Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: December 2007


Much Ado?
2007-12-14 12:13
by Mike Carminati

What a day, huh? With the Mitchell report ready to released at 2 PM, speculation abounded.

the rumors started with Roger Clemens, the best pitcher of his era. Barry Bonds, the best position player of his era, had already been implicated. Then seemingly plausible but ultimately spurious reports poured in.

The end result? Apparently, everyone who played after Mike Schmidt retired used steroids or some other performance enhancer. Some of the greatest players in the game were among them: Albert Pujols, Jeff Bagwell, Pudge Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa.

The only problem was that when anticlimactic actual report came out, none of them were on it. What was on the list were a few "surprises" (though even fewer really surprised) like Clemens along with a laundry list of players who were already implicated in steroid use.

The more that one delves into the report the less one finds. Sure, there are the personal checks and UPS stubs to and from players plus the odd memo on Dodger Stadium letterhead, but the problems with the report start with the rather voluminous title, "REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL OF AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO THE ILLEGAL USE OF STEROIDS AND OTHER PERFORMANCE ENHANCING SUBSTANCES BY PLAYERS IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL", the implication being that the investigators could somehow divine which cases of steroid use were legal and which were not. The 409-page report never even mentions what legal uses there might be. I know that steroids can be found in the most innocuous of medications. My kids take a medication for their eczema that contains a steroid.

But that's a bit picky. The real problem in the report is far more broad and far-reaching, and Mitchell points to it early in the report, on page SR-7:

The Players Association was largely uncooperative. (1) It rejected totally my requests for relevant documents. (2) It permitted one interview with its executive director, Donald Fehr; my request for an interview with its chief operating officer, Gene Orza, was refused. (3) It refused my request to interview the director of the Montreal laboratory that analyzes drug tests under baseball's drug program but permitted her to provide me with a letter addressing a limited number of issues. (4) I sent a memorandum to every active player in Major League Baseball encouraging each player to contact me or my staff if he had any relevant information. The Players Association sent out a companion memorandum that effectively discouraged players from cooperating. Not one player contacted me in response to my memorandum. (5) I received allegations of the illegal possession or use of performance enhancing substances by a number of current players. Through their representative, the Players Association, I asked each of them to meet with me so that I could provide them with information about the allegations and give them a chance to respond. Almost without exception they declined to meet or talk with me.

Methinks he dost protest a bit too much. I cannot blame the players for not talking to him. How could that be to their advantage? But aside from leaving Mitchell to consider his snarky comments, it really just serves to require Mitchell to rely very heavily on two sources, the information from the BALCO case and that of a former trainer, Kirk Radomski, as part of his plea bargain. Radomski led Micthell to the few surprises on the list like Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

Mitchell then prattles on about why we shouldn't feed steroids to our children an how steroid use by professional athletes sets a bad example for our youth and for the "clean" players. Next, he makes sure to assert that the ever-porous baseball drug policy has made sure to ban the bad stuff:

Many have asserted that steroids and other performance enhancing substances were not banned in Major League Baseball before the 2002 Basic Agreement. This is not accurate. Beginning in 1971 and continuing today, Major League Baseball's drug policy has prohibited the use of any prescription medication without a valid prescription.

And he then continues to snark at the Players Union: "ut the effect of the Players Association's opposition was to delay the adoption of mandatory random drug testing in Major League Baseball for nearly 20 years." Twenty years? Really? We're talking about maybe one CBA, right? And Mitchell goes on to say that MLB didn't really even pursue it that vehemently:

The Players Association did not agree to the proposal. Officials of the Players Association said that the clubs did not appear to regard the 1994 proposal as a high priority and did not pursue its adoption vigorously. Indeed, Players Association executive director Donald M. Fehr recalled that the proposal never even reached the main bargaining table during negotiations.

So where does it leave us? MLB gets to at least start to close the book on the so-called "steroid era" and has a supposedly independent researcher supporting their future actions. A few big names get their legacy tarnished. The already infamous list paints all players involved with broad brush.

Brian Roberts becomes the Buck Weaver of the group. His crime seems to have been proximity. He went to a lunch after which steroids were sold even though Roberts was no longer present. He lived in a house with players who used steroids. And a teammate, Larry Bigbie, claimed that Roberts told him he used steroids once or twice (p. 150).

Bud Selig, in his press conference later in the day, left the door open to disciplining the players on the list. I expect some token suspensions or fines, but the union won't allow them to use this report as the sole source of evidence. Bonds and Clemens will probably be left to fade into history. Billy Beane expressed some interest in Bonds but I am sure that Selig will use his channels to dissuade him.

The report gets John McCain and congress off MLB's back and ultimately lets them turn the page on this chapter, which is what I believe was the goal in the entire procedure. As far as I am concerned, it might have been a dog and pony show, but if this report does help get us past the steroid crisis, I am all for it.

The Worst Hall of Fame Selection of All Time?
2007-12-04 09:38
by Mike Carminati

There were no sabermetrics in 1937. Ernest Lanigan had published his Baseball Cyclopedia 15 years earlier, but a good thirty-plus years until it was updated by the first Big Mac, i.e., MacMillan's Baseball Encyclopedia, first published in 1969.

Even though there had already been one full Hall of Fame class (and a stellar one it was), the actual Hall of Fame museum would not open its doors for another two years. Actually, the time and place where the museum would be christened are both emblematic of the level of information available about the sport in the early days of the Hall. The place it would be located, Cooperstown, was the site of the apocryphal birth of the sport at the hands of Abner Doubleday supposedly in 1839. The Hall was set to open on the birthplace of baseball on its 100th birthday. Would that any of that were true. In 1937, however, this was historical fact.

In 1937, Morgan Bulkeley, who was on the Mills Commission that invented the Doubleday myth, was picked in the first class of executives and pioneers to enter the Hall. He was picked before true pioneers like Alexander Joy Cartwright, Henry Chadwick, and William Hulbert. Bulkeley was selected largely because he was the first president of the National League and because of his later political career as the governor of and senator from Connecticut. In truth, Bulkeley served as president for one year while the position was envisioned as a rotating role among the team owners. After one season Hulbert, owner of the White Stockings (now Cubs) and the true force behind the fledgling league, decided that the system was not working and he claimed the role for himself. Bulkeley's only other involvement in the sport was to pilot the Hartford club through two NL seasons.

Seventy years later a man who perhaps has less of a claim to a Hall plaque than even Bulkeley was picked by the constantly re-tooled Veterans Committee. That man is former commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Given that there was one major league in 1876 when Bulkeley was the NL president, he essentially filled the commissioner role. Kuhn served for 15 years and Bulkeley for one, but they played similar roles, absent ones.

Kuhn's highlights include night-time World Series, the addition of six expansion teams, the advent of divisional play, and the introduction of free agency. Of course, Kuhn is largely Johnny Bravo in all these events, i.e., he fit the suit.

Of the expansion teams, four were already granted a franchise prior to his tenure as commissioner (at the 1967 winter meetings in fact). Kuhn did help to ensure that those teams were as weak as possible at their inception. Both the Expos and Padres lost 110 games. Consider that "Downtown" Ollie Brown was the first player picked in the NL expansion draft and you get an idea of the caliber of player available to the new teams. The Pilots did even worse, went bankrupt, and were sold to a used car salesman in Milwaukee but more on him later. Only the Royals found success in the short term.

The other two expansion teams the Mariners and Blue Jays in 1977, were foisted upon baseball when Seattle sued for breach of contract after the quick hook the Pilots received. The expansion Mariners helped slake the locals and the Blue Jays were awarded to balance the AL slate. I don't see how Kuhn can take credit for any of these teams.

Divisional play was also a holdover that Kuhn inherited. That's two down.

If anyone should credit for free agency, it's Marvin Miller who was monumentally snubbed by the committee (receiving just three of twelve votes). Kuhn fought against free agency and for the reserve clause as the commissioner and as baseball's legal counsel before that. I had more to do with free agency than Bowie Kuhn did.

So what's left? Playing World Series games at night. Great! Let's put him in the Hall. Kuhn did oversee an era in which attendance grew by 50% (from an average of 14,217 in 1968 to 21,256 in 1984), which is nice. But baseball saw much greater growth after his tenure. Attendance grew by another 50% in the nine seasons after Kuhn left the game (to an average of 30,964 in 1993).

Keep in mind that Kuhn embodied the old racist owner-over-player era in the game. He proposed putting Satchel Paige in a separate (but unequal) wing of the Hall when he was to be inducted as the first Negro Leaguer. He snubbed Hank Aaron in his pursuit of the home run record. He left Willie Stargell off the All-Star roster in his last season (1982) even though he added Carl Yastrzemski in his final season the next year. Kuhn suspended Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle for their involvement with casinos while he left owner George Steinbrenner free to own a casino.

Morgan Bulkeley was the nadir of Hall selection until yesterday. His involvement in the game was abbreviated and completely forgettable. His selection basically opens the door to any and all owners, executives, and ticket takers. Until yesterday, he was the worst Hall selection of all time.

Bowie Kuhn is a serious challenger, however. He did have a longer tenure and he had more involvement in baseball history. Alas, everything he touched turned to crap. He has the reverse Midas touch. He did more to set the game back than almost any other executive in baseball history and did very little to help move the game along. Kuhn is a terrible choice though probably not as bad as Bulkeley.

So what's going on. The Vets were revamped after the death of leader Ted Williams and after the selection in 2001 of light-hitting Bill Mazeroski. The new Vets Committee were comprised of all the living Hall of Famers, and they couldn't decide on any one player. The Vets were reorganized so that the non-players were reviewed by a Hall-selected Historical Overview Committee. Here are the details regarding the composition of the current committee.

The Committee now "works" in that it actually selects someone. However, it is not selecting the best candidates, who were arguably Marvin Miller and Doug Harvey this go-around.

Perhaps my biggest problem with Kuhn's election is that it opens the door to another commissioner who did little to end a players strike, the used car salesman who is now the commissioner, "Larry" Bud Selig. Selig now appears a lock for the Hall. I wonder whose hat he will wear.

This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
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