A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

From the basement March 30 07

I get a lot of email from MLB.com because I'm a subscriber. Overwhelmingly it never gets my attention, but today somehow I did take notice. The purpose of the email is to promote their initial Civil Rights Game. I never opened the email although I've blogged about the subject before. I don't think they should be patting themselves on the back. Don't get me wrong, the integration of the game took it to a new level of skill and athleticism, but MLB integrated the game not out of some devotion to Civil Rights but a devotion to the bottom line, it was good for business.

No matter how hard I try, I can't keep track of everybody. I read EVERY boxscore of the regular season, I read ALL the transactions, majors and minors year round, I read all the Baseball America Top 10 prospect lists, I read the daily Fantasy update on ESPN ( if the roto geeks don't care nobody does ), I watch baseball both Triple A and big league, hell I even watched some of the Caribbean Series on my PC this winter. But still I fail to follow it all. Alejandro De Aza is the Marlins starting centre fielder to begin the season. Up until a handful of days ago I hadn't a clue who he is. Well professional baseball geek Rob Neyer admits to not knowing this guy either until very recently so I feel a bit less inadequate.

Jay Mariotti - Chicago Sun Times - Selig & steroids

Read a column from the March 29 Chicago Sun Times by Jay Mariotti which I couldn't disagree more strongly with. In Jay's words, "Make sure I have a vomit bag when Bonds passes Aaron. It will be one of the darkest, seamiest moments in American sports history." Ooooh, he's really steamed, what venom, what outrage! ".....baseball was brought back from the dead by the steroids era, when juiced-up sluggers were duping us with Home Run Derby." How can a sportswriter ( as opposed to a geek in his basement ) admit to being "duped" by the presence of steroids in MLB? Which sport was he watching? Which locker rooms was he visiting? What players was he talking to? Who didn't know? The more pertinent observation would be that nobody cared. The question to ask is why does the press care now?

In this same column there are the following quotes from Gary Sheffield's forthcoming "book". I use quotation marks because I would bet everything we own that Mr. Sheffield did not write a 'book", I'm guessin it is "as told to". Anyway, the always outspoken Sheffield is 100% right when he "tells", ''The '94 players' strike had made fans angry. The World Series was canceled. After that, attendance was down. But when [Mark] McGwire started the home run mania, attendance came back. The owners understood that the sudden spike in homers wasn't accidental. All baseball knew it. But baseball is run on money, and home runs meant money. Baseball turned a blind eye."

More steroids

George Mitchell wants to start "interviewing" current players. The MLBPA has long been the strongest and most unified of all the unions in North American pro sports. I wonder though if this steroids investigation might split apart the membership. I suspect there will be some clean players who will roll over on some of the dirty ones out of bitterness and retribution. Can't blame em.

Today Buster Olney writes what I think and hope I have been writing here. If the Mitchell report concludes that Bonds is / was dirty ( and it is certain to ), Selig & MLB will use it as justification to officially stay as far away from him as they can. I.E. they will not formally acknowledge him as the record holder. Mr. Olney doesn't go on to say this, but I predict that the official scapegoating of Bonds will be the beginning of the end of the steroids controversy.

Gambling was rife within MLB at one time. Everybody in the industry was aware of it's existence for years, there was a scandal and a very famous player was publicly humiliated by MLB. Can anybody guess what I'm talkin about? Does anybody see any correlations?

Jose Canseco is being ridiculed in the press again, the latest, he's at the centre of some reality TV thing blah blah blah. Jose was always an easy target because he is gauche, conceited, huge and he never met a microphone he didn't like. But the guys who get blackballed out of the game, Canseco, Caminiti & Rocker, are the guys that can tell the truth. You can't tell the truth if you want to remain close to the game, be a spring training instructor, be a broadcaster, coach at any level, be invited for old timers day, get invited to the owners box, or even look former teammates in the eye again. Caminiti & Canseco told the truth about steroids after they knew they had burned their bridges. Rocker told the truth about the farce that is sensitivity training when Ozzie Guillen got his wrist slapped last season over an anti gay slur. Yeah they're all nut jobs but that doesn't mean they weren't telling the truth.

MISC

Baseball's chattering classes keep hammering away at MLB over the DirecTV deal. An oft repeated criticism is that it is a bad business move because they are antagonizing their most hardcore fans. MLB revenues have more than quadrupled over the past 10 years to in excess of 5 BILLION dollars annually. How can sportswriters question this industry's business acumen?

Evidently the Orioles are considering opening the season with 13 pitchers. 13 pitchers in April, with off days and rainouts? I disagree with this approach, quantity does not equal quality. There are not enough innings to keep 13 pitchers sharp, particularly in April. As well, by the time you get to the 12th and 13th guys how effective do you expect them to be? On the other hand, maybe this is the natural evolution of the DH. I think the big staffs are more common in the AL for obvious reasons. Why have position players on the bench if they never play? Ultimately in the AL, where do you get more value, the 13th pitcher or the 2nd backup infielder or outfielder who practically never plays?

I blogged that a lot of us thought that Michael Bourn would play CF and hit leadoff come opening day for the Lynx. Well, we're wrong, he'll start the season on the bench in Philadelphia, although there is speculation that he could supplant Pat Burrell in LF at some point this season. Bourn's name is in both Buster Olney's & Peter Gammons columns today. Why is he suddenly getting this high profile attention? He isn't in the Baseball America Top 100 prospects, in fact he's rated #7 on the Phillies list and their system is considered thin. The baseball writers really need the season to start. I still think he'll be in Ottawa this season at some point, he needs to play.

Baseball writers have always made fun of the very unique manner in which players hurt themselves. On that theme, Joel Peralta missed some of camp this spring after poisoning himself eating "cow tail".

As I predicted, the PA is filing a grievance against the Padres over the release of Todd Walker.

The Indians are handing 3rd base to Andy Marte. I predict he'll end up in Buffalo this year. They would be a better team if they move Blake to 3rd and played Garko most days at 1st.

Sammy Sosa is leading the Rangers with 5 homers this spring. Let this serve as an example of the worthlessness of spring stats. Sosa will not finish the year in the bigs.

Canuck update

More bad news about Corey Koskie. Koskie has left Arizona, gone home before the end of spring training and he didn't play at all. Poor bastard, it looks more and more like his career is over.

I hope that Eric Gagné's career does not end in the same fashion as fellow hoser reliever Jeff Zimmerman.

Former Lynx
I'm disappionted that former Lynx Luis Terrero isn't breaking camp with the White Sox. I thought he played outstanding for the Lynx last season, I think he can be a fourth or fifth outfielder in the bigs.

Former Lynx David Newhan is breaking camp as a Met, I'm surprised he's not starting the year in New Orleans. He was very vocal about not wanting to play here but I don't think anybody noticed. I thought he might get booed after his remarks hit the papers but I never heard anything. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, you have to care a bit to boo.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

From the basement March 27 07

Arlen Specter made a thinly veiled threat today that Congress might revisit MLB's anti trust exemption in light of the DirecTV / EI deal which I and many others have been blogging about. At least I think that's what he means when he says ""When fans react, Congress reacts," he said, adding, "You may be well advised to act before we do." Neither Specter or John Kerry give a shit about baseball fans. Specter is doing the bidding on Capitol Hill for his corporate friends @ Comcast in his home state of PA. Comcast and the entire US cable industry are pissed at MLB & the NFL and I think the fight is far from over. ( The scrap between cable and the NFL over carriage fees for the NFL Network is a good one ) I don't understand the structure of American politics ( I do like Canadian politics, the results of the Quebec election yesterday are as intereting as baseball, well almost ) but from what I've read in Sports Business Journal the key politician on Capitol Hill vis a vis MLB's anti trust exemption is now Patrick Leahy. One thing I've learned over the years from watching the business side of sports south of the border is that the impression that the US is the country where there is little government and the marketplace is allowed to rule over all other considerations, is false. You can't open a lemonade stand in the US without the ok of politicians at every level, county, city, state & federal. Follow the goings on in Hennepin County with the Twins or in Miami with the Marlins if you want to see levels of bureaucracy.

On the subject of US politics, the most fun ( funnest? ) aspect of following Washington DC's attempts to bring the Nationals to their town was seeing Marion Barry's name again. ( He was opposed to the stadium deal, he's right it is bad public policy ) He's a councillor, well that's what we call it here in Ottawa. Wow, what a career! I guess it's crackhead week on this blog, first Josh Hamilton and now Marion Barry. I just think the word crackhead is funny.

On the subject of the Nationals....baseball websites and magazines ( it's been awhile since I bought a Bill Mazeroski's or Street & Smiths season preview mag, it used to be a big deal to me when they would hit the racks ) all have some sort of, they hope, unique "hook" to their team previews. At the www.hardballtimes the schtick is "Five Questions". Yesterday Richard Barbieri's Washington National's "Five Questions" preview was posted and it is written as a "McLaughlin Group" segment. Very nostalgic for me, I was a regular viewer in the 80's, I'm guessing that the program remains in production if Mr. Barbieri is lampooning it.

Well since I bashed the politicians I may as well take a shot at the lawyers as well. Mark Geragos who is representing Greg Anderson, Bond's "personal trainer", has also represented some of California's finest; Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder & Scott Peterson. How do you afford legal fees like that on a steroid peddler's income? If nothing else the Bonds witch hunt has cost Barry a big pile of cash in legal fees & endorsements.

Also March 26 at http://www.hardballtimes/, Vince Gennaro has a good piece on the value of RSN's to MLB teams. By Mr. Gennaro's count there are 12 teams "linked" to an RSN. Not surprisingly, looks like a good gig. This piece is also a reminder that teams operating losses / profits are worthless numbers. Andrew Zimbalist taught me what "related party transactions" are, a term that Mr. Gennaro also uses in this piece. The only figure that reveals anything about the financial health of pro sports teams is franchise value and even that can be misleading when you get into relationships with RSN's and stadiums etc. Delve into the Liberty Media purchase of the Braves from Time Warner and see if you can understand that deal with any level of sophistication.

Canuck update

Hoser C Maxim St. Pierre, mentioned here before, was dealt to the Brewers in exchange for RH Ben Hendrickson. Hendrickson was a big prospect at one time. I don't have the numbers but I'd be very surpirsed if many more prominent starting pitching prospects never pan out as opposed to position players. Obviously the biggest factor would be health, pitchers are more prone to injury, but also I think it's more difficult to predict if a guy has the acumen to master off speed pitches. The young pitchers that get the big bonuses throw hard and have raw physical talent. Raw physical talent or tools is more "projectable", as the Baseball America types would phrase it, at the positions.

IL inanities- Scranton is no longer the Red Barons but the Yankees. Syracuse is no longer the SkyChiefs but the Chiefs

Monday, March 26, 2007

From the basement March 26 07

Hadn't seen this speculation before. Peter Gammons reported in his blog March 24 that the reason the infamous 2002 All Star game ended tied was "that a pitcher on one of the two teams was imbibing in the clubhouse and was not in condition to pitch, hence the game ended." Fantastic! Can't wait to find out who and the drug(s) of choice.

On the subject of the All Star Game, people that know me are always surprised that I never watch it. The outcome is inconsequential to the players and as a result, why should I care? ( Even with World Series home field advantage at stake, I still don't think the players care ) Game strategy is absent and I watch so much baseball that I've seen all these guys play anyway. As for the spectacle, I don't care, I'm interested in the competition and the industry. I don't watch the home run hitting contest either, it is boring and the balls have been juiced in the past making it even more silly. Oddly enough, I enjoy a three day break from baseball, well watching it anyway.

Strength of schedule, I've long been familiar with this sports term from watching the NFL. I am now seeing the same term used by baseball writers. We know that with the unbalanced schedule & interleague play that there are very significant disparities in, well, strength of schedule. I don't like it, I've never liked it, but it's here to stay because it is popular ( i.e. lucrative ). Yes, writers will moan this season as they do every season that there are interleague matchups that appeal to nobody, but overriding that are the hugely popular Mets / Yankees, Cubs / White Sox, Giants / A's etc. matchups. Rob Neyer blogged about it today in reaction to a piece in the NY Times by Alan Schwarz.

John Kerry continues to score some easy political points with Red Sox Nation over MLB's decision to move their out of market television package from cable to satellite. Tomorrow Kerry will chair a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the deal, seems to be shaping up as purely a PR exercise. Bob DuPuy will be there on behalf of MLB & Commissioner Selig to be chastened by Senator Kerry. I got burnt out on this story, I've read a lot about it primarily on bizofbaseball.com & in Sports Business Journal and Buster Olney @ ESPN was big on it. I think that it's been overreported and overanalyzed. The deal is going through and the fans that have been filling up boards with their venom over it represent only the hardest of the hardcore. As big a geek as I am, I've never subscribed to the package ( Canadian distribution of the EI package is unaffected by the deal at this point ). There is only so much time to watch baseball. I'll get practically all the Jays games + Red Sox on WSBK, Mets on WPIX, Cubs and White Sox on WGN, plus ESPN Sunday nite baseball on TSN, plus I have Triple A in town both live and on tv. How much more do I need? Ok, I'll also be watching a bit on my PC via MLB.TV, I am a geek after all.

On the other side of New England politics, I took a very quick look at Curt Schilling's blog today. It's been a bit trendy this spring because he is Curt Schilling & it's novel for a jock to have a blog. ( Although I think Canseco was way ahead of the curve, does anybody remember his 1 800 line where you could receive the latest Jose update ? ) I was hoping he might be up on his soap box about politics but a brief scan didn't reveal any political talk. I find it very humorous that this mythical Red Sox ( the bloody sock ) is a Republican. That must be tough for Red Sox Nation to swallow.

I've noted here previously that the June Rule IV draft is really an auction, draft is a misnmoer. The biggest factor in the amateur draft is not where a team is picking or how many supplemental picks they have but how much money they are spending. No surprise, according to Gammons "One NL front-office executive says the Red Sox spent $13.5 million in last June's draft, the Yankees spent $13 million and the next biggest spender was at $5 million." These amounts do not include the money spent on International signings, increasingly significant with the decline in number of American players.

As I predicted, the Padres released Todd Walker in order to save about 3 million dollars. Walker won an arbitration case with the Padres in the offseason, he was awarded almost 4 million dollars. The Padres are on the hook for "only" about $900,000 of the deal by releasing him at this point. There have been rumors for awhile that the PA might challenge his release.

A lot is being written, including here, about how horrible the Nationals will be this year. Oddly enough I think their Columbus Triple A team will be pretty good. They have so many "4A" vets that they should field a very competitive team in the IL.

Local RH Philippe Aumont gets a mention in Keith Law's ESPN blog today. Mr. Law thinks that Aumont's performance in FLA this month with Team Canada was impressive enough to warrant selection in the "top 5 - 10 picks". Harden, Bédard, Francis, Loewen...MLB is finding some big time arms up here. I think this trend will continue, fewer American kids playing ball, the teams have to go abroad to find talent.

I've been an avid fan of Triple A baseball for the past 15 years and I know that the single biggest factor for on the field success is the health of the parent team. Having said that, it appears that the Lynx could be in for a challenging beginning to the season. The Phillies have 2 pitchers ( Garcia & Leiber ) + 1 catcher ( Ruiz ) hurting with less than 2 weeks to go before the Lynx season opener.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

From the basement March 25 07

Tuned in to the Jays broadcast of game vs. Reds. midway through.

Bottom 6 - Jamie Campbell calls Reds 1B and Canuck Joey Votto, the "Reds #1 prospect." I've written here before about Votto and yes he is a very good prospect, in fact I think the next everyday Canuck in the bigs, but he is definitely not #1 in the Reds system. Homer Bailey, RH starter is rated #5 in the Baseball America Top 100 prospects list. Get out to Lynx Stadium when Louisville comes to town and catch both these guys ( if they're not already Reds ). Votto k'd lookin in the bottom of the sixth vs. Downs. He k'd again, this time swingin, vs. Accardo in the 9th.

Also bottom of 6, just before commercial, Mr. Campbell tells us that it was reported on ESPN last year that Vernon Wells would not resign with the Jays. Mr. Campbell did not name names, but he must be referring to former Jays in house "stat geek" Keith Law who got this wrong in his ESPN blog on August 18 last season. Mr. Law had resigned / been dismissed earlier last season from the Jays. See my posting from January 30 on Mr. Law's very pointed remarks about the Jays, Wells & African American players. Did Law quit or did J.P. can him and what did they disagree on? I've never seen an explanation from either party. Mr. Law seems to have become an enemy of Blue Jay fans, not only is Mr. Campbell indirectly slagging him but I've seen Jays fans doing the same on a few boards.

This game was my first glimpse at few players who I am interested in. Votto for purely nationalistic motives and Josh Hamilton because he has been one of the biggest soap operas in baseball the last handful of years. If you don't know who Hamilton is then you probably have no interest in my blog but anyway...from one of the best prospects supposedly EVER ( he got the bonus money to prove it from Tampa Bay ) to crack addict and back to playing baseball. I've known who he is since he was drafted #1 in 1999, and that last summer he played in his first minor league game in 4 years due to his crack addiciton. But Hamilton's story is quickly becoming more and more high profile. You no longer have to read Baseball America to find out what's up with Hamilton, he has been all over ESPN ( and I assume all the major sports media ) this spring. Peter Gammons is musing along with Barry Levinson that perhaps Hamilton is the real life ROY HOBBS!! How's that for hype, comparison to a movie myth! Jayson Stark ( I admit I only glanced at it ) wrote some lengthy tug at the heart strings, overcoming addiciton, sentimental thing about it and I see other writers complimenting him on the piece's brilliance. GAG ME! Good for Josh Hamilton, I'm happy for him that he is not doing crack although in honesty I never cared beyond the fact that the D Rays wasted the #1 overall pick in 99 on a crackhead. I don't like this type of sports "reporting", the emotional, personal "story" side of it. I don't care one bit about the players personal lives ( beyond some of the unintentionally funny / dumb things they do that get them in trouble ). How is it that veteran reporters like Stark & Gammons can still get dewey eyed about this sort of "overcoming adversity / survival" story? They know, better than me, that a lot of these pro players are obnoxious, spoiled and arrogant. How can they still be sentimental? But, I am, as Mr. Gammons has described us, one who writes from between walls. ( Mine are covered with that fake wood grain particle board popular in the 70's, I adore it ). In fairness to Mr.'s Gammons and Stark, guys like Josh Hamilton don't visit my basement, they play baseball and you don't know them if you're in your basement. Maybe if I met the man I wouldn't be so smug and dismissive. Also, as someone in his basement wouldn't know, maybe the editors at ESPN know that a lot of fans do enjoy these stories and request that writers provide them. If Hamilton has a good year and I think he can, ( Griffey always gets hurt plus Great American Ball Park is a great hitters park ) he's gonna be a big story. Bigger than the sports media alone. Oprah, PEOPLE, Leno, come to the White House big.

Bottom of 8. Mr. Campbell tells us that he doesn't think the Jays are concerned that they don't have a "situational" LH in the pen because LH hitters batted only .214 against Jason Frasor last season. Mr. Campbell often quotes stats but a lot of them are irrelevant. Frasor pitched 18.2 innings against LH hitters last season. What the stat geeks call "the sample" is too small to be of any worth.

Friday, March 23, 2007

From the basement March 22 07

Tony LaRussa DUI. Good, maybe it will take some of the lustre off the "genius", but I doubt it. Why are reporters so impressed with him? Is it because he is a lawyer? Anyway, the DUI charge made me think of Billy Martin's ( a true baseball genius and helluva lot more fun ) comment about picking a coaching staff. I'm paraphrasing but it's along the lines of, pick 5 guys you like to drink with and a sixth who'll stay sober and drive everybody home. As we know, Martin was killed in a drunk driving accident. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk who also happened to be his bartender.

Isn't Doc Halladay's reluctance to use his cut fastball and declining SO/IP ratio evidence that he is not 100% healthy?

More reports out of Arizona that Bonds is moving very well, an indication that his legs are healthier than the past few seasons. Look out. The guy nobody wants to talk about will be easily the story of the season.

Bud Black, the new manager in San Diego and longtime pitching coach, might be do something in San Diego that he did in Anaheim. The Padres might have a bullpen comprised solely of RH's. Most teams employ at least one "situational" lefty in the pen, but ultimately who cares which hand you throw with, it's performance that matters.

Rob Neyer recently started "blogging" on ESPN. I've made fun of him before, he being the most prominent "seamhead / SABR guy" in the mainstream media, but I like his blog better than his column. The blog so far is less about statistical arcania ( i.e. VORP ) and more about the day to day grist of the goings on in MLB. The guy does know baseball.

QUOTES

Good quote in Buster Olney's blog, courtesy of Andrew Freidman of the D Rays, on spring training stats. "There is very little correlation between spring stats and regular-season stats," said Friedman. "The level of competition is one reason, and sample size is another.

Since the recent passing of former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the drastic escalation of player salaries and flourishing of the PA under his tenure has been widely mentioned. On that subject a quote from living legend Marvin Miller “His inability to distinguish between reality and his prejudices, his lack of concern for the rights of players, sections of the press, and even the stray unpopular owner—all combined to make Kuhn a vital ingredient in the growth and strength of the union. To paraphrase Voltaire on God, if Bowie Kuhn had never existed, we would have had to invent him.” Thanks to Maury Brown at bizofbaseball.com

Roger Noll, Economics Professor at Stanford, makes an interesting comment, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with, on the subject of MLB's approach to dealing with "PEDs". ( As I'm seeing them referenced more and more frequently. ) "Kuhn vigorously tried to cleanse baseball of hard drugs, which did not go down well with some owners when a valuable player was suspended. While his policies and actions may have been excessively harsh, at least they were clear and fairly implemented, unlike baseball's current policies and practices regarding performance-enhancing drugs." Management in pro sports use drug policies to punish players who step out of line. The story is not that the athletes take PED's, it's the politics of who gets tested when and if they are tipped as to when they will be tested and are the results of the test made public or ignored. What percentage of players in the NFL are juiced? What percentage of the same group test positive? To what do we attribute the discrepancy in the 2 numbers? I think the explanations run deeper than simply that the cheaters are ahead of the regulators in the doping labs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From the basement March 20 07

MLB has staged games in Japan, is making forays into China, and now there is speculation that new frontiers include Australia, Taiwan & South Korea. They aren't dumb, they know the game is dying in North America, all the fans are old white guys like me.

I caught the tail end of Jeff Blair's conversation with Bob McCown yesterday and the subject was Chacin's DUI charge. I'm in Blair's corner, it's irrelevant. A baseball player drunk, ok driving drunk at approx 3:30 AM, several hours before he is to pitch, this is notable? What do you think young, rich, irresponsible pro jocks do? It's nothing new, Mickey Mantle admitted that drinking took years off his career and that hangovers hampered his performance. Why do you think amphetamines, Red Bull, etc. are staples in MLB clubhouses? ( Well from what I read they are, I am in my basement after all)

I know stalking isn't funny, but then again....Bob Uecker? Obsessed with Bob Uecker?

Watched, literally, one out in the Phillies vs Twins game a few days ago and then my family came home, off to swimming. But I did see a Michael Bourn AB. We'll all be surprised if he is not the Lynx CF & leadoff hitter opening day. He has been billed as a Kenny Lofton type player and looked the part, if you can gleen anything from 1 AB ( a flyout ). The AB was against Twins SP prospect Kevin Slowey, who is expected to start the season in Rochester. I had seen Slowey pitch earlier this spring, his stuff looks pretty good.

MINOR LEAGUE MINUTIAE

If you're a baseball geek, and I think I qualify, you might read the Minor League Transactions in Baseball America. I saw some names there in todays update which I haven't seen in awhile. The Mets signed former Lynx ( very former, last here in 97 ) Jose Paniagua, where has he been? I haven't seen his name in a long time. The last stats I can find for him, in affiliated ball, are from 03. Has he been playing Indy? He's still only 33, ( although the age of players from the Dominican Republic signed pre 9 / 11 is often a ballpark # ) which surprised me. 357 innings pitched at the big league level over 7 seasons. RHP Justin Miller was signed by the Phillies. I wonder how healthy he is, the only stats I can find from last season are 7 IP with Durham. You have to think that health permitting Miller is ticketed for Ottawa. Is this the same Justin Miller whose tatoos ran afoul of MLB when he was a Blue Jay? Joey McLaughlin was released by the Rangers. No not the Joey McLaughlin who frequently broke the hearts of Blue Jays fans in the early 80's but his son. I didn't know there was a Joey McLaughlin Jr. playing pro ball until I saw this today and poked around the Web. Finally, one of my favorite former Lynx, Geronomo Gil ( I love the fat guys ) signed with Colorado.

Speaking of fat ballplayers, one of the greatest ever, David Wells was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In my fantasies he becomes the first Cy Young Award winner with that condition. I also heard on a recent Padres broadcast that he has set a record for uniform size ( I don't remember the size ). Remember late last season he missed a start with gout? How frequently do you see pro athletes sidelined with gout!? Go Boomer!

The name I keep looking for and can't find is Keith Reed. The former Lynx and former Oriole 1st rounder had the best season of his career last year and I haven't seen his name since. I could always see why he was a 1st rounder, fast, power, great arm ( voted best outfield arm in the IL in a BA poll last season ), but he always struggled to hit consistently.

Canuck update

Scott Mathieson, starting pitcher in the Phillies organization, had TJ surgery in September. According to Baseball America March 19, his recovery is going great, ahead of schedule. I had ruled out seeing him here this season, based on his profile in the BA Phillies Top 10 prospects earlier this winter, but I am more optimistic now. Carl at http://ottawalynx.blogspot.com/ was ahead of me on this one.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

From the basement March 18 07

I keep saying that I don't think baseball fans outside of us chattering classes care about steroids, beyond hating Bonds. Evidence supporting my theory; Sports Business Journal reports in their most recent edition that MLB could well set a fourth consecutive attendance record this season. Teams across the board, from big market to mid to even Tampay Bay, are experiencing sales ahead of last season's record pace. How pissed can John Q baseball fan be if they are buying tickets in record numbers? Money talks, bs walks. Bonds is going to draw big, disdainful, loud, crowds and they will love every moment of hating him. What a contrast to the McGwire All American love in.

I've been wondering why Arte Moreno's reaction to the Gary Matthews HGH / steroids story was so unusually visceral and public. A good take on this subject by Thom Loverro in The Washington Times http://www.washtimes.com/sports/20070317-124332-3687r.htm Mr. Loverro also speculates on Commissioner Selig's very public support of Mr. Moreno's loud sabre rattling. Mr. Loverro thinks that Selig's words on the Matthews situation are meant to position himself on his seemingly imminent castigating of Bonds ( in whatever forms that will take ). Mr. Loverro agrees with opinions previously expressed here, that Selig will use the Mitchell report as a springboard to disciplining / embarassing Bonds. He also speculates that post Mitchell we could see another round of steroid hearings in Congress. No doubt, Bonds is so unpopular that some politicians won't be able to resist the opportunity to score some easy points at his expense. The steroids story is about Bonds and nobody but Bonds.

Commissioner Selig has done an extraordinary job as Commissioner ( if you're an owner, and only their opinion matters on this subject ). The industry's revenues have grown massively during his tenure. There has been unprecedented labor peace, which every baseball fan should be thankful for ( record revenues can solve a lot of labor issues ), and parity has largely been achieved through Revenue Sharing, Luxury Taxes and the increasing amount of cash being distributed via the Central fund. Unfortunately, Selig's legacy will be largely determined by how he treats Bonds after he hits # 756. Most fans and baseball media are not interested in the aforementioned industry issues, but they are interested in how Selig will treat Bonds. Selig will put Bonds "in his place" ( infer from that what you wish ) to the appeasement of baseball fans across North America. Bud will finally "get it right" with the fans after years of unpopularity.

SBJ reports that the Mets are projecting record attendance of 3.8 million this season, double the numbers they attracted a short 4 years ago. The Mets are joining the Yankees and Red Sox as the superpowers in MLB. With the launch last season of SNY ( the Mets RSN ), and Citifield opening in 09 the Mets will have levelled the playing field with the Yanks and BoSox.

I've long thought that Pete Rose is dumb and not because he got caught gambling on baseball. I think he is dumb because he has so consistently and so completely botched his attempts to gain readmission into the closed club that is MLB. All Rose had to do was make a very humble and very public apology to the "game", cry a bit, tell us how ashamed he is, grovel, enter a "recovery program", tell us what a poor role model he has been to "the youth" , and how grateful and humbled he would be to be considered for admission into Cooperstown, admit that no one indiviual is bigger than the "National Pastime" etc. In fact MLB would've loved it, for christs sake they would even have scripted the whole goddam show for him. Most importantly, fans loved Rose and would quickly have forgiven him had he sold it properly. He's the type of player fans like, caucasian, Charlie Hustle, little guy, big heart, great work ethic etc. Instead we have this most recent ham handed attempt at restoring his image with this new claim that he bet on the Reds to win every night when he was their manager. Not only does it contradict his earlier statements about gambling on Reds games but John Dowd and Fay Vincent are still around to tell anyone who wants to listen that Rose's most recent comments contradict drastically with the findings of their investigation. Is it too late for a redemptive ending to this tale? Has Rose lost all credibility? I have no sympathy, I thought he was an ass when he played.

Canuck update.

According to ROTOWIRE March 16, local guy Pete Laforest is in contention to break camp as the Padres #2 C. As I noted a while back, Laforest started camp as the #4 or #5 C, but with Todd Greene hurt and Rob Bowen struggling....I'm skeptical. I wonder if the Padres are trying to motivate Bowen by telling the press that they are considering other options for his job.

Reds GM Jim Bowden is on the record as saying that hoser Shawn Hill will break camp in the Nationals rotation. I think the Nationals will be a story this season. I think they will be historically bad, I'm hardly alone, I've seen them described as a team of 4A guys. Save for about 6 guys, Schneider ( former Lynx ), Johnson ( hurt ), Lopez, Zimmerman, Cordero & Patterson, yes I agree. Buster Olney reports that Major League scouts are engaging in a new sport, predicting the number of Nationals losses this season. "The low end is 105 losses," one scout said, "and it goes up to 130. And so far, most of the action is near 130." I think Bowden has to deal Cordero, he is just waiting for some closers to implode or get injured around the league, which will increase Cordero's value. The Nationals will be so bad for at least the next few years that having a quality closer is of no benefit to them. They need prospects, Cordero will bring them 2 or maybe 3.



Thursday, March 15, 2007

From the basement March 15 07

I have written here before about the declining numbers of African Americans playing MLB. The subject is gathering momentum amongst baseball's chattering classes. This week there was an AP story in which C.C. Sabathia lamented the decline. Also this week Peter Gammons wrote a piece praising Tori Hunter for acting as a role model for fellow African American players as well as promoting baseball in urban African American communities. As well, MLB has officially acknowledged the situation and is busily spinning the issue. The MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton is soon to open, Frank Robinson who was recently hired to work with Jimmie Lee Solomon on these sorts of "minority initiatives" was on hand for the photo op. MLB is staging a 2 day media event in Memphis, March 30 - 31, the theme is baseball and civil rights. March 30 MLB will host a roundtable discussion featuring amongst others the aforementioned Mr. Gammons. The following day MLB will stage the inaugural Civil Rights exhibition game preceded by the inaugural Beacon Awards luncheon, amongst the recipients will be Spike Lee and Buck O'Neill. In a previous post I commented on an opinion piece by Ms Diane Grassi which was published on bizofbaseball.com, in which she is very critical of MLB and it's relationship ( or absence of one ) with African Americans. Amongst her comments, why is MLB staging a Civil Rights game if no African Americans will be watching? or words to that effect.

I think MLB is paying lip service to the issue. MLB wants to be perceived as proactive and working with the African American community ( whatever that means ) on bringing them back to the game but a critic like Ms. Grassi would point out that teams have made much, much larger investements in developing players in the Dominican Republic and Venezuala ( pre Chavez ) than they have in "inner city" US communities.

Guys like me read FORTY MILLION DOLLAR SLAVES and opinion pieces of the like and I blog about the subject as well because I think it's interesting and revealing but in real terms the chatter we are hearing about the disappearing African American in US baseball is limited to a very small group of us. As I've blogged before I think the same thing about steroids in the game, everybody hates Bonds, but beyond that I don't think fans care. The rank & file guy that goes to an MLB game doesn't read this stuff, and that's not meant as a criticism.

The role of Liberty Media in MLB gets more and more interesting. As we know they recently purchased the Braves from Time Warner ( pending approval from the owners ) and they also recently purchased DirecTV ( which will be the sole provider of MLB's out of market Extra Innings package.) We also knew that they hold an interest in an online gambling business, which rasied some eyebrows, but now and maybe most importantly this: According to Sports Business Journal, Liberty Media is now in control of CDM Fantasy Sports. That should ring a bell, CDM Fantasy Sports "is locked in a bitter legal dispute against MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Players Association over the unlicensed use of players names and statistics in commercial fantasy games." There is huge money at stake here not only for MLB but for all pro sports. As I previously blogged, all the US based pro leagues of any note file "amicus briefs" ( I don't know from that ) on behalf of MLBAM and the MLBPA in the appeals filings. I'm very curious how this plays out.

Tuesday nite I was watching a few innings of the Padres vs the Rockies. I have seen a couple of AB's by former Lynx. Jamey Carroll was in the game for the Rockies ( I agree with Naete Sager, I think Rox is wrong ). Carroll proved himself a capable everyday player last season at 2nd after having had the reputation as a backup infielder. However I keep reading that the Rockies will give Kaz Matsui every opportunity to play everyday at 2nd this season. Will Carroll see some time at short if much hyped rookie SS Troy Tulowitzki struggles ( he's also a little banged up presently ) or will the AB's go to former starter Clint Barmes? Former Lynx Jack Cust was playing for the Padres, he was reassigned to minor league camp a day or two later, don't know if he accepted the assignment. Karl, does he hold the Lynx season record for walks? I thought Cust would hit big time for the Lynx, he is an accomplished Triple A power hitter but didn't put up the big numbers here. I've never seen the stats but I think that Lynx Stadium is not a good park for home run hitters ( fine with me, I like the old school small ball ). Karl, have you seen the stats over they years on this? One more question for Lynx blogger Karl, Scott Strickland is pitching for the Padres, is he a former Lynx? I know he is a former Expo. I think he's been struggling with arm trouble the past few years. Classic spring training finish to this "tilt" ( I feel like Tank McNamara, sic?) 5-5 tie, 10 innings.



Monday, March 12, 2007

From the basement March 12 07

I saw the name of my favorite baseball player, in any era, in the transactions this morning. Kazuhito Tadano was reassigned to the minor league camp of the A's. Tadano is a right handed relief pitcher. He struck out 60 batters in 56 2/3 innings last year in Sacramento of the PCL. He'll be 27 next month. He has pitched a total of 54 1/3 big league innings, all with Cleveland. Why is Tadano my favorite player, ever? To the best of my knowledge he is the only player in the history of the game who is / has been, a gay porn actor/performer/artist/thespian, I don't know the correct term. How's that for a " 2 sport" perfomer? It gets better, he claims that he is NOT GAY! He does not deny that he "appears" in a gay porno made in Japan, but he denies being gay. His explanation is along the lines of, he was receiving not participating, or something like that. His rationale puts him in the same camp along with William Jefferson Clinton, who asserted that " I did not have sex with that woman ". ( I still don't know how his "DNA" got on the GAP dress, but I digress ). Any ball player who can be described as "Clintonian" is ok with me. On a more serious note, at least he has been able to play pro ball in the US, the Japanese pro leagues wouldn't go near him because of the video.

Every year, spring training is over analyzed and dissected. Who is going North? How will the batting order be structured? Who is in the rotation? What's the pecking order in the pen? 11 or 12 pitchers? I'm a geek and I follow all the minutiae of it but really it's about the day to day grind of the baseball media's requirement to provide content, all day, every day. We all know that the 25 players that go north are only some of the players that will play for the big team this season. Beginning opening day players get hurt, exceed expectations, disappoint, and the carousel starts going round. The makeup of a baseball team is fluid, year round, spring training is only one part of the cycle.

The most notable news of spring training is who's hurt. As usual, pitchers are at the front of the injury line. Cliff Lee, Josh Johnson & Mike Hampton will all start the year on the DL, Kris Benson is probably out for the season, and it's still only March 12.

It's time for the big leaguers to get more game action, today there were a raft of players from a bunch of teams reassinged to minor league camps, including a whole bunch of guys who were in the Phillies camp that will be freezing their rear ends off soon here in Ottawa.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

From the basement March 11 07

I found my old Vancouver Canadians hat this winter when I cleaned out the basement. One of my in laws from BC gave it to me years ago, nice gift. As a tribute to the demise of Triple A baseball in Canada ( Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton & soon Ottawa ) I will wear it when I go to Ottawa Lynx games this season. What happened to affiliated ball in Canada? London had AA at one time, there was pro ball in Medicine Hat, obviously the Expos, the aforementioned Triple A
teams....Jeffrey Simpson tried to explain it in the Globe & Mail last summer, and I think got it wrong.

I hope I'm wrong but I think Edmonton & Calgary aren't long for the Northern League either.

Maybe next season, with no pro ball in Ottawa any longer, I'll head to Quebec City for a few Can Am league games. I read this week that Rich Garces just signed with a Can Am league team. He had some really strong seasons with the Red Sox.

Friday nite I tuned in to some of the Indians vs Pirates game. A definite inidication that it is still very early in spring training, there are 2 players in the starting lineups that even a Geek like me has never heard of. Don Kelly was the starting SS for the Pirates and Wyatt Toregasis the starting C for the Indians.

This afternoon I watched some of the A's vs Angels game and former Lynx fan favorite ( when there were Lynx fans ) Curtis Pride played for the Angels. He's 38 now, what a great career. He signed with the Mets in 86 and made his big league debut with the Expos in 93. Curtis has played in the bigs in parts of 11 seasons since, amassing 796 AB's. He was a very good player here, good outfielder, fast on the basepaths and good sock.

Daric Barton just hit one out for the A's. Mark Gubicza ( wow, a long time since I heard that name ) the color guy on the Angels broadcast, goes into some schpiel about pitch selection. I know he's a former big league pitcher and I'm a guy in his basement but I always think this sort of analysis is overstated. If the pitcher "hits his spot", "makes his pitch", whatever, more often than not the ball won't be hit hard. The ball gets hit hard when the pitcher misses. It's sports, it's about athletes executing plays, it ain't chess.

I guess Jeromy Burnitz doesn't want to ride the buses in Triple A, he's announced his retirement. He hit 16 homers in 313 AB's with Pittsburgh last year, I'm certain he could get a minor league deal with somebody if he wanted. I remember watching him here on his way up as a Norfolk Tide. Will he get the itch again?

I see Mark Prior will make his next appearance in a minor league game. I'm not surprised, I watched him pitch yesterday and felt sorry for him. His fastball was 86 - 88 ( according to the Cubs broadcast, so subtract a homer factor off those numbers ) and threw very few breaking balls. Is he done forever as a frontline starter?

Damian Jackson is pissed that the Dodgers released him today, says he's done with baseball. I doubt it, he's still 33, I suspect he'll be in Triple A somewhere this season. Players of his caliber command a pretty decent wage in Triple A.

I was reading about Corey Koskie this weekend and you have to wonder if his career isn't soon over. If so, he has been one of the best Canadian players of his era.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

FORTY MILLION DOLLAR SLAVES

Went to Mexico last week and read the book FORTY MILLION DOLLAR SLAVES by NY Times sports reporter William Rhoden, published last year.

Mr. Rhoden argues convincingly that North American professional and college sports is a plantation with African Americans in the role of slaves and wealthy non African American individuals, corporations and universities as the plantation owners.

The title is a reference to a comment made by a heckler towards African American NBA player Larry Johnson, " Johnson, you're nothing but a $40 million slave", during a timeout in a 2001 game in Los Angeles. Johnson had famously referred to himself and some of his NY Knicks teammates as "rebel slaves" during the previous season's playoffs.

The book chronicles the African American role in sports from antebellum contests involving slaves from different plantations to the present.

Since this is a blog devoted to baseball I will limit my comments about FORTY MILLION DOLLAR SLAVES to some of the portions pertaining to this sport.

The evolution and demise of The Negro Leagues.

I was already aware of the opinion articulated by Mr. Rhoden that the demise of The Negro Leagues, brought about by the racial integration of MLB, was a defeat for African Americans. I had not seen the argument detailed so extensively.

Mr. Rhoden tells the story of African American Arthur "Rube" Foster, who he describes as a "pioneer". Mr. Foster was a baseball player but is most important for founding the Negro National League in 1920. Mr. Foster is described as a "man of of clear, resolute, and uncompromising vision: He wanted a professional league of black baseball that was owned, organized, managed and played by African Americans." "Foster's Negro National League created a universe in which the black presence was accepted, nurtured, and celebrated. The league became a base of power for African Americans in the rapidly growing industry of baseball."

According to Mr. Rhoden, Mr. Foster realized that the integration of baseball was inevitable, however Mr. Foster's vision for integrating the game was a positive one for African Americans. "When integration came, Foster wanted the Negro League he envisioned to have a monopoly on the commodity that Major League Baseball would desperately need: black ballplayers." "He wanted......that when the national pastime was integrated, the NNL would be in a position to dictate rather than be dictated to. His theory was that the league's strongest teams would be absorbed intact, not picked apart like a carcass by so many buzzards." In 1926 Mr. Foster met with AL president Ban Johnson and Yankees manager John McGraw to discuss the possibility of his Chicago based American Giants playing "big-league teams that visited Chicago on their off days. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis apparently killed the idea...." Mr. Foster died in 1930 and his worst fears for the integration of baseball, that "white ball would take what it needed, then crush black ball to pieces and watch it die." were realized decades later.

Jackie Robinson desegregated Major League Baseball in 1947, a mythologized event not only in Amercian sports but in American popular culture. It was the beginning of the end of black baseball in America. "Black baseball owners could not agree on a strategy. The owners were torn between wanting integration and wanting to remain a viable business. These latter-day owners of Negro League baseball mistakenly felt that they would be involved - in a profitable way - with the "integration" process. Some felt that their teams might be purchased and incorporated into the Major League Baseball minor-league system. This was not part of the plan, however. The treatment of the Negro Leagues was brutal and disrespectful." "Baseball was unofficially integrated in 1945 when Robinson signed a contract with Montreal." "In 1947, Robinson's contract was purchased by the Dodgers. Just one year later, in 1948, the black leagues were in shambles." "The final blow for the Negro Leagues came in 1951 when the Southern-based network of minor-league baseball teams was desegregated. Now the major leagues had no use for the Negro Leagues, and they slowly died." "By the 1960's, black baseball was effectively dead: Major League Baseball had prevailed." "A black institution was dead, while a white institution grew richer and stronger. This was the end result of integration."

"..Rube Foster has become a mere footnote in the epic story of sports integration in which Jackie Robinson is a central character. In some ways, however, Foster is an even more significant figure than Robinson. Foster used black resources to build a baseball league that nurtured talents like Robinson while establishing an economically viable alternative to Major League Baseball. Robinson became a symbol of the process of integration, a process that ultimately enriched white institutions while weakening and in many cases destroying black institutions. White America determined the pattern of integration; the white power structure chose blacks who made whites feel comfortable, who more or less accepted the vagaries of racism. This was the Jackie Robinson model of how an integration-worthy African-American behaved: taking abuse, turning the other cheek, tying oneself in knots, holding one's tongue, never showing anger, waiting for racist sensibilities to smolder and die out - if your spirit didn't die first. This model was hardly progress for black athletes. It was, in fact, a reversal of the paradigm for black involvement in sports that Foster and others had created out of a hard necessity."

I doubt that Mr. Rhoden's viewpoints will be articulated at MLB's official celebration of the 60th anniversary of Mr. Robinson's breaking the color barrier on April 15 at Dodger Stadium. Bud Selig has called Robinson's historic achievement: "Baseball's proudest and most powerful moment."

Willie Mays

Willie Mays is one of Mr. Rhoden's heroes. Rhoden supposes that Mays is one of the most important of a generation of African American athletes that brought a decidedly "black" style to American professional sports. The "basket catch", his cap often flying off while running the bases, the daring baserunning ( common in the Negro Leagues ) stealing third, going first to third on infield groundouts, were a stark contrast to the conservative style of play in MLB that preceded it. This distinct African American "style" on the field of play remains prominent in all major American sports, popular with fans and is continually copied and emulated. "Willie Mays introduced a flair and cool style in sports. He introduced the Black Thing to a mainstream public that devoured it - and has been devouring it ever since. The popularity of sports that blacks dominate today coincided with the beginning of this stylistic transformation of the game, the opening up of the game to this new way of playing. Willie Mays presaged this stylistic contour in sports." "In virtually every decade since the 1950's, black athletes have been at the core of some stylistic or structural innovation in sports. From the alley-oop pass and the spin move in basketball to the spike and the ritual of the end-zone shimmy in football. From slapping palms to donning baggy pants and executing wildly creative dunks and elaborate end-zone celebrations, the African American presence in sports has redefined and reordered the traditional way of doing things."

"Willie Mays was the first young African American sports superstar. Jackie Robinson was twenty-eight when he reached the majors, while Mays joined the Giants at age twenty. He was the symbol of a young, black vitality that mainstream America had never seen because African Americans had thus far been excluded from mainstream sport. Mays became as significant to the late 1950's as Jackie Robinson had been in the late 1940's. Robinson integrated sports racially, but Mays completed the job, integrating sports sytlistically. Where Robinson's great significance had been in being "the first," Mays's significance was his great talent and distinctive style. Where Robinson's presence in major-league sports announced that black players were good enough to compete, Mays's generation announced that black athletes could do more than compete: They could redefine the very game."

Mr. Rhoden recalls that not everyone was as enthralled with Mays as he was. "..in his era, white fans never fully identified with him. Mays arrived at the Polo Grounds for the 1951 season four years after Jackie Robinson had integrated baseball, and the people who ran sport and business were not certain that the middle-class Americans who were their customers were ready for African Americans to be promoted as stars, like Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams."

Mr. Rhoden goes on to argue that while Mays was as great a player as Mantle, he never ascended to the same exalted heights as Mantle in American folklore due to race.

Curt Flood

We all know that Curt Flood, an African American, was the first baseball player to challenge the industry's Reserve Clause in 1970. Mr. Rhoden argues that race played a crucial role in forming Mr. Flood's opinions about labor relations in his industry and his resolve to change the rules governing those relationships.

"Curt Flood was the first person I ever heard use a plantation metaphor in connection with professional athletes." "In the winter of 1969, he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals, where he had played since 1958, to Philadelphia." "In one of the most significant communications in sports labor history, Flood wrote to then baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn that "after twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes." "This mode of treatment was legitimized by the Reserve Clause in Major League Baseball." "The reserve system was the same system used in the South where the plantation owner owned all the houses that you live in," Flood said." "In Flood's mind a divide between players and the owners was ingrained in their roles: "They're the ranchers, and we're the cattle." "The owners were given license to do this by the federal government. The Reserve Clause prevented players from moving to another team unless they were traded or sold. Flood challenged the fairness of a system that kept players in perpetual servitude to their teams at the owners' pleasure." "Flood said that he believed he had suffered harder times than white players; the change in black consciousness in recent years had made him "more sensitive to injustice in every area of my life." "Many white players never thought of themselves as being on a plantation or as being only so much chattel. But the legacy of black people in sports had sensitized Flood; that history had tuned him in to a different frequency than white players had access to."

The Supreme Court ruled against Flood in 1972. Three years later two white players, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, won free agency for players. Mr. Flood believes race was a factor in the outcome of both decisions. "Flood said that he was happy for the victory, but that he felt the decisions had a tinge of racism. "It disappointed me that I didn't win," Flood said, "but I had to feel that somewhere in the equation, America was showing its racism again. They were merely waiting for someone else to win that case."

As Marvin Miller, then an attorney for the players' union, had warned Flood about the consequences of challenging the owners, Flood remained outside the game for the most part until his death in 1997.

This wouldn't be my blog if I didn't mention Barry Bonds. I have written here in the past that I believe much of American sports fans enmity towards Bonds stems from the type of African American athlete that he is, namely arrogant and ungrateful. Mr. Rhoden makes reference many times to the notion that fans prefer African American athletes to adopt a public persona of "just happy to be here." Mr. Rhoden believes that this remains the case today as it has been throughout the history of the African American athlete.

Mr. Rhoden laments often in the book that contemporary African American athletes have no understanding of the sacrifices and gains made by those that came before them and that this lends itself to complacent, compliant behavior, "just happy to be here" attitudes. Barry Bonds is intimately familiar with the history of the African American ballplayer post integration. Willie Mays is Barry Bonds' godfather. Don't think that Bonds is unaware that Mays ate in segregated restaurants and stayed in segregated hotels while he was filling stands and lining the pockets of the owners. Don't think that Bonds is unaware that his godfather is not revered to the same degree as Mantle because of his race. Don't think that Bonds is unaware of the hostility that some of the sports media displayed towards Mays as a result of his race. Barry's father Bobby, a star in MLB in the 70's, was active in the PA and had often adversarial relationships with management & media. Barry Bonds has never been, and never will be, the "just happy to be here" African American that America accepts.

I have commented here before about the steep decline in the number of African American players in MLB. Mr. Rhoden quotes a figure of 9% at the beginning of the 06 season. With MLB making official forays into Asia, Africa and increasing numbers of players coming from Latin America, perhaps we should reflect on these words from Mr. Rhoden. "History suggests that African American athletes should be ever on the lookout. Their predecessors were excluded, blocked, persecuted, and eased out when white owners and management decided they weren't needed or wanted."

Remember, April 15 is Jackie Robinson day. Mark your calendar.