Archive | March, 2016

Tim Duncan: Spurs ‘Peerless Leader’ In the Paint

31 Mar

Roundball Recovery Act

They were giants of the sporting world, names like George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Wilt the Stilt, Truck, Moses, The Enforcer, Mr. Mean, the Big O, the Big E and the Big Redhead.

Basketball’s leviathans in the low post.

Fans thrilled at their combination of size, strength and agility. The battles they waged under the boards defined the National Basketball Association and made sport headlines for over 50 years.

But change is the constant in a consumer democracy.

The Chuck Taylor high-tops and short-shorts are long gone, replaced with hideous foot-wear and a plethora of prison-yard tattoos. Historic but cramped old arenas gave-way to bigger & brighter venues with better seats, paint-happy hardwood and $14.50 nachos.

And no change has been greater than disappearance of the inside game. In particular, the demise of the dominant center and power-forward.

....Duncan.CC-BY-2.0.wc.12.05.thmDifferent from women’s basketball where the tall pivot player still has a place, the menacing man in the middle has become an endangered species.

Since the days Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned the Lakers’ royal regalia you could count on two hands the number of big men who’ve dominated down low: Robert Parish, Larry Bird, Kev McHale, Bill Laimbeer, Shaq, Magic, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard nearly fill out a very short list.

The culprit: NBA’s adoption of the 3-point shot.

The National was sitting pretty in the late 70s. In a State-sponsored legal structure that today embraces monopoly, the Assc’n siphoned what liquidity was left in it’s only competitor, the 10-year old ABA (‘67-76)), negotiated lucrative TV / merchandise deals but then started to get cute in the marketing department.

In 1979 they reached into their former rival’s bag of tricks (the ABA employed the dunk and the tres in 1968 “as marketing tool(s) to compete with the NBA (Wikipedia)”) and pulled out the three-point shot to prime the pump.

And b-ball’s never been the same.

There had been a symmetry, a yin & yang that worked a balance in roundball.

....Cowens.wc.1976.TSN.thm.R.KingsburyFans were treated to two theaters of play: one inside where bruisers like Thurmond, Dantley, Unseld, Reed, Walton, Lanier, Cowens, Maurice Lucas, Gilmore and Issel waged war; the other, out on the key where long-rangers David Thompson, West, Bing, Frazier, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, George “Iceman” Gervin, Brian Winters, James Worthy and Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson could heat up in a hurry. And then marvelous middle-men like Bobby Dandridge, Marcus Johnson and Bobby Jones who could seemingly do it all. A veritable smorgasbord of spectacular.

As long as both theaters had direction there was a symbiosis and the houses were packed. No need to bait with famble (fantasy – gamble), no talk of tank and the game flourished for all ages.

By the mid-90s the physical, combative play which had made the sport so colorful simply vanished. Centers and power forwards devolved into mere supporting cast. Much of the action moved away from the paint and out to the key where guards and wannabes directed the flow and became the stars.

The spotlight swung away from bangers and over to finesse men like Erving and Jordan as the 3-pointer and un-contested dunk became signature plays.

As most NBA rookies are today on the 3-yr maturation plan they’ll not develop the wide range of skills that stylers like Dr. J and Michael would eventually learn.

“You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle (Seinfeld).”

.....Durant.thm.OKC.K.Allison.2.1.14.wcThey don’t sell the game anymore, they sell celebrity, air-time (TV / Twitter), gambling (FanDuel / DraftKings) and merchandise (cantaloupe-sized driver heads and wicked metal bats in Little League (Outside the Lines (Disney); 3.1.11)). If it generates a revenue stream then history, integrity, quality and sometimes safety it would appear, get swept aside until uproar begins.

When big-shots like Kev Love (6’10) and Kev Durant (6’9) spend half their time on the perimeter, averaging around 400 three’s per season, you know the game’s gone soft. Both should live inside 15 feet. Instead, recent seasons have seen a steady up-tick in their 3PAs, surprising, given the fine shooting touch both possess when not launching long ones (FG%: .444 (.360) / .483 (.380)).

Prime example of a tamer NBA: In a 2012 post-season game between the Lakers and Thunder (G2), with 6 ticks left and down by just one, rather than design a drive to the hoop for two, maybe draw the foul for three and even on a 2-pt miss, possessing good rebound capability (Gasol / Bynum), coach Mike Brown opts for the low-% 3-pt’er that Steve Blake rims out. Both got lambasted post-game but what the Lakers did was SOP in today’s basketball.

There are men who keep alive dynamic play in the paint like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kev Love (imagine if he‘d forget the tres), DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond and forward Blake Griffin: A dying breed.

.....Chance.1913.Bain-News.LoC.thmClosing in on 40 (4.25.76), the former Demon Deacon (See Also; Chris Paul) and U.S. Virgin Islands native has seen his scoring average dip under double-digits (8.5) and minutes below the 25 mark (24.9 (55g)) for first time in his illustrious 19-year NBA career. But like the original “Peerless Leader” in Cubs’ champion Mgr/ 1B’er Frank “Husk” Chance (1898 – 1914), the savvy & strength Duncan imbues in his Spurs team down the stretch, a roster with no shortage of experience in fellow gray-beards in Tony Parker (14), Manu Ginobili (13), Andre Miller (16), Kev Martin (11), David West (12), Matt Bonner (11) and Boris Diaw (11), may make-up for the decline in mobility & capacity that father time always exacts from the athlete who loves the game and goes long.

For the 3-pointer, it’s time it was bounced outta’ the building. Send it, along with dunk contests and home run derby back to Cartoon Country, i.e., Saturday morning TV. That’s not likely to happen but seeing as how the youthenized NBA has no use for the balanced game, maybe a new adult pro league would. Then watch the roundball renaissance begin.

Don’t ever forget this pointer: It’s their business but it’s our game.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: T.Duncan, wc, M.Sandoval, 1.28.07; Duncan, 12.05, CC-BY-2.0, wc; D.Cowens, 1976, TSN, R.Kingsbury, wc; K.Durant, wc, OKC, K.Allison, 2.1.14; F.Chance, wc, Bain-News, 1913, LoC; Straight-Shooter-produce label.
Posted: 3.31.16 @ 5;16pmEST; Copyright © 2016

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NBA16: Curry Tres and How the ABA Got the Last Laugh

31 Mar

Poison Pill

A metaphorical meeting between the official ABA (Spaulding) and NBA (Wilson) game balls sometime in early 1976:

NBA: ‘Hey, ABBA, you look kinda’ down, like you need a needle & air but bad. You must’ve heard the news. It’s in the hopper, the merger’s set.

ABA: Merger? That’s cute. More like leveraged buyout, no? I’m just sick over it, like I was bounced around a discothèque for days. Ten years, good times, sustainable profits, the Nets could take Rick Barry and those Warriors easy, hell, the Celtics in six. What was it all for?

......ABA.J.Hadnot.1967.wc.323k.Oaks.thmNBA: For? Are you kidding me? So we could close off avenues of profit and pick your bones clean for expansion, that’s what for. You know the score, competition will not be tolerated. Look at baseball, the WFL, it’s the American way: Monopoly. Didn’t you see Rollerball? The Suits & Skirts in DC are trained seals, the Robes, too. Throw ‘em some smelt ($), give ‘em a bouncy ball to perch on and it’s all set.

ABA: What about the Founding Fathers, The Wealth of Nations (A.Smith), competition in the marketplace, Lincoln, FDR, democracy?

NBA: That‘s political. This is business, baby. Whoever has the jack gets to make more jack. And the faux fan, he doesn’t even care. And he’s majority. They wouldn’t make a peep if it meant missing McDonald’s or a Starsky & Hutch. Laverne & Shirley, maybe. When’d you fall off the rubber truck?

ABA: At least some of us will ♫ survive ♫. Of all four clubs, Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, I figure the Nuggets…no, the Nets…the Nets will really shine in the National. They’ve been a dynasty here since 1974. Watch n’ see.

NBA: Maybe. That Dr. J is something else, David Thompson, too.

ABA: Could you do me one favor, Nash, it’s no biggie.

NBA: Name it, amigo.

.....ABA.R.Taylor.wc.thm.WA-Caps.1969ABA (Sniffle): Could you take something on, something we in the American have really taken pride in, something that set us apart.

NBA: The ball, that red, white & blue pom-pon? You gotta’ be kidding? Sorry, no offense, ABBA, you know I love you, all balls, any shape, size or color, but c’mon.

ABA: Are ya’ done? Geez. No, not the ball.

NBA: What then!?

ABA: The 3-point shot. It’d mean alot to us. And it’s kitschy.

NBA: Kitschy, huh? Kind of a gimmick I‘d say…hey, take it easy, ABBA, here’s a Kleenex®. Okay, I’ll pitch it to Larry (O’Brien). He doesn’t even watch. Loves The Rockford Files and Kojak. But I’ve got his ear. If I want it in the game, it’ll happen. Bank on it (‘79).

ABA: Thanks, friend (wink).’

Curry Conundrum

This gimmick, some’ll call it an innovation, has never been bigger than in 2016.

With reigning MVP and NBA champ Steve Curry sinking 3-pointers as often as you’ll hear ‘awesome’ uttered in a 24-hr time span, and a finesse heretofore unseen in World NBA, the shot that turned the game into a near non-contact sport has never been more matterful to players & coaches and noticeable to those who monitor basketball’s ebb & flow.

.....Curry.wc.4.6.14.N.Salzman.thmbBut on-the-whole the game’s b-ball beacon has never luminated on such a weak signal. And for that you can thank the tres.

For starters, it’s a long-distance launch that for all practical purpose is almost indefensible. The phrase ‘defending the 3-point’ is downright oxymoronic.

The Curry conundrum is a mindset of indecision: Defender either plays the 3-pt shooter tight, creating back space big enough for a tractor-trailer while risking the 4-pt play (and momentum swing) too easily afforded in these quick-whistle / phantom phoul times; or, he / she opts out of trying to stop the tres altogether after running the cost / benefit analysis which, to the Curry class, is an open invitation with near 50% likelihood of success. Excellent odds for a fat swish.

Steve found his niche and perfected the play (his coach Steve wasn’t too shabby himself). Credit Curry for that. He and others before him took the manner of game given and after a few decades of practice are making the most of it. Now every kid on the block can be a hero. And isn’t that wonderful?

And we’re moving closer to apples & oranges in species of basketball.

The former game fashioned by founder Jim Naismith (1891) was exciting enough to keep fans fascinated for five generations. At it’s core fueling the fun was the symbiotic “association (The Triangle, 1.15.1892 (JN))” between inside – outside games: Power & positioning around the basket contrasted with daring drives to the hoop and swish artistry from the perimeter, all of equal value.

.....Naismith.wc.Evdcoldeportes.thmIt’s now given way to a new millennial form of play termed by this writer as ICBM: Inter-Continental Ball-istic Mode where the 3-point threat pulls most the action away from the frontcourt (paint & post) and into the back, out on the arc (wings) far from the rim and into a nether region of uncertainty. The tres may account for under a third of a game’s total point output but impacts the entirety.

The big guys don’t really know where to post anymore: Up top, down low, somewhere in between (no-man‘s land). Because of that we’ll never know just how good LeBron James could’ve been in the true power-forward position.

Is this what Commissioner Larry O’Brien & Co. foresaw for the NBA when they instituted the 3-point shot in the ‘79-80 season, a basketball game where the once celebrated center spot has lost so much significance it doesn’t even rate mention on the annual All-Star ballot? At first blush I’d answer, no, they did not.

On deeper reflection, however, the prevailing mood amongst guardians of the game may’ve been to seek a change in tempo and temper

In wake of the devastating punch Lakers’ Kermit Washington threw at Rockets’ Rudy Tomjanovich in a 1977 on-court fracas, a slug so severe it collapsed his face and required multiple surgeries to repair the damage, NBA owners may’ve been seeking a means to calm the game, to a degree, by rule change.

Whether that was a true motive or not it’s calming effect has been so certain it turned the game prosaic where the defensive pulse is so weak the doctor would pronounce the basketball patient comatose.

.....Horse.carosuel.12.30.12.Dinkum.wc.thmSide-effect has been an activity that more resembles a game of running H.O.R.S.E. than a battle on the boards, where every trot down court is merely set-up for matching long-range lift-offs: Low contact, no designed plays, create a space, feed me the ball and watch it fly. Whoop-dee-frickin-do.

Surprisingly, or not, it’s the women’s game (WNBA / college) that is the truer form of roundball in 2016. The strength and torque, as it were, are lesser with the ladies but the synergy between shooter skill and physical fortitude in the paint still thrives to maintain a harmony and a verve that bests the big boys.

Clearly, NBA overlords did not fully consider the gradual but inescapable game-changing impact this ABA osmosis would have on the National and b-ball in general, to the great detriment of the tremendous inside – outside dichotomy that had defined the game from its inception and made it a captivating show.

Perusing my 1983 paperback edition of The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball (Z. Hollander), the NBA 3-pt shot was slowly mastered and adapted into play where 100 attempts was fairly rare for most shooting guards in the early 80s and the top takers like Mike Bratz (CLE 138a – 46 (82)), Mike Donleavy (SA 194 – 67 (83)), Joe Hassett (214 – 71 (82)) and Darrell Griffith (257 – 92 (85)) only rarely reached the 200 plateau. The championship clubs of the day like the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons (80s), Bulls and Rockets (90s) were still seriously symmetrical working both inside and outside games.

Might the 3-pointer go the way of the dodo bird? Doubtful. Love it and leave it (in place) probably says it best. It’s now the central component to today’s distant cousin of the Naismith game, even as fan interest ebbs low. Sad to think for those who love the rich, full flavor basketball that had thrived for 100 years.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credits: ABA, Darden-Moe, wc.cca, 1970; ABA, Oakland, J.Hadnot, 1967, wc; ABA, R.Taylor, DC-Caps, 1969, wc; S.Curry, 4.6.14, N.Salzman, wc; horse-carousel, Paris, MoFA, Dinkum, wc, 12.30.12; J.Naismith, wc, Evdcoldeportes; J.Naismith, wc; Straight-shooter, produce-label;
Posted: 3.31.16 @ 12:24pm EST; Copyright © 2016

 

MLB16: Troutonics and the Return of Hamiltonianism

14 Mar

In a time when numerology has become the method by which every editor and marketing director in the land shapes their sport media product, a use that borders on the obsessive and snoozerific, this primordial statistic has somehow become the Rodney Dangerfield (“I don’t get no respect”) of all mathematical rods by which batsmen are measured in 2016: Runs scored.

This, even as runs account for one-half of that most basic of baseball equations: Runs scored in excess (>) of your opponent’s tally = victory. Sport simple.

But simple just won’t cut it today, so the sellers would have us believe.

.......Trout.wc.7.24.11.thm.MD.K.AllisonSuccinctness will neither get your sportswriter résumé read nor keep you in that job that requires a wherewithal for the number schemes. The more complicated the better appears the mandate.

A selling strategy that seems to prefer keeping fans mentally-barefoot and in the kitchen-of-confusion, so to speak. Tsk-tsk.

Convoluted calculations will serve the sportician – mortician by separating themselves from we of the unwashed masses, serving as a sort of secret, cliquy code. A club as it were. Whether it truly helps or not in appreciation of players and strategy or prognostication of contests is beside the point. A niche has been carved out. So the consumer overlords see it.

Do sabrmetrics actually help one to master the fantasy game? They certainly haven’t made much of an impact in the general managing profession, not if you aim for pennants (See; B.Beane (OAK ‘98-present))?

They may help one believe they’re an aid and that’s all that matters to make the register ring, cha-ching! Kind of like the philosophy of that great New Yorker, “George Costanza” of Seinfeld lore: “If you believe it’s true then it’s not a lie.”

......Beane&DePodesta.090911.GabboT.thumbWhere the deep delve into digits can assist the fantasy fan in tangible result lies in simple fact that in crunching all of the calculations it’s just as likely that helpful patterns gleaned from performance stats will have been gotten from elementary totals (runs scored, ERA, etc.) and breakdowns (home / away, lefty v. righty) as from the trendy new acronyms. Unless you sequester your survey from the primes, who’s to say it wasn’t the traditionals that didn’t shape the mind?

And try telling that to a sabrhead. Oh, brother.

Because of this modern numbers myth, the easily discernable, key figures that served box-score connoisseurs and graced the backs of cards for decades in W-L, ERA, home runs, OB%, hits, RBIs, BA, steals, etcetera, are today relegated to the nether regions of TV graphics and sporting prose or neglected altogether, to make room for the new brood of cryptic acronyms (WAR, OPS%, QBR (NFL)) that befall & befuddle most fans every spring and pompously portend to’ve finally quantified the best calculations. Sure, Simon, whatever you say.

One exception where an elementary element is still accorded respect: The home run. Think of it as the Vin Scully of statistics: Resilient and revered.

......Trout.7.22.11.thm.K.Allison.wcSince the Bambino began knocking ‘em out with a passion (1919) the round-tripper, the dinger or in former Brewers’ batsman George Scott lexicon, the “tater,” has continued to capture the national attention. And Bud Selig’s Family Fun Show & All-Star Home Run Derby Jamboree week in July has made sure it stays captured.

But there’s a new style of play on the ball diamond.

A man who upon making the major league scene in 2011 showed himself to be a throwback who knows the equation and keeps his eye on the prize: Score runs on the base-path and prevent them with the glove. His name: Mike Trout, centerfielder for the California Angels. I’m a throwback, too.

Trout is what’s known as a Hamiltonian, a rare breed in 2016.

That’s not to be confused with that early American political party named after it’s chief proponent in Alexander Hamilton, born of British West Indies who would become an aid-de-camp to General George Washington, a co-author of the Federalist Papers, our fledgling nation’s first Treasury Secretary and dueling casualty (d.1804) of then Vice President, Aaron Burr.

.....Hamilton.LoC.Goodwin.B.Edwards.1887.wc.thmAlternatively known as Federalism, a view which promoted strong central government in opposition to the Jeffersonians who were anti-elitist, pro-States and individual rights. Oh yeah, tomatoes, too. Tom also touted that lycopene-rich fruit that changed the world (See; cooking & “Michael Dorsey”).

He’s not that kind of Hamiltonian, at least not to my knowledge.

Having led the Junior Circuit in runs for three of his four full seasons in the majors, Trout is on pace to be in league with that greatest of all plate-crossers, the incomparable Billy “Sliding” Hamilton (1888 – 1901) who finished with 1697 total in just 14 seasons, bested the 140 mark six times and still holds the single-season tally of 198 runs scored.

The great Rickey Henderson (1979 – 03) bested Billy by 600 runs, compiling that figure in 25 seasons with his highest season total being 146 (‘85 (143g)).

The percheron-necked slugger from the Garden State, winner of the 2014 AL – MVP, has scored 477 runs in just four full campaigns in Anaheim and the cup of coffee (20g) he had in his first taste. That consistently high run production is even more impressive alongside a strong RBI output (397 (4y)) and nice power stroke where Mike has averaged 33 homers per and topped at 41 in 2015.

.....Trout.wc.7.23.11.K.Allison.thmTrout’s Achilles heel is lack of bat control in the S-zone.

Attitude today on batter strikeouts is essentially ‘pay no mind,’ even as opportunities are forsaken, as long as RBIs and BA run respectable. On that trend the New Jersey juggernaut runs with the pack, averaging 150+ whiffs per season. He’s in good company as Senior Circuit’s 2015 MVP and runs champ Bryce Harper (131 (118r)) and ROY Kris Bryant (199! (87r)) are free-swingers alike.

Trout: 5yrs: 2448 AB; 647 SO; .304 BA
Hamilton: 14yrs: 6283 AB; 362 SO; .344 BA

You might say, ‘It’s too different a game today to fairly compare.’ Not on making contact, it isn’t. Teams in 2016 who put the ball in play with greater regularity are more likely to win games and titles just as they were in 1894.

The world champion Kansas City Royals were ranked AL tops in fewest team SOs (973 (#1)), 2d in hits (1497 (#2)) and sixth in runs scored (724 (#6)). You need to satisfy other half of that equation (pitch) but KC computed fine there too.

....Pujols_041412_LAA_M.O'Leary.thmMike’s anchoring a Los Angeles Angels’ batting lineup short on big names, one of the few being a game but aging superstar in Albert Pujols (36). But Trout is looking to keep his season strikeout trend on downward direction (158 (‘15) / 184 (‘14)), slugging percentage strong (.590 (#1 AL)) and a fielding display that at times is downright thrilling and nearly flawless in routine (428 PO / 7A / 0E (1.000)).

If Mr. Rock Steady can avoid those career-altering injuries and keep his nose pointed to home-plate, when all is said & done he may get fans to take notice of runs again and then find himself in amongst the best of company, the GAT in career runs-scored, including Misters Henderson, Cobb, Aaron, Rose, Hamilton and his teenage sports idol, Derek Jeter. Not ♫ bad company ♫ at all.

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Trout-cap, wc.cca, 7.23.11, MD, K.Allison; Trout-fan, wc, K.Allison, 7.24.11, MD; B.Beane-DePodesta, wc, 9.9.11, GabboT; Trout, 7.22.11, wc, MD, K.Allison; B.Hamilton, LoC, B.Edwards, Goodwin, 1887, wc; Trout-gloves, 7.23.11, wc, Allison, MD; A.Pujols, wc, 4.14.12, M.O’Leary; Canned-corn.
Posted: 3.14.16 @ 2:35pm, edit 6:50 Eastern Standard Time; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: Barry Bonds, Elections & Lies-by-Right

4 Mar

‘You knew but what’d ya’ll do?’

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” Marmion, by Walter Scott (1808)

Webmaster Barry Bonds rejoined his “fraternity” last month to serve as hitting coach for the Miami Marlins as baseball‘s spring training got underway in the Cactus (AZ) and Grapefruit (FL) Leagues. As expected the official home run king was queried by reporters on the Cooperstown topic and his failure to win election. Bonds’ response: “God knows I’m a Hall of Famer.”

......Bonds.J.Accordino.wc.1993.thmbNearly everyone, excepting, if I recall right, Tom Boswell at Washington Post who speculated on steroid use in the late 80s, looked away, cheered wildly while Bonds and his brothers in bash appeared to be juicing with reckless abandon, some afraid of player backlash, some in hero-worship and others defending memorabilia cachets.

That fact poses a cultural conundrum: What do you, the BBWAA, do with a Cooperstown candidate whom you, and the majority, believe tainted himself, his marks and MLB by engaging in a PED-plan during his career while you sat on your pens? Leave Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and their ilk, some proven, some admitted, others strongly suspected PED‘ers, off of your ballots, even as you gave tacit approval, seems the answer.

Barry is the official, if not, publicly sanctioned holder of the two most cherished marks in the annals of baseball: Single-season (73) and career home run totals (762), yet, he pays a price for what appears to’ve been a career fueled by performance enhancers. His arrogant persona doesn’t help his case, though, younger voters seem to find it fascinating.

And what price do we the fans pay for letting the players, their union, formerly an agent for equity, embed steroids, HGH and the other cheat-drugs into our sports, at all levels, causing a cancer we have still not engaged with aggressive treatment (In pro ball “115 failed drug tests…since January 2015 (“Jenrry Mejia’s Free-fall” / 2.12 / SI / Verducci)”)?

......McGwire.wc.6.29.11.6m.K.Allison.thmAs Big Mac and Sammy were barreling over Maris’ mark (61) in ‘98, some of us were neither fooled nor pleased. One apologist at the time engaged me on the topic and made this sorry claim in their defense: ‘Even if they are using, steriods don’t improve performance.’ Yeah, that’s why they juiced, ‘cause they didn’t help. Like sticky-gloves (NFL), they wear ‘em ‘cause they look good, right? Oy vey.

Besides providing an unfair, unnatural aid in play, i.e., cheating, and, if used outside the supervision of a medical pro who administers in open practice, causing a slew of serious, long-term side effects, PEDs do add muscle mass which increases swing velocity and power. It‘s pretty simple.

That public complacency, along with the window of opportunity remaining open for PED cheats by an absence of mandated in-season blood draws for every MLB rosteree, are the 10,000 lbs elephants in the room everyone ignores.

And it is that complacency which is Barry’s best argument to persuade voters to back his enshrinement. Even in a mental state of deceit, how can one be said to be cheating if near everyone, though suspecting skullduggery, does not make serious statement to prevent the behavior until years later? Arguably, it‘s not.

.....Coperstown.Sign.7.26.8.O.Yamamoto.thm“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men (Ella Wheeler Wilcox (JFK (‘91))).” If a tree falls in the forest to send campers dodging for cover who claim they did not see it crash, did it actually topple, did it make a sound and can we still use it for firewood? Hmmm.

Additionally, while steroids were banned by baseball in 1991, testing didn’t begin until 2003, then a ramped-up Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006, one year before Mr. Bonds’ final year and spring blood draws finally instituted in 2014. That fact that it’s taken so long to even get to this point in the fight (and window of opportunity still ajar) must go to the issue of wrongfulness on Bonds’ part.

Barry & Co. would add that he never tested positive for steroids. But that’s not the hand he really wants to play. When you and your union (MLBPA) stave off for decades the best method to detect illicit drug use, i.e., timely blood draws, a player crowing that he never tested positive is a poor defense, indeed.

Martha Knows

But employing the complacency defense would of course require Barry come clean, admit to a knowing, intentional use of PEDs. Words toxic to his psyche.

Everyone already believes he juiced. The grotesque ballooning of his head alone is pretty persuasive sign. Now, he’s just seen by most as a stubborn, somewhat frightened man. Life can be scary, oh, boy, can it, but choosing the truth can help.

“One brave thing.”

That’s what Joseph Cotton (“Holly”) opted for as events came to a head in the great film, The Third Man (’49) set in post-war Vienna.

It might invite the feds back into his life stemming from the BALCO matter (2003-15) if not precluded by double jeopardy. His lawyers would give him the skinny on how the feds might proceed.

.....Stewart.wc.thm.D.Shankbone.9.21.9I’m not one but I can’t imagine such a show of courage would be met with anything less than a forward-thinking response by prosecutors (those that bungled the case), something to maintain perjury precedent and negotiate agreements on fines and maybe even a brief jail stay. Barry could do that standing on his head, even today’s smaller version.

Consider billionairess Martha Stewart. Today the Super Chef is groovin.’ She’s in a better place now than before she landed in the clink.

Coming clean would sway the court of public opinion, cloak Barry in garb of leadership and grant him bully-pulpit to argue for more stringent PED-prevention. Big dog Bonds could become a bridge between former users and guardians of the game in discussing a solution to how exactly baseball’s Elias record book might be revised.

What I fear is that younger voters who will soon be majority block of BBWAA, an age that watched in awe as Barry piled-up MVPs and they filled-up boxes of memorabilia, elect him before a progressive catharsis could ever take place.

In 2016 Bonds received roughly 44% of votes (75%), up considerably from the 35% he’d been receiving his first 3-years of eligibility. Barry and Roger Clemens both (45%) are now well positioned for future gains though they could just as easily get mired in the 40s.

Winning election to the Hall of Fame, however, will change little for Barry.

....Bonds.8.25.06.thm.K.Rushforth.wcWithout a doubt, taking up residence in Cooperstown validates one’s career and all appurtenant to it, i.e., titles, awards and records, like a wave from the magic wand of wonderful. Ting! Barry, however, he’s a special case.

The distrust that his name inspires among most fans, sustained by his aloofness which includes his failure to admit an apparent PED protocol, will keep that dark cloud stationary over head and probably Cooperstown as well if elected. And though he has his supporters, their children aren’t likely to carry Dad’s passion forward: Do the different is how it usually works in generational ways.

Coming clean presents a great opportunity for Bonds.

Yes, it’s an outrageous act that comes with risks, some dread. Great acts don’t come easy nor their results cheap. But when you admit to something most already believe to be true the effect can be cleansing, open up avenues to progress & pride that living the lie will never do, even with a bronze plaque.

Public ridicule, even hatred would intensify for a time, giving fodder to trogs who think through their digestive tracts. You prepare for that. In time, truth and the courage it took to express it become a bastion for baseball fans and the brave.

“A rose is rose is a rose”

And Barry best beware of those who’d dissuade by comparison to Rose’s mea culpas that won him no new fans nor a lift of his lifetime ban.

Firstly, most of us aren’t really sure Pete’s come completely clean anyway, and then don’t really care to know anymore.

....Rose.K.Junstorm.1.11.08.thm.LV.wcSecond, while druggies cheat the game like gamblers and both make themselves subject to blackmail by associates, the motives can be quite different. Roid-heads at least seek to enhance their play, win the game. Gamblers on the other hand, they use the game, sometimes in loss, to fuel their real motive, the chance habit.

Besides that, Rose violated a code well known since Black Sox (1920), entered a contract (‘89), waited too long to make public admission and even then left doubt as to veracity when he finally did, i.e., maybe playing to lose.

A concern for Barry comes from the same supporters who may soon elect him to the Hall. They might advise against any revelation of wrong-doing. Barry’s likely lie is their lie, too. Overnight they’d turn his harshest critics. Officially establish PED use through admission and Bonds’ collectible stock drops like a rock.

Giambi and McGwire came clean though Mark passed on his initial opportunity, coining one of the queerest quips ever uttered in testimony before Congress: “I’m not here to talk about the past (‘05).” ¡Ay, caramba! But in 2010, likely at urging of Cardinals’ brass, Big Mac confessed to using steriods in his MLB career though he took shelter in the now all too common recovery-from-injury excuse rather than performance boost.

Then there’s Canseco, Mark’s brother-in-bash during their salad days as A’s.

....Canseco.wc.5.14.11.B.Horowitz.thm.WorJose’s opted for cartoon figure, afraid to embrace his iconic status as a game-changing whistleblower. Some in his profession call him a rat. Like Count Dracula, cheats hate the light of day. The revelations (claims) made in his book “Juiced (‘05)” slapped us wise on the rampant use of PEDs in MLB and gave impetus to the on-going reclamation project with no end in sight.

But Barry’s the big dog. He holds, by hook, crook or natural talent, records and MVPs. His admission, full and heart-felt, would carry weight in the war on drugs.

That shouldn’t, however, punch his ticket to immortality (HoF).

MLB banned steroids in 1991. The honor-system (test-free), but a rule is a rule and PEDs do enhance production, substantially. That makes his marks unlikely the stuff of Ruth, Mays, Mathewson and Roberto.

A solution might be a separate wing for PED’ers, proven and suspected. A stigma would attach, a neo-segregation, of sorts, this one integrity-based. But it would offer a much needed compromise to a festering problem we all helped forge that works a black mark on our era that we must accept, must embrace: Recognize achievements but chances forgone and a cowardly greed that tarnished our time.

Bonds & Clemens side would say they never failed / tested positive for PEDs nor can be tied to reliable evidence of having engaged in doping behavior. And that statement could be compromised with credible information.

While both did as federal defendants essentially prevail in their trials, evidence did come to light that could lead a neutral-minded person to form the reasonable belief that both men did engage in the use of PEDs during their careers.

....Clemens.wc.thm.K.Allison.6.27.07Brian McNamee had been a personal trainer to Roger and did give what could be deemed compelling testimony and provided physical exhibits (syringe) he claimed to’ve used on Clemens, while federal prosecutors obtained BALCO files that included a set of linking documents on Bonds from November 2000. On one, Bonds’ name with a number that corresponded to the other containing the name “Barry B.” and positive test results for two anabolic steriods.

Bonds claims to have not knowingly taken PEDs.

You can choose to believe Barry but it’s not unreasonable to disbelieve, given his corresponding super surge in power numbers with the time feds claimed he was using enhancements, together with his BALCO association, known to’ve provided and administered the regimen. If it walks, quacks like a duck.

Even if you think neither baseball star can be tied to unethical supplementation when contemplating your imaginary ballot, strong suspicion can be sufficient to form a reasonable belief that both Bonds and Clemens cheated the game with PEDs based on their physical appearance and on-field performance patterns.

Your own standard of review need not conform to those required in a court venue where civil (C&C / PoE) or criminal (BRD) matters are adjudicated. Always Shepardize, so to speak, but no one’s liberty nor property are at issue when voting on a Cooperstown plaque.

Captain’s Courageous?

What is the best voting standard?

Informed, free of bias and prejudice, of course, and if a claim of wrong-doing may attach to a candidate, a standard analogous to that by which a magistrate would base issuance of a search warrant seems apropos: Reasonable suspicion.

As noted, MLBPA forestalled blood draws for years, the preferred method, only agreeing to a spring test in 2014. To argue on one hand ‘I never tested positive’ while on the other having collectively prevented yourself from being tested or only in the most cursory fashion (urine) during your career is a faulty premise.

...blood-test.wc.Vegasjon.9.11.14.thmHad a player been outspoken about instituting high-level or any testing in early days of PED signing (90s), that man should receive a consideration. But I don’t recall any such man having taken that stand (some White Sox in spring 2005 took a position, briefly (union)), certainly not Misters Bonds nor Clemens.

As it stands, Bonds the batter and Clemens the pitcher are symbols, PED sign-posts to two destinations: 1) Big boost in production, longevity & moolah ($), and 2) the state of disgrace if pulled over for violation or waving red flags.

A likely third destination for riders on the PED junket: Related health concerns in the immediate or future states such as a compromised immunity, candida and as serious as heart disease and stroke. The younger one begins, the greater the risk.

Enshrine Barry and Roger and the symbolism is destroyed.

Message to kids or anyone balancing risk vs gain on the PED call would tilt gain, given the financial rewards, MLB’s on-going promotion of power (HRD), pretty fair chance you won’t get busted with the window that remains open and that the ultimate accolade in Cooperstown can stay on the table.

Why then should Bonds come clean? Because it’s the right thing to do.

That reads kinda’ corny today. Bravery as cultural norm stopped being cool long ago. The lie is almost hip today. Fibs & fraud are hardly new, it’s been going on since we were fishes? How does a fish lie? Flat in the pan but that’s not the issue (♫ da-boom chh! ♫). Difference today is lies are done with impunity, obviousness, almost a taunt.

...Gandhi.wc.thm.pre1942In coming clean Barry would find tremendous satisfaction he’d never regret. It could also aid his health, everyone’s, as truth-telling is a stress reducing and a major contributor to maladies of the heart (See; “The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology,” Basic Health Pub., 2007). Over time his favorability rating would rise.

Remember what Gandhi said: “Even if minority of one, the truth is the truth.” Substance does not need quantity. “The truth cannot be destroyed (O’Dea, Johnny Belinda (‘48)).” It can be hidden, Barryied from public eyes but it will always exist in some state, known by someone, somewhere.

Barry would keep his money and seasonal accolades (MVP) but forgo the Hall of Good ‘n Plenty and concede to a record book re-do. Sacred stuff, and numbers were never so big if somewhat suffocating (See; sabrmetrics (WAR, etc.)).

I don’t see either star finding the luminosity to shine bright. Self-denial is seen as ‘Un-American Activity’ in Consumer 2016. These guys grab with both hands.

“Greed is good.” America’s motto today. Trump is its face. Don has what McCain, even as hero, could never carry off: Maverickness. That can turn loose cannon. Clinton is sharp as a tack, doesn’t ruffle easy and will take at least 2 debates by her experience. She, however, is the face of appeasement. Strength’s a question. Both flag negatives like snow-belt springs pot-holes in March. We’re not doing well with Chiefs in DC these past 40 years. We are what we eat.

Roger and Barry will win election in the not too distant future. They’ll jump for joy and their rookie cards will rise in value. But over time they’ll fare worse in the court of public opinion, if that’s possible, drawing more resentment for arguably ‘getting away with it’ and helping tarnish the game’s sacrosanct Elias record book.

They’ve a great opportunity, a responsibility, in fact, as did Rose, being key cog in the Big Red Machine, arguably the best all-time. It’s in their hands.

Oh, where o’ where are the “Captain’s Courageous?”

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: B.Bonds, 7.21.07, guano, wc.cca; Bonds, wc, J.Accordino, 1993; M.McGwire, wc, 6.29.11, K.Allison; Cooperston.Signs, wc, 7.26.08, O.Yamamoto; M.Stewart, wc, D.Shankbone, 9.21.9; Bonds, wc, 8.25.06, K.Rushforth; P.Rose, wc, 1.11.08, K.Junstorm, LV; J.Canseco, wc, 5.14.11, B.Horowitz, Worcester; R.Clemens, wc, 6.27.07, K.Allison; blood-test, wc, 9.11.14, Vegasjon; M.Gandhi, wc, pre1942; canned-corn.
Posted: 3.4.16 @ 12:27p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:28p ET; Copyright © 2016