With one out in the second, Cruz hit a ball that landed just to Payton’s left, and Payton dived and missed it rather than getting his body behind it. Payton said that, like a liner hit to him in center two days before that got by him for a triple, the ball Cruz hit knuckled; A’s manager Ken Macha described it as being cued off the bat, which can be a tricky play for an outfielder.
“The spin is probably going the other way (than expected),” Macha said.
“I came in (to field the ball) and it took off,” Payton said. “It’s a helpless feeling, but what are you going to do? (Mark) Kotsay was playing more in the other gap so he couldn’t get over.”
Zito said he liked the fact that Payton was aggressive in going after the ball, but he sounded puzzled about the outcome, saying, “(Cruz) hit a curveball for a single that turned into a home run somehow. … There was some strange stuff going on out there today. A bunch of incidents. But you have to know you can’t control what happens after the ball leaves your hand. I don’t know how that stuff happens in the outfield, but it was surprising, though.”
Two more balls eluded Payton. In the fourth, he lost Gerald Laird’s drive to left-center in the sun and fell as he chased it toward the wall. Laird, who ended up with a double, scored on a base hit by Cruz. And in the sixth, Eric Young cracked a shot off the wall, just to the left of Payton’s glove, and wound up with a triple. Some fans let Payton have it.
“The third ball (Young’s drive) was a freaking missile off the wall and people wanted to boo me, anyway,” Payton said. “It was just one of those days. … That’s kind of (lame), if you ask me. I bust my ass every day, I have a bad day and you’ve got a bunch of dumb-ass people who want to boo you. But they pay their money, if they want to do that, more power to them. That’s their prerogative.”
Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel isn’t saying he has proof that Ryan Howard is juiced. But he seems uncomfortable that he has no proof Howard isn’t using performance enhancing substances, thus, there’s no problem tossing the Philly first baseman’s name out there.
No reasonable person can believe baseball is out of the drug business, which means no reasonable person can believe the steroid era is over. The truth is that it will probably never end.
This brings us to Ryan Howard. At 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, he has a booming, beautiful swing. He very well may be a natural. After all, he won the National League Rookie of the Year award last season despite playing just 88 games (he hit 22 home runs). He has already hit more homers in his second full season than anyone, ever.
So does that make him easier to believe than a proven slugger such as Albert Pujols or David Ortiz sitting on 52? Or is everyone under suspicion these days?
Perhaps. But some guys have their names dropped faster than others.
(ADDENDUM : Howard’s response, as collected by the Philadelphia Daily News’ Paul Hagen :
“I know I’m not using steroids. This barrel right here [pointing to his stomach] is proof enough. People are going to say what they want to say. I thought about it once and then it was like, ‘Well, whatever.’ I’m not doing it. If they want to test me, they can test me.
“I just think it sucks. The thing about it is, if you’re going to make those kinds of comments, have proof. Otherwise, you can ruin people’s reputations.”)