Boston Red Sox

It's Only Sports

In just a month, you can certainly put things in perspective. Actually, you can adjust your perspective in one day, but I think you know what I mean.

March 2009 was a really bad month for the US. The stock markets were bottoming out. The Tea Party was ‘founded,’ just weeks prior. And President Obama failed to learn that he had to be a much bolder, offensive leader in order to be successful.

He was going to get fair criticism from most beltway pundits, but he was never going to be fairly treated by the Right-wing media. Every business trip has been labeled a vacation. Every speech has been called either an exercise in ego, an abuse of power, or both. And even taking time during a weekday lunch break to fill out NCAA tournament brackets has been criticized as an abuse of government time.

Obama had to be educated enough to know that when you are a Democratic president, and therefore portrayed by the right wing media as illegitimate, you are not going to be granted the same leniency given to a Republican predecessor. George W. Bush took 977 leisure days (I won’t call them vacation days) while in office, while Barack Obama is being flamed for playing 60 rounds of golf in 26 months. A high number, yes. But keep in mind that Bush went to Camp David every weekend during the chaotic autumn of 2001, partly so he could watch college football games and chomp on pretzels with NSA Secretary Condoleezza Rice. No one accused national security being “off duty” on weekends.

But I meant this post to be about sports. The state of the world can go up as a separate post. And, well, this brings me back to where I started. March.

Yes, March 2009 was really bad. Our economy was on the edge of an abyss (and isn’t far from the edge still today). But here we are, two years later, and this March has been so eventful, I really am hard pressed to find another month so significant in world history since August 1991 – nearly 20 years. Or if not significant, then at least a period more eventful since that amazing summer of 1991.

More on that in the next post.

I was trying to get this post up in March. Working seven days a week, it was more difficult than I assumed. So while it is late, here is my random, eccentric summary of some of the sports happenings I witnessed in March.

New York Mets: Season of Doom

Need I say more? It’s going to be awful. I see a team with a weak offense, an almost non-existent bullpen, and in dire need of a complete financial takeover. New ownership and a new GM are sorely needed. And yet, I am scheduled to go to three games and counting this season.

The Mets are my local MLB team. I like them and their windy, trashy, pinball machine of a ballpark called Citi Field. They are a big market team. They will eventually mount another playoff run…if Atlanta and Philadelphia ever relinquish their dominance over the NL East. Oh, and that new ballpark in Miami is just 12 months away from opening. And the Marlins already have as many MLB championships as the Mets. Sigh.

Boston Red Sox: Impossible expectations

Tired of the Red Sox being called the best team in baseball? I am. They have incredible depth. They have so much depth, they had to send young players who are almost ready for the majors back to Pawtucket. They don’t just have a veteran situational lefty reliever, they have a new lefty, Andrew Miller, who could be an all star in waiting.

But Red Sox Nation needs to get back to its logical roots. Andrew Miller is not yet available, as much as he might be needed later this season. David Ortiz is having a great start, but he needs everyone else in the order to catch up. And the starting pitching, so far, has been far short of expectations. It has been 15 years since the Red Sox started the season 0-4, but that is what has happened as this long delayed blog post went up.

Newcastle United: Stuck in neutral

Discipline problems. Only one point in ten games. A predictable, yet worse than expected loss to Stoke City. The only thing holding Newcastle United together in March was positive team chemistry, consistent fan support, and faith that the team would notch the 1 or 2 wins needed to secure safety in the Prem. More on that in a future post.

ICC Cricket World Cup: Snapshot of the One Day International game

The ICC Cricket World Cup was a cracker this time around. News of the death of the 50 over game are premature, if not exaggerated. I love 50 overs per side. Cricket is a pastime. The ideal one day match should be eight hours, like a work shift, except it isn't work.

We saw England beat the West Indies by a narrow margin, with the hope of going all the way, only to be beaten down by semi finalists Sri Lanka. And in that West Indies match, the Windies had to use a batsman out of order because another batsman was in the “washroom” when his turn to bat came up. It’s a silly sport. I love it.

Dallas Mavericks: One player short of a championship?

Or two. It's a shame that the team with the best coach and defense in the NBA seems to be too broken to advance in the upcoming playoffs. I hope I am incorrect.

March Madness: What’s that?

Seriously, who manufactured this spectacle? Oh right, the NCAA and CBS, with CBS paying the NCAA billions of dollars to televise the tournament for decades, and fans paying billions of dollars into an underground betting economy. Somehow you are not a real man unless you have something called a bracket. Meanwhile, the NCAA, which apparently is a non profit organization, issues death penalties to teams (see U Mass, 1996) if one player accepts gifts from any source. No disputing the punishment. But what exactly does the NCAA do with the partially-disclosed billions it receives, besides not paying the athletes who draw television audiences? Is it silly to ask?

Of course, Europe has its own equivalent of the NCAA tournament. It is called the Football Association and the English Premier League. But since I am able to separate gambling in the UK from the beautiful game, I can appreciate the sport. What I can’t appreciate is a street game, played by college students, elevated to something it never deserved. The only people who truly care about college teams are college students. I can attest. That 1991 U Mass squad that made it to the NIT Final Four was brilliant. But would anyone seriously outside U Mass in the early 1990s remember that? Would Boston, a pro sports town, really care about college sports, aside from the occasional BC football game or the Beanpot? No.

While I am not one to put any faith into professional sports as a wholesome, socially necessary institution, I am never going to care about the cash flush NCAA, or it’s hypocrisy on gambling and gifts, while it receives billions in cash from the media, big universities, and who knows who else.

Boston Bubbling With Optimism


A sunset view of Boston's financial district from the Back Bay, December 16, 2010.

Sports radio is an annoying format. It's mainly sports writers, shock jocks, and fans either yelling at or with each other. I have no business listening to Boston's WEEI sports radio, especially after the morning guys, Dennis and Callahan, mentioned my name on the air in 2005, followed immediately by the word, "idiot."  Twice.

But on my latest drive to Brockton from Manhattan, I didn't have my own car with me. I opted to rent one, and I relied on terrestial radio rather than XM radio for most of my entertainment. WEEI's range is impressive. I think I picked up the station in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, just past the halfway point between New York and Brockton.

And for the first time, I heard something called the Planet Mikey Show. Mike Adams seems like a funny guy. He's from Pittsburgh, but he almost sounds like Seth McFarlane as Peter Griffin (the main character in Family Guy who has a Rhode Island accent). Mike and his sidekick last Tuesday night just couldn't avoid the theme for the entire city of Boston right now - that their pro sports teams were among the hottest in the nation as 2010 drew to a close.

The Bruins were running their predictable course of having a great regular season, followed by a painful playoff exit. The Celtics were in the middle of a long winning streak. The Red Sox had made two blockbuster acquisitions during the MLB winter meetings in Florida. And the New England Patriots, in just five weeks, had gone from playoff probables to Super Bowl favorites.

A common talking point repeated by all of WEEI hosts and guests is that the Patriots are now favored to win all of their remaining games, including all playoff games and the Super Bowl. The talking point is so common and pervasive, I wonder if everyone in front of the microphone was given a memo, Fox News style?

Coordinated or not, they're correct. The New England Patriots are once again favored to win the NFL Championship. I blogged about this before, in early 2008, and we know how that story ended. But this season is dramatically different. The Patriot defense has gotten better with each game. And in my opinion, this has been the season that finally proved that it is the quaterback, Tom Brady, who has made the Patriot offense great.

He has thrown to both good and great receivers. But Brady has this ability to elevate all receivers. He delivers the ball to them as if they are all named Jerry Rice or Deion Branch. Brady has surpassed names like Steve Young and Johnny Unitas on the list of great quarterbacks and has entered the territory of Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway. There is simply no active quarterback better than Tom Brady, no matter what Marshall Faulk or Tom Jackson currently say about the Patriots on television.

Boston's getting ahead of itself a little bit. Great things are happening in December 2010 (the Celtics and Patriots), but one of those teams needs to win a championship in order for 2011 to be remembred as a great year in Boston sports. But with 1986 and 2007 already recorded as great years, it is certainly understandable how expecations are very high for three of Boston's four pro sports teams in 2011.

The first test will be the Patriots playoff run. They have defeated all the top teams this season. For them, it really is Super Bowl or bust this time around.

Tainted titles? Let they who are free of sin cast the first stone!

OK. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are "cheaters". Or to whatever degree that naiveté carries you in todays professional sports lets just set the record straight. Anyone who thought the Red Sox or any other team for that matter were free from this dirty little mess be it called, Andro, HGH, the Cream, the Clear, be it injected in the buttocks by a trusted "friend", taken with your protein shakes, or whether we're all "not here to discuss the past..." that we are really "here to be positive". We all knew. We have always known. So please lets box up the "i told ya so's" and the big bad BIG MARKET team BS.

Tainted Titles? Look I loved the 2004 Boston Red Sox story. Who didn't? And then the White Sox the following year. But this revelation that somehow because of yesterdays report of Ortiz (a "surprise") and Ramirez (NOT suprising) being on the so-called LIST thus making that year "tainted" is ridciulous. Folks, there are 103 players on that LIST. And guess what, they weren't all Red Sox players.

OK. Here are the names we know Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Miguel Tejada were "confirmed" last year. And now we have Manny Ramirez, David Segui, and David Ortiz. Other names NOT confirmed but rumored are Roberto Alomar, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Francisco Rodriguez, and Gary Sheffield. Here is the list as published by ROTOworld as the "suspected test failures" and the teams they were on at the time of the test by division (** indicate PITCHERS)(BOLD indicates team was Division Winner/Wildcard winner):

American League East
1.Nomar Garciaparra (Boston Red Sox)
2.Manny Ramirez (Boston Red Sox)
3.Johnny Damon (Boston Red Sox)
4.Trot Nixon (Boston Red Sox)
5.David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
6.Shea Hillenbrand (Boston Red Sox)
7.Derek Lowe (Boston Red Sox)**
8.Pedro Martinez (Boston Red Sox)**

9.Brian Roberts (Baltimore Orioles)
10.Jay Gibbons (Baltimore Orioles)
11.Melvin Mora (Baltimore Orioles)
12.Jerry Hairston (Baltimore Orioles)
13.Jason Giambi (New York Yankees)
14.Alfonso Soriano (New York Yankees)
15.Raul Mondesi (New York Yankees)
16. Aaron Boone (New York Yankees)
17.Andy Pettitte (New York Yankees)**
18.Jose Contreras(New York Yankees)
19.Roger Clemens (New York Yankees)**

20.Carlos Delgado (Toronto Blue Jays)
21.Vernon Wells (Toronto Blue Jays)
22.Frank Catalanotto (Toronto Blue Jays)

American League Central
23.Kenny Rogers (Minnesota Twins)**
24.Magglio Ordonez (Chicago White Sox)
25.Sandy Alomar (Chicago White Sox)
26.Bartolo Colon (Cleveland Indians)**
27.Brent Abernathy (Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Kansas City Royals)
28.Jose Lima (Kansas City Royals)**
29.Milton Bradley (Cleveland Indians)
30.Casey Blake (Cleveland Indians)
31.Danys Baez (Cleveland Indians)
32.Craig Monroe (Detroit Tigers)
33.Dmitri Young (Detroit Tigers)
34.Alex Sanchez (Detroit Tigers)

American League West
35.Eric Chavez (Oakland A's)
36.Miguel Tejada (Oakland A's)
37.Eric Byrnes (Oakland A's)
38.Jose Guillen (Oakland A's)
39.Keith Foulke (Oakland A's)**
40.Ricardo Rincon (Oakland A's)**

41.Bret Boone (Seattle Mariners)
42.Mike Cameron (Seattle Mariners)
43.Randy Winn (Seattle Mariners)
44.Ryan Franklin (Seattle Mariners)
45.Freddy Garcia (Seattle Mariners)
46.Rafael Soriano (Seattle Mariners)
47.Scott Spiezio (Anaheim Angels)
48.Troy Glaus (Anaheim Angels)
49.Francisco Rodriguez (Anaheim Angels)**
50.Ben Weber (Anaheim Angels)

51.Alex Rodriguez (Texas Rangers)
52.Juan Gonzalez (Texas Rangers)
53.Rafael Palmeiro (Texas Rangers)
54.Carl Everett (Texas Rangers)
55.Javy Lopez (Texas Rangers)**

National League East
56.Gary Sheffield (Atlanta Braves)
57.Mike Hampton (Atlanta Braves)**
58.Ivan Rodriguez (Florida Marlins)
59.Derrek Lee (Florida Marlins)

60.Bobby Abreu (Philadelphia Phillies)
61.Terry Adams (Philadelphia Phillies)**
62.Fernando Tatis (Montreal Expos)
63.Livan Hernandez (Montreal Expos)**
64.Hector Almonte (Montreal Expos)**
65.Tony Armas (Montreal Expos)**
66.Dan Smith (Montreal Expos)**
67.Roberto Alomar (New York Mets/Chicago White Sox)
68.Cliff Floyd (New York Mets)
69.Roger Cedeno (New York Mets)
70.Jeromy Burnitz (New York Mets)

National League Central
71.Moises Alou (Chicago Cubs)
72.Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs)
73.Corey Patterson (Chicago Cubs)
74.Carlos Zambrano (Chicago Cubs)**
75.Mark Prior (Chicago Cubs)**
76.Kerry Wood (Chicago Cubs)**
77.Matt Clement (Chicago Cubs)**
78.Antonio Alfonseca (Chicago Cubs)**
79.Juan Cruz (Chicago Cubs)
80.Aramis Ramirez (Chicago Cubs)

81.Craig Wilson (Pittsburgh Pirates)
82.Kris Benson (Pittsburgh Pirates)**
83.Richie Sexson (Milwaukee Brewers)
84.Geoff Jenkins (Milwaukee Brewers)
85.Valerio de los Santos (Milwaukee Brewers)**

National League West
86.Benito Santiago (San Francisco Giants)
87.Rich Aurilia (San Francisco Giants)
88.Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants)
89.Andres Galarraga (San Francisco Giants)
90.Jason Schmidt (San Francisco Giants)
91.Felix Rodriguez (San Francisco Giants)
92.Jason Christiansen (San Francisco Giants)
93.Matt Herges (San Francisco Giants)**

94.Paul Lo Duca (Los Angeles Dodgers)
95.Shawn Green (Los Angeles Dodgers)
96.Oliver Perez (Los Angeles Dodgers)
97.Adrian Beltre (Los Angeles Dodgers)
98.Eric Gagne (Los Angeles Dodgers)
99.Guillermo Mota (Los Angeles Dodgers)
100.Luis Gonzalez (Arizona Diamondbacks)
101.Todd Helton (Colorado Rockies)
102.Ryan Klesko (San Diego Padres)
103.Gary Matthews (San Diego Padres)

So what does this LIST tell us? Well first, it actually says alot. Though here is what it doesn't say first: The truth of the names, the drugs involved, the dosages found (level), and the dates of the test itself. These are ALL UNKNOWN/UNCONFIRMED. But lets take it as a barometer of the depth of the "problem".

1. Every team but two had at least one player and most had more than one (The Chicago Cubs led with 10, including most of the starting pitching staff). The two having none? The St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros. OK, before you anoint them with congratulations lets remember a couple of things. First, each them held top-dawg status of the steriod era in the wake of two of the poster children of the Steroid Era being key members of those teams: Mark McGwire and Ken Caminiti (though his best days were in San Diego). Secondly, each has subsequently gone out and signed suspected "tainted" players that have served as key cogs to further successes, most notably the Astros with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. The Cardinals had Fernando Vina in '03 who was linked to PED's in the Mitchell Report and also, though languishing in the minors for his notable mental "hiccups", Rick Ankiel.

2. the LIST is just ONE list of many. The depth of this list is DEEP but it is really something to see in this great MATRIX OF LISTS for an eye-opening look into how far this really goes.

3. Big market, small market. Hitters, pitchers, Good teams, bad teams. They ALL had these guys. And they cover every cultural enclave. Though it would appear the ever surging list of minor leaguers in Latin American Leagues getting suspened or linked to trainers like Angel Presinal (nice hat in the photo BTW) are indicators there are some tremendously shady folks lurking outside the borders of the MLB that are taking advantage of young Latinos starry-eyed at the prospect of prosperity.

So please, spare me the "GIVE BACK YOUR TROPHY" march on Washington garb. There are no innocents here. There are no "clean" teams ready to take the tainted trophies off the glass-cased shelves.

And folks....if you watch, root, or just follow sports.....its the bed we've all made together. We watched salaries increase exponentially over the years and paid the ridiculous "entertainment" prices to watch them. We are guilty too. We hold athletes up to hero status as though what they do is really meaningful beyond these moderate metaphors of life. We demand greatness on a level that puts athletes in a position of having to inject themselves to "survive".

So buckle up. There will be plenty of "bad news" to come. Whether its overcoming 86 years of "suffering" as Red Sox fans or Lance Armstrong's 7 titles in cycling's premiere event or those heady days of the Steel Curtain of the 1970s to the Patriots of the 2000's, Olympic (False) Glories fading to shame. We asked for this. And they have given us what we asked for.

Bon Appetite.