BLOOM BACK ON THE ROSE?

BLOOM BACK ON THE ROSE?

Last Monday, Peter Edward Rose made a formal request to be reinstated by Major League Baseball and asked that his lifetime ban be lifted.  Newly-minted Commissioner Rob Manfred responded by stating he would consider the request “on its merits”.  Spoken like a true attorney.

To be or not to be.

He loves me, he loves me not . . .

Will he or won’t he.

What’s with taking the oath of Commissionership that requires a bombshell be thrown in your lap within the first few months?  Adam Silver had V. Stiviano and now Rob Manfred has Pete Rose.

So what to do with Pete Rose?  If Manfred pulled out a legal pad, drew a line down the middle, and starting listing pros and cons, he might have to cut down a few yellow trees before he came to a conclusion.  The simple question is: Has Pete Rose paid enough of a penalty?  He has been banished from baseball – his one true love (replaced in recent years by money) – for over 25 years.  Does that punishment fit the crime?

Apropos of nothing, as of 2013, 30% of murderers convicted and sent away on life sentences are let out of jail in less than 10 years, with an overall average of 16 years of incarceration.  Now, I am not comparing Pete Rose’s betting on baseball to murder – not at all – I am just trying to show, for hyperbolic effect, how long a 25-year (and counting) sentence actually is.

It can be readily acknowledged that Pete Rose did something that we, as a society and as fans of baseball, feel is inherently wrong.  We can also agree that in the years leading up to and following his banishment, Rose did not acquit himself very well.  Time and again, when the powers-that-be were looking for contrition, they got stubbornness.  When they were looking for remorse, they got obstinacy.  He held his ground for nearly 15 years.  Who knew you could hold your breath for that long?!?

It was not until 2004 when Pete finally admitted what everyone knew all along.  Unfortunately, the timing of his (ahem) confession was marred on two fronts:

(1)  It was done not in the service of baseball, but in the service of making a buck.  Pete made his confession 3 days before his autobiography “My Prison Without Bars” was released.  People could not help but think this was less about seeking forgiveness than about seeking book sales.

(2)  It was done on the eve of the announcement of the 2004 Hall of Fame class.  Knowing that he most likely would never be enshrined in Cooperstown, Pete took the occasion to piss on the Hall’s doorstep.

Stay classy, San Diego.

But, for the past decade, Pete has been a relatively model citizen.  He has not ruffled too many feathers (other than setting up card tables for autographs on Hall of Fame weekend), and has basically kept as low a profile as one could ever hope/expect from the Pete Rose.

Here is the real: Baseball is better when Pete Rose is involved.  You cannot deny what he brought to the diamond for nearly 25 years.  The hustle, the heart, the hits (both the Harrelson and base varieties).

 

(3:16 mark)

The fact of the matter is that Pete Rose played in more games, had more at bats, and got more hits, than any player in MLB history.  Chew on that for a moment.  He is an icon in Cincinnati, and he is a legend of the game.  He has paid his penance.  He should be allowed back in . . . with conditions.

Many people considerably smarter and more knowledgeable than I have written extensively on this topic, but I think I agree with the following premise: Pete Rose should be allowed back into the game on a limited basis.  He should be allowed to come to the park, participate in team activities, and be honored at major events (e.g., the All-Star Game this summer in Cincinnati).  He should not be allowed to be an executive or an on-field coach.  He should not be allowed to be in a position to affect the outcome of any game.  That seems easy enough, and Manfred could tailor this reinstatement in a way that preserves Bart Giamatti’s original intentions, without looking like he is reversing his predecessor’s course.

Little Known Fact #1 (that would be more widely known if you read Jayson Stark’s columns or his book “Wild Pitches”): In 2003, former teammates Mike Schmidt and Joe Morgan arranged a meeting between themselves, Bud Selig, and Pete, for Pete to fall on his sword, acknowledge his mistakes, apologize, and then, ostensibly, be reinstated.  For reasons that a whole school of psychologists could spend semesters debating, Pete could not bring himself to the table.  No meeting, no apology, no reinstatement.  And here we sit today.

Okay, so let’s assume Manfred is inclined to let Rose back in.  That always leads to the $64,000/bronze-plated question: Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?  Sure, of course, without question, maybe.  The answer is multi-layered, but before we go to the merits, we need to know who will be hearing the evidence.

Little Known Fact #2 (that would be more widely known only if you are a total and complete baseball nerd and/or live in upstate New York and/or write a blog that maybe a few people read): While the Baseball Writers Association of America is the organization we customarily associate with Hall of Fame voting, they will not play any part in the Pete Rose discussion because he has been retired for too many years (this form of eligibility expires 15 years after retirement).  Thus, his election (or lack thereof) will be determined by one of the Veteran Committees.  There are three (Pre-Integration Era (1876-1946), Golden Era (1947-1972), and Expansion Era (1973-Present).  Pete overlaps the last two, but would most likely fall under the Expansion Era Committee.

This Committee is comprised of 16 people, including prior HOF inductees, executives, and veteran media members.  And, if you are looking for a quick resolution, don’t.  The Committee doesn’t meet again until the Fall of 2016 for potential induction in 2017.  Manfred has some time to cool his heels and ponder reinstatement.

To quote Vin Scully, “it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway”.  Pete Rose’s on-field achievements are Hall of Fame worthy.  It truly comes down to his integrity.  Do we believe he should be excluded from the Hall of Fame because his lack of integrity (at least with respect to betting on baseball) potentially affected the integrity of the game?

Little Known Fact #3 (and by little known, I mean widely known): The Hall of Fame is filled with people who lacked integrity, who were scofflaws, liars, cheaters, racists, and drug addicts, guys who through actions and deeds potentially affected the integrity of the game.  It must be really hard to get a good view of all that when standing on top of Mount Pious.  But I digress.

Little Know Fact #4: Pete Rose retired in 1986, and (but for being banned from baseball in 1989) would have been eligible to be on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1992.  Shockingly, in 1991 the Hall ruled that players on the permanently ineligible list could not be voted in.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Here is where I land on the issue: The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum.  It is not intended to be a home for the better angels of the game, but rather a collection of the game’s history.  It should include the whole story, warts and all.  (And, by the way, many pieces of Pete’s equipment already reside in the Hall’s permanent collection.)

My solution is easy: Let him in, and put it all on the plaque.  Pete’s plaque could look like this:

Pete Rose Plaque 3

That is what I would do.  And, while we are on the topic, I would do the same thing for everyone who is Hall of Fame worthy but has been suspected of PED use.  Put them in the Hall of Fame, tell the story, allow us to bring our kids to the museum so we can share our and their stories with the next generation – the good, the bad, and the suspected.  I believe that is what Cooperstown was originally intended to represent.

Because, whether the baseball purists like it or not, try as they might, we simply cannot just ignore history.

Opening Day is just 2 weeks from Sunday.

PLAY BALL!

HOWE WILL JOSH’S STORY END?

HOWE WILL JOSH’S STORY END?

As I think I may have mentioned here in the past, each morning, before I even put two feet on the floor, I check Peter Gammons’ “Around the Majors” blog.  He always have useful tidbits from the day before, and loads of advanced metrics that even true baseball nerds would find overwhelming.  And each day, at the end of the blog, he lists current and former MLBer birthdays.  These birthdays will be the source material for another posting at another time, but one name earlier this week got me thinking.

On March 10 , it would have been Steve Howe’s 48th birthday.  You read that right, it would have been.  I am not sure how I missed – or more likely just forgot – that Steve Howe died.  I feel pretty confident that if you are reading this, you are well aware of Steve Howe, his career, and his downfall.  I would go so far as to guess that more than half of you know the exact number of times he was suspended (make your guess, the answer is below).  But I have to relate that I was shocked to realize (or be reminded) that he died in 2006.  And that got me thinking about our modern day Steve Howe   . . . Josh Hamilton.

If you all know Steve Howe’s story, I am certain that you know Josh Hamilton’s story.  But even if you do, it is worth recapping some of the high/lowlights:

He was the Number One pick in the MLB Draft in 1999 (ahead of Josh Beckett), and received a signing bonus of just under $4M.

In the Minors “he was introduced to tattoos and alcohol” (per his bio), and had his first rehab stint in 2001.  He checked in to Betty Ford in 2002.

In 2003, he showed up late for training camp and ended up missing the entire season for various “personal reasons” (including substance abuse).

In 2004, he failed at least three drug tests and was suspended for the entire season.

He tried a comeback in 2005, but was arrested for vandalism.  He relapsed again (was he ever sober?) in 2006, and, you guessed it, missed the entire season.

During the 2006 season Josh began a slow and steady rise out of the abyss, starting when he showed up on his grandmother’s porch, strung out and penniless.  Through hard work, dedication, an amazing support system, and an unbelievably forgiving MLB community, Josh was given a sixth chance.  And he made the most of it.

He played amazingly well for the Reds in 2007, but lost out to Ryan Braun (ironically) for Rookie of the Year.  He was traded at the end of the season to the Rangers.

2008 was a break out year, with the crowning achievement either:

  • His show of shows in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium (worth the watch).

OR

In 2009, even though injured for part of the season, Josh was an All-Star.  The season, however, was marred when his old demons reared their head and Josh ended up hammered in a bar in Arizona.  It is unclear if he spent any time in rehab after this incident.

Regardless, he bounced back in 2010 with just the following (despite missing 29 games due to injury):

  • Batting title with a .359 average.
  • Led the AL with a 1.044 OPS.
  • ALCS MVP.
  • And finally, the American League MVP.

In 2011, Hamilton chapped my personal hide by diving head first into home plate and breaking his hand.  Well played, sir/jackass.  And he still hit 25 homeruns.  And then he was one Nelson Cruz catch away from being the MVP of the World Series.

In 2012, he went 5-5, with 4 two-run dingers in a game in Baltimore:

But that season ended with Hamilton first misplaying a flyball in the division championship game against the A’s:

and then striking out in his final at bat as the Rangers fans booed him:

As we all know, Arte Moreno backed up the Brinks truck around Christmas, 2012, and gave Josh a 5-year/$125M contract.  In my humble opinion, signing with the Angels was the beginning of the end.  When Josh was playing in Cincinnati and Texas, those teams employed a gentlemen named Johnny Narron to serve as a special assignment coach and Josh’s mentor.  Johnny traveled with Josh and stayed at his side nearly every minute of every day.  When with the Rangers, their then-manager, Ron Washington, was a recovering cocaine addict, so he was especially attuned Josh’s problems and needs.

However, when the Angels signed Josh, they did not bring Narron along.  The reasons for this are a mystery (made more mysterious by the fact that they eventually hired him last year, but not at the Major League level).  So Josh did not have the same support system in Anaheim that he had in Cincinnati and Dallas.  And guess what happened?

We may never know (and it’s not our business) how many relapses Hamilton has had in the past few years.  His most recent descent involved alcohol and cocaine, and he voluntarily confessed his sins to the Commissioner – it is not like he was caught doing lines in the bullpen.  Because of the manner in which Josh came back into the league in 2007, per an edict by the Commissioner, he does not automatically fall under the MLB Drug Program.  Rather, a four-person disciplinary committee was convened to determine his fate, and they deadlocked.  Thus, a neutral, third party arbitrator will make the final decision regarding Josh’s current predicament.

The Angels owe Hamilton $83M between now and the end of the 2017 season.  Ouch!  There is hope (quiet, unspoken, but hope nonetheless) within the Angels organization that he gets suspended, giving them some salary relief.  (If he is sent to rehab, he would be owed his full salary for 30 days, then half his salary for the next 30 days — a total of $6.2 million.  If he is suspended and not in treatment, he would not be paid.  It is unclear whether the Angels would have to pay Hamilton at all if he previously entered a rehabilitation program that lasted at least 60 days.  Heady and expensive questions to be decided by a single judge.)

But should the Angels get any relief?  As it is commonly said, “they bought their ticket”, or as we lawyers like to say, caveat emptor.  They knew what they were getting when the signed the contract; they didn’t provided the necessary support system; and even if they had, they had to know that relapse was nearly inevitable.  (The statistics say that between 50-90% of addicts relapse at some point.  I could not find specific statistics of repeated relapsers.)

I am pulling for Josh.  Not because he plays for a local team, and not because I care about the Angels throwing away nine figures on a broken down drug abuser, but because I am a fan of greatness.  And from 2010-2012, Josh was the picture of greatness.  A five-tool player who made it look too easy and was required viewing whenever he came to the plate.

As a side note, my friend Matt represented Hamilton when he came back with the Reds.  Josh called him after the season to say he was switching agents.  This was not because of anything Matt had done, but because Matt was Jewish; and Josh felt more comfortable being represented by a born-again Christian like him, someone who had also turned his life over to Christ.  My son and I ran into Matt at the 2010 All-Star game, and we asked him if it was still okay to root for Josh (friendship over fandom).  Matt’s response: “Of course, he’s too great a player and too great a guy not to root for him”.  That was all the license I needed.

How(e) will Josh’s story end?  Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself.  I have this feeling, this pit in my stomach, that one day we will open the Sports Page (or fire up the browser) like we did in 2006 (and then forgot about), and learn that another talented baseball player with a checkered past was found dead; another player gone as the result of some drug-fueled accident that we all saw coming a thousand miles away.  For the sake of Josh, his family, and for fans of baseball , Boy do I hope I am wrong!

PLAY BALL!!

Trivia Answer: 7

p.s.  For those who have known me a long time, Happy Birthday to this guy:

Blog_Will_Clark

Opening Gay (A Conversation)

OPENING GAY (A Conversation)

Daniel Murphy, the Mets second baseman, skipped Opening Day last season to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.  He got a ton a flak for that in the New York media – as would be expected as they give flak for essentially anything.  At the time – and still to this day – I commend(ed) him for this decision.  It wasn’t Game 7 of the World Series, and there would/should be many more Opening Days, but that is a moment that you can never get back.  So, other than being a slick fielder, swinging a good left-handed stick, and wearing Franklin batting gloves, that was about all I knew about Daniel Murphy.  And what I knew, I liked.

Fast forward 11 months.

But first, fast forward 4 months or flashback 7 months; however you want to flip the calendar.

Last July, then-Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former Major Leaguer Billy Bean as MLB’s first Ambassador of Inclusion.  In case you don’t know Billy’s story (he is not the Moneyball G.M. of the Athletics; this is Billy Bean without the “e”), he played in the Majors for part of six seasons.  He retired in 1995 because it was too difficult to hide his sexuality from his family, his friends, his teammates, and the fans.  In 1999, at the age of 35, Billy came out publicly.  And he has handled the fallout ever since.

MLB, having dealt with the likes of John Rocker, Ozzie Guillen, Yunel Escobar, and Roger McDowell, decided to be proactive.  They created the position of Ambassador of Inclusion in an effort to “offer guidance and training and to encourage equal opportunities for gays and lesbians in Major and Minor League clubs”.

Billy’s first few months in the position were relatively uneventful.  Then, he accepted Mets’ G.M. Sandy Alderson’s invitation to address the team at Spring Training.  Billy came in, gave a short speech, donned a uniform, and pitched the last round of batting practice.  All was right with the world.  After the workout, some journalists asked Daniel Murphy about Bean’s visit.   A quick, but very important, side note: Murphy is a devout Christian.  His response, however, may surprise you.  Herewith:

“I disagree with his lifestyle.  I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual.  That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him.  I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect.  Getting to know him.  That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.

Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality.  We love the people.  We disagree the lifestyle.  That’s the way I would describe it for me.  It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life.  There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride.  I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says just because I disagree with the lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m just never going to speak to Billy Bean every time he walks through the door.  That’s not love.  That’s not love at all.”

There is so much in that statement, and I truly don’t know what to do with any/all of it.  This Blog never intends to be overtly or overly political, and certainly not religious, but I could not keep myself from throwing this out there to see what other people have to say, what you all think.

If we put aside the word “lifestyle” for just a second (which I know you can’t), the statement may be a model of what we want to teach our kids about accepting people who are, who look, who think, who act differently than we do.

If a devout Christian who has “surrender[ed] to Christ” can love someone who they vehemently disagree with, then the lyrics to Imagine may not be an impossible dream.  If you can “acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours”, then maybe there is hope for mankind.  [Bonus points for anyone who can give attribution to that quote. Link below.]

Unfortunately, we have no choice but to come back to the word “lifestyle”.  How much stock should we put into that word and that concept?  Is Murphy’s statement the start of a better dialogue and understanding, or is as far as some people will ever go on the issue?  Billy Bean seems to think the former:

“After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth.  I really do.  I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me.  He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.

I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me.  We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing.  But it’s a start.

The silver lining in his comments are that he would be open to investing in a relationship with a teammate, even if he ‘disagrees’ with the lifestyle.  It may not be perfect, but I do see him making an effort to reconcile his religious beliefs with his interpretation of the word lifestyle.  It took me 32 years to fully accept my sexual orientation, so it would be hypocritical of me to not be patient with others.

Inclusion means everyone, plain and simple.  Daniel is part of that group.  A Major League clubhouse is now one of the most diverse places in sports.  It wasn’t always that way, but we can thank No. 42 for that.  So in his honor, with a little patience, compassion and hard work, we’ll get there.”

I am conflicted, but Billy has considerably more credibility on this issue than do I.  So, after hearing Billy speak on the matter, I felt pretty positive; pretty upbeat.  And then I switched the channel to CNN and heard a retired neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins, a man who is contemplating a run for President, say that homosexuality is a choice because people “go into prison straight – and when they come out, they’re gay”.  And then my head exploded.

I don’t have any answers, just more questions.  What I do know is that, fortunately, in my quiet little corner of the world, my kids are being raised in a community where being gay is only different in that it is not the norm.  Most kids in our neighborhood have a mom and a dad; but some have a mom and mom while others have a dad and a dad; and my kids have a stepmom and a dad.  Regardless of your beliefs on this issue, I think it is important to discuss it openly – out of the closet, so to speak – so that people can make their own informed and impassioned assessments.

Billy’s appearance at Mets’ camp and Daniel’s statement have not received nearly enough media coverage (what with private email accounts, and racist fraternity members, and NFL free agency), but it really should.  If for no other reason than the more light that is shone, the better we can understand the issues and each other.

And with that I say, truly unironically . . .

PLAY BALL!!!

 

p.s.         The answer to the question asked above is at 1:22.

 

LIFE LESSONS

LIFE LESSONS

The crack of the bat.

The pop of the glove.

The smell of the grass.

The click of the smart phone?

Ah, Spring Training is here.

If you are wondering which of the above is not like the other, you may have missed the current brouhaha involving Curt Schilling and his daughter, Gabby.

For starters, I have great ambivalence about Curt Schilling.  I have always found him to be pompous, arrogant, a poor businessman, and little too far to the right of Rush Limbaugh for my taste.  But then there is that small issue of the bloody sock and one of the greatest Willis Reed moments in the history of baseball (top two below). Theo Epstein showed up at his house for Thanksgiving dinner in 2003; Schilling promised Theo he would bring a championship to Boston; and 11 months later he helped Reverse the Curse.  And now this.

Blog_Bloody_Sock_1  Blog_Gibson_1

If you missed this story amongst the A-Rod hype or the LeSean McCoy trade or your own Little League opening days, it goes a little something like this: Curt Schilling has a 17-year old daughter who just got offered a scholarship to play softball at Salve Regina University.  As any proud papa might, Curt tweeted out congratulations.

Blog_Gabby_Tweet

What followed was shocking, but not necessarily unexpected. Internet/Twitter trolls started responding with some of the most vicious, hateful, nasty, and obscene comments you can imagine. (Note: I will not quote or link to any of them here.  If you are so inclined, they are available all over the Web.)  Okay, you think, that’s what happens on the Internet.  Maybe you, but not Schill.

No, Schill went all William Foster on some of these jackasses.  He (or some intern at ESPN) dug around and found out who these trolls are, where they work, where they go to school, and most importantly, their actual names.  And then he proceeded to blast that info across the Internet.

 

One of the guys is a part-time ticket seller for Yankees.  Or at least he was.  He has been fired.  A student at Brookdale Community College has been suspended.  As of now, Schilling has decided not to go after any of the others, but he is looking into all legal options.

A couple of yahoos clicked 140 characters and probably had a good chuckle.  I guess they didn’t see this coming:

But wow, is there a life lesson to be learned here.

For me, the most important line of the movie “Social Network” is when Rooney Mara tells Jesse Eisenberg that the Internet is written in ink.

This is a message I have tried – time and again – to communicate to my teenage niece and nephew, and that which I am increasingly trying to get across to my soon-to-be teenage son.

Every kid I know has an iPhone or an iPod, with texting and Instagram and now Snapchat, and other apps just like them.  Soon they will be on Facebook.  But they simply don’t have the mental capacity to know – to truly understand – the implications of what they do/post/write.  We need to take advantage of these moments.

The Gabby Schilling situation has brought to the fore, writ large, what can happen when people write things on the Internet that they would never write on the blackboard in front of class or say to a person’s face.  And now, for at least two people, any Google search of their name will forever make reference to behavior that is/was/and always will be deemed deplorable.

While I am not sure what to do with the specific language in some of the horrendous tweets, I do want to share the entire story with my son so he can see the real-life, long-term consequences of what, I am sure, seemed like momentary cyber fun.

As I have said before, sports often offer up some of the best life lessons.  It is just a shame that Gabby Schilling had to go through this ringer so that we might be in a better position to teach our kids.

One last note: Opening Day is but 1 month away.

PLAY BALL!!