Baseball, elections and how the cheaters win

T.A. Barnhart

Baseball is back; winter is ending. For a few weeks, the standings will be a bit chaotic until the dominant teams take control and as players get into real condition for the season. Some fans know better than to hope for anything — any Tampa Bay fans out there? Others sit with fingers crossed until reality sets in: Seattle? Texas? Colorado? And a few of us get to have the real hope: playoffs and the Series. I'm a Dodger fan, and this year we have a real shot.

Hank Aarons breaks Babe Ruth's home run recordLike many Americans, for me almost nothing compares with Opening Day; Election Day brings the same kind of feelings of hope and history merged into a belief that anything is possible. Sadly, this wonderful time of the year is sullied this year; fortunately not by anything as awful as a strike/lockout threat but still it's ugly. And it's imminent.

Sometime in May or June, Barry Bonds is likely to hit his 23rd home run of the season. With that he'll break the most cherished record in the game: Henry Aaron's career record of 755 home runs. Aaron broke the record in 1974 (off Al Downing of the Dodgers; yet another great baseball moment involving the Dodgers). Aaron, like Bonds an African-American, suffered death threats as he pursued the record of Babe Ruth; unlike, Roger Maris, his accomplishment was not demeaned with an asterisk. Like Jackie Robinson, another Dodger (and this year marks the 60th anniversary of him leading non-white players back into the majors), Aaron handled the controversy — remember, it was still "only" 1974 — with dignity and like a true champion.

Barry Bonds could not be farther from Aaron or Robinson. Where they played the game with an utter honesty, Jackie of course having to deal with naked racism, not to mention white players driving their spikes into him whenever possible; Bonds is a cheat.

For years he has been using steroids and other illegal substances to build up his body and allow him to hit an unnatural number of home runs. "Conclusive" documentary proof is lacking in the public sector; leaked grand jury evidence has proven fairly damning. The evidence surrounding Bonds' trainers and medical associates is pretty overwhelming. One need only look at pictures of a young Bonds, in Pittsburgh, where he was a terrific player with a great future — and a reputation for being a world-class jerk who put himself before team — with pictures of him at his "prime."

Barry Bonds - before & after the steroids

One can believe Bonds' assertions that he is clean and just did a lot of work in the gym. No doubt he did; fitness regimes have become increasingly effective and sophisticated, and there are many jocks in great shape who have stayed clean (I, for one, believe Lance Armstrong has always been clean). But scrawny young twenty-somethings growing into he-man forty-year-olds is a bit much to believe. (Check out the difference in upper-body size.) Size is just one effect of steroids. Another, possibly even more important for a professional athlete, is the ability to heal and recover. Instead of the body breaking down naturally, an athlete can continue to train and compete. Steroids are a kind of chemical time-machine.)

It's almost like believing that tens of thousands of Floridians just had no clue how to punch a ballot or that that so many registered Democrats were also felons. Or that the voters of Cayohoga County, Ohio — Cleveland — just didn't bother to vote at the same rate as the rest of the state in 2004.

I know the Bonds-Bush connection is too much for some people. But consider:

Bonds and Bush are both the sons of famous fathers; not that uncommon in America these days. Both fathers set a standard difficult for the sons to overcome. Bush the Elder not only was President, winning an honest election, his legacy includes a decisive and victorious war that had the support of much of the world (we'll simply ignore what he did to the Kurds, of course). Bobby Bonds was a beloved member of the San Francisco Giants, not quite a Mays or McCovey but regarded with tremendous esteem by the fans.

On their own, using their natural talents, both men fell short of overtaking Daddy. Bush the Lesser needed Rove and Cheney, not to mention a gaggle of neocon true-believers, to get past the simple fact that he was singularly unqualified to do more than be a greeter at the local country club. Barry Bonds, while one of the more talented players of his generation, was such an unpleasant person, his teammates at Arizona State voted overwhelmingly to kick him off the team — even if it cost them a championship. Bonds' post-season failures were on the way to becoming legendary. And then, as Bush found Rove, Barry found BALCO.

And yet, when the desired level of success seemd to have eluded them, both surprised everyone by reaching the pinnacle. Both cheated. The 2000 election was stolen, first by Katherine Harris in Florida and then the five Supreme Court justices who decided some votes should not be counted. In 2004, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell made sure that black neighborhoods in the Cleveland area would not have sufficient voting machines — hence that county's turnout registering 5% less than the rest of the state. Bush won Ohio by fewer than 150,000 votes.

As Bonds passed 40, the age when most athletes prepare to hang 'em up, he began racking up jaw-dropping numbers. Granted, his batting eye, quickness and natural skills are among the best ever to appear in the game; but the body at forty shows the effects of years of physical toil on the field. Bonds' body seemed to get younger, and no amount of stretching and weights can explain his rejuvenation. Michael Jordan lost his hops, Joe Montana couldn't get the passes to go where directed, but we're supposed to believe Bonds simply got not merely better, but better than anyone had ever played before?

And just like in 2009, when we'll face the disgusting spectacle of George W Bush leaving office with "a grateful nation's thanks," at some point this season Major League Baseball will be forced to "congratulate" Barry Bonds for breaking Hank Aaron's record. The great, secret hope is that it happens in San Francisco; not so that Giant fans can cheer but so that the fans in some other city are spared the ridiculous charade of the game's biggest cheat breaking the game's biggest record. Of course, if MLB had done something about steroids and other human growth substances years ago — if the Federal government had done its job about enforcing voting laws — we wouldn't be facing these sad sights.

The motto in America is, quite clearly, what Al Davis, one of the all-time bad sports, says: "Just win, baby." Cheating is perfectly acceptable; getting caught is the only issue. Had less evidence been presented against Bonds, then everyone could continue to pretend he's just the best player ever (and make the defense that he's a victim of racism, which is utterly untrue; McGuire simply had the good sense to leave the game before coming under the same scrutiny). As long as we reward the fakes and the cheaters — good god, that kid on American Idol! — then people will continue to fake and cheat. Why play the game straight up? That's the loser's game; just ask John Kerry or Al Gore. Or Babe Ruth or Willie Mays, possibly the two greatest players ever and now behind Bonds in the record books.

Barry Bonds, like George W Bush, is going to continue his act. He has no choice. He either continues the charade or, like McGuire and Palmero, admit his guilt by leaving the game. At least all he does is bring the game into disrepute; Bush's intransigence if far more tragic. Bonds is arrogant and stupid; Bush is evil.

Down in Texas, somewhat ironically, Sammy Sosa, one of the steroid cheaters, has had a great spring training. Sammy appears to have discovered he can do pretty well without cheating. Now there's an idea. Go Sammy go.

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    I glazed over for everything after the first mention of the word "baseball".

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    Boooo. Poor analogy, poor use of speculative evidence (like comparing his pictures...please), and to call someone a cheat who may well have only used legal supplements--what a weird way to "celebrate" Opening Day!

    Bonds is easily one of the top five players to ever play the sport, and there aren't enough asterisks to cover up the assault he's put on the recordbooks. So much of what he's accomplished is even speculatively attributable to steroid use...and unless you think he's STILL juicing, what's he using to hit seven HR in spring training this year?

    The pervasiveness of performance enhancement in baseball is fairly obvious. If you want to slag baseball the sport for that, be my guest (but could you do it on maybe the SECOND day of the season instead of ruining the first?), but if you tar Bonds and question the integrity of the stats he's put up, the statistical integrity of the entire sport over the last 15 years or so must be similarly suspect. And then what? What's a legit number and what's not?

    If Bonds is a cheat, the truth will out. But he's still playing, he's still the most dazzling player of his age, and you can still enjoy the game with him between the lines, I think.

  • froihker (unverified)
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    yet again sosa is lumped in with the steroid cheats, while clemems gets a free pass, despite there being more evidence on Sosa. And some wonder why people cry racism?

  • froihker (unverified)
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    yet again sosa is lumped in with the steroid cheats, while clemems gets a free pass, despite there being more evidence on clemens. And some wonder why people cry racism?

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    Why is it that conservatives who otherwise write specious drivel on politics can display great insight when writing about baseball (e.g., George Will, David Brooks--and, evidently, liberals cannot? I love your stuff, TA, but this piece is mostly hokum.

    I'm not going to defend Bonds, nor do I like him. I hope he trips rounding third base upon hitting is 20th home run this year and breaks his leg in three places. But the steriods issue overlooks a number of other things, including the dilution of talent in the major leagues after the last round of expansion added four teams. There were all kinds of hitting and pitching stats that were out of whack--or basically, deviated from the norm far more than they had in the previous years (See Steven Jay Gould on this subject).

    In addition, baseball owners implicitly encouraged athletes to do whatever it takes to hit more balls out of the park, and didn't care much about how the ballplayers accomplished that. Jeez, Sosa cheated with a corked bat. And Bonds bat is made out of maple, not ash. Maple is denser and thus harder than ash, and thus the ball should carry further. Bonds was one of the first to start using a new, lighter maple bat made about a decade ago.

    Baseball remains our most wonderful sport. Ordinary looking people can play it well. Even guys who are pretty overweight can become stars. So can little guys, or big clumsy guys. Old guys. Where, by the way, is Julio Franco this year? Underdogs still win in baseball. Hey, the Mariners are in first place as of today. (And the Cubs are in last).

    So don't go bringing all these weird political analogies into baseball. For every jerk like Bonds, there are several guys who know they are lucky to be playing ball, guys like Mike Cameron and Danny Epstein and Donatrelle Willis.

  • Garlynn (unverified)
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    Golly, T.A.... that didn't seem to go over too well.

    I, for one, appreciated the analogy. Maybe it's that I've only got a passing familiarity with baseball, but I think you're pretty spot-on.

    At this point, it'll be pretty hard to respect whatever Bonds manages to accomplish. It's a tainted record. No apostrophes needed -- we all know what he did.

    As for Bush, I'm just holding out hope that he gets disgraced so badly that he is not able to hold onto the office until January, 2009. It's amazing what subpoena power will do for uncovering piles of crap that have only been thinly veiled and sitting right out in public for all to smell for six years...

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    Well, TA, you've hit a receptive chord with me - an unapologetic leftie with a great love of the game. But I'll take one more step in your analogy betwixt cheating in baseball (and sports generally) and the political realm.

    The problem isn't simply that bad guys cheat, it's that American culture accepts this as a reasonable status quo. Further, the lines get blurred between outright cheating and bad calls - or election equipment manipulation and "glitches" - and the typical American shrugs, mutters that "we should get over it," and wanders off.

    Sports geeks will get this comparison: equally absurd are 2 calls: the "tuck rule" basis for calling Tom Brady's fumble an incomplete pass in the Raiders/Pats playoff game a few years back, and the call that the Supreme Court made in interjecting itself into 2000 Prez. election, ordering Florida to stop counting ballots.

    Clearly, one decision impacts the entire globe while the other is, well, just about a game. Yet every instance of screwball decisions, of outright chicanery without consequence, of cheating without punishment, becomes yet another innoculating shot to an America that has gotten too accustomed to things as they shouldn't be.

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    Gil,

    I'd like George Will to be baseball Commish. It would get him out of our political hair... and I bet he'd be dynamite as baseball's big cheese.

    Keith Olberman waxes eloquent in the the world of sport, since, of course, he got his national start with ESPN. He ocassionally mixes in the political during his hour on the Dan Patrick radio show during the day (sports radio 1080 - Keith is on in the middle hour of Dan's 3 hour program, from 1-2pm). Last week he and Dan interviewed Pat Tillman's mom - wow.

    On Countdown, Keith will mix in the sports, and he shows a keen understanding and appreciation for the grand old game, and he pays particular attention to it's impact on society. He's recently blasted the Hall of Fame Vets Committee for not having the sense to select the late, fabulous Buck O'Neil, Negro League legend and the driving force behind the the NL Hall Kansas City.

  • pat malach (unverified)
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    ...the statistical integrity of the entire sport over the last 15 years or so must be similarly suspect.

    Exactly! And Barry Bonds is dirtier than Kykle Sampson's underwear after he testified before congress.

    Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

    The Best description of baseball is A half hour of action packed into three hours. It's the only sport I can think of where 90% of the time, 90% of the players are standing around doing nothing (or worse, i.e. spitting, scratching, cursing or pummeling news photographers).

  • josh (unverified)
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    TA

    Please reprint your article the day Gaylord Perry was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Thank you.

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    I think it's a pretty good analogy--both Bush and Bonds are symptoms of a particular moment in history, and they both seem to hint at the same disease. But even amid these times, there are bright spots. Check out what happens when a hall-of-fame pitcher and two-time series champ goes out and tanks on opening day: he blogs about it.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    I don't like the analogy for a number of reasons, primarily because we should never put sports and national or world affairs on the same level. I know you give that caveat a few times in your essay, but it still reads like somehow they are equivalent. They can't. Whether Bonds is or is not a cheat is of absolutely no importance compared to the policies of any president. The greatest essays on baseball maintain as an underlying thread that baseball is a game, played for entertainment. The worst try to make baseball into some metaphor for life, drawing on grandiose themes of loyalty, patriotism, truth, justice, and the American way. Blech.

    So leaving Bush out of it, my dilemma on Bonds is this: Baseball has been full of cheats since the first game was played. Corked bats, spitballs, non-regulation cleats, hidden cameras (for reading the catcher's signs), amphetamines, and now steroids. Most of the great hitters (including Ruth and Aaron) used corked bats at least for some of their home runs. All of the great pitchers of old, and some of the new, threw illegal pitches. Prescription amphetamines (uppers) are so common in clubhouses that the vast majority of players use them, and it was only this year that MLB finally said they would crack down.

    I have no love for Barry Bonds, but at the same time, I'm not sure that I consider steroid use a worse transgression than using a corked bat, or hyping yourself up on little red pills before every game, or throwing a spit/grease/vaseline ball. Baseball is doing the right thing by continuously trying to clean up the game, but if we're going to denounce or demean Bonds' home run record, don't we have to do the same for the dozens of cheating hall of famers who came before him?

    Baseball is a great and wonderful game, possibly the best sport every created. But it is not pure, and never has been. Let's not pretend otherwise.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    I think its pretty simple. Bonds will get his just desserts because he will never be elected into the HOF. I do think it is possible to be an elite athlete at 40 and in prime physical condition (see Karl Malone - The NBA's drug testing policy actually has teeth). The evidence with Barry is there. He cheated and he'll never be respected for it (Unless you're a Giants fan and for some reason they don't seem to care and still actually defend Barry). Same thing with Bush. He cheated and 20 or 30 years from now his legacy is going to be that of a President who was elected dubiously, spent our childrens childrens money like a drunken sailor and lied us into an unnecessary war. If there was a Presidential Hall of Fame I don't think Bush Jr. is going to make it in. Even if they let Johnson, Coolidge and Hoover vote on the entrance ballot Bush Jr. is facing an uphill battle there.

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    b!x - you glaze over & yet write a comment to way you glaze over? wtf? apparently not so much glazed as pseudo-glazed, glaze-wannabee, glaze-lite, look-at-me-i'm-glazed. glad i could shake you out of your slumbers enough for you to tell us how slumbery you are. just another of my many public services.

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    In the end, the reason the alleged steroids scandal in baseball has become such a huge (beaten into the ground) story is that unlike any other sport, a small, but influential and vocal group of baseball fans, executives, pundits and players are obsessed with the idea that the true greats of the game have come and gone. T.A's column, unfortunately, falls right into that line of argument (I'm going to ignore the political comparisons, because to me they just don't make any sense).

    If Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky were baseball superstars these guys would have been attacked (for something) much the same way Bonds has been.

    The hypocrisy in the way the baseball establishment has reacted and dealt with the steroids issue is just unbelievable. I'll give you one example - Hall of Fame voting. Hall of Fame voters are the worst of the "baseball's best days are behind us" crowd. An intellectually honest HoF voter would who sincerely didn't vote for Mark McGwire for his alleged steroid use would have had to vote for several of the great players of the 80's for playing the game clean - Dale Murphy (back to back MVP's), Andre Dawson, Don Mattingly and Jim Rice to name a few (I'll ignore pitchers for now, but the point made above about Clemens is an excellent one).

    Intellectual consistency would require a voter to punish McGwire for alleged juicing, while rewarding Rice, Dawson, etc. for playing clean. Instead, these guys just don't vote for anyone except the clear, obvious choices like Gwynn and Ripken (and a few even choose to not vote for them).

    In 15 - 20 years I can't wait to see how the baseball establishment deals with the accomplishments of the current rising generation of stars, which is as good as any the game has ever seen. I'm talking about Pujols, Alex Rodriquez (could hit 800+ homeruns), Johan Santana, Ryan Howard, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, David Wright, Jason Bay, Miguel Cabrera, Jonathan Papelbon and so on. This crew could smash every record in the books - and it will come after baseball has implemented serious drug testing. What excuse will be made to explain why these guys are just not as good as a bunch of early 20th century white guys who didn't have to play against African American players, regularly fixed games and threw spit balls?

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    One other question - have you ever compared photos of Hank Aaron from his first years in the league and his last?

    He ballooned just like Bonds. He must have gained thirty to fourty pounds during his career. Maybe if he hadn't been popping all those greenies to keep his tired and worn out body going he wouldn't have broken Ruth's record.

  • pedro (unverified)
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    i'm an A's fan to the core, so i hate bonds (and the gnats) more than most, but that's because he's an egotistical asshole, i could care less about the steroids; everybody uses them, and "the greats" would have too if they had been available.

    obviously mlb has had a semi-"official" policy of tolerating steroid use, else the would have done something about it back when the bash brothers made it fashionable. unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the fans liked the long ball so much more than the defensive small ball game that reigned through the 70'-80's, that they decided to go with a "don't ask dont' tell" policy on steroid use.

    and come on, tj, 7 HRs in spring training is absolutely meaningless.

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    60 years ago this season, Jackie Robinson "broke the color barrier", as the phrase goes. how can anyone possibly say sports do not matter?

    for that matter, ask Brooklynites who saw their team stolen from them.

    as far as i'm concerned, sports is more meaningful than the frikkin stock market.

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    "and come on, tj, 7 HRs in spring training is absolutely meaningless."

    I'd certainly agree that the vast majority of spring stats have little to no meaning. But some do. When Scott Hairston clubs 7 HR in spring training, it doesn't mean much. But when Bonds does it in just 45 spring ABs, it means the oft-injured, cloud-shrouded superstar is hitting the damn thing on the button. He ripped his final two in Sunday night's game against the A's, against major league caliber pitching, in their last tuneup before the real thing. Under game conditions and 2 years after you'd have to believe that he stopped using if he ever intentionally did, his .857 spring SLG indicates that Barry the Clean is just as capable of crushing the ball as Barry the Clear might have been.

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    The real screwup at MLB these days (and the one that affects me most directly as a resident of a city outside the Major Leagues) is the giant cluster#[email protected]&*! surrounding the renewal or nonrenewal of the "Extra Innings" package with DirecTV and/or other satellite and cable TV companies.

    Joe Nocera of the NYT called them on this in a very satisfying way in his Saturday column. Unfortunately it is Times Select (subscription required) so for nonsubscribers I'll provide a brief fair use highlight.

    “It was just amazing,” marveled Stephen F. Ross, a sports law expert at Pennsylvania State University. “You had a United States senator trying to broker a deal in public.”

    The senator in question, however, wasn’t trying to solve the trouble in the Middle East or the health care mess. No, Senator John Kerry was trying to figure out how to get more baseball on television. And he wasn’t having much success.

    It was Tuesday, five days before the start of the baseball season, and the senator from Massachusetts was presiding over a hearing involving Major League Baseball, DirecTV and In Demand Networks, a company that provides video-on-demand and other products for the cable industry. As with many baseball fans, Senator Kerry was upset when Major League Baseball struck a seven-year, $700 million deal with DirecTV this month, giving the company exclusive rights to its “Extra Innings” package.

    Extra Innings is baseball’s equivalent of the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket package: for about $165 a year, hard-core fans can watch pretty much any game anywhere in the country. It is especially popular for fans who root for teams in cities where they no longer reside. But while Sunday Ticket has always been offered only on DirecTV, Extra Innings used to be offered by a much wider range of distributors, including DirecTV’s main competitors, EchoStar, as well as the big cable companies, which got it through In Demand.

    Baseball’s decision to exclude the others set off a furor. Baseball fans who had been getting Extra Innings through their cable companies started petition drives — with more than 8,000 signatures and counting — and angry blogs. Major League Baseball and In Demand, which both had representatives testifying before Senator Kerry, tossed around angry accusations like children fighting in a playground. After spending most of the hearing teasing out the complaints of the various parties, Senator Kerry finally got down to business. Major League Baseball, you see, still left open the possibility that it might be willing to cut a deal with In Demand before the season started. But neither side would yield an inch.

    With about 10 minutes left in the hearing, a frustrated Senator Kerry was finally reduced to asking them to promise to keep talking. “We’ll make our best efforts to continue the discussions,” said a clearly reluctant Robert A. DuPuy, the president of Major League Baseball.

    “What’s the possibility of having a face-to-face meeting in the next 48 hours?” Senator Kerry pressed.

    “We’re willing to meet,” Mr. DuPuy said. “We’re certainly willing to meet,” echoed Robert D. Jacobson, who runs In Demand.

    And supposedly that’s what they’re doing even as you read this, with baseball season starting tomorrow. Which is not to say there’s a high likelihood of any kind of breakthrough. That would be the smart play. And let’s face it: the men who run baseball have a history of not making the smart play.

    (Full disclosure: I am a former MLB employee [1979-1989]. I left my job there just as the Lords of the Realm were blowing up their decades-long relationship with NBC and the "Game of the Week" in order to get more money from CBS in exchange for the privilege of airing fewer games than NBC had broadcast every season. This struck me as completely insane, but it wasn't my department.)

    I am a Baltimore Orioles fan. (I know, that may seem deeply pathetic, but I've been rooting for them since 1964 and I am not about to stop now.) My spouse is a Boston Red Sox fan. (No comment.) So in order to see our teams' games more than once in a blue moon, for the past few years we have been paying Comcast $165 per year in subscription fees for "Extra Innings." Now, it seemed that MLB was telling us -- and all other non-DirecTV subscribers -- that it did not care about our allegiances, because it was totally focused on figuring out a way to launch its future MLB Channel and shove that down the throat of one or more semi-willing takers, specifically DirecTV, using Extra Innings as a kind of flavored lube to make the deal go down a little bit smoother, and leaving hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers in the lurch.

    Today's Sports Business Daily reports that talks between MLB and the cable industry are continuing. One more snippet from the Nocera column:

    “They allowed the cable industry, which is probably the most reviled industry this side of used car dealers, to become the victims in this thing,” said Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based SportsCorp. “You have to really screw up to make cable look good.”

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    Good post. For the record, if you have a Multnomah or Clackamas library card (and possibly a Washington Co. one), both online services for those libraries offer access to Times Select. Go to the current newspapers database area, and login with your ID. Poof--free access!

  • pedro (unverified)
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    you just never know what pitchers are throwing, even on the last two days of spring training, they may be testing different stuff to see what works, and more importantly, what doesn't work, against different batters.

    not that bonds' ability isn't awesome, just that spring training is meaningless, even if you really, really want it to mean something. the only thing it tells us about bonds is that he is at least healthier than last year.

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    On the last day of spring training, teams--especially pitchers--are attempting to simulate game situations as closely as possible. It's like the 3rd preseason game in football; it's the one where you want to have a dress rehearsal and see how things go. Joe Kennedy was throwing for real, I assure you.

    I agree with you to a great extent: mediocre players who have an amazing spring cannot be counted on to remain amazing, and great players who slump cannot be counted on to stay in a slump. But most often, a great player who has a command performance in limited duty during the spring, signals that at the very least, it's business as usual.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Regarding the MLB Extra Innings thing, of which I did subscribe for one fabulous year until my wife decided we could use that money for something else and I could probably benefit from less time watching baseball, isn't this basically MLB telling you they aren't offering the service anymore? At least not to cable customers. I can understand being annoyed, but a petition drive to pay $165 to an organization that doesn't want your money seems weird.

    It's a stupid business move by MLB, but that $165 will go a long way in a local sports bar, and I guarantee they'll keep pouring beer if you keep paying.

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    For one thing, baseball is under theoretical Congressional mandate to offer games to as wide an audience as possible. By making it impossible for at least half of the country to even be capable of receiving the broadcasts violates the antitrust exemption, in the view of many.

    So it's a little more than a simple shift of media provider, because it's baseball, and baseball is special.

  • pedro (unverified)
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    fair enough, i can agree with that. right now bonds looks like he will probably return to his 2002-2004 level, unless (until?) he gets injured.

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    >$165 will go a long way in a local sports bar, and I guarantee they'll keep pouring beer if you keep paying.

    They'll keep pouring beer, but they won't tune in the Orioles for me, not if everyone else in the bar wants to watch the Mariners (or the Yankees or the Giants or whoever). And my husband would have to go to a different bar to see the Red Sox.

    I'm not under any illusion that the guys at MLB owe me anything with regard to Extra Innings. It would never have occurred to me to complain to my elected representatives about it. But if John Kerry wants to beat them up on my behalf, and use political pressure to induce them to change their direction, that is 100% all right with me, and I thank him for it. I only wish he had been so tough on the Swift Boat Veterans. But that's a whole other story. %^>

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    $165 will go a long way in a local sports bar, and I guarantee they'll keep pouring beer if you keep paying.

    Baseball takes a long time to play. If you drink just a beer an hour, you've spent at least $10 on microbrews or $6 on PBR for a two to three-hour game. Plus tips and probably some food. So, I figure $165 will get you about 20 games, maybe 30 if you swill PBR.

    That said, I prefer to watch ballgames in the company of other fans, rather than by myself at home.

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    Since I don't like beer, I could probably stretch that $165 a lot further drinking Diet Cokes. Or I could go the other way and drink Cosmos or some other foofy drink, and burn through the money much faster.

    But in any bar in Portland I'd be expecting to see the Mariners game on TV most of the time, and as much as I like the Mariners, they're not my team.

    I'd rather be able to watch my team, at least occasionally.

    Even if they're 0-2 on the second day of the season.

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    But in any bar in Portland I'd be expecting to see the Mariners game on TV most of the time, and as much as I like the Mariners, they're not my team.

    No problem Stephanie. Go to a bar that is a hardcore Sunday Ticket bar. They'll have a zillion TVs and will already have DirecTV and likely be signed up for Extra Innings also.

    Chances are they'll be willing to put your team and your husband's on adjacent screens if they happen to be playing at the same time.

    I like On Deck Sports bar in the Pearl. The food's reasonably edible and they are nonsmoking. They are right on the streetcar line too.

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    <h2>Make that 0-3 on the third day of the season. %^(</h2>

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