Steve Friedman.

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