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

Advertisements

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.

Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas’ Retirement Leaves a Big Hole In Baseball’s Heart.

At 6’5″ and 260 pounds, Frank Thomas was one of the most intimidating hitters in the history of baseball.

Perhaps no athlete in sports better embodied his nickname than Frank Thomas. Dubbed “the Big Hurt” by his teammates and the media, the gargantuan Thomas (a former tight-end at Auburn) towered over the baseball landscape as the best right-handed hitter for nearly a decade. The two-time MVP possessed a rare combination of prodigious power and plate discipline that made him one of the most feared sluggers of the 1990’s.

Along with Ken Griffey Jr. and Juan Gonzalez, Thomas was part of a group of young stars that led a revival of the home run during the early 90’s, peaking in the strike-shortened 1994 season in which he hit 39 longballs in only 399 at bats. Thomas finished his career with 521 home runs, good enough for 18th all-time, though the Big Hurt’s game was much more than just big flys.

A disciplined hitter who led the American League in walks four times, Thomas’ knowledge of the strike zone was nearly unparalleled among his peers. His 1,667 walks rank 9th all-time, and combined with his .301 batting average, result in a robust .419 career OBP (21st all-time, just behind Mickey Mantle and ahead of Stan Musial and Edgar Martinez).

Though the later part of his career was marred by injuries (joining Griffey Jr. in the “what if” club), the Big Hurt still finished 15th all-time in OPS, 25th in slugging, 22nd in RBI’s and 26th in extra-base hits. Sure he made David Ortiz look like John Olerud at first base, and yeah he ran with all the grace of a bewildered water buffalo, but Thomas owned home plate with a modern-day Thor’s hammer. Frank Thomas didn’t just hit baseballs…he destroyed them.

Even more impressive than all the numbers Thomas accumulated is the fact that he played baseball the right way, refusing to substitute shortcuts or supplements for hard work. Despite being a home run hitter in the scandal-filled steroids era, the Big Hurt has never been linked to PED’s and was one of baseball’s most outspoken players about steroids, calling for strict punishments of convicted cheaters.

Frank Thomas retired from baseball as one of the 15-20 greatest hitters of all-time. His numbers alone make him a Hall-of-Fame candidate, but it’s his integrity that ensures he will go in on the first ballot. Happy trails Big Hurt; baseball was a better sport because of you.

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.

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.

Report Indicates That Sammy Sosa Tested Positive in 2003: Sosa’s Response “No Se”

Wait, this guy used steroids? Couldn't be!

Wait, this guy used steroids? Couldn't be!

Well, perhaps after yesterday’s news, it won’t be such a calm wait for induction into the Hall-of-Fame. The anonymous report, which proved what had long been suspected, indicated that Sammy Sosa tested positive for a banned substance in 2003, joining Alex Rodriguez as the two players whose identities have been leaked from the list of 104 names.

While the specific substance Sosa used wasn’t revealed, the indication is that it was some sort of performance enhancing drug (i.e. STEROIDS, STEROIDS, STEROIDS). Sosa’s legacy had already been tarnished from the corked bat incident and it certainly seemed to the naked eye that Sosa grew rather unnaturally throughout his time with the Chicago Cubs (see photo above).

Despite the fact that his career numbers are outstanding (609 HR, 1667 RBIs, 2306 Ks) this latest revelation destroyed any chance that Sosa had of being elected to the Hall-of-Fame. After all, Mark McGwire hasn’t been able to garner anywhere near the number of votes necessary for induction in the HOF, and there is nothing against McGwire but anecdotal evidence (and one very poor appearance in court).

Sosa rose to national prominence in 1998 when he and McGwire engaged in an epic assault on Roger Maris’ single season HR record. While McGwire eventually won the race to 61 and ended up hitting 70 longballs, Sosa smashed 66 HRs on his way to capturing the NL MVP and winning over the hearts of fans in both America and his native Dominican Republic. Between 1999 and 2002, Sosa continued his prodigious display of power hitting 63, 50, 64 and 49 HRs respectively.

In 2003, Sosa received immense scrutiny after he was caught using a corked bat in a game, but was quickly forgiven by his ardent fans and the Wrigley faithful (give the guy a break, he did say it was an accident, and he seems honest). Sosa spent one more year in Chicago before toiling in Baltimore and Texas during his final seasons. He didn’t play in the major leagues in 2008 and just recently had announced his retirement from baseball, ending his career sixth on the all-time HR list.

The Sosa allegations are just another sad chapter in baseball's steroid era.

The Sosa allegations are just another sad chapter in baseball's steroid era.

Sosa was part of the group of players including Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and McGwire that testified before congress in 2005 about the use of steroids in baseball. During the hearing Sosa mysteriously lost the ability to speak English but through his lawyer issued the statement “to be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.” This statement, so blatantly erroneous on the surface, actually has some truth to it. Sosa, a native of the Dominican Republic, could have easily acquired steroids in his home country where they’re not illegal. More than anything, Sosa was guilty of a lie of omission, and this report finally brought the truth to the surface.

In an interview about the allegations, Bud Selig seemed to ignore the past, and professed his affection for Sammy Sosa and repeatedly brought up the fact that baseball now has the toughest drug testing of any sport. Selig wasn’t exaggerating, baseball’s testing is extremely stringent and effective (just ask Manny Ramirez), but he can’t simply gloss over what has happened in baseball during his regime.

If the sport is to truly move forward and leave the Steroids Era, baseball will need to continue to purge itself of cheaters, past and present. Revealing the players on that list from 2003 is an act of carthasis for baseball, the only the way the sport will be able to regain its reputation. Exposing Sosa and A-Rod is a step in the right direction…now let’s bring those 102 other players forward.