Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘MLB

John Axford Rejoins Brewers, Gets Injured…Not the Way the Story Was Supposed to Go

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A few days ago, pitcher John Axford rejoined the Brewers, came out to pitch in the 9th inning to wild applause…then injured his elbow after first hitting a batter, then walking two (getting one out in the process). I could see the injury when he threw to the last batter (the second walk), as the elbow looked wrong in a way I can’t quite explain.

This was not the way the story was supposed to go.

Axford is now thirty-eight. He is the Brewers single-season saves leader with 46. And he’d recently pitched for Team Canada during Olympic qualifications, then was sent by the Toronto Blue Jays to their Triple-A ballclub as Axford had looked impressive and his velocity (upper nineties on the radar gun) was back. Then Toronto traded Axford, a then-minor league player, to the Brewers for cash considerations. This was a classy move by a classy organization.

To make matters even more interesting, Axford had worked for the Blue Jays as a TV analyst at the start of this season before making his comeback effort. (To say that all of this is quite uncommon, almost of a storybook quality, is understating Axford’s story.)

So, we return to Milwaukee and Axford’s appearance a few days ago. As I said, he came out to wild applause; there may have even been a standing ovation. (We Brewers fans do not forget our players.) Axford, who’d not pitched for the Brewers since 2013, seemed touched by this (I was watching TV, and saw his expressions). He warmed up on the mound, as every pitcher does, and he looked quite good.

I was happy to see Axford. I wrote about him years ago (that’s why I have a “John Axford” category here at my blog), and I know he’s a quality human being and a class act. I also knew that he’s not the type of guy to accept a challenge unless he believes he can beat that challenge.

Anyway, during the first at-bat by the opposing team (Pittsburgh), he looked impressive. His fastball was hitting 94 or 95 mph consistently and hit 96 at least once. (Fastball velocity matters because major league hitters can tee off on pitches that are slower than that, in general. There are exceptions to this, pitchers who can make change-ups work for them, such as Brewers pitcher Devin Williams. But Axford is not one of those exceptions.) And he’d gotten a couple of strikes on the batter — I forget the guy’s name now, but he always stands right on top of the plate — before hitting him.

So, that guy goes to first base.

Axford still looked OK. He wasn’t rattled. (As an experienced closing pitcher, he’s certainly done things like that before. Not often, but often enough that it wouldn’t throw him.) He kept going.

But something happened to his elbow during the next few at-bats. While he did get one guy out (soft outfield fly, if I remember right), he was not able to get any more outs. And with the last few pitches he threw, the ball came nowhere close to the plate. In fact, they didn’t even come close to the batter’s box, that’s just how far outside they were.

That’s not like Axford, or any experienced player. I knew this. And I also knew that if you ever see something like that in a professional ballgame, the pitcher’s hurt.

Axford was taken out of the game. An MRI was done the next morning, and all Brewers fans know to this point is that Axford is out for the rest of the season as he has unspecified elbow damage.

I feel for Axford. I truly do.

I am not a professional pitcher — not hardly! — but when I was in my teens I had a good fastball for a fourteen-year-old and tried out for the local team. (Unofficially, mind.) Another of the girls I knew, who ran cross-country, also tried out. And we showed enough that it’s possible both of us would’ve gotten an official tryout, even during a time where young women weren’t exactly encouraged to be athletes — and definitely not encouraged to be pitchers. (My friend was a first baseman, mind, and hit a ton. But I digress.)

Anyway, sometime over the next year, I messed up my right arm. I went in to see the orthopedist, and he said as I was not ever going to be pitching again, I didn’t need to have my arm fixed. But that I’d apparently torn something — a ligament, a rotator cuff, he wasn’t sure (and no, he didn’t do an X-ray, either; MRIs were quite expensive, then). Because I was a musician, not an athlete, he did not recommend getting my arm fixed.

Ever since, instead of throwing in the high 70s/low 80s (which was quite good for a fourteen-year-old, I point out again), I can maybe throw a fastball in the mid 30s. My right arm hurts when the weather changes, too.

I know that professional pitchers do get their arms fixed, and they should. But I’m here to tell you that I know these injuries are extremely frustrating. Even to someone like me, who wasn’t really an athlete (though I wanted to be, desperately), an arm injury of the type Axford apparently suffered is difficult to deal with. (I had pain while playing my instruments for at least six months, too. But I digress, again.)

Everyone among the Brewers faithful, and probably most others as well, wanted Axford’s appearance to go differently. They wanted Axford to get the save. They wanted Axford to remain uninjured. And they wanted Axford to enjoy a night that he’d worked hard to get back to: a night in the big leagues, again.

That did not happen.

The story did not go where it should’ve. And that just goes to show you that stories, even when they don’t go the way you want, are important.

I wish Axford well, hope he fully recovers, and pitches again in the big leagues before he retires. But if he isn’t able to make it back to “the Show” again, I hope he’ll remember that the journey to get there was important. All the work he’d done to stay in shape, to try out for Team Canada, to go to the minors and work hard, was important as well.

Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and care are all important. Axford has all of that in droves. And now, he — along with the rest of the Brewers faithful — needs to remember that he’s done everything he can.

The rest, unfortunately, is out of his hands.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 6, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Why Can’t Female Reporters Make — and Correct — Bad Mistakes?

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Folks, I’m frustrated right now. I just read the story of former major league baseball sideline reporter Emily Austen (see link here from the story at AOL: http://www.aol.com/article/2016/06/10/mlb-sideline-reporter-fired-after-making-several-inappropriate-c/21393140/), who said a number of derogatory things during a social media video. This video was made on the Barstool Sports Live Facebook broadcast, and while I don’t like any of the things Ms. Austen said, none of them were so abhorrent to my mind as warranting her immediate dismissal from her sideline duties without at least giving her a chance to rectify her error.

Here’s a bit from the Business Insider story (carried at AOL at the address above):

During the broadcast, Austen made several racist and anti-Semitic comments. At one point, she said she “didn’t even know Mexicans were that smart,” then later said that everyone knows the “Chinese guy is always the smartest guy in math class.” While recalling stories from when she worked as a bartender, she called Jewish people “stingy.” She also referred to Kevin Love as a “little b—-.”

Edited to add:

I haven’t a clue why any sportscaster, male or female, worth her salt wouldn’t realize that when the camera is on, she has to watch what she says. With a beer, without a beer, she should be professional.

Much of what she said is insensitive at best, outright racist at worst. (Saying that she “didn’t even know that Mexicans were that smart” is ludicrous. Doesn’t she know any history at all?)

I don’t approve of this behavior. At all. But I also don’t understand why a male sportscaster like Curt Schilling, formerly of ESPN, was given chance after chance to rectify his own public off-the-job comments before he finally was booted out.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…

I am not a fan of this sort of behavior, folks. But I also don’t think it’s something that warrants an immediate dismissal.

Consider, please, that Ms. Austen was probably having a beer. She was off-duty, discussing her job as a sideline reporter for both the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) and for the Orlando Magic (NBA), and was probably trying to make “good copy” for the folks on Barstool Sports. Male sports personalities push the envelope all the time, and only get suspensions, at best…yet Ms. Austen got the axe right away, without any possibility of coming back to say, “I know I went too far. I’m sorry.”

Note that to my mind, especially out of context, I don’t have a problem with her saying these obnoxious things as much as I have a problem with her being immediately booted from her job without any possibility of correcting the obnoxious things she said.

I’d only fire Ms. Austen if she refused to try to correct any of this. (What she said about the Asian guy in math class, while not necessarily a bad thing, is still a stereotype. My Japanese-American friend would be happy to tell you all about how much effort she put into her studies; she loved school, and still enjoys learning things, but effortless, it was not. And math was not her best subject, either.**)

This, to my mind, smells more like political correctness than a sensible personnel decision. If Ms. Austen was good at her work — and I’m going to assume she was, or Barstool Sports wouldn’t have wanted to have her as part of their Facebook Live broadcast after hours — she should’ve been talked with, and she should’ve been allowed to make amends. Giving her a chance to grow, to change, to learn that people are individuals and not stereotypes…that is a far better way to handle the situation than just firing her.

This way, what does Ms. Austen learn? That male sports personalities can be outrageous, but female sports personalities had best watch their backs?

In short, while what Ms. Austen said was not flattering, it did not warrant immediate dismissal.

Fox Sports Florida (and Fox Sports Sun, who together were her employers) should be ashamed of themselves. They at minimum should be called before the EEOC, and be prepared to defend their actions.

And in the meantime, Ms. Austen should do some volunteer work with the poor, the disabled, and those who are otherwise disenfranchised in this society. She’d learn a lot, I think…and never again would she be tempted to make such ridiculously stupid and bigoted statements as she did on Barstool Sports’ live broadcast on Facebook.

——–

**Yes, I know that Chinese people and Japanese people and Korean people and Laotian people and Vietnamese people are all different people, different cultures, different ethnicities, and all have to be taken for themselves. But the stereotype I’m referring to — that Asians are better at math than anyone else — is still real, and it’s done a lot of harm. (End rant.)

Historic Moment for MLB: Brewers’ 1B Prospect David Denson Comes Out as Gay

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Folks, this year has been a historic year for organized baseball.

Earlier this year, Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association, came out as gay.

And now, Milwaukee Brewers’ prospect David Denson, a first baseman currently playing for Helena in the Rookie League, has also come out as gay. Denson is the first person in organized baseball — major or minor leagues — to ever come out while still an active player.

Here’s a link to the story. Denson, quoted by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel baseball beat writer Tom Haudricourt, said this:

Before he knew it, Denson was making the emotional announcement he yearned to share, and the group around him expanded to the point that he soon was speaking to most of the team. Much to Denson’s relief, when the conversation ended he was greeted with outward support and understanding instead of condemnation.

“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” recalled Denson. “They said, ‘You’re still our teammate. You’re still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You’re still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don’t treat you any different. We’ve got your back.’

“That was a giant relief for me,” Denson said. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”

The more Denson thought about it, though, the more he came to realize that a clubhouse confession wasn’t going to be enough. Until he came out publicly as gay and released that burden, Denson didn’t think he could truly blossom and realize his potential on the field.

The Milwaukee Brewers have had a disappointing season in many respects. But they made up for it, at least in my eyes, when two players were quoted (again by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) as saying that Denson would be welcome in their clubhouse any time.

Both Ryan Braun and Scooter Gennett have publicly gone on the record as saying they would warmly welcome Denson. Here’s a few quotes for you from Haudricourt’s additional article:

“I think everybody is supportive,” said rightfielder Ryan Braun. “Overall, we realize it’s a courageous decision by him, to come out and embrace his true self.

“I’ve never met him but I hope baseball as a whole is at a point where we judge people by their ability and not their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. I can’t speak for everybody on our team but he would be accepted and supported by me. And I would hope all of my teammates feel the same way.”

Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett does know Denson and spent time in a team clubhouse with him. When Gennett was sent to Class A Wisconsin on minor-league rehab earlier this season while recovering from a hand injury, Denson was playing for the Timber Rattlers.

Denson, 20, a power-hitting first baseman, later was sent to the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena, Mont., and came out as gay to teammates there a month or so ago.

“He’s a great guy, an awesome guy,” said Gennett. “He has great tools. Now, he’ll be able to focus on playing and not focus on all the other stuff. This will be less clutter for him.

“I think it’s a great thing when people can clear their mind and just be honest with people around them. It’s an awesome thing. I think that will allow him to focus more on baseball and go out and have fun now.

“Would he be accepted here? Absolutely. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s a baseball player and a great guy. Anybody that goes out and plays hard every day is going to be accepted. Everybody has something to deal with. Baseball is such a mental sport. When you can just focus on the game, it’s amazing how much more fun it is.”

The Brewers as an organization are supportive of Denson, from GM Doug Melvin to manager Craig Counsell to the major league players on down. And that’s wonderful to see.

That said, I hope someday that it will not matter whatsoever what a person’s sexuality is — gay, lesbian, transgender, Martian, whatever.

Because a baseball player is simply that: a baseball player. Regardless of sexuality.

I’m glad the Milwaukee Brewers as an organization have figured this out.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Sports Roundup: Alison Gordon, Ray Rice…and the Milwaukee Bucks?

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Folks, this sports roundup column will be unusual, as three disparate, but noteworthy things have happened in the past week that I want to comment on.

First, pioneering baseball reporter Alison Gordon died at 74. Ms. Gordon was the first-ever female reporter for any team in the American League and covered the Toronto Blue Jays, starting in 1979. She faced much criticism when she started her career — I’m just barely old enough to remember some of it — yet persevered and prevailed. Later, she wrote a series of murder mysteries where a baseball reporter solved crimes in and around baseball. Here’s a bit of her obituary from cbc.ca:

(The) Baseball Writers Association of America infamously issued her press accreditation as Mr. Alison Gordon, as it had no female-specific or gender-neutral honorifics at that time.

Gordon was also one of the first females allowed into a Major League Baseball locker room, which was controversial at the time but since paved the way for female sports reporters. She was also the first woman on the American League beat, the division of baseball the Jays play in.

Ms. Gordon’s accomplishments were profound, and it’s partly because of her that so many other female sports journalists have gone on to have stellar careers.

Next, Ray Rice’s long-awaited apology has been released as of earlier today (link is from Yahoo’s “Shutdown Corner” NFL blog). In it, Rice expresses remorse, but also thanks the fans of the Baltimore Ravens (his NFL team). Here’s a bit from that apology:

To all the kids who looked up to me, I’m truly sorry for letting you down, but I hope it’s helped you learn that one bad decision can turn your dream into a nightmare. There is no excuse for domestic violence, and I apologize for the horrible mistake I made. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and I hope to make a positive difference in people’s lives by raising awareness of this issue.

Now, you may be asking yourself why I said “long-awaited.” No one else, save perhaps Keith Olbermann, is likely to say this, but it’s the truth: without a heartfelt apology, it’s unlikely that Ray Rice can resuscitate his career, not in the NFL, not in the CFL, not anywhere.

See, there are female football fans out there — many of them, as I’m far from the only one in the history of the universe. And we need to see some remorse and some signs that Ray Rice has learned not to abuse women any more. (One wonders what female reporters think of Ray Rice; most haven’t said much, except that he needs counseling and a consciousness raising and to never, never, do this again. Which seems a bit incomplete.)

There are some players, such as Brandon Marshall of the Bears, who after an earlier incident have become outspoken advocates for women and domestic violence. These are players who’ve truly learned that they must do better as human beings, and I hope Ray Rice, down the line, will join their number.

At the moment, though, all I can say is that Ray Rice has apologized. And since he has, I think some team out there should give him another shot, providing Rice stays in counseling (both personal and marital) and gets the anger management he needs.

And finally, how about those Milwaukee Bucks?

Last year, I wrote about how awful the Bucks were. They didn’t even win two games in a row, they were so bad…they only won 15 games, and set a team record for the worst season in the history of the franchise.

What a difference a year makes.

This year’s Bucks squad is 30-23. They’ve doubled their amount of wins in a year, and they’re only at the All-Star break despite losing their #1 draft pick F Jabari Parker to a knee surgery, losing PG Kendall Marshall to a knee surgery, losing C Larry Sanders to a variety of issues, and losing F Ersan Ilyasova to post-concussion syndrome for a month.

Coach Jason Kidd has revitalized the Bucks. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has become so much better this year in every respect. Center Zaza Pachulia’s career has been revitalized. PG O.J. Mayo has regained his three-point touch. And best of all, Milwaukee now plays excellent defense, something they decidedly didn’t do under former coach Larry Drew. The Bucks now believe they can win every single night no matter who’s in shape to play– and that enthusiasm and self-belief has become infectious.

As a long-time Bucks fan, I’m pleased with how the 2014-2015 season has turned out thus far. I fully expect the Bucks to make the NBA playoffs (if the season ended today, the Bucks would be the #6 seed), and I wouldn’t have believed that was possible a year ago.

Any thoughts regarding this sports roundup? (I’m guessing there might be a few regarding Ray Rice, at least.) Give me a yell in the comments!

Time for a Milwaukee Brewers 2014 Season Preview

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As the Milwaukee Brewers baseball season officially begins on March 31, 2014, it’s time for a season preview.

Last year, the Brewers had an underwhelming year, to put it mildly. While youngsters just up from AAA like Khris Davis and Caleb Gindl helped All-Stars Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez get to a 74-88 record, the season was marred because of slugger Ryan Braun’s 65-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. And the constantly rotating cast of characters over at first base due to Corey Hart’s double-knee surgery woes didn’t exactly help, either.

And must I remind you about the horrible month of May, considering it was historic for all the wrong reasons?

Thankfully, 2014 looks to be a different story entirely.

This year, Braun is back, and is hitting a ton in Spring Training. There are now only two people who will regularly be playing first base — Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds. All of the starting pitchers — Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, and Wily Peralta — appear healthy and ready to go, while the bullpen features an interesting mix of youth and experience.

So, will the 2014 season be better than 2013? One would hope so . . . but then again, hope springs eternal and every team, coming out of Spring Training, thinks it’s going to be a world beater.

Here are my thoughts regarding the 2014 Brewers:

  • Braun will have an excellent season both at the plate and in the field. He’ll be tested rigorously, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll fail another drug test any time soon. So his play should be a bright spot no matter what else happens.
  • Garza has had a lousy Spring Training, to be charitable. But he’s one of those pitchers like former Brewer Ben Sheets — Garza doesn’t like to show anything of what he’s actually going to do in Spring Training, and because of that, it’s hard to gauge where he really is. My guess is that if he has enough stamina to get through six innings, he’s going to be fine.
  • Lohse looks good. He’s fit, healthy, a good mentor to the younger pitchers . . . he’s not the titular ace of the staff (supposedly, that’s still Yovani Gallardo), but he sure looks an ace to me. I expect no problems from him at all, and think he’ll be one of the best pitchers in the National League, providing he stays healthy.
  • Gallardo looks much better than he has since 2011. His curveball is sharp and his fastball seems to have recovered the movement it didn’t have during much of 2013. He had some off-the-field problems in ’13, including an arrest for DUI, but it seems like he’s gotten sober and is taking much better care of his health. This should mean that he’s going to be a better and more consistent pitcher, so this might be the year that Gallardo finally breaks out and shows he’s one of the top fifteen pitchers in the NL (along with Lohse).
  • I don’t know what the Brewers are doing with Peralta. Every time I’ve seen Peralta pitch on TV (as I haven’t been able to get to Arizona, obviously, to see them live and in person), Peralta’s battery-mate has been Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy hits well and is a good catcher, but he is not the right fit for Peralta as Peralta seems extremely uncomfortable whenever Lucroy catches for him.
  • Speaking of Lucroy, I agree that the Brewers need him in the lineup as often as possible, as Lucroy is one of the Brewers’ best hitters. However, he should not catch Peralta, and he probably shouldn’t catch Estrada either, as both of them do much better with Martin Maldonado. The Brewers should instead put Lucroy at first base on those days, as it’s best for all concerned and they’ll get much better mileage out of Peralta and Estrada if they do.
  • The biggest question mark, to my mind, remains at first base. Unless Lucroy does play over there two times every five days, there isn’t going to be much production coming from that position.The two first basemen, while better than Yuniesky Betancourt and a cast of thousands were last year, are still not very good. Overbay is now thirty-seven, and while his glove is still better than average — and while the Brewers infield needs all the help it can get, especially with Rickie Weeks being way under par defensively at second base (the only time Weeks has ever fielded well was when Willie Randolph was helping to coach the team and giving Weeks constant pointers; is there any way to get Randolph back?) — Overbay does not look like he can hit major league pitching consistently any longer. And Reynolds . . . well, he’s not been as bad a fielder as advertised at first base, I’ll give him that. He seems comfortable over there, and he hits better than Overbay. But he’s a strikeout machine on a team that already has Gomez and Weeks, and that doesn’t seem conducive to getting too many runs across no matter how much power potential Reynolds demonstrably has (he’s one of those guys who’s actually hit baseballs completely over scoreboards or completely out of stadiums, well over four hundred and fifty feet).

The remaining thoughts I have are mostly about the bullpen . . . but rather than put them in bullet points, I’m just going to say this:

They’re mostly young. They’re mostly unproven. But I like the mix . . . Tyler Thornburg can start or relieve, Zach Duke can spot start if he needs to, if closer Jim Henderson falters, Francisco Rodriguez is right there and can possibly help (K-Rod has looked especially sharp in Spring Training, especially considering his freak accident in Arizona where he stepped on a cactus while playing with one of his kids; the doctors are still getting cactus spines out of his feet ten days-plus later), and I’m particularly impressed with Brandon Kintzler’s fortitude and perseverance, as he actually made his way to the major leagues via the Independent Northern League.

So, will the Brewers be any better? Or won’t they?

Only time will tell . . . but I like their chances.

A-Rod, MLB, and PED Suspensions

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Folks, over the last week or so, I’ve been riveted by the current contretemps over Major League Baseball’s suspension of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (“A-Rod”) being upheld by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz . . . albeit not for the 211 games MLB wanted. Instead of 211 games, Horowitz reduced the suspension to 162 games — the length of a major league season — and further said that if the Yankees make the playoffs next year, Rodriguez would be ineligible for that as well.

I’ve written extensively in the past about Ryan Braun’s struggle with MLB over the same issues (go here, here and here for the three latest blogs on the subject), so if you’ve read my blog before, you know what I’m about to say.

But in case you haven’t, here goes:

I don’t approve of what MLB has done in paying off witnesses like Anthony “Tony” Bosch. I don’t approve of MLB purchasing stolen documents, either. And while I don’t approve of performance-enhancing drugs in the main, I think it’s wrong for MLB to go after one person — whether it’s Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, or anyone else — with so much vigor that they’re willing to do practically anything to “get their man.”

Stooping to the defense of “we’ll do anything necessary to stomp out PEDs” is not good enough.  It’s a witch hunt, just as Rodriguez has said on many occasions. And I think Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra was right when he said:

. . . I would not, if I were running Major League Baseball, have permitted my investigators to purchase the stolen Biogenesis documents. Maybe that costs me valuable information. Maybe that blows my case entirely. But I see no end result, including the possible failure to punish A-Rod, that is worth an organization under my command breaking the law, which I believe happened in this case. I also do my best to get better sourcing for the information my investigators obtained than guys named, simply, “Bobby.”

Even with the knowledge that Rodriguez could’ve and perhaps should’ve taken a much lesser suspension last spring (he apparently was offered a fifty-game suspension, this being the standard length for a first-time offender), I still believe that MLB’s actions were completely and utterly absurd — not to mention wrong.

That the World Anti-Doping Agency has come out in favor of the tactics behind the Rodriguez suspension only adds fuel to the fire.  As discussed in this article from A.J. Cassavell over at MLB.com:

“The ‘clear and convincing evidence’ found by arbitrator Horowitz in this case proves that non-analytical methods have an increasingly important role to play in uncovering those athletes who have breached anti-doping rules,” (WADA President) Reedie said. “Sharing information and intelligence is something WADA continues to encourage its own stakeholders to do in order to help protect the rights of the clean athlete.”

Um, even when “non-analytical methods” include intimidating and browbeating witnesses in the court of public opinion, then paying the very witnesses MLB just spent a fortune to vilify? Even when MLB is buying stolen documents of unknown veracity, then using them to back up their claims that the athlete in question — in this case, Alex Rodriguez — is guilty as sin of using PEDs?

How could any of those things ever be right, regardless of what Rodriguez actually did while a patron of Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic?

Granted, MLB wants to rid the game of PEDs — but why do it this way?

Because there is another way, and that way is called education. If you let all the players know exactly what these various banned substances do in the body — if they’re truly deleterious in their effects — that should take care of a good part of it.

And maybe that’s all MLB can do.  Because as broadcaster Keith Olbermann has said many times, there will never be a way to remove everything considered a “performance enhancer.” (KO has famously referred to an player who was known to have taken monkey testosterone — back in the 1890s.)

Years ago, baseball players took amphetamines to cope with the rigors of a 162-game season, and no one blinked an eye. Then, some players coped with the same rigors of a 162-game season by taking steroids — legal and illegal — because that was the only way they knew to keep their bodies in shape to play. (Note that the first player who admitted he took a steroid — a then-legal steroid called androstenedione — was Mark McGwire, who had well-known back problems.) Finally, some players — such as the recently-retired Andy Pettite — admitted using human growth hormone (HGH) in order to recover from injuries faster.

Now, all three of those substances are banned from baseball — though there are some workarounds for amphetamines in small doses with a doctor’s prescription. (For example, some baseball players have been approved to have Adderall to treat ADHD and/or narcolepsy; Adderall is a stimulant.)

Considering MLB’s current zeal and their scorched-earth philosophy when it comes to PEDs, will energy drinks that give players a natural “high” be banned next?

Don’t laugh. The World Baseball Classic banned albuterol because it helps asthmatic athletes breathe, so it obviously gives asthmatic athletes an unfair advantage. (I hope you can see my eye-roll from there.) And MLB has banned certain types of over-the-counter cold medicines, mostly because they contain a small dose of some form of stimulant.

All I know is this: Shaming people into doing something never works. MLB needs to educate the players in order to keep them away from PEDs, rather than shame them.

Maybe then, they’d actually get what they want — a PED-free game. And they’d not look so much like villains in the process.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Ryan Braun, MVP, Tests Positive for Steroids; Will Appeal

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NL MVP Ryan Braun tests positive for PEDs, faces 50-game suspensionMilwaukee Brewers player Ryan Braun, who is also the 2011 Most Valuable Player for the National League, has apparently tested positive for steroids — or, as Major League Baseball (MLB) likes to call them, “performance enhancing drugs,” or PEDs.

See this link for further details:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/NL-MVP-Ryan-Braun-tests-positive-for-PEDs-faces?urn=mlb-wp28430

Note the word “apparently.”  This is because there is no confirmation from MLB as to whether or not this actually happened.

Here are a few paragraphs from the article; please note that the Yahoo Sports blog is referencing an earlier report at ESPN that I wasn’t able to find:

The “Outside the Lines” report goes on to clarify that elevated levels of testosterone in Braun’s sample are what triggered the positive test. Further tests showed that the testosterone was synthetic. In other words, Braun’s body did not produce it naturally.

MLB went on to consult the World Anti-Doping Agency lab for a second opinion to confirm the results. The WADA conducted a secondary test to see whether the increase in testosterone could have been produced by Braun himself or if it came from a secondary source.

The test confirmed MLB’s original results. The extra testosterone came from outside Braun’s body.

 

So, if this is all to be believed, Braun apparently tested positive for having too much testosterone in his bloodstream.  And MLB insists that it’s of a synthetic nature, meaning Braun couldn’t have produced it himself.  So that means that it’s possible that Braun’s outstanding 2011 season, which produced 33 HRs, 111 RBIs, and a .331 batting average, wasn’t produced naturally.

But here’s the thing.  Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up.  He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007.  His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.

So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).

According to this article at USA Today, Braun plans a vigorous defense.  He also called the “Outside the Lines” report “B.S.”

A spokesman for Braun said (quoted in both articles referenced):

“There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program. While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated.”

All I know is, the Brewers had an odd situation a few years back where centerfielder Mike Cameron tested positive for a “performance enhancing drug” — and you know what it was?  He took an over the counter cold medicine, which happened to have something like Sudafed in it — that’s something that can raise your blood pressure because it allows you to breathe better.  But it’s not something you take unless you’re ill, and Cameron was ill, and had doctors’ notes (more than one) to prove it.

And a few years ago during the World Baseball classic, there was a pitcher who was denied use of his albuterol asthma inhaler because apparently, being able to breathe is a “performance enhancement.”  (This was a pitcher who was known to be asthmatic.  As I am also asthmatic, I fail to see how being able to breathe, rather than succumbing to a fatal asthma attack, is a performance enhancement.  Does MLB prefer healthy, vigorous baseball players who have asthma to drop over dead rather than take their albuterol in order to save their lives?)

And even with the players like Manny Ramirez, who have tested positive for something that can be called a “performance enhancement” — well, Ramirez was taking a very odd drug that enhanced, of all things, his estrogen levels.  (A female fertility drug that is quite legal in many jurisdictions.)  I never did understand what the benefit of that could possibly be, even though various chemists weighed in saying this, that, and the other.  (The only thing I ever figured out is that this particular drug could’ve possibly been masking other drugs that really did make a difference in Ramirez’s on-field performance.)

But as baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (a third baseman, and a power hitter, for the Philadelphia Phillies) said in his book CLEARING THE BASES, baseball players have been trying to “gain an edge” since the beginning of time.  Trying to legislate that away will never work (not that I think Braun did anything wrong here, but if he was trying to gain an edge, so what?).  And if the players are harming themselves down the line to gain big bucks now, that should be their prerogative — all I ask is that if someone is taking something like that, they watch what happened to Oakland Raiders’ star Lyle Alzado (who died young, and horribly, from cancer that may have been prevented if Alzado hadn’t admittedly taken many, many steroids over time).

In this, particular case, my view is that Braun’s statistical performance was well within his own normals.  So it’s very hard for me to believe that Braun actually did take anything illegal of the PED variety; because of that, and because of my admittedly laissez-faire attitude toward baseball players and legal drugs, I believe Braun should be considered innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.

Therefore, all the talk of Braun being stripped of his MVP award should stop already — it’s nonsense.  Nothing’s been proven yet.  Braun may have a good reason for why this happened, and I, for one, am willing to wait and see what it is, especially as his on-field performance hasn’t changed one whit since he was brought up to the big leagues to stay in 2007.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm