Friday, July 31, 2009

MLB Trade Deadline Flies Under the Radar

Last year, when Major League Baseball announced it had worked out a deal with most cable companies for their own TV station, I was over the moon. I honestly hadn't been this excited since JT Snow saved Darren Baker from certain death and the Giants appeared well on their way to their first World Series Championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958 (and if you're scoring at home, that would have been their first World Championship in my lifetime). This was like a dream come true for me, the television was going to pump baseball into my home 24/7. If I had insomnia one night, baseball would be there. If I was home sick from work, baseball would be there to keep me company. If I got home from a bender on South Beach at 4am, baseball would be right there waiting for me. I called Comcast immediately and asked the guy if this new channel was included on my package. He nodded. Ok, he didn't nod, he said yes...but in my head he was nodding along with me. He told me it would be channel 741. So, that night, I played the numbers 7-4-1 in the Pick 3. I still go to work everyday, so you know how that turned out. But there it was, in all it's glory- the MLB Network. Such a glorious thing.

The MLB Network had everything - live look ins at games around the country, a game of the week every week. And great guys talking about baseball (Mitch WIlliams and Dan Plesac are perfect for their segment). I'll admit, one of the things I was looking forward to most about this channel was today- the MLB trade deadline. I was going to take today off work and sit by my TV all day....parked on channel 741, watching the up to the second updates that ESPN would invariably be 30 minutes or so behind. MLB Network was made for days like today. Sure, I never get tired of watching game 6 of the '86 World Series or game 7 of the '01 World Series...heck, I could watch those two games on a continuous loop on a slow sports day just for giggles. But the trade deadline....that would be where MLB Network would truly suck me in.

Then a funny thing happened about a month ago. I got my cable bill....and it had doubled. I called Comcast. They said that my other deal was just an "introductory offer" and that my new bill reflected what I would now be paying. I was livid. So, I called AT&T, who was more than happy to accommodate me with a nice bundle package of Cable, Internet, home phone and cell phone service. They gave it to me at a great price (no BS introductory offer) and I was now going to have over 1,000 channels of programming. All forgot to ask was one little question. Oops. When AT&T hooked up my cable I explored all my new found channels. I had two TNTs, two TBS' (you know for the west coast child in me). I had the Big Ten Network (for no apparent reason). I also stumbled upon what appeared to be 16 different Lifetime movie channels. What I didn't find in the 1,036 channels was the MLB Network. I know this because I scrolled through......twice. That's right, 2,072 channel surfs and no MLB. I was crushed. So, I decided to work today, and just stream on my computer. Turns out, I didn't miss much. Recapping what turned out to be a relatively slow trade deadline week....

The Red Sox obtained a much needed middle of the lineup bat in Victor Martinez, who I believe will see more time at 1B than behind the plate. Jason Varitek has been very solid this season, while Mike Lowell has spent a good portion of the season on the DL and nursing injuries that tend to happen at his age. For you fantasy junkies out there, Kevin Youkilis will start seeing a lot more time at 3B, so you may get some position flexibility with him as the year goes on.

The Yankees countered this move with one of their own.....Jerry Hairston, Jr. The Yankees seem content with their current lineup...and they should. It's downright devastating. But their pitching is anorexicly thin and watching pitchers Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy and Jarrod Washburn get moved while they stood pat has to frustrate Yankee fans.

The White Sox, Twins and Tigers all made moves that should help them now, all without giving up a lot for the future. The Sox traded away 4 prospects to San Diego to obtain injured stud Peavy, but none of the prospects excite me. While the Tigers and Twins were able to fill holes with Washburn and Orlando Cabrera, respectively, without paying a king's ransom. It was more like a joker's ransom.

Seattle was the only team to make moves in the AL West, but not enough to catch the Angels or Rangers.

In the National League, the Phillies made the biggest splash, obtaining 2008 AL CY Young Award Winner Cliff Lee for peanuts. Add in that the Braves and Mets did nothing and the only fish the Marlins could reel in was Nick Johnson, and the Phillies should have little trouble repeating as NL East Champs.

While the Phillies made the biggest noise in the NL, I really like the under-the-radar moves of some other teams. The Dodgers, Cubs, Giants and Pirates all accomplished goals they needed to at the deadline. The Dodgers bolstered a porous bullpen by acquiring a solid reliever from Baltimore in George Sherrill. The Cubs bolstered a beleaguered rotation and bullpen in their acquisitions of Grabow and Gorzelanny. Meanwhile, by the bay, the top pitching staff in baseball, the Giants, finally added some offense in Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez. They did pay a decent price for Sanchez. But the Wild Card leaders needed offense to go with their top notch pitching.

While most of the talk revolves around the buyers and those that stood pat, the Pirates cashed in as sellers this year. Other teams gave away their players for pennies on the dollar....but the Pirates made sure that they received top-level prospects in exchange for their players. Most notably was San Francisco's Tim Alderson. A former 1st Rd draft pick of the Giants, Alderson has dominated at each Minor League stop he has been on. The pitching-rich Giants could afford to move him, but the Pirates got quite the haul here.

And before we finish up, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the St Louis Cardinals' pick up of Matt Holliday. They gave up 3 top notch prospects to get him. But I am sure Albert Pujols will be seeing a lot more good pitches to hit now that he has a solid bat in Holliday behind him.

I am looking forward to a great, exciting final two months of the season. Even if I have to do it without MLB Network.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Steroids, Hypocrisy, Baseball and the Media

I really wanted my very first column on this website to discuss this year's MLB trade deadline. But a funny thing happened on the way to writing the column....the NY Times released the names of two more baseball players that tested positive for performance enhancing 2003. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez allegedly tested positive during a random, what was supposed to be anonymous test to determine the extent of baseball's PED use....back in 2003.

In 2003, steroids and other PEDs WERE against MLB rules. Any arguments to the contrary are just not accurate. What MLB didn't have in 2003 was a testing program set up to catch these players and subsequently punish them. So, steroid use became rampant in baseball. (Not unlike football, mind you, but America seems content to sweep the drug problem in the NFL under the rug, as though it doesn't exist.)

The biggest problem I have with what is now being deemed the "Steroid Era" in baseball is the blatant hypocrisy with which it is being handled. Now, I am not about to absolve any player of his fair share of the blame. After all, no matter how much hypocrisy this has been handled with, nobody forced these players to do drugs. It's just like a teenager who dabbles in drugs, then claims peer pressure. You can blame the parents, the schools, the friends, siblings or whomever else you can pin it on....but at the end of the day, unless the child was held down and forced to do the drugs against their will, we all have a certain amount of will power that allows us to make our own choices, for better or worse. In this case, these players made a conscious decision to cheat. And for that, they are all guilty. But to only hold the players accountable for the mess that has ensued would be short-sighted and unfairly biased.

To only hold the MLB Team and Commissioner's office executives accountable, along with the players, would also be a miscarriage of justice. The media wants the fans to hold the players and executives accountable for the Steroid Era. And while that is true, what the media fails to do is take a long look in the mirror at the mess they helped create and facilitate. And, us fans are not without blame, either. Let me cite a couple of examples of how the media helped create this monster....the monster they now so quickly condemn.

ESPN (the Everything Sox and Pinstripes Network) begins running ads in 1999 entitled "Chicks Dig the Long Ball", depicting players hitting home runs and wowing the ladies. 2-1 games now a thing of the past and rendered "boring" because of the rampant steroid use, rather than investigate and bring the problem to light, ESPN makes light of it and encourages the new found "power surge" in baseball. Not that ESPN has ever been known for cutting edge, investigative journalism, but to now act outraged and shocked over the power surge in baseball is ludicrous.

Journalist "extraordinaire" Mike Lupica chronicles the great HR chase of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. He writes a book about McGwire and Sosa chasing Roger Maris' single season HR record and entitles it, "The Summer that Saved Baseball." A record that stood for 37 years and was never seriously challenged is suddenly not only threatened, but surpassed by two the same season. And rather than investigating why this might have happened, Lupica writes a romance novel on McGwire and Sosa that vaults to the top of the NY Times best seller list. Lupica makes a mint. Later, both McGwire and Sosa are linked to PEDs, and now Lupica in all is hypocritical glory, condemns the entire era in baseball.

The media, which hides behind the first amendment more than my 5-year old son hides during a game of hide and seek, and always uses "anonymous sources" to break stories now begs for the names of the players that tested positive in 2003....the tests that were anonymous, remember? But when the media asks, they claim they need the names because the public has a right to know. The same people that won't give up their anonymous sources for public interest, now use that same argument to get a list of people on an anonymous list. That reeks of hypocrisy.

Of course, none of that would matter if MLB would have actually conducted an anonymous test and destroyed the records after they got the information they used. But MLB managed to bungle that one, too.

But if we are to fully play the blame game when it comes to steroids in baseball, then we, the fans have to accept our own responsibility in the matter. We are America. We are the land of boycotts and protests. We protest a garden being ripped up for a new parking lot.....but yet we kept going to baseball games. In masses. When McGwire, Sosa and then Bonds all were chasing records, crowds flocked to games in record numbers. Even the Florida Marlins managed to draw better than their standard 5,000 fans for games when these players came to play. Bonds made an appearance on the David Letterman show a couple years ago, after the steroid rumors had hit their peak. Letterman asked Bonds, "Do you think people will stop going to baseball games because of all the steroid talk?" Bonds, smugly and arrogantly replied, "No. What else are they going to do over the summer?" Bonds was challenging us. He dared us to stay away from the ballparks. And how did we respond? We proved him right. We spent even more money taking our families to the ballparks to watch players we condemned around the water cooler. We spoke about players of the past and how they "did it the right way". Really? they did? The high and mighty Hank Aaron and Willie Mays? They've admitted amphetamine usage when they played. Just as illegal and performance-enhancing. But somehow. revisionist history gives them a pass.

I'm not sitting here saying what McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Clemens, ARod, Glaus, Ramirez, Papi and the hundreds of others did was right. But what I am saying is this - there is a lot more blame to be spread around than we are currently spreading. And to leave these players out of the Hall of Fame because they cheated actually cheats them, since we already have admitted cheaters in the Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Thank you for visiting the all new 24/7 sports blog website. This site will feature blogs and articles from not only myself, the self-proclaimed sports guru. But we will also have guest columnists periodically from sports radio personalities and other special guests. Look for contests and special prizes for 'Krak Addicts'.

Our first official blog will be tomorrow, July 30, 2009, as we take an in-depth look at the MLB Trade Deadline.

Welcome to your new 'addiction'.