Tag Archives: steroids

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Shoebox Greetings for the Hall of Fame

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Why Eckstein Matters. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

I apologize that my Hall of Fame column came later than usual this year. I actually handed in my ballot at the last minute. I was searching all over the house for it, then my wife told me she lost it. And while she told me she lost it, she lit the ballot on fire right in front of me. I told her tampering with a Hall of Fame ballot was a federal offense. She said it wasn’t at all and that she was leaving for Ibiza for two weeks with her special friend Marco.

Luckily, I was able to send my choices in by teletype. It’s good to know that the BBWAA still uses the latest technology. Do you know it took me forever to find a teletype machine in my newspaper’s office? And when I did, it was covered in dust, banana stickers, and somebody growing a potato in a jar. When I started in this business, we used teletype to send info back to the newsdesk, and as far as I’m concerned, no machinery has improved on it since. You can keep your Blackberrys and iPans and whatnot. Also, my editor won’t let me get one because the last time I was issued a company cell phone, I gummed up the keys with Mallomar residue.

When Jack Morris failed to get into the Hall of Fame yet again, I poured out a bottle of Yoo-Hoo in his memory. In truth, I knocked over a bottle of Yoo-Hoo onto the hood of my editor’s car, but I retroactively dedicated it to his memory. That and the sizable repaint bill, which is coming out of my paycheck. I had no idea Yoo-Hoo was so caustic.

It’s too bad that we’re letting so many people vote for the Hall of Fame that didn’t watch some of the eligible candidates play. If you look at Morris’s pure numbers, of course he doesn’t belong within a mile of Cooperstown. In order to understand his greatness, you had to have seen him in action, and then remembered that action many, many years later, when most of the finer details are rather hazy in your memory and mixed up with other things you’ve seen on TV. I, for one, will never forget that time I saw Morris pitch a 15-inning complete game and knock in the winning run to save an inner city rec center, aided only by his grit and determination and most of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I truly believe that you can only judge a player if you’ve actually seen him on the field, preferably from a press box view, while ingesting a Skitch Special. That’s when you anchor two hot dogs and a hamburger together with a shish kebab skewer, then drop it into a deep fryer. Some stadiums were better than others in making it for me. The guys at Wrigley were the best; they’d always have two Skitch Specials waiting for me when I showed up at game time, along with a fully charged defibrillator.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite players was Jimmy “Shoebox” O’Leary, backup utility man for the Senators. No one really knows how he got that nickname; some say it’s because he was born in a shoebox, others say it’s because he lived in one. I can’t tell you now why he was my favorite player back then. His batting average always hovered around the Mendoza Line, he couldn’t field worth a lick, and he got a nosebleed every time he ascended the dugout steps.

Still, I thought he was the greatest player in the world when I was six, and to honor that memory, I vote for his induction into Cooperstown every year. My fellow writers keep telling me I’m insane, that he’s not on the ballot, and that they’re going to drum me out if I don’t stop doing this and also bringing my homemade scrapple to the meetings.

If I’m disappointed that Morris failed to get in, that’s how pleased I am that Jeff Bagwell was also denied. As I’ve discussed before, there’s no hard evidence Bagwell ever did steroids, or soft evidence, or even some sort of evidence-mist. However, he did play at a time when many other people may or may not have done steroids at some point or another, and the fact that he didn’t speak up about it is a mark against his character. If someone was around that much cheating at that time and said nothing, they’re just as guilty as those who committed the act. If there’s anything I’m sure of after spending most of the last 30 years in locker rooms, it’s this.

I’m not looking forward to next year’s ballots, full of proven cheaters like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, cheaters by association like Mike Piazza…now that I think about it, it will be easier to vote than ever before. I’ll just draw a huge frowny face on my ballot, check off Morris, write in Shoebox, and be done with it. More time for homemade scrapplin’.

* * *

And now it’s time for Some Things I Think About Things I Think!

  • Tim Tebow has brought joy back to the NFL. Anyone who says something bad about him should be caged.
  • In this strike-shortened season, the play in the NBA has really fallen off, based on what I assume from not having watched a single game so far.
  • Love him or hate him, Shia LeBoeuf is here to stay, folks.
  • I’ve started an online petition to keep egg nog lattes at Starbucks all year round. I have 12 signatures, each from someone named Mike Rotch.
  • Alex Ovechkin is going to have to do a lot more to get my attention. Like play a sport other than hockey.
  • I don’t care for that “Partying Rock” song by L.S.M.F.T. Give me the Little River Band any day of the week.
  • Albert Pujols’ decision to leave St. Louis for the glamor of Hollywood is truly selfish, as it means I will probably have to drive from LAX to Anaheim several times this upcoming season.
  • Insider’s tip: Take a bag of microwave popcorn, poke a tiny hole, pour M&Ms inside, and seal it up before you pop. The result is a delightfully gooey mess and it tastes a bit like metal.
  • Have you guys heard about radishes? Crazy!
  • Stayed up late last night to watch a few old episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. I really think that show holds up, and the roaring laugh track really helped mask the sounds of Marco and my wife upstairs.
  • Treat yourself to some fried spaghetti this week. You’ll thank me.

Manny Being Test Case

Manny Ramirez retired over the weekend. This in and of itself is pretty noteworthy to me, since Manny is among many players whose monumental debuts and stratospheric heydays I remember. So to me, Manny hanging up his spikes serves as another signal of the relentless march of time. Baseball!

Of course, Manny’s retirement is made even bigger by the fact that he did so to avoid a second suspension for PED use. The immediate reaction among most fans and writers was that this was an intensely stupid thing to do, and that retiring instead of taking his medicine (ahem) was a chump’s exit, both of which I agree with to an extent.

Many also feel Manny’s legacy is irreparably tainted, and that this means no Hall of Fame for him. This may be true, considering the generally old-school views of HOF voters, but probably shouldn’t be.

Sooner or later, somebody who either tested positive for PEDs or admitted to using them is going to get into the Hall of Fame. Maybe Andy Pettitte. Maybe Alex Rodriguez. Maybe Mark McGwire. It will happen, and once it does, it’s going to be virtually impossible to argue that some PED users are more guilty than others. To do so requires verbal and logical gymnastics that no one is mentally limber enough to perform.

Case in point: The Manny news prompted Bill Simmons to tweet, “How roided up was Manny during his crazy ’08 Dodgers run? Had to be on par with Ivan Drago or Arnold in Predator, right?” Maybe, but who’s to say he wasn’t just as “roided up” when he played for Boston? Simmons (who is a Red Sox fan; I’m not sure if everyone’s aware of that) is assigning a blemish to Manny’s time with the Dodgers, while implicitly saying that Manny’s years with his own favorite team are untainted.

We’ve already seen Hall of Fame voters do essentially the same thing. The matter of Barry Bonds getting into Cooperstown is seen as so beyond the pale, it isn’t even discussed. But when Andy Pettitte retired, his chances to get into the Hall were soberly discussed, with his use of HGH mentioned only in passing, if at all.

It may seem ridiculous to put Pettitte and Bonds in the same sentence when it comes to PEDs. But is it, really? They both have the same level of “guilt,” which is being named in the Mitchell Report. Neither ever failed a drug test. There are a few differences, of course. Pettitte publicly admitted to using PEDs (after being caught), whereas Bonds never has. The other big difference is that Pettitte is well liked, and Bonds is a horrible human being. But if we’re going to keep terrible people out of the Hall of Fame, we’d have to retroactively kick out some of the best players ever (Ty Cobb being one huge, racist example).

And if we’re going to keep every “steroid cheat,” real or imagined, out of Cooperstown, we’re going to have some very lean Hall of Fame classes in the years to come. In the last HOF vote, Jeff Bagwell just missed out on induction in his first year of eligibility, despite some Hall-worthy stats, because there have been whispered accusations of PED use about him. He’s never been seriously accused, never failed a drug test, was not named in the Mitchell Report, and yet the vague notion that he may have done something at some point in his career was enough to keep certain voters from selecting him. How is this kind of lunatic reasoning better for baseball than possibly letting in a “cheater”?

The current sanctimony on the part of writers is a far cry from how steroids were discussed at the height of their use. While working on The 1999 Project and In The Year 2000 the last few years, I’ve pored over hundreds of articles written about baseball during those two seasons. You know how many times those articles mentioned PEDs? Zero. Not once. At the absolute zenith of steroid use in baseball, no one in the press was talking about it. In fact, when Steve Wilstein noted the unpleasant fact that Mark McGwire kept androstenedione in his locker during that “magical summer” of 1998, he was roundly criticized–most loudly by his fellow reporters.

The retroactive outrage was spurred in large part by Jose Canseco’s tell-all tome, but Barry Bonds was a huge factor as well. It wasn’t until Bonds, a player everyone outside of San Francisco hated, “threatened” sacred home run records that writers got concerned. In order to take steroids seriously, reporters needed to find a target who they enjoyed digging up dirt on, and who the public would enjoy seeing torn down. Then, for good measure, they ripped McGwire for being a “cheat” to atone for enabling him years earlier.

If you want to keep all PED users out of Cooperstown, I don’t agree with that stance, but I understand it. I find that point of view much more acceptable than the Animal Farm route, where some PED use is more equal than others. Jumping through hoops to explain why a certain player’s “cheating” is more acceptable than another’s is just shorthand for I LIKE THIS GUY BETTER THAN THAT GUY. And if that’s how you want to play the Hall of Fame Voting Game, just own it, rather than trying to justify it through flowcharts and moral calculus.

Blast that Infernal Steroid Era!

mcgwire_milk.jpgI admit that I used steroids for over a decade. However, I want to assure all my fans that I only did it to recover from crippling injuries that would have ended my career, not to inflate my majestic home run numbers. Of course, by lengthening my career, I also hit far more home runs than I would have otherwise and wound up inflating my numbers anyway. It was such a vicious circle!

If only I hadn’t played in The Steroid Era! Then all of this unpleasantness could have been avoided! I wish I had a mentor when I was younger, someone who would’ve told me that if I played in The Steroid Era, there was a very good chance I’d do steroids. Darn this era! Darn it all to heck!

Maybe you don’t know this, but when a baseball player reaches the majors, he has a choice of what era he can play in. I couldn’t play in The Deadball Era, because nobody hit homers back then and nobody wore gloves and everybody gambled. I thought about The Babe Ruth Era, but I’ve never had the stomach for bathtub gin. I thought about The Postwar Era, but you couldn’t go to the World Series unless you played for the Yankees or the Dodgers. And The Sixties weren’t an option, because the pitchers had too much of an advantage; I think the mound was two stories high back then.

I know what you’re thinking: How can you pick an era to play in? You see, MLB mastered the space-time continuum in 1975, thanks to a joint effort between NASA and Bill Lee. The principles are complicated and probably boring to the average layman. Suffice to say that the linearity of time is merely an illusion. I could have played 600 years in the future if I wanted to, in The BRX-797-0 Era, but I thought telepathic abilities would take a lot of the mystery out of life, you know?

So while I’m definitely sorry for what I did, I think most of the blame lies squarely on The Steroid Era itself. Perhaps this not-easily-defined span of time needs to do an interview with Bob Costas and explain itself, not me!

I want to thank all of the people who’ve been supportive during this difficult time. My family. Tony LaRussa. The entire St. Louis Cardinals family. And of course, all those baseball writers who urged me to unburden my soul. Your pushing, poking, and prodding gave me the strength to come clean. I’ll never forget you, but I will try to forget all of you weeping and gnashing your teeth because I just did exactly what you wanted me to.

In conclusion, I think the time has come to turn the page and once again start blaming the big black guy for all this unpleasantness.

Jose Canseco: Your Friends Will Be There When Your Back Is to the Wall

canseco.jpgYo, Commish, I think I got this whole steroids-in-baseball thing figured out.

budselig.jpgYou mean that steroids-in-baseball thing you helped start.

canseco.jpgYeah! I just wanna meet with you and Donald Fehr to discuss some ideas about how to fix it.

budselig.jpgWe have it under control, Jose.

canseco.jpgClearly you don’t, if big superstars like Alex Rodriguez are getting caught. Now dig this: I go undercover as a major league baseball player and find out who’s supplying the dope! See, I used to be a major league baseball player, so it’ll come naturally!

budselig.jpgYes, you used to be a major league baseball player. A very famous one whose face will be instantly recognizable to everyone you meet.

canseco.jpgNo, see, I’ve been working with an acting coach, and he’s been teaching me these facial exercises that can make you look like a totally different person. See?

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budselig.jpgThat’s just looks like you sticking your tongue out. And let’s not forget, you’re over 40 now. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

canseco.jpgBut I can totally fit in with the young player of today. I got a totally rad wardrobe. Check out this shirt!

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budselig.jpgThat’s the worst thing human beings have ever worn.

canseco.jpgThat’s just for working out in the gym. Here’s what I’ll wear when I’m going out with the boys after the game.

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budselig.jpgAh, my eyes! Listen, Jose, I think you need to let this go. One man can’t take down the entire steroid underground.

canseco.jpgOf course not! That’s why I’m recruiting my good friend and fellow recovering ‘roid user John Rocker to help me.

rocker.jpgWhen I’m done, ain’t gonna be no more homos or Puerto Ricans left in this league!

canseco.jpgJohn, we’re trying to take down steroids, not ethnically cleanse, remember?

rocker.jpg*pfft* I’m out.

canseco.jpgAlright, I guess Rocker’s gotten too big for the show.

budselig.jpgWhat show?

canseco.jpgSo that’s when I bring my younger brother who looks vaguely like me but is slightly less repulsive.

ozziec.gifDo we get paid up front? ‘Cause I haven’t eaten anything since I found a soy sauce packet in the street last night.

budselig.jpgJose, I won’t allow you to turn MLB into your own personal version of 21 Jump Street.

canseco.jpgCommish, this isn’t about me, or the vindication of my books, or my return to glory. Well, I mean, yeah, it mostly is, but it’s also about justice!

harry.jpgHey, can I join you guys?

canseco.jpgHARRY, I TOLD YOU, YOU ONLY GET TO APPEAR IN EVERY FIFTH EPISODE.

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: A-Roid Has Singlehandedly Ruined Baseball

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may also have read his best-selling book I Liked It Better When Home Run Hitters Drank Like Fish. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show 4th and Forever. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

arod.jpg

Without A-Rod, who will the Yanks turn to as their playoff scapegoat?

The news about A-Rod couldn’t have come at a worse time for baseball. Just when everyone was ready to believe again, just when it seemed Barry Bonds was finally going to get his just deserts, just when all of us were ready to move on from steroids altogether, we get a reminder that performance enhancing drugs are a scourge that may never be removed from the game.

But for me, the A-Rod scandal broke at the perfect time! I’ve struggled to come up with column idea since I got back from Tampa. My editor rejected my Super Bowl column for being “rambling” and “incoherent” and “possibly libelous.” To be honest, it wasn’t my best work. My head wasn’t in a good place at the time.

I don’t want to point fingers, but a night I spent out with a certain Steelers kicker may have had something to do with my mental state. The whole evening is kind of fuzzy now. I remember drinking something called Irish car bombs (top o’ the mornin’ to ye, ol’ sport!) and then going to some place called Wild Cherries which, despite the name, was not a pastry shop.

From that point on, I only recall bits and pieces involving exotic dancers and a VIP room, and I think I might have drank human blood, but that’s a story for another column.

It’s unlikely that A-Rod will do any jail time for his crimes. But he may find himself in a far worse prison: the Big House of Negative Public Opinion.

Instead of bread and water, he will be fed a steady diet of scorn. Instead of bars, he will be confined by constant whispering about his accomplishments. And he will fear the questions that will be raised every time he passes another batting record, instead of just the threat of sexual assault.

On further thought, I’d rather face questions than prison rape, but my point is clear.

What’s even worse about the A-Rod situation is that he’s a hitter. A hitter who hits home runs! And the home run is a sacred thing, passed down to us from our cherished forefathers. When Washington suffered through the brutal winter at Valley Forge, he had one vision: that men could watch other men hit home runs and not worry about their purity!

I mean, he didn’t literally dream about that, because he had a lot of other important things to worry about, and also baseball hadn’t been invented yet. But I think he did dream about that, in a way, in spirit. I think he would have dreamed of baseball, if only he knew what baseball was.

Baseball must get its steroid problem under control. Because if they don’t, what will we tell our children? I had no idea how to tell my son about this whole mess–and he’s 28! Still, he was pretty upset. Granted, it was mostly because I didn’t go see him in that regional theatre production of Promises Promises.

The fact remains, our children look up to these athletes as role models. They see their heroes on TV doing these horrible things, and they think it’s okay to do them, too. When she was in high school, my daughter told me she thought it was okay to take some money from my wallet because Mark McGwire cheated, too. And when she stole my Discover card, she said she thought that was okay because Rafael Palmeiro had cheated, too.

And when she stole my car and drove it through the food court at the local mall, she said it was all because of Sammy Sosa. I’m still not sure how the two relate. Truth be told, I think it was just because she was mad at this girl who worked at Panda Express. Still, I wonder if Sammy would have thought twice about doing steroids if he knew it would cause my daughter to park a Kia on top of a White Castle fry cook.

If baseball wants a clue about how to handle this issue, look no further than the NFL. They used to have a pretty serious problem with performance enhancing drugs. But thanks to increased testing and public scrutiny, you never hear about steroids in football anymore!

I mean, sure, guys get caught doing them all the time and get suspended for several games, but it’s never any major players like you see in baseball. Except for those times when it is. Oh, and ex-players come forward all the time with tales of steroid use and guys taking drugs to play through concussions and other injuries. In fact, I think that might be worse than steroids. A lot worse, probably.

However, the NFL is very good at making sure no one at ESPN pays any attention to these things, and that’s what’s most important.

60 Minutes with Roger Clemens

wallace.jpgRoger Clemens, you insist that you’ve never taken any performance enhancing drugs.

clemens1.jpgMike, I would never do anything to endanger my Hall of Fame chances and sadden my millions of adoring fans. Before we cut to this interview, you saw footage of me smiling, holding hands with my loving wife, and playing catch with how ever many kids I have. That footage clearly proves that I’m a good person who would not do bad things.

wallace.jpgBut you’re accused of doing steroids in a federal affidavit.

clemens1.jpg
I’m accused by Brian McNamee, who is a lying scumbag. No one should believe any words that come out of his mouth. Unless he says, “Roger Clemens is awesome,” because those words are very true.

wallace.jpg
If McNamee lied to federal prosecutors, he would face serious jail time. Why would he take that risk?

clemens1.jpg
I told you, he’s a scumbag. Scumbags love jail time. Science has proven it. I read it in last month’s Soldier of Fortune .

wallace.jpg
McNamee was your trainer for many years. You even insisted the Yankees hire him when you were traded from Toronto. So obviously, there was a time when you trusted him.

clemens1.jpg
Mike, sometimes we misplace our trust. I trusted McDonalds when they came out with the McRib. I believed in the McRib. Then without any warning, they took it off the menu. A little piece of me died that day. Although sometimes the wife will get these barbecue sandwiches at Sam’s Club that are almost as good. They come in packages of ten. Sometimes I throw all of them in the microwave at once, pierce the plastic sleeve, and inhale the bounty’s sensuous pork mist…

wallace.jpg
So you’re saying that McNamee never injected you with anything?

clemens1.jpg
No, I did receive regular injections from him. I was told these injections were a mixture of St. Joseph’s baby aspirin and orange Tang. He said that the combination of ibuprofen and citrus flavor would prevent a build up of lactic acid in my muscles, and also make my pee smell like orange juice. I only began to suspect something was wrong when my nads shrank to the size of Tic-Tacs.

wallace.jpg
I find it hard to believe that a professional athlete such as yourself would allow himself to be injected with something, yet not know what it is.

clemens1.jpg
Mike, I only took these injections in order to recover from injuries, which makes it totally okay. If I didn’t do everything in my power to pitch my best, I would be letting down my team and its fans, whoever they might be at the time. For some pitchers, this means adhering to a strict workout regimen. Me, I chose to be stabbed in the ass with mysterious fluids.

wallace.jpg
If these mysterious fluids were really okay, why didn’t you get the injections from a doctor? Why trust them to your trainer, who was not licensed in any form of medical treatment?

clemens1.jpg
Mike, I’m a simple guy. I come from simple people. When I was growing up, my momma taught me that doctors are actually evil trolls in disguise who want to steal your pee-pee and put it in a little jar in their basement. Say what you will about that ol’ folk wisdom, but I still have my pee-pee. Sort of.

wallace.jpg
What do you say to the people that believe these accusations taint your legacy?

clemens1.jpg
All I can say is, I’m not the only guy who allegedly used “performance enhancing substances”. Did you know Mike Piazza used to come to the batter’s box holding something called a “Louisville Slugger”? And that he actually would hit “home runs” off of me? Does he have a death wish or what? I’m gonna aim a pitch right at his dome. AND THEN I’M GONNA RIP HIS HEAD OFF AND DRINK BLOOD STRAIGHT OUTTA HIS GAPING NECK HOLE!

wallace.jpg
Roger, your answers to these serious allegations strain credulity, and certainly warrant further questioning.

clemens1.jpg
But I swear I’m telling the truth! Jeez!

wallace.jpg
Oh, you swear? I’m very sorry. You couldn’t possibly be lying. Please forgive my impertinent queries. Could you sign this baseball card for me?

hank.jpgHey, Hank Steinbrenner here. Just wanted to let you 60 Minutes viewers know that the Yankees are still in the Johan Santana race. Those deadlines I mentioned during the Winter Meetings were deadlines only for the year 2007. I guess I kept talking after all the reporters left the room during my press conference. I do that sometimes. Anyway, we are totally done dealing with the Twins.

wallace.jpg
I thought you just said you were back in the race for Santana.

hank.jpg
Yes, we are totally not continuing with trade talks, but Santana will be in a Yankees uniform by next week, except I’m okay with our staff as it us, but we like our chances to acquire Santana, that is, he’s not on our radar, but he totally is.

wallace.jpg
  …

hank.jpg
See, I’m hoping that my crazy talk will confuse Minnesota so much that they’ll let us have him for Melky Cabrera, Latroy Hawkins, and a picture of Rudy Giuliani in a Yankees hat (unsigned, of course). I also hope this will prevent the MLB head office from slapping me with tampering charges. Although it would be kinda cool if I could be just like Dad and get banned from the game for several years.

clemens1.jpg
I would love to see Johan Santana in pinstripes. AND THEN I WILL FEAST ON THE SPLEEN THAT I’VE CARVED FROM HIS FLESH WITH A RUSTY BOATHOOK!

Take Your Medicine

Fellow baseball fans, I say this with love: grow the fuck up.

If you think the Mitchell Report is the worst thing to ever happen to baseball, that tells me two things about you.

(1) You have not even skimmed the report, because if you had, you’d know that it hardly names any major player we didn’t already know about. Aside from Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite–and if you had two eyes and an ear for gossip, you’d have known about them already, too.

(2) You know nothing about the history of baseball.

Continue reading Take Your Medicine

Mota-ta

Oh blimey.

I was hoping the first Mets-related news of November would be an awesome trade or free agent signing. MINAYA NABS DONTRELLE WILLIS IN EXCHANGE FOR VICTOR ZAMBRANO AND BAG OF BALLS. Or some other bit of good news like PEDRO MARTINEZ’S SHOULDER REHAB MONTHS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE; NEW ROBOTIC ARM CAN THROW 150 MPH, HEAL LEPERS.

Sadly, this is not the case. No, the first Amazin’ headline of the 11th month is late-season acquisition Guillermo Mota, who tested positive for something bad and will be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2007 season.

Continue reading Mota-ta