Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Catching up with...

- Melo never "felt slighted" by George Karl as we suggested he might and the Nuggets didn't fire their coach as we predicted. Our logic was borne out to be reasonable, however. ESPN's E-Ticket, which rarely dissapoints, most recently featured Chauncey Billups, or rather the journey of Chauncey Billups. Within Chauncey's story and specifically his impact on the Nuggets, are telling details of where Denver's season might've ended up without him. Karl, for one, openly acknowldges his fragile position,
"I just don't think I would've survived. I would've quit or they would've fired me... There was a posse of people in Denver that were tired of George Karl."
Before Chauncey, the Nuggets' play was erratic, "dysfunctional" Billups says. Billups came in to Denver and took the reins. J.R. Smith and Melo both praise him as a mentor, and the team's brass echos the same: "The Nuggets are grateful to have him, and team camaraderie skies through the roof."

- Michael Phelps' superficial PR-driven suspension ended last week. His response? "I had no idea."

- Last month the NYT profiled Roy Halladay, our pick for last year's AL Cy Young. it was good to see him get some much deserved attention - in the words of Raul Ibanez, "If he was in New York or Boston, fans would know more about him." The Times focused mostly on the same things as us - Roy Halladay, the throwback workhorse. This was their best:
"The movement on Halladay’s pitches can be seen in numbers compiled by the Inside Edge scouting service. Batters swung and missed at only 15 percent of his strikes, about the major league average. But they made solid contact only 7 percent of the time, one of the better rates in the league — the pitches looked good, but they flitted from the bat barrel at the last second."
- And on a sad note, Nick Adenhart, one of the Angels from the failed Cabrera trade that we followed all season, passed away. After just barely missing out on a spot in the roatation and struggling through a season in the minors last year, Adenhart won himself a starting spot this spring. He started the third game of the season and left after six innings and a 3-0 lead. He died that night at the hands of a drunken driver.

-Agent Easy

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Manny Manny Manny Drugs Drugs Drugs

Is it stating the obvious to say that the Manny PED bust is the most significant to date? Aside from his being the biggest name to be busted for present-day doping (as opposed to A-Rod’s retroactive bust) it is his personality and the way he was perceived that are more significant. Manny was beloved. Certainly not by all, but by the Dodger Blue and by just as many in Red Sox nation to whom Bill Simmons gave voice to in his August ’08 column.

There was a feeling that Manny was too silly or goofy or ignorant or naïve to know or try PEDs. Manny was a pudgy idiot savant who, with his eccentricities, charmed just as many as he put off. (Hmm, maybe not so pudgy.)

There is no profile. The Manny bust more than any previous suspension or allegation, cements the feeling that everyone is under suspicion.

This is different than A-Rod, who Bill James and Joe Posnanski half-defended, thusly:
1) Baseball allowed a situation to develop in which it was in the self-interest of players to use steroids.

2) Now we are very angry with people because they did what the system rewarded them for doing.
Of course, that defense can’t apply to Manny.

In that same piece Posnanski’s anger at A-Rod comes not from his steroid use, but his non-apology and his PR spin. Back then we too fantasized that a ballplayer would come out and out and say, "Yeah I did it. I am embarrassed for myself and for the game. The players of that era that never took drugs? They are better men than me. I admire them; they were stronger than me. I’m sorry.” And maybe he’d throw in a line implicitly fingering Selig, Fehr, and Orza.

It still baffles us how little ire is directed at Selig and the rest. In his Manny column, Lupica, praised Selig for having a policy that doesn’t spare the stars. Ugh. Lupica discredits himself by making such claims absent context. Every time another player gets busted, every time there is a new big to-do about steroids and baseball, it must be noted that Selig only acted once the government intervened, once his hand was forced. The 2003 anonymous testing was instituted only after the Balco case began to dominate the news cycle and the 2005 Mitchell report was commissioned only after Congress had hearings with the fab five.

What's worse is that he's delusional, and not only refuses blame, but had the temerity to tacitly threaten A-Rod with punishment for his 2003 misdeeds. Retroactively. Ahem. In 2003. When PEDs still weren't illegal. Ahem. On Selig's watch!

Of course now, and this is the significance of the Manny bust, the to-dos will be smaller. It had already felt that way last year, if only because we had reached a saturation point after years of steroid talk, but now, on top of that, perspectives have been rearranged and it's not a matter of being numb to steroid talk but no longer even being surprised by new information.

And that's great for Selig because, of the players who will now be caught, most will be caught by the testing program and less by allegations or investigations of past use, and the praise will only be louder and the past will only recede faster. Or, maybe what the Manny bust portends is that most players don't care about a fifty game suspension or the impact on their legacy - certainly not a utility infielder or a middle reliever with no HOF plaque at stake - and the possibility of an extra million is worth it. Either way, Bud still gets to throw his hands up, play the victim, and plead, "I've done all I could!"

But for truth's sake, let’s ever so briefly revisit that past and examine Selig's fingerprints.

Take a look at the active home run leaders and how many of them have been linked to PEDs. Goodness.

Add to that list Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, and Palmiero, and now the only players from the modern era to have hit 500 HRs cleanly (so far) are Griffey, Thome, and Frank Thomas, with Delgado ready to join.

Let’s also consider the recent guilty award winners. Three MVPs: Tejada, Giambi, Pudge. Five Cy Youngs: Gagne, Clemens (4 post-sox).

When A-Rod was outed, the Dallas Morning News published this handy lineup from the 2003 Rangers squad. At first look it only drew attention to the Rangers – a funny anomaly, but now, seeing it a second time, it’s startling how telling it is. The entire starting lineup! Consider the extrapolation. Is that what every team’s lineup looked like?

That’s what the Manny bust keeps making us think of. Everyone is under suspicion. Unfortunately, that'll continue to be the norm; new drugs are right around the corner.

-Agent Easy

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Facebook and College Recruiting

We're late on this, but...

Back in April the Memphis head coaching hire story was broken by John Calipari's daughter on her Facebook page. She didn't mean to break the news. According to her distressed dad, "she was just saying yay for Josh."

Three days later, in perhaps a not completely unrelated move (it's reasonable that the Calipari story inspired greater Facebook vigilance), the NCAA started attempting to shutter Facebook groups that urged recruits to choose a certain school, arguing that they violated its recruiting policies. At the suggestion that their guidelines, or at least their wording, are behind the times, the notoriously obstinate and arrogant NCAA said, its rules are "technology neutral." [h/t TBL]

-Agent Easy