Finally coming clean

Lance_floyd NEW YORK — Let’s just get it out of the way at the top… Lance Armstrong is going down and he is going down hard. It’s not unreasonable to believe that jail time could be involved for the seven-time Tour de France champion when the government concludes its investigation.

See, the United States federal government does not like it when a person lies to them. It is quirky that way.

But the thing the government dislikes the most is when it doesn’t get a cut of what it believes it has coming. You know, it wants to wet its beak with a tiny bit of the proceeds as tribute for signing off on that whole Bill of Rights thing. Freedom isn’t free, as they say. It costs a mandated percentage of your yearly income unless you make so much money that you can pay an accountant to talk them down.

Think about it… when Michael Vick went to jail for nearly two years it wasn’t so much as for the dog fighting ring he was operating as it was because he didn’t pay a royalty. He served 21 months in prison for felony conspiracy in interstate commerce, which is a fancy way of saying he didn’t cut the government a slice.

What does this have to do with Lance Armstrong? Well, everything, of course. If the guy was riding for a team sponsored by the United States Postal Service, a government agency, and used the equipment supplied to him to sell for performance-enhancing drugs, well, that’s trouble. In fact, it was alleged last year by his former wing man, Floyd Landis, that Team USPS funded its drug habit by selling its equipment. This was realized, according to the accusations, when Landis wanted a training bike and couldn’t get one.

That training bike was injected as EPO.

Regardless, that’s not what this is all about. When word came out that Armstrong’s closest teammates, George Hincappie and Tyler Hamilton, testified for the federal grand jury it was pretty damning. It meant that the United States feels it had been defrauded.

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Manny being Manny was always predictable

Manny-Ramirez So, are we supposed to be surprised by Manny Ramirez at this point? After all, that whole Manny being Manny bit was passé at least two teams ago.

Indeed, if Manny being Manny, he’s predictable.

Yawn!

Really, how could anyone be surprised with the way in which Manny finally met his demise, and for those who believe it came on Friday with his sudden retirement and an apparent second drug-test violation. The truth is Manny was exposed not by his first failed drug test, but by his stat ledger. When he returned from his 50-game ban in 2009, it turned out that Ramirez was just a good hitter.

He wasn’t anything more than that—good, not great.

“Might have been running out of bullets,” said Ramirez’s former batting coach, Charlie Manuel. “Father Time was catching up to him.”

Yeah, Father Time can be a real pain in the ass. He’s one of those miserable old dudes that needs punched in the face daily just to be kept in line. But even then Father Time doesn’t take the hint and eventually has his way. Even Jamie Moyer, the one ballplayer who seemed to organically fight back for the most extraordinarily, finally caught the haymaker that put him down. Though Moyer says he’s going to rehab from Tommy John surgery and try and catch on somewhere in 2012, it’s safe to say that he will be the first 49-year old in sports history to make a comeback after reconstructive surgery.

Chances are Moyer might gain a few ticks on the ol’ fastball after the surgery.

Not Manny, though. He won’t be coming back ever again without first serving the time of his suspension as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. Actually, based on some of the reporting from the first time Ramirez drew a suspension for PEDs, the info seemed to suggest that he was a serial abuser. Here’s what we wrote the first time Manny went down in May of 2009:

A new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.

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Nothing has changed except for everything

Floyd_lance Nothing has changed. Up is not down, black is not white and there are no dogs sleeping with cats. The earth still spins on its axis and righteous indignation is still the rallying cry for losers.

The truth—a very mysterious and sordid concept these days—is still very plain. Today’s revelations notwithstanding, a cooked case is still crispy and charred just so.

But yes, I still believe that if Floyd Landis and his failed drug test from Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France were presented on the same standards of the rule of law, it would have been thrown out of court. I also believe that if Landis were a baseball player, a football player, a golfer or any other pro athlete outside of cycling, he would be on the field right now. Like anyone else in elite sports, Landis probably was not-guilty though he was never innocent.

Maybe this is where that righteous indignation line can be reinserted. After all, everybody gets screwed at one time or another. There’s no sense whining about it and I still do not care if Landis was cocktailing HgH with winstrol and deer urine all while freezing his rest-day blood in a hyperbaric chamber. The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution still exists. We all own it, but not if you like to ride a bike, win races or have your blood tested at the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in Châtenay-Malabry. 

Those guys…

Then again, a lot of us look pretty stupid right now.

The above section is what hasn’t changed. The part that has changed is everything else. One of the most incredible days of the Tour de France and exciting sports day I have ever seen is more than just a little tainted. Oh sure, Landis still says he did not use the synthetic testosterone he tested positive for (according to that French lab) during that fateful 17th Stage in 2006, but according to admissions published on ESPN.com by Bonnie Ford today, Landis used testosterone in previous editions of the Tour de France as well as HgH during the 2006 season.

In other words… never mind.

Oh, Landis came clean finally, unburdening himself in e-mails to cycling and doping officials and in an interview with Ford in which he claims to have started a systematic doping program in June of 2002 when he joined up with the U.S. Postal Service team. That team, of course, was the vestige of Lance Armstrong and his hand-picked manager, Johan Bruyneel, and it’s where Landis said he leaned all about the hows and whys of performance-enhancing drug use. It wasn’t just old fashioned steroids and syringes, either. Nope, Landis appeared to be more than just a dabbler.

He says he used EPO, a drug so effective it not only improves performance quickly, but it also has the potential to kill a guy if not used properly. He also admitted to using female hormones, diabetes medication and the tried-and-true blood doping, which is when a person removes some of his own blood and stashes it in a freezer only to re-inject it when seeking a boost. That’s some old-school stuff right there.

“I don't feel guilty at all about having doped. I did what I did because that's what we (cyclists) did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there; and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step,” Landis told Ford. “My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don't do it and I tell people I just don't want to do that, and I decided to do it.”

Certainly that’s not a statement we hear too many athletes make, let alone one who spent three years and approximately $2 million of his own money attempting to appeal his doping ban. Making the admission even more compelling is the fact that Landis says Armstrong—and many other of the top U.S. riders—were complicit and drug users just like him.

The accusations, of course, are where people start to take notice. It’s one thing to admit that you have done something wrong, but to point out the failings of others is something significant. There’s a word for people who do those types of things and that word is, “rat.” We’ll get to the rat thing in a moment.

Nevertheless, one rider who Landis says was a doper was Dave Zabriskie, who is currently leading the Tour of California. Zabriskie was a roommate and training partner with Landis in Spain. It was in Girona, Spain, the training base for Armstrong and Landis, where it is said one of the world’s most famous athletes kept his blood in a freezer for doping. It’s also there where Bruyneel is said to have schooled Landis on the use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone.

Kind of like your readin', ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmatic of doping.

The bombshell is the stuff about Armstrong, but that goes without saying. Armstrong has long been accused and suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs in order to become the most decorated cyclist in the history of the sport, but he always fought back tenaciously pointing out that like Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, he never tested positive for drug use.

But no other rider has ever levied accusations against Armstrong, especially one as intimate to him as Landis. It’s one thing to hear whispers of Armstrong dumping Landis’ “rest-day blood” down a sink during the Tour de France to prove some sort of angry point, but it’s another completely to read the words of one of Armstrong’s closest teammates saying that he got drugs directly from him.

Landis told Ford that he gave Dr. Michele Ferrari, Armstrong’s personal trainer, $10,000 in cash for a season’s worth of doping. Six years ago Ferrari was convicted of fraud and lost his medical license in Italy, and Landis says the doctor personally extracted and re-injected his blood for him. Landis also said he and Armstrong discussed the efficacy of the then-newly developed test for EPO in 2002.

Floydwheelie “I didn't wish to take the risks on my own and especially since it was fairly clear that his advice was endorsed by Lance himself,” Landis told Ford. “And therefore Johan and the other guys that knew of it and were involved—working with him, they'd understand the risks that I was taking as well and therefore trust me.”

Trust. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it? Why, after all these years, does the guy talk about this now? After years of refusing to cooperate or name names—you know, steadfastly choosing not to be a rat—why is Landis ratting out the old gang? After all, before he had everything to lose and yet kept his mouth shut. At least we think he kept his mouth shut though Armstrong told reporters in California this morning that he had been receiving “harassing” messages from Landis for quite some time.

Still, this morning Armstrong never said, “Floyd is a liar.” He also did not say, “I didn’t do it.” Maybe that’s beside the point.

"It's our word against his word," Armstrong said instead. "I like our word. We like our credibility. Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago."

What about Armstrong or the cycling union? Do they have any credibility? Who believes any of them at this point anymore? Armstrong might like his credibility, but it's not like Landis is the only person saying the seven-time Tour champion is a doper.

That list is long and varied.

But really… why now? Landis says he doesn’t expect anyone to believe him and it’s almost impossible for him to become a bigger pariah than he already is. The money is gone, his wife left, and his book is nothing more than a bunch of paper with words on them that are meaningless. Worse, he had to call up his mom in Lancaster County and tell her the truth.

What good is that going to do now? No team is going to hire him, the money isn’t going to come back and divorce is like toothpaste already out of the tube. When Armstrong said this morning that Landis has no credibility, it’s difficult to counter. That’s especially true when Landis admits that he does even have concrete proof and there is no paper trail or smoking gun—just some names, dates and details.

Truth? Who knows?

“I want to clear my conscience,” Landis told Ford. “I don't want to be part of the problem anymore.

“With the benefit of hindsight and a somewhat different perspective, I made some misjudgments. And of course, I can sit here and say all day long, ‘If I could do it again I'd do something different,’ but I just don't have that choice.”

No, there’s always a choice. Just because the world is a rat race doesn’t mean a guy has to be a rat. Just because a guy likes to ride his bike and play sports doesn’t mean he has to prostitute himself. Life is full of choices and a man lucky enough to have the mind to make a conscious choice is hard to feel sorry for.

But that doesn’t answer the question…

Why? Why now?

No, nothing has changed, aside, of course, for everything.

The NLCS: Just Manny being useless

Easily one of the smartest reactions to the ending of the classic Game 4 came from our boy Meech over at The Fightins. Here, take a look:

I’m upset that I didn’t come up with it first. It pains my heart.

Along those lines, it’s being reported that the city of Philadelphia is greasing up the utility poles in case the Phillies win tonight in Game 5. This makes sense because when I was a kid and my team won the big game, the first thing I did was shimmy up a utility pole.

Needless to say, I was a crazy sumbitch on the ropes in gym class.

Speaking of crazy, I had a chance to talk to the great T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times and laud the man for his work. And yes, I’m being serious. The guy can flat write and the way he does it, he is literally walking on a tight rope. If he misses, it’s going to be ugly. Unfortunately for a lot of his targets, he doesn’t miss all that much.

Here’s what I like about T.J. the most (aside from the fact that he can write and he has cojones the size of watermelons) — he gets it. Sports are supposed to be fun. When we watch a game it’s not like we’re watching a scientist in the lab splitting an atom or attempting to mix compounds to find that elusive cure for cancer. No, it’s fun and T.J. has fun. He’s a writer making wise cracks… what’s not to like about that?

Better yet, he can take it. He knows that when he dishes it out, he’s ready for what comes back. Plus, he has to be doing something right in order to get people to react the way they do. I’m not saying it’s the lowest common dominator routine placating to fans and insulting their intelligence. That’s what other mediums in the sports realm do. That’s not fun—it’s mean.

Here’s the thing about T.J. that left me in awe and made me ask others, “No he didn’t… did he? Seriously, he did that?

image from fingerfood.files.wordpress.com Following the Phillies victory in Game 3 where the fans at CBP serenaded Manny Ramirez with chants of, “You did steroids!” T.J. marched over to the Dodgers’ clubhouse and asked the Dodgers’ slugger about the fans’ little sing-song tribute.

“Where did they get this crazy idea you took steroids?” T.J. asked Ramirez.

Needless to say, Manny was not amused. Then again, his teammates shouldn’t be amused by Manny’s most recent behavior as well as his play since he returned from his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Before his suspension, Ramirez was killing the ball. He had six homers and 20 RBIs in 27 games to go with a .348 batting average and an OPS into the stratosphere.

But after his suspension he hasn’t been as good. He had just 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 77 games with a .269 average. Considering that Ramirez never hit below .292 when he played a full season, .269 is quite a drop off. More notable, though, he really faltered down the stretch. In September and October, Ramirez hit just .218 with 14 RBIs in 25 games.

During the postseason Ramirez is hitting the quietest .276 ever. Sure, he homered in the fifth inning of Game 1 against Cole Hamels to bring the Dodgers into the game, but since then he’s managed just three singles in 13 at-bats with four strikeouts.

Manny has been marginalized.

That’s when he’s not taking a shower in the middle of the ninth inning of a one-run game in which his team could have tied the series at 2 and forced a trip back to Los Angeles. Conversely, starting pitcher Randy Wolf did not leave the dugout after he was removed from the game with one out in the sixth inning. Why would he? He wanted to help cheer on his teammates.

But not Ramirez. He needed to get clean, which is apt when one considers that he was termed “a pig” by a baseball executive. Nope, Manny is for Manny and since there are no pay checks handed out during the playoffs, why should he care?

Last month I trotted out the story about Manny being alerted to the arrival of Jim Thome to the Dodgers and responding that he never heard of anyone by that name.

To wit:

This comes from a guy we know who works in the Dodgers organization. He wrote us an e-mail because he thought the story would please us. He was right.

Hey fellas,
Hope all is well. Had a story for you that you might find kind of funny and that might go well on your site. Just leave my name out of it. So here goes: Alright so we all know that Jim Thome was traded to the Dodgers at the end of August, reuniting him with Ramirez after all those years in Cleveland. That’s all fine and dandy and all, but get this….. hours before the trade is made official news to the media one of the clubhouse coaches goes over to Manny and says “hey we’re bringing Jim Thome back here to play with you”. Ramirez looks at him, stares off into the distance for a few minutes. Our coach starts to realize that either Manny isn’t happy or he’s got no [bleeping] clue what is going on. Our coach couldn’t believe it was that though, since they played together for almost 10 years in Cleveland. Finally our coach says “Manny aren’t you happy about Jim coming to LA?”Ramirez looks him dead in the eye and says “I’ve never played with anyone named Jim.” Gets up, and walks away. No [bleep]. Our coach left it at that.

So why wouldn’t Manny be in the shower as his teammates were suffering through the worst defeat of the season or maybe even some of their careers. Heck, just add this to the absent-minded legend that is Manny Ramirez. You know, the guy who came back from a drug suspension only to post ordinary hitting statistics.

Total recall

image from fingerfood.typepad.com During the winter meetings in Las Vegas last December, I had the pleasure to be introduced to Eric Davis, the ex-ballplayer who very well might have had a Hall-of-Fame career nicked up by injuries and a bout with colon cancer. Nevertheless, as a high school kid I remember when Davis put together a hot start to the 1989 season where he mashed a career-high 34 homers.

It was during the late ‘80s where Davis was billed as the second-coming of Willie Mays

The next season Davis helped the Reds win the World Series, which he was famously remembered for diving to make a catch in the clinching Game 4 only to be carried off the field with a lacerated kidney. That injury kind of explains the tough luck Davis had during his career. One minute he’s an All-Star and helping his team win the World Series and the next he’s being left in Oakland with a lacerated kidney, having surgery AND THEN being diagnosed with cancer a handful of years later.

Anyway, Davis was at the winter meetings with the Reds where he serves as a special assistant to general manager Walt Jocketty. It was at the Bellagio one evening when we were introduced and I immediately started in on the guy.

“I remember a game when you were with the Tigers in Baltimore where you hit a ball so hard that it was on the way up when it hit the batters’ eye,” I told Davis while shaking his hand. “You really smacked the bleep out of that one.”

Davis barely paused and said, “Arthur Rhodes. It was a slider. Two-two pitch.”

Honestly, he was like the Rainman. I looked it up and he was exactly correct on the pitcher and the count, though there was no way to prove that it was a slider that Rhodes served up that September night in 1993. Either way, it was an impressive display from Davis, who based on that meeting proved to be a worthy winner of the Roberto Clemente Award during his playing days.

Now here’s the point – ballplayers remember. Oh sure, there are some details that get lost in the thousands of games that they play, but it’s hard to forget the really cool things. Hell, there aren’t too many moments of my little league, high school or wiffle ball career that I can’t retell in intricate detail. Sometimes I can remember exactly the way the grass felt or the air smelled on a day I might have gone deep at May Field or Bernhardt’s backyard.

Based on the conversations with Davis (oh, we were like a pair of savants talking about old ballgames from an era-and-a-half ago) I’m pretty sure ballplayers are able to recall all sorts of intricate details of old games. Actually, in some way that’s kind of the job of a ballplayer. The good ones like Davis – who had the quick, whip-like swing where he kept his hands way down low and seemed to wait almost until the pitch was in the catcher’s glove before he sprayed line drives all over the place – have to remember everything. It’s like poker in that a hitter has to be aware of a pitchers’ patterns, tells and repertoire. It works the other way around, too, with pitchers.

The reason I got to thinking about Davis and that trip to Las Vegas was because I read an interview with Roger Clemens where he says he’s considering whether to write a book. Clemens, of course, testified before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that several of his alleged compatriots in illicit performance-enhancing drug use.

According to Clemens’ testimony, his buddy Andy Pettitte “misremembered” a bunch of stuff. Hell, when asked Clemens didn’t even know what a vegan was and proved further vapidity by being unaware that his own wife had been injected with HGH by his own personal trainer.

Seriously, if the dude (a ballplayer at that) can’t remember that his wife was juicing, how can we trust him with a book? Besides, Clemens was a good pitcher known for his intricate preparation and fine attention to detail. Yet when Congressional committees come calling and grand juries convene, things get “misremembered.”

And this is a guy “thinking” about writing a book? What’s going to be in it…

Misrememories?

Say it ain’t Sosa… no really, say it

image from fingerfood.typepad.com My friend Mike was working on some formulas and quantum physics things that could, if the math is right, add more hours to the day. The month of February might be a casualty in all of this, but the other months will be symmetrical and we very well could end up with some extra time.

It should be noted that Mike is working on this in his free time, which kind of shoots his theory in the ass a bit, but otherwise, this is groundbreaking stuff. If anything it will give the baseball writer-types the much-needed time to watch things like the Joe Buck Live so we can ponder the host’s second favorite web site.

After the five minutes passes that it takes to understand the significance of the sports announcer’s show and the unnatural disaster named Artie Lange[1], we can take a nap with the report on Sammy Sosa and his alleged positive test acting as an organic Ambien.

I almost read the report in The New York Times about Sammy Sosa’s alleged positive test from 2003. I should say that I actually dialed it up on the Internets, looked at the picture of Sammy and Big Mark McGwire smiling together during that summer of 1998, and tried to get through the lede graf.

But then I couldn’t stop yawning. Not enough oxygen to my head, I guess. But the yawns came so frequently that it seemed like a good idea to get up and walk around a bit. Maybe grab a drink with a little caffeine to shake loose the cob webs. Then I could go back and sit down and get through the story.

Only when I tried again I dozed off. The weird thing about this was that I was sitting in the press box at the Phillies-Jays game. There were more than 45,000 people hovering about and there I was drooling on the keys of my laptop. I may have even sprayed Gonzo or Crasnick who usually sit next to me at the ballgames.

What are you going to do? If a Sammy Sosa getting popped for PEDs can’t hold one’s attention, what chance do innocent bystanders have?

Yet refreshed and rested, I forged on. Only instead of reading up on Sammy, I learned that Senator Barbara Boxer from California really has “a thing” about highly decorated military men calling her, “senator” as opposed to “ma’am,” or even, “Babs.”

The distinguished senator from California claims she worked hard for her title, which means she raised a helluva lot of money. In fact, Babs raised so much money that the great state of California has tax rates that make even ballplayers complain. Oh sure, those guys complain about anything dealing with taxes and money and government. Hanging in a baseball clubhouse is like being an insider at one of those minutemen brigades or something, only the fortified bunkers are loaded with therapeutic tubs and pools, a training staff and all the maple bats a guy could ever want. In the case of the Phillies, sometimes the common area of the bunker (aka, The Clubhouse) has an actual team of ballplayers in it after games, but most of the time the jocks are out-numbered by PR staff members by a rate of 5-to-1.

Anyway, take a look at ol’ Babs giving Gomer Pyle the business:

Oh, but there was one thing that had me rapt for approximately 10 whole minutes. In fact, I was actually excited to lounge on the couch and read the Sports Illustrated send-up on Charlie Manuel.

Sure, there weren’t too many new stories in the piece, and, in fact, I recall hearing one of them a few weeks ago. In the story Charlie even points out that he told the story a few days prior. Well, he told them to us in the dugout during the early afternoon meet-and-greet he does with the local writing press. The truth is, the guy loves to tell stories about Billy Martin and Japan, and frankly, we like to hear them as many times as he wants to tell them.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Charlie has a few other doozies that likely won’t see print any time soon and haven’t made it into the Sports Illustrated or HBO features. Actually, that raises a pretty interesting premise and that is Charlie likes to talk to the big-time national press.

Bryant Gumble, Frank DeFord and HBO? Sure, send ‘em over. Sports Illustrated? No problem – where is the fitting for the tux? A speaking gig warming up for Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Donovan McNabb? No problem, just get ready for the folksy charm.

So here’s the issue… is Charlie spreading himself too thin? Are the Phillies playing so poorly at home because of all the demands on their time from winning the World Series? Undoubtedly, Charlie and the rest of the Phillies will answer with a resounding, “No!” But think about it – how many national TV commercial ads were Phillies players starring in before they won the World Series? Before Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels became pitchmen, was there anyone else other than Mike Schmidt an Pete Rose?

It’s a wonderful thing winning the World Series, but damn if it ain’t time consuming.


[1] Just gonna say it: would anyone give a flying fig about the Joe Buck Live if Artie Lange had not been on it? If the answer is anything other than, “No,” you don’t get it.

What’s eating Raul?

image from fingerfood.typepad.com NEW YORK – The word came from the Phillies public relations staff that Raul Ibanez wanted to know if any of the regular scribes covering the team were interested in chatting with the slugging outfielder regarding the speculation of his performance-enhancing drug use. It was a curious thing considering Ibanez is always affable and willing to talk about nearly any topic.

That is, of course, if one can locate Ibanez. A tireless worker, Ibanez is always in the middle of doing something baseball-related, be it studying film, taking extra batting practice, stretching or getting a chiropractic adjustment. So to hear that one of baseball’s truly good guys offered, pre-emptively, to discuss something that was never an issue until a relatively anonymous blog post from a blogger with no access or credibility suggested that Ibanez’s hot start to the 2009 season could be chemically enhanced, was noteworthy.

But there were no takers. No, it wasn’t because no one wanted to talk to Ibanez. It was because no one wanted to talk to Ibanez about something that was never a story in the first place. Had folks in Philadelphia treated something called, “Midwestern Sports Fans” like they always did (you know… as if it never existed), perhaps Ibanez wouldn’t have offered to alter his pre-game preparations to talk about something that no one was even thinking about.

Yet since ESPN picked it up on Ibanez’s comments to the Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday, there was a low murmur around Citi Field about the “issue.”

“To be honest, I don’t want to talk about it,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

But even Manuel couldn’t resist.

“It upsets me,” he said. “I think if you’re going to put that out there he ought to have proof.”

Shane Victorino was less diplomatic, jokingly (maybe?) attacking the Internet and the advances in technology. The Phils’ outfielder pointed out that there are at least a dozen accounts on Facebook and Twitter in his name, but, “I never started one of them.”

That can lead to confusion, Victorino says, when family and friends see his name in places and want to connect with him. However, the biggest issue is the lack of accountability with some blogs. Because the blogger at the “Midwestern Sports Fans,” going by the handle, “JRod” never actually has to face any of his subjects nor ever sees how athletes like Ibanez go about their work, he has very little understanding of what damage his words can cause.

“It can ruin a guy’s life,” Victorino claimed.

It won’t get that far with Ibanez. Yes, he and the Philadelphia media understand how suspicion has invaded baseball. That’s the reality. But it also seems as if Ibanez was thinking about what some guy named “JRod” wrote before Wednesday’s game at Citi Field when he should have been thinking about facing the Mets.

How much does it cost?

manny_arodThe Dodgers are in town for three games starting tonight and of course that brings the inevitable talk about Manny Ramirez. Forget that Larry Bowa and Randy Wolf are back in Philly or that the Phillies and Dodgers will square off in a rematch of last season’s NLCS, the big issue is about who will not be playing.

Yep, that’s Manny just being whatever.

Here’s the thing about PEDs that no one really can quantify with any accuracy, and that is how much do they help (or hurt) a team? How many more home runs did Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez or anyone else hit because they used whatever it was that they used? How many more innings could a pitcher pile on because he was taking something illegal?

Along those lines, how many games will the Dodgers lose because Juan Pierre is playing instead of Manny Ramirez for the next 50 games?

Or, how many games have the Phillies lost this season with J.C. Romero serving his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance? Hey, manager Charlie Manuel said he would have used Romero to face the Braves in the seventh in the seventh inning of Sunday’s loss to the Braves. Instead the manager turned to Jack Taschner, who coughed up a pair of two-out runs on some chintzy hits.

So how many games has Romero’s suspension cost the Phillies this season?

It’s difficult to say because who knows what day-to-day issues the pitcher would have. Maybe he would have pitched in consecutive days and needed a day off? Or maybe he’d be used in the eighth instead of the seventh? Who knows? But for the sake of argument, let’s just say Romero would be 100 percent every game. In that case maybe last Sunday’s game against the Braves could have been saved by Romero.

Perhaps he would have pitched in the three-run eighth inning instead of Ryan Madson on April 17 in the 8-7 loss to the Padres. That’s doubtful, though. So for the sake of that argument, we’ll call it one game – one in 29 for a 15-14 club.

As for quantifying Ramirez absence, that’s a taller task. However, Ramirez is much more valuable to the Dodgers than Romero is to the Phillies.

*

Interestingly, there is a new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.

The report indicates that Ramirez’s representatives argue against the synthetic testosterone, instead saying the player used DHEA. In baseball DHEA is not banned, however, it is in other sports. For instance, last month well-known cyclist Tyler Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression.

Hamilton copped to knowingly using DHEA and instead of fighting the positive test, he retired.

Meanwhile, experts have questioned whether the HCG Ramirez said he took for a “health issue” could cause such a large spike in the testosterone to epitestosterone ratio.

According to the story:

The synthetic testosterone in Ramirez’s body could not have come from the hCG, according to doping experts, and so suddenly Ramirez had two drugs to answer for. Worse still for the ballplayer, MLB now had a document showing he had been prescribed a banned substance. This was iron-clad evidence that could secure a 50-game suspension.

So yes, it appears as if Ramirez has been caught red-handed. Now the question is, how long has he being using whatever it is he was using?

And what is the cost to the Dodgers? How about something pretty big, like credibility.

How much does it cost?

image from fingerfood.typepad.com The Dodgers are in town for three games starting tonight and of course that brings the inevitable talk about Manny Ramirez. Forget that Larry Bowa and Randy Wolf are back in Philly or that the Phillies and Dodgers will square off in a rematch of last season’s NLCS, the big issue is about who will not be playing.

Yep, that’s Manny just being whatever.

Here’s the thing about PEDs that no one really can quantify with any accuracy, and that is how much do they help (or hurt) a team? How many more home runs did Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez or anyone else hit because they used whatever it was that they used? How many more innings could a pitcher pile on because he was taking something illegal?

Along those lines, how many games will the Dodgers lose because Juan Pierre is playing instead of Manny Ramirez for the next 50 games?

Or, how many games have the Phillies lost this season with J.C. Romero serving his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance? Hey, manager Charlie Manuel said he would have used Romero to face the Braves in the seventh in the seventh inning of Sunday’s loss to the Braves. Instead the manager turned to Jack Taschner, who coughed up a pair of two-out runs on some chintzy hits.

So how many games has Romero’s suspension cost the Phillies this season?

It’s difficult to say because who knows what day-to-day issues the pitcher would have. Maybe he would have pitched in consecutive days and needed a day off? Or maybe he’d be used in the eighth instead of the seventh? Who knows? But for the sake of argument, let’s just say Romero would be 100 percent every game. In that case maybe last Sunday’s game against the Braves could have been saved by Romero.

Perhaps he would have pitched in the three-run eighth inning instead of Ryan Madson on April 17 in the 8-7 loss to the Padres. That’s doubtful, though. So for the sake of that argument, we’ll call it one game – one in 29 for a 15-14 club.

As for quantifying Ramirez absence, that’s a taller task. However, Ramirez is much more valuable to the Dodgers than Romero is to the Phillies.

*
Interestingly, there is a new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.

The report indicates that Ramirez’s representatives argue against the synthetic testosterone, instead saying the player used DHEA. In baseball DHEA is not banned, however, it is in other sports. For instance, last month well-known cyclist Tyler Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression.

Hamilton copped to knowingly using DHEA and instead of fighting the positive test, he retired.

Meanwhile, experts have questioned whether the HCG Ramirez said he took for a “health issue” could cause such a large spike in the testosterone to epitestosterone ratio.

According to the story:

The synthetic testosterone in Ramirez's body could not have come from the hCG, according to doping experts, and so suddenly Ramirez had two drugs to answer for. Worse still for the ballplayer, MLB now had a document showing he had been prescribed a banned substance. This was iron-clad evidence that could secure a 50-game suspension.

So yes, it appears as if Ramirez has been caught red-handed. Now the question is, how long has he being using whatever it is he was using?

And what is the cost to the Dodgers? How about something pretty big, like credibility.

Just Manny being Barry?

a-rod-and-mannyNEW YORK – I had planned a whole thing on the brand-new Citi Field and the Phillies’ first visit to the new digs in Queens, but Manny Ramirez kind of ruined that. Besides, at this point when new ballparks are popping up every season, including two of them in New York City, the shine is off the penny a bit.

So think about this – would there have been more fawning over places like Citi Field or the new Yankee Stadium if they were built 5-to-10 years ago? It’s been nearly 20 years since Camden Yards kicked off the whole retro-ballpark craze and now it appears as if every city that wants one has either built it or is set to begin construction.

Heck, even the Marlins are getting a new park for their six fans.

Here are a couple more things to ponder… are we going to be back replacing all these new ballparks in another 30 years like we were with the multi-purpose parks of the late 1960s and early ‘70s?

And if we keep shelling out the cash to build all these stadiums, are city skylines only going to hold the light fixtures and facades of ballparks? It seems like the only public funding put to the vote are to build stadiums… you know, screw bridges and roads.

Anyway, the Phillies and manager Charlie Manuel – a former mentor to Ramirez – were about as excited to talk about the latest drug suspension as they were the new ballpark. The most interesting part was while expressing sadness over the situation and fear over the harm the drug issues could cause to the sport, players generally indicate that players tied to performance-enhancing drug use have not had their accomplishments diminished.

They also don’t believe the game has suffered despite saying they want it cleaned up.

Meanwhile, baseball’s revenues and attendance has never been higher (excluding New York City, of course, where sellouts only occurred at the old ballparks), which seems to say that the fans don’t really give a damn about baseball’s issues.

Anyway, we’re not going to add to the pile of reflexive commentating regarding Ramirez and his positive test/50-game suspension since the finger waging appears to be taking care of itself. However, it is worth noting that the three top hitters of this era have all been tied/admitted/suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. In fact, one of the three has been indicted for perjury for his grand jury testimony about his alleged drug use.

Barry, Manny and A-Rod is hardly this era’s Willie, Mickey, and The Duke, huh?

Since baseball is a numbers game, let’s look at a few. For instance, nine of the top 20 home run hitters of all-time have played this decade, and six of those nine have been tied to PED use. The three who have not are Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr.

What do you think of that trio’s careers now?

How about this set of numbers – 22 players who have been on teams managed by Joe Torre have been associated with PEDs. Joe’s 22 are:

Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Mike Stanton, Dan Naulty, Darren Holmes, Jason Grimsley, Chuck Knoblauch, Glenallen Hill, Matt Lawton, Denny Neagle, David Bell, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Randy Velarde, Ron Villone, Ricky Bones, Rondell White and David Justice.

Can’t wait to dive into Tony LaRussa’s list…

Just Manny being Barry?

image from fingerfood.typepad.com NEW YORK – I had planned a whole thing on the brand-new Citi Field and the Phillies’ first visit to the new digs in Queens, but Manny Ramirez kind of ruined that. Besides, at this point when new ballparks are popping up every season, including two of them in New York City, the shine is off the penny a bit.

So think about this – would there have been more fawning over places like Citi Field or the new Yankee Stadium if they were built 5-to-10 years ago? It’s been nearly 20 years since Camden Yards kicked off the whole retro-ballpark craze and now it appears as if every city that wants one has either built it or is set to begin construction.

Heck, even the Marlins are getting a new park for their six fans.

Here are a couple more things to ponder… are we going to be back replacing all these new ballparks in another 30 years like we were with the multi-purpose parks of the late 1960s and early ‘70s?

And if we keep shelling out the cash to build all these stadiums, are city skylines only going to hold the light fixtures and facades of ballparks? It seems like the only public funding put to the vote are to build stadiums… you know, screw bridges and roads.

Anyway, the Phillies and manager Charlie Manuel – a former mentor to Ramirez – were about as excited to talk about the latest drug suspension as they were the new ballpark. The most interesting part was while expressing sadness over the situation and fear over the harm the drug issues could cause to the sport, players generally indicate that players tied to performance-enhancing drug use <em>have not</em> had their accomplishments diminished.

They also don’t believe the game has suffered despite saying they want it cleaned up.

Meanwhile, baseball’s revenues and attendance has never been higher (excluding New York City, of course, where sellouts only occurred at the old ballparks), which seems to say that the fans don’t really give a damn about baseball’s issues.

Anyway, we’re not going to add to the pile of reflexive commentating regarding Ramirez and his positive test/50-game suspension since the finger waging appears to be taking care of itself. However, it is worth noting that the three top hitters of this era have all been tied/admitted/suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. In fact, one of the three has been indicted for perjury for his grand jury testimony about his alleged drug use.

Barry, Manny and A-Rod is hardly this era’s Willie, Mickey, and The Duke, huh?

Since baseball is a numbers game, let’s look at a few. For instance, nine of the top 20 home run hitters of all-time have played this decade, and six of those nine have been tied to PED use. The three who have not are Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr.

What do you think of that trio’s careers now?

How about this set of numbers – 22 players who have been on teams managed by Joe Torre have been associated with PEDs. Joe’s 22 are:

Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Mike Stanton, Dan Naulty, Darren Holmes, Jason Grimsley, Chuck Knoblauch, Glenallen Hill, Matt Lawton, Denny Neagle, David Bell, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Randy Velarde, Ron Villone, Ricky Bones, Rondell White and David Justice.

Can't wait to dive into Tony LaRussa's list…

Hittin’ weather

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Crazy day at the old ballyard yesterday. So crazy that I had four different stories written during the game based on the outcome only to scrap them all when Raul Ibanez smacked his grand slam and when we learned Brad Lidge had an MRI, a cortisone shot AND was taking anti-inflammatory medication.

So yeah, crazy day at the ol' ballpark.

"Good ol' slugfest," Charlie Manuel said.

Charlie calls these early hot days "hittin' weather." He's certainly right about that considering the ball seems to travel a little bit longer when the winds are calm and the temperatures higher at Citizens Bank Park. Ibanez says he noticed the ball carrying well during batting practice earlier on Monday afternoon. But even Ibanez or Manuel would have had difficulty predicting the long shots belted by the Nationals and Phillies.

Not only did two shots clear the center field fence and strike the batter's eye (Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard), but the Nats clubbed two upper deck shots – one to left by Zimmerman and one to right by Nick Johnson – and blasted one onto Ashburn Alley by Elijah Dukes.

Clearly the Nats gained more yards in the air than the Washington football team did all of last season.

Though the Phillies offense seems to be clicking after the two losses to the Brewers late last week and the first part of the Marlins games, Manuel is clearly concerned about the team's pitching. The staff's ERA is far and away the worst in the National League and only the Rangers and Yankees have a worse mark in the Majors.

"Looks to me like they are leaving pitches out over the good part of the plate," Manuel said when asked about his staff's troubles.

And by good he meant from a hitter's perspective.

At this point it seems as if the manager has little flexibility in regard to his staff. J.C. Romero is still serving his suspension (he has 32 games to go), Lidge might have a DL stint coming and the starters aren't giving the relievers too many breaks. So far the Phillies are fifth in the league for innings by relievers and 14th in innings pitched by starters.

Unlike with hitters, Manuel can't sit pitchers when they struggle. In fact, it might be the exact opposite – if a pitcher is struggling the manager might opt to get him more work.

You know, depending on the circumstance.

Surely the pitching will be a topic to rear its head again soon…

*
Not messing around…
Speaking of J.C. Romero, the suspended reliever is not messing around with his law suit against the makers of the supplement 6-OXO Extreme as well as the retailers that sell the product. How so? Consider that he has Howard Jacobs as one of his attorneys.

Yes, that Howard Jacobs.

For anyone who follows cycling, track or doping cases, Howard Jacobs is the go-to name in law. It seems as if he has represented everyone from Tyler Hamilton to Floyd Landis to Marian Jones. If there is one lawyer who knows about the ins and outs of doping tests and drugs in sports, it's Jacobs.

Better yet, Jacobs was a competitive triathlete so he understands all of the aspects of doping and athlete's rights.

The presence of Jacobs on Romero's legal team as well as thoughts from several attorneys weighing in on the case indicates that the pitcher has a strong case.

Still, one lawyer said if the supplement company advertised its product as something that complies with the MLB testing regimen, then yeah, Romero has a case. Otherwise, he might be losing even more cash.

The blame game

hamiltonIt wasn’t all that long ago that Tyler Hamilton was expected to be the next big name in American professional cycling. It wasn’t one of those passing-the-torch deals either with Lance Armstrong completing his run and then giving way to Hamilton. Oh no. Hamilton was supposed to be one of those guys who could have challenged Armstrong.

Hamilton could have taken it all away.

But things have a weird way of working out sometimes. Armstrong won seven straight titles at the Tour de France reasonably easily. Hamilton certainly had a hand in some of those victories, first as Lance’s top lieutenant for the U.S. Postal teams in the early part of the decade and then as a star-crossed/accident-prone rider for Phonak and finally as a suspended drug cheat.

Yes, sometimes folks take different paths and often the short cut is nothing more than a misnomer.

Certainly the first drug suspension for Hamilton is up for debate even if some of the arguments sound preposterous. Don’t let anyone tell you that the anti-doping agencies are as pure as they pretend to be. After all, there’s money in the medicine, not the cure, to use a popular phrase.

Nevertheless, in his latest comeback while riding on the domestic scene with Rock Racing, Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression. Certainly if Hamilton wanted to fight the performance-enhancing properties of an anti-depressant, he likely would have found a sympathetic audience.

But that’s not what Hamilton did. Instead, he said that he not only took the supplement with DHEA, but knew it was banned and still did it. In the aftermath, Hamilton didn’t win any races nor lead his team to big victories. He simply revealed what he had done.

Then he retired.

No fuss, no muss, no fight. One has to wonder if Hamilton didn’t intentionally sabotage himself.

Meanwhile, J.C. Romero of the Phillies also drew a suspension for taking an over-the-counter supplement called 6-OXO Extreme. He tested positive, went through the arbitration and appeals process and lost. That meant 50 games right off the top of the 2009 season for Romero, though he pitched for the team after taking the supplement.

Here’s the thing – the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (the same guy who invented drugs for BALCO) labeled the product as legal, which obviously it is. However, after some very rudimentary research it was clear that the supplement raised testosterone levels. I’m no scientist or doctor, but that sounds like a steroid…

Anyway, here’s one published report on the effects of 6-OXO:

Also, after a steroid cycle, the compound may be used to shorten the recovery from the testicular suppression that can be the result of the use of steroids.

A recent United States patent application claims an 88% increase in plasma testosterone levels in men, while decreasing estrogen levels by 11%. The subjects took 300mg orally twice a day for four weeks without taking any other drugs or supplements.

Baylor University conducted an eight-week study to determine the effects of 300 mg or 600 mg of 6-OXO in resistance-trained males. Compared to baseline, free testosterone increased by 90% for 300 mg group and 84% for 600 mg group, respectively. Also dihydrotestosterone and the ratio of free testosterone to estradiol increased significantly. This study did not utilize a control group and was funded in part by two producers of commercial 4-AT.

In a warning letter dated July 7, 2006, the FDA argues that marketing of 4-AT (aka, 6-OXO) violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and as such products containing it are adulterated by legal definition.

On June 18, 2008, Health Canada issued a warning that 4-AT and 6-OXO had a health risk related to blood clotting and recommended all users immediately cease use.

jcromeroCertainly Romero admitted his mistake and apologized. He also took responsibility for using the product though he likely received some bad advice. Shoot, he’s a really nice guy who is always ready to answer a question or provide some insight. Plus, Romero’s story has remained consistent. He made a (honest) mistake and is paying for it very much like Hamilton. After all, athletes are responsible for what they have in their bodies.

But unlike Hamilton, Romero has filed a suit against the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (as well as the Vitamin Shoppe where he says he bought the supplement) claiming they did not properly label the product to reveal it contained androstenedione.

“Testing positive and being suspended from baseball was one of the most painful experiences in my life and robbed me of the joy of winning the World Series and damaged my reputation in the process,” Romero said in a statement. “I purchased an over-the-counter supplement that I was told and believed would not cause me to test positive. These events have hurt me deeply and placed a cloud over my career, accomplishments and family. It is my hope that I can finally start to put this event behind me and protect the interests of others who rely on manufacturers and retailers to be honest about their products. I look forward to rejoining the Phillies and my teammates at the end of my suspension.”

So did Romero really know what he was taking? Who knows? But in one sense it kind of seems like one of those cases where someone sues McDonald’s because the cheeseburgers caused weight gain.

Maybe Romero didn’t know, but that’s his fault.

The blame game

image from fingerfood.typepad.com It wasn't all that long ago that Tyler Hamilton was expected to be the next big name in American professional cycling. It wasn't one of those passing-the-torch deals either with Lance Armstrong completing his run and then giving way to Hamilton. Oh no. Hamilton was supposed to be one of those guys who could have challenged Armstrong.

Hamilton could have taken it all away.

But things have a weird way of working out sometimes. Armstrong won seven straight titles at the Tour de France reasonably easily. Hamilton certainly had a hand in some of those victories, first as Lance's top lieutenant for the U.S. Postal teams in the early part of the decade and then as a star-crossed/accident-prone rider for Phonak and finally as a suspended drug cheat.

Yes, sometimes folks take different paths and often the short cut is nothing more than a misnomer.

Certainly the first drug suspension for Hamilton is up for debate even if some of the arguments sound preposterous. Don't let anyone tell you that the anti-doping agencies are as pure as they pretend to be. After all, there's money in the medicine, not the cure, to use a popular phrase.

Nevertheless, in his latest comeback while riding on the domestic scene with Rock Racing, Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression. Certainly if Hamilton wanted to fight the performance-enhancing properties of an anti-depressant, he likely would have found a sympathetic audience.

But that's not what Hamilton did. Instead, he said that he not only took the supplement with DHEA, but knew it was banned and still did it. In the aftermath, Hamilton didn't win any races nor lead his team to big victories. He simply revealed what he had done.

Then he retired.

No fuss, no muss, no fight. One has to wonder if Hamilton didn't intentionally sabotage himself.

Meanwhile, J.C. Romero of the Phillies also drew a suspension for taking an over-the-counter supplement called 6-OXO Extreme. He tested positive, went through the arbitration and appeals process and lost. That meant 50 games right off the top of the 2009 season for Romero, though he pitched for the team after taking the supplement.

Here's the thing – the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (the same guy who invented drugs for BALCO) labeled the product as legal, which obviously it is. However, after some very rudimentary research it was clear that the supplement raised testosterone levels. I'm no scientist or doctor, but that sounds like a steroid…

Anyway, here's one published report on the effects of 6-OXO:

Also, after a steroid cycle, the compound may be used to shorten the recovery from the testicular suppression that can be the result of the use of steroids.

A recent United States patent application claims an 88% increase in plasma testosterone levels in men, while decreasing estrogen levels by 11%. The subjects took 300mg orally twice a day for four weeks without taking any other drugs or supplements.


Baylor University conducted an eight-week study to determine the effects of 300 mg or 600 mg of 6-OXO in resistance-trained males. Compared to baseline, free testosterone increased by 90% for 300 mg group and 84% for 600 mg group, respectively. Also dihydrotestosterone and the ratio of free testosterone to estradiol increased significantly. This study did not utilize a control group and was funded in part by two producers of commercial 4-AT.


In a warning letter dated July 7, 2006, the FDA argues that marketing of 4-AT (aka, 6-OXO) violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and as such products containing it are adulterated by legal definition.


On June 18, 2008, Health Canada issued a warning that 4-AT and 6-OXO had a health risk related to blood clotting and recommended all users immediately cease use.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Certainly Romero admitted his mistake and apologized. He also took responsibility for using the product though he likely received some bad advice. Shoot, he's a really nice guy who is always ready to answer a question or provide some insight. Plus, Romero's story has remained consistent. He made a (honest) mistake and is paying for it very much like Hamilton. After all, athletes are responsible for what they have in their bodies.

But unlike Hamilton, Romero has filed a suit against the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (as well as the Vitamin Shoppe where he says he bought the supplement) claiming they did not properly label the product to reveal it contained androstenedione.

"Testing positive and being suspended from baseball was one of the most painful experiences in my life and robbed me of the joy of winning the World Series and damaged my reputation in the process," Romero said in a statement. "I purchased an over-the-counter supplement that I was told and believed would not cause me to test positive. These events have hurt me deeply and placed a cloud over my career, accomplishments and family. It is my hope that I can finally start to put this event behind me and protect the interests of others who rely on manufacturers and retailers to be honest about their products. I look forward to rejoining the Phillies and my teammates at the end of my suspension."

So did Romero really know what he was taking? Who knows? But in one sense it kind of seems like one of those cases where someone sues McDonald's because the cheeseburgers caused weight gain.

Maybe Romero didn't know, but that's his fault.

Just a slight delay for Lance

Lance Armstrong flew back to the United States on Tuesday morning. After a stopover in New York, the seven-time Tour de France champion made home to Austin, Tx. in time for an appointment with his doctor.

It was during that visit with his doctor that Armstrong learned his “clean” clavicle break wasn’t so clean after all. As of 8:20 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, the great bike rider was getting a CT scan after learning about the not-so clean break.

“Bummer,” he tweeted on his Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, while the health and pending comeback of Lance Armstrong was all being documented in real time via “new media” (and the death of the “old media” had a bit more dirt shoveled on it with each tweet), somewhere near Paris tired old men waited anxiously for the next update.

Yes, when Armstrong “tweets” folks take notice. And no, it’s not just the fans, either. Take those tired old men in France for instance. When they read that the collarbone might be a little more damaged than expected, those “nefarious Frenchmen” might just have been moved to “twirl their moustaches and laugh heartily at his plight,” as the great Bob Ford once wrote about Lance’s ex-teammate, Floyd Landis, a few years back.

Yes, the cycling bureaucrats are feeling pretty good about themselves lately. When Lance hopped on that plane to go home, it meant there was an entire ocean between him and the nexus of the cycling universe. CT scans and doctor’s visits that elicit tweets that read, “bummer” gets that twirling in full flight. The next one might even be enough to cause a World Series-style victory celebration full of champagne spray and maybe even some high-fives. Why not? They already made him cut his hair for DNA-style drug tests.

Only in this case it might be real champagne instead of the sparkling wine those gauche Americans like.

Sacrebleu!

Continue reading this story …

No surprises here

It’s ridiculous, frankly. All of the hand wringing and dramatic anger about a report of a flunked drug test by one of baseball’s biggest names is beyond silly. It’s really as schlocky as the overwrought acting in a soap opera.

Call it Dynasty with A-Roid.

Or maybe “Dynasty” is the wrong soap for Alex Rodriguez to star in considering his teams have never won jack.

Anyway, perhaps it’s beyond cynical to not be surprised that the reports of a famous athlete allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Even guys who try to cultivate their image yet still make it so hard to for folks to like them like A-Rod fail to surprise. When the Sports Illustrated story surfaced reporting Rodriguez failed a drug test during his 2003 MVP season with the Texas Rangers, I almost yawned. Then again, who doesn’t slow down in traffic when passing a car crash? That’s certainly what we had here.

Yet A-Rod isn’t the typical wreck, apparently. Bob Costas doesn’t breathlessly indulge scribes on the tee-vee like he did on the MLB Network on Saturday for a fender bender. A-Rod mixed with methenolone, reportedly the same drug Barry Bonds tested positive for, is big news.

So why the cynicism?

Easy. It’s easy. They make it easy. When we’ve all been burned by the truth way too many times, cynicism might be the only ride left.

It’s kind of like the time when I was a teenager and spent two weeks during a summer working in one of my grandfather’s restaurants. I would never eat there, I told people, because “I saw what went on in the kitchen.” Though, to be fair, the place was ridiculously clean, it’s just that the basic act of food preparation is, in its essence, messy.

Continue reading this story…

Rat Tales

For the rest of Center City and Philadelphia sports coverage, go to CSNPhilly.com

Every one loves a rat. Actually, let’s rephrase that – everyone loves a rat that isn’t ratting out them. In that case, nobody likes a rat. Ever.

But when it comes to the tawdry dirty laundry of public figures and so-called whistle blowers, yes, count us in. Better yet, the rat is a glorious slice of Americana. Our history is littered with ’em from Benedict Arnold, to Deep Throat, to Jose Canseco, Scooter Libby, to Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon in The Departed. Those shifty little buggers mystify and intrigue us.

Actually, let’s clarify that, too.

You see, while the reporting of the filthiness from the so-called rat is a guilty pleasure[1], it’s not something that we are willing to admit we give much thought. We’re above such lowest-common denominator fodder that it’s actually an insult to our intelligence.

At least that’s what I was thinking while I read excerpts from Jay McGwire’s “book” proposal on Deadspin. And yes I appreciate the irony of reading the notes of a tawdry tell-all on Deadspin.

Nevertheless, Jay McGwire is the estranged younger brother of disgraced slugger Mark McGwire, the guy who was the star of the baseball love-in during the summer of 1998 when he broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. That was the year when, as little bro Jay wrote, Big Mark decided to go off deca-durabolin (allegedly the drug of choice for Roger Clemens and old-school weightlifters) and switch to androstenedione so he could get that needed testosterone boost without the pesky drawback of back zits and shrinkage.

Yeah.

Jay McGwire, in the leaked proposal, also downplayed Canseco’s role in introducing McGwire to steroid, recommended low dosages in order to curb injuries, and mulled his place in baseball history.

“Who knows what might have happened if I didn’t get Mark involved with all the training, supplements, the right foods, steroids, and HGH? He would not have broken any records, and the congressional hearings would have gone on without him. Maybe Barry Bonds wouldn’t have ever gotten involved with the stuff, either.”

Wait, Barry Bonds did illegal steroids, too? Man, this book proposal is just full of bombshells…

Oh yeah, Jay McGwire wrote that he felt bad watching his big brother’s infamous testimony before Congress in 2005. That’s nice.

Now here’s the news flash… Jay McGwire doesn’t have too many bites for his “book” proposal. It’s a proposal that seemingly was leaked to a sports web site best known for its unrepentant stance of not having access to the teams or players and its willingness to dive into the stories the so-called reputable bastions of journalism would never touch. Plus, it isn’t exactly a huge secret that big brother Mark might have had a few syringes plunged into his ass.

With the exception of Tony LaRussa, most of us get that by now. Certainly that 2005 Congressional testimony didn’t help to sway people either.

So maybe the reason why Jay McGwire hasn’t found too much interest in publishing his “book,” is because we’ve already seen this car crash, did our rubbernecking, and drove past. We got it when McGwire quietly retired from baseball in 2001 and never came back. And we got it when he testified that he wasn’t going to “talk about the past.”

Maybe Jay McGwire should have studied his brother’s moves and copied them, especially the part about not being a rat. Not that we don’t enjoy a good rat every once in a while.

Besides, the younger McGwire already gave away the best parts.

What’s that I smell…

While we’re on the topic of rats, doesn’t it seem as if baseball has had more cheese-eaters than the other sports? It must be all that waiting and standing around that gives people a chance to mull over every little thing going on in other people’s lives.

Regardless, it seems as if the so-called “Rat Era” started with Jim Bouton’s wonderful book, Ball Four. Not only was Bouton’s book the first real sports tell-all, it created the template for nearly all the jock lit that followed.

In that regard we owe the cheers and the criticism to Bouton.

Other great all-timers include Sparky Lyle for The Bronx Zoo, which was tell-all about the late ’70s New York Yankees filled with tales about Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin and the art of nude cake sitting.

Yeah.

Who can forget the great rat of the Phillies, Billy Wagner? Actually, Wagner never really was a rat, he just got that name from Pat Burrell because he dared to talk to members of the local baseball press after games.

Yeah, Wagner actually talked to those people.

The greatest clubhouse rat ever? Who could ever top Chico Esquela, the famous New York Met?

In his book Chico reported in Bad Things ‘Bout The Mets that Tom Seaver took up two spaces in the team parking lot, and Ed Kranepool swiped his soap and never gave it back.

But in the end Chico had a message that everyone could agree with…

“Baseball been berry, berry good to me.”


[1] Yes, it’s a guilty pleasure because otherwise I would be in the lab solving all of the world’s problems.

Catching up with PEDs

Rafael PalmeiroIt’s been a long time since I wrote about drugs here so I thought I’d start out with a “told you so.” What is this time, you ask. Well, hold on… let me tell you.

It wasn’t too long ago – August of 2005 – when I wrote about how the well-publicized pharmaceutical Viagra was a performance-enhancing drug. And no, that wasn’t meant as a joke.

Actually, most people think I’m being ironic when I say or write that Viagra can heighten the athletic prowess of an athlete, but, please, take the statements at face value. Nevertheless, what piqued my interest in Viagra was the positive drug test from ex-Orioles and Rangers slugger Rafael Palmeiro.

Palmeiro, of course, was suspended by baseball for 10 games for testing positive for the anabolic steroid Winstrol, which reportedly was the drug of choice for shamed sprinter Ben Johnson and stakes horse, Big Brown. But Palmeiro was even better known for his use of Viagra. In fact, Palmeiro famously appeared as a spokesman for the impotency drug and starred in national TV commercials that hit the airwaves in heavy rotation.

So while everyone was trying to figure out if Palmeiro was taking shots of horse steroids in his rear, I dug into what Viagra was doing for him other than what was being explained in the TV commercial.

Viagra, not unlike EPO, I wrote, could increase the level of oxygen sent to an athletes’ muscles. The more oxygen in a muscle, the less tired it gets so it could be said that Palmeiro’s muscles not only were recovering and growing quicker thanks to the horse ‘roids, but also they were getting much more oxygen from his little blue pills. Pretty much any athlete who participates in a sport that involves running or endurance might be able to benefit from taking Viagra.

But Viagra is also used to counteract potential impotence, which can be a side-effect of testosterone injections. At least that’s what we learned from a story in the New York Daily News this week. The crux of the story:

Roger Clemens allegedly kept Viagra in a GNC vitamin bottle in his locker at Yankee Stadium. Already under investigation for alleged performance-enhancing drug use during his playing days, Clemens, sensationally, was allegedly one of many athletes taking “Vitamin V.” according to the story, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Marian Jones were regular users of the drug. What’s more, pro cyclist Andrea Moletta was suspended from the prestigious Giro d’Italia when police found 82 Viagra pills and a syringe in his father’s car.

Sports regulation groups, including the federally-funded United States Anti-Doping Agency, are investigating whether or not Viagra could become a banned substance for athletes. According to drugs expert Don Catlin, “It’s a complicated drug. If you go through the basic pharmacology and stretch your imagination, you could end up saying, ‘Yeah, maybe it could be useful for athletes who are competing in endurance sports at high altitude.'”

But – pardon the pun – Viagra is in bed with Major League Baseball. A long-time corporate sponsor of MLB, it seems as if baseball could find itself in an odd spot. How would it look if MLB came under the drug-testing auspices of the USADA and had to ban a product of one of its major sponsors?

Regardless, will Major league Baseball really test anyone for anything? According to a story in The New York Times, MLB may have suspended drug testing during the 2004 season. Better yet, if the league didn’t suspend testing, the story reads, MLB alerted players when tests would be.The reason why that’s such big news is that the league failed to mention any of this during the infamous testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in March of 2005.

It was during those hearings where Palmeiro wagged his finger at the lawmakers and told them he never used steroids.

Instead, MLB the MLBPA testified in those hearings that test results in 2004 showed a significant drop in positives, which may have stopped Congress from interceding in MLB’s drug testing processes.

In other words, players weren’t testing positive because they weren’t being tested… allegedly.

Harry Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a statement in which he says the information he received from MLB and MLBPA was wrong, though he isn’t sure if either group was deliberately supplying the wrong information.

Says Waxman:

It’s clear that some of the information Major League Baseball and the players union gave the committee in 2005 was inaccurate. It isn’t clear whether this was intentional or just reflects confusion over the testing program for 2003 and 2004. In any case, the misinformation is unacceptable.

Because of the sports fans’ drug fatigue, it doesn’t seem as if the new revelations will resonate. However, it doesn’t mean it won’t be a problem for MLB. When the Olympic sports routinely test for performance-enhancing drugs and just as routinely suspend athletes – sometimes without the benefit of due process – baseball looks conspicuous by its absence. No, this doesn’t mean baseball should start some of the Draconian methods used by the World Anti-Doping Agency and its brethren, but it’s remarkable to think about what is banned by other sports but is perfectly legal in baseball.

Including that little blue pill.

Absolute control?

RomonowskiWhen it comes to experts in the performance-enhancing drugs topic, there are very few people who know more about the subject than Dr. Charles Yesalis of Penn State University. The truth is it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation about the topic without at least some input from Dr. Yesalis.

Meanwhile, reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada have done some of the most groundbreaking work on the subject. Reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle, Williams and Fainaru-Wada helped break the BALCO case wide open and their book Game of Shadows is packed with information that has not been refuted. Actually, the news regarding the Marion Jones and Barry Bonds cases that are just being reported now were detailed with much precision by Williams and Fainaru-Wada a long time ago.

In other words, if Yesalis, Williams and Fainaru-Wada are in the same room talking about the topic of performance-enhancing drugs, it’s a good idea to listen. Chances are you might learn something.

Better yet, chances are you might hear something that feels like a jolt to the solar plexus.

Actually, it wasn’t quite as significant as all of that, but when noting a report on the stellar web site, Steroid Nation, yesterday, I felt like I was making the noise heard from one of those cartoon characters that had just been smashed in the face with a frying pan and was waiting for its original shape to reappear.

Wha, wha what!

At a Penn State roundtable last week entitled, “Steroids and baseball: Where is the public interest?” Yesalis shared the dais with Williams and Fainaru-Wada where they spoke of a societal split on the issues concerning performance-enhancing drugs in the national pastime as well as other sports. The issue, however, wasn’t that steroids or HGH, etc. was cheating because that’s hard to refute, said Fainaru-Wada.

“They are banned for a reason. They work,” Fainaru-Wada said.

The main issue was that there appears to be a backlash from a certain demographic – those under the age of 40 – of the sports fandom that doesn’t really see drug use as a big issue. Yeah, sure, using PEDs are cheating, but so what. Sports and the games are nothing more than entertainment, the sentiment goes. The difference between going to the movies, a concert or a ballgame is barely palpable so if it’s OK for Hollywood actors or pop stars to use HGH or testosterone why can’t a baseball player?

“I’ve seen numerous fans say, ‘I don’t care. I just want to be entertained,'” Yesalis said. “I’ve talked to a lot of young people. They aren’t bent out of shape about this…

“I think in the under-40 crowd, it’s strictly entertainment, and if they use drugs to make it more entertaining, whatever.”

Whatever, indeed, unless, of course, an accused drug cheat just so happens to be a local star. In that regard, the fans just don’t want to hear it. Actually, sometimes it seems as if the leagues don’t want to hear it either.

“There’s tremendous fan resistance to hearing your local star player is a drug cheat,” Williams said.

The celebrity culture appears to have co-opted the sports world. Blame certain blogs that focus on everything except the finer details and nuance of the actual game or blame the jocks for buying into the notion that they are celebrities in a jersey. Either way, it’s clear that the red carpet extends beyond the front door of the multiplex.

For better or worse.

The trio also discussed drug testing and how the leagues tout the programs as proof that it has rid the scourge of drug use from its games, but in reality, Yesalis said, “If you’re really stupid, you’ll flunk. Those people who are not really stupid, don’t.”

But while baseball is at “peril” with its drug problem, the problem in the NFL is nearly complete. Actually, said Fainaru-Wada, fans believe that it’s just a few athletes getting away with it while the rest of the league is clean – a few doped apples spoiling the bunch. The truth is much more sobering, they said.

“You look at these guys, these are not the normal human beings that we all coexist with. Some 300-pound guy running a 4.4 in the 40 is not normal,” Fainaru-Wada said.

“There’s a societal sort of acceptance that the NFL is a different animal and there’s not as much of a push on that.”

Yesalis said estimates that 90-to-95 percent of NFL players are using human growth hormone.

Repeat that…

It’s 90-to-95 percent of NFL players are using human growth hormone.

That claim is just kind of out there without much behind it. Is it speculation or does Yesalis have proof? But, no matter what, the statistic is quite staggering. Especially if Yesalis is in the ballpark… 90-to-95 percent?

Wow.

More: Steroid Nation – Yesalis, Williams and Fainaru-Wada on steroid panel at Penn State: 95% of NFL players use HGH

Wyoming, Texas and everywhere else

Dick CheneyThere are a lot of stories to react to today and none of them involve the Phillies at all. But then again, why would they? Why do people think that writing about and watching the Phillies is vital to our national discourse and sovereignty? Because you know what – I’ve been around and I know for a fact that most people don’t care.

How? Well, grab a seat…

Not too long ago my wife, then two-year old son and I drove from Estes Park, Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Along the way we stopped at a handful of roadside stands in the Big Thompson Canyon, where I remember buying some wild chokecherry jelly. Apparently it was native to that small, specific region of Colorado where the altitude and elements affected the chokecherries just so.

Plus, it was kind of cool stopping at a roadside stand outside of Lancaster County outposts like Blue Ball or Intercourse where they don’t have things like chokecherries. Apparently, the chokecherry can kill a horse even though it makes a helluva jelly.

Anyway, we drove to Wyoming where we saw nothing and realized that something called Major League Baseball was just something else other people did.

Here’s what I wrote after having lunch at the train depot at the end of Capitol Street in Cheyenne:

I don’t know how many of you folks out there have ever been to Wyoming, but there is nothing there. And when I say “there is nothing there,” I don’t mean, “We went to Wyoming and all they had was a freaking Wal-Mart and a bunch of rednecks hanging out at the mall…” There was no mall. There was no Wal-Mart either. In fact, the reason we met the Governor was because we walked into the state house thinking there would be some sort of historical tour or something (there wasn’t). Instead, we marched right up the front steps, entered the building without going through any security clearance, and then made a hard right into the Governor’s office. Yeah, that’s right — the Governor of the entire state was sitting about 25 yards from where some sporadic midday traffic was halfheartedly whizzing by.

Crazy, huh? Think Ed Rendell would get his ample ass up from behind his desk for anything less than a 6-foot hoagie? No, me either.

There was a lot I learned about Wyoming and Cheyenne that I’m saving for a more ambitious project and won’t bore anyone with the details here. I’m sure no one wants to hear about the finer details of the drive from Estes Park, Colo. through Northern Colorado and into Wyoming. I have pages on that. Nor do I think anyone is too interested in how Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote — they have a big statue for Esther Hobart in front of the capitol. She led the suffrage movement.

Sure, Dick Cheney is from Wyoming, but so is Jackson Pollock and Nellie Taylor Ross, the first woman governor of any state in the union.

Forget all of that, but remember this: according to the 2000 census, the population of Cheyenne is 52, 011. That makes it the largest city in the state. It also is quite a bit less than Lancaster, Pa., and Lancaster has a whole bunch of things Cheyenne doesn’t — a few Wal-Marts, Taco-Bells… you know, suburban sprawl. Wyoming has none of that. From my experience, the nine miles from the Wyoming state line to Cheyenne makes the Pennsylvania Dutch Country look like Manhattan.

Or how about this: Nobody in Cheyenne gives a [bleep] about the Phillies, nor has anyone ever heard of Bill Conlin. Of course, we didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone, but we got a good start in a walk up and down Capitol Street and into a Western clothier called “The Wrangler,” where they have all the gear stocked up in anticipation for this weekend’s Frontier Days, which, if my rudimentary knowledge of professional rodeo is on the money, is akin to the U.S. Open in golf.

So, nope, most people don’t care about the Phillies, which is kind of a roundabout way of getting to the interesting things I read over the past 24 hours.

***
Sly StalloneJack McCallum of Sports Illustrated led a series of stories about performance-enhancing drugs and how they have a grip in American society beyond the sporting world. Actually, look no further than the entertainment industry for a good primer as to how the steroid culture pervades public life.

In fact, during last week’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductions, little Justin Timberlake and Madonna spoke quite cavalierly from the stage about injections of B-12 and even described the 49-year old pop star’s travel kit with her supplements of shots… you know, because everyone walks around with needles and doses of B-12.

From McCollum:

Few segments of society depend as heavily on physical appearance as Hollywood, and it turns out that Sylvester Stallone, who may one day give us Rambo: The Assisted-Living Years, needed more than one-handed pushups and raw eggs at dawn to stay cut. Last May in Australia the 61-year-old Stallone paid $10,600 to settle a charge of criminal drug possession after he was found to have 48 vials of HGH and several vials of testosterone. Stallone has since acknowledged that he takes HGH and testosterone regularly, and legally. “Everyone over 40 years old would be wise to investigate it [HGH and testosterone use] because it increases the quality of your life,” Stallone told Time last month.

Adds a prominent Hollywood plastic surgeon, who requested anonymity because he has many clients in the industry, “If you’re an actor in Hollywood and you’re over 40, you are doing HGH. Period. Why wouldn’t you? It makes your skin look better, your hair, your fingernails, everything.”

Chuck Zito — former Hells Angel, former bodyguard to the stars, former Hollywood stuntman and beefcake extra, former sinister presence on HBO’s Oz — was an enthusiastic steroid and HGH user for three years during his acting days earlier this decade. “It’s just something everybody did,” says Zito, “and they’re still doing it. It’s ridiculous that we only talk about it in sports. You think these actors who suddenly get big for a movie, then go back to normal get like that by accident? You put 30 pounds of muscle on and you expect everybody to believe that just happened?”

Isn’t just like people to look for shortcuts? That’s especially the case when staying fit and looking “healthy” takes nothing more than a little bit of work and discipline… but who has time to eat properly, exercise well and get the correct amount of sleep?

A good work ethic is just too old-fashioned.

***
Because I have ties to the sports world and academia, I often hear about parents that push their kids into athletics with the hope of the kid getting a college scholarship. Sometimes the parents spend tens of thousands of dollars a year for special camps and private coaching with the hope of making Little Jimmy the next great Big Man on Campus.

Certainly such sentiment is a sea change from how things were in my day when we were told very early on (like in sixth grade) that we wouldn’t be good enough.

And it was true. The high school I attended was (and is) widely regarded as the area’s best school for athletics. Through many different eras the track and basketball teams have been more than dominant – they’ve been unbeatable. During my senior year the golf, track and cross country teams won 70-plus league meets without a loss. Meanwhile, the football and basketball teams tore through league play and into the district title matchups.

And we weren’t that good.

Yet throughout the school’s 70-year history of owning the area’s top athletic programs, there have been just three alums to make it to the Major Leagues and two others to get to the NFL. Of those five, three of them are currently active.

What this means is that it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n roll.

But what The New York Times offered in a three-day series chronicling the stories of scholarship athletes and the coaches at Villanova and Delaware is that it might be easier to go from college to the pros than it is to get a full ride for even the best high school athletes.

Excluding the glamour sports of football and basketball, the average N.C.A.A. athletic scholarship is nowhere near a full ride, amounting to $8,707. In sports like baseball or track and field, the number is routinely as low as $2,000. Even when football and basketball are included, the average is $10,409. Tuition and room and board for N.C.A.A. institutions often cost between $20,000 and $50,000 a year.

“People run themselves ragged to play on three teams at once so they could always reach the next level,” said Margaret Barry of Laurel, Md., whose daughter is a scholarship swimmer at the University of Delaware. “They’re going to be disappointed when they learn that if they’re very lucky, they will get a scholarship worth 15 percent of the $40,000 college bill. What’s that? $6,000?”

Within the N.C.A.A. data, last collected in 2003-4 and based on N.C.A.A. calculations from an internal study, are other statistical insights about the distribution of money for the 138,216 athletes who received athletic aid in Division I and Division II.

¶Men received 57 percent of all scholarship money, but in 11 of the 14 sports with men’s and women’s teams, the women’s teams averaged higher amounts per athlete.

¶On average, the best-paying sport was neither football nor men’s or women’s basketball. It was men’s ice hockey, at $21,755. Next was women’s ice hockey ($20,540).

¶The lowest overall average scholarship total was in men’s riflery ($3,608), and the lowest for women was in bowling ($4,899). Baseball was the second-lowest men’s sport ($5,806).

Interestingly, NCAA president Myles Brand pointed out in one of the stories that if kids are really hell bent on getting free money for college, they are better off applying themselves in academics than in sports.

“The real opportunity is taking advantage of how eager institutions are to reward good students,” he said. “In America’s colleges, there is a system of discounting for academic achievement. Most people with good academic records aren’t paying full sticker price. We don’t want people to stop playing sports; it’s good for them. But the best opportunity available is to try to improve one’s academic qualifications.”

***
Lou ReedFinally, there was an interesting story on the South by Southwest festival in The Wall Street Journal on how the Austin, Texas-based fest organizers are trying to keep “the suits” out.

To that we say, “Good for them.”

Also at SXSW, the legendary Lou Reed was a keynote speaker and was feted in a tribute concert in which piles of bands played his songs. I bet it was kind of cool, though some old dude writing for Austin’s newspaper though the Reed-fest was a little much.

The old dude named Corcoran wrote:

SXSW keynoter Lou Reed played the “Lou Reed Tribute” Thursday evening at the Levi’s/Fader Fort. He performed “Walk On the Wild Side” with Moby, not really an adventurous choice. The songs I heard for two hours, many of them sounding alike, kinda rat out Reed as an overrated songwriter in the right place, right time. Where’s his “I Say a Little Prayer?.” What’s the great song he’s written in the past 30 years?

OK, where do we start… look, it’s fine – and maybe even correct – to write that Reed might be a little overrated. Frankly, who isn’t a little overrated these days. But that last sentence, What’s the great song he’s written in the past 30 years? … oh my.

Talk about a pile of crap.

First, Reed, as a schoolboy at Syracuse, had a direct link (through poet Delmore Schwartz) to T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and Vlad Nabokov. But then again, why would something as heady as that matter to a newspaper writer?

But I just can’t get past that line — What’s the great song he’s written in the past 30 years? Really, is Corcoran that dim? Reed’s album Magic & Loss, released in 1991, is one that I have owned since it came out but have only been able to listen to one time because it’s just way too real and I’m not enough of an adult to deal with it. It’s as much of a bleeping knockout punch as it is haunting.

In 1990 Reed teamed with old Velvet Underground mate John Cale for the romantic Songs for Drella, which is an elegant, funny, sweet, trenchant and unflinching tribute to Andy Warhol as could ever be produced.

In 1989 Reed released the epic New York not only led the back-to-basics movement that spawned the so-called grunge sound a half decade later, but as rated 19th best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone it is criminally underrated.

So what great song has Reed written in the past 30 years? I don’t know, are three great albums that aren’t bound by such trite media notions as time or era enough?

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Ryan Howard… get a blog. Or better yet, just invite the writing media over to the locker to chat instead of those pesky TV folks with their makeup and those white, hot lights and cameras. Besides, talking to actual humans instead of inanimate objects like cameras and TV reporters is much more revealing anyway. Sure, the fans might like tuning in from so far away to watch a guy talk with those lights and the microphones bearing down, but come on… no one really enjoys it.

At least that’s the way it was for Ryan Howard in Clearwater today. Rather than do the whole big ballyhoo and faux production of a made-for-TV inquiry about his contract and whether or not animosity has festered like a bad blister because the Phillies only want to pay him $7 million for 2008 instead of $10 million just chatted up a few scribes and some inanimate objects in the clubhouse.

It made for a more contemplative, more intimate, more revealing and perhaps even a more trenchant conversation. That’s the key word there – conversation. Look, when dealing with athletes, pro writers are dealing with a short deck mostly because they don’t know a damn thing about exercise or fitness or training or anything. But that’s beside the point. When the glare and scrutiny beats on a guy, it gets hard to explain things, so everyone loses.

Or something like that. Who knows. I’m just making this all up as I go along and I’m sure that five minutes from now I’ll have no idea what I wrote. But don’t let that stop anyone from acknowledging that sooner or later Ryan Howard will have to answer questions about his contract. What, do you think the writing press is a bunch of shrinking violets? Hey, they might not know the ins and outs of exercise or physiology, but that’s not going to stop them from using clichés oh so cavalierly.

You know, whatever.

***
Here’s a question: is it worse that someone made a typographical error in typing up a document filed yesterday in the Barry Bonds perjury case that erroneously stated the player tested positive for steroids in November of 2001, or is it worse that so many media outlets blindly jumped on the story without checking it out first.

Look, people trust the wire services and the big names in the media business without giving it much thought. But even the tiniest bit of research over the false Bonds report should have had folks scratching their heads a bit with wonderment over why the star-crossed slugger would have taken a drugs test in 2001.

Plus, knowing that there are no more secrets anywhere and that the truth always rears its troll-like face, the notion of a failed drugs test by Bonds in November of 2001 should have had the fact-checkers scrambling.

Alas…

Nevertheless, the underlying problem was evident: Media types are too worried about being first instead of being right.

***
Pedro Finally, my favorite story of the day comes out of the Mets’ camp in Port Saint Lucie where Pedro Martinez rightfully claimed that he stared down the so-called Steroid Era and plunked it on its ass.

According to Pedro, “I dominated that era and I did it clean.

“I have a small frame and when I hurt all I could do was take a couple of Aleve or Advil, a cup of coffee and a little mango and an egg – and let it go!”

It sounds like Pedro (and Cole Hamels) are wannabe marathon runners who wake up every morning with everything hurting, shuffle stiff-legged downstairs for some coffee, a vitamin, maybe a Clif Bar or even an ibuprofen with the thought of visiting the chiro for some Active Release Technique therapy before heading out the door for the first of two brutal workouts.

Drugs tests? Where the cup…

“I wish that they would check every day,” Pedro said. “That’s how bad I want the game to be clean. I would rather go home (than) taint the game.”

Here’s a theory: the pitching during the so-called “Steroid Era” wasn’t so bad. Oh sure, certain media types — blabbermouths on certain radio stations in particular — are quick to point out how today’s pitchers can’t throw strikes, won’t work deep into games and how some of them shouldn’t be in the big leagues. Expansion, they say, has watered down the game.

Maybe so. But try this out: in facing hitters with baseballs that are wound tighter and who are using harder bats made of harder wood against a tinier strike zone in ball parks that are smaller still, pitchers have to add guile to the repertoire. And we didn’t even get into the performance-enhancing drugs part yet. Nonetheless, pitchers just can’t lean back and huck it up there as fast as they can — pitchers have had to pitch in the post-modern era of baseball.

***
Jamie MoyerSpeaking of doing it the right way for a long time, Sully Salisbury turned in a great story on the meritorious Jamie Moyer, who is heading into his 22nd big league season.

A few minutes in the presence of Moyer makes it easy to believe that you never, ever have to get old. You never have to burn out, get tired, act old, compromise, get mediocre or slow down. Moyer turned 45 last November and be sure that there are players on the Phillies who are “older” than he is – they’ve stopped being engaged, they know what they know and they don’t want to be exposed to anything new. They are already completely formed and they might only be 23 years old.

Not Moyer, though. In a conversation last October, the pitcher says one of the best parts about playing for so long has been the exposure to new people and ideas.

“A lot of times, I just focus on the simplicity of things, and not be the focus of what should be going on here, and just keep things simple. I call it the K.I.S.S. factor — keep it simple, stupid,” he said last October. “I look back on instances in my career like that — good and bad – but things that I’ve learned from, and try to re-educate myself and rethink things, and reinforce what I already know. A lot of times, we can overlook things and forget, and after the fact, after the mistake is made, you’re like, ‘Oh, I knew that. Why did I do that?’ You can’t catch everything. But if you can catch some of it, hopefully, it’ll work out. What’s been fun is being around this group of guys and the energy they bring.”

As Moyer told Sailisbury yesterday:

“I’m not as proud of the age thing as I am of the ups and downs I’ve overcome to create some longevity,” Moyer said after yesterday’s workout. “I’ve enjoyed that part. I can smile and say I’m doing what I want to do.”

To tell the truth: The Clemens, McNamee edition

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) just gaveled closed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearing on steroids and baseball. It came a few seconds after he pounded his gavel onto his podium and told Roger Clemens to shut up.

That little moment were just the sprinkles atop of the sundae during the four-plus hours that Roger Clemens and his ex-trainer Brian McNamee met with the Congressional Committee to discuss the Mitchell Report’s investigation in illicit performance-enhancing substance abuse in baseball. Most of the testimony and questions were quite testy and went so far as for several U.S. Representatives to call McNamee a “liar” and a “drug dealer.”

Aside from the final gavel down from Waxman, Clemens was treated much more respectfully than McNamee than members of Congress, though the questions were hardly deferential and the responses were greeted with loads of skepticism.

So after four hours of accusations, anger and the threat of further hearings, here’s what I learned from watching Clemens, McNamee and Congress joust for the better part of the afternoon:

• Andy Pettitte is a problem for Clemens. Actually, it seems almost Shakespearean in that Clemens’ best friend in baseball could be the one guy to bring him down.

• Whether he is telling the truth or not, Brian McNamee did not come out of the hearings looking very good.

• Whether he is telling the truth or not, Roger Clemens does not look good for hiring a trainer/body man like Brian McNamee.

• Athletes like Roger Clemens continue to perpetuate the notion that they do not know what they are taking or have taken. Just the thought of such a thing is such a load of bull—-. Every elite-level athlete knows very well what they take and they sweat over the details. Those who don’t pay attention to such things don’t last very long. So for someone like Roger Clemens to say he was not aware or was duped by a trainer, nutritionist or doctor… well, perhaps they aren’t exercising the best candor.

• Most importantly, Roger Clemens is not a vegetarian. When asked if he was a vegan, Clemens looked confused and said: “I don’t know what that is. I’m sorry.”

So if Clemens is neither a vegetarian nor a vegan, we should assume that he has ingested steroids… sorry, there I go again.

Anyway, the question remains – what was accomplished with having Clemens and McNamee in front of the committee.

“Not as much as we would have liked,” Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) told ESPN, who also chastised Major League Baseball and its players for its “code of silence” in regards to its drug problems.

“I found Clemens almost as believable as Rafael Palmeiro,” Rep. Souder told ESPN.

The problem is that McNamee came off just as believable in a circus of events in which it seems as if the man who was not present came out with his reputation intact. That’s the curious part, especially considering that several Congressman wondered aloud about why Andy Pettitte was not taking questions, too.

Where was he?

Picking on Bud

Bud SeligIn the interest of full disclosure and with the idea that Big Brother (or at least George Mitchell) is watching or that everyone else is into that whole cleansing of the conscience thang (yes it’s a thang) after being accused of being a doper, I decided that I’m coming clean. From now on whenever I write about the Mitchell Report, USADA, WADA, Rep. Waxman, or perhaps even baseball, I am going to submit my morning performance-enhancing buffet.

Here’s what it took to get me going this morning:

  • 20 ounces of Starbucks Colombian coffee – my stash of Kind Coffee is gone
  • 1 ibuprofen tablet (my hamstrings are killing me)
  • 1 Clif Bar (crunchy peanut butter)
  • 64 ounces of Brita filtered water
  • 20 ounces of Turkey Hill diet green tea – since it tastes like it’s loaded with chemicals and has no green tea flavor whatsoever, I figure it’s on the IOC list of banned substances. While we’re at it, does anyone remember the old Turkey Hill iced tea and good it tasted? Of course that was back in the good old days when Turkey Hill was a local dairy and neighborhood “minit market” and not a soulless corporation.

I also had a banana and some pad Thai with tofu from Trader Joe’s, but tofu is hardly an enhancer.

Anyway, the point is that if a Congressional subcommittee wants to question me or pick on me for one reason or another, I’m ready. I have witnesses, too, which may or may not have been a good deal for Bud Selig, Don Fehr and Major League Baseball. You see, these days Congressional committees convene for the sake of moral proclamation – kind of like Senator Geary’s grandstanding in The Godfather when he got it on the record that America has no better friend than the Italian-American community.

And then he excused himself so his colleagues could attempt to bust up his sugar daddy.

The BizBud Selig, Don Fehr and Major League Baseball are used in the same manner by Congress. They are easy pickings – a moral carwash if you will. Whenever Congress members are feeling low or their conscience is bothering them, who better to call in than the dirtiest bunch of dudes around? Even more than Alberto Gonzalez or the current group of criminal minds in the executive branch, Bud Selig is the best verbal punching bag out there for the moral miscreants on Capitol Hill. It’s gotten to the point where Bud doesn’t even fight back any more – he just sits there as if he’s a character in a Biz Markie song and takes it.

When asked by Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. if they were “complicit” in fostering the culture of drugs that has defined this era of Major League Baseball, Selig and Fehr shrugged the affirmative. Yes, they said, there is a lot of blame to go around. Both men accepted and conformed that their legacies will essentially be defined as the drug era – one in which the results must be set aside in order for the game to maintain its cherished historical perspective.

Speaking of perspective, the best of that lot and perhaps even the most indicting of Selig came from Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who stated, “Fixed games played by drug users that illegitimately altered the outcome of the games. It’s my opinion we’re here in the middle of a criminal conspiracy that defrauded millions of baseball fans of billions of dollars.”

Can you say, “Class action suit?”

Better than that, McCollum asked if there really was any difference between baseball, Britney or pro wrestling? But that’s the million-dollar question isn’t it? For some reason sports fans have it buried into the locus of their minds that their form of entertainment is on a higher level than other elements of the entertainment business. It’s like they are evolved or advanced or something because the carry a stick and whack at a ball instead of watching a movie or digging the latest dish.

They can’t all be the same can they? No, of course not.

But that didn’t stop McCollum from asking:

“If baseball is simply another form of entertainment like going to a concert or attending a professional wrestling match, in which an audience attends solely for pleasure and they do not attend under the presumption of some form of fair athletic competition, then there would be no difference between Barry Bonds and Britney Spears.

“But in fact Major League Baseball is sold as a legitimate competition. … This demonstrates to me fraud to millions of baseball fans.”

Did Major League Baseball knowingly allow players using illicit substances play in games in front of paying customers? Yes. Yes they did. Is it consumer fraud? That’s for the lawyers to decide, but at the very least it’s very mean to present juiced up ballplayers as authentic and ask hard-working families to shell out big money.

It’s very mean.

And that leads us back to Bud, Don and Congress and Tuesday’s dog-and-pony show. The point is we get the point. We don’t need grandstanding or televised hearings in the place of revenue-generating TV shows to know that drugs are bad and kids copy the things that pro athletes do.

But until baseball and the players’ union decides to take the lead to develop proper testing – as opposed to more investigations and witch hunts – Congress is going to keep calling in Bud and the gang for more checkups. Yeah, there are more important things to do and sure, they can pick on someone their own size, but Congressmen and women like knocking them out of the park, too. In this case Bud and Don are throwing the meatballs to the juiced up folks in Congress.

He yam what he yam

PopeyePoor Roger Clemens. After decades of making baseball fans and the baseball media believe the unbelievable, things have changed. It seems as if people have stopped buying what he’s been selling despite years and years of turning a blind eye and swallowing it whole.

So yeah, poor Roger Clemens.

Clemens, of course, made a much heralded appearance with company man Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes” last night. It was on that show where Clemens admitted that he injected B-12 and lidocaine. He also told Wallace that he would submit to a lie-detector test because we all know that just like a negative drug test, a polygraph reveals everything.

But where Clemens made his mistake isn’t from admitting that he injected B-12 and lidocaine with the help of his ex-trainer turned George Mitchell’s rat, Brian McNamee. He made his mistake by thinking that sporting press was still largely ignorant about performance-enhancing drugs, injections and vitamins. Hey, he figured he had them believing everything he threw out there to begin with, especially the part about how “intense” his workout regime was[1], why not trot out the B-12 line?

Certainly what Clemens didn’t think was going to happen was that there would be a backlash about his revelation. Really, B-12? Was he anemic? If so, why didn’t he eat some spinach? You don’t see Popeye injecting B-12 into his ass, do you?

Look, athletes – especially endurance athletes – get anemia. I would go so far as to call it a common malady for runners and cyclists. In fact, amongst the elite American runners out there working today I can name a bunch who struggled with bouts of anemia. Of the few of those runners that I have talked to about their iron deficiency, not one said anything about getting injections of B-12. Instead, they told me they took multi-vitamins and ate more vegetables.

That’s it.

Unless Clemens was using the B-12 shots for something else, such as masking a urine test, it doesn’t sound like he is being completely forthcoming.

As far as lidocaine goes, a non-anabolic steroid and anti-itch agent, couldn’t Clemens just roll around in some aloe leafs?

Hey, maybe Clemens is telling the truth. Why shouldn’t he? Maybe he learned how to pitch as he entered the “twilight of his career.” It’s not out of the ordinary for a pitcher… come on, it’s not like he re-wrote the record books as came into his late-30s. Greg Maddux is still a standout pitcher in his early 40s. For the Phillies, 45-year old Jamie Moyer is just as good now as he was a decade ago. Tom Glavine shows no signs of slowing down, either. And like Clemens, Maddux, Moyer and Glavine have kept away from injuries by staying fit. The key to consistency, oddly enough, is being consistent.

So now Clemens enters into the always murky waters of public opinion, which always matters more than what a guy can prove. 


[1] Yeah, I remember a time when a few sportswriters were discussing a story about Clemens in Sports Illustrated that detailed his out-of-season and in-season workouts with a curious Phillie. The part that had me on the ground laughing was when a scribe said, “He does a whole bunch of weights stuff and then he runs five miles!”

For your reading pleasure

The Mitchell Report (pdf)

Oh, I’m sorry… you just want the names. Here they are:

New names
Chad Allen
Mike Bell
Gary Bennett
Larry Bigbie
Kevin Brown
Alex Cabrera
Mark Carreon
Jason Christiansen
Howie Clark
Roger Clemens
Jack Cust
Brendan Donnelly
Chris Donnels
Matt Franco
Eric Gagne
Matt Herges
Phil Hiatt
Glenallen Hill
Todd Hundley
Mike Judd
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Tim Laker
Mike Lansing
Paul Lo Duca
Nook Logan
Josias Manzanillo
Cody McKay
Kent Mercker
Bart Miadich
Hal Morris
Daniel Naulty
Denny Neagle
Jim Parque
Andy Pettitte
Adam Piatt
Todd Pratt
Stephen Randolph
Adam Riggs
Armando Rios
Brian Roberts
F.P. Santangelo
Mike Stanton
Ricky Stone
Miguel Tejada
Ismael Valdez
Mo Vaughn
Ron Villone
Fernando Vina
Rondell White
Jeff Williams
Todd Williams
Steve Woodard
Kevin Young
Gregg Zaun

Previously mentioned
Manny Alexander
Rick Ankiel
David Bell
Marvin Benard
Barry Bonds
Ricky Bones
Paul Byrd
Jose Canseco
Paxton Crawford
Lenny Dykstra
Bobby Estalella
Ryan Franklin
Jason Giambi
Jeremy Giambi
Jay Gibbons
Troy Glaus
Juan Gonzalez
Jason Grimsley
Jose Guillen
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Darren Holmes
Ryan Jorgensen
Gary Matthews Jr.
Rafael Palmeiro
John Rocker
Benito Santiago
Scott Schoeneweis
David Segui
Gary Sheffield
Randy Velarde
Matt Williams

Tune in at 6 p.m. when the MLBPA fires back.

Guessing game

DougAs everyone (or at least baseball fans and media types with no lives) try to play the guessing game over which players and ex-players will be on The Mitchell Report, a handful of names are beginning to leak out.

According to a report on ESPN, Yankees Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are reportedly on Mitchell’s list. Yet as the dangerous game of implicating people without any acknowledgment of the league’s collective bargaining agreement or due process continues, the speculation runs rampant.

That’s human nature, we suppose.

Around these parts folks are wondering which Phillies (or ex-Phillies) will be on Mitchell’s Report. We can’t get into that, but we know for a FACT that all-time favorite Phillie, Doug Glanville, WILL NOT be implicated on the Mitchell Report.

Mitchell Report timeline (sort of)

Sam ElliottFormer Senator George Mitchell will release his long-awaited report on his investigation into baseball’s alleged performance-enhancing drugs problem. Senator Mitchell will make an announcement at 2:30 p.m. in press conference from New York City.

At 2:32 p.m. tumbleweed will blow across Mitchell’s podium and one lone cricket will chirp. At 2:34 p.m. Major League Baseball will go back to business as usual.

By 2:40 p.m. all of the sports media and a few selected congressional-type bureaucrats will pontificate about something or other, and by 3 p.m. it will all be over.

However, at 4:30 p.m. at a seperate press conference, commissioner Bud Selig will announce that he is shocked — shocked! — at the Mitchell Report’s findings.

Then he will fly back to Milwaukee and have a hot dog and a coke at Gilles Frozen Custard stand.

Do you think that maybe they can get Sam Elliott to narrate the thing just to liven it up a bit?

Read all about it

Is everyone ready for The Mitchell Report? Oh, I’m sure it will make all the papers. If not, here’s what to expect.

According to a story in The New York Times, approximately 50 players will be named in the report. That number jibes with the report from last year that at least two players from each team tested positive for performance-enhancing substances.

Will (or which) Phillies will be named in the report?

Chicks dig the long ball

Mark McGwireThe overwhelming reaction to the story in The New York Times yesterday that Major League Baseball clubs are tipped off when the “random” and “unannounced” drugs tests are supposed to occur was laughter. Maybe there were a few rolled eyes and feigned indifference, but for the most part, the news was good for a few yucks.

It wasn’t that deeply thought out laughter either. You know, the kind saved for Woody Allen movies, puns or when your boss makes another bad joke. This was derisive laughter saved for politicians who are caught breaking the law in such a manner that they should have just gone to the National Archives, removed the Constitution from behind the glass, and then slipped it into a paper shredder.

We save that type of laughter for arrogant types who we all know will never serve a second of time in the Richard M. Nixon wing of the Lompoc Federal Prison.

But here’s the really funny part about the revelation that Major Leaguers were tipped off about the drugs tests up to two days in advance: No one is surprised.

Seriously, did anyone really believe that baseball was conducting tests with teeth? Does anyone believe that MLB wants to find out if anyone is still using the caveman-type steroids that Rafael Palmeiro reportedly tested positive for? Does anyone think they are excited to hear another name tied to that Florida outfit that reportedly has supplied members of the MLBPA with growth hormone?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

You know what would really be funny? If MLB hired the French Lab (Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage) the Tour de France uses to make sure that all samples come back dirty.

Oh, but it’s not that the story didn’t have its humorous points. For instance, how funny is it that the screeners for the unannounced and random drug tests call the teams a couple of days ahead of time to request free parking passes? That’s a knee-slapper if there ever was one. Way not to be conspicuous, Sherlock!

Better yet, if the rest of the teams in baseball are like the Phillies, two things will happen. First, they will get the runaround and condescension for even suggesting they receive a parking pass in the first place. Then, after finally figuring out where they can park and how/when/where they will get the physical pass (because you need that), the testers will be forced to park a metric mile away from the actual stadium.

In other words, not only will everyone know the testers are coming, but they also will see them coming, too.

Forget the fact that the supposed performance-enhancing drug of choice these days is completely undetectable…

There is probably a serious point somewhere in all of the laughter about Major League Baseball’s “drug-testing program.” Amidst all of the Congressional committee hearings, investigations headed by former senators, and bluster from the commissioner, the real point is that most people – those associated with MLB, too – like things the way they are.

Or…

And it’s funny because it’s true…

That’s OK, we’ll take him

The trading deadline came and went without too much fanfare for the Phillies, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t make a little bit of noise. Aside from adding Tadahito Iguchi last weekend to replace Chase Utley, as well as starting pitcher Kyle Lohse to bolster the starting rotation, general manager Pat Gillick traded with Seattle for reliever Julio Mateo for minor leaguer Jesus Merchan.

For the interim the Phillies have sent Mateo to Double-A Reading until he’s needed with the Phillies. So how come the Phillies just don’t send Mateo to Triple-A Ottawa to face more capable hitters before returning to the Majors?

Besides, Mateo can’t go to Canada because he is waiting to go to court on Sept. 4 for his third-degree domestic assault charge in which the story in The Associated Press describing the arrest noted that Mateo’s wife needed five stitches on her mouth. In other words, the law is keeping close tabs on the new Phillie.

Needless to say some web sites and others in the media had a little fun at the Phillies’ expense in discussing the move for Mateo. On Deadspin, the crème de la crème of sports blogs, the headline was, “The Phillies got another wife beater to hang out with Brett Myers.” Sure, it’s a little inaccurate, but the point is duly noted. The Phillies didn’t exactly go out and get a model citizen.

It’s doubtful that Mateo will have any influence at all with the current Phillies, though. After all, the strongest personalities in the clubhouse are also solid guys. Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are names one will never see in the police blotter. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels has grown up a lot since his brawl outside of a bar in Florida before the 2005 season.

Here’s the interesting part about Mateo and perhaps shows a difference between the Mariners and the Phillies. Though the reliever was 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in nine appearances this season for Seattle, team general manager Bill Bavasi suspended Mateo for 10 days without pay following his arrest in Manhattan in May. Moreover, Bavasi said there was no way that Mateo would ever pitch for the Mariners again following that incident aggressively looked to trade him.

Even though Mateo pitched well in Triple-A, Bavasi stuck to his guns.

“Our approach with him was that it would be better for us and for him if he broke back in elsewhere. And he didn’t fight that idea,” Bavasi said, while declining to detail what led the Mariners to conclude that. “It was collaborative effort to get him a new home.”

Meanwhile, Brett Myers was allowed to pitch for the Phillies only hours after being let out of the lockup following his arrest for a domestic incident in Boston in June of 2006. It was only after a loud public outcry that Myers was allowed to take a “leave of absence” from the Phillies.

Mateo, who turns 30 on Thursday, is 18-12 with two saves and a 3.68 ERA in 219 games over six seasons in Seattle. He had a 0.79 ERA in 24 games at Triple-A Tacoma, allowing just three earned runs in 34 1-3 innings. Opponents batted just .200 against him. Those numbers indicate that he is a pretty good pitcher – perhaps even just as good or better than Myers.

Nevertheless, the Mariners weren’t interested in having a player heading back to court for a domestic abuse charge on their roster… regardless of how good his numbers were.

“We treat it seriously,” Gillick said, according to AP. “We’re very aware of the situation.”

But apparently it isn’t a serious enough issue to pass on the trade. After all, the Phillies don’t have to go to Canada at all this season.

***
The injuries continue to mount for the Phillies. Along with Utley’s hand and Ryan Madson’s case of Brett Myers 2 1/2 –month-shoulder-strainitis, Michael Bourn is out after injuring his ankle tripping over the bullpen mound that is on the field along the first-base side at Wrigley, while Shane Victorino had a slight tear of his calf muscle.

According to the Phillies, Victorino’s injury is less severe than Bourn’s sprained left ankle, but as someone who deals with chronic calf problems let me tell you that I don’t necessarily agree. For one thing the calf muscle is the engine that serves as the anchor of the leg muscles. It is from the calf that the hamstring and the Achilles get their power. Any athlete who runs knows that all calf injuries are serious. I’m certainly no doctor but I’ll be very surprised if Madson and Victorino make it back before the end of August.

***
Jemele Hill of ESPN.com wrote a story in which she wondered what American professional sports would look like if they had a drug testing policy like cycling. Hill writes:

Had the NFL had the same rigorous testing as cycling, the Carolina Panthers might have showed up for Super Bowl XXXVIII a little shorthanded. As it turned out, several Panthers reportedly used performance-enhancing drugs during the 2003 season, and two of them allegedly had prescriptions for steroids filled right before they appeared in the Super Bowl. And while we can make all the jokes we want about Floyd Landis, last year’s Tour champion, the most glorified record in American sports is on the verge of being shattered by a man with numerous ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Tour officials already don’t recognize Landis as the champion and are pushing the United States Anti-Doping Agency to strip Landis of the title. Bud Selig wishes he had such an option with Barry Bonds.

And:

What Americans would never, ever want to do is what cycling officials did. We would never want to let a band of doping experts loose on American athletes. We are far too comfortable being entertained by dirty athletes to want to see any real cleansing take place.

Just imagine if the same vigilant testers used in cycling set up shop in American pro sports leagues. How many times would we read about American athletes being busted for performance-enhancing drugs on the ESPN crawl?

That’s an uncomfortable discussion. That’s why despite the blustering and grandstanding with all the major sports leagues on Capitol Hill, they would be unlikely to sanction a universal system that would require random testing of pro athlete.

Amen.

Meanwhile, two more riders are implicated in doping scandals. Basque Iban Mayo failed a test for EPO (there’s a test for EPO?!) and Tour de France champ Alberto Contador as been linked to doping by a German doctor.

The best would-be cycling writer in the U.S., Bob Ford, offered this one in today’s Inquirer.

Just waking up and everything has still gone crazy

After getting home at 3 a.m. after being at a baseball game that lasted 14 innings and nearly five hours, it’s safe to say that I’m a bit fried today. But rest is for the week, right…

Man, do I ever need a nap.

Anyway, because I’m struggling to string together cohesive sentences this afternoon, I’ll just ramble on with a few observations about the Phillies and the latest from the sports world.

• After last night’s win over the Nationals the Phillies have a 24.5 percent chance to make the playoffs. Really? Yes, really. At least that’s math according to Ken Roberts, who created an “Odds of making the playoffs” web site.

Here’s what Ken does: after every game – and we mean every game – the odds of a teams’ chances to make the playoffs are calculated and posted on his site. Then, a glimpse into the future is proffered showing not only how the odds change if the Phillies win or lose their next game, but how the odds change pending every result on the full schedule of games.

Yes, it’s good stuff and you should check it out by clicking here.

• To start it off, I had never seen a game go from a sure end to tied up and headed for extra innings like the way last night’s ninth inning played out. For those who didn’t see it, speedy shortstop Jimmy Rollins raced around the bases when his relatively routine fly ball just short of the warning track in left-center field was jarred loose when outfielders Ryan Church and Ryan Langerhans bumped in to each other. Standing at third, Rollins raced home when Church’s relay throw skipped away from shortstop Felipe Lopez to force extra innings.

The most surprising thing about Rollins’ dash around the bases? That it wasn’t ruled an inside-the-park home run by the hometown official scorer.

• Meanwhile, when Ryan Howard hits a home run, he really wallops it. Not only do his homers sound different than other players’, there really is no doubt that they are going out – he doesn’t hit too many that scrape into the first row.

• No one with the Phillies will say it — though Charlie Manuel’s body language was downright funereal — but Chase Utley’s broken hand is just about the worst thing that could happen to the team right now. Forget about his statistics and the fact that Utley is an MVP candidate, and his hard-nosed style of play… it was because of Utley that the Phillies were able to stay in the playoff race despite injuries to Freddy Garcia, Tom Gordon, Brett Myers, Jon Lieber and Ryan Howard.

Yes, losing Utley is very significant. And that just might be the understatement of the year.

• The Phillies gave out a Cole Hamels bobblehead figurine last night and had a sold-out crowd. Here’s my question: What is the allure of that stuff? I can understand baseball cards and other memorabilia-type collectibles (kind of), but why are bobbleheads still popular? Just chalk it up to the every growing pile of things I don’t get.

On another note, last year (or maybe the year before, I forget) the Nationals gave out a Chad Cordero bobblehead figurine at a game at RFK. Within hours of bringing it home my son ripped the head clean off the body and for the past year or so there has been the head of Chad Cordero, complete with that geeky unbent brim of his cap, staring up from the bottom of the toy box in our living room. Perhaps that’s the appeal of the bobblehead doll… ripping the heads clean off.

• Speaking of ripping the head clean off and one man’s inability to understand events occurring in the world, I’m still attempting to grasp just what the hell happened at this year’s Tour de France. Frankly, I haven’t been able to come up with anything other than some non-sequitors and random ideas.

For instance:

— Perhaps it’s because I am an American and believe in a persons’ right to due process, but I just don’t understand how a man who never failed a drug test or violated any laws or rules of the sport could be bounced from an event he was about to win. Look, I know never failing a drugs test isn’t the best argument and I know all about Michael Rasmussen’s reputation, but if the Tour, the UCI and whatever other governing body is attempting to destroy cycling really disliked the dude and had valid reasons to boot him from the race, they should have never allowed him to start.

Now look what they have on their hands. It’s nothing more than a race that no one views as legitimate.

— I always am amused by American sportswriters whose idea of exercise is actually getting up to manually turn the channels on the television opining about cycling. I also do not understand how one can legitimately write about sports without a basic understand of training and performance-enhancing drugs. Get these people out of the press box now, because writing intelligently about sports doesn’t really have much to do with the games any more.

Alexandre Vinokourov? Wow. Who would have thought the Tour could have sunk lower than that fiasco?

— Along those lines everyone is quick to point out how “dirty” cycling is. But here is a fact: if MLB and the NFL acted like the UCI and the Tour de France, there would be more than 1,000 new players in those leagues tomorrow. It seems as if all cycling officials have to do is point at a guy and he’s out. Forget facts and protocol. The players in MLB and the NFL should be thankful every day that they have a union that supports them.

Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Michael Rasmussen were all booted from the Tour de France this year despite never failing a drug test. Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire have admitted to using performance-enhancing substances and got new contracts.

Which sport is “dirty” again?

— I’ve been asked if the current scandal in France will affect Floyd Landis’ case at all. My knee-jerk reaction is, “No, because they are mutually exclusive. Floyd’s case has to do with one specific test from one stage of last year’s race. This year’s scandal, they say, is about the ‘culture of doping.’”

Since I don’t believe Floyd is a part of that culture, nor do I believe he is a doper, I didn’t think it has anything to do with him.

But upon retrospect, maybe it does in the always fickle court of public opinion. Maybe Floyd suddenly becomes guilty because he rides a bike and won the Tour de France?

Either way it makes me happy to be a runner instead of a baseball player or cyclist.

— Meanwhile, other folks have asked me why they just don’t cancel the rest of the Tour. What’s the point anymore? It’s a valid question, but the answer comes down to the bottom line. The rest of the ride to Paris is economical, complete with all of the pomp, circumstance and corporate sponsorships.

They don’t put those corporate logos on their uniforms because they look nice.

The reason the Tour continues is the same reason why Bud Selig doesn’t go all French on Barry Bonds and pull the cheater from the field. It’s why the Giants re-signed Bonds – he makes a lot of people money…

Especially people like WADA president Dick Pound.

Integrity? Ha!

Creating a legacy

Not much to report about the Phillies aside from the fact that the second half opens up tomorrow when defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals come to town. The fact also remains that the Phillies need to add some pitching if they are going to make a push after the Mets, but they are in a very large club in that regard.

Everyone needs pitching.

It also seems that there could be a shortage of ash bats as well. According to a story in The New York Times a scourge of Asian beetles – called the ash borer – has wreaked havoc on trees in the northeast and could, as some scientists predict, wipe out the ash tree used to make baseball bats from the region.

Speaking of wiping out bats, the web site Steroid Nation reports that the “mainstream” media missed a story in which MLB commissioner Bud Selig “quietly” endorses a growth hormone test. Currently there is no such test to detect whether one is using HGH and it’s quite conceivable that a large number of professional athletes are using the performance-enhancing drug.

Needless to say, this is an important development. If Selig is successful in spearheading the research for an HGH test it could define the legacy of the man who presided over baseball during its so-called Steroid Era.

***
Speaking of creating a legacy, it was quite an eventful day on the road from Chablis to Autun in Stage 5 of the Tour de France. Italian Filippo Pozzato won the 113-mile stage which featured the first major climbs of the Tour, but that was an afterthought in light of what shook down in wine country today.

What everyone is talking about now is that the pre-race favorite, Alexandre Vinokourov “hit the floor,” in the words of Phil Liggett, with approximately 15 miles to go in the stage. According to reports, Vinokourov says the chain on his bike popped off and then he was cleaning himself off the floor.

Then it got interesting. As Vino dusted himself off and got back on his bike, the TV cameras zoomed in on his shorts where some big-time road rash showed through on his right hip/buttock. Also evident were some nasty cuts and bleeding on both knees that required a trip to the hospital where he got stitched up for some wounds that went all the way down to the muscle.

Nevertheless, Vino’s Astana teammates all dropped back – except for overall second-place rider Andreas Klöden, who was left to fight for himself in the peloton – to help the team leader rally from a more than two-minute deficit to close to within 75 seconds in the end. Despite that, the damage had been done. Vino fell to 81st place and 2-minutes, 10 seconds behind, while nursing some soreness and sporting some stitches as the mountain stages loom. Next comes Stage 6, a flat ride from the medieval Semur-en-Auxois on the Armancon to the suburban Bourg-en-Bresse at the base of the Alps. This one will be the last flat stage until late next week.

Still, perhaps the road isn’t so daunting for Vinokourov. Known as rider without fear and unafraid to take risks, Vino comes from Kazakhstan, which when it was part of the USSR was the place where the government tested nuclear bombs. According to Daniel Coyle’s entrancing Lance Armstrong’s War, Vino’s parents were chicken farmers in Petropavlovsk, but it was never something the cyclist ever talked about. In fact, when he first arrived on the professional riding scene Vino never talked at all except to say:

“I will ride hard today. The hill is not steep. I will attack.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Jonathan Vaughters, the former pro cyclist turned leader of the American Slipstream team said in Coyle’s book, “It’s very understood in the peloton – [he] doesn’t have anything to go home to. Sprints, climbs, descents – [he is] never going to give up, and will go all the way to the edge because [he] just doesn’t care.”

So he has that going for him, which is nice.

But if that’s not enough for Astana, Klöden’s status in the race is up in the air after it was revealed that the second-place rider hit the floor and has a hairline fracture in his tailbone.

An injury like that makes it very difficult to ride a bike.

Stage 5 Final
Top 20 (all same time):
1.) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy
2.) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, Spain
3.) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, Italy
4.) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg
5.) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany
6.) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, USA
7.) Christian Moreni, Cofidis, Italy
8.) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, Germany
9.) Bram Tankink, Quick Step, Netherlands
10.) Jérôme Pineau, Bouygues Telecom, France
11.) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia
12.) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland
13.) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d’Epargne, Spain
14.) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA
15.) Fränk Schleck, CSC, Luxembourg
16.) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, Switzerland
17.) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany
18.) Inigo Landaluze, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain
19.) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, Australia, T-Mobile, Australia
20.) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, France

Overall
1.) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, in 28:56
2.) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ :33
3.) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy, @ :35
4.) David Millar, Saunier Duval, Great Britain, @ :41
5.) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, USA, @ :43
6.) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, @ :45
7.) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d’Epargne, Russia, @ :46
8.) Mikel Atarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ :49
9.) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, Netherlands, @ :51
10.) Benoît Vaugrenard, Française des Jeux, France, @ :52

The other interesting development in Stage 5 is the hard-riding je ne sais quoi of overall leader, Fabian Cancellara. Some close observers of the Tour suggested that Cancellara’s days in the Yellow Jersey were coming to an end after Stage 4 as the sprint specialist met the first ahrd climbs of the race. But when the action got hot in the final kilometers of Stage 5, Cancellara was right there battling it out with the rest of the peloton.

“The maillot jaune gives a rider the strength of two men,” Phil Liggett offered.

***
Bonnie DeSimone, the cycling writer for The Boston Globe and ESPN.com, has a blog called “A Feast on Wheels.” It’s very good.

Wasting time

There are many things that people can lose that are very easily replaced. Money, sanity, keys, a wallet are just a few items that can be found or replaced if they are lost.

Time, however, is not one of them. Lost time will never be replaced and time, as we all know, is our most valuable commodity.

And because time is so precious I decided to turn off ESPN’s presentation of the Home Run Derby last night. I just didn’t have the time to waste in watching something so mindless – it couldn’t even be classified as junk food TV.

Actually, that’s the polite answer I give people (OK, person) who asked me if I caught the Home Run Derby last night. Truth be told, I had the tiniest of interest in knowing how Ryan Howard would perform – a scratch if you will. So when the telecast began and camera zoomed in on San Francisco’s ballpark (I honestly forget which corporation paid to put their tacky billboard on the buildings’ façade – besides, does it matter… don’t they all have the same name at this point?) I had my TV on and was set to devote some time to the event.

But then I heard Chris Berman’s voice.

Click!

Goodnight, folks.

No sense wasting any time on something so drawn out and annoying where the actual action is tucked neatly into the marathon of commercials… or Berman. I’d rather stand next to a giant speaker and listen to The Who circa 1969 and get tinnitus for the rest of my life than to hear Chris Berman speak a sentence. Hey, I’m sure he’s a lovely man with many redeemable qualities and goes out of his way to take care of the little people, etc., etc. But, well, you know what I’m getting at.

I’d rather deal with a case of toenail fungus than watch the Home Run Derby.

Needless to say I have no idea what happened in the Home Run Derby other than it probably lasted too long. Based on a brief scan of the reports from San Francisco’s ballpark it sounds as if I didn’t miss anything at all.

I will, sadly, tune into the All-Star Game tonight. I can’t say I’m too into it and must admit that All-Star Games in general have lost a lot of luster in the days since I was a kid. Back then I actually looked forward to those games. Now it’s just cool to have three to four days without a baseball game.

Jaded and tired? A little.

***
In an attempt to beat another day of the heat I missed a great broadcaster named Phil Liggett call the action for Stage 3 of the Tour de France. But since Versus plays them over and over in a loop I’m sure I can catch up at a moments’ notice.

I did catch the report regarding today’s outcome and my first reaction was, “Whoa! Look at Cancellara!”

That’s right, Fabian Cancellara took another stage today and looks like he will be in Yellow when the Tour hits the mountains.

Then it gets serious.

According to reports, Cancellara let it all hang out after the peloton reeled in an early breakaway during the flat, 146-mile stage. With 400 meters to go, the Swiss champ stood up, sprinted and shocked everyone by making it stick.

Meanwhile, it appears as if Cancellara and his CSC teammates are out to defend the Yellow Jersey for as long as they can. Look, Cancellara knows that as a sprint specialist he has very little chance at winning or even holding on to Yellow for more than a few more days, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give up.

“We’re respect this jersey, and we will work to keep it,” he said.

But for now Cancellara has been the man at the Tour. Not only did he smash up the field in the prologue, but also he took a spill and injured his wrist in the Stage 2 wreck with a kilometer to go that highlighted the day’s action. Regardless, the reigning World Champion extended his overall lead by 20 seconds to 33 seconds.

Stage 3 Final
1.) Fabian Cancellara, Team CSC, Switzerland
2.) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany
3.) Danilo Napolitano, Lampre-Fondital, Italy
4.) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium
5.) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa
6.) Robert Förster, Gerolsteiner, Germany
7.) Robbie McEwen, Predictor-Lotto, Australia
8.) Bernhard Eisel, T-Mobile, Austria
9.) Mark Cavendish, T-Mobile, Great Britain
10.) Heinrich Haussler, Gerolsteiner, Germany

Overall
1.) Fabian Cancellara, Team CSC, Switzerland, in 15:12:08
2.) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at :33
3.) David Millar Saunier Duval, at :41
4.) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, at :43
5.) Bradley Wiggins, Cofidis, Great Britain, same time
6.) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, at :45
7.) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, at :46
8.) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d’Epargne, Russia, same time
9.) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, at :49
10.) Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau, Euskaltel – Euskadi, Spain, same time

Alexandre Vinokourov, the pre-race favorite, is lurking 50 seconds back in 11th place, while top American Levi Leipheimer is a minute behind in 32nd place.

***
The wire story regarding Ivan Basso’s continued drug testing made me laugh a little. A little background: Basso is currently serving a two-year ban for doping, despite never testing positive, and was forced to take a blood and urine test when testers showed up unannounced at his home last week.

What made it funny (not ha-ha) was a story told by Floyd Landis regarding the same type of deal. In fact, Landis claims that USADA sent a tester to his house when they heard the news that his father-in-law had committed suicide.

Yes, Landis says, they did it on purpose. It’s in his book on page 212.

For the record, USADA has not returned any phone calls or e-mails to present their side of any of the stories or to refute anything. Hey, it’s not like I’m hard to find.

***
Speaking of hard to find, I decided to do some rudimentary research to see if I could find what synthetic testosterone is and how an athlete could use it to aid his performance. Simply using steroids wouldn’t help a cyclist, I figured, because muscle mass creates weight and weight is the enemy of any endurance athlete. Besides, the tests apparently show that Floyd Landis used “synthetic testosterone” during his brilliant ride during Stage 17 of last year’s Tour, and using something like that (plus, all the doctors and scientists I have asked have responded with, “It doesn’t make sense…)

So what did I find? Try this report by Tom Fine of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University. In it, Fine writes that there is, “no difference between synthetic testosterone and naturally produced testosterone.”

What?

Let me get straight to the point: it’s impossible to tell for sure that anyone has taken synthetic testosterone.

Unfortunately, the way Floyd Landis’ exogenous testosterone test has been portrayed in the media is as if it were a perfectly definitive test. Like pink for pregnant and white for not (not really a good example, since that isn’t so accurate). Such tests do exist: tests with a binary outcome, yes or no, and an extremely low false positive or false negative rate. This is simply not one of them.

There is no difference between synthetic testosterone and naturally produced testosterone – they’re one and the same chemical. Same atoms, in the same configuration, forming the exact same molecule, with identical chemical properties. At least at the atomic level. Once you mix natural and synthetic testosterone, you can’t separate them again, any more than you could separate Evian from Poland Springs bottled water after they’d been mixed. Actually that’s a bad example. It would be more akin to separating two kinds of distilled water from each other. Even that would be easier than testosterone, since one would presume that distilled water sources don’t change rapidly.

At any rate, natural and synthetic testosterone are usually different at the subatomic level. All the carbon in the world has six protons, and almost all the carbon in the world has six neutrons (called carbon-12). Some small portion of the carbon though, has seven neutrons (carbon-13), and an even smaller portion has eight (carbon-14).

Here’s the full link, and here’s another, which claims the test as administered by the French lab and developed by WADA is prone to “false positives.”

This information is all in the Landis wiki, but I easily stumbled upon it with no knowledge that it existed and simply by researching synthetic testosterone.

Again, the USADA has not returned phone calls or e-mails. Nor did they refute these facts during the arbitration hearing in May.

Anyway, back to the original search — synthetic testosterone commonly come in the following forms:

Testosterone Cypionate (Sold as Depo-Testosterone Cypionate)
The effect of Depo-Testosterone Cypionate is sustained longer in the body than anabolic steroids. A single injection of 200-400 mg is given once every 2-4 weeks, then a rest period of 4 weeks, followed by another injection once every 2-4 weeks.

Transdermal Testosterone (the “Patch”)
Testosterone patches allow a slow, steady release of the hormone into the body. The Testoderm patch is applied daily to a man’s shaved scrotum. The newer Androderm patch can be applied daily to the upper arms, back, thighs, or abdomen.
Miller and colleagues conducted a 12-week pilot study of an experimental low-dose testosterone patch for women. Fifty-three HIV-positive women who had lost about 10% of their normal body weight, and whose blood levels of testosterone were below the normal reference range took part in the study. They were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo patch, a patch releasing 150 micrograms of testosterone daily, or a patch releasing 300 micrograms of testosterone daily. Although the patches restored testosterone levels to normal, only the women who had used the 150 microgram patch gained weight. Unfortunately, all of the weight gained was fat, not muscle mass.

Nandrolone Decanoate (Sold as Deca-Durabolin, Hybolin Decanoate)
Deca-Durabolin is probably the most popular anabolic used in the treatment of HIV-related weight loss. It has a low rate of side effects and a high anabolic effect. The drug is given by injection into a muscle, at doses ranging from 50-200 mg, every 2-4 weeks for up to 12 weeks. After four weeks off drug, another cycle of treatment can be started. The androgenic side effects of Deca-Durabolin are much milder than those of testosterone.
At doses of up to 100 mg every 3-4 weeks for up to 12 weeks, women may be able to use this drug. If any changes in menstrual periods occur, the drug should be stopped until the cause of such changes is discovered.

Oxandrolone (Oxandrin)
This is an oral anabolic steroid available through the Special Access Programme (formerly EDRP) of the Health Protection Branch of Health Canada. The androgenic effects are very low and side effects are few. The dosage for men is generally 15-40 mg daily and for women 5-20 mg daily.

Phew! I’m growing hair in funny places just typing those sentences.

Putting it to bed

Phew! What a crazy few days it’s been around here. Firstly, as was well-publicized here and other places, I did the whole Landis thing last weekend, which culminated with an appearance with Floyd on the Daily News Live show on CSN yesterday. That was crazy enough until one throws in all the e-mails I received (all positive, which I wasn’t expecting, but thanks), mixed with normal life, marathon running and work.

Truth be told, I am horrible at multitasking so a normal day for most people wipes me out… so bookended between a 15-mile run in Lancaster and a 9-mile run along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia was a 30-minute outing on TV. In that regard, everyone says it went well (of course it did – would anyone tell you if you sucked… well, some might but most have a semblance of couth) but it definitely could have taken the entire 90-minutes and there are a few more things I would have liked to say.

One is that if Floyd Landis played baseball or football instead of being a professional cyclist, he never would have tested positive. Never. That’s a fact.

Conversely, if Barry Bonds were a cyclist (and what a huge cyclist he would be), he would have been banned from the sport a long time ago and he could even be looking at personal bankruptcy.

As written here before, it’s lazy, stupid and irresponsible for journalists to write how cycling (or running) cannot be taken seriously when the doping issues in baseball and football are perhaps more rampant and yet they can somehow take any of those games seriously. My guess is a lot of them used to cover baseball and football regularly and either missed the steroids stories, ignored them or were a decade late in coming to the table and have now decided to take it out on sports that have no unions and pro-active and Draconian doping policies.

During the 1990s, the only thing differentiating Major League Baseball from professional wrestling was the script.

Anyway, I think it would have been neat to talk about Floyd training and crazy stunts, such as how he decided to ride to France from Spain before the 2004 Tour de France. I could talk about training and racing stuff all day long.

OK… one last time. Here are a few snippets from Floyd on DNL:

* Floyd Landis talks about why he decided to write a book
* Landis talks about spending the past year trying to clear his name
* Landis on what happened with the testosterone tests
* Landis says he is still planning on racing in the future

And here are the links to the Landis stories:

More: Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

I also added it here: Finger Food: Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

And here: Finger Food Columns: Floyd Landis on Tour to Clear His Name

And now I’m done. Thanks for indulging and we will return this to its normal lunacy as soon as possible.

OK… here’s stage 17 from last year’s TdF:

And of course…

And then…

***
Here’s a funny one – I was catching glimpses of the Phillies game from Houston on television last night while having dinner at John Turner’s resplendent U.S. Hotel in Manayunk, when I quipped, “Geez, watching Burrell walk up to the plate to hit is like watching Saddam’s hanging. You’re sitting there the whole time thinking, ‘are they really going to go through with this? This is not going to be pleasant to watch.’”

Then sure enough, he smacks a home run. Take that, me.

On another note, it’s nice to see Aaron Rowand get an All-Star nod. Kudos to him.

***
Not that anyone else cares, but the only proper way to top off yesterday’s action-packed day would have been to roll down I-95 to Washington, D.C. to see Joe Lally and The Evens show at Fort Reno Park. I don’t want to even think about it because I know it was probably a really good show and I’m bummed that I couldn’t be there.

***
I’m not sure where I read it, but it is worth a note…

According to someone (not me and I’m upset I wasn’t smart enough to come up with it, but I wasn’t watching anyway), Florida basketball player and newly drafted Joakim Noah showed up at the NBA Draft in a suit and look that made him look like, “all of the villains from Batman rolled into one…”

Can you see Joakim getting dressed before heading off to the draft? I imagine him looking in a full-length mirror, tugging at his lapels and saying, “Wait until they get a load of me…”

Hey, if he can get away with it, let your freak flag fly.

Spread around the dirt

It’s hard to explain “real” athletics to the mainstream sporting media and fans, and by “real athletics” I mean sports that take athleticism like running, cycling (you thought I’d say golf) and basketball. Athletes often chide media types because “they don’t play” or “they never played…” and to a large degree they are correct.

When it comes to really knowing sports and what it takes to be an athlete, sportswriters and fans know nothing.

That’s especially the case when it comes to cycling. The conventional appraoch by well-known columnists and sports media is to simply put the sport off by saying, “Well, cycling is dirty and no one can take it seriously…”

Yes, cycling appears to be dirty. But to say cycling is more dirty than football or baseball is just plain stupid. Actually, it’s really, really stupid and the people who write and spew that crap should know better.

The problem cycling writers are having right now is the same one baseball writers had five to 10 years ago when the sport was at the apex of its so-called “Steroid Era,” which is “how could we not know.” Baseball writers really dropped the ball and now writers covering other sports are repeating those mistakes.

Joe Lindsay, in his Boulder Report blog, nails it much better than I ever could. For people interested in sizing up the true sports landscape and the media’s place in it, Lindsay post is as right on as there is…

Perhaps some day it will all be about the game and/or race again.

More: Looking for the exit.

Is this what it takes?

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Meanwhile…

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It’s not the science, it’s the circus

Most nights my ride home the ballpark can be a pain. Firstly there is the Schuylkill, which quite possibly could be the worst stretch of paved road in the world. On top of the Surekill, there is some construction linking the Expressway near Valley Forge to the Turnpike that makes the 24 Hours of Le Mans look like a Sunday drive through the country.

Finally, there’s the distance, which comes to approximately three hours round trip. Sometimes the drive can be quite taxing, but I guess it’s my fault for living out in the middle of nowhere. That said, it’s much nicer here than in any of the neighborhoods that I surely would be priced out of – it’s a little slow to adapt to modernity or new ideas out here, but at least the sprawl has been fairly well contained (in comparison) for the time being.

Anyway, the drive back to the boondocks gives me plenty of time to listen to a bunch of the podcasts I subscribe to. A favorite is a radio show based out of San Diego called The Competitors Radio Show, hosted by former world class triathletes Bob Babbitt and Paul Huddle. Needless to say the show focuses on endurance sports like triathlons, running and cycling, which for geeks like me is really fascinating. As far as I can tell, Babbitt and Huddle host the only show like The Competitors and that’s a shame.

So while driving home on Friday night I listened to a rebroadcast of an interview with Greg LeMond, the three-time champion and first American winner of the Tour de France. LeMond is the man who put cycling in the U.S. on the map. In places like Philadelphia and Lancaster, cycling (and running) are mainstream participatory sports that exploded after LeMond won his first Tour in 1986. But frankly, that’s about all I knew about LeMond. Sure, I had heard about the comments regarding Lance Armstrong and now Floyd Landis, but it really didn’t seem like much of a big deal.

Isn’t every cyclist suspected of doping these days?

Still, some had written LeMond off as a bitter jerk since his record in France had been broken. No one seemed to notice when LeMond said Armstrong’s record run was the best thing the ever happened to cycling. But in July 2004 when LeMond said that “If Armstrong’s clean, it’s the greatest comeback. And if he’s not, then it’s the greatest fraud,” well, that made all the papers.

LeMond is right, of course, but you know…

Regardless, during the interview LeMond explained he realized doping took a firm grip on cycling when guys he never heard of rode by him like he was standing still – and he was in the best shape of his life with three Tour de France titles. Listening to LeMond it sounds as if cycling and baseball hit the doping era at the same time with similar results. While no-name riders were doing wheelies by the best rider in the world, the 50-homer plateau was topped 22 times from 1996 to now. From 1977 to 1995, one player hit 50 homers. Meanwhile, from 1961, when Roger Maris beat Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, to 1996, only three players hit 50 homers in a season.

From listening to LeMond it sounded as if all cyclists Brady Andersons were slugging 50 homers every year.

LeMond also revealed that during Floyd Landis’ ride for the Tour de France title it appeared as if the statistics were back to normal. He noted that he was withholding judgment about the defending champion (for now), and that he had a confidential conversation with Landis that he was going to keep private. This interview was originally recorded last August.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since then.

Dressed in another bold, yellow tie with a dark suit, Floyd Landis faced cross-examination on Tuesday in the USADA arbitration hearing. It is from the those hearings at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. where it will be determined whether or not the Lancaster County native gets to keep his Tour de France title or becomes the first rider in the long history of the race to be stripped of his yellow clothing.

Oddly, though, a majority of the questions Landis faced were regarding LeMond and his role in a potential witness tampering, which bordered on obscene and insane. Instead of answering questions about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs during the now infamous 17th stage of last summer’s Tour de France, Landis had to explain his actions regarding Will Geoghegan, his “friend” and former representative who threatened LeMond by telephone last week by threatening to reveal that LeMond had been sexual abused of which as a child, and which only Landis knew about.

From Eddie Pells of the Associated Press:
“Would you agree, that as my mother used to say, that a person’s character is revealed more by their actions than their words?” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency attorney Matthew Barnett asked Landis.

“It sounds like a good saying,” Landis said.

Then, it got ugly, as Barnett dredged up events surrounding testimony LeMond gave last Thursday. On that day, the three-time Tour champion testified he’d received a phone call the night before from Landis’ manager, Will Geoghegan, who threatened to divulge LeMond’s secret.

USADA lawyers cross-examined Landis about everything from the color of his tie to the timing of his decision to fire his manager.

Barnett tried to portray Landis and Geoghegan as scheming together to keep LeMond from testifying, then not showing remorse until they got caught.

Landis said that although he was sitting near Geoghegan when the manager made the call last Wednesday night, he didn’t know what was going on until later.

Barnett tried to pin him down on when, exactly, he told his attorneys of the call, and why he waited to fire Geoghegan until after LeMond revealed details of the call on the witness stand.

Landis testified that he told his attorneys about the call as soon as he arrived to the hearing room Thursday, though nobody thought to fire Geoghegan until after LeMond’s testimony.

“In hindsight, I probably should have fired him immediately, but I needed someone to talk to,” Landis said.

USADA attorneys tried to portray Landis as an active participant in the LeMond plan. They pointed to his wardrobe that day — a black suit with a black tie instead of the yellow tie he’s worn every other day of the hearing — as evidence that he had it in for LeMond.

“That’s why I wore the black suit, because it was a terrible thing that happened,” Landis said. “It wasn’t a thing to celebrate by wearing a yellow tie.”

Was the black tie symbolic support for LeMond?

“No. It was a disaster. Nothing good could come out of that day,” Landis said.

Landis was also questioned about some unflattering Internet postings where he called LeMond a “pathetic human,” though didn’t seem to face much heat when it came to discussing doping.

The focus, as it appears, will be on the circus and not the science. That shouldn’t be too surprising, though. Credibility is the real issue in the arbitration hearing and to most folks it doesn’t seem as if Landis has any no matter what the science might say.

Why? Will Geoghegan, of course.

My mother used to say that a person is known by the company they keep. Or, as Rocky Balboa said in the original film, “If you have knucklehead friends, people will think you are a knucklehead.”

It’s difficult argue with that logic.

Look, we want to give Landis the benefit of the doubt and it seems like something is amiss with the tests and the ratios and everything involved in the epic ride to the Tour de France victory that should have been the best sports story of the year. But if Floyd is so willing to get down and dirty with a seemingly scorched earth attack where something as horrible as sexual abuse of a child is fair game.

Certainly Geoghegan was the one who made the calls to LeMond and Floyd said he was embarrassed by it all – but he didn’t do anything about it when it happened. To me that makes Landis complicit.

According to Lee Jenkins’ story in The New York Times:

Landis and Geoghegan were clearly close. Landis said he gave Geoghegan all of his phone numbers, including LeMond’s. And Landis told Geoghegan that LeMond had been sexually abused as a child, after LeMond shared that secret with Landis.

Landis’s choice of friends and clothes were both on trial Tuesday. Barnett asked Landis why he showed up in court for LeMond’s testimony Thursday wearing all black, when he showed up the other days in much brighter colors. Landis has an obvious preference for yellow ties, evoking the yellow jersey worn by the Tour de France leader.

Through it all, watching from the gallery were Paul and Arlene Landis, the Mennonite parents of the most notorious bike rider in history. I wonder what they were thinking?

For the best recaps of the arbitration hearing, check out Trust But Verify, Steroid Nation and ESPN’s page of stories. Better yet, check out The Competitors Radio Show interview with San Diego Times-Union writer, Mark Zeigler. Good stuff.

***
Meanwhile, in baseball Jason Giambi says baseball owes the fans an apology for something and MLB wants to investigate. I guess being in baseball means you never have to apologize?

***
Tomorrow: Back to Baseball.

Thanks… do you have the receipt?

According to Major League Baseball’s rule 21-b, the Twins’ Torii Hunter could face a three-year suspension. The rule as it is written, prohibits anyone connected with a particular team from offering a gift or reward to a person connected with another team.

Gift for defeating competing club. Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered or supposed to be or to have been rendered in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club, and any player or person connected with a Club who shall solicit or accept from a player connected with another Club any gift or reward for any services rendered, or supposed to have been rendered, or who, having been offered any such gift or reward, shall fail to inform his League President or the Commissioner or the President of the Minor League Association, as the case may be, immediately of such offer, and of all facts and circumstances connected therewith, shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years.

Yeah, three years.

In other words, Hunter potentially could have sent the Kansas City Royals the most expensive case of Dom Perignon ever.

The reason for the gift (for those unfamiliar with the story) was to reward the Royals for their late-season sweep over the Detroit Tigers in 2006 which opened the door for the Twins to win the AL Central.

Fortunately, it appears as if reason will win out. Hunter’s gift was made in fun and it doesn’t seem as if the penalty will be anything more than a slap on the wrist. Hunter only sent four bottles of champagne to the Royals, who sent the unopened ones back when they learned about the flap.

However, it’s worth noting that Major League Baseball’s gift policy is much tougher than its stance on performance-enhancing drugs.

***
Speaking of performance-enhancing drugs, it appears as if the Floyd Landis case has once again resurfaced. According to the French bastion of journalism ethics, L’Equipe, Landis’s failed drug test from last summer’s Tour de France revealed a synthetic steroid. The paper knows this because it ran the leaked results that may or may not be true.

According to the Rant Your Head Off blog, here’s the deal:

  • L’Equipe has a very good source at LNDD and that the source repeatedly leaks information about test results
  • L’Equipe’s source claims the results show testosterone use in other stages of the Tour, but no actual proof is offered to back up those claims
  • Testing performed over the last week, according to Landis’ lawyers, was done at the direction of USADA’s outside counsel
  • USADA’s observers and lawyer had full access to all aspects and phases of the testing, while Landis’ observers were denied access to crucial parts of the analysis
  • LNDD, under the direction of USADA, are able to come up with “evidence” against Landis that supports the LNDD’s conclusions from Stage 17
  • The Arbitration panel, though ruling that an independent observer must be present for any testing performed, had no independent observer at the testing
  • News of Landis’ supposed results has already circled the globe

What we don’t know is this:

  • Whether or not the reports in L’Equipe and other newspapers are true
  • If the reports are true, we don’t know what exactly the results were or whether LNDD’s conclusions are, in fact, correct. If they are similar to the results from Stage 17, it may be arguable whether or not there is any evidence of synthetic testosterone in Landis’ system during the Tour
  • When (or if) Landis’ defense team will be provided with the test results
  • Whether the arbitration panel will allow the results as evidence, given that their own order that an independent observer be present was ignored

It doesn’t appear that anything will be resolved in this case before the 2007 Tour de France, not does it seem as if Landis – innocent or guilty – will get a truly fair hearing.

For another solid synopsis of the latest developments check out the always trenchant Trust But Verify site.

***

I finally tried the veggie cheesesteak (yes, I am away of the oxymoron there) and will offer a full review either tomorrow or the next day. I even took pictures.

Tough choices

There was a time during our post-collegiate days where my sister and I attended a party in which one of the other attendees put Pink Floyd’s The Wall in the CD player (these were the days before the proliferation of mp3 files) and proceeded to tell us about how Roger Waters and Syd Barrett were not on performance-enhancing substances when composing the songs that were presented on the album. The fact that my sister and I didn’t really care about Pink Floyd and what they did to prepare for composing music nor that the guy who had cornered us had not presented a well-thought out argument really mattered.

What mattered, I suppose, is that some random guy at a party (who we suspect was on some type of “performance-enhancing drugs” at the time of his presentation) thought it was important enough to defend the notion that Pink Floyd was clean when writing The Wall in very much the same way people acted when andro was found in Mark McGwire’s locker during his assault on the home run records in 1998. Or the same way some people take up Barry Bonds’ case even though there is compelling proof that he allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs with the notion that, “well, they weren’t illegal when he was using them.”

As if that makes it better.

The point is we want our heroes to be “clean” as well as articulate, thoughtful and model citizens when in reality all they are is human. I don’t know if the members of Pink Floyd ever used drugs, and I guess I don’t really care, either. Drugs, as William S. Burroughs once said, are an inevitable part of life. And, as the late comedian Bill Hicks noted, if a person is so adamantly opposed to drug use, he needs to throw away all of his music, movies, quit his job and should stop watching sports.

Needless to say, none of this realistic, but it makes for interesting reading. In that regard, writer Chuck Klosterman examined the dichotomy of why it’s probably OK that Pink Floyd may have used performance-enhancing substances, but not football player Shawne Merriman in a story for ESPN.

In the story, Klosterman writes that every day sports fans are going to have to make some tough decisions.

More: Why we look the other way (Klosterman)

More: Inside the steroid sting (from SI)

***
Speaking of decisions, in Phillies news, Charlie Manuel is taking a long look at right-hander Zack Segovia for a spot in the team’s thin bullpen. According to reports from Clearwater, Segovia meets a very important requiste in that he throws strikes. Hopefully for the Phillies, that leads to getting hitters out.

As it plots out now, the Phillies’ rotation is set up to go Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton based on Opening Day on April 2.

Meanwhile, Hamels’ statistics in Grapefruit League action haven’t been too good. The lefty is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in three starts against Major League teams, and in an outing against minor leaguers yesterday in an attempt to iron out some mechanical issues, Hamels gave up four runs, four hits and four walks in a little less than four innings.

The good thing about this is that no one in the Phillies’ camp is too worried about these results… yet.

Randomness part 984

As written in these posts on many, many occasions, I believe the issue of performance-enhancing drugs and doping is the most important issue and story in sports now and for the foreseeable future. Actually, it’s the only story of real import but it would get pretty boring to write and read about drugging athletes all the time.

After all, sports are supposed to be entertainment.

Regardless, it should be required reading for any sports fan and/or writer to read Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. It truly is an unbelievable piece of work and parts of it read like a Cold War spy novel.

Baseball and its union should thank the authors for the book, yet instead they had the opposite reaction.

***
Similarly, I will be attending a lecture by Eric Schlosser this evening at Franklin & Marshall College. Schlosser, of course, is the author of Fast Food Nation, which examines how fast food restaurants use their economic power to exploit the culture, social conditions and public health.

Schlosser also wrote the award-winning Reefer Madness and is writing about the prison system in his next book.

It should make for an interesting evening.

***
Speaking of interesting, it’s becoming more likely that the Phillies will break camp in two weeks with six starting pitchers. According to a story in the Inquirer, the Phillies will be especially deep in the rotation, but remarkably thin in the bullpen. As written by noted casanova Todd Zolecki:

Pat Gillick said yesterday that he didn’t think he would be able to make a trade for bullpen help before the season starts. He said he expected to open the season with six starting pitchers, one of which would move to the bullpen.

“Everybody is looking for the same thing,” Gillick said. “Everybody is looking for the same commodity. Everybody has a bullpen problem; nobody wants to give up a bullpen piece. If they give up a piece, it’s going to create another problem for them. Who has excess?”

Anyone think Gillick is playing ‘possum?

Maybe not… according to Scott Lauber’s info-packed blog, skipper Charlie Manuel has been his happy-go-lucky self lately. It seems as if the paper-thin bullpen’s production this spring is wearing him out. Certainly the ‘pen is not wearing out the opposition’s hitters.

***
Finally, mathematics seems to have sabotaged my college basketball pool last weekend. After opening with a perfect first day in selecting winners on the first day of the tournament action, the picks made after consulting a mathematician resulted in a sub par 8-for-16 for the “Sweet 16.” Meanwhile, the picks made on hunches, a coin flips garnered 10-of-16 correct picks.

Fortunately, in both pools all of my Final 8, 4, 2 and championship teams remain.

Either way, I’m cooked.

More drugs news

Sports Illustrated writers Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim dive into the brewing performance-enhancing drugs investigation with this piece that headlines promise to “rock sports.” Certainly some of the names trickling out that are allegedly tied to the investigation have been well reported. Gary Matthews Jr., Jose Canseco, Evander Holyfield, etc., etc.

But one name that stood out in the Sports Illustrated story read:

David Bell, a veteran of a dozen major league seasons, received six packages of HCG at a Philadelphia address last April, when he played for the Phillies. The cost was $128.80, and the drug was prescribed in conjunction with an Arizona antiaging facility. Bell acknowledges receiving the shipment but tells SI the drug was prescribed to him “for a medical condition,” which he declined to disclose, citing his right to privacy.

Bell had back trouble when he played for the Phillies. In fact, injuries kept him out of close to half of the games during the 2003 season, though he returned to play in 143, 150, and 145 games the next three seasons. Also, Bell and his wife Kristie had their first child during the off-season.

According to the Wikipedia entry on HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin), it can be used medically and as a steroid:

hCG is extensively used as a parenteral medication in fertility therapy in lieu of luteinizing hormone. In the presence of one or more mature ovarian follicles, ovulation can be triggered by the administration of hCG. As ovulation will happen about 40-45 hours after the injection of hCG, procedures can be scheduled to take advantage of this time sequence. Thus, patients who undergo IVF, typically receive hCG to trigger the ovulation process, but have their eggs retrieved at about 36 hours after injection, a few hours before the eggs actually would be released from the ovary.

As hCG supports the corpus luteum, administration of hCG is used in certain circumstances to enhance the production of progesterone.

In the male, hCG injections are used to stimulate the leydig cells to synthesize testosterone. The intratesticular testosterone is necessary for spermatogenesis from the sertoli cells. Typical indications for hCG in men include hypogonadism and fertility treatment.

hCG sold under brand names including Pregnyl®, Follutein®, Profasi®, and Novarel® use chorionic gonadotropins derived from the urine of pregnant women, while Ovidrel® is a product of recombinant technology. Novarel® and hCG from APP are typically considered generics in the United States.

Use with anabolic steroids
In the world of performance enhancing drugs, hCG is increasingly used in combination with various Anabolic Androgenic Steroid (AAS) cycles.

When AAS are put into a male body, the body’s natural negative feedback loops cause the body to shut down its own production of testosterone via shutdown of the HPTA (hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis). High levels of AASs that mimic the body’s natural testosterone trigger the hypothalamus to shut down its production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus. Without GnRH the pituitary gland stops releasing luteinizing hormone (LH). LH normally travels from the pituitary via the blood stream to the testes where it triggers the production and release of testosterone. Without LH, the testes shut down their production of testosterone, causing testicular atrophy (“shrinking testicles”).

In males, hCG mimics LH and helps restore / maintain testosterone production in the testes. As such, hCG is commonly used during and after steroid cycles to maintain and restore testicular size as well as endogenous testosterone production. However, if hCG is used for too long and in too high a dose, the resulting rise in natural testosterone will eventually inhibit its own production via negative feedback on the hypothalamus and pituitary.

David Bell remains unsigned for the 2007 season.

Check out the big head on Barry

The second (or third?) segment of drug war spurred by the BALCO findings has come into the forefront and this one is just as much a tangled web as a David Lynch film. This time, celebrities, athletes and team training staffs are in the mix. Included here is Gary Matthews Jr., who went from a player who was released five times and traded twice before landing on a $50 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

But everyone’s attention has been squarely focused on Barry Bonds, who apparently went through a middle-aged growth spurt according to the authors of the book Game of Shadows. In the new afterward of the newly-released paperback edition, authors Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada write that Bonds – upon joining the Giants from the Pirates – went from a size 42 to a size 52 jersey; from size 10½ to size 13 cleats; and from a size 7 1/8 to size 7 1/4 cap, even he shaved his head.

The authors write:

“The changes in his foot and head size were of special interest: medical experts said overuse of human growth hormone could cause an adult’s extremities to begin growing, aping the symptoms of the glandular disorder acromegaly.”

Yet as Tom Verducci points out on the Sports Illustrated web site, Bonds and his legal team have never, ever challenged the facts of Game of Shadows. In fact, all they have done is point out that the authors used leaked grand jury testimony and attempted to block the authors from accepting profit from the sales of the book.

But the content of the book? The facts? They didn’t touch it.

Contrast that with Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who has faced all sorts of drug doping allegations ever since he rode into the Champs-Élysées for the first time. When books, reports or even idle chatter popped up accusing Armstrong of using EPO, steroids, HGH or whatever, he sued. He went after the accusations the way he attacked the Alps in the Tour. Armstrong even went after World Anti-Doping Agency zealot Dick Pound, asking the International Olympic Committee that the WADA head be “suspended or expelled from the Olympic movement.”

The IOC agreed and offered a stern rebuke.

Meanwhile, what did Bonds do when he tested positive for amphetamines? Yeah, that’s right, he blamed a teammate… then backed off… and now it’s something he doesn’t want to talk about because “it’s in the past.”

Why shouldn’t it be for him? After all, if Bonds is indicted and the Giants void his contract, the Major League Players Association will have his back…

Drug use in sports, however, is not in the past. It’s not going away – it’s sitting right there in your living room waiting for you and your sports-loving fans to determine if it’s up to them to make a decision.

Is this going to stand or not? The people have the power… right?

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
We would be remiss not to note the passing of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. For those with an interest in American history, Schlesinger undoubtedly has a section on your bookshelf.

Schlesinger’s The Age of Jackson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 when he was just 27. His biography of Robert F. Kennedy that was especially memorable, especially the last three chapters.

Taking de France out of the Tour

Here’s the question I assume that most Americans probably have regarding the recent developments in the Floyd Landis case, and I’m prefacing it with the fact that I don’t really understand Americans all that well. At least that’s the case when it comes to culture and politics.

Nevertheless, when it comes to Landis the question is this:

Is he getting off because of a technicality or is he getting off because the test results are wrong?

Which is it? And it’s just so black and white, right?

Be that as it is, let’s get one thing clear – Landis will be officially vindicated. He will not lose his 2006 Tour de France victory. (Doesn’t that sound like a weird sentence? He will not lose his victory?)

So do we apologize to Floyd, or what?

Let’s back track for a second… Landis, the Californian via Lancaster County, Pa., is out on his “Vindication Tour ‘07” as the case against him crumbles like trans-fat laden cookie. According to a story in The Los Angeles Times by Michael A. Hiltzik, the French lab that handled Landis’ urine samples for the allegedly dirty samples following the 17th Stage of last year’s Tour de France did not follow proper testing procedure.

The most critical error from the controversial French laboratory is that it allowed two technicians to analyze both Landis’ initial and validating urine analyses. That’s a violation of international standards, according to the LA Times report, because the same technicians cannot analyze both tests.

In that regard it sounds as if Floyd will walk on a technicality. But it opens up the question of whether or not the technicians were covering up their own tracks seeing that Landis passed every other drug test he ever took.

In those matters, check out Steroid Nation, as well as Trust But Verify – the extremely thorough site devoted exclusively to Landis coverage.

Meanwhile, Landis claims there are more mistakes from the lab that apparently erred and destroyed Landis’ reputation in some circles. If it is in fact revealed that the lab is liable for the errors and the Tour de France is complicit in hiring a “criminal” lab to do its testing, then what should happen?

Obviously, the lab faces lawsuits galore not just from Landis, but also from other riders it may have implicated. In terms of credibility, that lab is out of business.

But what about the Tour? Could it be that the Tour is guilty, too? How does one punish an event?

How about taking it away from France?

Yeah, that’s right – take the Tour out of France.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about sports in the last decade it’s that athletes go where the money is and no one really cares about the venue. Sure, places like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park are cool to play in and in some regard the athletes enjoy the history and legacy and all of that stuff. But the reality is that those places are for the fans. If you give athletes money to run, jump, throw, ride or punch in someone’s backyard, they will show up.

Actually, they’ll show up early.

In other words it doesn’t matter if the Tour de France goes through the Alps and finishes at the Champs-Élysées. All that matters is if the best (clean) riders in the world are competing against each other at the same time. So hold the race in Spain, Germany, the United States or anywhere else for that matter. Put the money on the table and let the athletes go to work.

Just don’t let the same people continue to run people’s reputations and lives into the ground… if, in fact, that’s what actually happened.

Same old song

For as long as Ryan Howard has been a part of the Philadelphia sporting scene, which goes back to 2002, steroids never entered my mind. I never thought about anything regarding illegal drugs or performance enhancing substances when Howard was smashing all those homers.

From my vantage I saw a guy who really had an idea of how to hit. In the batters’ box he also seemed to be thinking even if he struck out, and even in the minor leagues he was always making adjustments. He was always one step ahead of the competition.

Last year, though, the steroid question popped up, which was equally rationale and infuriating. Because such sweeping ideas which are always lacking in depth and nuance come from the national media, it made sense. They don’t watch Ryan Howard play every day. They don’t appreciate the intricacies of his regime and day-to-day effort. All they see are the numbers.

Anyone who has been in the Phillies’ clubhouse knows that if Ryan Howard is taking steroids he’s taking the wrong ones.

Nevertheless, the steroid question sprung up again during Howard’s pre-Spring Training press conference in Clearwater yesterday.
A bunch of other questions came up, too, but since the national media was there, the steroid issue was out in front.
That’s fine and expected, but when is it going to end? Is it going to end? I doubt anyone really thinks Howard is cheating, but will there ever be a day when the questions about it ever stop?

It’s very doubtful.

Lance vs. Pound
One thing is for sure: Lance Armstrong will never escape the questions about performance-enhancing drugs, and Dick Pound will never stop talking about Armstrong.

In The New York Times, George Vecsey writes about how the pair are tied to each other – kind of like Magic and Bird.

Making the rounds
John Amaechi is not the first gay man to play in the NBA. He won’t be the last, either. He’s also not the first gay man to play professional sports to write a book, and it’s doubtful he will be the last.

In other words, there is nothing particularly interesting about his story. Amaechi is not a trailblazer, was barely a marginal player in the NBA and was an above average player for Penn State mostly because he was a center who could get up and down the court.

As far as being gay goes… whatever. The fact that something like that is still an issue in 2007 is sad. Just get in the pot already. It also reminds me of a quote from Gandhi when he was asked what he thought about American culture:

“It would be a good idea.”

Nevertheless, Amaechi was in Philadelphia doing the canned interviews with all of the outlets to sell more books – a fact that seemed to be lost on those doing the interviewing. Tim Hardaway, Shavlik Randolph and their unfathomable idiocy aside, the only reason Amaechi is even in the news is because ESPN published his book. His story really isn’t that extraordinary – in fact, it’s probably very normal.

Snow, snow, go away

As the snow falls over this corner of the Northeast, it’s fun to think about the warmer weather and the upcoming racing and training seasons ahead.

The World Cross Country Championships are in Kenya next month, followed by the Boston Marathon in mid April will star top American Deena Kastor, defending New York City champ Jelena Prokopcuka, and defending Boston champ Rita Jeptoo.

A week after Boston, the epically deep London Marathon field that will feature Americans Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi (2:09:53) and Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:38) will go after world-record holder Paul Tergat (2:04:55), and two-time Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie (2:05:56), as well as Felix Limo (2:06:14); Martin Lel (2:06:41); Hendrick Ramaala (2:06:55); Jaouad Gharib (2:07:02); defending Olympic champion Stefano Baldini (2:07:22); Benson Cherono (2:07:58); Hicham Chat (2:07:59); defending New York City champ Marilson Gomes dos Santos (2:08:48); and Briton Jon Brown (2:09:31).

Outside of the Olympics the London field could be the deepest ever assembled.

But more than the spring marathons and big track meets, the news on a snowy Tuesday focuses on the autumn, specifically the two big races in New York City on the first weekend in November.

That’s where Lance Armstrong will take another crack at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4. Last year, as was well documented, Armstrong completed the hilly NYC course in 2:59:36 thanks in part to being paced through by Alberto Salazar, German Silva, Joan Samuelson and Hicham El Guerrouj. Actually, Armstrong’s outing in New York was a big-time production magnified by a phalanx of security, famous Nike runners, and a pace car reporting his splits along with the equally ridiculous “Lance Cam.”

Meanwhile, Armstrong finished 856th.

Afterwards, Armstrong called marathoning much more difficult than cycling:

“I can tell you, 20 years of pro sports, endurance sports, from triathlons to cycling, all of the Tours – even the worst days on the Tours – nothing was as hard as that, and nothing left me feeling the way I feel now, in terms of just sheer fatigue and soreness.”

READ MORE OF THIS POST

Forget the snow, let’s look ahead

As the snow falls over this corner of the Northeast, it’s fun to think about the warmer weather and the upcoming racing and training seasons ahead.

The World Cross Country Championships are in Kenya next month, followed by the Boston Marathon in mid April will star top American Deena Kastor, defending New York City champ Jelena Prokopcuka, and defending Boston champ Rita Jeptoo.

A week after Boston, the epically deep London Marathon field that will feature Americans Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi (2:09:53) and Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:38) will go after world-record holder Paul Tergat (2:04:55), and two-time Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie (2:05:56), as well as Felix Limo (2:06:14); Martin Lel (2:06:41); Hendrick Ramaala (2:06:55); Jaouad Gharib (2:07:02); defending Olympic champion Stefano Baldini (2:07:22); Benson Cherono (2:07:58); Hicham Chat (2:07:59); defending New York City champ Marilson Gomes dos Santos (2:08:48); and Briton Jon Brown (2:09:31).

Outside of the Olympics the London field could be the deepest ever assembled.

But more than the spring marathons and big track meets, the news on a snowy Tuesday focuses on the autumn, specifically the two big races in New York City on the first weekend in November.

That’s where Lance Armstrong will take another crack at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4. Last year, as was well documented, Armstrong completed the hilly NYC course in 2:59:36 thanks in part to being paced through by Alberto Salazar, German Silva, Joan Samuelson and Hicham El Guerrouj. Actually, Armstrong’s outing in New York was a big-time production magnified by a phalanx of security, famous Nike runners, and a pace car reporting his splits along with the equally ridiculous “Lance Cam.”

Meanwhile, Armstrong finished 856th.

Afterwards, Armstrong called marathoning much more difficult than cycling:

“I can tell you, 20 years of pro sports, endurance sports, from triathlons to cycling, all of the Tours – even the worst days on the Tours – nothing was as hard as that, and nothing left me feeling the way I feel now, in terms of just sheer fatigue and soreness.”

Afterwards, Armstrong revealed that he did not train as hard as he had claimed even though he was diligent. The fact of the matter is that Armstrong worked out hard, but just not enough, which is understandable since he had just retired from hard training and competing.

But the marathon is humbling and there is no place to hide weaknesses. A runner has either done the work or he hasn’t – it’s that simple. In that regard, Armstrong got a taste of what it’s all about and it’s unlikely that he will leave New York feeling as banged up and bruised as he did last November.

I think there is something more to Armstrong choosing to run the marathon again and it’s more than an elite athlete being humbled in a new event. In fact, I’ll be willing to wager that Armstrong puts in a big-time training effort in attempt to be the top American in the race.

After all, there will be no elite-level Americans racing in the 2007 New York City Marathon. They will all be racing in the Olympic Trials the day before the annual marathon. With such a depleted field it’s reasonable that Armstrong can put in nine more months of training to lower his 2:59 considerably. After all, he has one of the highest VO2 marks ever registered. Though he’s a little older now, his body hasn’t taken the pounding typical of runners his age. Actually, the career on the bike might have provided a nice base to become an above-average runner.

It will be interesting to see what types of reports come out of Armstrong’s camp as the year passes.

Goucher to take a crack at the Trials?
While Armstrong’s entry into the 2007 New York City Marathon is as official as it can be nine months out, elite American Adam Goucher is contemplating his marathon debut in the Olympic Trials the day before Lance makes his second run in New York.

Fresh off his second-place finish in the USATF Cross Country Championships, Goucher announced that he – along with Jorge Torres and Abdi Abdirahman – was going to take a crack at Alberto Salazar’s 26-year old 8k American record (22:04) at the U.S. Championships next month in New York City. If he’s going to do it, Goucher will have a good reference point since his coach is the record holder.

But it’s the prospect of Goucher making his marathon debut at the Trials that has piqued the interest. A “B” standard qualifier with both a 27:59 10k and 13:15 5k under his belt in 2006, Goucher’s entry into the field automatically changes the tenor of the race. Already shaping up to be one of the deepest American marathon fields in a generation, the high-stakes competition and the criterion-style course through Central Park could suit Goucher’s style.

Plus, Goucher will get a first-hand look at portions of the course next month when he hits NYC for the 8k championships, and his well-documented training regime is, frankly, intimidating.

Yeah, Goucher is in.

Go Pound sand
Speaking of Armstrong, his arch nemesis and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound, was essentially censured by the International Olympic Committee for his comments directed at the cyclist. Not that anything such as a rebuke, humiliation or censure will quiet Pound.

The IOC claims that Pound “violated the Olympic charter, the rules of the IOC, and the rules of the Olympic movement,” when Pound criticized a Dutch report last year that cleared Armstrong from doping allegations. Pound, published reports indicate, said the report was prepared by a lawyer with no expertise in doping control and that WADA was considering legal action against him.

Though the IOC’s ethics panel found no “incriminating element” in Pound’s conduct, it did find that he refused to respond to Armstrong’s complaint against him for continuing to make claims without undisputed evidence.

Defiant as always, Pound told Armstrong the rebuke is meaningless.

“If Lance thinks this is going to make me go away he is sadly mistaken,” Pound told reporters.

That is, of course, Armstrong chooses to sue Pound and the WADA… don’t’ bet against it.

Out in front
The New York Times, seemingly the only American newspaper outside of the Bay Area covering doping issues these days, offered a story about an American cycling team performing its own drug tests ahead of the agencies. It’s very interesting to read how Floyd Landis’ positive test in last year’s Tour de France have affected many cycling teams.

Meanwhile, former marathoner turned physician, Bob Kempainen, reminisced with an Ivy League sporting web site. Kempainen, of course, was one of the toughest runners on the planet for a few years as evidenced in the 1996 Marathon Olympic Trials.

Much ado about something

Aside from the obvious (you know… like everything), there are two specific sports-related stories that I simply cannot put together intelligent and unique sentences about. One of the stories is a parent’s worst nightmare realized and encompasses just about every emotion, theory, thought and any other type of lean-tissue burning catalyst anyone can conjure.

The other, simply, has worn me out. Despite an interest in the topic that bordered on obsession last summer, these days my eyes glaze over when stories on the subject appear.

So as far as Andy Reid and his sons go… what can anyone write? I honestly believe there is nothing smart a writer (not a novelist) can put together on the subject that will do anyone justice. In fact, attempting to just might be insulting – even what I’ve come up with so far fits into those categories. Even seasoned parents can just wonder and offer sympathy. What else is there? All I can offer is that hopefully things turn out OK.

As a not-so-seasoned parent my theory is that one could be as involved as Ward Clever and as in-tune with their child as the most fair-minded and studied child-rearing clinician, and it still comes down to a bit of luck that one’s kids turn out alright and well-adjusted.

That’s about it. Frankly, it’s not really any of my business.

Now with Floyd Landis… are we still doing this?

The news came out today that Landis will not defend his Tour de France victory in 2007 as part of a deal with the French anti-doping agency. In return for staying out of France for the year (Stay out of Mailbu, Lebowski!), the anti-doping agency will postpone whether or not it will ban the Lancaster County native for two years from worldwide competition and strip him of his Tour de France victory.

The French agency will reconvene no later than June to make its ruling, which will come on the heels of the U.S. anti-doping agency’s case against Landis stemming from his positive test for unusually high levels of testosterone during one stage of last year’s Tour de France.

In other words, nothing has been settled, nor does it seem likely that there will be any type of conclusion any time soon.

Not being able to ride in France hardly seems like much of a loss for Landis, who could rank along with President Bush (and maybe Lance Armstrong) as the most disliked Americans amongst the French. Besides, Landis, who was recently in New York trying to raise money for his legal defense, had hip-replacement surgery four months ago and would probably not defend his title even if that one dope test (in the 21 he took) came back as clean as the others. Instead, he hopes to ride in the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race in Leadville, Colo. in August, according to reports.

Are your eyes glazed over yet?

Here’s what gets me about this – doping in sports is and will be the most significant story as far as sports are concerned for the foreseeable future. Governing the major sports to be drug free is a raging battle that seems to be doing nothing other than treading water. In baseball, Congress is involved… kind of. In football, positive tests and suspensions for steroids are nothing more than fodder for the transaction wire like turf toe or a strained muscle, while the Olympic sports – running, cycling, swimming, etc. – are neck deep in an abyss of supposed cheating.

In a story written by Evan Weiner of The New York Sun, the idea that wide-ranging investigations uncovering uses of illicit and performance-enhancing drugs could open up potential legal action from the fans is broached.

Weiner writes:

There is another problem with the Mitchell investigation that no one has addressed. What if Mitchell uncovers evidence of steroids and other banned substance usage? What kind of penalties can the industry impose on retired players, former team officials, and employees? What happens if people demand refunds for buying tickets to what they thought was a bona fide competition once they find out that the games featured cheaters? Other than a scholarly and possible legal report, just what is Mitchell’s investigation going to prove? Major League Baseball lacked integrity six years ago, nine years ago, 15 years ago?

Better yet:

The difficulty they face is simple. No one in authority in terms of spending money on sports really cares about athletes using banned and illegal substances.

Meanwhile, the fans yawn.

As a side note to the Landis story, the two-year ban on Tyler Hamilton is up and the one-time top American rider is back racing and hopes to win the Tour de France this year. There’s a big story about his drive to return to the top of the sport after his doping ban in the latest issue of Outside Magazine.

Wouldn’t that be something if he did it?

That’s much better

It’s amazing what 20 ounces of one beverage can do for a person. Almost from the first taste of the coffee supposedly shipped in to Lancaster, Pa. from Guatemala, all of the aches and pains in my head slipped into the ether. Sure, it could be psychosomatic, but the energized feeling – as well as the shaky hands – has to come from somewhere.

Obviously, it’s from my drug of choice.

That brings me to a quote I once read that was attributed to William Burroughs where he once told an audience that, “drugs are an inevitable part of life.”

I couldn’t agree more and I’ve debated with people what exactly Burroughs was talking about. Most seem to think that the beat bard was talking about narcotics and the illicit stuff that he waxed on about in his writing, speaking and in a role in the Gus Van Sandt film Drugstore Cowboy.

That’s obvious, but I also believe Burroughs was talking about everyday drugs, too, like caffeine, aspirin, television, money, and whatever else people need in order to make it through the day. In that regard perhaps Burroughs should have said, “Addictions are an inevitable part of life.”

But that would have been too easy.

I also believe that the human body does not want drugs and that Mother Nature, in her own little odd way, is perfect.

Pretty ambiguous, huh?

Nevertheless, the coffee helped my head and the other fluids – an antioxidant drink and gallons and gallons of water – are helping me stave off the cold that seems to be affecting people in these parts. I’m sure the weather isn’t helping much, either. All week it’s been rather seasonal for mid-November, but today it’s sunny with the temperature pushing toward 70 degrees. Typically in these situations, I like to stay consistent with my clothing choices during my workouts. That means a long-sleeved Nike compression shirt and a pair of Pearl Izumi running shorts for my easy five miler in 30:05.

During the run I felt pretty laid back despite the fact that I ran at 6-minute pace. It didn’t seem hard, but wasn’t super, super easy, either — I had to think about running that pace. However, I guess it’s my average, uptempo pace which I hope to do for 26.2 miles on Sunday. Actually, I’d like to go 6 minutes for the first 13 miles and 5:30 to 5:50 for the last 13.

That will do it.

On another note, it’s typical for runners to gain a pound or two during the taper period since they aren’t cranking out the miles. For some (like me) this is a cause for concern because weight has a tendency to slow people down, but fortunately, I feel as fit this week as I did last week. Whether or not I gained (or lost) any weight is unknown since I choose not to weigh myself. Instead I gauge my fitness and healthiness by how fast (or slow) I am.

That doesn’t mean I don’t watch my diet, especially this week. But man, there is just so much to think about with this running stuff.

Running nugget
According to some blogger in San Francisco, the running boom is alive and well and isn’t fueled by the fast folks. To this we say, “No s—.”

Speaking of the elites, the elite of the elite women, Joan Samuelson, wants to run a sub-2:50 marathon when she turns 50. That would get her in the Olympic Trials, which is extremely impressive.

Then again, Joan Samuelson is the greatest American woman runner ever. There is no debate.

Uh-oh Part whatever

According to a story in the LA Times, former Phillie Jason Grimsley accused former teammates Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte used performance-enhancing drugs, while Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons used anabolic steroids.

Grimsley, as some remember, was involved in a bizarre incident this summer when federal agents raided his home, implicated several former teammates, and was asked to wear a wire to help feds in their steroid and baseball investigation… if there is such a thing.

Not to go out on a limb or anything, but I’m going to guess that Clemens, Pettitte and the others will either deny the allegations or refuse to talk to reporters about the accusations.