Thursday, December 13, 2007

Players listed in Mitchell report

CNN and Sports Illustrated have put together a preliminary list of players cited in the Mitchell Report. You can find it here:

A little rundown on some of the players, with my take on their involvement. I'm only going to comment on a handful because, let's be honest, does anyone really know much about players like Larry Bigbie and Jack Cust?

1. Barry Bonds - well, duh.

2. Kevin Brown - Since 2002 (the year MLB had steroids testing), he hasn't quite been the same pitcher he was in the handful of years leading up to 2002.

3. Roger Clemens - I wonder if Mike Piazza had any thoughts on Clemens and roid rage?

4. Chuck Knoblauch - Evidently steroids must enhance your ability to bean Keith Olberman's mom sitting in the stands.

5. Tim Laker - um, who???

6. John Rocker - Another side effect of steroids: it makes you a bigoted redneck.

7. Benito Santiago - I wonder if he would still be able to throw out base stealers from his knees if he wasn't on the juice?

8. Gary Sheffield - Often known for controversy, Sheffield once said something like there are more Latino players in the game than black players because you can't control black players. Maybe you can't control Sheffield because of his dependence on steroids?

It's also interesting to note how many players on this list are current or former Yankees players. On this list, I can include:
Kevin Brown
Roger Clemens
Jason Giambi
Glenallen Hill
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Hal Morris
Denny Neagle
Andy Pettitte
Gary Sheffield
Mike Stanton
Randy Velarde
Rondell White

And that might not even be a complete list. I'm just going off of my memory here. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a Mets fan and I do realize that there are some former Mets on that list too. But there's no former Mets player on that team that was highly instrumental in their history, and I enjoy criticizing the Yankees any chance I get.

The Mitchell Report

Today is the day that the Mitchell Report is set to be released. The Mitchell Report is the report on the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, and this research was headed by George Mitchell (hence the name). Its been nearly 2 years in the making, and one would think that would be plenty of time to gather the dirt and compile a thorough report. Rumors lately, however, have suggested that the report might not be what it seems, with allegations that the investigation has made a number of mistakes along the way. I don't know what these mistakes might be, so I'm really not any type of authority on the subject, but at face value it kind of sounds like a desperate attempt by some guilty parties to cast doubt on the report.

No one can honestly deny that there has been (and continues to be) steroid use in professional baseball. In fact, I'm sure there is steroid use in practically every sport. Even Carl Edwards of NASCAR fame has been accused of using steroids. I'm not quite sure what advantage you'd get by using steroids in NASCAR, but this guy is pretty built.

There have been a number of developments leading up to the steroid investigations, most notably the increased power numbers of some players. Back when I was a kid, it seemed to be a big deal for a player to hit over 30 home runs in a season. The single-season home run record stood at 61 home runs since 1961, and even this record was just 1 home run above Babe Ruth's previous record of 60 home runs in 1927. So it seems that this mark of 60 home runs should be pretty hard to break. This came into question in the summer of 1998 when both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were in a race to break the record. It was really and exciting summer for baseball, and it was something that the game desperately needed to get people interested in the game again after the strike of the early 1990's drove people away. At the end of the year, both players broke the record, with McGwire hitting 70 home runs and Sosa hitting 66. Certainly it was remarkable to have 2 players break the record in the same year, and it seemed like it wouldn't happen again any time soon. But what happened the next year? McGwire came back with 65 home runs and Sosa hit 63, both besting the record of Roger Maris again.

McGwire's performance dropped off after that, but Sosa followed up those seasons with 50 home runs in 2000, and 64 in 2001. That 2001 season was also notable for another reason. Just 3 years after the record-breaking season of 1998, Barry Bonds joined in on the action and hit 73 home runs in one season. In my opinion, it was around this point that people started taking notice. How could it suddenly become relatively easy for players to hit so many home runs? It also was about this time that a reporter noticed a bottle of androstenedione in McGwire's locker. Androstenedione is a precursor to both testosterone and estrogen, and was marketed as a "supplement" in the 90's. I'm not a biochemist by any means, but I'm assuming that an excess of androstenedione, or "andro" for short", would likely be converted to testosterone in males rather than females, and hence the increased performance. The curtain was lifted at this point, and people began to take notice. This was followed by revelations by certain players that they had used steroids. Former MVP Ken Caminiti was among the first to admit to steroids use, and this was soon followed by Jose Canseco's admission and his suggestions of many other players that were using steroids.

A question that remains is whether or not these players actually "cheated". Sure, steroids can improve performance, but exactly what constitutes "cheating"? At the time, Major League Baseball did not have any rules against it, and there was no drug-testing policy in place. By no means am I advocating the use of steroids, but I don't see any rule that these players broke at the time. Also, I don't believe that the use of steroids is the kind of huge difference-maker that people seem to think it is. Take a look at the list of players that have tested positive for steroids since testing began in 2002. We're not exactly talking about an all-star roster of players here. So while I'm sure that steroids can provide some boost, it's not going to turn a sub-par player into an all-star.

Preliminary discussion about the Mitchell report lists some of the usual suspects as being named. Its a virtual certainty that players like Bonds, McGwire, and Jason Giambi (who has also admitted to steroid use) will be named. Early leaks have also indicated that Roger Clemens will also be named in the report. A common criticism against players like Barry Bonds is to look at how much bigger he's gotten during his career, using pictures like before and after. If that's the case, I'm surprised that the same hasn't held true for someone like Clemens. He has also gone from rather small to pretty large, and his performance hasn't really shown any sign of decline after he turned 40. Steroids might also explain his episodes of "roid rage", such as a couple of incidents when he beaned Mike Piazza in the head, or when he threw part of a broken bat at Piazza in the 2000 World Series. This leak of Clemens' name also makes me wonder about certain other players that have only performed better with age, and also seem to have quite a temper. Does the name Kenny Rogers come to mind? I wouldn't be surprised. It will be interesting to see who is named in the report, and how this report will impact the game.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Heisman Hype

With the Heisman trophy presentation tonight, the sports stories today have been focusing on the four candidates that will be in New York. At the beginning of the season, would anyone have put together a list of Heisman candidates that include Chase Daniel, Colt Brennan, Tim Tebow, and Darren McFadden? Okay, well that last one would certainly have been included but not too many people would have picked the first three. The names being tossed around in the early part of the season included names from the big football programs, such as John David Booty from USC, Mike Hart from Michigan, Colt McCoy from Texas. Funny how it seems that people didn't really know what they were talking about back then, and just picked their favorite big-name school and chose a player.

In the end, it came down to these 4 players that all had amazing seasons. As a Mizzou fan, I'd like to see a Missouri player win, but I don't think Chase Daniel has much of a chance. Sure, he put up ridiculous numbers like 4100 yards en route to leading the Missouri team to its best season in recent history and a temporary #1 ranking in the BCS. On the downside, he never really had much of a "Heisman moment", that kind of play that get shown all year long in the highlight clips that really impresses you. He was just very consistent each week an put up great numbers. Secondly, I think that their humiliating loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship pretty much eliminates his chances, just as Missouri's chances of a BCS bowl were eliminated with that loss. I don't think that's much of a valid reason, but that's just the way it seems to be.

Colt Brennan, the quarterback from the University of Hawaii, also had an excellent season, putting up over 4100 yards with 38 touchdowns, en route to leading his team to an undefeated season. In my opinion, Hawaii should have been selected for the championship game. They are the only undefeated team, so how could they not be there? Well, I think the same reasons that keep them out of the BCS championship will keep the Heisman away from Brennan. First, Hawaii isn't a traditional football powerhouse so he automatically doesn't have the same recognition as a player at a school like Michigan. Secondly, its always tough for Hawaii to get good teams to play them. They aren't in a great conference, and when the Hawaii team is good, other strong teams are hesitant about playing them in a preseason game. Plus, the distance doesn't help either. This distance also means that a bunch of their games are on tv much later than most people will be watching, so Brennan loses exposure. So while he might be deserving, I don't think he'll get the Heisman either.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I think the Heisman will go to an SEC player. That brings it down to Tebow or McFadden. Tim Tebow seems to be the favorite right now. He's playing for Florida, perhaps the strongest football school among all of the current candidates. He was the first player to put up 20 passing and 20 rushing touchdowns (he actually had 29 and 22, respectively), including 3900 passing yards, and he really helped to carry his team. He also has the coolest Heisman website of the 4 listed above. In the end, he does have some negatives too. First, he's a sophomore. Its a stupid reason, but no underclassman has ever won the award and this might keep him away from the award. If you don't fit the mold, then its tough for you to go all the way. Much like how the Missouri team was bounced from the BCS entirely a day after they were #1 in the nation but lost to Oklahoma. Also, some people wonder if his rushing touchdowns should really be much of a consideration. Should other quarterbacks that have a legitimate running back be penalized because they utilize other players? Its an interesting point and although it doesn't make Tebow any less exciting, it might keep him from the Heisman. Also, he's playing on a team that had 3 losses.

Finally, there's McFadden (Highlight video). An excellent running back from Arkansas that finished second in the Heisman voting last year. He's definitely the spark in the Arkansas offense and really helped carry his team at times this year. The knock against McFadden, however, is that he didn't have a very consistent season. He kind of slumped in the middle of the season, and his team had its ups and downs too. The team ended with three losses on the season, which always makes it tough for a player to be truly Heisman-worthy. Also, he's a running back. The Heisman typically goes to a quarterback. Not that its a requirement, but its usually much easier for a player to be considered a leader of his team when he's a quarterback. For example, McFadded had 20 touchdowns on the season, which is GREAT for a running back, but really doesn't compare to the touchdown totals of the other 3 candidates, especially Tebow's 51 touchdowns.

In the end, I think that the award will go to Darren McFadden. Despite the facts that he slumped for a little while, his team had 4 losses on the season (and didn't make it to the conference championship), and that he's not playing for one of the big-name football programs, it just seems that he has less to overcome than the other players. Like I said before, all 4 players had great, award-worthy seasons, but in the end McFadden has fewer obstacles to overcome. Plus, I think he had the biggest "Heisman moment" of them all, when he carried his team to a 3-overtime win over then-number 1 team LSU. If it was up to me, I think McFadden gets the award, and I'd be surprised if it doesn't end up that way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


It may barely be December, and winter doesn't officially start for a few more weeks, but you wouldn't be able to tell here in Wisconsin over the past few days. On Saturday, we got about 6 inches of snow, followed by several hours of hail and freezing rain. It made for some real treacherous driving, but it was kind of fun to see snow again. Fortunately, they know how to clear the roads pretty well here, so things were relatively back to normal in a day or two. Not to be outdone, Mother Nature must have decided that she likes snow-covered roads because she decided to dump 5 more inches of snow on us yesterday. Driving home from work last night was less than enjoyable.

Today is a nice and sunny day, although I think the forecast is for a high temperature of about 24 degrees (Fahrenheit). And tomorrow? Oh, just 3-4 more inches of snow. I wonder if I could find a job where I could spend my summers in somewhere like Wisconsin, but then spend winters in somewhere like San Diego.

I've also been messing around a little lately with YouTube, as you may remember from our trip to San Diego about a month ago. Anyway, I've been taking some pictures of our backyard lately and it kind of became a cool little time-lapse showing the transition from fall to winter. Thought I'd share it here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What its like to be a Missouri fan

1. Football team has one of its best seasons in ages.
2. Finish the regular season by beating arch-rival Kansas to make it to Big 12 championship for the first time in history, and hand Kansas its first loss of the season in the process.
3. Get catapulted to the #1 position in the BCS poll.
4. Lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game.
5. Likely miss out on a BCS bowl despite #1 ranking, while Kansas is projected to go to the Fiesta Bowl.

Even when Missouri beats Kansas, they still find a way to lose.

And I should point out that it seems that I was right about Mizzou's defense needing to step up. Didn't seem like they ever got the chance to put any pressure on Bradford, and couldn't seem to make a tackle without Oklahoma picking up a few extra yards.

College Gameday: Mizzou vs. Oklahoma

It's been a busy week here with a lot of writing going on, so sorry about the lack of posting. Its not that I haven't been excited about the game tonight. I've been watching and reading everything I come across that talks about the game. For those that don't know, Missouri and Oklahoma play tonight at 7 pm central time for the Big 12 championship. This is really nothing new for Oklahoma, as they seem to be in this position just about every year. But for Missouri, they have never been to the Big 12 championship and haven't won their division since the 60's. So you can say its kind of a big deal for the Tigers.

There isn't nearly the rivalry between these two team as there was leading up to the game last week. Missouri and Kansas are true rivals and have been that way for a while. Also, Missouri and Kansas football programs are usually sub-par (to put it nicely), so they usually get blown away against the big boys of Oklahoma. I guess its hard to establish any kind of rivalry against a team that beats you year after year. I heard that Missouri hasn't beaten Oklahoma since 1998.

This year is different, however. Its true that Oklahoma is the sole loss for the Missouri football team, but it wasn't really a blow out. The game WAS in Norman, Oklahoma, so there was clearly a home field advantage. Also, Missouri had the lead into the 4th quarter, when their play got really sloppy and they turned over the ball a few times. They were also without their top running back, Tony Temple, who will be active for today's game. So I think that Missouri has a legitimate shot at beating Oklahoma today and advancing to the national championship for the first time ever. Who would've thought it?

To get to that point, I think that the key for Missouri is their defense. Missouri has a great offense, with quarterback and Heisman candidate Chase Daniel leading the way. Jeremy Maclin is an amazingly athletic wide receiver who can really change the pace of the game, and Danario Alexander made a big splash last week against Kansas after missing much of the season. And this doesn't mention future NFL tight ends Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman. So why is the defense so important today? Well, I'm pretty sure Missouri will be able to put up some serious points. Their lowest point total of the season is 31, which coincidentally was against Oklahoma. I think their defense will be key because they'll have to stop another great offense of the Oklahoma Sooners. Led by freshman phenom quarterback Sam Bradford, Oklahoma is able to put up some serious points too. I also think they have a better running game than Missouri. Fortunately for the Tigers, Oklahoma's #1 rusher, DeMarco Murray, is out for the game. But they certainly have some depth. Their #2 back, Allen Patrick, is actually their leading rusher on the season, while their #3 running back, Chris Brown, ran all over Missouri earlier this season en route to a 3 touchdown performance. So I think its up to the defense to keep the Oklahoma offense contained as much as possible. As long as they keep the score relatively low, Missouri has a good shot at winning. A performance like the first half of last week's Kansas game would be nice, where they held KU scoreless.

There's a lot on the line today for both teams, but probably more for the Tigers. Not only are they in a position they've never been before, but they also control their own destiny for the bowl season. A win today and they can start making their plans for New Orleans to play in the national championship game in January. It seems like most people are divided on who they expect to win this game. Lee Corso from ESPN's College Gameday picks Missouri to beat Oklahoma, while this guy goes and picks Oklahoma. Who would you believe?

As for my prediction? I foresee a high-scoring, but close, game. Mizzou 45, Oklahoma 42.