I know I’m gonna catch a lot of heat for this, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Nomar, if only you’d stayed away from the ‘roids. What might have been . . .
Don’t take this as bashing him. It’s not.
Well, maybe it is, but it isn’t meant to be mean, directly, anyway. You see, ten years ago, Nomar Garciaparra was my favorite player. Besides being arguably the game’s best hitter, and being enormously clutch in the ’98 and ’99 playoffs for the Sox, Nomar also seemed to be a great guy. He always seemed friendly on camera, had his head on straight. He seemed to appreciate the tradition of the Sox, speaking fondly of Johnny Pesky and becoming emotional when Ted Williams passed.
Heck, during his time with the Sox I showed him the ultimate respect, changing my softball uniform number from 9 to 5.
But then it all went south.
When contract negotiations rolled around prior to 2004, Nomar seemed greedy, turning down a 4-year, $60 million deal. Did he really want to stay here? Or was he just another player going for the biggest buck? He turned surly. Seeming to mope and complain all the time. Stories began to leak out about him being tired of Sox fans’ obsession with the team, and how he wanted to play elsewhere; stories about not getting along with other teammates. After the Sox stormed back from being down 0-2 to the A’s in the 2003 ALDS to tie the series 2-2, Nomar reportedly got on the bus to head to Oakland and said “Why is everyone so excited? They’re (the fans) just gonna rip us when we lose.”
And then there was that game in New York. While Derek Jeter was diving face-first into the stands, Nomar sat pouting on the bench, refusing to pinch hit.
Of course, his reported bad attitude isn’t the cause of his premature decline. That can most likely be attributed to steroids.
When Nomar was drafted by the Sox, he was described as an excellent defensive shortstop who could also hit some. When he debuted with the Sox, he was as string-bean with all the muscularity of a 10-year-old girl. In baseball, however, you don’t need huge muscles to be a great hitter. And Nomar could hit, winning consecutive batting titles in 1999 and 2000. His .372 in 2000 was the highest by a right-handed batter since Joe DiMaggio. His range was excellent, and the throws he made from deep in the hole were spectacular.
But then he bulked up. We all know about the 2001 SI cover. We all know what was going on in baseball during that time. We all know as he grew bulkier, his range slowed, and he started suffering from multiple injuries. Bulky, muscular guys aren’t meant to play shortstop.
And here we are. Nomar is retiring at the young age of 36. A one-time shoe-in for Cooperstown, not to mention having his number retired in Fenway, he ended up flaming out like a shooting star, and now will likely receive neither accolade.
That kid sure could play back then. What might have been . . .
The Boston Globe recently ran this little passage about Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt being miffed at Manny Ramirez:
If Dodgers owner Frank McCourt had his way, he’d kick Manny Ram’rez to the sidewalk, void his contract, and say, “See ya later.” But McCourt doesn’t have that luxury, so he has simply asked Ramirez to do some very basic things to make amends for his embarrassing 50-game suspension. He did address the team, so that’s one off the checklist. But that’s about all he’s done. All Ramirez has to do is show remorse, take batting practice, be a presence in the clubhouse, and continue to help out the young hitters. So what is he doing? He’s staying away. The Dodgers expected Ramirez to come to Los Angeles after he briefly addressed the team in Miami last week. But Ramirez didn’t. It’s another act of defiance – a slap in the face to McCourt, who has been more than generous to Ramirez. Don’t forget, Ramirez had no other offers of substance before McCourt came in to pay him $25 million this season and tacked on an option year for $20 million. In the offseason, Ramirez worked at Athletes Performance Institute, but he did it at the one in Pensacola, Fla. Nobody could figure out why. All the Dodgers want Ramirez to do is come clean about what he did, be a good teammate, and prove to the management and fans that he’s truly sorry. He told the Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers, “I’m not ready.”
Talk about justice being served. McCourt’s ignorance and foolishness are to blame here; not Manny. These antics of Manny are no surprise to any Sox fans who have watched Manny being Manny since 2001. You mean to tell me McCourt, who risked $45 million on this man-child, paid no attention to any of this? And when he was throwing all of that money at Manny, who was he bidding against? The answer: Nobody. McCourt and company didn’t do their homework, botched their negotiations, and now are reaping what they’ve sewn. Just another example of why you should appreciate the good ownerships we have at Fenway and Foxboro.
A year ago at this time, the idea the Sox would someday retire Number 24 wasn’t even up for discussion. It was a certainty.
When Manny retired, and was voted into the Hall of Fame, the Sox would hang his Number 24 up next to the all-time Sox greats. It would be a ceremony that included Dwight Evans. We’d all reminisce about the great teams of 2004 and 2007. Good times.
Since then, Manny quit on his team (again), got traded to the Dodgers, and got caught using PEDs. Of course, how the Sox brass thought about Manny’s place in Sox history was evident even before he got busted for ‘roids: They gave his number to set-up man Tagashi (sp?) Saito right out of Spring Training. While the bad feelings for Manny were obvious, giving his number to a reliever right away was a surprise. I still thought the Sox would someday recognize Manny by retiring his number. He is, after all, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time, and along with Papi made up the greatest 3-4 tandem not named Ruth/Gehrig in baseball history. But, the PED bust has removed any notion of that.
Ah well. Hopefully six years from now we’ll be hanging up Number 45.
For a moment, I’m going to pretend the Celtics triple-overtime loss didn’t happen last night, and ignore that 13-0 thrashing the Rays laid on the Sox. Instead, let’s take a moment to talk about our favorite punching bag: A-Roid.
This week, a couple of new allegations from Selena Roberts’ upcoming book came out about the lipstick-wearing wonder. The first was that there is information A-Roid used steroids in high school and as a Yankee. Really no big surprise there. I mean, c’mon. Does anyone really believe his paper-thin story that he only used ‘roids while in Texas?
The other allegation is harder to believe — that Roidriguez tipped-off opposing players about pitches, so they’d help him out in return. I don’t know what to think about this. The claim seems so far-fetched, so ridiculous, that it just couldn’t possibly be true. For A-Roid to do that, he would have to be absolutely insane . . . just an obsessive nut-job.
However, to date, the reporting done by Roberts and her team has been thorough and top-notch. Which gives this report some credibility. And, among the things we know about Roidriguez is he’s an obsessive nut-job. So, if the crazy fits . . .
So, Commissioner Bud Selig, you think A-Rod has shamed the game? How surprised you must be by his use of steroids! How disgraceful of him to soil the game like that! How disrespectful of him! What was ARod thinking, using steroids even though your strong leadership has been at the forefront of fighting steroids in baseball since you’ve known about them back in 1993? How arrogant of A-Rod, since you tirelessly worked to create a culture that will not tolerate steroid-use, and you have admirably worked to protect the integrity of the game.
Oh wait . . . you haven’t. You’ve done none of those things. My bad.
What is more shameful? That one player got caught up among the likely hundreds of others who have used steroids to gain a competitive edge in baseball? Or that a commissioner – whose job it is above all else to protect the integrity of the game – knowingly turned a blind-eye to the steroid problem so the sport could cash-in while it’s records and integrity were forever soiled?
Shameful? Hmmm. The Players Union is shameful. They worked to protect and encourage the use of performance enhancing drugs for the last decade. That is shameful. But the buck stops with the commissioner. And, Bud, you have a huge helping of shame on you. I’ll let you choose what happened — you either acted like a coward who was afraid to take on the Players Union for the good of protecting the game, or you just didn’t care about steroids because cash was flowing into the game. There really is no other choice here. Cowardice or greed. What was it, Bud?
And now you’ve put me in a position of having to defend ARod. That’s a crime I’ll never forgive you for.
With Bobby Abreu signing a one-year deal with the Angels (smart move by Anaheim), and Adam Dunn signing a two-year deal with Washington (that’ll be a long two years), Manny Ramirez seems to be running out of options. It is apparent the only two teams that may sign him are the Dodgers and Giants. And, despite the best attempts by Scott Boras, neither team seems in a rush to get into a bidding war. Fact is, while both teams would like to get Manny take a shot at their weak division this year, neither seems willing to mortgage their future on an aging headcase. Neither team will go more than two years. It’ll be interesting to see how far Manny takes this as Spring Training gets rolling, because these teams are calling his bluff. (Actually, Manny has never been a fan of Spring Training, so don’t be surprised if this saga drags into March.)
Speaking of Manny, he is one of the nominees for the steroid discussion today over at The Great Witch Hunt. Check it out at http://witchhunt.mlblogs.com.
I’ve just created another blog called The Great Witch Hunt (http://witchhunt.mlblogs.com), which is devoted to speculating about, nominating, discussing and debating which players may or may not have used steroids during The Steroid Era.
If you feel it isn’t fair speculating about who used steroids without hard proof, The Great Witch Hunt might not be for you. But my take is it wasn’t fair of the Players Union — run by baseball players — to stand in the way of testing and to protect and encourage the use of performance enhancing drugs, and then soil the most important numbers in our sport. Players who don’t like being fingered for steroids should understand this is a situation they created — both users and those who remained silent. If it stands to reason that a guy did steroids during this time — even if there isn’t proof beyond a reasonable doubt — he should be called out for it. This isn’t a court of law, so “pretty sure” beats out “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
So check out The Great Witch Hunt (http://witchhunt.mlblogs.com) and let us know your thoughts about who did and who didn’t use during the Steroid Era.