08.30.09

Miggy : I’m No Big Tipper

Posted in Baseball at 5:36 pm by

Earlier this year, Selena Roberts quoted anonymous former teammates of Alex Rodriguez who alleged the former Rangers shortstop made a practice of tipping pitches to opposing hitters during blowouts, and at least one observer has suggested former A’s SS Miguel Tejada received such assistance. In yesterday’s New York Times, David Waldstein revealed Tejada was suspected of the same thing, leading to a confrontation in the Oakland clubhouse during July of 2001.

Manager Art Howe, contrary to his laissez-faire style, was forced to address the issue. He spoke first on Tejada™s behalf, trying to quell the outrage. Then Jason Giambi, the unequivocal leader and biggest star on the team, laid out the players™ concerns.

œIt really shocked me to the point of disbelief, said Tim Hudson, then a young pitching star for the Athletics. œBut I figured, if that™s an issue where we need to clear the air a bit, then we need to clear the air a little bit.

œI think Ron Gant calmed it down before it snowballed into anything big, said Frank Menechino, an A’s infielder at the time, and now the hitting instructor for the Class AA Trenton Thunder. œLike: ˜Hey, man, we can™t worry about what the other teams are doing in this league. But we can™t pull the Dominican guys out of our team and suspect them of anything until we catch them.™ He basically calmed everything down. Everything was fine after that. I seriously can™t prove, say, yes or no, that guys were doing it. But who knows?

Hudson called Tejada, a six-time All-Star, œa great teammate and said he still found it impossible to believe that he would help the opposition.

What first raised suspicion among the 2001 A™s was an early May series in Toronto. Tejada and Blue Jays third baseman Tony Batista, friends from the Dominican Republic, each put up terrific numbers. In the three-game series, Batista went 6 for 13 with a home run and 5 runs batted in, and Tejada was 4 for 10 with 9 R.B.I., including a home run in each game.

More significant in the eyes of some of the players was an incident in the second game of the series. Tejada did not get to an easy ground ball Batista hit off reliever Mark Guthrie with the Athletics leading, 8-2. When the inning was over, A™s players fumed on the bench.

Tejada, now 35, said his teammates were skeptical because Batista dropped a foul pop-up he hit in the previous game.

œI would never do that, Tejada said. œI want to win. If my brother was on the other team, I would never help him.

Tejada, taking the day off with Houston visiting Arizona this afternoon, is obviously innocent until proven guilty. If you’re keeping score, however, this is the 3rd major ethical lapse Miggy’s been charged with, which should at the very least, give Milo Hamilton pause the next time he exhorts Astros fans to root for “the good guys”.

NY Post Finds A Man Uninterested In Baseball…

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 4:07 pm by

…and he’s not named Joe Buck.  “”If millionaires and billionaires can’t figure out a way to split their pie,” mused surrogate Joe The Plumber / steamfitter Joseph Barzelli to the Post’s Mike Vaccaro, “then they aren’t worth my time.”  To wit, Mr. Barzelli, a lifelong NY (baseball) Giants and Mets fan, bailed on the Grand Old Game following the 1994 lockout.

On Sept. 1, 1994 — 15 years ago this Tuesday — he said goodbye. To all of it. For good. Forever. And has kept his word. He hasn’t followed an inning since.

“Do I miss it?” he asks. “I miss the game I remember. But I don’t think that game has existed for a long time.”

Fans still seethed, swore they would stay away. In 1995, they did, in droves. They trickled back in ’96, and a little more in ’97, and by the summer of 1998 players were knocking down buildings with baseballs, and the Yankees were winning 125 games, and attendance actually shattered pre-strike records. Fifteen years pass in the blink of an eye, and a whole generation of fans has grown up knowing nothing but labor peace in baseball. Maybe everyone learned a lesson. Maybe it’s simply an aberration. Maybe the apocalypse is still out there. There are things nobody knows.

We know this: An awful lot of the people who swore off baseball 15 years ago eventually swore off their swear-off. They came back for more. They come back for more. Joseph Barzelli knows he probably isn’t the only one who held fast to his convictions, though he doesn’t run into many fellow protesters. He lives in Arizona now. In a world of constant news cycles, he knows about baseball what he hears by osmosis. It’s like breathing second-hand smoke. You can’t avoid all of it.

“I don’t think what I did was noble,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to be. But I said if they broke my heart again, I’d break theirs right back. I’d like to think baseball misses me. But I know better than that.”

I recall hearing proclamations similar to Barzelli’s at the time and with all due respect to a guy who probably didn’t ask Vacarro to plaster his name all over the sports section, this is booshit.   If you believe the last 15 years of Major League Baseball to be tainted and/or without merit, you’re certainly entitled to your screwy opinion. But there’s much more to the game than The Used Car Salesman’s Unprecedented Era Of Drug Abuse Prosperity ; that 25 inning classic between Texas and Boston College this past June was hardly a battle between billionaires and millionaires. Has Barzelli’s boycott of baseball extended to other professional sports that have experienced lengthy work stoppages? It might’ve been a worthwhile question, but I can’t for the life of me understand why Vacarro thought this was an interesting way to commemorate the anniversary of one of MLB’s biggest black eyes. Presumably Felipe Alou and Don Mattingly were too busy to return his phone calls.

08.29.09

Shy, Retiring Ozzie G. : I’m A Thief

Posted in Baseball at 5:57 pm by

White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen watched his club collect a solitary base hit during Saturday afternoon’s 10-0 drubbing at the Nu Stadium, a scenario that the unflinchingly self-critical manager declaring afterwards, “I™m the one who will take the blame, 100 percent, there™s no doubt.”   Which is a hell of a way to let Jose Contreras (3.1 IP, 9 hits, 6 earned runs) off the hook. From the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzalez :

œI™m embarrassed,” Guillen said. “And everybody in that room should be embarrassed. If they™re not embarrassed, they got the wrong job or they™re stealing money from baseball. I feel like I™m stealing the money from (chairman) Jerry (Reinsdorf). And that™s a shame. When you got more errors than hits, you better look yourself in the mirror and start second-guessing yourself. But I™m second-guessing myself right now, making the wrong lineup every day. I second-guess myself bringing in the wrong guys to pitch. Second-guess myself like we work so hard to put this team together, all the way from spring training and when I look on the field … ”

Guillen was just warming up.

“I was looking at the Little League game this morning, and they were playing better than we did. It was more fun. It gets to the point where you are a veteran player and I have a lot of respect for them, and you appreciate what they do for you in the past, but this is not major league baseball, sorry.

I™m not a loser or a negative guy, but I™m really realistic. That™s my problem in the past when I™m so realistic and people get mad at me and they don™t like the way I do stuff or the way I talk. Well, if you don™t want me to talk that way, (bleeping) play better.

œAnd I™m getting paid a lot of money to manage this club and I truly believe this “ I™m stealing money from Jerry Reinsdorf right now. I come here, make the lineup, go to sleep and watch (bleeping) Little League games.

WaPo’s Reid : MIke Sellers Is No Traitor…

Posted in Gridiron at 5:47 pm by

…he’s just a slob!  “I have a big problem journalistically with essentially questioning someone’s patriotism in a report without giving the person a chance to respond,” protests the Washington Post’s Jason Reid, criticizing an unattributed AP item that blasted Redskins FB Mike Sellers for throwing the American flag to the ground during pregame introductions before last night’s New England/Washington exhibition game.

I did not realize this occurred. Even if I had witnessed Sellers (above) drop the flag, I would not have made that a big deal about it because I have spoken with the man repeatedly, which is my job as a beat reporter, and am familiar with his background. Sellers’s father was a career military man, and I just don’t get the sense he would intentionally do something to degrade the flag.

“It’s been brought to my attention, carrying the flag out yesterday, that I didn’t put it in the proper spot after carrying it out. I meant no disrespect,” Sellers said. “My father retired [from the military] 30 some years almost, I grew up as an Army brat, I know the conduct when it comes to the flag and I made a mistake by setting it down the way I did and I’d like to apologize if I offended anybody out there.

“I was asked to bring it out last minute, didn’t know who to give it to, got hyped up, and put the flag down. Like I said, if I offended anyone, I apologize. That’s not me. I grew up in a military background. I know what it is to respect the flag, and I apologize. It was in the heat of the moment.”

It all seems like a big misunderstanding, but it doesn’t help matters that Bill Belichick can’t give a straight answer about whether or not the flag will be good to go in Week One.

08.28.09

Bernie Book Author : WIlpon Lost $700 Million, Mets Sale Pending

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 10:52 pm by

On an afternoon in which the Amazingly Disableds squandered a genuinely fine effort from starter Pat Misch, the Angels took on more than $20 million in salary in the form of ex-Met / Al Leiter nemesis Scott Kazmir (above)  — exactly the sort of late season move we once came to expect when New York’s 2nd richest baseball club was, well, rich. According to author Erin Arvedlund, whose forthcoming Bernie Maddoff tome, “Too Good To Be True” will presumably not be offered for sale at the Mets Team Store, Fred Wilpon was fleeced to the tune of $700 million, making his eventual sale of the Mets a foregone conclusion.  From Reuters’ Ben Klayman :

Arvedlund said she does not know the terms of the Wilpons’ bank loans but said the losses are steep enough that a sale of the baseball team is certain.

“It’s qualified by when,” she said. “It’s possible they would have to sell by next year.” Fred Wilpon was among thousands of investors defrauded by Madoff, himself a Mets fan.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to running the biggest investment fraud in Wall Street’s history, which investigators said bilked investors out of $13 billion to $21 billion.

Madoff is serving 150 years in a federal  prison in North Carolina.

The team said Arvedlund has no knowledge of the baseball team or its finances and repeated previous statements that the Mets are not for sale. “Her speculation that the Mets — or any part of the team — is for sale is completely false and is irresponsible,” the team said.

A team spokesman told MarketWatch that Arvedlund’s loss projection is inaccurate.

Let’s hope said spokesperson isn’t merely playing damage control.  As much as I’ve criticized Fred and Jeff Wilpon this season, all you have to do is look at the state of midtown Manhattan’s basketball teams — men’s and women’s —- to realize things could actually be much worse if the frontman of the Straight Shot added the Mets to his toychest.

Waldman’s “Lovely Conversation” WIth A.J. Burnett

Posted in Baseball, Sports Radio at 12:54 pm by

“We’re all human. We all have feelings,” WCBS’ Suzyn Waldman tells the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman. “And no one likes being ripped.”  Ms. Waldman surely knows of which she speaks, as does, presumably, Yankee hurler A.J. Burnett, yesterday’s 12K performance aside,  a target of recent Waldman criticism.

Sunday, in the fifth inning of the Yankees-Red Sox radiocast, Waldman had indignantly wondered why Posada was even being “brought into the equation.” Then she hammered Burnett.

“(Burnett) stunk up the joint (Saturday, giving up nine runs in Boston’s 14-1 win),” Waldman said. “He should just stand up and take it like Andy Pettitte (would have).”

Thursday, before Burnett (with Jose Molina catching) took the mound against Texas, someone asked Waldman if her Tuesday conversation with Burnett had anything to do with what she had said about him on the radio.

“Yes it did,” Waldman answered. “We had a lovely conversation. … A lot of times players don’t realize how their actions look on the field. I just think he was emotional about his failures. I don’t think A.J. meant to show anybody up.”

“If it’s something that I’ve said that gets a player upset, then I will tell him why I said it. But I can’t do my job thinking that if I say something someone is going to get upset with me. I can’t do that,” Waldman said. “Everybody’s got opinions. I know what a lot of people think, but I’m really not a (Yankees) cheerleader.”

“Everybody likes telling these guys bad news. Somebody’s wife hears it. Or somebody’s cousin reads it. Most of the time it comes back (to the player) incorrectly,” Waldman said. “Usually, it’s not what you said. That happens all the time.”

No Smearing in the Press Box IV: Is Michael S. Schmidt Baseball’s Judith Miller?

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 8:45 am by

[This is what a working reporter looks like …].

Thanks to Jason Cohen for fwd’ing Maury Brown’s analysis of the recent Federal ruling forcing the government to return illegally confiscated test results of Major League Baseball players.  Unlike most of us, Brown read the whole thing.  Thanks to him, we know it contains some news regarding CSTB’s favorite cub reporter, Michael Schmidt of The New York Times.  Brown writes:

As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority in yesterday™s ruling, the leaking of names from documents that were under court seal, has done harm to baseball™s drug testing policy.

“The risk to the players associated with disclosure, and with that the ability of the Players Association to obtain voluntary compliance with drug testing from its members in the future, is very high. Indeed, some players appear to have already suffered this very harm as a result of the government™s seizure.”

The ruling then points a direct finger at The New York Times, citing examples:

See, e.g., Michael S. Schmidt, Ortiz and Ramirez Said to Be on 2003 Doping List, N.Y. Times, July 31, 2009, at A1; Michael S. Schmidt, Sosa Is Said to Have Tested Positive in 2003, N.Y. Times, June 17, 2009, at B11; Michael S. Schmidt, Rodriguez Said to Test Positive in 2003, N.Y. Times, February 8, 2009¦

At the heart of Schmidt and Roberts™ stories are one or more individuals (Schmidt cited unnamed lawyers) that had access to the œlist created by a federal investigator believed to be Novitzky (the list was created from an illegally seized spreadsheet in a mountain of other documents in what has been labeled the œTracey directory). Those individuals will now become the focus, as opposed to the players. As Donald Fehr and Michael Weiner said in a joint statement after the Ninth™s ruling, œAnyone who leaks information purporting to contain those 2003 test results is committing a crime.

Me, I don’t disagree that Schmidt might be on the receiving end of some legal ballistics, not that I want reporters to go through that. Confidential sourcing is vital to whistle blowing stories that make very positive differences in people’s lives.  That said, Schmidt’s stories appear to be nothing more than a mix of amoral ambition (his) and an embittered, failed prosecution (the Novitzky team, facing an Obama future).   If they go after Schmidt, he’ll be elevated to a status of 1st Amendment freedom fighter, obscuring something else:  The New York Times can’t back up anything he has said regarding Sosa or Ramirez.  That is, a reporters rights story will overshadow his incompetence.  The players union disputes Schmidt’s 104 list at the heart of his stories.  Schmidt himself stated he has never seen any testing or evidence.  Players Association lawyer Elliot Peters now states that the 104 list is nothing but a spread-sheet concocted by Federal investigator Jeff Novitzky himself.  If Novitzky created it, it’s hard to see how the players union, informants at the testing labs, or any “lawyers” (as per Schmidt), could have leaked “the list,” except the people who created it.  As stated here several times, Schmidt looks to have been played by his sources and their agenda.  I will also ask again:  why were the 2009 names “ Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez “ all Latino? Why did each leak happen after notable, and typically arrogant (or shall we say, “uppity”)  behavior by Rodriguez, Sosa, and Ramirez? Right now, it looks like someone with some real issues was out to get these guys.

Jason and I were e-mailing about the Scooter Libby/Judith Miller parallel to this (in how the gov’t fed Miller stories to their own advantage to appear in The Times) as well as the Howell Raines/Jayson Blair factor of a young reporter pushed up the ladder too fast.  While I don’t think Schmidt in any way sought to deceive like Blair, it’s just too familiar a scenario coming from the NY Times.  Schmidt’s done real damage to people’s careers here.  Hopefully any civil suits coming will be paid by the Times, as I doubt he has the resources to pay off Sosa, Ortiz, and Ramirez.  Still, once Judith Miller did her jail stretch, the Times went through her stories and bounced her.  After Schmidt based so much of his reporting on Novitzky’s 104 “dirty names” spread sheet, I hope he gets the same thorough review.

Btw, my offer to The New York Times still stands:  Out any member of the 2005 “world champion” White Sox as a steroid user, and all is forgiven.