Reading SI (and Bonds hits No. 755): A couple of updates
Updates this morning.
Ray, in comments, pasted in a link from Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline . Doyel absolutey rips Selig, noting that there was no reason for Selig to be in San Diego last night given how obvious it is that Selig did not want to be there. (On OTL this morning, Ley said Selig looked like he was “sitting in a dentist’s chair” last night). Doyel was especially derisive of Selig’s statement, which reads:
“Congratulations to Barry Bonds as he ties Major League’s Baseball’s home run record. No matter what anyone thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds’ achievement is noteworthy and remarkable.
“As I said previously, out of respect for the tradition of the game, the magnitude of the record and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty, either I or a representative of my office will attend the next few games and make every attempt to observe the breaking of the all-time home run record.”
Doyel parses the statement thusly:
Go back and look at that thing. First, the first paragraph. Selig goes from calling Bonds by his first name to calling him “Mr. Bonds,” as if Bonds were sitting in a courtroom and not atop baseball’s all-time home run list. It’s hard to be sure considering Selig needed exactly 13 words and two sentences to remind everyone that Bonds is possibly guilty of something, though Selig never says what.
Now look at the second paragraph. Selig says Bonds is “innocent until proven guilty,” which is true. It’s also true that Bonds hasn’t even been charged with a crime, at least not a crime involving steroids. Is there a mountain of proof that Bonds juiced? Apparently. Does much of America think Bonds juiced? Clearly. Do federal prosecutors have enough proof to indict Bonds for anything related to his alleged usage of steroids? Obviously not.
But there’s Selig reminding everyone of that “controversy” while also reminding us that Bonds is, above all else, “innocent until proven guilty.”
The same luxury cannot be afforded to Selig. He is guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, of being the most overmatched, incompetent commissioner in American sports history. Consider this to be my official statement on the matter.
I do understand why Selig would acknowledge the controversy. But, as Doyel (and Buster Olney repeatedly) points out, the “innocent until proven guilty line” is just gratuitous. As Doyel notes, though grand juries hand down indictments like bartenders serve up beer, none has yet been entered against Bonds. Furthermore, does Bud think that there’s a person in America who is unaware of the allegations? The reason Selig’s behavior in all this is so pathetic is not that he has misgivings about a hallowed record being broken by someone who may have broken major league rules. Any sports commissioner would have similar misgivings. What makes Selig’s behavior so infuriating is his participation in a fraud: the attempt, in effect, to lay all of the blame for an entire era of steroids use on one player, and to refuse to acknowledge, in any way, his own failings in this matter, or the reality that, if Bonds did use so, in all likelihood, did a significant percentage of his competitors.
As Olney told Bob Ley this morning, the homerun last night perfectly illustrates the problem: the pitcher off of whom Bonds hit the homerun, Clay Hensley, was himself suspended in 2005 for failing a steroids test.
BREAKING (from Saturday night):
As I am typing this post, Barry Bonds has just hit his 755th homerun. Despite all the talk, it’s clear that many fans in San Diego, where the Giants are playing this weekend, are in fact cheering. (There is certainly booing, too). Commissioner Bud is there, and doesn’t seem to know what to do.
Orel Hershiser, announcing the game alongside Dave O’Brien, is saying that he’s glad Bud was there for it and noting that Bonds worked hard in pre-game batting practice tonight, working on hitting the ball the other way, which is exactly where he hit No. 755 – to left field.
O’Brien and Hershiser are playing it pretty straight – describing the crowd reaction – both positive and negative. Both are expressing admiration for the sheer number of homeruns Bonds has hit, regardless of how he may or may not have achieved that. Both also believe that people aren’t sure how to react because Bonds hasn’t really allowed people to get to know him. I’d argue that Bonds has, on the contrary, tried less hard to cultivate a media-friendly image of himself than almost any other major athlete. I’m not sure we really “know” any public celebrities. That we think we do is another story.
In any event, more to come on this, obviously.
Some random thoughts working my way through the most recent Sports Illustrated:
1) A brief blurb describing Peter King’s on-line feature on Roger Goodell reads “When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talks to players, he often mentions how it’s a privilege to play in the league, not a right.”
Next time an NFL owner threatens to pull his team out of a city because of bullshit arguments about not being able to make money and requiring a publicly financed stadium and all that crap, I won’t hold my breath waiting for Goodell to tell owners that it’s a privilege, not a right, to own a pro football team.
2) Grant Wahl better be careful. In a “scorecard” column on the Iraq national team’s triumph in the Asian soccer cup, Wahl described how, if for a brief moment, the victory brought together a country riven by civil war. But, Wahl cautioned that “it would be disingenuous to suggest that Iraq’s soccer triumph will change the course of country’s downward spiral.” And, “sports is not government, after all, and none of Iraq’s other recent soccer [successes]…quelled the violence that envelops Iraqi society.”
Doesn’t Wahl how dangerous and un-American these statements are?
Doesn’t Wahl know about all the good news in Iraq that our traitorous Liberal Media refuses to share with us? Doesn’t Wahl know that merely acknowledging the violence and discord that has brought Iraq to its knees undermines our morale and plays into the hands of terrorists?
Who knew that SI was such a left-wing rag?
3) A small blurb in the “For the Record” page recounts the arrest of NHL star Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and his younger brother, Jordan, 18, who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both were chared with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process, and the younger Staal was charged with under age drinking. No word yet on whether the NHL and various sports pundits will decry the drafting of under age players (Staal was 17 when drafted by the Pens last year), for fear that they’re too young and immature to handle the rigors of being highly paid professional athletes.
Once again, I will resist the urge to hold my breath.
4) Also in For the Record, a brief item on conflicting accounts of the final minutes of Pat Tillman’s life. SI failed to mention, however, new questions about whether he was intentionally killed by someone in his unit. SI did, matter of factly, refer to a “cover-up” in the investigation into Tillman’s death, which former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied happened in testimony last week before Congress. SI also gave the final word to Tillman’s mother, Mary, who referred to the punishments meted out to officers responsible for the faulty investigation into her son’s death as “a complete donkey show.”
5) Nolan Ryan, age 60, recently was clocked throwing a ceremonial first pitch at 85 miles per hour. Damn.
6) Jack McCallum wrote a feature story this week titled “Fed Up Yet?” about all the recent scandals. The odd thing about this article – McCallum wrote almost exactly the same article in last week’s issue. One interesting note in the piece: McCallum quotes Neil Pilson, former president of CBS sports pooh-poohing the long-term significance of this summer of discontent: “we throw around words like decay and deteriorate, but there are more people watching, listening and logging on to sports than ever in history.”
7) A good profile of Jack Cust, the Oakland A’s slugging DH. Cust is a classic moneyball player – great patience, draws lots of walks, hits homeruns, weak with the glove and low batting average. Cust has been kicking around the minors for years and, at 28, is getting his first sustained shot in the majors this year. He’s been a godsend for an offensively-challenged club – Cust has 17 homers in just 232 at-bats, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging, well over .900), which is excellent. Unsaid in the article is that this type of ballplayer, so much the focus of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, is not the kind of player A’s GM Billy Beane has been focusing on in recent years. As more teams have adopted the basic lessons of Moneyball, the types of skills that Cust possesses no longer fly quite so far below the radar, making them more expensive to acquire. This is why Beane has emphasized lean, athletic, defensively proficient players in recent years, in support of his pitching staff, at the expense of the high-scoring offenses that characterized the A’s earlier in the decade.
In this light, Cust old-school Moneyball, if such a thing is possible.
8) A brief article on Bill Walsh (SI was going to press as news of Walsh’s death emerged). Peter King notes that, aside from having revolutionized the game on the field, Walsh was also a pioneer in laying the “groundwork for minorities to break into the NFL head-coaching ranks.”
9) Finally, Rick Reilly’s tongue-in-cheek column about life in hell refers to a blogger writing in his mother’s basement. Why do traditional media types always characterize bloggers as writing from their mother’s basements? My mother, for the record, has no basement.