Who needs Clemens? We’ve got Wake…

May 7th, 2007 → 2:55 pm @

The Clemens news will — as it should — dominate the local headlines for a while. For the most part, I feel a sense of relief. As I’ve said before, I think there’s been a quasi-irresponsible lack of coverage concerning the various ‘roid rumors (and circumstantial evidence) that’ve been swirling around the Rocket for years. And my interest in the steroid issue has less to do with the sanctity of baseball or any of that crap than with the effect all of this idolatry has on kids, a subject I wrote about at some length in yesterday’s Globe Magazine. (The Times‘s Selena Roberts does focus on the issue in her column on the front of today’s Sports section: “The threat to the Yankees has nothing to do with Clemens’s age, but how he hasn’t aged at all on the approach to 45 when he once seemed kaput at age 35. Maybe Clemens has developed a natural youth potion, an organic Botox for his old bones. Certainly, Clemens deserves credit for his greatness — with a talent that is an understandable siren’s song for the Yankees — but he has also witnessed his aura undermined by a steroid whisper campaign.” Whatever risk that poses to the Yankees, it would have been magnified a lot in Boston…)

I also kind of think Roger’s a self-satisfied prick, and it sure looks from what’s come out thus far like Clemens and agent Randy Hendricks played the Sox in order to get a couple million more per New York. (Interesting fact: assuming his pitch count averages around 100 pitches per game, he’ll be making $8,000 bucks per pitch. Apparently the $120 million or so he’s made thus far in salary alone isn’t quite enough…) I also think his demands — to have the freedom to take off when he’s not on the mound (no emergency relief appearances for him) — wouldn’t have worked out all that well on the Sox.

But I digress. The real reason the Sox don’t need Clemens is because of the ace of their staff…Timothy Wakefield. Wakefield, who’s set to make $4 million a year in perpetuity (or approximately what Clemens will pull down per game), is going through another one of his brilliant, unhittable stretches: his 3-3 record is the result of nothing so much as the criminally low run support he gets, as evidenced by his 2.11 ERA and his .197 BAA(!). To put that in some context, Schill’s ERA is 3.28 and his BAA is .298; Beckett weighs in at 2.72 and .219. Wakefield is, in fact, at the top or near the top of virtually every metric that looks at opponents’ offensive averages.

It’s true that Wakefield goes through one or two lights-out stretches each year. It’s also true that, since 2004, he’s been the teams best starter. Don’t believe me? Look it up. In the last three years, Wake’s ERA is almost a half-run better than Schilling’s (4.13 vs. 4.55) and he’s thrown 55 more innings (403 vs. 348). The only reason his record isn’t better (26-26 over that time, compared to Curt’s 27-16) is because of aforementioned lousy run support.

I’m not, of course, saying that Wake is a better pitcher than Curt. To me, the real question is why Wake doesn’t get more consistent respect. My theory: the knuckleball. The knuckleball — and the knuckleballer — is seen as kind of a flakey, flukey pitch. When it’s on, who can say why? And when it’s not working, well, who can explain that one?*

But how is this really different from any pitcher (or any pitch)? Sometimes pitchers never get a good feel for the ball, or they never get in a good rhythm, or their mechanics are off. And sometimes the same thing happens to Wake. But if he’s not complaining, I shouldn’t be either; it’s the reason the Sox get away with paying him so little…

* Preemptive apologia: I may have read/heard something along these lines before; it’s also possible that I’ve simply thought this same thing to myself sometime in the past. I just can’t tell, but I’m not trying to steal anyone else’s thunder…

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & Knuckleball & Roger Clemens & Steroids & Tim Wakefield

The most undercovered aspect of the Roger Clemens love-in, 2007 edition

April 10th, 2007 → 9:48 am @

Yesterday, the Globe ran an article in which David Ortiz stood up for Sammy Sosa, his fellow Dominican slugger. Buried in the piece was this quote:

“It doesn’t matter what people say. People say [Roger] Clemens used steroids, people say Mark McGwire used steroids. People say a whole bunch of players used steroids, but nobody can prove that, you know what I’m saying?”

What’s notable (to me, anyway), is how few people actually asking whether Clemens’s remarkable endurance (some would say resurgence) is due to some kind of PED. After all, it’s not like there’s any shortage of red flags. Clemens is arguably one of two players — the second being Barry Bonds* — whose Hall of Fame career was (is) capped (being capped) by his most dominant years coming after the age of 35. Clemens has had four seasons in which his ERA+ has been more than 195…and two of those came in 2005 and 2006, when he was 42 and 43 years old. And the only other time in which Clemens put up three years in a row with ERA+ of more than 145 — as he’s done in the last three years — were from 1990 to 1992, when he was still in his twenties.

Over the last year, more people have started to question Clemens’s remarkable run, but even after the mini-imbroglio involving Clemens and the Grimsley affidavit, the vast majority of folks — fans, sportswriters, and team executives, and MLB officials — prefer to stick with their see-no-evil approach and hope the Rocket keeps on bringing fans to the ballpark. Look, I hope he’s not using as much as the next guy. But I wish more people found it fit to find out the truth.
* And for all those fun side-by-side photo comparisons of Barry from his days with the Pirates and now, doesn’t Roger’s body (and head) look a lot different from the days when he was pitching for the Sox?

Post Categories: Roger Clemens & Steroids

The latest contender for worst free-agent signing of the offseason

February 28th, 2007 → 6:03 pm @

Gary Matthews Jr. This whole to-do is a shame: $50 million can buy a lot of juice these days.

Post Categories: 2007 Spring Training & Gary Matthews Jr. & Steroids

Sheffield backs players union’s right to drive that bus right off that cliff, dares Congress to step into the fray

February 28th, 2007 → 11:50 am @

Back in June, when Paxton Crawford, who played for the Crimson Hose back in ’00 and ’01, copped to using speed, ‘roids, and HGH during his time at Fenway, I wrote about how the mini-maelstrom illustrated nothing so much as how moronically power-hungry the players association was:

“Right now, that doesn’t seem likely, mainly because the power-drunk players union refuses to allow blood testing (or actual random testing, or storing of samples) because any of those steps would be an “invasion of privacy.” That’s a load of crap. Playing professional baseball is not a right afforded to citizens under the Constitution; it’s a privilege. Workplaces implement all sorts of policies–regarding drug testing or dress codes or proper language or decorum–that aren’t (and can’t be) mandated by the government. Unless the players union takes off its blinders and starts to see the big picture, a lot of its members are going to find themselves in a world of hurt.”

And here comes said world of hurt! George Mitchell — former US Senator, current member of the Red Sox’s board, and head of the MLB steroid investigation — is, to absolutely no one’s surprise, being stonewalled at pretty much every turn. He’s said that if that continues, it was likely Congress would take up the issue. There’s an implied threat there, sure. But more than that, there’s a recognition of reality. In the absolute joke of a Congressional hearing a couple of years ago — and to give you a sense of just how farcical it was, it seems as if Jose Canseco was just about the only person who told the truth — Senators said that if baseball didn’t clean up its act, they would. Thus far, the only real aftershock of those hearings was the assurance that Big Mac ain’t ever gonna sniff the Hall.

But now, thanks to Gary Sheffield, we know that the players association is doing everything they can to make sure that’s not the case for long. Sheffield recently told USA Today he wouldn’t cooperate with the Mitchell probe because it is a “witch hunt”; he then told the Detroit Free Press pretty much the same thing. Or, rather, he said that’s what his union had told him: “The [players’] association told us this is just a witch hunt. They don’t want us to talk to them. This is all about getting [Bonds]. If this was legitimate and they did it the right way, it would be different. But this a witch hunt. They’re just trying to collect a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any sense and throw the [expletive] against the wall.” (I’m pretty sure the expletive was “poopy.”)
It’s not surprising that Sheffield’s the guy who spilled the beans on the union’s behind-the-scenes campaign, just as it was no surprise that it was Sheffield who told SI that Barry was a snake who gave him “flaxseed oil,” just as it was not a surprise that it was Sheffield who told New York Magazine about the problems in the Yankees clubhouse: Sheff is known not only for being a prodigious hitter but someone who you can get to say pretty much anything. (Johnny Damon will now fill that role for the Yankees.) Nevertheless, it’s revealing. Once again, rather than work to take steps that will help convince the public the game is trying to clean up its act, the players association is doing everything it can to make it seem as if they’re defending their members’ right to use PEDs…which may very well be what they’re doing. Don’t be surprised in Congress does decide to step in before this is all over.

Post Categories: 2007 Spring Training & Gary Sheffield & Paxton Crawford & Players associatio & Steroids

Stupidiest idea ever

January 17th, 2007 → 9:49 am @

Now, it’s very possible that I simply don’t get Murray Chass’s sense of humor…but no matter how many times I read this, I couldn’t find any indication that there was anything in here that was supposed to be a joke. But you decide:

“Six weeks after they agreed to terms on new contracts, Barry Bonds and J. D. Drew remain unsigned. Bonds hasn’t signed with the Giants; Drew hasn’t signed with the Red Sox. That prompts a thought. If both contracts were to fall through, the Red Sox could sign Bonds to play left field and move Manny Ramírez back to his original position in right.”

If Chass is being serious, you need to give him credit for coming up with perhaps the all-time most idiotic idea ever. The Sox have been consistent in their desire to rid the team of distractions; they’re also trying to limit overpaying senior citizen superstars that aren’t named Roger Clemens. Putting Bonds — with his demands for special treatment and the media-circus that follows him — into the Sox’s clubhouse at Fenway is like forcing Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton to share a dressing room. And considering the media frenzy that occurs whenever Manny sneezes, can you imagine what it’d be like to have federal investigators and investigative reporters trying to see what they can dig up about Barry’s past? Good god.

(You do need to give Murray credit for finding new sources: Brian Sabean’s secretary. To wit: “Brian Sabean, the Giants’ general manager, did not return a telephone call yesterday seeking comment on the contract circumstances. His secretary, told what the call was about, said she did not think Sabean would comment.”)

Post Categories: Barry Bonds & Murray Chass & New York Times & Steroids

Roger and ‘roids. (Another ho-hum day at the office.)

January 16th, 2007 → 9:33 am @

Boston area sports fan have another five days to discuss the immaculate reception which is a good thing…because there ain’t a lot going on in the land of Cochineal Stockings…unless, that is, you consider the not along going on in the J.D. Drew negotiations as actually meaning there’s a lot going on.

One interesting tidbit: the Herald reported the other day that Boston is still interested in Roger, and apparently for reasons other than bringing its payroll in line with New York’s. It certainly would be interesting, and a great coda to Clemens’s career. But it also could be a mess. Buried in a Times story that ran last weekend about sportswriters’ culpability in the steroid scandal, Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was quoted as saying, “I don’t think we (I) know enough about this generation of players to separate presumptive cheaters from the hundreds who cheated more subtly or intelligently, or who have otherwise avoided scrutiny. Like, oh, aging power pitchers who display tremendous resilience and longevity, not that I’m thinking of anyone in particular, Roger.”

The Times is one of the more prominent outlets that has now printed what reporters and baseball executives alike have been whispering, sotto voce, for years. I have no idea if it’s true. But if it is, and if Roger gets nailed, and if that nailing takes place while he’s wearing a Red Sox cap…well, let’s just say it won’t be pretty.

Post Categories: J.D. Drew & Roger Clemens & Steroids

Meth freaks, take note: proof that speed actually causes your head to grow bigger

January 11th, 2007 → 11:51 am @

In today’s Daily News, T.J. Quinn (the same reporter behind the weirdly ignored revelation that, in 2001, a bag linked to Juan Gonzalez and a Cleveland Indians trainer was discovered filled with ‘roids), breaks the news that Barry “I have never failed a drug test” Bonds tested positive last year for a “serious stimulant”…the kind which was recently banned by MLB. (Except for folks suffering from ADD. Got that, D-Lowe?) So that’s what explains the difference between Bonds’ cap size in Pittsburgh and his one in San Francisco. Take note, pep pill fans: pop too many greenies and you’ll be spending lots o’ dough at your local milliner.

This promises to make Bonds’ pursuit of Hammering Hank’s all-time HR record even more fun! If Bonds is shown definitively to have lied — something which, to be sure, could also come out in the federal investigation regarding his grand jury testimony in the Balco case — it also could very well give HoF voters just the out they need to withhold a vote for Barry without needing to pass judgment on everyone who played in what will be known as the steroid era. (See: McGwire, Mark.)

Post Categories: Barry Bonds & Greenies & Hall of Fame & Mark McGwire & Steroids & T.J. Quinn