- Clean it up or don't----and know the consequences either way:
Reading the Wall Street Journal this morning, I came across an article about the possibility of the U.S. Department of Justice joining in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by cyclist Floyd Landis representing the government against the cycling team sponsored by the United States Postal Service----link.
Long story short, any whistle-blower gets 30% of the payout in the event of winning such a lawsuit and Landis, whose reputation is in tatters after winning the Tour de France in team leader Lance Armstrong's absence and lying about doping, is either looking for retribution, vindication, money, or all of the above.
The idea that the U.S. government was defrauded by the cycling team----who were said to all be using PEDs to help them get through and win the race----is a self-feeding entity; more of the same in the sporting culture of do whatever you can get away with under the tacit complicity of the powers that be. It's going on in every sport and the efforts to "clean" things up are more of an exercise in futility and public consumption than any real desire to eliminate the enhancing of performance.
What's the endgame?
This isn't about guilt or innocence, it's about reality and sacrificing the same usable, transferable pieces to achieve the goal. It's becoming abundantly clear that no one would be able to complete (let alone win) the arduous Tour de France cleanly. It wouldn't happen; it couldn't happen; so now that the feeding frenzy is beginning to throw someone to the wolves, there's every possibility that eventually Armstrong is going to have to admit what we're safe in assuming he did----what they all did.
Or perhaps he'll pull a move similar to Roger Clemens and deny, deny, deny regardless of consequences. Clemens has been charged with lying to Congress in his testimony about PEDs.
Convenient self-justification (something akin to throwing the disposables out first) is a simple strategy; it's used repeatedly because it works. Someone has to suffer for the monolith's sins and if it's one of the best pitchers in history because he's so hard-headed that he doesn't listen to reason or couldn't keep his mouth shut? So be it.
But what about the people in control?
What about those who were deciding that the USPS should sponsor a cycling team? Or the owners and Lords of MLB? Or any other sport in which it was known and silently encouraged that their athletes do everything they can to put up illogical, unbelievable results? Why aren't they getting the brunt of the blame?
It's one thing to arrive, face ashen, embarrassed and contrite because there's no choice in the matter; it's another to actually be sorry; and the only time people are truly sorry is if they're made to pay for what they've done in some substantial way. Athletes are going to do whatever they can get away with; anything to get paid; to keep their jobs; to become famous; to achieve statistical milestones----it happens in every sport, every walk of life.
No one cares if a great writer is using cocaine to keep himself awake and churn out one story after another (I'm not, by the way); if alcohol is the fuel of beautiful poetry (I'm not, by the way); if a drug is enlivening their brains to stay awake and get the desired results, and it's looked at with a wink and a nod or outright ignorance similar to the "following orders" camp in any military unit or the hapless, "what can I do about it?" response when a middle-manager is questioned regarding his part in the narrative.
It's the ends that people want; who cares if it's "real"? The indignation after the fact is mostly staged anger. Bud Selig may seem a bit absent-minded and disheveled, but he's not stupid. Baseball players' PED use was allowed because it drummed up interest in the game and brought the fans back after the strike and lost year of 1994, period. It was only because more agenda-driven individuals in the government like Jeff Novitzky went snooping around BALCO and made, literally, a federal case out of it that something was done to rein it in. So you see the pawns Barry Bonds and Clemens tossed away; baseball itself called onto the governmental carpet, for what?
For the purpose of holding someone, anyone accountable for an effort-----a conspiracy----that was known and mostly unsaid. If Novitzky wasn't digging, if Jose Canseco* didn't write his tell-all book, would the clear PED use still be going on? Would there be players hitting 80 home runs? 90 home runs?
*Speaking of Canseco, shouldn't he get something from his status as a whistle-blower?
They all took part; they all turned a blind eye. Like the recreational drug use in years past (that's still going on too), it's known and accepted because little can be done about it. How do you think players are getting up for games today with the outlawing of amphetamines? Some are downing gallons of coffee, Red Bull and stimulants; some are indulging in stuff a bit stronger. What can be done? Nothing.
Are there owners, club personnel and other players who care about this? Who want a "clean" game and level playing field? Of course. But when it comes down to crunch time, and there's post-season revenue at stake; ticket sales on the line; jobs being lost if the other guy has an advantage due to lack of concern about how the results are achieved, what can they do? It's reality and it's going to get worse.
And if you want a clean game, you'd better realize what it is you're getting. By the time August rolls around, players who aren't taking anything to keep them alert and able to perform are going to be moving in slow motion on the field; those 98 mph fastballs won't be there; the bats will be slow; the brains will be overwhelmed with the pressure and constant grind and you're going to see little scoring; diminished excitement; and embarrassing statistics.
Science is going to continue to find ways to circumvent any test; players are going to willingly walk in and take any and all substances to increase their output and paychecks; front offices will shut their eyes and cover their ears in the interests of the bottom line; and individuals will be sacrificed for the greater not-so-good.
Just like anything else, it's a losing battle based on perception and it's never going to change as long as the masses buy what's being sold.
- Everyone is selling:
With Stephen Strasburg having undergone Tommy John surgery and now out for at least a year, there's a new debate forming about optimal pitching mechanics and all the subsets that come from developing a pitcher. The argument is continuous and evolving. Everyone has a theory; an idea; a computer printout and the like to "perfect" that which cannot be perfected.
I've gone on about this before. Brandon Webb (remember him?) may have saved his arm if he didn't throw the ball the way he did creating a sink that garnered him a Cy Young Award and almost won him two others. What good would that have done?
Individual pitchers aren't the point. The point is that we see different philosophies popping up everywhere from people credentialed in one area or another. Some are medical doctors; some PhDs; some with in-the-trenches experience; some accorded credibility because what they've done has worked.
Mark Prior was trained by Tom House and blew out his arm. Dusty Baker was blamed for Prior's injuries because of overuse; the mechanical technique known as "inverted W" was said to cause undue strain on Prior's shoulder; the bottom line is that he was a robo-pitcher who was trained to do what he did----pitch----and he got hurt.
I used to follow House's teaching when I pitched (or tried to pitch anyway); they seemed to work; I hurt my elbow because of overstressing my arm by a hard snap on my curveball. It happened. I pitched through biceps tendinitis by putting FlexAll 454 on my arm, deadening it and continuing, making it worse. I lost my taste for House when I emailed him with a question about pitching mechanics regarding Tim Lincecum and he responded with a brief paragraph trying to sell me some product he was promoting as if I was some clown who hadn't the faintest clue about anything (see Kay, Michael). I took offense.
But that's neither here nor there.
Strasburg was protected, babied and used cautiously----and he blew out his elbow.
The mechanical argument will never end, but if you look at the likes of Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton and other greats from the 60s, 70s and 80s and examine what it was they did, perhaps a new way of managing pitchers would come into vogue. But the "drop-and-drive" style went out with Chams de Baron; then it became "tall and fall" with the inverted W; now it's blah, blah, blah.
I've openly wondered what would've been done to Lincecum if his father hadn't mandated that no one fiddle with his unique motion. It's unheard of for an organization to be told----and to agree----that one of their charges essentially be left to his own devices. Because it's worked and Lincecum's stayed healthy, it's accepted that he does things his own way; but what if it wasn't working? Then what?
For all the doctors and experts that pop up everywhere (and new questions are asked about former relief pitcher and now self-professed pariah Mike Marshall----NY Times article, August 21st, 2005; The Platoon Advantage, August 31st, 2010) as to what works and doesn't; who "knows" what. How many pitchers have been ruined by having their motions altered to save them from time on the disabled list and found that the stuff that got them signed to begin with went out the window along with the injurious mechanics?
Any team that signs a player who resists teaching is either going to dump the player (if there's not a lot of money invested in him and he's doing poorly); or will label him a malcontent, use him up and discard him. Anyone who thinks differently is ignored until what they're doing works, then it's accepted.
Then there are the ancillary factors like the player's representation, family and whoever else got into his ear at the bar the night before over beers. "You're hurting my client and ruining his financial prospects"----more interference.
It's another circular argument that's never going to end. Ryan is trying something different with the Rangers in pushing his pitchers deeper into games; the Yankees have essentially ruined Joba Chamberlain (or at the very least, set him back) with their paranoid rules and regulations; Strasburg blew out his arm following all the guidelines.
What really works? Who knows?
Even I don't have an answer.
But until someone in power asks the right questions and has the courage to do something differently, it's not going to change. Ever.
I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday talking about Nyjer Morgan, Manny Ramirez, the pennant races and other stuff. You can download it to I-Tunes via Sal's site; visit him on Facebook and get it directly here.
If you dare.