Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Manny Ramirez, Hockey in Canada, and Golf Fans


As you all know, I'm stuck in my hometown of Ottawa with only one semi-pro sports team, the Ottawa Fury. They have a game this Saturday night, so I'll have to head over to see them and report back on the team and the league, which is a road trippers dream with over 120 teams across North America.

But with nothing to do until then, I thought I would comment on some of the things that have annoyed me since I got back to Canada. Besides Ottawa being the worst sports city in North America.

What part of "50-game suspension" did I not understand?

I was going to rant on the hyprocrisy of allowing suspended Manny Ramirez to play in the minors for a few games before his 50-game suspension ended. But Tracy Ringolsby said it all much better than I could, so I urge you to read that.

I'd like to add though, that baseball's ongoing double standard regarding the steroid scandal is shameful. Steroids and other PEDs have been in baseball since at least the 1960s, but became prevalent in the mid-1980s, with the Bash Brothers leading the way in Oakland. By 1998, everybody in baseball knew what was going on when McGwire and Sosa were battling for the home run crown, and they chose to turn a blind eye, as the general public was in the process of forgiving baseball for the 1994 strike. When 37-year old Barry Bonds and his gigantic head were smashing 73 homers in 2001, I don't recall any outrage on the part of the media, nor did Commissioner Bud Selig question Bonds' accomplishments.

It wasn't until 2003 that baseball finally instituted a testing policy, despite steroids being illegal since 1990. Even then, it was only a survey test, with no punishments. It took two more years before a serious steroid policy was implemented. Now however, Selig has the audacity to say that the "program works". Seriously? One high-profile player is suspended and all is fine? Bud, where were you back in 1998? Oh, that's right. Ignoring the problem because the media wasn't covering it.

In fact, I'd also like to question the media's involvement in this mess. Nowadays, sportswriters are constantly referring to those implicated in the "scandal" as cheaters. If you want to take that path, fine, but show me that you believed that 10 years ago and wrote about it. Otherwise you dropped the ball as a reporter at that time so whatever you say on the topic these days is meaningless.

Don't misunderstand me. I think the rules now are good, and I hope that testing is being done on a regular basis. Manny Ramirez deserved his 50 games, although they have to fix the part that allows him to play in the minors before the suspension is up. But judging the players that used PEDs in the past as "cheaters" when MLB pointedly did absolutely nothing to stop them is cynical. You can't judge the past by the standards of the present.

And if you have a vote for the Hall of Fame and are withholding your vote for any of these players solely because of their steroid use, please get off your high horse. It's likely that substantially more players used PEDs that have been named. If steroid use keeps players from the Hall, we should have several empty classes in the years to come.

How much is too much hockey?

Well, I've been back in Canada for 3 days and already I've had enough of hockey. How can that be, you ask? It's the off-season, isn't it? Good questions, fine reader, but sadly, there is no more hockey off-season in Canada. Since I moved to Japan in 1996, this country has become entirely obsessed with everything hockey, no doubt helped along by the internet and cable sports. With the draft coming up on Friday, and free agency starting just next week (on Canada Day no less), there's plenty of fodder for the local media to keep busy. Tonight on TSN, there's a mock draft, which amazes me. Fortunately, Sportsnet is actually showing a real live baseball game featuring some team called the Toronto Blue Jays, so I'll watch that instead. Live sports is so much better than talking about sports, but I wonder how many of my fellow Canadians will agree.

Of course, I understand that a lot of the fun in sports is talking about what might happen, but nobody ever follows up on it. I'd like to see the draft show from back in 2003 which predicted that Mike Richards was a better pick then Hugh Jessiman, for example.

Get in the Hole!

I'll refrain from any obvious jokes, but honestly, why do golf fans scream "Get in the Hole" on every shot? It's a golf ball. It can't hear you. Moreover, once the shot is in the air, nothing you say will change it's direction. So perhaps just a "Nice shot" would suffice.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the coverage of the U.S. Open, despite Al Roker's presence and Mike Weir's predictable collapse. Congratulations to Lucas Glover who remained steady down the stretch to hold off Phil Mickelson and David Duval in an entertaining Monday morning finish.

Upcoming games

I've got a few days off before I head across the border. I'll see 3 minor league ball games on my way to New York (Manchester NH, Pawtucket, and Norwich, CT) before 10 days in New York, with 5 games on tap there. There's also a game in Scranton on the way back to Canada. So stay tuned, things will become more interesting shortly.

Best,

Sean

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