Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Robbie Alomar- Fact or Fiction?

I am sure that many sport and Blue Jays fans are familiar with former second baseman, and Hall of Fame member Robbie Alomar. He was a great player for the Jays and also for many other teams including the Orioles and the Indians.

Alomar was known as being a versatile player with a solid bat, good speed and spectacular range and defensive prowess. He was what every team would love to have at the top of a lineup and up the middle. He hit for average, had some power at the plate and could turn a double play as well as just about any other player to ever play his position. A truly deserving inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame and a key member to the Blue Jays World Series Championship teams. He can be put right up there as one of the best second basemen of all time with the tools he had in his prime.

All of this is common knowledge and known by most, that is far from the interesting part. I am sure that both sports fans and regular people are at least familiar with hearing that back in 1996 Alomar was involved in a spitting incident involving an umpire.  Alomar got into a heated argument over a called third strike with umpire John Hirschbeck and spat in his face. He defended himself by saying Hirschbeck had uttered a racial slur and that Hirschbeck had been bitter since one son had died of ALD and another had been recently diagnosed as well. Upon hearing this public disclosure of his private life, Hirschbeck had to be physically restrained from confronting Alomar in the players' locker room.

This is where the un-proven and never verified part comes into play, and is part of a bigger part of the story that I had not heard before just a few days ago. Like I said before, I remember the story but never this version and now that it was mentioned it kind of makes sense and is a very interesting theory. This is all just alleged but is a somewhat plausible explanation. It was said that Alomar had heard a racial slur from Hirschbeck. Perhaps it was not a racial slur but maybe it was a sexual preference slur. If this was the case it would help validate the second part, the part that was a little more interesting.

Alomar joined the Mets in 2002 and it was in this time period that It was during this era that the "Mike Piazza is Gay" rumors began -- somewhat as a result of comments that Bobby Valentine made about Major League Baseball being ready to accept an openly gay athlete. This was a big deal at the time, so much so that it forced Piazza to hold a press conference to make a formal announcement with his model girlfriend saying he was not gay, that he was heterosexual. No active player has come out as being openly gay and to have to hold a press conference to state your orientation was big news. It was because of this that many still believe that Piazza is gay and he was just trying to get get ahead of a possible story. What was news to me was the possibility that Valentines comments were possibly made in regards to another prominent Met at the time...Robbie Alomar. He too had a prominent, beautiful, and famous girlfriend in tennis player Mary Pierce. Apparently there were whispers for years about Alomar's "preference" but it was Piazza who bore the brunt of all that crap at the time. Most people now have no issue with a persons personal preference, but in pro sports, especially team sports, there is still a stigma and an announcement of that nature would be a very difficult to do. There is also allegations of HIV and AIDS linked to Alomar (which do not help by any means either) and has been sued by a former girlfriend and his wife.

Weather or not any of this is true or not is up for debate, but because I had not heard this theory/story before I found it interesting that a lot of these pieces fit together and is at least plausible. It is up to the reader to decide what they want to believe. To many Alomar is and always be that Blue Jay who was a vacuum at 2nd to others he will be that Mets player who's skill almost disappeared overnight and was more of a train wreck then a ballplayer. It just makes it more interesting that it was his time in New York that all this happened and at the same time his play began to erode.

Friday, August 24, 2012

USADA to Strip Armstrong of Tour Wins

In a sport known more for being a haven for drug abuse there was always that one superstar that few believed would or could every cheat and/or lie about performance enhancement and that 
WAS Lance Armstrong.

Well I guess it was just a matter of time. After years of speculation,accusations and a seemingly endless pursuit it would appear that the truth has finally caught up to the once revered and celebrated athletes of our lifetime has seemingly been cut down and is just another disappointment.
For years it was common for other countries to accuse Lance Armstrong of cheating and he would deny it. All around him, before and after is 'amazing' run of 7 Tour de France wins, participants have pop'd positive. Never had Armstrong tested positive but now after all these years and countless allegations, Armstrong now is having to face the music, or at least turn that music off.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart says the agency will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling for life and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles for doping. The ban means nothing at this point as he is removed from being any sort of threat in the cycling world upon his retirement but what it does is crush a legacy that was inspiring to many sports fans, cycling fans and more importantly people fighting cancer, cancer victims, survivors, and those who have been able to beat the horrible enemy. Armstrong's LiveStrong products and branding at one time was unbelievably popular. There were so many people out there who rocked the yellow wrist bracelets is support for the cause. Livestrong was founded and made successful because of what Armstrong had done in the cycling world. It now appears to be all built on a lie.

There was always speculation that something was just not right and that Armstrong 'must have some kind of edge'. Armstrong without fail fought every rumor or accusation and say there was no proof and it was all fabricated, that was until Armstrong on Thursday night dropped any further challenges to USADA's allegations that he took performance-enhancing drugs to win cycling's premier event from 1999-2005.

You are almost looking for the 1920's newspaper kid on the corner yelling 'Extra Extra!' and hearing him say "Say it ain`t so, Lance, Say it ain`t so``

Armstrong says USADA doesn't have the authority to vacate his Tour titles. However, Tygart told The Associated Press that USADA can do it.

It will be interesting to see what the overall reaction to this really is. Have people become to use of drugs in sport and nothing surprises them? Maybe they don`t care anymore, or maybe they will feel betrayed by their one time hero. In any event the court of public appeal is one thing, being officially stripped of Tour Victories is another.

Armstrong has not admitted to any doping infractions but is just not issuing an appeal. That seems to only keep the conspiracy alive. It looks like no one will never know the truth for sure, believers will believe and detractors will continue. Did he or didn't he, the real truth may never be known.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All Time Blue Jays Team Roster

TSN had on their website the best Blue Jays of all time, by position. It was an interesting look back and see who was chosen. Because the team is a relativity new expansion team (in the grand scheme of the game) the names are for the most part only made up of players that the majority of fans remember or have seen play. It is not like the Yankees and you have to choose between Babe Ruth or Roger Maris...Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio. The sample size is much smaller and we can remember the Jays guys better.

THE LIST is one that I for the most part agree with. Here is the players by position:
C - Pat Borders
1B - Carlos Delgado
2B - Roberto Alomar
3B - Kelly Gruber
SS - Tony Fernandez
LF - George Bell
CF - Devon White
RF - Joe Carter
DH - Paul Molitor
SP - Dave Stieb
CP - Tom Henke
Set-up Man - Duane Ward
Manager - Cito Gaston.

This was in the first pack of cards I bought (except mine was O-Pee-Chee)

A strong case could be made for - John Olerud at 1st, maybe Rolen or Glaus at 3rd. As for the starters it is a matter of personal preference and what you consider a `Blue Jay`. Halladay, Clemens, Hentgan, Cone, Stewart, Morris... What is a true Blue Jay by definition, how much time logged is important.

Outside of this list there is not a whole lot of possible debate. This is both good and depressing. I was a Kelly Gruber fan when I was young. When I went to a game I wanted them to have Kelly sit the day before to ensure he was in the line up when I was there. Looking back it may have been greedy but I was there to see him play. Now, in the reflection of top players in the franchise`s history, this is not the most stellar of line-ups. I like all the players, I like the team, but when you see a Kelly Gruber, Pat Borders and Tony Fernandez as your all time infielders it is not nearly as impressive as a lot of other teams line up. Granted, Fernandez was a great SS in his day and was good enough to be brought back some 5 times. When you take in his body of work it pales in comparison to many other teams short stops. And Pat Borders, it is not cool that he is still on the list and outside of maybe Ernie Whitt I don`t know who else would fit the bill. This is about as far a cry from a Hall of Fame lineup as one will find.

I guess maybe down the line Jose Bautista could crack through in Right, ahead of Carter, but he will need a few more good years and Carter still has a lot cred based on that little hit he had back in `93, as some may recall.

The one thing that is also a bit depressing is the time period that all these players played are far removed to where the team is now. This list , for the most part could have been done in 1995 and would look just about the same. It is a bit of a shame that there has not really been a player worthy of cracking this lineup in the last 16 or so years. not to place any blame for that but I can`t seem to feel that JP Ricciardi has something to do with that.

If you have other players that you feel are more deserving I would like to hear who they are and the rational behind it.

In an upcoming blog I will be posting about an interesting story that I have recently come across. To some it may be old news, to some it will be surprising. I for one had not heard this version of the story and it is very far from proven and only alleged but very interesting none the less. So stay tuned for that. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time For An New/Old Approach To Pitchers

 It is interesting on how depleted the Toronto Blue Jays are due to injury. I outlined in my last post all about the position players, now for the pitchers. 

The pitching staff has been picked apart and has seen more then its fair share of adversity to say the least. Kyle Drabek 60-day DL, Jason Frasor 15-day DL, Drew Hutchison 60-day DL, Jesse Litsch 60-day DL, Dustin McGowan 60-day DL, Brandon Morrow 60-day DL, Luis Perez 60-day DL, Sergio Santos 60-day DL. Is this just bad luck or does it go deeper then that?

One possibility is that they have a secret referral deal with Dr, James Andrews in Alabama and are getting kickbacks for sending such a huge percentage of their staff for Tommy John Surgery. Another possibility is that the program at the minor league level and perhaps even at the major league level is in fact doing more harm then good. For the most part it seems like the majority of the issues stem from players who are younger and have spent time in the minors. If this continues, Alex Anthopoulos is going to have to take a serious look at the organizational plan that they use in developing young pitchers.

It seems like teams, because of signing bonuses, rush players along to get the most for their money. I is a little odd that a player can be making more money in A ball one year then someone playing in the majors at that same time. You do get rewarded for potential, and that is not necessarily a good thing. The minor leagues are there for the purpose of developing players in all positions. When a pitcher makes it to the majors they should be major league ready...completely ready. That includes a strong, refined, reliable arm that is fit to throw over 200 innings in a year. The Majors is not the place to develop that.

It is rushing pitchers in particular that has the Washington Nationals in the news right now because star pitcher Stephen Strasberg may be shut down at 180 innings. This is fine, except they are 1st in the NL East right now and how can you shut down your number 1 guy? Do you bring him back for the playoffs? These are questions that should not need to be asked. Oh, and Strasberg has already had Tommy John surgery.

I thinks that it may be more important to have pitchers throw more and not less. Starters throwing more in-between starts to strengthen their arms. Don't baby pitchers and have them on such a short leash. It is just common sens that a young persons arm will be stronger and more resilient then that of an older player. Use the benefit of youth to bring along pitchers quicker by making them stronger and allowing them to grow by throwing more often. Look at what the Yankee's did with the "Joba rules" and limited pitches and innings and outings. What did that do? Exactly what it was set up to avoid. Washington tried a similar thing with Stephen Strasburg and he required Tommy John as well. What about Matt Clement, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. That had all the makings of a dynasty rotation but was instead ravaged by injury.

Make pitchers pitch in the minors, and pitch deep into games. Teach a pitcher early that the goal is to pitch 8 solid innings each start is the goal, not 5 1/3 innings and then going to the bullpen for a lefty-lefty match-up. More throwing, more often, and deep into games. They used to do that in the mid 1900's. Players are bigger and stronger and better conditioned now. There is better medical treatment now. There is more knowledge about good mechanics to save arms...use them. If guys could do what they did in the 40's, 50's, and 60's shouldn't the "super athletes" of today be better equipped and be able to handle even more? One would think so. Teach the pitchers to throw a good slider and/or develop a cutter and not throw as many curve balls is a good option as well. The curve balls are know to put even more added stress on the elbow then the average pitch. All these young kids are far better suited to learn those pitches and develop control and then, when more mature, learn and develop the curve more at the higher pro level. If you already have the strong arm it is better equipped to handle the strain of the high torq a curve requires.

Sure there is no sure way to avoid injury and every players is different. On the whole a new plan may not be a bad idea. When you hear about Dr. James Andrews more then a teams prospects you know there is a problem. The name of an orthopedic surgeon should not be the name most affiliated with your sport. With the amount of work he seems to be getting from baseball It is like he is the hot dog vendor on the Simpsons when Marge wonders why he follows Homer around everywhere and he responds "Lady, he's putting my kids through college!"

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Blue Jays Bit By Injury Bug

Injuries are a part of baseball, everyone knows that. How can it not be? They play 162 games a year sometimes 2 in one day. Injuries are just a fact of the game (unless you are Cal Ripkin Jr. or Lou Gherig).

For whatever reason the Toronto Blue Jays have seem to take this inevitability to the next level. Sure, my Atlanta Braves have taken a big hit this year as well and lost some key cogs and big arms but thankfully had some good prospects in the minors to help plug the hols and keep the boat afloat. When it comes to the Blue Jays it feels like they have gone above and beyond the call and taken on a couple of teams share of guys on the DL.

In a year when it looked like they could overachieve and maybe make a run at the new extra wild card position and Boston having a lot of trouble the door looked wide open and then they started to drop like flies. When you are looking at a lineup that has David Cooper, Moises Sierra , Adeiny Hechavarria, Yan Gomes, and Anthony Gose at any given time you know you are in trouble. When you are missing bats like Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind, JP Arencibia and Jose Bautista...those are some pretty big shoes to fill and leaves the players still in the lineup exposed and far less protected.

This is just the position players. I have not mentioned the pitchers. The starters have been dropping like sacks of wet cement. For now I am going to leave that alone and do a blog dedicated to that subject and offer my opinion on why this is such a problem and maybe a possible solution going forward, so expect that in the near future. It may be enlightening to some, common knowledge to others or outright dismissed (hopefully that is not the case though).

In the mean time Go Toronto 51's...errr Blue Jays!! Use this as a tool to develop your youth and get the most out of them so when you get healthy you have young players with some experience or at least some trade bait to put you over the top. Maybe take that step to get back to the playoffs sometime soon 1993 was a long time ago.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Battle on the Beach - May/Walsh VS Ross/Kessy

Looking forward to the Woman's Beach final between the two USA Teams: 
Keri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor vs April Ross and Jen Kessy.

It has been a long time since I have blogged and hope to get back to it more consistently again. Figured now was a good time to dip my toe back in as I am getting excited for the 4pm Gold Medal Woman's Beach Volleyball match.

I have been a huge fan of the team of Walsh and May since the beginning watching the old AVP tour on TV. I even have my Misty May autographed picture on the wall in a frame still. As much as I want this team to do what everyone seems to think they are going to do and that is go 3 for 3 in the Olympics with gold medals, I am not so convinced that Ross/Kessy are as big of underdogs as everyone thinks they are. This is a good team and it would be unwise to under-estimate them. Sure May/Walsh are the sexy pick and the ones getting all the spotlight (and deservedly so), but being disregarded as second class citizens like Ross/Kessy have to give them some added motivation. Even NBC only showed the last few point of their match last night despite having to have a huge comeback just to move into the finals. It is too bad that even their own country isn't getting behind them.

In any event it should be a great match regardless of the outcome. Ross and Kessy are playing against May and Walsh. May and Walsh are playing against Ross/Kessy and history...it is like a 2on1. Gotta love beach volleyball. I hope that there is a domestic North American League for beach volleyball again soon so we can see this great sport more and increase its exposure.