Where to begin. I’ve been mulling this over for a bit now and the words just seem to be.. empty. But seeing as how most of the responses to the steroid scandal have been empty, it’s fitting.
Many a sportswriter and fan have said “Oh, well the two championships are null and void now, so they might as well return the rings” and insanely dumb sh!t like that. Hey the Yankess had Sheffield, Clemens, Pettite and Canseco (on the bench) for a few of their championships and no one is telling them to return the hardware. Is Paul O’Niell less respected because he played with them or do we just suspect him now? Do we tell Torre he’s only half the coach he is because he managed those teams? Should we dial up LaRussa and tell him the legacy is cancelled becuase he won with both Canseco and MacGwire in Oakland? Should Lansford, Eck and Hassey be questioned now or just forced to hand in their rings?
I strongly believe the only way to end this charade is to publish that list. 103, 83 or somewhere between 1 and 50 depending on MLB and the player’s union story this week, it doesn’t matter. Publish it. Legalities be damned… the seal has already been broken and was as soon as the first name was leaked. At this point it’s appearing like some mean-spirited revenge tactic. Maybe Roger Goodell is behind it. Maybe it’s Pete Rose. Either way, these names will be popping up in the press for who knows how long. Obviously Baseball is scared… terrified is more like it. So far, the top tier talent of the ‘rebirth’ period has been exposed. You have just under ten names aside from the players exposed through other avenues and most have been record holders. Top ten record holders… top twenty record holders and what would have been future HOF’ers. Publish the list. Who ever is holding the list picks his or her spots very well. Don’t wait for one of the players to be voted in and two days before the induction ceremony at Cooperstown the NY Times breaks an ‘important’ story. Fearless Leader Selig wants to keep claiming he inherited the steroid era and it wasn’t his fault blah blah blah but as long as this story unfolds it’s his steroid era. Baseball was dead going into the ’98 season and Fearless Leader was the first one to masturbate with joy in the new ‘home run’ era which saved the game. Sosa and MacGwire were saviors and even though everyone said “Wow, they look a little bigger…” Bud and the owners simply put their fingers in their ears and sang “Oh-bla-dee-oh-bla-dah” all the while reconfiguring the free agency scouting system to include steroids in their factoring.
Now… the sh!t is hitting the fans in ballparks, homes and sports bars all over the country and splattering it’s way to Washington as well. You can take fans meaning the motorized air circulating kind or the ones who finance MLB by sitting in the seats, purchasing pay cable sports network subscriptions and of course penuts and crackerjack.
Which brings us to Big Papi. While this news shouldn’t stab us in the heart, it does none the less. Many a sportscaster and writer who actually care for their craft were stung. Manny was obviously no suprise, neither was his reaction. He gets paid either way. Sheffield, Clemens or Bonds? The games biggest a$$holes so no problems or really any surprises there. Giambi? You’d have been shocked if he wasn’t on the list or the Mitchell Report. Ortiz is what Cal Ripkin was… honest and appearing heroic. A role model. Kids love him and parents love him and he made fans love him through his dedication and play. Bam! Heartbreak. Shame. Tainted Love.
In 2003 a Minnessota bench player named David Arias became “Big Papi” David Ortiz, almost overnight and with such oomph that both Boston and The Twins went “Huh?” We struck gold. We picked up another low cost player with some really high reward. Why? Obviously he just wasn’t getting the playing time in Twinkieville… change of venue… new hitting coach? Um, David? Okay.. supplements. Now, before I go into any form of attack mode, I’ll take a deep breath. We’ve heard this before. “I wasn’t sure what I was taking… Everyone was doing it… Bud Selig passed the needles out at his New Years party…” If there’s a steaming pile of bullsh!t, there’s a member of the MLBPA (or more recently NFLPA or NBAPA) to shovel it. You’re a two million dollar a season minimum athlete (league minimum), never mind an all-star who makes like ten times that and rakes in additional millions from advertising locally and nationally and sells #34 jerseys all day long in the official shop (and on-line at bostonredsox.com of course) and you didn’t know what you were putting into your body? Your temple? Your means of income? Yeah, you got them here, you got them in the D.R., so on and so forth. I called bullsh!t with A-rod and his piss poor sob story and do so with yours. The difference being? A-Rod lied multiple times when asked on TV (and lying to Katie Couric will not do you any favors) and gave a dissapointing half-a$$ed tale to The Godfather of Baseball Peter Gammons (who sadly let him cake-walk on it) blaming youth and stupidity… Ortiz denies ever taking steroids. A-Rod lied and came around when he got caught. Ortiz, still denies it and does so passionately. Yes, he took supplements and didn’t know the whole story of what was in them. A pass? F^@% no, but at least there’s what could be derived as some truth. To date, he is the only named suspect to “search for the truth”. He went as far as to call a press conference in conjunction with the new MLBPA boss to say he can’t access the truth. But if there is one thing Big Papi and his reputation have offered, like a famous Vulcan first officer of the starship Enterprise, he doesn’t lie.
There is one thing. At the beginning of the pre-season Ortiz made some statements (as we have all heard again and again) about the use of steroids and ideas on penalties for such. Well, when his best friend and ex partner in crime was busted for apparently being trying to get pregnant, David was very quiet. Sure Manny is a friend and all, but principles are principles… aren’t they? After all, when the players held the team meeting at the trade deadline of ’08 to decide Manny’s fate it unanimously 100% no doubt in favor of trading him. Ortiz himself was ‘tired’ of the antics and the effect on the team. Now Manny has violated a sacred trust Papi has with the ethics of the game and the trust of the fans… and is speechless? Were they sharing supplements? Was there more to it? Was the writing on the wall for Papi’s involvement going public? Is that why Papi has been so dreadfully below average this season? Only Papi knows for sure.
That is the past… let’s dream for a moment and think of the future.
It was mentioned a while back that if the Sox couldn’t land Big Tex in the FA Market, they could possibly make a monster push for Albert Pujols in the next few years when he hits the market (remind you, this was mentioned before Tex landed in NY). Good idea? Sure, great idea! Not going to happen, but it sounds sweet. If Pujols ever plays a game in a uniform other than the Cards red and white, Busch Stadium will burn to the ground. He’s a mainstay for the city not just the team. You have to imagine Pujols will be getting A-Rod money easily and St. Louis is already saving up the war chest. Both he and Holliday look to be the next Maris & Mantle, Papi & Manny for years to come (while I fear the hopes for such with Tex & A-Rod will fall short of the lofty NY expectations) if they pay for them. St. Louis, like Boston is rich in tradition and loyalty so I can see it happening.
But what about Prince Fielder? Sure, he’s a house and more appropriately a powerhouse. Like his dad. I remember several times the Sox ‘Hot Stove’ bubbling over in Big Cecil news. Sure, we signed Jack Clark, Andre Dawson and others when Big Cecil was the talk of the league.. but hey, like Frank Viola said the Sox were were in transit
ion in the early ’90’s and those were the thin years. Not thin moneywise, we wasted that money on Jack Clark, just thin talent wise. Viola, Clemens on the original downslide, Tony Pena and then….. yeah. Every trade deadline, yep, talk of gettin’ Cecil… putting big #45 in Red Sox red, white and blue. But we rented Rob Deer or an older Tom Brunansky instead. (in no way a shot to Bruno who was greatly appreciated during both his terms of service in Red Sox Nation or Deer who was great guy and power hitter who though below average worked his butt off) Big Cecil was… well, Prince Fielder. A little older, a little bolder, but a power hitter and a presence in the line-up. Prince is a little rough around the edges just as his dad was, but he’s progressing a lot faster and without having to go to Japan to do it. Like his dad he’s not the most mobile of first-baggers but he does the job and is designed to help fill in for the DH spot in the AL. Perhaps the Sox should finally sign Fielder to the roster. Better late than never? No, just better.
Imagine Prince nailing those 450 foot or better bombs in the friendly confines of Fenway Park. Over the Monster. Off the Monster. Reaching out to Teddy Ballgame’s red seat in the right field bleachers… or beyond? Shades of Jim Rice. Papi may be cooked and Lowell, though still hitting well, is slowly on the outs as an everyday fielder and could be filling the DH slot more often… so imagine a line-up built around Youk at 3rd, Prince at 1st, Bay in Left with Vic behind the plate… with Petey and Jacoby and the revolving SS/RF position? Quite a line-up. Now I realize we have Lars Anderson down in the minors but hey who knows… Not major every prospect turns into a future HOF… and then again some do. We’re dreaming here, right?