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Baseball’s Crusade May Get Backlash From the Union AND Fans

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The problem with preaching on top of the mountain is that there are a lot of people looking to knock you down. And that may be the problem those in charge of baseball may soon face.

ESPN reported yesterday that Major League Baseball plans to suspend more than 20 players they have been investigating for months in connection with the Biogenesis clinic supplying them performance enhancing drugs – after the All-Star Break, that is.

In other words, wait until after their Mid-Season Classic so nothing disrupts it and then throw under the bus the players it just triumphed during the game.

Okay, maybe that’s a cheap shot, especially since league spokesman Pat Courtney declared the report premature and would only say “We are still in the midst of an active investigation.”

Still, while Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are definitely the two players MLB is targeting the most in this investigation, reportedly searching for a way to hand them 100-game suspensions despite them not being convicted a first time (Braun had a suspension overturned), Rangers fans are definitely eyeing this with fear, as All-Star Nelson Cruz is reportedly on the list.

So many baseball fans in North Texas are already declaring their season to be over (which they rarely need much of a reason to do anyway). But they might want to hold the phone on Mister Boomstick definitely being out for at least 50 games.

It should be noted that NOTHING is definite at this point. While ESPN tries to break the story first (while possibly shilling for the front office of its MLB partners, because that’s what that network does), we have to constantly remember that no hard evidence has been leaked at all. We don’t even know if they have the same amount of evidence on every individual player other than a name on a list. Many just assume for now that MLB has all the dirt it needs to lower the boom, and when you ASS-U-ME…

But no matter what, it seems clear MLB more than ever is trying to set itself up as the holy savior of decency – but instead may be setting itself up for the same humiliation its football brethren suffered last year.

The NFL tried to take the same path when it laid the hammer down hard on the New Orleans Saints for the infamous “Bountygate” scandal, when Roger Goodell suspended coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, coach Sean Payton for a year and numerous players for taking part in a “pay-to-injure” program. Goodell was hailed by many, including myself, for trying to bring humanity into a game that desperately needs it. And then he ended up with egg on his face as his own predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, declared he did not have enough evidence to convict the players and vacated those suspensions.

Thus it was established once again that in the modern age, a sports commissioner does not have complete autonomy. And that may come back to bite Selig here.

Selig and MLB are desperate to land a big win in their crusade against PEDs, especially after the U.S. Attorney’s office has repeatedly failed in nailing the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and even wrestling czar Vince McMahon two decades ago. And if Selig isn’t careful, that desperation could be his undoing in this crusade.

No one has failed a drug test, at least not in reference to this current investigation, and that is key. While we don’t know who all the league office is talking to, the main sticking point is that the key witness in the whole thing, Tony Bosch, is someone they said months ago was a completely unreliable source. Yet now they have accepted his agreement to cooperate with them just as they were on the verge of buying the services of Biogenesis investor Porter Fischer to give them the dirt on Bosch.

Thus, if and when such suspensions come down, expect the players union to strike back with extreme ferocity. If it’s not written in stone in the collective bargaining agreement that MLB can definitely suspend players with just circumstantial evidence, the union will fight – and could very well win.

MLB’s best defense perhaps lies in the fact that 1. Definite proof wasn’t needed in 1920 when Judge Landis banned the Black Sox for life for fixing games, and 2. No official failed drug tests were needed for U.S. Cycling to strip Lance Armstrong of everything he had built. But the thing to remember here is that nether Armstrong or the Black Sox had a group as strong as the MLBPA behind them.

Some holier than thou experts might say if the union knew what was best, they’d throw these players under the bus for “the protection of others and the good of the game.” That’s not how a union works. The MLBPA’s job here is to ensure due process is upheld, or else a governing body like the MLB office can eventually flex its muscle and just discipline players with no real evidence whatsoever.

Think something like that wouldn’t happen in major sports? Just ask those who remember the late race car driver Tim Richmond, who NASCAR banned for a failed drug test that was completely bogus just so they could get an AIDS-infected person out of their sport.

But the biggest question in all of this is “Just how much do the fans care?”

Therein lies perhaps the biggest similarity between Selig and Goodell. They are putting forth all their efforts to supposedly “save” their sport for a fan base that doesn’t seem to want it to be saved.

If you approached a casual NFL fan on the streets and brought up the subject of players intentionally abusing and hurting each other, you’d probably get a shrug and a “So what?” After all, wanton violence and abuse is what almost everyone watches football for.

Meanwhile, as the baseball reporters with keyboards and microphones go on and on about the sanctity of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron’s game being destroyed, most casual fans continue to buy their tickets and high-priced beers and shrug it off with the attitude of “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” for lack of a better term.

We as an audience have long demanded that our athletes do whatever it takes to win. Wouldn’t it then be hypocritical for us to then chastise them for doing whatever it took?

It seems maybe, just maybe, a lot of fans get that. And if the union wins this fight, the majority of fans will likely be there tho throw the eggs at Selig. They usually stand by the players as long as they don’t go on strike.

Whether Selig can lower the boom on someone like Nellie Cruz has yet to be seen. But even if he can, it won’t stop him from likely receiving a standing ovation from the Ballpark crowd when Cruz is able to step in the batter’s box again.

Stars Could Get Help by Adding One More Voice

While the NHL’s free agency period may not be as covered as the NBA’,s the Dallas Stars are just as active as the Mavericks, pursuing the likes of Vincent Lecavalier and others that can give the likes of Jaime Benn much needed help on the front line. Time will tell which local team gets the fish they want.

But while they’re looking to make additions that wear sweaters and skates, the Stars might want to also consider adding help elsewhere. They may help themselves as much as anywhere with an addition on the broadcast side.

Few in DFW will argue that for years the Stars have had the best broadcast duo in the area in Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh. Brad Sham and Eric Nadel may be loved individually, but the Rangers booth has been a revolving door for years with their second announcer, and most Cowboy fans are still hoping that somehow Dale Hansen will make peace with Jerry and rejoin Sham. But Ralph and Razor.

But they can only do so much. As the team they cover looks to craft a new image, they need help in telling the audience about it. And their own equivalent of Pierre McGuire may be it.

Pierre McGuire, for those who don’t know is the “between the glass” reporter for NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL. And he definitely is a bit of a lightning rod, as my Twitter feed during the playoffs had quite a few posts asking him to shut up.

But McGuire’s position in the broadcast team remains sound even if quite a few people don’t like how he carries it out. He is hockey’s sideline reporter, out there to talk directly to players, observe the scene from the benches and inform people of the essential “game within the game.” He is their version of Ahmad Rashad or Ken Rosenthal.

While all that can help a new generation of sports fans get to know hockey in the Metroplex, such an addition to the Stars will also help answer the biggest question many may have: “Who are these guys?”

With an influx of young, relatively unknown talent, the Stars no longer have the likes of Mike Modano, Brenden Morrow, Brett Hull, Ed Belfour or Marty Turco to draw in fans. Their biggest task in drawing fans (outside of, you know, winning again) lies in getting them to know the likes of the Benn brothers, Eric Nystrom, Loui Eriksson, Kari Lehitonen and others.

That’s where the third reporter comes in. Such a person could use breaks in game time, and possibly pre-game, to talk about the players as individual people, get the fans to know who they are.

This, of course, would be in addition to getting the viewers in closer to Lindy Ruff and how he operates. A new coach only adds even more uncertainty that fans need cleared up.

If the McGuire comparison is not a good one for you, then think of it as the Stars getting their own version of what Emily Jones does for the Rangers.

Now the only reminding question is who this reporter could be. Well, I know of a young lady with a real good sports knowledge and a great on-air persona – one who was recently let go from 105.3 The Fan…

Mavericks May Be Looking at Fools Gold in Free Agency

I love Mark Cuban as an owner. I always have. I just hope he isn’t turning more and more to the Jerry Jones side – having to constantly prove he’s the smartest guy in the room.

That’s the feeling I got following draft night – well, along with wondering, like so many others, why the NBA has its asinine rule that picks can’t be traded on draft night until after they’re used, leaving us to wait until night’s end for ESPN to announce the moves we already knew about via Twitter.

At the end of the night, the Mavericks had turned the 13th pick into U of Miami guard Shane Larkin, who was technically Atlanta’s pick at 18. Sorry, looks like we won’t get to see Britny Greiner alongside Dirk Nowitzki.

Larkin is being touted as possibly a second coming of JJ Barea, someone who can overcome his lack of size with his ability to destroy you on the pick and roll, which is something the Mavs can definitely use in conjunction with Dirk. Dallas may have actually drafted someone who could truly see the floor for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

But we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking this draft was getting about players. It was about freeing up cap space.

Because the guy the Mavs want wasn’t wearing a college uniform last year but a Lakers uniform. And that’s what worries me.

It was just a few hours ago that free agency started, and already Mavs fans can erase one pipe dream. For the first time ever, the Clippers actually made an effort to keep a free agent, and Chris Paul is expected to sign a five year deal on the 10th. Who knows when Donald Sterling got his brain transplant, but Billy Crystal sure is thrilled.

That has left the few true basketball fans drooling at landing uber-talented but ultra-immature Dwight Howard to Dallas. The guy who destroyed two teams and is still going to get the max four-year contract a free agent can get elsewhere.

Not that that’s the only move the Mavs are looking to make. With the Boston Celtics looking to flush away their whole team for a glorious next two decades of lottery picks, the Mavs have their sights on Rajon Rondo, one of the few point guards in this game who actually brings the ball up court thinking pass first. Sounds a lot like the guy who took the Mavs to that championship who will now wear a suit on the sidelines for Brooklyn.

Here’s an idea: Why not go after the point guard and let some other team wreck themselves on Howard?

Pair Rondo with an Al Jefferson, someone who can take the role of Tyson Chandler, and suddenly, bam! You’ve got the combination that actually proved successful just two years ago. And you didn’t throw away 100 million dollars on a guy who’s likely to get your coach fired by New Year’s.

Here’s a wild question: Who so far has beaten David Stern’s favorite team playing at its own game yet?

While so many try to still find a way around the looming luxury tax to stockpile their own superteam to topple the vaunted Miami Heat, it’s ironically the Mavs from 2011 who still stand at how to actually beat them: Build the team around one great player surounded by many other good ones and let depth wear down super talent.

And it almost worked in San Antono as well. Sorry, Tony Parker and Manu Giunobli are really good players but not superstars. And that collection around Tim Duncan was on its way to knocking off Lebron and Co. had Greg Popovich not gotten arrogant or stupid or both in game six.

It’s amazing how, even with history showing the other way has actually succeeded, NBA teams and fans still want to go the volatile “fantasy sports” way, taking talent and attitude over teamwork and chemistry.

The Mavs should be looking at rebuildng a team rather than splurging for the reason the Orlando Magic’s Wikipedia page has a section called “The Dwightmare Saga.”