Flask and credentials

Drugs, illness, the pro-PED doctor and other fun things in San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO — Can’t believe none of you have called me out for using fancy datelines on these things yet. I started it as a bit of a put-on, but now I kind of like doing it. Too late to shame me for it. You missed out. When I get home I may start every post with FORTIFIED COMPOUND ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF COLUMBUS — and you’ll only have yourselves to blame for encouraging me.

I had some aches, a mild fever and a cough over the weekend. It felt better by Monday night and I felt as right as rain on Tuesday, so I figured I had shaken whatever crud I was harboring. It came roaring back at me during the game last night, however, and as I stumbled back to my hotel room, I nearly dropped, my body wracked with violent coughing and awfulness.  I took a shot from my Batman flask — yes, that’s it in the picture — and hoped that frontier medicine and a night’s sleep would do the trick. Alas, it did not, so at midnight I called the front desk to see if there was an urgent care in the area. Instead, they hooked me up with a doctor they keep on call and we talked.

Doc: What are you in town for?

Me: Covering the World Series.

Doc: Hey, I was at the game tonight! Great stuff, wasn’t it?

Me: I suppose so. So, here’s what’s —

Doc: Three home runs! How about that Panda! [and many more minutes of baseball talk as I neared death]

We talked about my symptoms, he gave me a couple of things I could do in the meantime, and then said the best bet would be for me to come by his office in the morning.

“Is it walking distance from the hotel?” I asked

“Depends how sick you are,” he said.

I tried to sleep but did a poor job of it. When I finally woke up my fever seemed to have spiked and my cough had gotten so bad that I was tasting blood. If this were a 19th century novel there would be “telltale flecks of crimson on his handkerchief, his consumptive doom foretold!”  As it was, I sent emails to all of the NBC people I could find to tell them how useless I’d be today and/or what my last wishes were if I died before I was able to talk to them again.

The only thing that had made me feel moderately better the night before was a little warm food, so I sought out breakfast. I walked towards Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, which is a couple blocks south of where I’m staying and which many have recommended. There was a line of people out the door so I moved on — I’ll get it next time — turning the wrong way down Market Street where things start to get a bit sketchy. There I witnessed a deranged woman in her late 40s wildly swinging two garbage bags full of what looked to be pillows at another women while yelling at her to commit anatomical impossibilities. The other woman, who looked a bit less troubled, was dodging the blows but wouldn’t retreat. Instead, she kept trying to take pictures of her attacker with her cell phone. Not sure who was crazier.

Realizing I was heading the wrong way, I turned around and walked back north on Market. I walked by a group of three guys, one of which asked me if I wanted to buy some pot.  I have been on this Earth for over 39 years and, at one time, knew a lot of people who partook in such things. But never have I literally had a stranger bark out a sales pitch like that. I wanted to look around for cameras to see if it was some kind of joke, but I kept walking.

I found a little cafe where I ordered some coffee and some eggs. An older couple sat down at the table near me and I heard the husband ask the wife if she happened to see the score of the game last night. When she said she didn’t know I said “8-3.” They thanked me and asked me if I went to the game. I said yep. They asked me if I’m going again tonight. I said yep. Then they asked me if I’d be willing to sell my tickets. I explained my situation and the man said “Oh well. I can’t find a pair for under $500 so I’m asking anyone I can.”

After I ate I made it up to the doctor’s office. It’s just off Union Square.  I had a minute so I walked around the Square a bit because “The Conversation” may be my favorite movie of all time. I pretended that Cindy Williams and I were planning Robert Duvall’s murder, that Gene Hackman was listening to us and then I hummed a few bars of “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob Bobbing Along.” There were no mimes to be seen.

It turns out that the whole practice is devoted to hotel guests and tourists and stuff, which is something that makes sense in such a hotel-and-tourist-heavy area, but is the sort of thing I never considered. Seems like something they’d invent in a Charlie Kaufman film. The doctor saw me right away. He’s a short Chinese-American guy, probably in his late 40s or early 50s, but dressed like he’s 25. A smile on his face at all times. I instantly liked him. Even when he creeped me out a bit by saying that he Googled me before I came in and was happy to see that I had lost some weight in the past few years based on older pictures. That’s … not weird.

Most of the visit was spent with him asking me baseball questions — he was really concerned about Bruce Bochy’s bullpen choices last night despite the victory because he thinks that an 8-0 Giants win would have “sent a stronger message.” Then we talked about PEDs at his prompting. Let the record reflect that if this guy had his way everything would be legal, blood spinning with added HGH would be mandatory and Barry Bonds would be canonized. “Just wait ten years and see what they have available,” he said. “The stuff everyone frets about now will seem like throat lozenges.”  Did I mention I really like this guy?

But it wasn’t all juice-talk. Another huge chunk of the visit was him giving me a vaguely new-agey lecture about balance — this included him taking pictures of my face with his iPhone to show me how I was “unbalanced on [my] right side” — and him explaining the need to excrete all of the bad things from our bodies lest we have no room for the good.  He then demonstrated the proper way to clear one’s sinuses and to inhale hot steam in the shower — it’s all about being upside down — and it all sounded rather like Annie telling Nuke how to breathe through his eyelids.

That was all nice, but what I was really there for was some weapons-grade pharmaceuticals. Thankfully the Good Doctor had the hookup. After the new age talk ended, he told me I either had a severe sinus infection or strep and that there was no use doing the strep test because either way he’s giving me the same treatment.  He had his nurse inject me with an antibiotic/anti-inflammatory cocktail (although based on the earlier conversation it may have also had some HGH and metabolites of Stanozolol), and then he loaded up a bag full of all manner of drugs for me to take with me.  Come to San Francisco: EVERYONE will give you drugs if you want them.

I took a big swig of the codeine cough syrup and walked down the street past Union Square. As I passed the Westin Hotel I saw a crowd of people with cameras and baseballs surrounding the entrance. Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry was standing there with an attractive young woman. He stopped to sign autographs.  The only question for him that came to mind was “why on Earth are they starting Delmon Young in left when your legs aren’t broken?” but I didn’t think I could ask it with the nuance it required what with the cough syrup and all, so I moved along and eventually back to my hotel room.

Here I sit. The game starts in about three and a half hours, but (a) I still feel like utter garbage; and (b) I have this feeling that my Baseball Writers Association of America application will meet with strong resistance this winter if I cough up blood and mucus all over the membership in the cramped confines of the press facilities at AT&T Park tonight.  Doctor Feelgood told me that it would be about 24 hours of taking the antibiotics and stuff before I’d really be OK to be active and not, you know, be Typhoid Mary. As such, I’m leaning strongly toward bagging tonight and coming back strong for Game 3 in Detroit on Saturday.

If that is what I ultimately decide to do, I will still be posting and tweeting and generally covering World Series business this evening from the comfort of my sick/deathbed, and of course Matthew and D.J. will have all kinds of coverage tonight as well.

See what happens when you leave your mother’s basement? Bad things.

UPDATE: I would like to make a major shoutout to the Intercontinental Hotel San Francisco. They called up a few minutes ago and offered to send me up free tea and soup and things and wanted to know how I was feeling. It sucks being sick away from home, but they’re making it a lot better.

Who Should win the Rookie of the Year Awards? Who Will?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Corey Seager #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his three run homerun for a 6-0 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Rookie of the Year Awards

This is a whole heck of a lot easier than the MVP and Cy Young Awards, that’s for sure. It’s a two horse race in the AL and a one-horse race in the NL.

Who should win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

It seemed like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer would be the no-brainer choice for a good long while, as his low ERA and solid performance helped carry the Tigers when their starting pitching wasn’t doing them any favors. But then the Yankees called up catcher Gary Sanchez at the beginning of August and all he’s done since then is hit .303/.378/.672 with an astonishing 20 homers in his first 51 games. Fulmer has continued to be solid — he’s just short of qualifying for the ERA title, but does have the league’s lowest ERA at 3.06 — but Sanchez has been spectacular.

The MVP and Cy Young Award require full season contributions. Not everyone takes the Rookie of the Year Award quite as seriously, it seems, and are thus more willing to entertain smaller samples of excellence over large samples of solid work when it comes to the award. That’s how Bill and I think about it anyway, giving the nod to Sanchez’s historic two-month run. Ashley, however, favors Fulmer’s larger volume of work. You can’t really go wrong with either choice:

Craig: Sanchez
Bill: Sanchez
Ashley: Fulmer

Who will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

Hard call. I have no idea what voters will do on that quantity/quality calculation. I’ll guess Fulmer, but it’s just a guess. I could just as easily see Sanchez given some quasi-MVP credit for helping the Yankees remain relevant after the trade deadline and throw it his way.

 

Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If you say anyone other than Corey Seager, and his .311/.369/.519 26 homer batting line, the state has authorized me to have you taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point your competence to reenter society will be gauged. But there is ice cream there.

Craig: Seager
Bill: Seager
Ashley: Seager

 

Who will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If any BBWAA voter lists anyone other than Corey Seager at the top of his or her Rookie of the Year ballot, the state has authorized me to have them taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point their competence to reenter society will be gauged. They will not, however, be allowed to have any ice cream because, really, they should know better. They’re professionals.

Jeremy Giambi vs. David Ortiz

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The 2002 Red Sox won 93 games, only to finish 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL West and six back of the lone wild card. They named Theo Epstein the GM that November and allowed him to begin reshaping the team, then led by Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox didn’t make any big splashes that winter. Their biggest free agent signing was Ramiro Mendoza, who got $6.5 million for two years. They also signed Mike Timlin and Bill Mueller (who played behind Shea Hillenbrand at third initially). They traded for Todd Walker. They stole Bronson Arroyo off waivers.

What Epstein did totally overhaul was a first base-DH situation that held the team back the previous season. 2002 trade deadline pickup Cliff Floyd exited in free agency, as did disappointments Tony Clark and Jose Offerman.

Brought in was a three-headed monster of underappreciated, high-OBP, Moneyball-type players. First, the Red Sox traded Josh Hancock to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi, who had just hit .244/.435/.538 in 156 at-bats after coming over from the A’s at midseason. He hit .272/.402/.475 in 684 at-bats total between 2001 and 2002, and he looked like he was still very much in his prime at age 28.

The day after the Giambi trade, the Twins made the move to release David Ortiz. No one pounced, though, and Ortiz remained unsigned for a month before joining the Boston on a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Ortiz, who was entering his age-27 season, hit .272/.339/.500 in 412 at-bats for the Twins in 2002.

While that was going on, the Red Sox were working to bring in Kevin Millar for first base. Millar hit .306/.366/.509 in 438 at-bats for the Marlins in 2002 and was even better the previous season, but he was a poor outfielder and third baseman and the team already had Derrek Lee at first base. So, the Marlins, rather than trade Millar for a player, sold him to Japan for some much-preferred cash. Millar, not realizing that he was a desired commodity around the league, went along with the plan. That’s when the Red Sox broke an unwritten rule and claimed Millar off waivers. It turned into a long ordeal, but the Red Sox were finally able to land Millar in February by buying him from the Marlins.

I remember at the time being most excited about the Giambi acquisition. He couldn’t play defense and he had gotten himself exiled by the A’s for some transgression the previous year, but he looked like an awesome offensive force with his terrific power and ridiculous walk rate. Ortiz was certainly worth taking the chance on, too, but I thought Giambi would be better and leave Ortiz with little to do.

Indeed, Giambi started over Ortiz on Opening Day. However, both got off to lousy starts and Giambi’s playing time quickly diminished. Giambi finished April at .125/.288/.292 in 60 plate appearances, starting only once in the final week of the month. Ortiz came in at .212/.311/.346 in 61 plate appearances.

Both players found their strokes at the beginning of May. For Giambi, though, it amounted to all of about two weeks of success. He peaked with an .828 OPS on May 16. Ortiz’s build was slower, but it lasted. He had a .942 OPS in May, a .961 OPS in June, a .987 OPS in July and a 1.097 OPS in August before plummeting all of the way to .977 in September. He finished 5th in the AL MVP balloting despite playing about half the time the first two months.

Giambi, finding himself more starved for at-bats after Ortiz heated up, landed on the DL in late June with a bad shoulder. At the time, it looked like it might have been a made-up injury to get him playing time in the minors for a spell. It wasn’t. He returned a few weeks later, but he still wasn’t right. He made his last appearance on Aug. 1, going 0-for-3 against the Orioles. He landed back on the DL and then underwent surgery to repair damage in his labrum and rotator cuff.

As it turned out, Giambi never played in the majors again. As he was trying to come back from the shoulder surgery the next spring, he developed back problems. He played in 17 minor league games with the Dodgers in 2004 and nine with the White Sox in 2005. That was it for him, and he was done at 30 years old. In early 2005, he admitted to using BALCO-provided steroids and said that he regretted it. The strength training likely played roles in both his emergence and his downfall, given the breakdown of his body.

Things worked out a little differently for Ortiz…

Ortiz through 2002 (age 26): .266/.348/.461, 108 OPS+ in 1,693 PA
Giambi through 2002 (age 27): .269/.381/.437, 114 OPS+ in 1,549 PA

Ortiz after 2002: .290/.386/.570, 148 OPS+ in 8,387 PA
Giambi after 2002: .197/.342/.354, 81 OPS+ in 156 PA

And those 2003 Red Sox? Well, they won 95 games, which was good enough for the wild card this time. Still, they lost to the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS. They were still one year away.