December 2011

BRAUN NO BRAIN

     As badly as the 2011 season ended in Boston, in my mind it hardly compares to the anguish the fans of the Milwaukee Brewers are facing right now.  The MVP of the National League, Ryan Braun has allegedly tested positive for performance enhanching drugs and faces a possible 50 game suwpension.  Braun, the first Milwaukee MVP since Robin Yount in 1989 is appealing the findings.  There has never been a successful appeal in Major League Baseball.

     Imagine the face of the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia.  How devastated would you be if he were the one?  Both are former Rookies of the Year and of course Pedey was the 2008 American League MVP.  Thank goodness it isn’t someone in a Boston  uniform.  We should know by now that you can’t tell what’s in a mans’ heart.  You can know someone and still have no idea what they are up to.  

     Bud Selig made a remark a couple of years back saying that drug testing in baseball was better than in any other sport.  He added that everyone from Ryan Howard to Ryan Braun was “clean”.  Rather ironic.  A friend asked me the other day if I would take the PED’s if I knew it would get me to the Major Leagues and bring me the millions of dollars that are part of the package.  It’s easy for me to say “no”, knowing that I will never be faced with that conundrum.  If I sit and think about it, though, I wonder.  Could I resist the temptation?  Toiling in the anonymity of the minor leagues is not easy.  I know.  I’ve been there for 11 years.  I’ve seen guys come and go with varying degrees of success.  I may be naive, but I like to think that they have all worked honestly and diligently, without the help of PEDs.  Tbat is not realistic.  Some guys have gotten the push they need from steroids or human growth hormones.  Some have been caught and others have gotten away with it.  Braun had never been implicated before.  Now he will forever have that cloud hanging over his head.  It is a bell that can’t be “unrung.”

     Baseball can’t afford to have one of its’ young stars involved in this.  We all hoped that the era was over with the likes of Clemens, Palmeiro, Bonds and McGwire.  I guess it isn’t.  Either lift the ban and let these guys take whatever they want and face the health consequences, or make it so painful and costly if they’re caught, that they feel it for years to come.  That may be the only way to clean up the game.

EL TIANTE LEFT OUT AGAIN

     The Veterans Commitee has seen fit to open the doors of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to Ron Santo.  The late Cubs third baseman was voted in on December 5, 2011, almost exactly a year to the day that he died.  Santo has some good credentials.  He was a nine time All Star and a five time Gold Glove winner.  He managed just a .277 career batting average and his 342 career home runs are certainly impressive, but Hall worthy??  In my mind, Santo was given a push by former teammate Billy Williams, who no doubt influenced the other voters on the commitee.  I am not here to denigrate Santo, though.  I am just stunned by the lack of respect shown to Luis Tiant.

     I have written about the great El Tiante in this space before.  None other than Peter Gammons has said that Tiant is the best player not enshrined in the Hall.  As I said, Santo will be inducted, posthumously, this July.  I spoke to Tiant a couple of seasons ago about this very subject, and it isn’t something he’d be OK with.  “If those ****** vote me in after I’m dead, I swear I’ll come back and haunt them.”  I’m pretty sure he wasn’t kidding.  While Santo was the only one to receive the necessary 75% of the vote, Tiant was listed last with  Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Allie Reynolds and Charlie Finley for receiving less than three votes.  The Veterans Commitee won’t vote again on Tiant for another three years.

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     Remember the movie starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, “Trading Places”?  There’s a new version starring Bobby Valentine and Terry Francona.  Essentially, the pair has flip-flopped jobs.  While Valentine has taken over as manager of the Red Sox, Tito has been hired by ESPN as a Sunday Night Baseball analyst and a member of the Baseball Tonight panel. 

     First caution flag of the Valentine era.  How poor is his judgement, assuming it’s true, wanting to add Bill Buckner to his staff?  The goat of the 1986 World Series, back in a Sox uniform???  No way.  While most politically correct people claim to have forgiven him, I don’t think there’s a Sox fan out there that would really want to see him back in town.  There are just too many good baseball guys out there to make Buckner a Sox coach.  It’s like Valentine is going to test the water and see just how far he can push.  Not a great idea and I think the Boston Brass has the good sense to realize it.  If this is he Valentine mindset, I worry.  I did say I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.  Since his hiring, all we’ve heard is how great he is.  As I tweeted the other night, if he is so great, why has he been out of the Major Leagues for so long?  We shall see.   And for the record, I still don’t forgive Buckner.

TIME WILL TELL

     OK, I admit it.  Bobby Valentine was not my first choice as manager of the Red Sox.  In fact, I wouldn’t have even interviewed the guy.  I looked at him as a re-tread, who’s been out of the Major Leagues for a decade.  To steal a line from Hall of Fame broadcaster, Dick Vitale,  this could be “The greatest comeback since Lazarus.”  Now, Valentine is my guy.  Because I am a Red Sox fan, and the Sox have chosen Valentine, he is my guy. 

     Jimmy Fallon said it best in the movie “Fever Pitch”. “Is there anything else you still care about that you cared about years ago?”  I’ve thought that one over many times and the answer is “no”.  A resounding “no”.  So when my team makes a decision, I will stick by them.  Since Valentine was named, pundits have come out of the woodwork, extolling the decision and his virtues.  I hope they are right.  Most of the opinions are no more important than mine, but one that I respect immensely, is that of Hall of Famer Peter Gammons.  Gammons makes a compelling argument that Valentine/Cherington can be a very successful relationship if both parties are going to make winning top priority.  Remember that Bobby V isn’t exactly inheriting a “bare cupboard”.  From May 1 to August 31, the Red Sox were the best team in baseball.

     I liken the hiring of Bobby Valentine to the election of President Obama.  He wasn’t my choice, but once elected, he became my President.  I want the best for him and the country.  I root for him.  After all, it helps all of us if he is successful.  So Bobby Valentine has my full support (not that it’s going to matter to him).

     Valentine being hired, meant that Torey Lovullo wasn’t.  I’m confident that at some point, the former PawSox skipper will manage in the Big Leagues.  He will be good.

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     One morsel of good news surfaced earlier this week.  Former Pawtucket manager and Boston first base coach, Ron Johnson has been hired as manager of the Orioles Triple A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides.  Dan Duquette, the new GM of the O’s also hired RJ to work for the Sox.  RJ replaces former IL MVP and Pawtucket/Boston catcher, Gary Allenson in Norfolk.  It will be great to see Johnson back in the IL.  Norfolk suddenly moves to the top of places I look forward to visiting as I go into my ninth season with the PawSox and twelfth season overall in the League.

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