August 22, 2009

The Sports Curmudgeon had this to say about his DC-NATS, “By now, you must have heard the litany about how young pitchers taken first in the MLB draft have underperformed relative to expectations.  The Nationals’ signing of Stephen Strasburg to a record $15.1M deal – – far short of the $50M that Scott Boras threw out as a target number – – has brought all those details to light.  What I find interesting here is how Tom Boswell of the Washington Post reacted to Strasburg’s signing.
Let me be clear; Tom Boswell is one of the best baseball writers and columnists around.  He is also one of the “baseball poets” who kept telling the world about Washington’s lust for baseball during the three-decade hiatus of that sport in DC.  He knows the game and loves the game.  So, his column the day after the signing focused on his projected starting lineup for the Nationals on Opening Day of 2011.  That’s right; he wrote about 2011 and not 2010. 
In order for his lineup to work, a new shortstop currently in AAA Syracuse and a new first baseman currently at AA Harrisburg have to make the Nationals.
They have to keep – and hope that they develop – the other six position players currently on the roster.  His five-man rotation consists of Strasburg, of course, along with a pitcher currently at AAA Syracuse and another recovering from elbow surgery.  Oh, and the closer on that 2011 squad is currently at AA Harrisburg…
Given the myriad uncertainties with that projected squad, it is easy to forget that Boswell is essentially writing off the 2010 season for a team that currently has the worst record in MLB and who will win 65 games for the season only if they play .500 baseball from here on out in 2009.
thank you, Mr. Boswell.  I no longer need to think about the idea of buying a ticket package to Nats’ games for the 2010 season…




Gwen Knapp talked about the gender testing being done in Germany. “Albert Pujols knows that, on every home run, his swing connects with suspicion. So many people want to believe in him, to imagine each homer sweeping baseball’s doping scandals further into the past. Pujols can’t definitively prove that he is different, that he is clean. Usain Bolt crushes the 100-meter world record again. He is dazzling, a showman with rock-star panache who promises to revive track and field. But like Pujols, he is stalked by an ugly history. Three of the last eight men (Ben Johnson, Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin) to break the 100-meter record have been banned for doping. Montgomery kept the mark for almost three years before federal agents uncovered what the drug tests missed. So Bolt and Pujols are stuck answering for the sins of their predecessors.                                                                                     But in this era of profound skepticism, they should be grateful for one thing: Nobody will ever watch them excel and then accuse them of not being real men. South African teenager Caster Semenya, the winner of the women’s 800-meter race at the world championships, has been undergoing
gender-verification testing. She must be examined by, among others, a gynecologist, psychologist and endocrinologist. Semenya, 18, reportedly has a deep voice, and her pictures show a physique notably more muscular than the bodies of even her most accomplished rivals. She has dropped almost nine seconds from her best 800 time in the last year – the type of improvement that usually suggests performance-enhancing drugs. It’s not enough for her to undergo the very intrusive drug testing (the sample collector is supposed to watch every second, up close and personal, in the bathroom). Semenya has to endure a fairly medieval practice,
a remnant from the days when all female athletes were deemed abnormal.
The tests should be unthinkable – but so should disguising a man as a woman to win an Olympic medal. In 1936, Hitler sought a female high-jumper for the host country and Dora Ratjen emerged. Her real name was Hermann. He finished fourth at the Berlin Games, but broke the women’s world record two years later.
Shortly after that, a doctor’s examination led to a ban, and Ratjen disappeared. In middle age, Hermann Ratjen conceded that he had been urged to pass as a woman, to help advance the Nazi view of German and Aryan supremacy.
Gender testing, medieval as it sounds, began at the Olympic level in the 1960s. The Eastern bloc kept producing outstanding female athletes who did not pass muster visually. They did pass the gender tests. They also passed the drug tests, even though East Germany’s secret police files revealed extensive hormonal manipulation, performed without the athletes’ consent or knowledge. In the most renowned case, shot-putter Heidi Krieger eventually testified against leaders of the national sports program, saying that the countless pills she had taken transformed her sexually, led to wild mood swings and a suicide attempt. By 1997, seven years after she retired, Krieger underwent sexual-reassignment surgery and became Andreas Krieger.
Tammy Thomas, the cyclist convicted of perjury in front of the BALCO grand jury, had a 5 o’clock shadow when she competed and a jaw line much squarer
than it was years later, when she went to trial.
As cynical and ugly as the gender testing seems, they simply might be an attempt to forestall behavior that is even more cynical and grotesque. In repressive regimes and households – let’s not underestimate the extremism of certain parents – all manner of charades are possible in creating a champion. A boy could be surgically altered. Girls by the dozen could be lab rats for the latest designer steroid, dosed until they no longer recognize themselves. Universal sex verification at the Olympics ended in 2000, only to be replaced by something worse. Women with curious appearances were targeted for testing last summer in Beijing. This is how Semenya came under scrutiny.
It’s sad that Pujols and Bolt must endure suspicion because of the excesses in their sports. But until they have to put their feet in stirrups or undergo chromosomal analysis, they’re living on cynicism’s easy street.




This from Jerry Crowe in the LA Times:                                                                              
 “A T-shirt declaration of civic pride in Pittsburgh, home of the Stanley Cup champion Penguins and Super Bowl champion Steelers: “On ice or grass, we’ll kick your . . . ” . . .

Unless, of course, the grass is patrolled by the Pirates . . .

Cliff Lee, unbeaten in four starts since joining the Philadelphia Phillies, joined an exclusive, obscure club last year. . . .
Winner of the 2008 American League Cy Young Award, Lee became only the third player with a three-letter surname to win an MVP or Cy Young award, the others being Nellie Fox (MVP with the Chicago White Sox in 1959) and Vern Law (Cy Young Award winner with the Pirates in 1960).”


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