Not so shocking threats and a bit of journalistic stupidity

Barry Bonds is apparently receiving death threats. I’m honestly not surprised, as I can imagine many die hard baseball fans are hoping Bonds never surpasses Hank Aaron’s career record of 755 home runs. Death threats, however, I’ll admit go beyond what I would find acceptable. After all, I would be disappointed to see a tainted record… but I wouldn’t kill to keep it from happening. Perhaps I actually am a little more sane than I previously have allowed myself to believe.

What I found shocking was a paragraph in an AP article that says:

Aaron himself, who like Bonds is black, dealt with death threats and hate mail as he approached Babe Ruth ‘s then-record of 714 homers. Aaron passed Ruth on April 8, 1974.

My take on the Barry Bonds issue is that the death threats have nothing to do with him being black, but of his reputation and allegations of steroid use. How on earth can you even attempt to compare what Aaron went through with what Bonds is going through?

Before you start thinking I am insensitive to African Americans and what they have gone through and go through currently, I want to mention I am actually multi-racial. Yes, I understand because I see it and have experienced it and am very proud of my heritage. So this isn’t a racist post. I am merely saying I doubt the color of his skin is the reason Bonds is receiving these threats. I hate to see race brought into an issue where it shouldn’t be involved because then it makes true race issues seem less significant.

In the end, skin color is not his asset or his hindrance. He (allegedly) used steroids to get to where he did, and it was his own stupidity and selfishness that created the tainted reputation. His ego and his refusal to own up to his mistakes is why so many, including me, are crossing their fingers he is unable to pass the record set by Hank Aaron.

Death threats may be sent, but I honestly can’t imagine anyone going through with it. After all, is Bonds really worth all that effort? Also, if Bonds were killed, none of us would be able to rejoice the day Bonds is finally made accountable for his (alleged) juicing.

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Brace yourself…

Just what baseball fans want, more performance enhancing drugs controversy. Gary Matthews Jr. allegedly was sent a synthetic growth hormone in August of 2004 from Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala., whose two owners have been indicted by an Albany County grand jury. This is only the beginning, I’m sure, of what we will hear about this bust. There is a very strong possibility other players will eventually be named, and it’s likely to be people we fans may not have expected to be involved.

So, what are we as fans supposed to do about this? Obviously the player’s union and MLB are not going to be able to put a complete stop to this, even if they really did want to. There has always been cheaters and there always will be cheaters. As long as they believe there is a chance to get away with it (and MLB is making that possible) players will push the boundaries and break the rules for a chance at setting records and cashing in on fat multi-million dollar contracts. Is there a possibility that team owners may be the answer? After all, it must not be a pleasant experience to have your name in the press because a player on your team has been found or is accused of using performance enhancers of any sort. Maybe they will be the ones to blow the whistle and get this under control.

Then again, owners need those stars to bring in revenue, correct? Are these players making them enough money that they are willing to turn their backs on the problem themselves? If I were to guess, I would say every ownership group who may have players willing to test the limits are aware that something is going on. I would go farther and say that I believe every single ownership group faces the possibility of at least one player on their roster that they may be aware of dabbling in steroid use either now or in the past. I also believe they tell their staff to make sure they hear nothing about it if it is in fact happening. Owners are not facing up to their responsibility to do something about this. Does this mean the Red Sox are facing this as well? I can only guess, and I would hate to think any of my beloved Sox are involved… but if they are, what would I do about it? Would my loyalty to my beloved Sox keep me from accepting the truth?

As much as I think the fans and MLB itself are suffering from this, I also wonder about the most unmentioned victims of the steroid controversy. For every player we find proof of steroid use for, many more innocent players are brought up as possibilities for drug or hormone use. Every player now, and possibly in the long-term future, who accomplishes anything great in their career will be faced with the "did he or didn’t he?" questioning by the media and fans. They will not receive the recognition they deserve for their honest efforts and accomplishments because of some cheating players and the unwillingness of MLB to implement a true no-tolerance rule and enforce it. I feel great sympathy for these players of integrity who will never be trusted because of an issue that is out of their control. These innocent players deserve better, and they may in fact be the biggest victims in all of this. How do we give them the respect they deserve if we can’t trust that they accomplished what they did in a honorable way? We obviously can’t take their word for it.

I am still amazed that Bonds is still in the game, still chasing records and getting signed for millions when it is clear of his involvement. MLB, the ownership groups, and the player’s union need to take responsibility and make this an issue of baseball’s past, not our future. We as fans need to make sure we let them know they are accountable as much as the coward cheaters out there testing the limits in a game where the cheater gets fame, millions of dollars and respect… and the less fortunate honest players are forgotten and under-appreciated for their true ability and talent… and most of all, their true integrity.

FCC to the rescue

The FCC is investigating the deal between MLB and DirecTV for the Extra Innings package. Normally I don’t agree to the FCC sticking their nose into anything, but they have just regained my respect.

I agree with what a majority of fans have been saying online. MLB making this deal with DirecTV is a move that only benefits them and leaves many die hard fans without a way to watch their favorite team play. For instance, I live in the south, not Boston. Yet my entire life during baseball season revolves around the BoSox game schedule. I may not be in New England, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to catch every game. So if I can’t get DirecTV… I’m just out of luck according to the new deal.

While most businesses go by the "keeping your current customers is most important" rule, MLB seems to be heading in a "who cares what our current customers think?" direction. I personally know several people who have still not returned to watching baseball since the strike… is it possible this deal could cause a new batch of AWOL fans? I believe that it isn’t just a possibility, it’s a given.

The almighty dollar has MLB ignoring the people who have been handing over those very dollars. They have somehow forgotten that fans are as much a part of baseball as any team or player. Without the fans, there would be no multi-million dollar contracts for players or tickets sold out to every game as is the case with Fenway. Without us there is no MLB, and it’s about time they started giving us the respect we deserve for being part of the show. I don’t care about upcoming technology as a reason for the switch because that technology isn’t available yet. I don’t care if MLB is going to make a few extra bucks, or if some execs thought it would only upset a small percentage of fans. If they keep losing small percentages of die hard fans, they will eventually be left with nothing.

I think the fans should keep trying to get their voices heard. I think fans, whether effected by this deal or not, should voice their concerns over the actions of MLB straight to MLB itself. Let Selig know that we fully expect to be respected for the part we play in this business.

Of interest to Sox fans… I heard Red Sox chairman Tom Werner thought this deal was a good idea. I apologize for not being able to find the post containing this info to link back to, but I would be interested in hearing if anyone else has heard this. If it is in fact true, I am shocked I can’t find any more mention of it. I can’t decide whether I believe this or not. I know the Red Sox brass are committed to the happiness of the fans (despite the creation of those dreadful Red Sox Nation memberships) and I can’t believe someone who appreciates the die hard fans everywhere agreeing that this deal makes sense.

EDIT: Ok, I heard Selig mentioned Werner’s involvement in the decision on ESPN radio. Sorry for not having that info at the time of posting. Assuming now that this is correct, I can say I’m shocked that someone who cares about the fans and is involved in a network himself would say that few fans will be effected by this. It’s not as simple as households effected, for in every household there are multiple fans. The numbers are much larger than they are saying will suffer from this deal. How many fans are disposable so they can make an extra buck?

Manny may be taking a detour to Fort Myers

The Associated Press is reporting that Manny Ramirez is scheduled to attend a car auction in Atlantic City on Saturday. Manny has already received an excused absence from the Red Sox for spring training and will report on March 1. Julian Tavarez had already told media on Monday that Ramirez was in Florida to be with his mother after a recent surgery she had.
Did the Red Sox know his appearance was scheduled at this car auction? When was it scheduled? Does it really matter? I mean, seriously, who thought Manny would actually show up on time to spring training anyway?
Manny is still being Manny, and that is never going to change. There are those fans who will overlook that aspect and be satisfied with his on-field performance. There are also those fans who will continue to let these little Manny escapades bother them. The fact is, Manny is going to do whatever he wants, and at this point in his career it is pointless to scream about how Manny needs to shape up. He just isn’t going to, and either you accept it… and the numbers he puts up with the Sox every season… or you will just have to suffer just a little bit longer with him. After all, the end of his contract is looming closer and if he is continuing to request a trade then it would be unlikely he would want to resign. That is, if he was even offered an extension by the Red Sox FO, who at this point may be as fed up with Manny being Manny as some fans are.
Personally, I would love to see Manny stay. I want to see him finish his career in a BoSox uniform. The thought of seeing Manny wearing his baggy pants with anything other than a Sox jersey to compliment it is just too painful to me. Some may say I am not seeing the whole picture, that Manny is a distraction and a bad influence to the younger generation. Perhaps he is a distraction, but if he is, he is merely distracting the fans who still worry about it and giving the media something to report on slow days. By this point I believe the entire Red Sox organization, including their entire roster, is used to Manny being Manny and doesn’t let it bother them. The younger generation of players and fans are getting to watch a future HOF player generating a media craze not only with his bat but also his unique personality. Call it childish if you want, but Manny is not going to change Manny just because the media or the fans want him to. At least respect him for wanting to stay true to his personality. If it distracts you, stop reading the Manny being Manny articles.
The real question is which we would rather have, a future HOF player with a bit of a "quirk" or a player who was miserable and really would decide to sit out the season if he was pushed to change? I’m not saying Manny should be allowed to run around uncontrolled, but merely that maybe picking our battles would be the way to go. Manny is just a big kid, and having his tantrums and testing the boundries as a child would. Would you rather have him acting as some of the NBA or NFL players are doing? Manny’s antics are completely harmless when compared to them!
Manny will be in Fort Myers on March 1st. We know that for sure, and I didn’t expect anything less… or more… from Mr. Manny Ramirez.
Also of note (from the AP article):

Ramirez is a collector of classic cars. His 1967 four-door Lincoln Continental Sedan convertible is listed in Saturday’s auction as number 1747A. In parentheses on the auction list is a note: Owned by Manny Ramirez.

A Fresh Start

When I walked out of my house this morning I was met with frost on the ground as well as on my car. It’s an odd thing to wake up to here in the south, but despite the bitter cold there were still signs of spring right around the corner. For one thing, there was a sunrise this morning. Not long ago the early morning hours were still dark and dreary and holding no promise. Today the sun woke with me and it wasn’t long before the excitement kicked in.

I love this time of year. It’s when you start seeing signs of life all around you and you start getting a glimpse of what this year’s baseball season is going to be like. All of the off-season deals are starting to come together and make sense and you can feel the energy in the air as you start to imagine a daily regime of baseball and bad eating habits. Ok, so the bad eating habits are there all year long, but there is no better excuse than to say you don’t have time to cook a good meal because the Sox game is about to begin. Junk food always tastes better during a game… unless the Sox are losing, and then nothing tastes very good anyway.

There is a lot of excitement over the deals made by the Red Sox FO this off-season, and rightly so. With the addition of Matsuzaka and a healthy Papelbon joining the rotation our pitching is looking pretty solid. A boost in offensive performance is something to look forward to as well with the additions of Lugo and J.D. Drew (and here is the standard disclaimer… if Drew can stay healthy). The excitement this brings as the team and the weather both start to warm up is intoxicating. I am proud of the accomplishments of the Sox FO this off-season, I didn’t expect so many fixes from the disappointing 2006 season this soon. Maybe that sounds harsh, but by the end of last season I was beginning to wonder if they would be able to fix anything at all.

They proved their abilities in putting together a team which, on paper, looks to be a contending team. Let’s hope that what looks great on paper translates into great on the field as well. Thankfully the season looks to be starting off with everyone in relatively good health. I’m crossing my fingers that it stays this way throughout the season (crossing toes for Drew’s health as well… can never be too sure).

I am anxious to see for myself exactly what I will have to look forward to this season. I can’t wait to see the boys back in action. I am patiently waiting to see how the off-season additions have improved the team. The birds are singing and the grill is ready to be fired up.

Thank goodness for spring.