Thursday, June 3, 2010

Do The Right Thing

June 3rd, 2010
New York, NY

Sports presents an ongoing emotional battle for all traditionalists. Constant rule changes, technological advances and the maturation of any sport means that like a living, breathing organism, sports constantly change.

For some people, this means that a sport might lose it’s magic and they lose interest.

For some, it makes it impossible to compare greats from era to era, allowing for constant debate about who “the greatest” might be.

For some, it means you might have to redefine your personal rules about how you judge greatness, winners and losers.

Mr. Black is one of those people.

Last night, Armando Gallaraga was perfect for 29 outs. The problem was that Jim Joyce wasn’t. As a traditionalist, I hate the use of instant replay in baseball. Human nature is part of the game, and my response to anyone saying that one call can cost someone a game is, “score more runs.”

But as a traditionalist, I also love that the Commissioner has total control over the rules of baseball. Kenesaw Mountain Landis demanded that he have “absolute power” to govern baseball as any way he saw fit as Commissioner for the betterment of the game. To this day, that power still stands.

Our current baseball commissioner can change the rules DURING a game (see the 2002 All-Star Game), and in the case of Gallaraga’s perfect game, what Bud “The Slug” Selig should exercise his absolute power. The answer is to overturn the call, not as a correction of the umpire, but to recognize the historical achievement of Gallaraga in a case where there is no statistical significance to the decision. He can be clear that there is not rule change, and that human error will be always be part of the game, but on a case-by-case basis where a win or loss isn’t involved, the commissioner, and only the commissioner can change a call.

C’mon, Bud. Do the right thing. For the first time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

June 2, 2010
New York, NY

So after an 11-month hiatus, Mr. Black is looking to get back to writing about sports. To be 100% honest, the amount of work required to write regularly and not have every post be total drivel was a little surprising. But like an aging quarterback well past his prime (looking at you Brett Farve), I’m coming back for one more try.

Anyway, there’s too much good stuff going on in the sports world right now so let’s get this going.

The Biggest Losers
Quite a few big losers over the last few weeks, so here are a few highlights.

Eddy Curry
After making around $60 million dollars in nine years, he’s been considered a waste of money for years but after being ordered by the court to pay $1.2 million dollars for a bad loan it’s reached shocking levels. The only thing more shocking than a single person wasting $60 million is the 85% interest loan which is what led to the court order.

Eddy, a little free financial advice: First, save at least 10% of your income for retirement. Even without interest that would mean you have $6 million in the bank and could easily get out of a tight situation. Second, fire employees who aren’t pulling their weight and have your best interests in mind. You had a personal chef that was pulling down $6,000 per month, but you still weighed over 300 lbs. It’s in their best interests and yours that you stay healthy. Then you’ll both have jobs for more than one more year. Finally, don’t take on interest rates that are higher than your free throw percentage. Especially if you’re points per game is around the prime rate.

Roger Federer
Most boring professional sport just got even more boring.

Roger Federer’s streak of 23 straight quarterfinals in Grand Slam tournaments has been broken by some guy from Sweden with too many vowels in his name. We will call him Sven. The loss leaves Rafael Nadal and Sven as the two top seeds. Roger’s reaction in his press conference was, “I guess I’ll try and keep the quarterfinal streak going.”

There is absolutely no personality or passion in the men’s game. It’s just flat out boring, so very, very boring.

The Florida Marlins
But a least tennis isn’t embarrassing. The Florida Marlins however, are a different story. After having their star player dog it and have the cliché verbal feud with the manager, they are now selling the tickets from unsold seats from last weekend’s perfect game.

Wait, what’s wrong with a franchise selling what’s a nice keepsake for the hardcore baseball fan? Nothing, if you don’t mind your franchise profiting off it’s own failure. The perfect game was thrown against the Marlins, so essentially the team is taking advantage of it’s own ineptitude.

Mr. Black smells a small-market moneymaker here. Look for the Pirates to get even worse this year so they can have 162 different records set against them, and they can sell all the tickets to fans of the opposing team.

Mr. Black will try to motivate again tomorrow and talk about a few winners, and kick off some World Cup discussion.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New News is No News

January 11th, 2010
New York, NY

So it’s been months since my five loyal readers have been able to read Mr. Black. Because I’ve been busy with that pesky day job. And unlike that sellout Sports Guy, I don’t get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the worldwide leader in brand extensions to write about how Kevin Connolly and Vince Young have had the same career trajectory.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about Mark McGuire.

Of all the great sports stories that should have gotten me in front of the computer screen (I’m looking at you Gilbert Arenas) leave it to Big Mac to get me to write. I admit the whole “I was using performance-enhancing drugs” stories in Major League Baseball are getting cliché, but this one takes the cake. It’s like Godzilla having a press conference to announce, “I’m a big lizard.”

I mean, no one else saw this coming?

When we last saw McGuire, he was on Capitol Hill refusing to “talk about the past” but about a week ago, Big Mac’s chronic enabler, Tony LaRussa, made him the hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals under the cover of the NFL playoffs. Barely a blip on the sports radar, the baseball beat writers were sharpening their pencils for the first press conference where they could ask the big fella about PEDs because he was notably absent from the announcement.

Most of the time a potential hall of famer gets back into the game they have lots to say.

This time, there was no word from McGuire. Nothing. Nada. Not a peep about being happy to get back into baseball, work with LaRussa, or get free sunflower seeds. Total radio silence. Crickets.

Anyone who follows politics or baseball knows something was up.

Obviously, the press people from the Cards were locked in an undisclosed location helping craft the coming out speech. After a few days of press strategizing, Big Mac was ready for the biggest story of his life. The one where he could announce that he did indeed use steroids.

So after a week of thinking about how to finally talk about the past, McGuire said nothing that Pettitte, A-Rod or Ortiz didn’t say. He had the usual soundbytes: claiming he just dabbled, blaming injuries, the passive version of “everyone was doing it” and of course, an apology. Here’re some highlights:

"It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize.”

“Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."

"I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 offseason and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again"

Most telling is an admission of using steriods in 1998, when he set the major league record for home runs. Which, notably was a year that he never was injured (he played 155 games) and was a decade after he “tried” steroids “off and on”.

And by the way, he didn’t even have the balls to do this announcement in person, like everyone else has. It was via a press release to the AP.

I guess steroids really does shrink your nuts.

Anyway, his big news was no news, and by doing it by fax he seems content for us to draw our own conclusions.

I drew mine conclusion five years ago.

Mark, you’re a cheater. You cheated the fans who cheered you on, you cheated the manager who’s always stuck by you, you cheated Roger Maris and Babe Ruth and most of all, you cheated baseball.

The fact that most of the league was cheating doesn’t excuse it.

The fact that there were no rules specifically against steroids doesn’t excuse it.

Baseball used to be a game of giants, of personalities larger than life that people loved in spite of all their faults. Now it’s a game of thieves hiding in corners, averting their eyes when anyone looks their way. (Remember Ortiz and his sunglasses?)

So do us all a favor. Come clean about how you really feel, under the spotlight of the press. Give us the chance to ask you real hard questions, like “do you feel like you earned the home run title” or “in light of what you just admitted, do you deserve to be in the hall of fame” or “how do you expect young players to react when you ask them to put in extra work to be successful when you took the easy route.”

If not, just crawl back under the rock where you were hiding for the last five years. Because baseball doesn’t need another liar, it needs someone to tell the truth. It needs someone to stop apologizing and take responsibility. It needs someone to remove themselves from the record book because what they did was wrong.

Until then, it’s like The Greek just told me, “looks like the magic number is still 61.”