Archives for: 2007, week 50

12/13/07

MLB: The Mitchell Report - Baseball Strikes Out!

Permalink 05:43:00 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

by Digger

The highly publicized and much anticipated "Mitchell Report" (.pdf) (read it on MLB.com) became baseball's latest sideshow this afternoon as Boston Red Sox employee and former Senator George Mitchell, tapped by ex Milwaukee Brewers owner turned Commissioner Bud Selig to lead an extensive investigation into steroid/human growth hormone abuse by Major League players, stood in front the world and told us what we already knew.

Many issues need to be examined before anyone sits down to read this report. Baseball has been in a state of disarray since Fay Vincent served as the games last true Commissioner. Vincent exited in 1992... is there any coincidence baseball's steroid problem began to spread rapidly soon thereafter? Why was Vincent not interviewed at great length?

The biggest red flag one must recognize is this: Senator Mitchell... Attourney Mitchell... Judge Mitchell.. former United States Majority Leader was said to be without subpeona power to formally demand testimony from key individuals. Are we to believe one of the most powerful men in America had no probable cause by rule of law, or political fortitude to persuade potential witnesses to testify (formally or informally). He certainly could have afforded key testimonials immunity.

When a man of such stature and powerful credentials, charged with operating an "impartial" investigation into one of the biggest conspiracies in the history of sports, cannot successfully execute subpeona's for witnesses or produce key testomony by way of immunity.... then what is wrong with this picture? This is a glaring flaw in baseball's latest sideshow. Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct answer. This has been a sham and baseball is devoid of leadership and accountability.

No one within the game from MLB, MLBPA, Commissioners Office, owners, agents, physicians, advertisers wanted a truly deep and thorough investigation. As previously published by this writer, GREED rules the day in baseball from top to bottom.

"The Politics of Baseball" = After a public spectacle of Congressional Hearings involving active and former major leaguers, MLBPA Leader Fehr and MLB Commissioner Selig, no one should buy into this report being anything more than propoganda to sway public opinion. Mitchell had the most influential people in America at his disposal, therefore this report is a complete failure as an investigative tool. It is nothing more than a mere synopsis of knowledge previously reported and by way of individuals being prosecuted by authorities outside of baseball.

Mitchell also faced strong opposition and total non-cooperation from MLBPA. As a Director of the Boston Red Sox one should question his impartiality or biases. How does one conduct a thorough investigation free of influences when such a person is an inner circle member within a system clearly flawed? Or, by relying heavily on information provided by an employee of his fiercest competitor (which happens to be one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports - Red Sox vs Yankees).

While these statements are not in anyway meant to be an accusation vs Senator Mitchell... it does raise serious questions of how an individual could possibly have been free of bias' or personal knowledge (as a baseball insider) of players under suspicion before being called upon as lead investigator. Difficult to do.

Mitchell's investigation completely failed to reach beyond what has been public knowledge for many years. Persons already under indictment by Federal authorities were main informants used to reach conclusions and promote accusations publicly. Very few individuals were pursued who had direct knowledge of doped players. Team physicians, trainers and conditioning coaches all were/are "in the know" and in many cases accomplices in commiting illegal acts. At the very least he could have created a coordinated effort to have physicians under suspicion investigated by proper medial authorities. FBI tips/cases certainly include suppliers/manufacturers of HGH (customer lists). Quite frankly, ineptitude of unearthing potential leads is mind boggling and has gone completely unnoticed by media outlets. For the coming days Roger Clemens will probably receive much of the media's attention. Once star bashingwears off, perhaps one will examine extreme flaws within the report.

Mitchell did fire a shot at the Commissioners Office by reporting they "did" have knowledge of suspected abuse for years, and in at least one instance, tipped off a player to an impending test. The first thing which MLB "must" acknowledge is the Commissioners Office needs to be held accountable. The very first thing which must happen right now if baseball "truly" wants to clean up it's act... FIRE BUD SELIG and bring in a man from outside the game to take control. "Absolute Power" as Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis once said when he stepped in to clean up the sport after the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

In fairness, Mitchell's report has many positive aspects too. He has detailed a fine plan for future testing and agreements between MLB & MLBPA, addressing urgent concerns regarding America's youth also partcipating in steroids/HGH and a few other instructions including using outside "independent" testing agencies (baseball currently tests from within).

Many baseball fans nationwide have been calling for players to be exposed and in some cases penalized. The who's who list of users had been largely left up to one's imagination with the exception of a few players who have spoken openly. Part of today's show was to produce sacrificial lambs for the pack of angry wolves to devour (public, media & bloggers). Mitchell threw raw meat to the public. Every great politician knows exactly when to divert attention away from the real issues at hand.

I believe, for the good of the game, ALL players who used performing enhancing substances should be exposed. However, this short list creates more problems than it solves which is why this is nothing more than a diversionary tactic. Mitchell clearly stated these players are just the tips of the iceburg and true violators come in large numbers and are unknown.

Troubling is the lack of proof presented by Mitchell's investigation. This was a lengthy process which produced few interviews and not enough first hand answers. Mitchell stated he does not believe players in his report should be penalized but leaves this up to the Commissioner's Office.

Bud Selig soon followed providing his spin. One of the most telling signs was his opening statement boasting of baseball's record revenues. Sometimes the guilty inadvertently tip their hands. MONEY. GREED. As previously blogged on All World All Sports, money was always the driving factor behind letting the players bulk up to put more runs on the board, break records and ultimately fill the stands. Money was the driving factor in covering up this scandal. Players earned more money, union collected more dues, owners pocketed more revenues, record television and marketing contracts etc. Baseball's Commissioners opening statement this afternoon confirmed it's all about money. Very telling and always the underbelly of baseball scandals. Not one of his better poker faces.

Selig stated his intention of evaluating named players one by one to decide if formal action is necessary. His first case should be vs Bud Selig. He testified before the nation clearly stating he was "unaware" of baseball's growing problem before the BALCO case was exposed (perjury?). He lied and should resign. Plain and simple baseball will continue to be viewed with skepticism until simple steps are taken... including cleaning house from within and not tipping off players of impending drug tests.

Selig's intention to discipline players brings us back to raw meat for the public. Sacrificial lambs... only a few names on this list and plenty who have been left off. This is a disservice not only to the game, the fans, and also the accused. Some of these men could very well be innocent. Roger Clemens was quick to have his representative issue a strong denial on his behalf. Where will Selig draw the line? Most players have been implicated by way of hearsay without any evidence. Fire away when direct evidence is in hand. Mitchell, a highly educated scholar of law, knows hearsay goes nowhere in a courtroom ... and also knows it does carry very heavy weight in the public eye which could have been a biased shot at MLBPA's refusal to cooperate. Not enough witnesses interviewed and a host of other problems persist which only create more questions and invalidate conclusions confirmed or omitted by Mitchell's investigative committee.

In typical fashion MLBPA Executive Director Don Fehr responded strongly with his dissatification of how this process was conducted including not having adequate time to evaluate Mitchell's findings before they were made public. One can anticipate another heavyweight slugfest in the making between MLBPA vs MLB Owners. Expect each and every disciplinary action to be hotly contested and a full scale battle when new collective bargaining agreements are negotiated.

As fans and individuals, we should look beyond and see thru smokescreens created by all involved. In today's finger pointing society, plenty of fingers can be rightfully pointed towards each character associated in this fine mess. Players, owners, Union, Commissioner, Doctors, trainers, General Managers, coaches, agents, suppliers, equipment personnel and even lockerroom reporters make up a good portion of the list.

However, it's time to stop finger pointing. Obviously and unquestionably baseball is experiencing a problem in how everyone handled this situation from the beginning. There really is a simple solution or initial corrective step to be put into place. Clean house. Start at the top with Bud Selig and then enhance and implement many of Mitchell's recommendations. Fine team owners with obscene fines for complying or turning a blind eye. Then strengthen and enforce Mitchell's doping policies. Federal intervention might finally be necessary since the fat cats are unable to control their insatiable appetites for greed at the sacrifice of human lives. Suggestions will come from far and wide across our great nation. First stop must come from the top. Everything else will soon fall into place.

"No one is above the game" has been one of baseball's mantra's for a long time. Now is time to prove it!

Another soon to be sideshow will be how baseball's historic records be treated or how hall of fame credentials are viewed? In this "Decade of Steroids", as named by Mitchell, suggestions have already arisen proposing each and every record during this era be labelled as steroids era. Look out stat fans, the asterik could rear its' ugly head once again.

Speculation, accusations, denials and spectacular quotations will soon grace headlines from coast to coast for days to come. This story has been over analyzed, scrutinized and debated for many years.

Baseball will survive this scandal. Not many will be held accountable beyond a select few big name players sent out to pasture. Accountability may escape most, however, now is clearly an opportunity to clean up the sport. Baseball always survives and this era can quickly be put to rest.

In one of baseball's greatest movies, Field of Dreams, Terrance Mann (played by James Earl Jones, explains to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner): ..."The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

It's time to stop with lip service and restore our fine game. Baseball has survived racism, survived Wars, survived previous scandals, survived work stoppages.... baseball will survive now too. Our game is not ruined, only needing to recover from another tarnished image. Fan enthusiasm is at an all time high. Most will be forgiven if this drama can be brought to swift resolution. Right now, all sides presenting their side of diversionary tactics, bold statements and warnings of future quarrels on the horizon.

Baseball - Shut Up and Step Up. Step up to the plate and get this problem under control. It is not hard to do.

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12/12/07

PGA Tour '08: Tiger In World of His Own

Permalink 07:09:26 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

by Digger

2008 PGA Men's Tour tees off January 3rd at the Mercedes-Benz Championships in Hawaii. 2007 Player of the Year, Tiger Woods, earned his fourth straight POY and will be shooting for his tenth career award. Tiger is lightyears ahead of his competition as he continues to mystify the world with his domination.

Every once in a long while an athlete appears who changes their sport forever. Many names decorate this short list of legends, trend setters, innovators, game changers and dream makers.

Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson forever changed baseball. Wayne Gretzky shattered nearly every NHL scoring record and could very well be one player in all of sports never to be duplicated. Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Shaquille O'Neal redefined how big men play Center in the NBA. Dr. J (Julius Erving) soared above the paint, Magic Johnson dazzled with spectacular no-look passes, Larry Bird amazed the amazing... then Michael Jordan entered the scene and defied logic. MJ did it all and was arguably the games most celebrated athlete. Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Tom Landry and Bill Walsh changed how NFL games were scripted. Johnny Unitas, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Montana, John Elway, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice are some of the household names which excelled above the rest at their respective positions in the NFL.

Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are some of golfs legends who defined their sport... then........ along came Tiger Woods.

Tiger may go down as the most dominant Champion in the history of professional sports. He has completely taken over golf and was an instant celebrity sensation even before turning pro. His energy has been inspiring and motivational to divot makers of all ages. His play is admired and envied by fellow professionals who are left in his dust. Tiger not only wins tournaments, he often leaves the field multiple strokes behind. He's taken aim at Nicklaus' record 18 Majors titles and is on pace to leave Jack a distant second when his magical career concludes.

Many great players are enjoying fine careers on the links. Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker and KJ Choi round out 2-5 on 2007 PGA Tour Money Leaders (Tiger nearly doubled 2nd best). Many names not mentioned in this ever growing and popular sport make up the most competitive links field in its' history. And yet, even the best of the best find themselves a distant second by tourneys end most often ... watching Tiger standing alone raising his newest trophy cup, crystal or Green Jacket.

As a fan, watching Tiger play is a privilege as history unfolds. Stay tuned... he's only just begun.

12/11/07

NBA: The Pride of Boston Has Returned!

Permalink 07:28:45 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

by Digger

Boston is a city rich with magical sports memories and legendary teams. Some of yesteryears biggest names include NHL's Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Terry O'Reilly... and MLB's Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, David Ortiz and NBA's Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Red Auerbach.

The Boston Celtics (17-2) are one of sports most storied franchises. The Boston Garden rafters used to shake when fan favorites nailed clutch shot after clutch shot. Those days had long since faded. New coaches, underperforming players, no more "Garden". Recent seasons had disappointed life long devoted fans longing for a return to their teams glory days.

The wait is over. The newest chapter to this proud organization is in progress and everyone is noticing. Boston is currently undefeated at home (TD Banknorth Garden) and sporting the leagues best record.

The 2007-08 Boston Celtics have fans wondering if this team is for real. All indicators point to YES. Head Coach Doc Rivers has all the ingredients to lead this crew to winning campaigns for years to come. The new big three - Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have all gelled excellently while dazzling fans and foes. It's the trio's first season playing together and one quickly notices resembling features between them and other Championship calibur big 3 units.

Everyone has been chipping in. Rivers has made all the right moves. His reserve players have played major roles and provided big sparks in close games. Team defense has played a big role as opponents struggle vs Boston's league best low 87.7 points/game average.

Many games remain in a still young season and Boston Celtics fans have good reason for optimism once again. They've quickly established themselves as early season legitimate contenders. Only one thing left for Doc's Celtics.... prove it vs upper echelon opponents.

12/10/07

New England Patriots: Perfection in the Making

Permalink 09:21:23 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

by Digger

New England's (13-0) 2007 season has been the best team performance in NFL history. Head Coach Bill Belichik has created a Patriots dynasty winning three Super Bowl Championships since 2001. NFL fans are now being treated to perfection. The Patriots have dominated opponents and all sides of the field. After thirteen games, New England has already outscored foes by nearly 300 points. Field General Tom Brady has cemented his place as one of the games greatest players. He’s playing on a level far above his piers, completing 70% of his passes while throwing 45 touchdowns against only 5 int’s.

In 1972, legendary Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, guided his Miami Dolphins to the NFL’s first and only perfect season. Miami finished the regular season 14-0 on their way to becoming Super Bowl Champions. Over the years, as other teams threatened Miami’s historic record, former ‘72 players gather at key games in a effort to preserve their place in NFL history.

Move over fish… here come the Patriots.

What makes this such a special season to watch is all of New England’s players and personnel have contributed each week. Near perfect play calling by coaches and flawless execution by players has been the secret to this teams complete domination.

This is a team playing with complete confidence. New England has been tested. In game 9 they visited arch rival Indianapolis and won 24-20 in the closing moments. Game 11 they were nearly stunned by a spirited Eagles squad (31-28). Than came game 12 vs. Baltimore when the Pats needed a stunning 27-24 come from behind win to keep their streak in tact. The Ravens had the game in hand but self destructed by penalties and poor clock management which paved the way for Brady & Co. to work their magic.

Life is filled with many ironies. After years of challenges to Miami’s perfect season… and New England seemingly ready to etch their name in history… the Miami Dolphins (0-13) are on a collision course to set the NFL’s futility record by going winless 0-16. Miami is no match for any team in the league, often look lost on the field, and are severely outclassed player for player.

Nothing is for certain. Any given Sunday, one team wins and one loses. Even if the Pats finish the regular season undefeated a huge challenge awaits in the post season. Tremendous teams in each league are all looking for their own glory. Indianapolis, Dallas and Green Bay round out the powerhouse squads. However, as they and the rest of NFL teams already know, New England is currently in a league of their own.

Go PATS!

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