Friday, January 25, 2008

Fever Dreams

When I was confined to my bed the other day with a fever that I would estimate at 115 degrees (very scientific), I tossed about in a half-waking state, experiencing a strange assortment of fever-fueled dreams and delusions. Most of those dreams were not particularly relevant to this Web site. For example:

1) I dreamed Herve Villechaize was my sex butler. Whenever I entertained a lady in the boudoir, I rang a small bell located above the bed, and Mr. Villechaize would rush into the room in his little tuxedo, carrying a silver tray of birth control options, sex toys and refreshments. My sex butler.

2) I dreamed about the Stouffer’s chicken crepes I used to eat as a child. Those selfish fucks at Stouffer’s don’t make them anymore. Fuck your frozen paninis, Stouffer’s, they suck on wheels.

But one dream did have particular pertinence. Actually, it was more of a fugue-state vision of the future than a dream. I believe that my fever showed me the events that are about to unfold, not unlike Jacob Marley. And we should all be very afraid.

Crystal ball:

Early in spring training, the Yankees are going to trade Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and two other middling prospects to the Twins for Johan Santana. The Yankees promptly award Santana a five-year extension through 2013 worth $130 million.

Caught by an enterprising reporter for a rare public comment, Hank Steinbrenner says, “We just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to put the best pitcher in baseball in pinstripes. We had to give up a lot, but we now have a guaranteed chance to compete for a championship every year.”

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman begins quietly asking about potential job openings around the league.

The move appears to pay dividends quickly when Santana shuts down the Blue Jays and leads the Yankees to an 8-2 win in their home opener. Johan receives a standing ovation, and Hank Steinbrenner takes the uncommon step of basking in the spotlight on the back pages, saying, “This is why we went and got him. He’s a big-game pitcher, and we all knew that going in.”

The Yankees jump to a quick start out of the gate, opening with a 22-8 record and a three-game lead over the Red Sox. No one pays much attention when Johnny Damon misses a mid-week game with “a stiff back.”

Two days later, Damon is placed on the 60-day DL with “a twisted, crippled wreck of a spinal cord reminiscent of Bernie Williams in his final days.”

The Yankees try to make do with Hideki Matsui in center and Shelley Duncan in left, but the plan is quickly scrapped following an embarrassing Carl Crawford inside-the-park home run. Austin Jackson is rushed to the big leagues, where he promptly hits .143 over a two-week stretch. In July, with the Yankees lagging behind Boston, he is traded for Ken Griffey Jr., against Cashman’s strenuous objections.

After showing up on Ken Davidoff’s doorstep at 1 a.m., Hank Steinbrenner says, “Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the best players ever to put on a uniform. He immediately joins Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bernie Williams and Deion Sanders in the proud tradition of Yankees centerfielders.”

Meanwhile, Johan Santana skips a turn in the rotation with a “tired arm.” He avoids the DL, and finishes the season at 17-8 with a 3.45 ERA. In Minnesota, Phil Hughes goes 12-10 with a 3.78 ERA.

The Yankees miss the playoffs, as a near-total lack of offensive and defensive production at first base and center field submarines the season.

Brian Cashman quietly announces his departure when his contract expires in October. He is immediately the subject of a bidding war, and becomes the new Phillies GM.

Hank and Hal Steinbrenner don’t bother hiring a new general manager, as Hank says, “Hal and I can handle that end of things. We haven’t won a title here since 2000, so it’s not like we can do any worse, right?”

The Yankees sign Richie Sexson, Jeff Kent and Pedro Martinez to long-term free-agent contracts in the 2008-2009 off-season.

From there, the vision of the future gets a little hazy. Something about a torn rotator cuff for Santana, and a 2010 Cy Young Award for Hughes…

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In Defense of Roger Clemens

Something to consider while Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison sit on their couches today, watching our great national disgrace:

Roger Clemens might have injected steroids into Brian McNamee’s penis, and allowed the trainer to make love to him in order to receive the hormones anally. Roger Clemens might have lathered himself with the cream before every start and bathed in the clear after each game. Roger Clemens might have personally spiked the team’s Gatorade cooler with HGH before every game of the 2000 World Series.

We don’t know what Roger Clemens did or did not do today anymore than we did the week before the Mitchell Report came out, or in 1998 while Bud Selig was stuffing his cheeks fat with the cash generated by the McGwire/Sosa home run chase, or anymore than we will in 2023 when the World Series is played between angry man-eating robots and a team full of clones created from Christy Matthewson’s skeleton.

Every piece of evidence against Clemens is circumstantial, and grounded in a maze of indecipherable he-said/he-said nonsense. To judge Clemens based on the Mitchell report is an epic fallacy, a foolish game being played by headline-hungry columnists and a lynch mob of fans who have always hated Clemens anyway.

The Mitchell Report is a flawed, incomprehensive, possibly biased document that holds no authority. The only fair way to treat the information contained therein is to ignore it. Ignore it all. Pretend it never happened.

While the public’s apathy toward the steroids issue is apparent in box office revenue and television ratings, the media continues to build a gilded controversy, largely because drugs are an easy issue about which to screech from a soapbox. The din has grown so loud and intense, that our only choice is to tune it all out. Unless there is hard evidence proving a player has taken steroids (and at this point, I’m willing to accept only positive tests, and perhaps a Game of Shadows-like web of proof), everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Of course we all know that Mark McGwire probably took steroids. He essentially damned himself on national television. But it shouldn’t keep him out of the Hall of Fame, because there is no proof. A player not stepping forward to defend themselves, either in front of investigators or for Mitchell’s inquisition, is not an admission of guilt.

We don’t know the scope of the problem, or if there even is a problem, anymore than we did before Mitchell released his findings. For God’s sake, we still don’t even know what effects steroids and especially HGH have on baseball performance. It’s time to end this charade, with the understanding that any numbers and records achieved in the last 15 years happened in a certain era, under certain offense-friendly circumstances, like the anti-Dead Ball era.

Roger Clemens’ legacy is not tainted. Let him be. And hell, I don’t even like the guy.