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The View from the Cheap Seats

May 8, 2008 under Cheap Seats

When the Mitchell Report was first released in December, many speculated that the mere mention of a player’s name would serve as its own punishment. We had already seen what the consequences of even suspected steroid use would be when Mark McGwire became eligible for the Hall of Fame. The man who broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record and slugged over 570 in his career was remembered more for his selective memory during a congressional hearing than he was for his exploits on the field.
Possibly because of McGwire’s example, or maybe due to the desire to put the cloud of performance enhancing drug use behind them, player after player came clean and admitted their guilt. After all, hadn’t Jason Giambi gotten himself back into the fans’ good graces with an apology? From former player Fernando Vina to current star Andy Pettitte, many of those named copped to the charges and moved on. And why not? Senator Mitchell himself had advised Commissioner Bud Selig that no sanctions be handed down to any active players named in his report. It was time to cut losses and move on.
Roger Clemens, however, decided to fight. In what has become an incredibly tragic display of arrogance, Clemens has staunchly insisted that he never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind and that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Ironically, since he first characterized himself as a victim, he has steamrolled down a destructive path leaving a long trail of his own victims.
First, there was the libel lawsuit filed against former trainer, Brian McNamee. Then, after demanding his day in court, he appeared before a congressional committee and firmly stated that Pettitte, who had confirmed all of McNamee’s accounts of their relationship, had misremembered their conversations, stopping just short of calling his good friend a liar. It was during this hearing that it was revealed that Clemens’ wife had used steroids. Regardless of his innocence or guilt, the Mitchell Report was no longer Roger’s biggest problem.
Now, we find out that Clemens carried on a long-term affair with country singer, Mindy McCready, which started when he was 28 and she was only 15. Once again, Roger denied any wrongdoing while, at the same time, McCready confirmed everything. Perhaps the most amazing part of the whole saga is that much of the focus seems to be on the affair itself rather than the fact that it may have been carried on with a minor.
So, to recap, in December, Clemens was suffering the embarrassment of being named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report. Now, because of his misguided and unsuccessful attempts to discredit any and all who accused him, he is being investigated by the Justice Department as to whether he committed perjury. The IRS is investigating his finances to determine if he purchased steroids. His wife’s steroid use has been exposed, it has now become known that he is possibly guilty of statutory rape, and his chances of ever being voted into the Hall of Fame are virtually gone. His reaction to all of this? Everyone else is lying. Our reaction? Clemens has now joined Barry Bonds as the face of the steroid era in baseball.
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When Moises Alou went down with a hernia during spring training, the Mets’ general manager, Omar Minaya, came under a lot of fire for trading away prospect Lastings Milledge to the Nationals during the off-season for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Now, however, just a month later, Church is probably the Amazins’ MVP. Displaying not only the proficiency versus left-handed pitching that was the biggest mark against him in Washington, he has also shown himself to be an excellent defensive outfielder with a cannon arm. That such a strong defensive catcher like Schneider was also acquired in the deal makes it one of Minaya’s best.
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Is there a more exciting basketball player in the world right now than Chris Paul? He currently has the entire New Orleans Hornets squad strapped to his back as he barnstorms through the NBA playoffs. It has been a long time since a point guard has been able to dominate games the way Paul has all season long. He gave notice of an official changing of the guard during the first round as he made the Mavericks’ Jason Kidd look very old, averaging close to 30 points per game while dishing out more than 10 assists per contest. Dare I call him the best since Magic Johnson?
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Growing up, I played ball all over Brooklyn. From Shore Road to Bay 8th Street, from the Parade Grounds to Marine Park, I traveled the length of the borough to get to games. Actually, I was a passenger on all of those trips since my Mom did a lot of the driving. And sitting. She did a lot of sitting. She sat down the line in an overcoat during those April games when the weather had forgotten that it was springtime. She sat under an umbrella on those hot days in August to watch me pitch when she could have been at the beach. To me, it was her job in a way. I couldn’t drive, so how else was I supposed to get there? Now, as an adult with a parent’s perspective, I appreciate her being there more than I’ve ever told her. She taught that you can’t give your children anything more valuable than your time. Thanks, Mom.
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When my oldest was 9, he made his pee-wee football all-star team and was excited about traveling to Virginia for a “bowl game.” That is, until we realized that the game was the day after his aunt’s wedding and he assumed he would have to miss it. My wife, however, would hear none of that. Realizing how important it was to him, she decided that after leaving the reception on Long Island at midnight, the kids could sleep in the car as we drove through the night to Newport News, Va. in order to get our son to his 9 a.m. game. Exhausted, she was the prettiest mom on the sideline, still in her hair and makeup from the wedding.
I learned a lot that day, just as I’ve learned a lot sitting with her through all of the ball games and competitions in which our children have participated. There have been championships and heartbreak, a lot of travel and many weekends where the grass grew too long in the backyard or the laundry didn’t get done. Through it all, she has always maintained that we only have a short time to enjoy watching the kids be kids and that we can’t miss it. She has made the whole ride more fun for all of us. Happy Mother’s Day, Gin, from a guy who clearly outkicked the coverage on his wedding day.

The View from the Cheap Seats by Eddie Mayrose

May 1, 2008 under Cheap Seats

It’s called the most exciting two minutes in sports.  The Kentucky Derby, an event I watch every year even though thoroughbred racing is far from an area of expertise for me.  I’ve always wanted to understand the sport of kings well enough to be able to have some idea as to who I’m putting my money on come Derby day.  Unfortunately, I’m as capable of handicapping a horse race as I am to perform open heart surgery.  I usually just bet on the horse whose name I like the best.
So, seeking a bit of an education, I headed to the local OTB hoping to gain some insight into this year’s run for the roses.

Luckily for me, ( I think), I ran into three veteran horse players more than willing to share their extensive knowledge with me but not as forthcoming when asked for their names, choosing instead to identify themselves only as Johnny Gaga, Oakie and Philly Wrinkles.  Undeterred, I explained to them that most of the gambling I had done on the horses had been limited to five dollar pools at work or family parties and that I needed a little advice if I was to place an intelligent wager on this year’s race.

The first thing I learned was that you’d better have a little time on your hands when you ask guys like this for their opinions.  They’re a little passionate about the subject.  They began by recalling numerous wins and losses caused by a variety of criteria involving jockeys, horses, trainers and track surfaces. They indoctrinated me as to the meaning of some slang terms such as Juice (Lasix), Five Pound Bug (A weight adjustment based on the size of the jockey), Weeds (Grass surface), Blinks (Blinders), Changing leads (Something about the horse’s front foot; I thought he had two) and the downside of being “Caught on the wood behind a dead piece”  ( Being trapped inside the field near the rail behind a slow moving horse.)

Finally, after detailing at least one reason to like just about every horse in the race, they got down to their picks.  Wrinkles liked the filly, Eight Belles; a choice I quickly discounted as he seemed to be the type of guy that liked anything to do with females and I questioned his objectivity.  Gaga and Oakie were the logical two of the three and therefore more persuasive with their pick, Colonel John.  So, after all of this research, who am I putting my money on?  Court Vision.  I like his name the best.

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Last year, the Patriots and their affable, fun loving coach, Bill Bellichick, were caught red handed taping the defensive signals of the New York Jets during the season opener for both teams. After a lengthy investigation, Commissioner Roger Goodell levied sizable fines against the organization and Bellichick, himself.  It was further decided that they would forfeit their first round pick in this year’s draft; the 31st overall.  While the Pats also owned the 49’ers pick, which turned out to be the seventh overall, Goodell decreed that he was only allowed to strip New England of its own pick, not the better one. So, since the Patriots traded the seventh pick to New Orleans for the tenth pick as well an additional selection in the third round, could someone explain to me how they were actually penalized?

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The key number for the Jets in this year’s draft may very well turn out to be 37.  That is the total number of times that first round pick and new multi millionaire, Vernon Ghoulston, was able to bench press 225 pounds during the NFL scouting combine; sending the Jets into a “we have to have him” frenzy.  It is also the total number of tackles that Ghoulston made during thirteen games in his senior season at Ohio State.  A starting defensive end with 14 sacks who managed just 23 more tackles in an entire season. Hard to believe, but Gang Green has been seduced by workout demons in the past, most recently trading two first round picks in 2003 to move up and select defensive tackle  Dewayne Robertson in the fourth overall slot.  Despite the fact that Robertson was only voted 2nd team all-Conference in the SEC, the Jets decided he was the fourth best player in the nation and paid dearly for that evaluation.  Last week, after five highly forgettable seasons, Robertson was traded to the Broncos for an undisclosed draft pick. Smart money says it won’t be the fourth pick overall.

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Much has been written over the last decade about the practice of professional sports teams abandoning their standard colors for black alternate uniforms.  By now we all know that this is done strictly for purposes of merchandising and with no regard for their ridiculous appearance.  It is silly that the Kansas City Royals would wear any color other than royal blue and the black and gray clad Blue Jays actually have their color in their name.  One team, however, wears its black hat in violation of more than just good taste or common sense.  The Mets, who now sport an alternate helmet that features not even a hint of their standard orange anywhere in the logo, have thumbed their noses at their own tradition and heritage.  While multiple changes of  official colors by teams like the Rays, Padres, Astros and Diamondbacks are a simple matter of preference by ownership, the Mets’ original colors actually have a deeper meaning, one that is a tribute to the baseball history of New York City.  The uniform of the original Mets was designed to pay tribute to the three teams that came before them.  It incorporated the blue of the Dodgers, the orange logo of the baseball Giants and the pinstripes of the Yankees.  A fact lost on many of today’s younger fans; depriving them of a chance to baseball’s past in the Big Apple.

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