Sunday, October 01, 2006

Arrivederci, Frankie -- With the Yom Kippur holiday, I chose to stay home today, instead of heading out to RFK, after taking in the first two games of the Nationals - Mets series. I watched the emotional valedictory from manager Frank Robinson, on MASN -- thank you, Comcast, for finally coming to your senses. Nicely done, Frank. I haven't always agreed with or understood your managerial decisions -- but I'm proud you were the Nats manager these first years, and I'm sad to see you go.

Last night, I sat next to a guy who named his young boy "Satchel" -- the guy was upset with the team for letting Frank go. We discussed some options, and we discussed some of Frank's moves. I've never really forgiven the Nats for trading Tomo Ohka, while they were in first place, because of the way Ohka 'showed' up his manager. I thought that was an extreme overreaction that cost the Nats dearly. We discussed another curious move last night, when pitcher Beltran Perez was allowed to bat, despite having given up 6 runs in the first 3 innings. Beltran got a hit. The move got a little more mysterious when Robinson brought in another pitcher to start the fourth inning. All we could come up with is that Robinson thought Perez was a better hitter than anyone he had available on his bench -- that he was left in to hit, not to pitch. Was that it, Frank? If so, you proved smarter than me...

Other baseball news: The shoulder injury to Pedro Martinez. Since I don't know when this occured it's hard to say who to blame. I will say that Martinez should not have been out there the last couple of weeks. You could see his motion was awful -- there was no drive from his legs -- Consequently, Martinez lacked the arm speed he's famous for. Anyone could see that Martinez looked stiff and injured. I fear he hurt his shoulder during this last stretch. I don't know whether to blame Martinez for trying to conceal the extent of his condition, or to blame the Mets for not shutting him down when it seemed so obvious that he needed that.

I understand why the Mets wanted to believe they had a shot at getting Martinez ready for the playoffs -- and why they thought they needed ihm. Though they have the best record in the National League, I think the Mets. without Martinez, are at a decided disadvantage, especially if they have to play the Padres or Dodgers, who have much better pitching. Even the Astros (not yet eliminated), with Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens, have stronger pitching than the Mets.

Speaking of Pettite and, especially Clemens, these two are in the news, too. The rumors have been there for years, but now there is news that another player (Jason Grimsley) has fingered Pettite and Clemens to federal authorities for use of performance-enhancing drugs. I don't know if Clemens did anything illegal -- I don't even know whether Grimsley has actual knowledge or any supporting evidence for his claims -- but, it's sad to have another disclosure like this regarding one of the giants of the sport.

This news comes as no surprise -- certainly, it's not a surprise that Clemens is involved. His size, robust health at an advanced age for a baseball player -- the way his numbers keep getting better when, by all rights, they should be reflecting his advancing age -- there was even a time when his thinning hair suggested steroid use -- -- all these factors suggested Clemens was doing something unnatural. Obviously, this is a big story, reported everywhere, but I can recommend the Los Angeles Times piece which is reprinted in the Washington Post.

So, it's not a surprise to hear the news about Clemens -- indeed, the surprise would be if he were completely innocent, since it's widely believed that most professional athletes use performance-enhancing drugs. Another season draws to a close and another black eye for baseball. The real question is about posterity. How are we, as fans, to regard the performances of this era, especially in comparison to the players who played these games without the aid of modern pharmacology and chemistry?

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