Redemption Song: A-Rod Slugs His Way Out of Purgatory

Vanity may be a sin, but it's not a crime.

Vanity may be a sin but it’s not a crime.

Despite what you may have been told by Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez is not the devil.

In a sports world filled with murderers, wife-beaters and drunk drivers, the vilified Yankees’ slugger worst sin was trying to gain an advantage on the field of play.

Think about that for a second.

If the NFL put the same amount of effort towards curbing domestic violence as baseball did building a case against A-Rod, would the headlines still be smattered with stories of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy?

Yet, in spite of the relatively benign nature of his transgressions, Rodriguez was forced to spend all of last season in baseball purgatory. MLB and Selig seemed to think it could solve its steroid problem by casting all the blame on one player (it’s not the first time) and then publicly flogging their artificially enhanced pariah. It, uh, didn’t work.

The 2015 season rolled around after what must have felt like an eternity, and A-Rod, healthy and freed from the tyrannical reign of Selig came out swinging, reminding fans that he’s still one of the most talented players in baseball — with or without performance enhancing drugs.

After the first 19 games of the year, A-Rod leads the AL in walks and is 4th in HR, 9th in slugging and 10th in OPS. His fast start to the season is even more impressive when you consider that he missed all of 2014 and plays for a team that really doesn’t want him around.

Rodriguez’s superlative skill set was on full display at Tampa Bay on April 18 as he drilled two home run including the longest shot of 2015. That moon shot not only gave New York a 1-0 lead, but also served as metaphorical giant middle finger to Selig, who likely thought he had hammered the final nail into A-Rod’s career with a 162-game suspension.

The Yankees weren’t expected to compete in a deep AL East this year but thanks to A-Rod’s potent presence in the lineup they find themselves atop the division with an 11-8 record. New York may not want Rodriguez, but it needs him.

Rodriguez is a cheater and a liar. But he’s also a helluva baseball player who’s overcome Titanic sized hurdles to find himself on the brink of history. The national pastime’s prodigal son has returned and he’s not leaving anytime soon.

So go ahead and cheer for A-Rod, because unlike the real criminals of sport, he deserves a second third chance.

arodhomerunswing

Tom Emanski Admits Back-to-Back-to-Back AAU National Champs Fueled by Steroids and HGH, Not Fundamentals.

Steroids are not Fred McGriff approved.

In a scandal that would make even Mark McGwire blush, former A.A.U. baseball coach and the godfather of fundamentals Tom Emanski revealed in a recent interview with Larry King that he administered steroids and human growth hormone to his teenage players in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Emanski gained worldwide fame for his baseball fundamental videos (often referred to as the nine commandments) that stressed a “building block” approach to the sport. Apparently, those building blocks involved bathroom stall injections, steroid cycles and masking agents, not hitting the cut-off man and proper base running.

The cult hero (his commercials have aired over 100,000 times) agreed to an interview with King after a former player threatened to blackmail him, and with Emanski’s net worth rumored to eclipse $70 million dollars, the coach decided it was time to come clean rather than give up his lavish lifestyle. While Emanski didn’t get into specifics about what drugs he administered to players, he did open up about the reasoning behind his decision:

If I wanted a team full of David Ecksteins I would have just taught the kids fundamentals, but hell, who wants to watch that little gnat play baseball? I juiced the kids up because it’s what the fans wanted–frozen ropes, tape measure home runs and pre-pubescent boys hitting 90 miles-an-hour on the radar gun–now that’s entertainment.”

When asked if he regretted negatively influencing the young boys’ lives, 90% of which are now dead or incarcerated, Emanski showed little remorse:

“Would I do it all over again? You bet your rotten old ass I would Larry. These kids came to play for me because they wanted to win, and the best way to do that was with [performance enhancing drugs] not fundamentals. It’s not like I was the only coach encouraging steroid use–just look at Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. To make it in baseball today you’ve got to be willing to make sacrifices…the kids and their parents knew exactly what they were getting into.”

No former players (including an unnamed MLB star) were willing to speak to any media outlets about Emanski’s revelation, but one parent spoke on the condition of anonymity to Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune:

“We knew there was something funny about Coach Emanski, but we couldn’t quite put our finger on it. The soft toss, the exaggerated throwing motion, the kids throwing balls from the outfield into garbage cans at homeplate–let’s just say I was baffled. There aren’t even garbage cans on the field during a game! None of us had any idea that steroids were being used, but maybe the fact that my 13-year-old son was bench pressing 250 lbs. should have been a red flag; I just figured he had good genes. You can believe we [the parents] are going to take this to court and make Emanski pay through the nose.”

Fred McGriff, who endorsed the videos as a young slugger for the San Diego Padres, teared up and shook his head slowly from side to side when approached at a restaurant about the story by a reporter. He didn’t comment any further, but on his way out, McGriff was seen throwing the distinctive blue “Baseball World” hat into an overflowing trash can, symbolically stating that once and for all, Tom Emanski’s videos were no longer “Fred McGriff approved“.

He won’t be the only one shaking his head tonight…Tom Emanski failed baseball and forever tarnished America’s youth.

Is nothing in this world holy anymore?

Major League Baseball and Its Players Continue to Drop the Ball: Cincinnati’s Volquez Tests Positive for PED’s.

Edison Volquez's suspension won't cost him anything more than money.

Another mysterious fertility drug, another failed PED test and another black eye for baseball and its players. Yeah, it sure seems like the sport has this steroids issue under control.

Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that Cincinnati Reds’ starting pitcher Edinson Volquez tested positive for a banned substance during Spring Training and would be suspended for 50 games, effective immediately.

The catch? Volquez was already on the disabled list and unlikely to return to game action until mid-season. His suspension runs out June 15th—a date sooner than the Reds had anticipated Volquez being ready to pitch for their big league club. As it stands, Volquez will be able to continue his rehabilitation from elbow surgery while serving his “suspension” and will forfeit around $130,000 of his salary for the season. Somehow, I think Volquez will find a way to squeak by with the other $300,000 he is due to make in 2010.

Even his own teammates were stunned by the loophole in baseball’s punishment system. Fellow pitcher Bronson Arroyo reacted to the situation in an interview on Tuesday saying,  “I’m actually surprised they’re letting him do that.” Yeah, so is everyone else Bronson.

I’m not even mad at Volquez for using a banned substance…I’m mad at baseball for a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. Despite a supposedly tougher stance on steroids, Volquez will miss exactly zero game-time for failing a drug test. Who is that fair to?

In the words of TV’s greatest lawyer Jackie Chiles: “Outrageous! Egregious! Preposterous!”

Preposterous indeed.

This Just Doesn’t Feel Right: Milwaukee Brewers to Build Statue of Bud Selig Outside of Miller Park.

I know Bud, I can't believe they're building a statue of you either.

Perhaps it’s because of his movie star looks. Maybe it’s on account of his turning a blind eye to steroids while baseball bulked up and ultimately tarnished two decades of the sport. Or it could just be that the team had some leftover bronze. Whatever the reason, the Milwaukee Brewers decided that they owed it to Bud Selig to erect a seven-foot tall statue of the commissioner outside of their home stadium, Miller Park (I promise never to use the words “erect” and “Bud Selig” in the same sentence ever again). Selig’s statue will join that of former players Hank Aaron and Robin Yount in some sort of bizarre baseball ménage à trois.   

Selig is a former owner of the Brewers that led a group of investors who purchased the bankrupt Seattle Pilots and moved the franchise to Milwaukee. According to current owner Mark Attanasio, “The Brewers and Miller Park are in this city because of the commissioner’s vision and dedicated efforts”. Be that as it may, does Bud Selig really deserve a statue? 

Selig has done a few good things as commissioner, most notably the institution of the Wild Card, which has helped add parity to a sport ruled by those with the biggest bankrolls (look no further than the Florida Marlins World Series titles in 1997 and 2003). On the other hand, Selig has also presided over some pretty boneheaded decisions, such as ending the 2002 All-Star game with a 7-7 tie (at Miller Park of all places) and then “resolving” this issue by giving the winner of the All-Star game home field advantage in the World Series (this time it counts–yeah sure). Selig has come under intense scrutiny for his role in the steroids era, and rightfully so. He was in bed with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa throughout 1998 and then feigned surprise and disgust when the truth about PED’s couldn’t be hidden any longer. Selig’s not a terrible guy, but he is a terrible liar.

Mark your calendars for August 24th and then make sure you’re not in Milwaukee. That’s the date Bud Selig will be revealed in all his glory. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take long for some vandals to get ahold of that statue.

Cardinals’ Fans First Public Reaction to Mark McGwire…A Standing Ovation?

Congratulations Cardinals fans! Your hypocrisy knows no ends.

Mark McGwire made his first public appearance in St. Louis since admitting the shocking truth that he used steroids for over 10 years in a news conference early Sunday morning. The conference was held in a narrow hallway (at least it was narrow in comparison to McGwire) and lasted just over six minutes, most of which McGwire spent dodging questions like Neo dodged bullets. Apparently since Big Mac talked about the past once he doesn’t ever have to do it again. There was no chance for reporters to ask McGwire about the myriad holes in his story, though he was kind enough to warn kids not to use steroids (unless they help with health problems of course). And how, you may ask, did Cardinals fans respond to their beleaguered slugger? With cheers and a standing ovation… 

Not to go all Steven A. Smith on you, but quite frankly that’s preposterous! I hate to go all Mike and Mike on you, but c’mon man! And finally, I really can’t stand to go all MSN Messenger on you, but WTF Cardinal fans? Mark McGwire lies to you for years and then goes on national television and lies again—and you give him a standing ovation? I might expect this kind of thing from Yankees fans, who have continually shown themselves to be completely delusional, but I thought St. Louis held it athletes to a higher standard. The level of hypocrisy among sports fans is downright shocking and they’ll catch up to politicians soon if they keep up this kind of behavior. Fans are willing to crucify Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and everyone else from the steroid era, yet when McGwire says he’s “really sorry” Cardinal followers treat him like nothing ever happened? I realize that McGwire admitted what he did (sort of) but that doesn’t mean he should get a free pass and be welcomed back with open arms. McGwire broke the law, cheated the game and lied about it until it was convenient for him to come out with the “truth”. Some people deserve second chances but Big Mac isn’t one of them, at least not until he is ready to come clean about what he really did all those years. 

Mark McGwire was arrogant enough to think that baseball fans would believe whatever he had to say about the past. Apparently he was right.

Big Mac, Little Balls: Mark McGwire’s Steroids Confession is Too Little, Too Late for Once Revered Slugger.

(AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

Yesterday’s news that Mark McGwire used steroids and human growth hormone on and off for 10 years shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone (especially not Tony Larussa and Bud Selig). It was painfully obvious that the man was a liar. Baseball players don’t hit 70 homeruns in a season through hard work and God-given ability, they just don’t.

When he told a congressional committee that he “wasn’t here to talk about the past”, McGwire really told America that he had used steroids to set the all-time single season homerun record, but didn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. The hulking beast of a man was nothing more than a coward and a cheat, and McGwire hoped that disappearing into the shadows would allow him to eventually restore his broken image. Well, after five years and four Hall-of-Fame ballots it was clear that silence had done nothing but further tarnish his reputation, so he decided on another course of action.

When Mark McGwire agreed to become the hitting coach for St. Louis he realized that he would eventually have to talk about the past, and he decided to do so on his own terms with a written release to the AP and a carefully staged interview with Bob Costas. McGwire was able to say what he wanted to say (while glossing over details like what kind of steroids he took) and used the media platform to tout his past exploits and pave a smooth return to the sport. McGwire talked at length about what he had done and why he turned to steroids, but what did he really say when he wasn’t choked up with tears? Let’s take a closer look at some of the major points of the interview and press release:

1.) “I was given a gift to hit home runs…the only reason I took steroids was for health purposes.”: Throughout the interview McGwire continued to reiterate the point that “the man upstairs” had granted him the ability to hit homeruns, and in a sense, that’s true. McGwire was always a good homerun hitter, including a record-setting 49 in his rookie season, but he  makes a point of saying that he could have hit 70 homeruns without the help of PED’s. Does he even believe what he’s saying? No, steroids won’t help your eye hand coordination, but they sure as heck are going to make a baseball travel farther. How many of his warning track outs turned into homeruns because of steroids? Normal human beings don’t hit 70 homeruns in a season no matter how talented they are. McGwire knew full well that steroids did more than just keep him healthy, yet refused to acknowledge this important fact. I guess I can’t blame him, it was a pretty “loosey-goosey” era.

2.) “I’ve never been asked point-blank, ‘Have you ever taken steroids?'”: McGwire wants us to believe in the interview that no one in his life; not his wife, kids, parents or manager (LaRussa) had any knowledge of his steroid use. Really? Look, I’ll readily admit that the America public is generally gullible, but he expects us to believe that no one in his family ever asked him about steroids? His wife never once talked to him about steroids when he was asked to speak in front of a congressional committee? His son never brought up steroids when McGwire was labeled a cheat and liar by the media? He said plenty of farfetched things in his interview, but this might be the most unbelievable of all. News flash Mark, “coming clean” does not involve continuing to lie—your arrogance is dumbfounding.

3.) “All I tell you is, I’m sorry and it’s been one of the toughest days of my life and I totally regret everything I’ve done.”: Is McGwire sorry that he did steroids or is he just sorry he got caught? It’s not like he accidentally did steroids once and then magically cleaned up his act (looking at you Andy Pettite). Look, people make mistakes, but when they make the same one for 10 years straight they’re way past regret. Did he really have 10 years of “health issues” that forced him to take steroids? Was the increase in strength and batspeed just a nasty side-effect? The only reason McGwire is “sorry” is because the Cardinals told him to and his publicist decided it was the best way for Big Mac to repair his reputation. McGwire is not sorry for what he did, he’s sorry because he’ll never be able to get into the Hall-of-Fame because of it. True repentance involves no ulterior motive.

Mark McGwire finally came out on Monday after years of solitude and told America he was sorry for ever using steroids and that he wished he had never played in the steroid era. Well Mark, I for one don’t forgive you. You didn’t tell the truth five years ago when you had the chance and you aren’t telling the truth now. Baseball fans are not stupid or ignorant; don’t treat them like they are. Tell the truth, apologize and you be will forgiven. Keep on lying, and you will be forever branded a cheater and all of your accomplishments will be marked with an asterisk.

Baseball fans and the entire sport deserve a real apology for what you did Mark. Now go put your shirt on, and give us a call when you’re ready talk.

Vicente Padilla’s Resurgence Raises Serious Question: Is Swine Flu Baseball’s Newest Peformance Enhancing Drug?

The secret to Padilla's newfound success has been linked to the H1N1 virus.

The secret to Padilla’s newfound success has been linked to the H1N1 virus.

Just when baseball thought it had cleared itself of a league wide steroid problem the ugly performance enhancing drug monster reared its ugly once again—and this time the sport is powerless to stop the new drug’s proliferation.

A few short months again Vicente Padilla was a cast-off from the Texas Rangers, banished to the waiver wire by a potent combination of poor pitching, bad breath and general unlikeability. Even a pitching starved franchise like Texas wasn’t willing to put up with Padilla’s behavior, and this is a team whose opening day starting pitchers this decade have included the likes of Rick Helling, Ismael Valdez (slaps forehead) and Ryan Drese.

The Rangers sent Padilla packing on August 17th, citing “poor personal hygiene” and his “disruptive clubhouse presence” as reasons for the release. At the time of his departure, Padilla was 8-6 for the Rangers, but sported a ghastly 4.92 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Just two days later, the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers signed the Nicaraguan Nightmare to a minor league contract in order to bolster their starting rotation. After a short stint in the minors, Padilla was called up to start for L.A. and immediately looked like a man reborn, closing out the season in style with a 4-0 record, 3.20 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.  He’s been even better in the postseason thus far, allowing only one earned run in 14 1/3 innings to go along with 10 K’s and only 2 walks, quickly establishing himself as the Dodger’s defacto playoff ace.

The origin of Padilla's super-powers.

The origin of Padilla’s super-powers.

All this from the same pitcher who a few short months again was cut by Texas and left for dead. Now Padilla is in the midst of a playoff run for L.A. and looking like Orel Hershiser; what exactly happened between his time with the Rangers and his signing with the Dodgers? As the great theologian Terrell Owens famously said, “if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat.” Vicente Padilla does smell like a rat…and that rat is named swine flu.

Padilla was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus on July 22nd and was believed to be the first player in the four major American sports (baseball, quidditch, jai-alai and poker) to test positive for the disease. He was scratched from a start against the Red Sox and was kept away from the rest of the team to prevent a spread of the virus. Apparently quarantining Padilla worked, because he’s still the only major league player that developed a confirmed case of swine flu, although that may change after the startling discovery of Dr. Van Nostrom at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Van Nostrom, a specialist in infectious diseases, released a report yesterday that confirmed one of the most well-known old wives’ tales: that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. In his article published by Car & Driver & Science the doctor revealed his findings from Padilla’s stool sample, which may change the way America views the H1N1 virus. Below is an excerpt from Van Nostrom’s report:

“Much like a spider bite transformed Peter Parker into the powerful Spiderman and toxic ooze mutated ordinary turtles into extraordinary crime fighters, Vicente Padilla’s DNA was radically altered by his encounter with the H1N1 virus. After overcoming the disease, he was endowed with all the best characteristics of an adult pig: a strong sense of smell and keen understanding of the strikezone, as well as the ability to talk to spiders and increased velocity on his pitches. Since the diagnosis of swine flu, Padilla’s fastballs have looked better than ever and his curveballs are dropping right off the table, and this is only the beginning. If Padilla is able to fully harness the powers of the pig he will become unstoppable. There is no treatment, there is no cure, there is only unimaginable suffering ahead for all humankind.”

Padilla now has more in common with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than he does with other human beings.

Padilla now has more in common with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than he does with other human beings.

If what Dr. Van Nostrom indicated in his report is true, how long will it be until baseball players are throwing swine flu parties in hopes of catching up with Padilla? Is H1N1 baseball’s newest fad performance enhancer?

Not so fast, says Van Nostrom: “There are so many different strains of the flu and everyone’s body responds differently to disease, so it’s unlikely another player will have results like Vicente. That surly bastard is truly one of a kind and anyone else who develops this disease is putting their life at risk…it’s just not worth it.”

Baseball’s playing field, which had been leveled by the sports’ tough drug testing, is thrown into disarray once again with the evolution of Padilla into a super-human shutdown pitcher.

Padilla’s agent Bus Cook refused to comment on the situation, only saying that his client was pitching well because of hard work and determination, not the swine flu, and called Van Nostrom’s theory “preposterous”. Padilla was approached at his locker by a swarm of reporters following the Dodgers 5-4 loss to the Phillies in Game 4 of the NLCS, and in between karaoke renditions of Randy Newman’s I Love L.A., the right-hander muttered  “how ’bout them Cowboys”, but nothing about the H1N1 virus–only fueling speculation that he gained some special abilities from the disease.

At this point there’s nothing baseball can do to slow down Padilla. After all, Bud Selig can’t suspend someone for getting sick, even if that sickness imbued the pitcher with super-human skills the likes of which baseball has never seen before. The Dodgers will be the favorites to win every time Padilla takes the mound, and it won’t be long before the team discovers they should start him each and every game, because everyone knows that pigs never need rest. Padilla will be a free agent at the end of the season and stands to make a large chunk of change, how big simply depends on how long teams believe his powers will last…and how much better they think he can get.

Vicente Padilla; from an afterthought to the best pitcher in baseball, all thanks to the biggest health scare in America since SARS and the kangaroo flu. There’s no doubt that Padilla will dominate the baseball landscape over the next decade, Dr. Van Nostrom’s work proves this, but it also raise a very serious question. Will Padilla use his powers for good or evil once he retires? If his past behavior is any indication, governments around the world had better start working on a swine kryptonite…and soon.