Scenes from Spring Training Coco Crisp is an anti-baldite too

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Yeah, it’s another equipment bag shot. At this point I probably need an intervention. If you see me out someplace, kneeling on a warning track, squaring up a photo of an equipment bag on the grass, you are authorized to knock me over and take my camera away from me.

I’m at Phoenix Municipal Stadium to catch the Reds-A’s game today. As I mentioned earlier, it’s Yoenis Cespedes Day, but I was looking forward to it anyway because I like this place. I dig the extremely municipal touches like the large, featureless parking lot and the pedestrian bridge over the road to the park. I dig the poured concrete columns and roof over the press box. I dig the 1960s design flourishes. If the “Mad Men” people wanted to put in some Phoenix-in-March subplot, they could film here and all they’d have to do is to cover up the electronic scoreboard.

The clubhouse was fun this morning. Manny Ramirez walked in right after I did. His locker, by the way, is two down from Cespedes’ locker, so I’m guessing the A’s are making sure Cespedes has a strong mentor and spiritual guide as he enters the big leagues.

I went over to talk to Manny, hoping that it would be as interesting as some of his past chats. I chickened out on the surrealism, though, and decided to ask him some basic stuff. For example, how he feels after a couple weeks of workouts following what amounted to a year off:

Me: Do you feel close to where you were in past seasons at this point, or is there still some rust?

Manny: Well, it’s like my dad says, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

I’m going to assume that Manny thinks his dad invented that phrase. It makes me happy to think that.

I wandered around a bit more. Coco Crisp walked toward me, smiling. He said “bald must be the hot new hair style for you guys. Everyone here is wearing it.” I looked around and saw Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.com, who is bald. There were a couple other bald reporters in there too.  Crisp had a point.  But really, between him and Bastian’s taunting, I’m just gonna start wearing hats when I leave the house.

Other notable stuff:

  • Jonny Gomes was talking to a player I didn’t know. He was claiming — in a bad Spanish accent — that henceforth he shall be known as “Juan Gomez.”  Something tells me that’s not gonna stick;
  • For the entire hour I was in the clubhouse, Cesepedes sat in front of his locker. He occasionally talked to an older guy who I assume is his translator, and he talked with Manny a bit, but he didn’t really mix. Big day for him. You can never really tell just by looking at someone, and it’s possible that he is just a shy guy, but I got the sense that maybe he’s a bit nervous.
  • It was apparently free gear day today, as there was a rep from Nike there with a big box of sunglasses, passing them out to the players. There was also a glove guy showing off his wares to Kurt Suzuki and breaking in gloves for other players who kept coming by.  Outside the clubhouse they had set up a table with catalogs and samples of clothes. Baseball players get all kinds of cool perks.
  • Above Wes Timmons’ locker were taped two baseball cards. One was Josh Reddick. The other was Chipper Jones. Timmons wasn’t there, so I have no idea why he had those two. Jones might make sense as a mentor as Timmons was in the Braves organization forever. But really, this is the kind of thing that is gonna bug me for a while.

Maybe I can track him down now, as the A’s have left the clubhouse and are out doing their stretching and stuff.  I’ll check back in later.

The Braves’ top minor league team to rename itself

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Whereas once it was expected that all sports teams would be named after ferocious animals, notable historic figures or events or something else otherwise inspiring, there has been a trend in the minor leagues over the past few years to give teams somewhat silly names.

The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. The Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The New Orleans Baby Cakes. The Down East Wood Ducks. Etc.

I suspect a lot of that is fueled by a desire to sell intentionally uncool merchandise to ironic hipsters. Some of it may simply be a function of branding and creating a team identity that will not, for a moment, cause the local nine to be confused with anyone else. Not that those things are mutually exclusive. Whatever the impulse, the trend will no doubt continue.

The next place we could see it: Gwinnett County Georgia, where the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A team plays:

Gwinnett Braves general manager North Johnson announced a contest to rename the Triple-A team for the 2018 season and beyond.

Fans and members of the Gwinnett community can suggest new team names starting Monday through June 2. After all team name suggestions are submitted, a final round of voting on the top choices will last from June 19-July 3 on the Gwinnett Braves’ website.

Like all but one of its other affiliates, Gwinnett is named the Braves, just like the parent club. Being so close to Atlanta has caused it some identify problems, however, as one suburban Atlantan telling another that he’s “going to the Braves game” tomorrow could be confusing. Especially now that the major league team also plays in suburban Atlanta, about 35 miles apart. It makes sense.

So, go to the website, folks, and suggest a new name. The sillier the better. Basebally McBaseball Face? The Gwinnett Crackers?

 

David Ortiz thinks the Yankees leaked his 2003 drug test results

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David Ortiz was one of the hundred or so ballplayers who tested positive for PEDs during the 2003 survey testing which was designed to determine whether or not baseball’s drug problem was significant enough to warrant full-blown testing the following year.  His and everyone else’s name was supposed to remain confidential — indeed, the test results were supposed to be destroyed — but the government illegally seized them and, eventually, his, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa’s names were leaked.

While most people have long moved on from those survey test results — and while Rob Manfred himself recently said that those results may not, in fact, establish that Ortiz took banned substances  — the story still sticks in Ortiz’s craw. So much so that he’s still out speculating about how his results were made public. His theory? The Yankees did it. From an interview on WEEI:

“What was the reason for them to come out with something like that?” he said. “The only thing that I can think of, to be honest with you, a lot of big guys from the Yankees were being caught. And no one from Boston. This was just something that leaked out of New York, and they had zero explanation about it.”

I’m gonna call B.S. on that.

At the time names were surfacing in connection with those test results, in the summer of 2009, I was given a list of players by an anonymous source. This person claimed it was a list of all 100+ players who tested positive in 2003. Given the nature in which they were provided to me and given that, at the time, there were a lot of people circulating hoax lists, I was dubious to say the least. I had a separate source at the time who knew people who had access to the actual list of players. The source would not tell me who was on the actual list — it was and continues to be confidential — but the knowledgable source did confirm for me that, as I suspected, my list was bunk. I obviously didn’t write anything about it and moved on.

Some added value from that conversation, however, was learning just how few people actually had access to the real list. A small handful of top officials at the union and the league office did, I was told, and obviously the government had it given that they seized it in their idiotic and illegal raid, but that was it. Clubs, I was specifically told, did not have the list.

We’ll never know for sure, but I strongly, strongly suspect that the source of the leak was either IRS/FDA agent Jeff Novitzky, who spearheaded the government’s investigation into PEDs or someone close to him, such as the prosecutors with whom he worked. Novitzky spent close to a decade outing and prosecuting athletes for PED use and, in my view and the view of many others who followed the story at the time, he saw his work as an almost holy crusade. As the above-linked story about the federal court smacking down his seizure of the 2003 test results as illegal, he was often overzealous.

The reporter who broke the story of David Ortiz’s positive test result was Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times. Schmidt almost always had the first stories about players being outed as PED users during that period and his reporting on steroids in baseball in general almost always carried with it a pro-government slant. As I said, we’ll never know for sure, but it seems obvious to me that federal investigators and prosecutors were his sources. I suspect they were his sources for the name-naming articles as well. When Ortiz’s name leaked, Novitzky’s investigation was on the brink of being smacked down hard by a federal court and, I suspect, he leaked Ortiz’s name to the New York Times as a means of putting a face on the story and getting public sentiment on the side of those who would name names.

Like I said, though, that’s all ancient history at this point. At least to most people. It’s not to David Ortiz, which is understandable given that the whole incident affected him personally. But I think he’s wrong on the Yankees being the ones to out him. I don’t think anyone with the Yankees knew who was actually on the list. And even if they did, they had no incentive to get into some sort of P.R. war about PED users given that they already at least one prominent superstar getting killed for PED use and a lot of other ones who could possibly have been on the list as well.

But the feds had the list. And a desire to have the bad guys they were trying to prosecute shamed in the public arena. I’d bet a decent sum of money that they’re the ones who leaked your name, Big Papi. I’d aim your rhetorical guns at them if I were you.