That first month of the baseball season was pretty awful, don't you think?
Actually, pal, I think it was very awful.
My inner voice is right and the organization known as Major League Baseball had better pay attention.
When the news came on Sunday morning that Cardinals reliever Josh Hancock had been killed in an automobile accident, it marked an unbelievably terrible end to a miserable month.
Nothing else that happened can compare to the tragedy of an athlete dying young and we don't mean to equate anything with Hancock's passing, but there are clouds hanging over MLB that are obscuring the great game of baseball.
The biggest shadow is the steroids debacle. For all the claims that the MLB testing program is having some impact, when Kirk Radomski pleaded guilty to distributing performance enhancing drugs and it became known that he had testified before the Balco Grand Jury as part of his plea deal, the earth shook under this business's foundation. And cracks are starting to show.
Radomski cut his baseball teeth as a clubhouse ‘boy' at Shea Stadium for the Mets from 1985-95. Think about those Mets teams--Doc Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Kevin Mitchell, Lenny Dykstra, Wally Backman--all guys who had some connection to some form of behavior that entailed substance abuse. Do you think Kirk learned from them, or that they learned from Kirk? Betting here is it was a little of both. I spent some time in the Mets clubhouse in the late 80s and let's just say the credentialed media (of which I was one) had a hard time finding a place to do an interview or get a rundown on the game because the room was filled with assorted hangers-on, friends, family, and who knows what. All of them had visitors' passes giving them the run of the place. Manager Davey Johnson had no more interest in clearing that room than I did in sticking my noggin in front of a Gooden heater.
So now, 12 years after he left Mets employ, Radomski resurfaces. "He did his job in the clubhouse," former Met and now Red Sox batting coach Dave Magadan recalled the other day. "You threw the jocks on the floor. He picked them up. He was good at what he did." Some endorsement. He was good at picking up jockstraps. The other thing that Magadan recalled was this: "He was huge. I mean, huge."
And alongside, or looming over, the huge Radomski, is the big-headed elephant in the room, one Barry Lamar Bonds. MLB is trying its best to ignore Bonds, perhaps hoping he'll step in a hole and ruin his knee and end his career with 745 homers, second place and forgotten. Not gonna happen. By the way, who was it who wondered, as opposed to the question of which hat a player wears for his Hall of Fame plaque, what size hat would be on ol' Barry's plaque, the 7 ¼ of the early 90s or one that fits over his now enhanced pumpkin?
Barry's hitting homers at a Bondsian clip and the inevitable awaits. As we said before, deal with it Bud.
From lousy weather to lousy Yankees, this first month has displeased greatly. And before you Red Sox yowlers start crowing about the Yankees demise, can you really be so excited about Manny not being Manny and hitting .215 or Dice K's ERA growing with each start or with the tale of the bloody sock. Ahh, the bloody sock. Can there ever have been a more stupid story more over-covered and more mis-handled. This annoyance makes the news of Anna Nicole Smith's death look like the coverage of the Pentagon Papers.
What else? Did you know the other night in Baltimore the umpires awarded a run to the Orioles three innings after it happened.
What? Can't happen.
This time, inner voice, you're wrong. It shouldn't happen, but it did.
Baltimore was leading, 2-1, in the top of the third. Nick Markakis was on third and Miguel Tejada on first, when, with one out, Ramon Hernandez hit a line drive to center. Grady Sizemore made a diving catch. Markakis tagged up, headed home and appeared to cross the plate before Tejada was doubled off first. Plate umpire Marvin Hudson waved off the run. The Orioles disputed Hudson's call before the start of the fourth, and Hudson conferred with crew chief Ed Montague and the other umpires.
"We kicked it around and now I'm having a brain cramp on it," Montague said. So he sent umpire Bill Miller in to check the rulebook. " I said 'You know what cause we're debating. You go in. Lets make it 100 percent sure."' Miller checked the rule and apparently said the run should have counted. So naturally, they didn't count it...until three innings later. Hey Montague, that ain't a brain cramp--it's more like some mysterious amnesia.
Throughout that awful month umpires seemed to be making it up on the fly. One game I saw, Mets Manager Willie Randolph got tossed when first base ump -- Tony Randazzo, blew a call against his Mets for a third time. Later, Randazzo, playing catch-up, blew one in favor of the Mets enabling them to tie the Nationals in the ninth and then win in 12. Not exactly what anyone had in mind.
Speaking of the Nats, the good news for them is that they're not the worst team in baseball, just the National League. It's the old, reliable KC Royals who again are baseball's worst. Saw that KC was the first team to end three straight Aprils ten games under .500. Think about that before you go out to buy tickets for that KC-Tampa Bay Devil Rays series later this season.
Surely you check the disabled list. Randy Johnson, BJ Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jaret Wright, Mike Mussina, Jason Schmidt, Hideki Matsui, Kaz Matsui, Ramon Hernandez, Jim Thome and on and on. Some have been on the list; some are still on it and it makes you wonder: Why is everyone getting hurt? Weather? Roids withdrawal? Bad trainers? Bad karma?
Nobody's hitting with the possible exception of ARod and Vladimir Guerrero. And what's with the NL's two most recent MVPs? All world Albert Pujols is following his surly World Series act with a very ordinary start. He'll get better...we think. But in Philly things really couldn't be going more wrong. MVP Ryan Howard is batting .215 with three homers. Jimmy Rollins is a marked man for having proclaimed the Phils the team to beat. Rollins did have a good April and if that doesn't show that things are upside down, what does?
And we leave you with the spectacle of Phillies' manager (as of this writing) Charlie Manuel challenging some Philly sports-talk bozo to a fight. Hey, Charlie, don't keep fulfilling all those low expectations people have for you.