Archive: September 8th, 2007

Ankiel Above the Law

St. Louis Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty and slugger Rick Ankiel face the press

By now you no doubt have learned about Rick Ankiel’s eight shipments of HGH received back in 2004. Perhaps you have even begun to form an opinion on the situation.

Well, in case you’re still on the fence, new information has come to light that may help sway your opinion one way or another. St. Louis Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty has made an announcement that should completely clear Ankiel’s name and put everyone’s concerns to rest:

“Everything was legal,” he said. “There was no violation of major league rules. There was no violation of any laws. At this point, if there’s anything more to decide, major league baseball will look at it and let us know.”

Further, Ankiel himself assured us that any shipments he received — including the HGH — were completely legal because they were prescribed by a doctor.

Said Ankiel,

“All and any medications that I have received in my career has always been under a doctor’s care, a licensed physician.”

Whew! THAT was a close one! A doctor prescribed the HGH, purportedly to help speed the healing of Ankiel’s elbow after Tommy John surgery. All completely on the level. And here we thought maybe Ankiel had — gasp! — done something wrong!

Except for one thing: HGH cannot legally be prescribed for helping baseball players recover from injuries and surgery.

Did Jocketty and Ankiel really expect us to listen to their blasphemy and come away with a “oh, OK, that makes sense.” Does Jocketty think we’re all a bunch of friggin’ morons with ” … there was no violation of any laws … ” ????

No violation? Oh reaaaaaaaalllllly …. so, then, um, why are there federal agents looking into this shipment as part of an investigation? Are they spending millions of taxpayer dollars for fun — or is there the slight possibility that someone here did something against the law?

And, since when is the opinion of Jocketty, Ankiel, and some sleazy doctor above that of the US FDA? Because according to the FDA, HGH can be legally prescribed for:

* Human Growth Hormone Deficiency
* Turner’s syndrome
* Chronic renal insufficiency
* Intrauterine growth retardation
* Prader-Willi syndrome
* Continued height deficit at puberty
* Cachexia

Hmmm … I’m looking at the above list and I don’t see “Recovery from TJ surgery” … unless “Cachexia” is a nifty medical term for moving an elbow ligament (it’s not).

Oh, but let’s just get off the poor kid’s back already … he’s accomplished something wonderful this year, what a feel-good story … let him continue the story … what’s the big deal?

That sounds remarkably similar to another feel-good story about a slugger from St. Louis, doesn’t it? Back in, oh what was it? The summer of 1998 I think? Yeah, that was a wonderful story at the time, it made us all feel fuzzy all over.

And then the truth came out. And the big lug refused “to talk about the past”. How do you feel about that “magic summer” now, after finding out it was all a big lie? Of course, I can’t speak for you, but I feel duped, cheated, lied to, disrespected, and played for a sucker. But that’s not even the main reason this Ankiel situation is so distasteful.

For me, the issue is with the youth of America, who once again are being told that, if you want to get to “the Show”, you may have to put illegal substances in your body. And that’s it’s no big deal, because people will forgive you, and you won’t get into any real trouble. Millions of teenagers get this out of it: sometimes you need “an edge” to get where you want to go, or a shortcut. And if you’re not willing to take the risk, you may not make it — because “everyone else” is probably doing it.

That’s not the message I want kids hearing — kids who could get themselves really screwed up before they get a taste of life. It would be nice if we could tell young athletes, “work hard, do your best, respect your body, others, and the rules, and with a little luck, you may one day make it to the pros.” But I guess that’s an old-skool pipe dream in these days of shortcuts, cheaters, and instant gratification.

I’ll end with this quote from the congressional hearings of March 2005, by Donald Hooton of Plano, Texas, the father of a high school baseball player who committed suicide in 2003 after steroid use:

“Players that are guilty of taking steroids are not only cheaters, you are cowards.. Show our kids that you’re man enough to face authority, tell the truth and face the consequences. Instead, you hide behind the skirts of your union, and with the help of management and your lawyers you’ve made every effort to resist facing the public today.”


Mets Game 141: Win Over Astros

Mets 3 Astros 1

Tom Glavine had a perfect game through five, and gave up only three hits total in seven full innings of work — walking none.

Meantime, Woody Williams pitched a fairly strong game himself, allowing only three runs in six innings of work. David Wright busted things open in the third with YAOFHR (Yet Another Opposite Field Home Run) for the first run of the game. The next inning, Shawn Green and Paul LoDuca hit back-to-back doubles to make the score 2-0, and in the fifth, Luis Castillo scampered home on a wild pitch to put the Mets up by three.

Unbelievably, Glavine was removed after giving up back-to-back singles leading off the eighth. He had thrown a grand total of 86 pitches, with 6-7-8 coming up for the Astros. With men on first and second, what would you like to see from Ty Wigginton? A ground ball double play, right? So why was Glavine the groundball machine removed and replaced by Aaron Heilman — he of the long fly ball and crazy bloops and bounces? I understand the concern with the tying run coming to the plate, but why then would Willie bring in the guy who has been serving up the gopherball all year long? Why, when a double play is in order, do you bring in the guy who has induced a grand total of four DPs in over 70 innings?

Not surprisingly, Heilman fisted Wiggy with an inside fastball that dropped into no-mans land in shallow right, scoring Carlos Lee with the ‘stros first run of the game. However, Heilman then bore down and struck out the next three hitters to get out of the inning. So if the ends justify the means, then Willie made the right decision. Personally, I still would have left Glavine in there — partially because I don’t see runners on as a problem with Tommy on the mound, and mostly because Glavine was pitching a fantastic game. Why take a chance on bringing in a new pitcher when the one you have has already proven to be your best guy on that particular day?

Anyway …

Billy Wagner finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 31st save and help Glavine win his 13th game of the year.

Next Game

The Mets and Astros do it again at 1:10 PM on Sunday. Pedro Martinez faces Roy Oswalt in what promises to be a fun pitching matchup.


10 Questions: Houston Astros

Houston Astros baseball throwback logoThe remainder of the season looks bleary to Astros fans; both the manager and GM have been fired, and they’re stuck with an owner who wants to have tight control over personnel decisions.

To get an idea of what’s going on in the minds of Houston fans, I called on Lisa Gray of The Astros Dugout.

1. The Astros’ traditional second-half surge never materialized, and as a result both manager Phil Garner and GM Tim Purpura lost their jobs. Do you think Garner and Purpura deserved most of the blame?

– Phil was not a good manager and I wasn’t happy with him last year
– As for Purpura, it has been said by media that he had very very little control over anything in spite of the owner’s denials of this. However, he wasn’t able to pick up even cheap guys off the waiver wire or manage any simple trades. He wasn’t able to work around McLane. I blame the owner for most of the decisions made in the past 3 years, as most of them were strictly his own fault.
– I wrote at length about this in the HardBall Times

2. Who do you see as frontrunners for the GM position?

– unfortunately, Ed Wade
– if not him, whoever McLane thinks he can control best

Who is your personal favorite?

– Dan Evans or Logan White or Mike Arbuckle.

Do you think Drayton McLane will hire from within?

– I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Yesmen aren’t that hard to find.

Should he?

– If he wants to turn this franchise into the Orioles/Pirates

3. Does Cecil Cooper show any promise as a Major League manager — be it in Houston or elsewhere?

– He hasn’t done enough yet for me to judge him.
– However, anyone who is strongly pushed/endorsed as Cooper has been, by Bud Selig is someone I am immediately HIGHLY suspiscious of. Because I consider any “good” word said by Selig about anyone as the kiss of death, Cooper will have to work twice as hard as anyone else to earn MY endorsement. For some reason, McLane is extremely anxious to please Bud Selig on all matters and I would bet that Cooper WILL be manager next year unless he commits some heinous felony between now and the start of the year. This may also affect the hiring of a GM, as they may be told that a condition of emplayment is that they must accept Cooper as manager.

4. Brandon Backe is, um, back. How’s he looking?

– like a guy who had TJ surgery 12 months ago. Problems with control. Fortunately, we’re not going anywhere and I HOPE Cooper won’t be stupid and overuse him.

5. After undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, do you believe Jason Jennings will become a free agent, or will McLane try to re-sign him with the hopes he’ll justify “the trade” ?

– I’m having a very tough time getting a read on this. McLane is the one who ordered “The Trade” but Purpura took almost all the heat for it and Purpura is gone. Jason Jennings finished his 6 years so he IS a free agent whether or not McLane likes it, but I would guess it will depend on how much other teams offer Jennings. I would not be one little bit surprised if McLane thinks Jennings should take a lowball offer, but life ain’t like that and I am not sure he would agree to sign a guy to a long and expensive contract who is coming off elbow surgery and who didn’t tell the team for WEEKS that he was hurting.

If you were making the decision, what would you do?

– problem is that they have knowledge about Jennings’ elbow that I don’t have, such as how much more damage did they find?
– Astros fans seem to think he should be offered middle reliever money for a year, but he is going to get at the very VERY minimum Adam Eaton money (3 years for 24 million) and of course I’d just be gambling with someone else’s money. I would be open to a 3 year deal, provided there’s no no-trade. but I wouldn’t go over 11 million a year.

6. I imagine it’s safe to say that the Astros’ September is “open auditions” for 2008. Are there any youngsters in particular that you will be watching closely?

– J.R Towles, catcher. He wasn’t ever “projected” as a “real” prospect by the Organization, best I can tell, but he hit his way onto the AAA team and if he seems to handle himself well behind the plate and IF he catches, he might could be the starting catcher next year.
– Juan Gutierrez, RHP, starter who will most likely be relieving this monoth
– and unfortunately, that is just about all she wrote.

7. Ty Wigginton was a fan favorite when he came up with Mets. How are the Houston fans responding to his hard-nosed style of play?

– well, a whole lot of fans don’t care if a player can’t play defense worth a darn unless his name is Chris Burke and he is playing in center. As long as Wiggy keeps his batting average over .260, the fans won’t really care about anything else unless he strikes out looking instead of swinging. I can’t see him as a fan favorite. He’s just OK, mostly because he’s not Morgan Ensberg.

8. In addition to Jennings, Mark Loretta, Mike Lamb, Brad Ausmus, Orlando Palmeiro, and Trever Miller are potential free agents, and Craig Biggio is retiring. Do any of those “oldsters” come back in 2008, or is it rebuilding time?

– the Organization has made it more than clear to Mike Lamb that he shouldn’t let the door hit his butt on his way out. Ausmus has already been approached about being the backup next year and unless he gets a better offer from San Diego, he’ll be back. Miller will most likely be back because he’s a lefty. As for Palmeiro, I don’t really have a good read on how Cooper feels about him – Garner thought he was absolutely one of the most important players on the team. I would guess if they sign Rowand/Hunter to play center and move Pence to right, then they will use Luke Scott as the LH PH off the bench (what a WASTE, but they control his contract and they can do it) and Palmeiro will be let go.

9. Will Jason Lane ever come close to 2005, or was he a one-hit wonder? Time appears to be running out for the 30-year-old.

– I SERIOUSLY doubt he will be given another chance with the Astros. He might could catch on somewhere else.

10. Other than the Texans, who will you be rooting for down the stretch and into October?

– I detest football and wouldn’t ever root for ANY football team for ANY reason. That said, I would like to see the Brewers win. And I will always root for any NL team except the Cubs. But I will be totally stymied if the fall classic turned out to be Cubs vs Yankees/Red Sox, Fox’ greatest fantasy come true. I have no idea how I could possibly decide which team I hate least…

Thanks again to Lisa for her honest answers. Check out her great work at The Astros Dugout to learn all you need to know about the ‘stros.