January 23, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Upset: Red Sox fans rock politics
Future historians may decide that the fate of President Obama's domestic policy agenda was decided when a hapless Massachusetts politician managed to offend Boston Red Sox fans twice in one week. Not smart at all. Martha Coakley, who had held a wide lead in the race for U.S. Senate until a couple weeks before last Tuesday's election, was being interviewed on a radio show and referred to retired pitcher Curt Schilling (the bloody red-sock hero of the "miraculous" 2004 ALCS) as a "Yankee fan." What!!?? Schilling was as mystified by this remark as anyone, as his blog 38 Pitches makes abundantly clear.
Gold mine of
Then, when asked about her lack of campaign activity and failure to court potential voters, she said, "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?" (This was in reference to the NHL Winter Classic held there on New Year's Day.) YES, you idiot!!! For more on these two monumental gaffes, see Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. In terms of getting blamed for an easy win that slipped through a team's fingers, Coakley will spend the rest of her life being compared to Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman.
At the very least, this special election in Massachusetts will lay to rest any doubts as to the significance of Our National Pastime in national affairs.
Big Mac comes (half) clean, late
The news about Mark McGwire's belated confession of past steroid use was overshadowed by the earthquake in Haiti last week, which may have caused a missed opportunity for a more intensive public discussion about the dope issue. (With fatalities climbing into the six figures, sports seems less important.) McGwire said what he had to do say to mend his tarnished honor, but it was several years too late, and in any case cannot undo the wrongs that he did against baseball and professional sports more generally. His announcement was probably a condition for his being hired as a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals late last year, and it was time to clear the air. As the Washington Post reported, McGwire had to wait for the five-year statute of limitations to expire, or else face legal jeopardy. He says he used steroids for the first time after the 1989 season, and resumed doing so several years later, as a way to recover from injuries more quickly. Maybe. Saying that he human growth hormone but not to build his strength makes one wonder if he really has faced up to his culpability, however.
Likewise, as ESPN analyst Peter Gammons writes at MLB.com, McGwire's claim that there is no relationship between the performance-enhancing drugs and home run production does not sound very convincing. Gammons says more time will be needed to judge McGwire and others who are suspected or confess to cheating. The argument over this issue will never end, and the record books will forever be tainted by lingering doubts.
Gannett columnist Mike Lopresti wonders why it took McGwire so long to come clean. Just ask Pete Rose. If your whole identity is based on being a hero to millions of adoring fans, what is there left when you strip away the illusion? Some people develop an innate sense of self-worth in life that enables them to rise above crushing setbacks or the loss of friendships, but many entertainers and other public figures who encounter such a life crisis simply crash and burn.
What about the historical legacy? In the Washington Post, Tracee Hamilton "believe[s] he is contrite" but should not be let in "the Hall of Fame, ever, for a variety of reasons." She thinks he had no choice but to confess, which in her mind doesn't really change much. I have a hard time deciding. If those who cheat are never forgiven, like the Chicago White Sox "Eight Men Out" of 1919, what incentive will suspected cheaters have to come clean? It's a dilemma that can never be satisfactorily resolved: We want to encourage honesty, but we don't want to reward unethical conduct. In the end, they may have to create a separate category in the Hall of Fame for dope users, with asterisks next to their name.
David Pinto comments on the interview Bob Costas gave to McGwire, who denied Jose Canseco's statement that he and McGwire used to inject each other right before ballgames: "I believe Jose more than Mark on this one." Ouch!
McGwire is the biggest-name baseball star to admit dope use since Alex Rodriguez did so last February. Few have doubted that Big Mac was a user since the March 2005 circus on Capitol Hill when McGwire issued a teary-eyed non-statement. Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Curt Schilling also testified. The investigations culminated when the Mitchell Report was released in December 2007.
Saying he wished he had never played in the Steroid Era almost sounds like McGwire is rationalizing his behavior on the basis of what was condoned at the time. It's kind of like the reasons that were given for the mortgage crisis and the resultant virtual collapse of the U.S. financial system in 2008. I want to give McGwire the benefit of the doubt, but he is going to have to work hard over the next few years to rebuild his credibility and honor.
Stadium news in Miami
Just in time for the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, Joe Robbie Stadium / Pro Player Stadium / Dolphin Stadium / Land Shark Stadium has been officially renamed "Sun Life Stadium," as part of a five-year $37.5 million contract with a Canadian financial services company by that same name. See the Miami Herald; hat tip to Mike Zurawski. What-ever... I revised the Dolphin Stadium page. I have updated the Stadium names page accordingly.
Coincidentally, plans are underway to add a large, cable-suspended roof at Dolphin Stadium, in hopes of avoiding another 2007 Super Bowl, marred by a steady downpour. Like Qwest Field in (rainy) Seattle, it would cover virtually all the seats, but not the playing field. New scoreboards would be built in the four corners of the stadium, so that more fans will be able to see them. (The scoreboards are currently behind the end zones.) See palmbeachpost.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.
Progress on the new baseball stadium in Miami, meanwhile, is already having a positive impact: the budget-conscious Marlins just signed pitcher Josh Johnson to a four-year, $39 million contract through 2013. The new stadium, set to open in 2012, was evidently a major consideration in his decision. See MLB.com.
Wrigley Field makeover
The new owners of the Chicago Cubs have laid out their plans for a further renovation of Wrigley Field, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in four more years. The construction project is to be called "Wrigley 20-14" and is intended to let the Cubs can use it "for another 100 years." Well, let's hope so. See Chicago Tribune; hat tip to Bruce Orser.
The mail bag
Thanks to Matt Lachs for informing me that a bus repair facility for the Philadelphia School District presently occupies the site where the Baker Bowl once stood. I've updated the Stadiums in Limbo page accordingly.
There are more items in my in-box to get to, so thanks for your patience. Where have I been lately? "Back to school..."