Monday, 26th August 2019

No Redemption for Ken Griffey Jr.

Posted on 04. Jun, 2010 by FSM Staff in General Sports, MLB

No Redemption for Ken Griffey Jr.

MLB slugger Ken Griffey Jr. announced his retirement earlier this month. The announcement was somewhat of a shock to baseball fans out there but few can deny that his career was on life support. Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach for true fans of the game is that he did not have a hero’s exit. There was no miraculous walk-off homerun or RBI. Ken Griffey Jr. did not save the day one last time. Instead, his departure was preceded by a stretch of extremely poor play, a benching, and the infamous “Nap-Gate” controversy.

Ken Griffey’s career includes 630 homeruns, 10 Golden Gloves, 13 All-Star selections, 1,836 RBIs, and a unanimous MVP award. He was also involved in the great homerun chase with Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire but eventually fell out of contention (geez I wonder why?). A great, productive career is ending with a whimper and it is painful to watch. The same type of painful that came from watching Michael Jordan’s final game in Washington.

Ken Griffey Jr. spent his best years playing for the Seattle Mariners, the club that drafted him in 1987. After playing for the Cincinnati Reds for nine seasons, Griffey returned to Seattle in 2009. His presence immediately helped changed the negative vibe of the team and for a 39 year-old often injured veteran he was putting up respectable numbers as a designated hitter (batting average of .214 with 19 homers). The Mariners decided they would try their luck one more time and Jr. signed on for the 2010 campaign. The magic wasn’t quite there this time around.

Griffey Jr. was batting a dismal .184 and had yet to hit one over the fence this season. He eventually found his way on to the bench and then in to the clubhouse where he was caught snoozing during an actual Mariners game. It was becoming clear that this was his last season. The Seattle Mariners had enough class to let him finish the year in uniform and Ken Griffey Jr. definitely earned that right. Griffey though said he did not want to become a distraction to his beloved team and made his decision.

When word of Nap-Gate broke, it was an opportunity that Ken Griffey Jr. should have taken advantage of. It should have been a galvanizing incident with the final result being a respectable (not necessarily spectacular) end to the 2010 season and his hall of fame career. Broken and betrayed, Ken Griffey Jr. chose to walk away instead.

Canseco’s Vindication Marks End of Era

Posted on 27. Feb, 2010 by FSM Staff in Highlight, MLB

Canseco’s Vindication Marks End of Era

It would be nice to be able to say that the Steroid Era of baseball officially ended on 12/31/09 at 11:59 p.m. We could then bundle up the last ten years of major league play and send it away with all the other political and social misfortune the masses had to deal with in what many are calling “The Lost Decade”. Though the last few years have been significant for baseball and the MLB because of Jose Canseco, most baseball fans would rather forget about the decade that tested their faith in the game and left them feeling hurt and betrayed. Steroids will trickle in to this new decade but the days are numbered for users who are dense enough to still prick themselves in the arse.

Steroids and performance enhancing drugs were not exclusive to the last ten years. A more accurate timeline for the Steroid Era would be from 1980 to 2010. The use of steroids and other substances became widespread in the 80s, took over the game in the 90s, and was finally exposed and addressed in the new millennium. Every fan hopes that the Steroid Era is finally over. After reading Jose Canseco’s follow up effort Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball, most fans will be left feeling optimistic about the future state of affairs in the MLB.

Readers of FreeSportsMag might find it odd that Canseco’s book is being reviewed a few years after its initial release. Admittedly, it was an impulsive decision, made hastily at the Borders Bookstore for three simple reasons:

 1)      The book was in the $3.99 bargain bin

2)      The cover was very creative and appealing

3)      We never got around to reading Canseco’s first book and this one looks like it was half as long

The bulk of Vindicated is composed of Jose Canseco telling the populace “I told you so”. And why not? He was one of the few people who had the courage to come forward and expose the truth. He suffered many slings and arrows for his efforts and alienated himself from many people. Whatever his motives were for blowing the whistle in his first book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, it could not have been an easy ride for him once it was published, no matter how much he was getting paid. He is the one who lit the match that eventually caused the powder keg to explode.

All the “I told you so’s” aside, Vindicated is not a terrible read. Some of the stories and theories presented may get repetitive, but the book is short and sweet and leaves little opportunity for boring lulls. Big, confusing words definitely do not litter the 231 pages of text found in this book so there is no need to keep a dictionary handy. In fact, the only unrecognizable words will be the names of the steroids and other PEDs that are frequently mentioned. Other than that, Vindicated is simple and straightforward and gives off the vibe that Canseco is having an informal conversation with the reader, like two old pals talking steroids and sharing a few laughs.

The book also has some interesting features that are worthy of at least a moment’s glance. There are “before” and “after” pictures of MLB players who have been involved with steroids. It is quite amusing to see Barry Bonds the Pirate standing next to Barry Bonds the Giant (head). Statistics are also included for these players which show a very suspicious spike in numbers in many different categories. To satisfy any curiosity out there, these players include Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, Magglio Ordonez, and Alex Rodriguez.

Vindicated is not strictly about baseball. Canseco talks about things like his participation in the Surreal Life television show and the responsibility of being a father. And every once and a while he surprises the reader with amazingly insightful comments and ponderings such as the following:

“It made me think of why I got into steroids in the first place, way back when I was no more than a kid, really, and how I had been determined to win at all costs…but maybe wanting to be the best, at any cost, wasn’t the smartest approach. That phrase is what kills you: at any cost. You have to ask yourself if the price is going to be too high. And how the hell are you supposed to know that before you take the plunge? If you don’t know the price, how can figure out if it’s too high? And maybe it isn’t too high. Maybe it is exactly the price you should pay.”

Jose Canseco’s vindication marks the end of an era. His desire to “save baseball” should be applauded but he should not take it personally if fans want to forget he ever existed. But before fans can forget about him and about the entire Steroids Era, they will need closure. Vindicated provides that closure to a certain extent but it also raises a sense of guilt in baseball fans because of their own inaction. Yankee fans in the 2000s were not shouting on the rooftops, “We do not want our players taking steroids!” There was no one in St. Louis between 1997 and 1999 saying, “It looks like Mark McGwire ate Mark McGwire.”

Baseball fans must ask themselves the question, “Why did I ignore it?” or “How could I have missed it?” Then all parties will be able to move on.

Welcome Back Mac

Posted on 15. Jan, 2010 by FSM Staff in General Sports, MLB

Welcome Back Mac

I always told myself that if Mark McGwire ever came clean about using steroids, I would still never forgive him. I really need to stop making passionate, absolute statements like that because I rarely stick to my guns. After hearing Mark McGwire confess to using steroids earlier this week, I was satisfied with what he had to say to baseball fans, and I found myself accepting his apology.

I saw this day coming when I heard news of Tony La Russa hiring McGwire as a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. I almost felt like La Russa was trying to sneak an intervention in through the back door. It was probably in the back of everyone’s mind that, in order for McGwire to rejoin the Cardinals as a coach, he would sooner or later have to address steroids in some way or another. He would either have to vehemently deny the use of performance enhancing drugs or he would have to spill his guts and apologize to the MLB fans. There is no middle ground in this type of situation. While McGwire did not exactly spill his guts during his admission of guilt, he seemed sincere and confessed to enough for me to have no problem with his reentry in to baseball as the hitting coach for the Cardinals.

It was a bit surprising that McGwire addressed the matter so quickly however. I thought this would be something that played out until March. I guess I cannot always be right which makes me sad. Perhaps McGwire’s guilt was too much and he wanted to set the record straight as soon as possible. It is more likely he confessed to using PEDs a bit sooner than expected in order to avoid being a distraction to his team during the season. Whatever the reason for the timing of the admission, Mark McGwire is sleeping a little easier tonight.

Tony La Russa has a history with Mark McGwire, not just in St. Louis, but in Oakland as well. It is hard not to notice that he has a soft spot for Big Mac. It seems like this is one of those extremely odd, genuine cases of friend helping friend rather than some type of weird rehabilitation project that La Russa is engaging in because of boredom. La Russa has said he would consider adding McGwire to the active roster at some point during the season. That would make a great story wouldn’t it? I am not hoping to see Mark McGwire return to action in an attempt for redemption (though I am not opposed to the idea). I just hope that he can have a positive impact on the game of baseball this season, even if the impact is minute.

For the outro to this piece, I am requesting the Welcome Back Kotter theme music be played on computers across America. I can wait while you download it “legally” from your bootleg Napster website…Welcome Back la la…

Welcome back Mark McGwire. You did the right thing and I sincerely hope you feel better. The chance to make things right does not present itself too often. When it does, you have to grab it. Good luck with your new gig.