Wednesday February 25, 2004
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
With all this talk about the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) federal investigation, a lot of players are being asked personal and intrusive questions by the inquiring media. Is it fair? That’s debatable. What ever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in this country? That doesn’t exist in the American media. Instead, we have terms like “Guilt by Association” floating around. Barry Bonds is the recipient of most of the media blitz to find out all of the answers. His personal trainer, Greg Anderson, is one of four people who have been indicted in this case.
But Bonds is not the only ball player getting interrogated. Despite “trying to” keep the player’s names quiet, Gary Sheffield’s name was “somehow” leaked to the media for having sent a package to Mr. Anderson. Numerous players have been questioned because they lost weight coming into Spring Training. None of them have been questioned as much as Jason Giambi, who was also questioned in the BALCO investigation.
That is the primary topic I want to cover today; this insistence by the media and other skeptics who will be questioning how a player either gained or lost weight since last season. The reason for this is a thinking that anyone who loses a significant amount of weight must have been on steroids and with this investigation decided to quit them, hence the weight loss. Or, anyone who got bigger in the last few years must have been on the juice.
It really seems as though the media is going out of its way to find a story. Well, let’s help them then. Media members, here are the Top 10 in the American League and the Top 10 in the National League in Slugging Percentage in 2003. These are the guys who put up the best power numbers, so logically, they must have been on steroids, right?
AL - Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Delgado, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon, Frank Thomas, Aubrey Huff, Vernon Wells, Magglio Ordonez and Garrett Anderson. For fun, lets add Alfonso Soriano (38), Rafael Palmiero (38) and Bret Boone (35) because of their home run totals.
NL - Barry Bonds, Javy Lopez, Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Jim Edmonds, Gary Sheffield, Jim Thome, Richard Hidalgo, Reggie Sanders and Sammy Sosa. Again, just for fun, let’s add Richie Sexson (45) and Jeff Bagwell (38) to the guilty list.
So there you have it, the starting point for the guilty steroid users. There are 25 guys that should be hunted down and brought to justice, kicked out of baseball forever and sent to the corner for a time out!
Of course, this argument is ridiculous! Now before I continue, I should point out one more thing. I am not naïve enough to think that there is no steroid use in major league baseball. I am sure that there are many players who have used Human Growth Hormones (THG). I even understand that players that in this posting I will give the benefit of the doubt to could be found guilty at a later time.
Jason Giambi was questioned in the BALCO investigation this offseason, so of course, it was (is) believed that he must be on steroids. When he reported to camp, Joe Torre said, “He looked thinner to me. He's a big guy and he's still a big guy. I didn't think it was drastic. He just looks thinner.”
Giambi says that he has lost just four pounds and is down to 228. Many believe that he has actually lost more than 20 pounds. He claims that he lost weight by ‘cutting back on fast foods and doing extensive rehab from knee surgery.’ Observers at Tampa’s Legends Field, the site of the Yankees Spring Training note the his chest, biceps and legs all appear smaller.
"My weight is almost exactly the same. Just cleaning it up and losing some of that excess body fat I had. I know they're going to want me to be on the field a lot, so I'm just trying to take these few extra pounds I don't need off. My legs aren't as big because I had to rehab them so hard, to be honest with you. My upper body is pretty much the same, strength-wise."
Take a second to read that again. That is a very legitimate reason for dropping some weight. He struggled with knee problems the entire 2003 season and had knee surgery shortly after the World Series. Many knee injuries can be caused by the knee having to carry too much extra weight. So, of course, it makes sense that any good doctor or trainer would encourage him to lose weight to protect the knee from further injury.
I’m not saying Giambi is innocent. He just deserves the benefit of the doubt until we know anything more. But, we know he won’t get that from the media.
Larry Walker is one of the game’s better hitters. However, the last few years, he has fought injuries. He hasn’t played in 150 games since 1997. So, what did Walker do this offseason? He stayed in Denver and worked out with the Rockies trainer. In doing so, he lost a lot of weight. It is being reported that he lost 30 pounds, although Walker says that he didn’t lose quite that much. People are saying that he looks significantly slimmer.
I didn't even weigh in when I took my physical. I know my pants got awful loose, but I didn't lose as much weight as I expected. Brad (Ardness, the trainer) said he thought I was fine. The program was a lot more agility, not strictly work in the weight room. I asked Brad if he would take care of me all winter, and he said no problem. This year, I want to feel I've done everything right to give myself a chance. Instead of hiring a personal trainer who doesn't have a real feel for baseball, I wanted to work with Brad, who knows what it takes to succeed in baseball. I want to prove to myself I can still play. I want to do my job.
This must mean that he was on steroids previously as well, right? How else can you explain the weight loss? It couldn’t be the working out or some diet regimen, could it?
Another example may help prove even more that steroids are not necessarily the reason for the increased production in baseball. Don’t forget that going into last year’s training camp, it was well documented that Javy Lopez came to the Braves Spring Training camp down over 25 pounds. He went on to produce one of the most impressive seasons ever by a catcher.
I realize that I am not a professional athlete, but I am almost offended when the assumption is that these players who lost weight did anything wrong. Even Giambi, who played in the World Series, has been out of the public eye for almost four months. That is plenty of time to lose lots of weight in a healthy manner.
I altered my eating habits drastically in mid-November. In that time, I have lost over 50 pounds. I know that there is no steroid question involved with me (I just felt the need to point that out). 50 pounds in three months by simply changing eating habits and exercising.
So to think that Jason Giambi, Javy Lopez, Vernon Wells or Larry Walker could not lose 20-25 pounds in a three of four month period is really unfair.
What does Sammy Sosa’s manager, Dusty Baker, have to say on the topic? Well, he is being mocked for calling the whole situation similar to “McCarthy-ism.” However, the rest of what he said does make sense:
I'm concerned about the amateur guys. Are some of the guys being forced, in their minds, to do it to keep up with the guys that are doing it? I'm concerned about who's going to come up with spleen problems 20 years from now. Or heart problems. Or brain cancers. From a guy that had cancer, I'm concerned not about the sport as much as I am about a guy's life and his family later on. Because nobody knows the repercussions of what's going on and what's happening until later.
I think this is an equally important situation to realize. It’s not always the stars and the guys who put up huge numbers who are juicing. In fact, it is probably just the opposite. A lot of times, it is the AAA player looking for that extra boost to get to the big leagues. I’m not making any claims, but wasn’t it a bit curious when last offseason, Bobby Kielty bulked up over 30 pounds in the offseason? Dustan Mohr seemed bigger in 2003 than in 2002. They didn’t face any media scrutiny because they weren’t star players. They were guys trying to make a major league team and get more playing time. The potential affects on “entry-level” type players are the same as for the stars. (UPDATE – Thanks to those who have asked why I “called out” Mohr and Kielty. That wasn’t fair on my part. I want to stress that I am in no way saying that Kielty or Mohr used steroids. I just used them as examples of non-stars who have added weight in an attempt to make a team.)
The scary thing is that I know of high school coaches who not only encourage their athletes to use performance enhancing drugs, like Creatine, but sometimes provide them. I know that the teenagers think that they are giving themselves an advantage. They aren’t thinking long-term ramifications. I know of parents who support such activity, and that really scares me. If it’s happening in high schools in small-town America, you know it is happening in colleges and other places as well.
So, to think that steroids, growth hormones and performance enhancing drugs are only being used by major leaguers or even just by professional athletes is truly naïve. And to me, that is what is scary.
GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION
Gary Sheffield is the only player whose name has been brought up in this whole investigation. Even with his name being included, it does not in any way mean guilt (at this point). Sheffield has been treated unfairly by the media his whole career because his uncle is Dwight Gooden who has had plenty of personal problems, including drug problems. He said, “I’ve been guilty by association for years.”
Sammy Sosa has been answering questions about himself as well as about Barry Bonds. He obviously would much prefer to talk about the Cubs trying to get to the World Series, but people want to bring up the steroid issue. Sosa, as always, has given his time to the media, and still answers the questions. When asked about Bonds and whether he uses steroids, Sosa said, “I don't really know and I don't want to know. I know myself, I know who I am and that's it.”
I agree with Sammy. He knows himself. I don’t know him. I know his stats and that he is great with the media, but I don’t know Sammy Sosa. So, who am I to judge whether or not he got big and strong through extensive offseason workout programs or by juicing? I think Barry Bonds has answered enough questions on this topic. He has answered them properly, and this story needs to be over.
There's nothing I can do about it right now. I have to go out and play baseball and, hopefully, it will blow over...
He’s absolutely right. All he can do is play baseball. He still has to hit he ball. He still has to take pitches and play defense and drive in runs and do whatever he can to help the Giants back to the playoffs. He has to just let what happens in the courts happen. But it won’t ‘blow over,’ and unfortunately, he is already guilty in the court of public opinion, and that is really unfortunate!
So what do you think of the BALCO case, steroids in baseball, or any of the players in question, send me an e-mail.
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Last night’s American Idol contestants were far better than last week’s “performers.” I think four of five from last night would have been the #1 vote-getter last week. Here are my choices:
The two that I would vote for are LaToya London and Leah Labelle.
The two that will probably advance are LaToya London and Leah Labelle.
A quick sentence on the eight contestants - Elizabeth Latendre was cute, but not great. Eric Yoder was actually really good, and as much as he wants to get past the Clay Aiken comparisons, they are so similar. Amy Adams was not that good. Jon Peter Lewis was awful and had zero personality. Charly Lowry is a hotty and has that southern accent which comes through in her voice too, giving her a distinct voice. Jonah Moananu is my favorite! When Ryan said something to him about rolling his neck and he replied with, “all five of them,” he became my favorite. He actually sang well, just a bad song. Leah Labelle has a very good voice and you can hear her foreign accent when she sings. But she’s good. And yes, I got chills listening to LaToya London sing. If she doesn’t advance, I will never watch American Idol again. If she doesn’t win the competition, I will be surprised!
Don’t forget to watch again tonight when we find out which two will officially advance.
Do you have any American Idol Thoughts? Please e-mail me.
Last night, Sam Cassell and Ervin Johnson returned to their former team, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the hometown of Latrell Sprewell. They came away with a 108-102 win. The Wolves were actually ahead by 21, 86-65, at the end of the third quarter. But a 37 point outburst by the Bucks in the fourth quarter kept the game interesting until the end. They actually cut the lead to 3. But all that matters is the final score and the win!
Cassell led the Wolves with 29 points and 6 assists. Latrell Sprewell scored 23. Kevin Garnett scored just 16 points but he added 18 rebounds and 6 assists. Mark Madsen played great scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 boards in 31 minutes. Troy Hudson and Wally Szczerbiak each added 8 points in 18 minutes. Wally was 4-6 from the field. All-Star Michael Redd and newly acquired Keith Van Horn each scored 25 for the Bucks.
Tonight the Wolves take on the New Jersey Nets at Target Center. The Nets have won all 14 games since Lawrence Frank took over coaching duties from the fired Byron Scott. For the record, that’s pretty good! It should be a great matchup!
Any thoughts? E-mail me.
That is it for today. If you have any questions or comments or suggestions on anything, please e-mail me. I hope you found it worthwhile! Have a great day!
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