Blame the media

I love what Jon Stewart did to Barry Bonds tonight …

We’re going to talk little bit about baseball. By way of an apology, Barry Bonds, star slugger for the San Francisco Giants, is having a bit of a rough off season. He had surgery on his knee last week and as you know he’s suspected of steroid use, which he’s never actually denied, but a woman last week claiming that he was his mistress for nine years has just testified under oath that Barry said he had been taking steroids since 2000. So it’s really starting to pile up on him and yesterday he held an impromptu press conference to take some accountability and put the blame for his troubles where it belonged.

[Cut to Bonds]

Bonds: You guys wanted to hurt me badly enough. You finally got there.

Reporter off camera: You say you guys. Who do you mean.

Bonds: You. You. You. You. The media. Everybody

[Cut to Stewart] Sorry. And I am sorry. I do take responsibility. I do remember, this was years ago, when I saw Barry Bonds for the first time and I remember saying to him, “You’re skinny. And very weak. You might want to do a little (mimes sticking a needle in his arm).” So I do take responsibility for convincing him to do steroids for long, long time. And about having a mistress, again, I should never have begged him to fuck someone outside of his marriage.

And that about sums up the problem with Barry Bonds. Selfish. Arrogant. Clueless.

No strength to do the right thing

There are nearly 300,000 people living in eastern San Diego County, but apparently they aren’t very important to area broadcast mogul John Lynch (btw: father of football star John Lynch). His radio station the “Mighty” 1090 doesn’t have the signal strength to reach East County. That might not matter, but Lynch’s station somehow managed to wiggle its way into winning the Padres radio broadcast contract.

Forget for a moment the incredible stupidity of the Padres in not ensuring their broadcast partner could reach the entire market, what sort of businessman would even pursue a business arrangment that he knows upfront he won’t be able to satisfactorial deliver on? How about one who doesn’t care?

… But Lynch did say “no additional stations” would carry the Padres. It’s 1090, period.

“We’re real pleased with the way the (2004) season went and I think the Padres are, too,” Lynch said.

I wrote a profile of Lynch once for a magazine in San Diego. Went to his house. Met his son (then a stand out high school quarter back). (The resulting article was not one of my finest moments as a writer, as my profile writing style was still immature at that time — fortunately the magazine went out of business and you probably can’t find the article anywhere except the bottom of my closet.) Based on meeting him, I thought Lynch was a good guy. I think I need to reassess my opinion. Lynch’s cavalier attitude toward an important region in San Diego County is appalling.

Goodbye Randy Johnson

Here’s something for Padres fans to celebrate — The Big Unit leaves not only the NL West, but the entire National League. Also, the Dodgers are a little bit weakened … if you believe Shawn Green is a plus as a hitter. Then again, losing Green may improve the Dodgers.

Correcting the record

Alan Wiggins Here’s a graph in need of a correction:

Major league executives, whose teams were often torn apart by drug use, had the least power to act. Ballard Smith was president of the San Diego Padres when they advanced to the 1984 World Series. Two key players on the team, Alan Wiggins and Eric Show, developed addictions. They were let go and later died as a result of their drug abuse.

The cases of Alan Wiggins and Eric Show are completely different.

Wiggins had a drug problem that first became public in April 1995, when he failed to make the starting line up for a series against the Los Angeles Dodgers (assertion based on personal memory). In June of that year, he was traded to Baltimore. Within a year or two, he was out of baseball. He died at age 32, but not from drug abuse. Wiggins had contracted AIDS.

Eric Show, who was a friend, didn’t start using drugs until several years later. Show’s addiction started with a team doctor’s pain killer perscription when he was with the Oakland A’s. He didn’t start abusing illicit drugs until he was out of baseball (or so it was reported at the time of his death; I’ve been unable to find a confirming link).

So, Lee Jenkins has made a few mistakes here. First, he implies that Wiggins and Show developed addictions while they were on the team. Probably true for Wiggins, but not for Show. Second and third, he seems to be saying that both Wiggins and Show were released because of drug addiction. Wiggins was traded (not released, or “let go”) in 1995, but Show was with the Padres for another six seasons before going to Oakland for one season. Fourth, Wiggins died from complications related to AIDS, not drugs. In Show’s case, sadly, it was drugs. Show had been out of baseball for three seasons at the time of his death.

As I was writing this post, I noticed that this story originally appeared in the New York “Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of A Good Story” Times, so I shouldn’t be surprised that so much here is so wrong.
UPDATE: Here is the response from the NYT to this post.

Dear Mr. Owens:

Thank you for your email, which was forwarded to me by the public editor’s
office. I certainly don’t want to quibble over the circumstances of
anyone’s death or their use of drugs, and we don’t want to be wrong about
it either.

As I’m sure you understand, the paragraph that you pointed out truncates
history to get to the larger point of the story. But, despite the
inferences you drew, I don’t share your belief that the paragraph is
inaccurate.

After double-checking record books and Internet sites, it seems to me that
it’s fair to say that both Wiggins and Show were “let go” in the sense that
Show was let go as a free agent (and then signed with the A’s for a
substantial pay cut) and Wiggins was traded for a minor-leaguer at a time
when he had one of the biggest contracts in baseball.

Wiggins did die from complications related to AIDS, but it was contracted
through the use of drug needles.

That leaves the question of when Show was caught in the grip of drug
addiction. Frankly, I’m not sure how to prove it one way or another and if
we can find evidence that we were in error, we would publish a correction.
But we can’t publish a correction without certainty that we were wrong and
I haven’t been able to find it.

I’ve attached a link below that gives the best synopsis I’ve seen of their
troubles.

Best regards,
Tom Jolly
Sports editor
The New York Times

I think with the Times’ resources, resources I don’t have, they could access the archives of the Union-Tribune and maybe even the San Diego Reader to the coverage of Show’s death. Also, Show’s family could clarify the record. Finally, I don’t buy the concision argument. I know journalists do it. I know I used to do it. But it’s never an excuse. Even in concision, you have an obligation to be accurate. The Times may not want to face reality, but the paragraph as written creates a record that leaves a false impression. As somebody who considered Show a friend, I’m particularly offend at the implication that he had a drug problem earlier than has ever been reported before, especially since by the Times’ own admission, they can’t substantiate it. Note: I’ve chosen to leave out the links Tom sent along because they are both easy to find and really don’t add anything to the discussion — the information provided is just the same kind of concision the Times is justifying.

Better eye sight through steroids.

A friend brought this article to my attention. It is about a guy who decided to experiment with steroids and found, to his amazement, that his eyesight improved. In fact, he was able to stop wearing glasses.

You don’t think improved eyesight would help a major league hitter, do you? Like, oh, I don’t know, somebody who seems incredibly disciplined at the plate and is able to recognize pitches quickly and easily. Even better than he did early in his career. Somebody, like maybe, Barry Bonds? Just a thought.

This is an issue of steroid use, as my friend pointed out, that you don’t hear discussed often. Not often enough, I think.

Cheats should be banned

Over on Welch’s Warblog, I left a comment offering a comparison between steroid-hyped batters cheating the game and gamblers cheating and was pretty roundly rebutted. Kevin Featherly treads the same path, but with a subtler juxtaposition and better results.

Some deny that this is a crisis, fashioning it is a mere embarrassment. But why would anyone imagine that throwing a World Series to gamblers in one year (1919) constitutes a greater travesty than handing an immortal record like Hank Aaron’s home run championship–the most famous, most notable achievement in all sport–to someone who has bought and paid for the pharmacological, bioengineered fountain of youth?

Is there anyone left who believes that illegal chemicals are not the sole reason that Barry Bonds has hit more home runs after age 35–the age that the human body naturally begins to lose muscle mass–than Roger Maris, a two-time American League MVP, hit in his entire career?

The analogy between gambling and steroids may be imperfect, but the impact on the game is equally devastating, so why not ban steroid users? As Kev points out, there is precedent in the Jenkins and Howe cases. I’m solidly behind lifetime bans — ones equally harsh as those meted out to Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. And I stand by my statement that if you’re not going to ban an artificially enhance masher, then you have no business banning Rose. For one thing, arguably, what the steroid users are doing is far worse than anything Rose is accused of.

As for John McCain and the rest of the feds getting involved in the issue, I say, “NO!” This is a matter for private enterprise to work out for itself. If the owners and the players won’t fix it, then the fans need to decide if they’ll stick with the game (enough will, I imagine to keep MLB profitable). I do hope baseball decides one way or the other, though — either it’s legal or it ain’t. There should be no more of this wink and a nod attitude. Fans, those who choose to stick with the game, have a right to know who’s doping and who isn’t.

When the game mattered

When I was a kid, going to the baseball game was a very different aethetic. There was an Hammond organ. There were people cheering and clapping. But there was no rock and roll. There were no theme songs for each batter. There was no “Hell’s Bells” for the closer.

Fans also didn’t do the wave.

The old days had it advantages. Then, it seemed the gamed mattered more than the entertainment. If the fans wanted a rally, they started the rhytmic clapping themselves. When a hit was called for, we yelled “We want a hit.” The scoreboard didn’t offer cue cards. As a fan, you had to follow the game if you wanted to do more than sit on your hands.

And fans didn’t do the wave, which is the dumbest non-cheer in sports.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

A Baseball Post

I’m pretty happy with how the Padres (13-9) are doing so far this season. But the other bad team gone good story this year is Detroit. I thought I would take a look at their roster and maybe do a post on why … but then I looked at Alex Sanchez’s stats.

Can you answer this question? Maybe Matt Welch can. How do you get an OBP that is LOWER than your batting average?

As I write this, Sanchez is hitting .350 after 60 ABs. His OBP is .344. He has no walks. But still … a lower OBP?

Sanchez is about as anti-moneyball player as you can find. Only 3 SBs, and he’s been caught twice. Only 12 runs scored and 7 RBI. Sabermatric types don’t get too worked up over Ks, but I do. Sanchez has struck out 15 times.

The Tigers are 12-9. I wonder how many wins Sanchez has cost his team?

Welcome to the AFL

arena football leagueI attended an Arena Football League game for the first time. I had four free tickets, but the only person I could con into going with me was Steve Smith.

All of you who turned me down, you didn’t miss much.

For the fast pace, AFL is an extremely boring sport. Nearly ever pass is a completion, nearly every possession a score and hardly anything ever goes wrong. There is little tension, and zero drama. About half-way through the second quarter, Smith and I retired to the Staple’s sports bar where he could watch his Dodgers and I could watch my Padres.

The bar was dead. In fact, the staff was busy closing up — no customers, they all go home.

We talked with one of the bar tenders about it, and he told us that the bar was usual dead during Avengers games, whereas when the Lakers are in the house, the bar is jumpin’. Funny, I thought, initially, it should be just the opposite.

But when I returned to my seat and looked at the people around me — obviously, not the LA elite, not the wealthy, but families and blue collar types, it struck me — the AFL appeals to the kind of crowd that spending their hard-earned money on a game ticket, they’re going to watch the game, and not waste $10 on a whisky sour.

I’ve been reading (actually, now, re-reading) a great book by Clayton Christensen called “The Innovator’s Solution.” It’s all about how entrepreneurs grow businesses — successful growth comes from finding a product or service that either isn’t available, but people want or need, or the available product or service is either too expensive or too inconvenient to use. Such products or services are called “disruptive innovations.”

When Southwest Airlines started their point-to-point flights at low costs, they introduced a disruptive innovation into the marketplace. Southwest wasn’t competing against bigger airlines. Southwest was competing against busses and cars. They were making airline travel for short trips cheaper and easier. That’s why the business grew so quickly.

The Arena Football League is also a low-end disruptor — selling a product to a class of people who want to enjoy live sports, but can’t afford NBA prices, and maybe find MLB a little slow.

The big mistake I see the AFL making though is being locked into deals were concession prices are outrageously high. The AFL could probably appeal to even more families if the price of four dogs and sodas was in the $10 to $12 range, instead of exceeding $25.