Bryant Gumbel accuses Bagwell, Nomar and Pudge of using steroids


Gumbel.jpgI don’t have HBO so I missed this, but apparently on Tuesday night Bryant Gumbel ended his “Real Sports” show by reading an open letter* to Mark McGwire, taking him to task over his apology.  While it was silly because it (a) was premised on the notion that anyone should care what Mark McGwire thinks steroids did for him; and (b) assumes that, while he was a private citizen in California this past decade he had any obligation to explain to anyone what he did or did not take in his career, the criticism was nothing new. 

What was new, however, were the names Gumbel named at the end of the letter:

“In closing, guys, please feel free to share this letter with Bagwell,
Nomar, Pudge
and all those others who went from hitting homers to power
outages overnight. Tell ’em fans are ready to accept what happened.
Tell ’em we’re ready to move on. Tell ’em that most of us get it…even
if they, like you, still don’t.”

So there you have it. Gumbel is now the first person to publicly accuse Jeff Bagwell and Nomar Garciaparra and Pudge Rodriguez of steroid use (correction: Pudge was named by Canseco in “Juiced”).  Would it shock me if any of them have taken steroids? No. But unless Gumbel is prepared to actually explain (1) how he knows they did; and (2) why, if he does know, he’s just now coming out with their names, I do hope he’ll spare us the sanctimony over people like McGwire waiting so long to “come clean.”  In other words, put up or shut up Gumbel.

In other news, I am waiting for comments from all of the writers who took the blogger Jerod Morris to the woodshed last year for writing that it was possible, based on a statistical pattern, that
Raul Ibanez had used PEDs.  Gumbel is just accusing without any evidence, so he’s even worse, right?  And if your answer is “well, we know Bagwell, Pudge and Nomar took ‘roids, so this isn’t so bad,” why the hell haven’t you reported it yet?

*If I were made dictator of the planet, one of the first things I’d do is to make the practice of “open letters” punishable by death.  You wanna say something to someone, write them a letter. You want to tell your readers or viewers what you think of someone else, tell them what you think.  Open letters are lazy-ass gimmicks with allow the writer to smugly pretend that they’re giving someone advice when he’s really being a passive-aggressive condescending prick. They’re the literary equivalent of “hey, I’m just sayin.'”  How about this: just say it.    

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.