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Archive for February, 2009

Dear Front Office,

Hey guys, it’s Adrian. The offseason has been great, but everyday physical therapy gets repetitive. Apparently I did some damage to my back this season while trying to carry over 50 players for 17 weeks a in a row… I’m writing to ask for some offensive help.

I didn’t complain when you started Tarvaris Jackson as the “Quarterback of the Future.” Yes, the Tarvaris Jackson. The same guy who couldn’t beat out Matt “Heisman” Jones for the quarterback job at Arkansas. To be clear, this is the same Matt Jones who is now a wide receiver in the NFL (at least technically) and currently awaiting a drug charge sentence.  Yeah, Tarvaris couldn’t beat that guy. Instead, he became an NCAA D-II all-star, a 2nd round draft pick, and my welcoming gift to the Minnesota Vikings. You guys said “Welcome to Minnesota! Good luck carrying the team! Here to help you is some guy who played at Alabama State!”

Tarvaris Jackson on a Self-Described QB Scramble

Tarvaris Jackson as a Playmaker

I also didn’t complain last offseason when you neglected to sign a spite-filled Brett Favre (who probably wouldn’t have minded playing the Pack twice a year). Sure, Brett Favre played in a lot of Pro Bowls, but Tarvaris Jackson must have played in some sort of high school all-star game, right? That’s almost the same thing… Instead of signing a top-caliber quarterback, you guys decided to add ANOTHER All-Pro on the defensive line. I am aware that Jared Allen is a stud. I’m also aware that he made our defensive line unstoppable. However, just because Pat Williams ate the last defensive end doesn’t mean we had to replace him with a multi-million dollar player! I know what you’re going to say, and yes I appreciate you drafting a quarterback that offseason. I’ll tell you what I don’t appreciate though… you drafting some guy named Booty out of some school with a potential quarterback curse. I’m sure you were as surprised as the rest of the world when Gus Frerotte didn’t solve our quarterback problem, but just a hint: John David Booty probably isn’t the answer either…

Lets cut to the chase: this team is one quarterback away from being a real contender. Yes, I said real contender, not just that team that won the NFC North and got pasted in the divisional round of the playoffs. It gets a little old watching Tarvaris throw a fly route as if it was a tribute to John Moxon tagging the mascot in Varsity Blues (the sad thing is that Tarvaris might actually be trying… poor kid). You want to know how bad this is getting? At one point last year I literally saw eleven defenders in the box… eleven! Tarvaris didn’t even audible to a pass. Instead, he audibled to an option, broke it outside, and Reggie-Bushed it for a short loss.

I know you’re probably happy with T-Jack, but if not I’ve heard of a few available quarterbacks who could provide some help. Here’s my two cents…

Matt Cassel – I’ll be blunt: can we please avoid this guy? Yeah, he had a great season and all, but is he really going to put up those numbers without Randy Moss, Wes Welker, the best O-Line in football, and the perennial top-5 New England defense? Not to mention that he received coaching from one of the best quarterbacks (that Brady guy) and best coaches (that Bilichek guy) of all time. Plus, if he joins Minnesota he won’t have access to the New England film vault (I’ve heard it’s quite impressive). I mean, I heard Matt was good in high school, so I guess him and Tarvaris could share a beer and talk about the varsity days. Unfortunately, Matt’s best game was probably against the South California School for the Blind or something like that. Here in Minnesota he won’t see competition like that… then again  we do play Detroit every year… twice.

Adrian Peterson Running Through All Eleven Defenders

Adrian Peterson Running Through All Eleven Defenders

Mark Sanchez – I heard there’s talk of us trading up in the draft for this guy. Don’t do it! It’s not that Pete Carroll didn’t give him the stamp of approval, it’s just that things haven’t gone well for USC quarterbacks lately. Don’t think of Matt Cassel. Sure he played great this year, but he hadn’t played since high school and was plugged into a system that creates legends. Instead, think of guys like Carson Palmer. He used to be good, but he still hasn’t come back from knee surgery. I mean, his knee looks like Kimo von Oelhoffen is still sitting on it. Additionally, don’t get me started on former USC stud Matt Leinart. If you ever thought about signing Leinart, keep in mind that I probably have a stronger throwing arm. Look at how he’s played so far. I think I’ve seriously taken more snaps than he has, and other than one sub-par season, he’s just been hanging out on the bench. Now that I think of it, Mark Sanchez looks way too much like Matt Leinart for me to be comfortable drafting him. Are we completely sure that Matt Leinart didn’t go back to USC under the alias “Mark Sanchez” just to up his draft stock (and get the hell out of Arizona). It’s not like he had anything else to do… other than playing catch with Paris Hilton (wink wink) and throwing high school hot tub parties… I guess it wouldn’t be horrible drafting Leinart, I mean Sanchez, he could join another USC great (John David Booty) on the bench behind Gus Frerotte.

Jeff Garcia – Cassel is terrible, Sanchez is possible, but if you want my opinion… go get me Jeff Garcia. He’s no spring chicken, but you can’t argue with his results. Remember back in 2006 when he took the lifeless Eagles to the playoffs? Not to mention that he did it while throwing to some guy named Hank! If he can take Hank & Friends to the playoffs, imagine what he could do with Bernard Berrian. Speaking of Bernard, he called me the other day to talk about quarterbacks. Bernard said he is tired of going deep, tired of catching 1.7 passes per game, and tired of run-blocking against the defensive tackles that most team play outside to try and stop me… Think about Jeff Garcia. The guy just wins. Hes isn’t spectacular, but he gets the job done. Just plug him in for a few years and draft a young quarterback to play the Aaron Rodgers / Brett Favre game (hopefully not for seven years like Green Bay did). Garcia won’t cost much, as the demand for a 39 year-old quarterback isn’t great, so if he doesn’t work out just cut him loose. Hell, if he doesn’t work out we can just start the T-Jack experience all over again (I actually threw up a little while writing that).

Listen, I don’t mean to sound pushy, but running backs can only give you so many productive years in this league. If I don’t get help soon, I’ll probably end up at a rehab clinic with Ladainian Tomlinson in a couple of years. Starting the season with Tarvaris at the helm would be a worse decision than The Dark Knight not being nominated for “Best Picture” at the Oscars (who seriously thought that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was better than The Dark Knight?).

I don’t ask for much, I don’t cause drama, I don’t run over parking attendants, and I don’t throw “boat parties.” All I do is try to win. I hope you guys can help me do just that.

Thanks so much for all you’ve done, but I hope that your two year run as a crew of Matt Millen impersonators has come to an end. Now can we find a real quarterback?

Sincerely,

AD.

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While Alex Rodriguez has disappointed millions of sports fans in the previous two weeks, his greatest victim to-date could be the integrity the Florida High School Athletic Association. The FHSAA announced today that due to recent revelations in the Alex Rodriguez steroid controversy they will end a statewide drug-testing program for high school athletes.

Alex Rodriguez at Miami's Westminster Christian School

Rodriguez at Miami's Westminster Christian High School

“It’s a shame that [the drug testing program] had to end this way,” laments FHSAA spokeswoman Colleen Clemons. Clemons, like many other Florida high school officials, believes that the testing program was introduced to maximize benefits from the overwhelming negative attitude towards performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately for these officials, Alex Rodriguez’s recent admission of steroid use changed the image of performance-enhancing drugs forever in the state of Florida. “Alex is a popular sports figure in Florida, and his admission to steroid use could wreak havoc upon the integrity of Florida high school sports.”

Broward County Superintendent Dr. Matthew McGuire agrees with Clemons as to the reach of the A-Rod scandal. “[Alex Rodriguez] is a Florida native, born and raised in nearby Miami-Dade County. What the rest of the country fails to understand is that in Florida Alex is not just a baseball player— he is an icon.” McGuire believes that while the FHSAA testing program had been effective, A-Rod’s revealed steroid use will  encourage high school athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs more than ever, resulting in an “A-Rod Boom” of steroid use. “If I were a high school athlete I would want to be just like A-Rod,” Added McGuire, “I would work hard, train every day, and if I had to use under-the-counter Dominican drugs to be like him, I would inject those too.”

Matthew McGuire is not the only proponent of the “A-Rod Boom” theory. Several FHSAA officials have agreed that while drug-testing is important, the money would be wasted if the end-result was suspending sixty-percent of the athletes tested. FHSAA Regional Director Cameron Boone concurred this belief. “I want to preserve the integrity of sports as much as everyone else, but when something this influential hits center-stage in American sports, you cannot blame these kids for wanting to juice.” According to Boone, the A-Rod appeal overwhelms an athlete’s desire for integrity. “Every athlete wants to achieve greatness, and Alex has shown the world that the fast-track to greatness comes in a prescription bottle.”

Alex Rodriguez With The NY Yankees

Rodriguez Playing For The New York Yankees

While this is not the end of drug testing in Florida high school sports, it is certainly the beginning of a long vacation. Experts predict the “A-Rod Boom” to carry over until five years after his retirement from Major League Baseball. With Alex Rodriguez still only 33 years old, it seems likely that Florida is facing fifteen or more years of high school sports without steroid testing. When the dust settles after A-Rod hangs up his cleats, the FHSAA plans to revisit the idea of steroid testing, but the damages against athletic integrity over the next fifteen years, if left unaddressed, could prove irreparable.

Colleen Clemons refuses to give up on the FHSAA drug testing policy. While she admits the defeat of FHSAA steroid testing, she expects to be the first administrator advocating its return when Alex Rodriguez retires from baseball. “This program was new,” Clemons contends, “and before it had a chance to blossom, its stated goal was virtually made impossible by the ‘A-Rod Boom.'”

Alex Rodriguez was unavailable for comment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you hadn’t caught on, this is a piece of satire. All names are fictional (and eerily similar to steroid all-stars Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Bret Boone), and the quotes were fabricated by the author. In truth, the end of the FHSAA testing program had nothing to do with the A-Rod scandal. Instead, it was a legitimate financial decision based on a cost-benefit analysis of the program’s results.

sk.

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It’s become a weekly ritual for a star-caliber baseball player to be accused of steroid use. More often than not, the accusations ring true and a former baseball star becomes disgraced and disdained.

Ironically, baseball players seem to follow the same actions when they are accused of dishonorable behavior. They simply follow the “Steroid Steps To Success.”

1 – Deny, Deny, Deny — No matter what the media, player, family, trainers, dealers, celebrities, and world leaders say— you didn’t do it. Until they come out with Phelps-esque damning evidence, fight it to the end.

2 – When you admit to steroid use, do so in the most minimal time frame possible — If you tested positive in April 2003, tell the media that you tried steroids only once in your life… it just happened to be in April 2003 (and of course you never tried it again).

You never counted on steroids for success, it was just a fluke that you were tested the only time that you tried it. Don’t worry about the truth, just stick to your story. Guys like Brian Roberts have used this strategy to perfection, so it has to work.

These steroid allegations and admissions have taken their toll on the game. While baseball experienced a renaissance of sorts in the mid to late 1990s, it did so at a price.

Offensive statistics exploded as the premiere hitters in baseball produced unprecedented clips of power numbers.

Home run records were broken regularly. Roger Maris’ single-season record fell to Mark McGwire in 1998, McGwire’s single-season record consequently fell to Barry Bonds in 2001, and ultimately Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron as the all-time Home Run King in 2007.

All of these are great examples of “Steroid Era” players with “Steroid Era” statistics. However, lost in the fray of needles and pills are the players who produced high-caliber results without performance enhancing drugs.

With star players joining the steroid ranks every week, I find it fitting to pay homage to the players who survived the Steroid Era with their integrity intact.

The following players, in my opinion, are baseball players who produced star-caliber resumes in baseball’s Steroid Era without the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

OF Johnny Damon -Long before Johnny Damon’s caveman days in Boston, he spent time with two offensively challenged ballclubs: the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics. While the teams never filled out the win column very prolifically, Damon’s solid play earned him the status of an impact player. Consistency is crucial when determining which players possibly used steroids and which players did not. In Johnny Damon’s case, consistency is his greatest attribute. Throughout his career, Damon has provided virtually the same stat line every year. He is a career .289 hitter, and every year he hits around 15-20 home runs, drives in around 70-90 runs and steals anywhere from 10 to 40 bases. While he may not be liked in a number of cities (mostly for leaving several different ballclubs on bad terms), no one can doubt that Damon has been a consistent player with an immense amount of natural talent.

OF Ken Griffey Jr.

OF Ken Griffey Jr.

OF Ken Griffey Jr – “The Kid” was one of baseball’s greatest talents in the 1990s, and had it not been for a number of injuries following his move to Cincinnati, Griffey could have gone down as the greatest player in Major League history. While Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire dueled for the National League home run title (and consequently the Major League home run title), Griffey seemed content to take home AL honors every year. From 1993-2000, Griffey parked 40 or more home runs in every full season he played. While he provided incredible offensive numbers, no abnormal trends exist to suggest that The Kid used anything but god-given talent to become on of baseball’s elite players.

OF Vladimir Guerrero – You know someone is good when they become an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glover while playing in Montreal. Guerrero torched opposing pitching in Montreal, hitting 34 or more home runs in each full season spent there. Guerrero has a rocket arm, a vicious bat, and earlier in his career he was a consistent threat on the basepaths (he is a 35/35 member, but fell one home run short of the 40/40 club in 2002). While Guerrero provides instant offense wherever he plays, no one has ever doubted that he anything but a natural athlete. He arrived at Expos spring training at the age of 19 and developed into one of the greatest all-around outfielders in the game of baseball. Through his entire career, he has yet to be named in any steroid scandals.

1B Todd Helton – One of the true class-acts in all of baseball, Todd Helton serves as a poster-boy for the Colorado Rockies organization. Consistency has never been a forte of his (his career home run numbers regularly jump up, down, and sideways) but Helton used a combination of excellent hitting prowess and his hometown Coors Field to turn himself into one of baseball’s elite hitters of the last decade. Helton is such an upstanding individual off the field that few dare to throw his name into the steroid ring, but even if they tried the case against Helton would be weak. Helton has been such a consistent hitter that 2008 marked the first time in a decade that he hit below .300 for an entire season. Consistency is key, and while his power numbers jump back and forth, he has been one of the most steady hitters in baseball over the last decade.

SS Derek Jeter

SS Derek Jeter

SS Derek Jeter – Everything inside of me hates the New York Yankees, but I have had nothing but respect for Derek Jeter ever since he entered the big leagues. While he is the face of the most morally fluctuating franchise in all of American sports, Jeter has projected nothing but poise and class to the fans and the media since his arrival in New York. He holds several postseason records (you would too if you played in it every year), but he is most notable for his steady defensive play and consistent offensive output. His numbers have never been gaudy, but the Yankees can count on him to be arguably the most productive No.2 hitter in all of baseball. A career .316 hitter, Jeter has a career high of only 24 home runs, but he gets on base and scores buckets of runs whenever the Yankees need it most. Evil empire? Yes. Evil emperor? Yes. But Derek Jeter has been exactly the kind of player baseball needs throughout his entire career, despite playing for the ever-so-hated Yankees.

3B Chipper Jones – I have three friends that I know of who would be placed on suicide watch if Larry Jones ever tested positive for steroids. Chipper is another franchise player who carried the Braves through a plethora of postseason appearances and one world title. Jones, like Derek Jeter, has never put up awe-inspiring power numbers. His home runs tend to hover around 30-35 per season (except for his 1999 MVP campaign in which he belted 45), and his career .310 batting average shows that he knows how to take care of himself at the dish. Health has been the only thing to drag Chipper down, as he has missed significant playing time each of the last six seasons. Other than health issues, Chipper has no hindrances to be found, especially not any involving performance-enhancing drugs. If one were to look for a steroid user, Jones would not be a likely candidate. His offensive production has been constant throughout his career, both in power and control.

DH Edgar Martinez – Edgar Martinez played 18 seasons for the Seattle Mariners (1987-2004), playing right through the heart of the Steroid Era. Instead of experiencing exponentially greater offensive production in this time, Martinez established himself as one of the most consistent Designated Hitters in baseball. Instead of earning the title of a power hitter, Martinez consistently drove balls to the gaps, earning him the nickname Senor Doble (Mr. Double) from Mariner fans. Martinez’s offensive production was one of the most consistent in baseball. His batting average remained stellar every season, while his power numbers rarely experienced peaks and valleys. Martinez batted over .300 in all ten full seasons he played between 1990-2001, and from 1995-99 Martinez hit between 24-30 home runs every season. Edgar Martinez has received little speculation about steroid use. His consistent batting average and minimal power output diminished any suspicion concerning him using performance-enhancing drugs. Instead, Martinez will be remembered as one of the greatest pure hitters to ever play the game.

OF Manny Ramirez

OF Manny Ramirez

OF Manny Ramirez – Manny being Manny had to come from somewhere. Throughout his career, Manny Ramirez has been mired in numerous controversies, but has always proven one thing: the guy can rake. While producing exceptional power numbers, they have never been outlandish enough to garner suspicion about steroid use. Instead, Manny Ramirez has been a virtual hitting machine since entering the Major League. In fact, Ramirez is a career .314 hitter who has never hit lower than .292 in a full season. Unbelievable. Manny can be a distraction, a nuisance, and a selfish player when he wants to be. But Ramirez has never disappointed when he steps to the dish. Instead, he has been a one-man hitting clinic over the last fifteen years, and looks to continue that pattern down the road. Yes, Manny did hit a ton of home runs in the Steroid Era. However, he has never hit more than 45, and his power consistency, coupled with an annual batting average over .300, shows that Manny Ramirez is not a product of steroids, he is a product of his own hard work and incredible natural talent.

OF Ichiro Suzuki – If I had to accuse Ichiro Suzuki of using performance enhancing drugs, I would start by testing his right arm. While he is known throughout baseball for his incredible hit totals and staggering batting averages, Ichiro Suzuki’s most impressive characteristic may be his defensive capabilities. That being said, there is no case to be made for Ichiro using performance enhancing drugs. As previously mentioned, the greatest way to dispel steroid rumors is to show a consistent pattern of excellent play, which limits the possibility of one “breakout” year being turned against a player’s career statistics. This is also known as a “steroid year,” which Adrian Beltre can inform anyone about. In eight major league seasons, Ichiro Suzuki has never hit less than 200 hits, scored less than 100 runs, compiled less than a .300 batting average, or stolen less than 30 bases. In short, the man is a machine. Couple this with Gold-Glove defense, and you have an offense/defense package that even makes the aforementioned Vladimir Guerrero jealous. Ichiro has done nothing in the Major Leagues but perform. Any doubt as to the nature of this performance should be met solely with frustration that there is only one Ichiro Suzuki for this league to enjoy. Say what you will, but Ichiro Suzuki is a freak athlete who can slap the baseball wherever he likes, drive the baseball out of the park, and even throw a 95mph fastball (Japan is planning on using him as an emergency reliever in this year’s World Baseball Classic). If there were more than one Ichiro Suzuki in the baseball world, it would be a scary place.

OF Bernie Williams – This list closes with another “Mr. Yankee.” Bernie Williams came up in the New York Yankees organization, spending all 16 years of his career in pinstripes. While Williams never produced flashy offensive numbers, his play was All-Star caliber. From 1995-2002, Bernie Williams never batted under .300 for a season. Additionally, he usually hit around 25 home runs, drove in around 100 RBI and scored around 100 runs each year in this run. It should come as no surprise that the Yankees went to five World Series in these years, winning four of them (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000). Williams was one of the most upstanding players in baseball, and similar to Derek Jeter he maintained a level of off-the-field class despite playing for a truly hated ballclub. His numbers never warranted steroid debate, but this list is to find players who produced good numbers without the help of steroids. While his numbers were not elite, they were great for the time, considering the fact that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

Read and respond with agreement, criticism, and your opinions on who should and shouldn’t be on this list.

sk.

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The most intriguing facet of the Alex Rodriguez steroids controversy has nothing to do with the man himself. While Rodriguez has been given a throne built of broken promises and moral compromise, the world has been left to wonder: Who else tested positive for steroids in 2003?

Alex Rodriguez is one of the largest names to be implicated in the current Major League Baseball steroid debacle.

However, Rodriguez is only one of several test samples which were being stored together at a facility in California. In all, there were 104 samples. After Rodriguez’s name was leaked to the nation, the fans now want to know who the other 103 samples belong to.

Sure, there are easy answers. There are always Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Barry Bonds to fall back on if a steroid scapegoat is an immediate need. But these retreads of steroid controversy are not what the fans desire.

Instead, the fans want to know what new faces will be seen if and when the remaining 103 names are released to the public.

There are arguments for both sides of this debate.

On one side, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association harshly opposes any further names being released to the public. Alex Rodriguez’s name was unintentionally leaked to Sports Illustrated, and if the MLBPA had it’s way, the rest of the names would be locked away forever.

After all, it is the responsibility of the Players’ Association to protect its players.

On the other side are those in favor of releasing the remaining player names. This side includes the majority of baseball fans as well as the media who are dying to know which players used performance enhancing drugs.

Most notably, Curt Schilling (on his “38 Pitches” blog) called for Major League Baseball to release the remaining 103 names. his motive was not to appease the public, however, but to clear the names of the remaining players who he claims had nothing to do with performance enhancing drugs (a group in which he includes himself).

While the debate rages on, the world is left to wonder who else might join A-Rod in baseball infamy. Rodriguez was one name out of 104, so now it is time to speculate over who might be in the remaining 103.

Here is a list of ten current and former Major League Baseball hitters who might be in the remaining 103 names. Feel free to comment, criticize, critique, and curse over who you think should and shouldn’t be included.

  • C Javy Lopez
  • 2B Bret Boone
  • 3B Adrian Beltre
  • OF Jim Edmonds
  • 2B Jeff Kent
  • OF Andruw Jones
  • DH Jim Thome
  • 1B Derrek Lee
  • DH David Ortiz
  • 1B Albert Pujols

Remember, this is a list of players who have not been named in any major steroid scandals to-date and could potentially be found among the remaining 103 test samples from 2003.

For detailed reports and in-depth statistical analysis of each plyer please follow this link to where this article is posted via Bleacher Report Slideshows:

Click Here for the Bleacher Report Slideshow

Please comment (either on this site or on the Bleacher Report) with who you believe should and should not be included on this list.

Let’s have some good debate.

sk.

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In the last few years, we have seen the All-Time Home Run King (Barry Bonds), the former Single-Season Home Run King (Mark McGwire), a pitcher with an unprecedented Seven Cy Young Awards (Roger Clemens), and a hitter who clubbed more 60 home run seasons than any player in history (Sammy Sosa) publicly humiliate themselves while insisting they never cheated the game of baseball. Baseball’s list of statistical giants who might not reach Cooperstown added another member this week.

New York Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez

NY Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez

Major League Baseball was hit hard Saturday morning when Sports Illustrated columnists Selena Robert and David Epstein reported perennial All-Star Alex Rodriguez tested positive for anabolic steroids during the 2003 season. For those keeping score at home, that was the year he won the American League MVP Award and the American League Home Run Crown. This crime against baseball is magnified by the fact that Rodriguez has stated his innocence of steroid use on multiple occasions, most notably in a 2007 interview with Katie Couric. Alex Rodriguez’s failed drug test caught my by surprise, because through all of the previously mentioned steroid cases, I still believed that some Major Leaguers were steroid-free.

I still believed in the “clean guys.” I believed in the A-Rods, the Chipper Joneses, the Ken Griffeys,  and the Derek Jeters. I believed in the guys who came through the league and filled out their adult bodies with no signs of excessive growth. I believed that someday A-Rod would take his rightful place atop the All-Time Home Run list, and while doing so he would overtake a man who had greatly tarnished baseball. Now, all of my beliefs have changed.

In my opinion, we have to assume that everyone who played in the “Steroid Era” of baseball has used steroids or performance enhancing  drugs at some point. Whether it was a one-time deal or a near-addictive routine, it seems now that steroids so greatly permeated the last fifteen years of baseball that no one can be guaranteed clean.

So who is to blame for all of this? Consequently, who is the loser in all of this? I think the answer to both resides in baseball fans as much as baseball players. Baseball fans had to know something was up when McGwire and Sosa started popping out 50 home run seasons. Fans probably started to notice when the Orioles’ Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in the 1996 season (previous to 1996, he averaged 17 home runs per year). From there, fans were led through consecutive summers of the McGwire-Sosa battle for Home Run Champ. While these battles revived a weakening Major League Baseball organization, the fans noticed that offense was suddenly an easy thing to come by. Eventually the signs of steroid use became obvious. Barry Bonds’ head started to resemble a small watermelon, and a 40 year-old power pitcher was miraculously the best in the game (although we should have seen it coming when he threw shattered bats at people in  ‘Roid Rage fits).

Roger Clemens in a Potential Steroid-Induced Rage

Roger Clemens in a Potentially Steroid-Induced Rage

Is there a winner in all of this? I don’t know. If it has to be someone I assume it’s Jose Canseco. From the time his first book came out, Canseco was telling the world that players like Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez were juicing. When Canseco first made these claims, fans jumped to defend both these iconic players and the game of baseball. But Canseco’s words seemed to encourage a weight-loss program in Major League Baseball…

After summer-long speculation and a proverbial witch hunt for steroid users,  Pudge Rodriguez showed up to spring training 40 pounds lighter. In actuality, he looked as if  he spent the summer hanging out Calista Flockhart and Paris Hilton. How did Pudge explain it? He claimed that he wanted to be more dangerous on the base paths. Yes, a man nicknamed Pudge claimed that his end-goal was to be “dangerous on the base paths.” Pudge wasn’t alone, as a slew of players suddenly lost weight and looked noticeably weaker. Was it because they had to instantly cycle off of steroids? Ask them and they will say no, of course it wasn’t. Ask the world, and they will say “Wait a minute, Bret Boone hit how many home runs?”

Major League Baseball began their testing program in 2003. When the tests were completed the samples were shipped to a storage facility in California. The players’ names were not on each sample. Instead, a code number was generated and attached to each item. The code index that determined which test sample belonged to which player was sent not to California, but to a discreet location in New Jersey. For a while it seemed as if Major League Baseball had locked up the samples and thrown away the key. That was until Barry Bonds got involved.

Barry Bonds In 2008

Barry Bonds In 2008

When the Barry Bonds trial broke, federal prosecutors immediately subpoenaed the previously mentioned samples and acquired the necessary key to determine the origin of each sample. The samples are only now being identified, and Alex Rodriguez’s name was the first leaked to the press.

The same laboratory that held Alex Rodgriguez’s test sample currently holds more than one-hundred more samples. Yes, you read that correctly: One-Hundred Samples! I guess this is what we can expect from baseball for the next few years. No more “News Breaks” about obvious cases like Ken Caminiti, Bret Boone, and Rafael Palmeiro. Instead, stories will come out weekly about previously heroic players who tested steroid-positive. Had the first name leaked to the press been that of Roger Clemens, the damage would have been minimal. Instead, Alex Rodgriguez’s immediate descent from greatness stabbed the spirit of Major League Baseball to the core.

Alex Rodriguez was supposed to be the Golden Boy. The Natural. The kid who could save baseball from the Steroid Era. The night that Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s Home Run record, I immediately thought to myself it’s okay, Alex Rodriguez will break that record in a couple of years and all will be right again. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. Now I think to myself if the kid that I swore was the cleanest of them all turned out to be a cheater, who could have possibly been clean? Alex Rodriguez’s failed drug test propelled me to this thought, and it remains to be seen how many fans will be left with these thoughts in the months to come.

Generations will speculate over who did and who didn’t use steroids in the alleged Steroid Era. Now I can only hope to see Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens sharing a prison cell one day.

Yeah, I guess it isn’t so bad.

–matthowell–

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Random observation of the day: Santonio Holmes must have been a Steelers fan growing up. Why, you ask? Because he portrayed Steeler star Kordell Stewart in his Super Bowl XLIII winning touchdown celebration. I know in actuality he was emulating Lebron James but look at the similarities below…

Holmes TD Celebration

Holmes TD Celebration

Kordell Stewart on NFL Blitz

Kordell Stewart on NFL Blitz

Eerie, isn’t it? Look at these things:

  • The Pose – Obviously they are striking the same pose….
  • The Jersey Number – Both #10
  • The Location of the Football – Both have the ball centered above them

Not really a functional purpose to this post, I just noticed the similarity when I was reading over my previous article and found it odd enough to blog about.

Until Next Time.

sk.

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After every Super Bowl, the losing team and its fans engage in a flurry of “what if” and “what might have been” questions. Super Bowl XLIII has been no different. There has been considerable backlash against the officiating crew of Super Bowl XLIII, as a number of calls were ignored, botched, and/or overturned. Several articles have accused Terry McAulay & Friends of fixing the game, ruining the game, or just blowing a number of calls. While rhetoric is entertaining for Cardinals fans at the moment (i.e. They’re all out to get us! The only reason we lost is because the NFL screwed us over!), it is important for those not involved in the game to take a closer look at any questionable events.

steelers1

Pittsburgh's "12th Man"

At skin level, the penalty statistics from Super Bowl XLIII do not seem to endorse a conspiracy theory. Arizona was tagged for eleven penalties totaling 106 yards while Pittsburgh had seven for 56 yards. However, there are a number of factors that can influence the interpretation of these stats. For example, Arizona was flagged for a personal foul on their own 9 yard line. Originally, this would be a 15 yard penalty, but in the case at hand they were only assessed 5 yards. On the stat sheet it will add on a 5 yard penalty, but the severity of the call was much greater than that. If you add those ten yards, the Cardinals penalty numbers go up to eleven for 116 (averaging over ten a penalty). Additionally, Pittsburgh was called for a 15 yard celebration penalty when they took over the ball with eight seconds remaining in the game. If these 15 yards are removed (as they had no significant impact on the game), the Steelers penalty numbers fall to six for 41 yards (averaging under seven a penalty).

These two no-calls were a small part of how the Super Bowl XLIII officiating crew took it upon themselves to affect the game. Were these influential? Yes. But were these the only plays that doomed the Cardinals? Certainly Not.

Here is a list of ten calls that hurt the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Did Terry McAulay’s crew single-handedly cost the Cardinals the Super Bowl? Probably not, but you decide…

Play #1 – Ben Roethlisberger’s Imaginary One Yard Touchdown Run (1st Quarter 10:00) – On 3rd and Goal from the 1 yard line, Mike Tomlin bucked traditional play-calling and dialed up a play-action rollout pass for QB Ben Roethlisberger. Finding all of his reads covered, Big Ben lowered his shoulders and tried to barrel through Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett to the endzone. The two fell near the goal line and the side judge immediately signaled a touchdown for the Steelers. Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt challenged the play, and after further review the call on the field was overturned, resulting in a 4th and Goal from the 1 yard line. The Steelers kicked a field goal to go ahead 3-0.
The Controversy
– In this situation, at least the officiating crew got the call right… eventually. The reason this play is significant is because it was the first drive of the game for the Steelers. While no significant controversy stemmed from this play, notice that the officiating crew managed to botch a call (and force Whisenhunt to risk one of his two precious challenges) on the Steelers first drive. To call this foreshadowing would be a gross understatement.

Play #2 – James Harrison’s 100 yard Interception Return for a Touchdown (2nd Quarter 0:18) – 1st and Goal on the 1 yard line in the waning seconds of the first half. Trailing 7-10, the Cardinals had to focus on one goal: at least get some points. Fate intervened, however, as NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison stepped in front of a Kurt Warner pass and took it 100 yards to the endzone. Instead of a tie game, or even a 14-10 Cardinals lead, the Steelers reached halftime with a 17-7 lead.

Hightower Falling After Woodley Clips Him

Hightower Falling After Woodley Clips Him


The Controversy –
Where to begin… On the return there were two suspicious encounters. First, Kurt Warner was grabbed (by the jersey) and pulled to the ground while trying to force James Harrison out of bounds. This was not an obvious hold, as Warner was pulled down in the middle of a crowd, but the replays clearly showed him being yanked out of the play. Regardless of that hold, however, the true crime of this play was committed on the Arizona Cardinals 15 yard line. Cardinals RB Tim Hightower had an angle to push Harrison out of bounds as the Steelers entourage rumbled down the field, but as Hightower neared the ball-carrier, LaMarr Woodley placed two hands in Hightower’s back and pushed him to the ground. No question, rock-solid, no doubt clipping penalty. The bad news is that this textbook clipping call was ignored. The worse news is that instead of calling either of the Pittsburgh infractions, the referees opted to flag Arizona for a 15 yard facemask penalty! If the play was called correctly, Pittsburgh would have penalized, the Harrison touchdown would have been negated, and the score at half would have been Pittsburgh 10, Arizona 7. A far cry from the 17-7 deficit the Cardinals faced entering the second half.

Play #3 – Kurt Warner Allegedly Fumbles in a Tuck Rule-esque Play (3rd Quarter 11:02) – On 3rd and 6, Kurt Warner dropped back in the pocket and faced quick pressure from Steelers LB James Farrior. Warner attempted to throw the ball, but his right arm was struck as the ball was released. The Steelers pounced on what they perceived to be a fumble while the officiating crew made up their minds on what exactly had happened. The umpire hesitated to make a call, but the side judge rushed to the field and signaled a first down for Pittsburgh. Ken Whisenhunt again threw his challenge flag, and again the call on the field was overturned.
The Controversy –
This was not the most influential play of the game, but it was significant nonetheless. This play was one of two in the entire game that was challenged by either coach. Of the two plays challenged, both were calls that went against the Cardinals, and both were found to be incorrect upon further review. Take it for what you will, but Ken Whisenhunt was forced to risk his timeouts (while trailing) TWICE to make sure that the referees called the game accurately. Mike Tomlin, on the other hand, gave his challenge flag away as a souvenir at half time. No one seemed to notice, however, as he never needed it.

Play #4 – Big Ben Redefines Intentional Grounding (3rd Quarter 7:41) – On 1st and 10, the Steelers opted to attack the Cardinals via the air. Big Ben stepped back in the pocket and was immediately pressured by two blitzing linebackers. He scanned his reads, found no one, and tossed the ball non-chalantly to the left sideline. Ben was still in the pocket, and the nearest Pittsburgh receiver may have been running back Willie Parker, who remained in the backfield to block (translation: this ball was thrown to NOWHERE). No flag was thrown for intentional grounding, however, but the Steelers did gain yards on a call that you will read about next.
The Controversy –
Not to be repetitive, but let’s review the play. Big Ben was in the pocket. Check. He threw the ball with no apparent intended receiver. Check. That sounds like an air-tight case of intentional grounding. The refs didn’t see it that way, however, as the Back Judge said after the game, “Intentional Grounding? No, we didn’t see it that way. We were just having too much fun watching our offense play to hinder the drive at that point.” The pass fell incomplete and no intentional grounding was called. At leas the Steelers burned a down, right? This leads us to the next controversial call.

Play #5 – Karlos Dansby Flagged For Roughing the Passer (3rd Quarter 7:41) – On the previously referenced play, Ben Roethlisberger flung the ball into oblivion and then met up with Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby. Dansby was a few steps from Roethlisberger when the ball was released, followed through his run, and knocked Big Ben to the ground. The referees flagged Dansby for roughing the passer, adding another fifteen yards to a drive that had already been given a facemask penalty (which was completely legit— Rodgers-Cromartie definitely had a handful of facemask).
The Controversy –
There were two potential infractions on the play. One was against Pittsburgh and one was against Arizona. In this case, the one against Pittsburgh was not called, while Arizona had no such luck. Even if the referees wanted to call the Dansby penalty, they should have also called the intentional grounding, let the penalties offset, and let the teams try and settle the game (not the refs). Ironically, the majority opinion in America is that the calls should have gone the complete opposite way. The hit by Dansby was a truly “bang-bang” hit, and quick enough after the release to avoid being dirty. Any objective sports reporter would call that roughing penalty either ticky-tack, nit-picky, or just plain wrong (google it if you don’t believe me). On the other hand, no one can figure out why Big Ben was not flagged for grounding on that play. Had the calls been made correctly, either the penalties would have negated eachother (if both were called) or the Steelers would have been backed up a considerable distance (if only the grounding was called).

Adrian Wilson Can Beat Up Punters

Adrian Wilson Can Beat Up Any Punter In The NFL

Play #6 – Adrian Wilson Flagged for Running Over the Holder (3rd Quarter 3:36) – 3rd and Goal on the 9 yard line and Ben Roethlisberger misses his target to the left side of the field. This was a small victory for the Cardinals, as they forced the Steelers to kick a field goal for the second time inside of the 10 yard line. It was all for not, however, as Cardinals S Adrian Wilson ran over Steelers holder Mitch Berger after the ball was kicked. Wilson was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and the Steelers were given half the distance to the goal line and an automatic first down.
The Controversy
– I cannot argue that Wilson did not hit Berger. I can, however, argue that this was another ticky-tack call on the same Steelers offensive drive. Wilson pulled up as he neared Berger and as he ran into him Wilson spread his legs and walked over top of him. This was not “unnecessary roughness” or a malicious intent to take a cheap shot at the holder. Running over the holder is flagged when a player actually hits the holder, not grazes over him. I found it interesting that Berger was the holder in question here, as his theatrics two weeks ago versus the Ravens earned the Steelers a Roughing the Kicker penalty while punting (Berger earned an Oscar by taking a fall while not being hit). The Steelers got a first down and three more cracks at the endzone. Their offense sputtered again inside the 10 yard line, however, and after three tries to score they settled for a Jeff Reed field goal.

Play #7 – James Harrison (Legally) Clubs Kurt Warner in the Head (4th Quarter 13:55) – On 3rd and 13, Kurt Warner dropped back, felt pressure from All-Pro James Harrison, and was forced into a bad pass. As Warner released the ball, Harrison reached out and swatted Warner’s helmet with his arm. Little attention was given to the play, and as a result of the incompletion the Cardinals were forced to punt.
The Controversy
– What no one has mentioned about this Cardinals drive is that a penalty was missed that would have extended the drive. James Harrison delivered a blow to Kurt Warners head as the ball was released. While the timing of the hit was legal, delivering a blow to any quarterback’s head is an immediate Roughing the Passer penalty. No immediate damage was done, as the Steelers took the ball, went 3-and-out, and returned it via punt. However, it is unsettling to see a Steelers drive extended by a questionable Roughing the Passer penalty in the 3rd Quarter, while a Cardinals drive is not afforded the same luxury when the situation arises.

Play #8 – James Harrison Goes Postal on Aaron Francisco (4th Quarter 3:34) – The Cardinals moved the ball down to the Pittsburgh 26 yard line, but were quickly sent backwards as an offensive lineman was called for holding. On 4th and 20 (from the Pittsburgh 36) the Cardinals chose to play for field position instead of risking a turnover on downs. The plan worked perfectly, as Punter Ben Graham booted the football inside the 10 yard line where it was downed on the 1. As the ball was downed a flag was thrown in the offensive backfield. The referee declared the following: “After the change of possession, personal foul, #92 of the return team, half the distance to the goal, first down Pittsburgh.” Pittsburgh began the drive at their own ½ yard line and subsequently committed a self-inflicted safety.
The Controversy –
Everything seemed fine and dandy until the Harrison/Francisco debacle hit the replay screen. James Harrison was shown pushing Francisco while he lay on his stomach, then delivering a concise punch to Francisco’s side. To make matters worse, once Francisco stood up, Harrison grabbed him by the shoulder pads and drove him backwards into the ground. First and foremost, James Harrison should have been immediately ejected from the game. I’m not saying this would have influenced the game, as the Steelers defense didn’t really do much in the second half anyways, but I’m saying that this play should have been severely punished (I’m sure there will be fines/suspensions coming from Commissioner Goodell). No one argued that this penalty was undeserved, but the controversy arose when the refs had to determine how the penalty would affect the game. The referee announced this penalty as “after the change of possession,” but the replay clearly shows Harrison punching Francisco before the ball has even been kicked. Had it been blown dead, the foul would have been announced “After the play,” but instead it was “after the change of possession,” signaling that the foul occurred during the play. I don’t see how James Harrison body-slamming an offensive lineman does not warrant a personal foul to extend the drive, especially in such a crucial drive (only three and a half minutes left in the game). The penalty was too soft on Harrison and the referees determination of possession was suspect at best.

Play #9 – Santonio Holmes’ Touchdown Celebration (4th Quarter 0:35) – With 0:35 remaining in the game, Ben Roethlisberger found WR Santonio Holmes by the far sideline of the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. The throw was put where only Holmes could get it, and he made a spectacular toe-dragging grab to deliver the winning score. After he was mobbed by teammates, Holmes stood up to celebrate the touchdown. Using the football as an imaginary bottle, Holmes mimicked Lebron James’ pregame ritual of shaking powder onto his hands and throwing it up in the air.

The Lebron James Endzone Dance

The "Lebron" Endzone Dance

The Controversy – The NFL has taken a hard stance against excessive celebration in recent years. According to NFL rules, any use of the football as a prop in a touchdown celebration constitutes excessive celebration and is to be penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. In Super Bowl XLIII the NFL and the referees had an opportunity to show that they were taking a hard-line against endzone celebrations. Instead, the referees chickened out and kept their flags tucked in tight to their belts. While I may not have agreed with the call (as it would have been pretty tacky), the bottom line is that any use of the football as a prop is grounds for excessive celebration, and Santonio Holmes indisputably did just that. If the referees in this game hadn’t been gutless, the Steelers would have been kicking off from their own 15 yard line.

Play #10 – Kurt Warner Fumbles the Football in the Closing Seconds (4th Quarter 0:15) – On 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 44, Kurt Warner failed to find an open receiver in his initial reads. This indecision caused him to bounce around the pocket, eventually being gobbled up by LaMarr Woodley. Warner appeared to throw the ball forward, but the ruling on the field was a fumble and the Steelers took possession to close out the game. While Warner visually objected to the ruling, the replay officials did not deem the play worthy of review. Roethlisberger took a knee, and the Pittsburgh Steelers won their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
The Controversy –
Quite possibly, if this play were reviewed, the replay officials would have determined that the call on the field was correct. Much to the discontent of Arizona fans, if the play were overturned the Cardinals would have probably still lost the Super Bowl. That being said, I find it ridiculous that the NFL did not even offer the formality of reviewing a game-determining play. Had the referee gone to the booth and determined that the call on the field was correct, it would have comforted fans more than leaving the possibility open that referees blew the call and neglected to review it. Again, if it were overturned by some fluke, odds are that the Steelers would have still held on for victory. But in the closing seconds of a game of this caliber, you have to at least show that every measure was taken to ensure fairness.

It was a great game, but I’d be lying if I said I was satisfied with the officiating. Read and react with what you think about the officiating.

sk.

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