Sports Illustrated runs a small piece each week called, This Week’s Sign That The Apocalypse Is Upon Us. Often funny and always eye popping; it lists incredibly bad decisions or actions from all areas of the sports world. It’s one of the features I immediately turn to when the magazine arrives in the mail. Every once in a while, I have my own ideas about something that should be listed, like the Little League All Star team I recently saw that had four players wearing the following numbers: 02, 05, 07, 08. Or the marketing of a weekday afternoon game by an MLB team that encouraged students to “Play hookey from school.” I didn’t have to wait for my SI this week, however, as FOX Sports and fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers gave early notice.
On Saturday, during steroid cheat Manny Ramirez’s second game back after serving a fifty game suspension, FOX cut away from their Mets-Phillies broadcast to show each of Manny’s at bats against the Padres. Just as they would if a player was chasing 3,000 hits, 500 HR or some in-season record or streak. In other words, FOX afforded Ramirez, the first big star to violate MLB’s current policy, the same treatment given the likes of Henry Aaron, Rod Carew or George Brett. That no one at the network thought this was a bad message to send is shameful.
And what of the Dodger fans that drove to San Diego to cheer their hero from underneath their Manny wigs? This is the same guy that had no concern for his organization, teammates or fans while he was so carelessly using the PED’s that forced his suspension. Do you think any of them experienced such strong feelings of forgiveness when Alex Rodriguez was caught? Or Roger Clemens? To single out the fan base of any one team is unfair, though, as steroid cheats are welcomed back by fans throughout the game as long as they are productive. Something to keep in mind the next time someone gets his shorts in a bunch about whether any of these guys belong in the Hall of Fame. No matter how many times fans say, “No”, their actions tell a completely different story
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Speaking of Manny, is anyone smiling more than Red Sox GM Theo Epstein? Last year, faced with the impossible task of getting equal value for one of the game’s superstars, Epstein not only removed a problem from his clubhouse but replaced him with Jason Bay, currently the AL’s RBI leader.
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All right, I’ll admit it. I did watch much of the fifth set of the Wimbledon Men’s (I’m sorry, Gentlemen’s) Final on Sunday. In what turned into a marathon contest, Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick for his record setting 15th Grand Slam title. One thing that made no sense to me, however, was that the fifth set went thirty games as Federer finally prevailed 16-14 while, in contrast, Federer posted 7-6 victories in sets two and three via tiebreakers. My question is, how can a championship event be governed by two sets of rules? Some will say that a title shouldn’t be decided by a tiebreaker. I get that. Others point out that, without the tie breaker, sets two and three could have gone as long as the fifth. Another valid point. But neither explains away the silliness of two different rules being used in the same match. Isn’t it possible that Roddick may have won one of those sets absent the tiebreaker? Whatever your opinion, I’ve already spent entirely too much time discussing tennis.
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Many are impressed by the intensity that Jimmy Rollins brings to each of the Phillies’ matchups with the Mets. That he is able to raise his game to such a high level during every meeting with his hated rival is amazing. I’m wondering, however, if Philly brass is a little annoyed that he’s batting about .200 against the rest of the NL. They’re paying him to play against every team, aren’t they?
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So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. Despite Joba Chamberlain’s tremendous success as a reliever, the Yankees are adamant about keeping him in the starting rotation no matter how much he struggles. But, when it comes to Philip Hughes, they refuse to return him to his natural position as a starter because of his success in the bullpen. Huh?
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Complain all you want about MLB’s All Star selection process, and much of the griping is warranted, but every once in a while, they get one right. Such is the case this year with Tim Wakefield, a true professional and one of baseball’s good guys. Since bursting on the scene with the Pirates in 1991, Wakefield has fashioned a very impressive career, mostly in Boston, that has included just about everything except an All Star appearance. That it comes to him for the first time at 42 years of age is a thrill for his many fans, one of whom, I must confess, is me.
About twelve years ago, the Hausier’s Krowedum Fantasy Baseball League’s annual junket took its members to Fenway Park. Well, Boston actually, as more than a few of the boys never made it out of the Cask and Flagon. Those of us that did make it to the game found that our seats were in the first row behind the Bosox bullpen in right field. Wakefield wasn’t pitching that day and was hanging with the relief crew. Sometime around the fourth inning he came out to get a little work in and struck up a conversation with us. He proceeded to pull a chair up to the fence and spend the rest of the game as one of our contingent. He went into detail about the knuckleball; how he holds it and files his cuticles for a better grip. We laughed at his response to the question of his catchers’ opinion of the knuckler: “They hate my guts.” There were arguments over the worth of certain players in the game as he marveled at how our team loyalties dictated how we felt about different guys. When one of them, Bobby Bonilla, came up to bat, we bet him a hot dog that the ex-Met would strike out. Wakefield demanded we pay up after Bonilla’s double and happily downed the dog. I have no recollection of who won that game, but I still have the baseball he tossed me when it was over and won’t ever forget how much fun it was to watch a game while getting a big leaguer’s perspective. Here’s hoping AL manager Joe Maddon recognizes the opportunity to do something special and gives Wakefield the ball next Tuesday.