Glanville: "too many players made a different choice than McGwire did"

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Doug Glanville.jpgI taunted Doug Glanville pretty badly an hour ago and I feel kinda bad about it, so to make up I’d like to link his excellent NYT column yesterday in which he absolutely nails the McGwire thing:

In McGwire’s admission, he explained how he was doing his
job, and his torment and regret seemed genuine even as he spat out the
usual clichéd excuses many players have used: injuries and recovery,
desperation and peer pressure, ignorance and breadwinning, culture and
society.

In fact, I understand all those reasons. I really do, because I was
there too, just like everyone else in the major leagues then who was
trying to stay there. I also felt all those pressures, one way or
another. I tore a hamstring tendon in a contract year that put me on
the shelf for two months. (A tendon that was at the root of my game —
speed.) My father was chronically ill in the years just after McGwire
broke the single-season home run record, a period during which I was
stressed and saw my own statistics decline.

So I get it. But the problem is, too many players made a different
choice than McGwire did in the face of similar situations. I can’t
claim to know exactly what he was going through during the time he
decided to take steroids, but I am confident that there were other
players who dealt with the same challenges and played clean. There
really isn’t any excuse.

To the extent I’ve defended McGwire it’s not been a defense of his taking steroids. It’s been a defense against the over-the-top moralisim and hypocrisy with which which his statement was met and the desire to extract something more out of the man than a confession and an apology for his acts. McGwire is but a man who is still very much deluded about what he did and why. It’s not really my concern. That’s between him and his conscience. The writers and the historians and the public will figure out what it meant for baseball, the records and the Hall of Fame.

But that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was wrong. No, it wasn’t capital murder of the game of baseball, but it was wrong. And unlike everyone else who has weighed in, Doug Glanville was there. He was a Major League baseball player in the late 90s, subject to the same temptations to which Mark McGwire fell victim. Indeed, the temptations for a player like Glanville may very well have been greater than they were for a man like McGwire, who had already made millions and possessed a World Series ring.

Glanville made the right choice by the rules, by the law and by his own conscience, and he may very well have had a shorter and less lucrative baseball career than he could have had as a result. So if anyone could be excused for lashing out at McGwire and the other steroids users it’s a guy like Glanville.  But he’s not lashing out. He’s offering perhaps the most sensible take of this I’ve seen from anyone.  We should laud him for the decisions he made back in the 90s. We should laud him for his latest column.

And we should also ask ourselves why, if Glanville isn’t flying off the handle here, so many other people are. 

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.