Posted on: March 6, 2009 10:14 pm
  •  
 

Asterisks? Please, Records as Legitimate as Any

 

Baseball is a game that is constantly changing. Rules change, ballparks change, uniforms change: everything is changing. And as baseball continues to develop and adjust, so to do the players. Pitchers and hitters alike are always looking for ways to get and stay at the tops of their games. Even back to the days of the spitball, or a little Vaseline under the brim of the cap, players have been looking for that edge. So why all of a sudden is it such a surprise and an issue that baseball players are using steroids? Steroids are like anything else; they are used to make players better. At least that’s what users think they are doing. Players still have to put the work in; steroids don’t make better baseball players, hard workers make better baseball players. Many of the guys who have tested positive did so because of substances that weren’t banned at the time they were being taken. It is absurd to think that a player should be punished for doing something that wasn’t even illegal at the time of use.

What’s even more absurd is the notion that the home run king in baseball isn’t Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds is baseball’s all-time home run leader—no asterisk, just 762. Barry Bonds shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer? Please. If Barry Bonds isn’t elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot then baseball’s version of the ultimate glory deserves the asterisk. A Barry Bonds-less Hall of Fame is not a true Hall of Fame. How can baseball justify not allowing the greatest slugger of all-time to not be within the game’s elite, when he did nothing that 103 other players didn’t also do, maybe even more? And how many of those 762 home runs were hit off of pitchers who were juicing? Just because Bonds was a better home run hitter than those other 103 doesn’t make him guiltier. How many minor league players are constantly being suspended for performance-enhancers? They’re not out there driving the ball out of the park 40-plus times every season like Bonds was.

Think about why the names of the other 103 positive testers haven’t been revealed; they were told that the tests were anonymous. Players were being tested because Selig wanted to see how many players were taking steroids, not to catch “cheaters.” Barry Bonds wasn’t suspended.  Alex Rodriguez won’t be either. When players are determined to have broken rules, they are punished. Bonds and A-Rod aren’t rule-breakers, so why are so many people trying to punish them?

Records like the home run record, hits record, stolen base record and others will continue to be broken as players grow stronger, faster and more coordinated. That’s evolution at work. Athletes today are much more advanced in terms of strength and conditioning than they once were. Sure, there were players 50 years ago who were tremendous athletes, but today it seems as if every single one is a physical specimen, save for Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, David Wells and the like. But none of those guys will ever break major records. They could have years ago, but not anymore.

To be a record holder, a player must possess tools that only top athletes do, guys like Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson. Yes, Barry Bonds is a great athlete. To deny that notion is to truly not understand the sport at all. Bonds is a member of the 50/50 club, one of baseball’s most exclusive memberships. Not only was he hitting the ball 400+ feet, but sprinting 90 in less than three and a half seconds.  And could do this because of steroids? Not a chance. They may have helped prolong his career, but not to help him perfectly time that sweet stroke of his. And, who’s to say that Hank Aaron wasn’t doping? Steroid testing is new to the sport—brand new, in fact. What about Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris? Of course, many scoff at those notions, but it doesn’t make them any less possible. Just because steroids are more prevalent now doesn’t mean they weren’t around back then, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the top players weren’t using. I’m not suggesting that they were, but before judging Bonds, it must at least be considered.

This is the Steroid Era, and everyone knows it. Babe Ruth was the best slugger in his era. The same applies to Aaron. And Barry Bonds is the best power hitter of the steroid era, no question. When he hit number 756, I stood up and applauded. I’ll do the same when he is elected as a first ballot Hall of Famer. If not, it’ll be a black mark on the game of baseball, and that’s more damaging than any asterisk could ever be.

 

Category: MLB
Tags: Barry Bonds
 
Posted on: February 20, 2009 3:36 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2009 5:19 pm
 

More Meaningless Predictions, AL-Style

I promised that I would also break down and predict the American League, and I try not to disappoint. Without any further witty quips, or cleverly phrased A-Rod jokes, here they are:

AL East

Winner: New York Yankees- Much is being made of the whole A-Rod ordeal. Many are wondering if he can handle this new pressure to perform. Read my keyboard: YES. Fans having been finding reasons to lambaste A-Rod since he became a Yankee. He’s been the most heavily scrutinized player in the league over the past 5 seasons, and guess what? He’s won 2 MVPs in that span. Last season was an off-year by A-Rod’s standards and he still put up .302/ 35/ 103. A-Rod will be just fine. So will Sabathia. And Teixeira. And Burnett. And Rivera. And Jeter. Pencil in Wang for 15-18 wins also. They spend money, but they have purchased a winner here, the Yankees are the clear AL favorites and I’m not here to tell you otherwise.

Just missed: Boston Red Sox- Theo was probably squirming in his chair every time he received news of the Yankees latest signing. To his credit, he’s probably also grinning from ear to ear watching “Manny being Manny” in someone else’s clubhouse. All that aside, the Sox are still a very solid team. It’s all about pitching in Beantown. Josh Beckett, Daisuke, and Jon Lester are all outstanding starters. And, come July, throw John Smoltz into that mix.  Just imagine if Brad Penny gets and stays healthy. The lineup is still plenty potent, with Big Papi anchoring in the middle and reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, and I see the Sox finishing just behind the Yanks, which pains me to say because of the…

Tampa Bay Rays- Their Cinderella story of last season was felt by everyone in the baseball world. Unfortunately, the glass slipper is just a little too small this season because the evil step sisters (see above) are meaner than ever. I love what the Rays did, but it took breakout seasons from too many players. They will be good again this year, but a drop-off has to be expected. Evan Longoria and BJ Upton are the real deal, and Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell (who’s signing I thought was perfect for this team) will contribute their share of runs offensively. However, there are durability and depth questions for this team, and in a division with the Sox and Yanks, they can’t afford any missteps his season. Unfortunately, I think they will have a few.  

Outside Chance: Baltimore Orioles- Hear me out on this one. The Orioles are quietly building a contender over in Baltimore. Nick Markakis may be the most underrated player in the sport. Their lineup is pretty good already, and Matt Wieters is on the way to aid that cause. This team just doesn’t have the pitching to compete right now, but they have a lot of young players who could really help this team, especially Adam Jones. If they somehow put everything all together, this team has a shot, but they’re just victims of playing in the AL East. Give them a year or two, and we could have AL East Upset Part 2.

Toronto Blue Jays- Toronto is one of the most loaded teams in the league when it comes to young pitching. Not to mention they still have Roy Halladay at the top, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells in the order, and BJ Ryan at the back end of the 'pen. This is a pretty good team, but they’re not as good as the top 3. The Blue Jays, like the Orioles, are headed in the right direction, but haven’t done enough to get over the hump that is the Sox/Rays/Yankees.

AL Central

Winner: Minnesota Twins- The Twins have to be one of the most well-run franchises in Major League baseball. They are always brining up great talent through the farm system, yet they don’t have to spend like the AL East teams. I see them being heavily competitive this season and like them to take the Central. The only reason I can to see to question the Twins is their rotation. There is a ton of talent from top to bottom and I see big years for Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker. But, these are young pitchers and there could be growing pains. The lineup still features former MVP Justin Morneau, and Joe Mauer is one of the best hitters in the AL. Oh, yeah, and there is still that force named Joe Nathan just waiting for 9<sup>th</sup> inning leads. I like the Twins just barely to edge out the…

Just Missed: Cleveland Indians- This team definitely has a lot to look forward to this year after last year’s awful start. Cliff Lee is coming off a CY Young season, Fausto Carmona is establishing himself as a potential ace for this rotation and I love the pickup last season of Anthony Reyes. Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez are all top-tier players at their positions. So why do I have them missing the playoffs? The Indians have huge injury concerns this year, just like every team, but almost the entire team is coming off of a down season and I don’t see Cliff Lee replicating ’08. The Indians will be good this season, but trying to keep Pronk, Martinez, and Carmona healthy will be paramount this year. If they are, then I like the Indians in the Central, but I just can’t see that.

Detroit Tigers- I really don’t like putting the Tigers in this category because there are plenty of question marks here. But, the Tigers really embody what the top of the AL Central is about this year. Lots of questions, lots of talent. The lineup that sports writers fell in love with last year is still largely intact. Placido Polanco, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Curtis Granderson are all great offensive players, and certainly the Tigers will score some runs this year. But can they stop them? Justin Verlander took a step back last year, like most Tigers, so I look for him to rebound. I’m not wowed by Jeremy Bonderman, Edwin Jackson, or Dontrelle Willis, but all still retain potential. Their season hinges on that rotation’s performance.

Chicago White Sox- The White Sox are the fourth team in my eyes who could end up winning this division. Although I think this team has fewer question marks, they also have less overall talent as well. That’s not to say that this team doesn’t have some great players. John Danks, Gavin Floyd, and Mark Buehrle are a formidable trio atop the rotation. Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez emerged last season so I expect them to suffer slight drop-offs, but both should still be very effective. Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko are on the down slope, so I’m not sure they can carry this team anymore. If the White Sox can get production from the players around Konerko and Dye and take the pressure off, then this team has as good a shot as any.  

Outside Chance: None

Maybe Next Year: Kansas City Royals- I like what the Royals are doing, but this team just isn’t ready to contend yet. Zack Greinke got the contract he deserved, Alex Gordon will definitely be a star in time, and Joakim Soria is the real deal. This team just doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, and not much power throughout this order.  I almost created a new category because I don’t think they’ll be ready next year, but I also don’t see it taking 5 years either. Give this team 2 years if they continue to build as they are, and they will be competing for a division title.

AL West

Winner: Los Angeles Angels – The cream of the AL West crop. Other than the Cubs, they may have the easiest time winning their division. Losing Mark Teixeira hurts, but the pitching is still in place here. Joe Saunders, John Lackey and Ervin Santana all have top-of-the-rotation stuff, and should win a ton of games this year beating up on the rest of the division. Offensively, this outfield can flat-out rake. Vlad Guerrero, and Torii Hunter are headed downward, but will still put up numbers this year, and Juan Rivera is underrated and should benefit hitting in this batting order. The Bobby Abreu signing was huge because it allows their aging outfield to rotate as the DH to stay healthier. Brian Fuentes is no K-Rod, but he is a serviceable closer that will do the job that the Angels need him to, and if he can’t, Jose Arredondo is waiting in the wings.

Just Missed: None

Outside Chance: Texas Rangers- When I say outside chance, I really mean outside chance. Josh Hamilton is one of the best outfielders in baseball, no doubt. And the Rangers actually will put a very good lineup out there. Ian Kinsler and Michael Young can still hit, and I actually endorse moving Young over to third. Also, their catching depth is hard not to love. Problem is, Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla are not a strong 1-2 punch. Their bullpen should perform well; CJ Wilson and Frank Francisco aren’t bad options at the back-end, although neither is dominating. They need the Angels to completely fall apart to have a real shot at the title.

Maybe Next Year: Oakland Athletics- The A’s went out and got Matt Holliday, which was a great pickup since they didn’t give up too much, but there’s not much around him. Bobby Crosby has been very disappointing, as was Daric Barton last year, although I see him bouncing back. Duchscherer is a solid player, but injury prone. There’s not a whole lot behind him in the rotation, either. The bullpen lacks a dominant closer, and that could be a factor for the few games that they have a lead.  

Maybe 5 Years From Now…: Seattle Mariners- The only AL team that I put in this category, the Mariners are a mess. Erik Bedard busted big time last year, so they’ll need a rebound just to make that trade look respectable. Felix Hernandez can be dominating but must deal with his inconsistency and injury history. Ichiro is still Ichiro, albeit with a lower average. You have to give the Mariners PR department credit, though. They found out Griffey had interest from other teams, and went out and got him back into a Mariners uniform. At least they’ll sell some tickets.

Predictions:

AL East: New York Yankees

AL Central: Minnesota Twins

AL West: Los Angeles Angels

AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox

Divisional:

Yankees over Twins

Angels over Sox

 

AL Champion: Los Angeles Angels

 

I like the Mets to win the 2009 World Series in 5 games.

Posted on: February 19, 2009 6:54 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2009 5:02 pm
 

It's Never too Early for Meaningless Predictions

If you're like me,  or you're a professional baseball player, Spring means only one thing: time to call our Dominican cousins and bust out the syringes. Or, it's time to play some baseball. One of the two. Being that it is only February, I expect my views to change at least 5 times before the season starts, but I've taken a good look around the MLB and have come up with I see to be a reasonable idea of this season is going to go. This post will have my National League Outlook, and I will be posting the AL in a few days. Well, here we go.

Author's Note: I guess I should have been more clear. When I placed two teams in the same "bracket," I am saying that they will finish next to each other in the standings, but in no particular order. For example, I don't necessarily think the Reds will finish 2nd, but that the Cards, Reds, and Brewers will in some order finish 2,3,4.

NL East

Winner: New York Mets- Look, the Mets have a tendency to choke as we all know, but going into camp I still see them as the most talented team in the East. I know the Phillies are the defending champs, and I'll explain in a second what I see for them, but I love the additions of K-Rod and Putz. You have to give them credit: they have a need, and they go fill it. With an improved bullpen and a potent lineup including Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana at the top of the rotation, give me the Mets, finally, in '09.

Just Missed: Philadelphia Phillies- The Phillies are the defending champs, and for good reason, and I still have them capturing the NL Wild Card. Having them finish second in the division has more to do with the Mets getting much better than the Phillies getting worse. Philadelphia will still be a factor, as long as Chase Utley's health holds up, but I think this team will miss Pat Burrell. Ibanez is getting older, and this lineup is too lefty-laden to be a huge factor in the late innings where lefty specialists control the game. Signing Hamels was a big step and that bullpen is still fierce. I see another postseason berth for the City of Brotherly Love.

Outside Chance: Atlanta Braves- The Braves did a great job in trading for Jake Peavy. Er, signing AJ Burnett. Wait, um, bringing Furcal back? The Braves really disappointed its fan base this offseason not making a big signing, or trade, and I don't see them finishing above third. Derek Lowe still has a lot in the tank, but makes for a better number 2. Same goes for Javier Vazquez. I really liked that they hung on to Yunel Escobar, he's going to be a great player. The problem with the Braves is that their best hitter hasn't played a full season in 5 years: Chipper Jones. If Jones stays healthy, and Lowe, Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens exceed expectations, then the Braves have a chance.

Maybe Next Year: Florida Marlins- You can never really count out the Florida Marlins because they seem to find talent anywhere and produce a workable product (though you wouldn't know it by looking at ticket sales). That being said, as much as I love Hanley Ramirez, and I think their lineup with him, Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu will be respectable, Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco as the dynamic duo really make this a 4th place team.

Maybe 5 Years From Now... Washington Nationals- The Nationals will once again be the NL's doormat. They did virtually nothing to improve one of the worst rotations in baseball, unless you consider Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olsen to be something, which I don't. Instead, they go out and get Adam Dunn. What does a team that is perennially rebuilding need to do? I know, sign a guy who bats .240 and strikes out more than makes contact to anchor the lineup. And, go ahead and stick him in left to bolster the outfield defense. I thought this was an awful signing for Dunn and Washington, and cannot see how this team doesn't finish last in this division this season....again.

NL Central

Winner: Chicago Cubs- As much as it pains me to type it, the Chicago Cubs are far and away the best team in this division, and should clinch early, might even be the first to wrap up its division. Losing Kerry Wood will hurt, but it's almost impossible to argue against Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ryan Dempster as one of the best top 3's in the bigs, and Ted Lilly is no slouch...and he's the 4th starter! The lineup has hitters top to bottom and I love the addition of Milton Bradley. I think he brings a new spark to the team. Cubs run away with this one.

Just Missed: None

Outside Chance: Cincinnati Reds- The Reds are a team that could be very, very good this season. Or, very, very bad. There are a ton of question marks, way more than any answers. So why do I have them here instead of lower? Well, for one I'm a Reds fan. Kidding. Well, I am a Reds fan but that's not why I put them here. This is a team built completely on young talent, focusing on pitching, speed, and defense, a new twist for a team that usually leads the league in round-trippers. If all of the young stars maximize potential this season (Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Edwin Encarnacion) and Aaron Harang bounces back , then the Reds could be a force. Or, the young guys may crack under the pressure of the big leagues and this team could fall flat. Time will tell.

St. Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals did almost nothing this offseason, but they still have Albert Pujols, and few guys in the league can carry a team like this guy. Ryan Ludwick emerged as a star last season, and they still have workable parts in Rick Ankiel, Yadier Molina and Chris Duncan. If Chris Carpenter can be dominant again, and Kyle Lohse can prove last season wasn't a fluke, then Cardinals could make a late run. But, like the Reds, a lot has to go right for the Cards to compete in '09.

Milwaukee Brewers- Rounding out the parade of NL Central teams who need EVERYTHING to go right to have a chance at a divsion title is the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers lost CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, and are not even close to as good as last season's playoff team. However, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Mike Cameron lead an offense that could score the most runs in the NL this year. Problem is, only Yovani Gallardo can stop opponents from scoring runs and he's never thrown more than 180 innings in a season at any level of baseball. Once again, if this pitching staff can mold together into a functional unit, the Brewers could be a sleeper team. But, that's a big if.

Maybe Next Year: Houston Astros- Many people see the Astros as a team that should be in the above category, but not me. The Miguel Tejada debacle will continue to rear its ugly head this season, and outside of Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt, this team has mostly just spare parts on its roster. Very few players even have strong upside, with Wandy Rodriguez being one of them. It will be a long year for the 'Stros in '09, but they're not that far away and should be back in the hunt within a season or two.

Maybe 5 Years from Now... Pittsburgh Pirates- The most losing franchise, arguably in sports history, will get a chance to add to its illustrious history again this year, and once again not in a good way. They have a chance to set the record by having a 17th consecutive losing season, and I see no reason to think they won't. Oh well, Pittsburgh just got itself a Super Bowl trophy, so we'll go ahead and just call it even.

NL West

Winner: The NL West is so completely wide open, that I haven't selected a clear-cut front runner, but I've got three teams I think will make the most noise, in no particular order:

Los Angeles Dodgers- As entertaining and annoying as "Manny-Mania" is, it's time for it to end. The Dodgers need to get this deal done, and done now. This team has no chance without Manny Ramirez, none. Even with Manny, the Dodgers are just one of 3 contenders, in my eyes. Manny, combined with Andre Ethier, Rafeal Furcal, and Russell Martin will give the Dodgers a solid lineup and a chance at a division title. But, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw don't exactly strike fear in opposing hitters. They do, however, have a chance to be very good, and possibly top of the rotation guys this season, and if they are, LA will be tough to beat.

San Francisco Giants- Yes, the San Francisco Giants. It's hard to argue against really good pitching, and Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are great pitchers. Throw in a final year for big Randy Johnson, and possible big-breakout candidates Noah Lowry and Jonathan Sanchez and this team may actually have something here. Their lineup still lacks much needed power, but there's plenty of speed to go around. This team could steal some wins from teams by wearing them down, and could easily be a factor in this three-horse race, although they have the highest handicap.

Arizona Diamondbacks- As stated with the Giants' outlook, I love great pitching, and no one does pitching better than out in the desert. Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Jon Garland seems almost unfair. Still, the lineup leaves a lot to be desired. This team will score runs thanks to some solid offensive players like Conor Jackson, Chris B. Young, and Justin Upton, but these are young players who can be very streaky. All signs point to the D-Backs having a pretty good season, and I believe they will. But, there's that lingering thought that the lineup has yet to turn that corner as a whole.

Just Missed: Two of the teams from above.

Maybe next Year: San Diego Padres- How hard could it be to trade one of the best pitchers in the league, who has a very reasonable contract? Harder than the Padres anticipated, so Peavy remains with the team. Well, at least he'll put fans in the seats every fifth day. Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez are very good players, so this team has some pieces, but this puzzle is too far from complete to compete this year.

Colorado Rockies- The fall from the top can be a long one, especially when you go from World Series runner-up with high expectations to likely division doormat. That's the 2009 Colorado Rockies in a nutshell. Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki make up a very good left side of the infield, but unfortuantely, there's not much else to look towards. The rotation is in shambles and Brian Fuentes is off to California with his unorthidox delivery. The Rockies aren't going to be a good team this season, but fortunately the future isn't too bleak up in the mountains.

How I see this whole thing playing out:

East: New York Mets

Central: Chicago Cubs

West: Los Angeles Dodgers

Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies

 

Divisional:

Mets over Dodgers

Phillies over Cubs

 

NL Champion: The New York Mets

 

Feel free to disagree, that's the point of this site, right??

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com