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Clemens on Capitol Hill

In less than 24-hours, all eyes will be focused on the nation’s capitol, and the scandal that’s rocking baseball.  Roger Clemens and his accuser, Brian McNamee will be side by side.   

Andy Pettitte has been spared the public hearing and from testifying against friend Roger Clemens.  Many believe the statements he made earlier could hurt Clemens. Tomorrow will shed light on it all. 

This much we know:

There are 41 members on the House Committee

Opening statements will be made by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.

Each member will be given 15 minutes for questioning rather than the usual five minutes

HGH does not make athletes stronger or faster.

While Clemens continues to deny McNamees allegations, support for Clemens has not wavered.  And his critics have not backed down. 

He says he never took steroids or HGH.    McNamee claims he did, and he was the one who gave it to him.

Sports and politics – they are an interesting mix.

Who will prevail?

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit…… – It’s Only a  Number

16 – The number of minutes Rusty Harding, the attorney for Roger Clemens spoke at the press conference opening.

17 – The number of minutes Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee spoke on the phone

21 – The number of times McNamee asked what he could do for Clemens during that phone conversation

7 – The Number of Cy Young Awards Roger Clemens has won

3 – The Number of times I have interviewed Roger Clemens

All this business with Roger Clemens and steroids got me to thinking.  Depending on what side of the fence you are on, he’s either telling the truth or not.  Many reporters make the case he’s guilty.  Few defend or buy into his innocence.   The Mitchell Report brought to light the seriousness of steroid use in the sport I love.

I love baseball.  I love everything about it.  I always have, and always will. 

But steroids are ruining the game, and those who choose to take them.

Pro athletes set the example for their young fans, and it’s time they started taking responsibility for their actions.  Taking steroids sends the message that they are ok. They aren’t. Young athletes believe steroids will make you run faster, heal faster, last longer.  They look at the successes their idols have, and the lure of athletic scholarships or a pro career is irresistible.  In their minds, the gains outweigh the risks. 

Steroids aren’t fair.  They give the person who uses them the unfair advantage over someone who trained and worked hard the right way.  They’re wrong, and don’t belong in any sport and makes the legitimacy of records questionable.

With all that said, I feel bad for Roger Clemens. Clemens0051  He has accomplished so much in his career, worked hard, given back, and regardless, the doubt will always follow him.

The presumption of innocence – being innocent until proven guilty – is a legal “right.” “Rights” belong to each of us individually and cannot be taken without our consent.  We forget this way too often.

The First Amendment gives us free speech.  We can say whatever we want.  The truth is protected even when its expression damages the person to whom it applies.  This freedom of speech also includes freedom of the press.  But, there are some forms of speech that are “conditionally protected.”  If a written statement is made in “reckless disregard for the truth” and is considered damaging to the victim, it can be punished as libel.  If the statement is oral, it can be punished as slander.

So what exactly is the truth? An individual is innocent until proven guilty. A story can sound true until the other person has the chance to tell their side.  Clemens has done so.

After hearing all of the evidence, there should be no reasonable doubt that the accused individual is guilty of the charge.  Clemens has disputed the claims by McNamee repeatedly.

The first Amendment gives us the right to say anything, and while I support free speech, the burden is often on the accused to prove their innocence. 

I hope Clemens is telling the truth.  I need for him to be telling the truth.  I need to believe there is honesty left in the game.  We may never know the complete truth, but until proven otherwise, he deserves to be heard.

Will the steroids scandal keep Roger out of the Hall of Fame? That’s something we don’t have to worry about for at least five-years.  Right now it’s one man’s word against another. There are a lot of legal questions that haven’t been answered so we have to give him the benefit of doubt and not rush to judgment.  The upcoming Congressional hearings should be very interesting. 

In case you were wondering, next to baseball, my passion is politics and government.   To quote Thomas Jefferson, “If ever you find yourself environed with difficulties and perplexing circumstances, out of which you are at a loss how to extricate yourself, do what is right, and be assured that that will extricate you the best out of the worst situations.”  Great advice.

I also hope this unpleasant experience will make others think twice about the risks, not only to their health, but to their careers, their integrity, the game, and the examples they set for others.  Former track star Marion Jones is the perfect example.  For lying about her use of steriods, she recently received a stiff sentence and jail time.  The judge made her an example as a warning to other athletes.

With that said, anyone else ready for spring training?

(I was 13 when this picture was take of Roger and myself- it was my second interview)

Fall Frenzy is Here!

My favorite part of baseball season (next to the World Series) is the Fall Frenzy, aka free agent free-for-all.  It’s a time to see who has decided to look at their options, test the waters, or simply move on.

When I was younger, I always thought guys stayed on the same team.  Now it seems like so many move around, its hard to keep track.

While there are a lot of names on this years list, I have my favorites that I am anxious to see where they will land. 

A-Rod, I think, is going to land in Dodger blue.  Who wouldn’t want A-Rod?

I am also excited about David Eckstein, Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, Francisco Cordero, David Wells, and Jorge Posada.  Eckstein is a scrapper that is a lot of fun to watch.  I don’t think it’s going to take long for these guys to get signed somewhere – and I do predict A-Rod could very well follow Torre to LA.

So, with the series over, the frenzy begins, and it will be fun to follow. Share your predictions?

Final Inning

What a day at the ballpark.

The biggest crowd ever in Astros  history showed up Sunday to say thanks and to send  off their favorite 2nd baseman, Craig Biggio, Biggio_1 into retirement.

From pre-game to post-game, it was an emotional day. 

Craig and  daughter Quinn threw out the first pitch to sons Cavan and Conor.  Astros Owner Drayton McLane presented Biggio a letter from Commissioner Bud Selig, and Biggio addressed the fans who have followed his 20-year career, fighting back emotions.

To his fans, Biggio was a hero and  they showed their love with standing ovations, over and over throughout the game.  Ten to be exact.

Some fans drove hundreds of miles just to see him.  "It was worth every minute," said Nancy Ratcliff, who drove in from Dallas.  "I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.  I grew up watching Biggio, and I just had to be here today to honor him."  So many followed number 7 for 20 years. 

"It was one of those special moments today. I’m going to miss it,"said Biggio. This is all I really know. But the fans have made it worthwhile. That’s what the game’s about."

You see, Biggio epitomizes everything that is right with baseball.  He hustled down the baselines – each and every time.  He played the game honestly, fairly, and was a good teammate.  He taught the younger players what they needed to know to become better, and he gave his time off the field, to his beloved Sunshine Kids.   In five years, Cooperstown will be calling.

The fans were not the only ones cheering him on.  Atlanta Braves players showed their respect applauding him, and pats on the back and chatting up at second base as they made their way around the bases.  Chipper Jones, the Braves 3rd baseman, took a little longer to throw to first when Biggio grounded to third in the seventh, hoping he would beat out the throw.  That was not only a sign of respect, it was a sign of class.

The long season and games away kept Biggio from his kids more than he liked. 

Now that all changes.

Now it’s all going to be about them.  There will be driving the kids to school, high school and junior high games with his boys, spending time with daughter Quinn, and helping wife Patty around the house.    It will be different for him at first –  but the family moves to the forefront.

At the top of the 8th inning, the Astros icon  walked off the field for the last time.  Teammates rushed to the field to pay tribute to him.  Braves players tipped their caps, and the fans never let up.

After the final bow,  his numbers will speak for themselves: Games played 2850, at bats 10,876, 668 doubles (most ever by a righty), 20-years on one team, 20-years in one uniform.  It was about how one Astro played the game.

But Sunday’s game  was more about the last time, the end of an era.

After the last pitch, Biggio saluted the fans by taking a lap around the stadium. Biggio_salutes_crowd  He thanked his fans for accepting him for the last 20 years.  "I am going to miss you," he told the standing room only crowd.  Thank you very much for being my family."

The day was perfect. 

What a way to go…..

Thanks for the memories Craig.

Generation Gaps

There are many teams I enjoy reading about nightly, one being the Dodgers.  And there seems to be trouble a-brewin in the club house between the veterans and the younger players.   From the outside looking in, it’s easy to form your own opinions.  But, then again, we aren’t in the club house.  Jeff Kent says the younger kids don’t respect the veterans, and don’t  take seriously the way the season is being played out.  The younger guys shoot back with their own opinions.  It’s a mess.  And while no one asked me for my opinion, that’s the beauty of having a blog.  I can have one.

This may sound strange coming from a teenager, but here goes.  However much younger players disagree with the veterans, you have to give the veterans credit for their experience .   These guys paved the way for younger players. Back in the day there weren’t multi-million dollar contracts for the best players in the game.  Today, some of the contracts are mind boggling.

The old saying that youngsters should be seen and not heard has merit. (I can’t believe I am saying this!) We all get irritated when our elders make suggestions because we tend to think we’re never wrong.  But I do believe that the veterans lead by example, and know a little bit more about the world, the game, and business than the younger guys.  Simple signs of respect are responded to in kind.  The war of ugly words gets no one anywhere.  Younger players should soak up all they can, respect and learn from the veterans, as one day they will find themselves in Kents shoes. I recently read David Wells book, Perfect I’m Not.  While it brought on some controversy when it was released, it was an awesome read. You realize just how much this guy went  through to get where he is today, and how truly passionate he is about the game. I found myself agonizing with the guy through the tough times, and shaking my head through the mistakes (and laughing a lot). That’s what it’s all about!  They’ve made the mistakes, and felt the joy of accomplishments, and everyone can learn from that experience. Guys like Kent, Wells and Gonzalez have so much to offer to anyone who is willing to listen.  Some are looking at the end of their careers, and they have one goal in mind – going out World Champions –

Another season coming to an end

This time of year, I often reflect on the past season, wondering how it passed by so quickly.  It seems like yesterday it was April, then all of a sudden, it’s closing weekend.  For me, it will be sad to see some players  retire, as I have grown up watching them play hard for so long.  One such player is Craig Biggio.  There was never a time that he wasn’t hustling down the baselines, trying to beat out a throw.  He never gave anything less than his best.  Every time. 

David Wells has contributed a lot to the game as well.  While he still feels he has something left in the tank, I wonder, will this be it?  I hope not.  I too think he still has something to contribute and hope he comes back next year.

Then there are guys like Luis Gonzalez who now plays for the Dodgers.  Growing up, I always thought of him as a DBack, but he proudly wears his Dodger blue, he too giving them everything he has.  I really hope to see him on a team that will value his talents.  He still has it.

With all that said, another season closes, but there’s always anticipation for spring.  Now the question is, who will end up in the World Series? 

AZ Diamondbacks Stephen Drew

What’s been the best thing about being a baseball player so far?

Just coming out every day and looking at the parks you get to go to and it’s definitely a lot of fun and coming out with the crowd and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

Do you and your brother JD have a sibling rivalry between you?

No.  I grew up watching him and how he handled himself and I think I portrayed my self when I started coming up by watching him and tried to follow his footsteps.

When you were kids did you compete a lot? Arizonaastros1may_07_009

Yeah, (laughs), we compete now.  But when we were young and stuff we always competed outside in the front yard and playing games.  We just always had baseball or basketball games or football games in the yard, any of them, we always had competition. 

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on the field?

During spring training last year there was a pop fly and I dropped it.  That was pretty embarrassing. 

Tell me something about you that few people know…

Most people don’t know that I am starting to pick up the guitar again. 

What kind of music do you like? Arizonaastros1may_07_024

I like country, contemporary Christian, whatever.  I like Third Day and groups like that.

If you controlled the locker room music, what would we be hearing?

Probably some country.

One on One with Nats Felipe Lopez

What do think is your greatest strength as a player?Mchughlopez_14
I think that my speed is my greatest strength.  I can do a lot with my speed defensively and offensively.
What’s it like playing with Willie Mo Pena again?
I played with him before in Cincinnatti.  I enjoy playing with him.  He hits mostly home runs so that’s  always fun.
You played many positions.  Do you have a favorite?
My favorite position growing up was always  short stop, but you know, I’ll play anything.
What sports did you play growing up?
Other than baseball?  I played soccer, football, and basketball.  I think that’s about it.
How did you know that you wanted to play baseball?
It was in the family.  I grew up in it and I always loved it.
What is the wildest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
They make big signs or posters, nothing too crazy.

Whats your favorite heckle from fans?
There have been so many.  The always make fun of my butt or ask if I am related to J Lo or something like that.   That’s pretty funny.
Who is the funniest guy on the team?
Oh, we’ve got a lot of them.   There are a bunch of funny guys this year.  I can’t say there’s just one.
Do you have any funny stories that you can share?
We went into one of the coaches hotel room when we got in from the flight, and we hid in the closet and under the bed and we popped out and he got scared. 
Has anyone ever pulled a prank on you?Nats_lopez_1
Oh, yeah, every day.  Like yesterday, they hid my phone.  And that’s pretty important, your phone. 
What’s been the most embarrassing thing that has happened on the field?
My feet got stuck in my shoelace as I was trying to run and I fell on my face.  It was very embarrassing.

Boomer Don’t Go!

Boomer3a You have to admit, no matter what, David Wells brought something to baseball no other seemed to match – gumption.

After being released by the Padres, Wells, 44,Boomer2a  will have some difficult decisions to make over the next few days.

Every day I check the internet to see if he landed on another team, or decided to call it a day.

This search led me to a column by Tim Sullivan of the Union-Tribune in San Diego.  Mr. Sullivan spelled it out – time goes on, but look at what he’s done. I think at the very least he deserved to be recognized for his accomplishments in the game, and not just on recent performance. 

(http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/sullivan/20070809-9999-1s9sullivan.html)  It’s a great read btw.

I was only 6 years-old when Wells pitched his perfect game. How cool it would have been to be there.

Having spent most of his time in the AL while I was growing up, I never got to see him in person until two-weeks ago in Houston.  I was in complete awe. 

I have interviewed a lot of high profile major leaguers, and I was very excited when he was scheduled to pitch on this trip. I submitted my interview request and  I couldn’t wait to try and sit and talk with him.  Unfortunately, after the shaky outing, the interview didn’t happen.  I hope to get the opportunity to interview him one day, but of course, that would mean him not retiring, and then playing with a NL team that makes its rounds to Houston or close by. 

But don’t rule me out hoping on a plane if he signed with another team and the opportunity presented itself. (Right mom?  Hop on a plane? With a little – ok a lot – of nudging from me, who knows, she just might do it!  She’s one of Boomer’s biggest fans, and being a sports photographer, took about a million pictures of him when he was here. There will certainly be no shortage of David Wells photosBoomer4a  if anyone needs one. BTW, she taught me to love baseball early on, and I thank her for that. ) Boomer5a

If I could make the decision for Wells, I would say kick the mud off the shoes, saddle up and give it another go.  Go out your way – when you want – and show ‘em you still got game. 

But if he decides to retire, that’s ok too. He has nothing to hang his head over and we wish him the very best. 

Call me crazy, but…

I will be one of the millions sitting in front of my tv tonight watching Bonds make a run for the record.  Yes, I know there is controversy galore surrounding him, but you know, I have interviewed lots of major leaguers, and when asked who they thought the best player in the majors today is, a majoity said Bonds.

When he breezes through town, its fun to sit back and watch who he interacts with.  I believe when the players step on that field, they are all just happy to be there, and nothing else matters. 

So, I’ll be watching, online, and ready to chat with anyone else who has nothing better to do – or…….wants to watch history in the making.