Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Ryan Braun got off too easy

July 25, 2013

For Ryan Braun, a guy who lied so publicly and emphatically about his innocence after beating a positive drug test on a technicality, and who, we have to presume, was caught red-handed (or whatever the right term is for a positive urine or blood tests) – if not, why would he not persist with his denials? – being suspending for the final 65 games of a lost season is not enough.

For performance enhancing drug users, suspensions have to be in years – say two years or the length or their current contract, whichever is longer – and agents and clubs also have to be penalized. Require rebates to season ticket holders and half-price tickets (and no price increases) for a certain period of time. The idea is that everyone has an incentive to eliminate PEDs and no one has any incentive to tolerate them. Or just ban everyone for life for testing positive: one strike and you’re out.

It’s a bad joke that Melky Cabrera got caught using PEDs last year while a member of San Francisco Giants, set up a website to provide false evidence of his innocence, and wound up with a World Series ring and a raise, signing a contract for $16 million – more than nearly all of us will see in a lifetime – with the Toronto Blue Jays. The only good thing to say about the situation is that Cabrera has reverted to his apparent unenhanced form, providing the Jay with an extra-base hit about once every two weeks.

Let’s hope Major League Baseball throws the book at the next guy it catches using PEDs, whoever it may be. (All rooting for Alex Rodriguez, put on your rally caps.) And let’s hope the Hall of Fame voters continue their admirable record of shunning known PED users. Simply put, their achievements don’t count.

MLB also needs to state that recreational drugs are a legal, moral and, like alcohol, a conditioning matter. They’re different from PEDs which degrade the integrity of the game. What Tim Raines did, stealing bases with a vial of cocaine in his sock, is not equivalent to what Ryan Braun et al have done.

Finally, I think the PED punishments should bring to mind Pete Rose. I take a backseat to no one in my utter disdain for The Asshole. (Everybody knows Pete Rose blows!) But to give a guy the death penalty for gambling on the premise that even betting on your own team might influence the game on the field, yet not doing the same for doping that absolutely does influence the game on the field is the height of hypocrisy. I’m not saying pardon Rose – and I think his persistent lies have earned him extra lashes – but that PED users’ punishment has to be at least as severe.

Let the juiceheads roll.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer (and reforming baseball writer) Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Everybody up for the 7th inning kvetch

July 12, 2013

One beauty of baseball is its dynamic daily evolution. During the season, teams play virtually every day and when they don’t, their rivals do, along the guy your team’s guy is fighting for the league lead in home runs or strikeouts does. Daily box scores reveal sprout streams of details creating the ebb and flow of the season.

The All-Star break shatters that daily current, making it the worst three days of the season. Three days without your team’s box score and no movement in the standings is both brutal and pointless. In the infinite wisdom of the geniuses that moved the Astros to the American League to make interleague play – instituted as a special event – both necessary and commonplace, some teams get a four day break.

The other problem with the All-Star Game is the game itself. It’s not a real baseball game, where teams play to win, using the full range of strategies and the team’s best players. It’s a bad joke, like the difference between extra virgin olive oil and margarine. Determining World Series home advantage by the outcome of the All-Star Game compounds the error.

Consider the above the first pitch of what should become a far more satisfying baseball tradition: the seventh inning kvetch. For those not up to snuff on their Yiddish, kvetch means complain and can be used as a noun or verb. When have you watched a ballgame and not seen something to complain out? Nobody, no matter how many millions they’re paid, bats 1.000 or throws nothing but strikes.

My pal Dave Lapkin, Orange County’s insurer to the stars, wrote this song for the seventh inning kvetch: I think you can guess the tune.

Take me out to the ball game,
Ochen vey, such a crowd,
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
30 minutes, 50 bucks, it set me back.
It’s root, root, root for the home team,
Even though I don’t know their names,
For it’s one, two, three bouts of gout,
At the old ball game.

Let’s all get up and belt it out for all the things that bother us over those lousy three (or four) days next week.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Collateral Dynasty: the Colorado Iraqis story

August 21, 2011

As the US winds down its military involvement in Iraq, it’s easy to overlook the many successes of this far-reaching American crusade to extend freedom and our way of life. Among the great advances in this cradle of civilization since US-led liberation, let us not neglect the feats of the Colorado Iraqis.

“I know even less about baseball than I do about hair care,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. “But I am moved by the success of the Colorado Iraqis since the advent of freedom in Iraq.”

The Colorado Iraqis were conceived in the wake of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s widely condemned invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After US forces expelled the invaders, the Pentagon and Major League Baseball officials established the Iraqis franchise. “From Abner Doubleday through Tim Johnson, there’s been a strong, positive relationship between baseball and the military,” Gen. Colin Powell, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman during that first Gulf War, explained. “So we believed that establishing a major league franchise could help moderate the regime’s behavior.”

After two inaugural losing campaigns, the Colorado Iraqis reached the playoffs as the first-ever National League wild card team in 1995. However, the franchise failed to continue its winning ways. The growing misrule of Saddam Hussein led to increased international scrutiny. Consistent major league leading power output fueled suspicions of an illegal nuclear program. The team’s Blake Street Bombers nickname suggested connections with international terrorism.

“In a post-9/11 world, those risks were unacceptable,” former Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush, who served as US President from 2001 to 2009, said. “Plus, we wanted to create a government and a team that the Iraqi people could support.” So the US led an international coalition to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom to oust Saddam Hussein and bring democracy and winning baseball to the Iraqis.

Regime change didn’t make the Colorado Iraqis successful overnight. Replacing Saddam Hussein with L Paul Bremer didn’t do the Iraqis any more good than replacing Jim Leyland with Buddy Bell had. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s experiment with the Iraqis using a seven man lineup set back their progress. But the rising tide of freedom would eventually propel the Iraqis upward in the standings.

While the US-led invasion uncovered no weapons of mass destruction, the Colorado Iraqis retained Todd Helton. The Coalition Provisional Authority’s efforts in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to nurture democracy and development enabled the Iraqis to develop Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki.

However, it wasn’t until advent of the surge strategy in 2007, championed by Senator John McCain and implemented by manager Clint Hurdle, that the Colorado Iraqis returned to the postseason. With a 6 1/2 game deficit on September 16, the Iraqis won 14 of their last 15 games, including a one-game playoff, to become the National League’s wild card team for a second time.

The Colorado Iraqis fantastic 2007 postseason run became known to all as Iraqtober. The Iraqis swept the Philadelphia Phillies to advance to the National League Championship Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Iraqis repeated the sweep to win their first National League pennant, giving them an unprecedented 21-1 run from mid-September. But Iraqtober came to an abrupt end in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, which the Iraqis lost four games to none.

“The surge strategy enabled the Iraqis to make meaningful, sustainable gains against opposing forces,” General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq in 2007, recalled. “The past four years of learning to defense the hit and run really paid off.”

Not everyone was as pleased as Petraeus with the Colorado Iraqis’ results. “After nearly one million Iraqi deaths, you ought to get a least one game off the Boston-effing-Red Sox,” Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said. “The only thing worse would be losing to the apostate Cardinals or Padres. And, to be honest, I don’t like those Indians much either.”

The late season surge strategy has become a regular feature of the Colorado Iraqis’ finish every year since 2007. In 2009, the Colorado Iraqis rode September winning streaks of eight and five games to another wild card berth. They didn’t get beyond the first round of the playoffs, but they’ve become a force to be reckoned with annually, transforming the season’s closing weeks into the fall of Iraqis.

“Whatever you think of the original circumstances of the invasion of Iraq, it’s indisputable that the Colorado Iraqis are established as a thriving, successful franchise, right in the center of the Middle East,” President Barack Obama said. “That’s allowed my administration to focus on the current threat to global order from WMDs – the Wilpons of Mets Destruction – and to dare hope we can duplicate the success of the Colorado Iraqis in our efforts to assist the long-suffering Detroit Libyans.”

Totally globalized native New Yorker, reforming baseball writer, and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. See his biography, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.

Baseball makes its pitch in China

September 30, 2010

In the US, Independence Day on July 4th features barbecues, fireworks and baseball. October 1 marks the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, featuring parades, speeches and, maybe someday, baseball, too. Major League Baseball began promoting baseball in China by training China’s team for the 2008 Olympics. With baseball out of the Olympic movement after the Asian Games in November, critics say MLB has squandered its best chance to build grassroots support, sell merchandise and win TV audiences. As I reported in Asia Times, MLB officials say they’ve barely begun their quest to win Chinese hearts and minds and find baseball’s equivalent of NBA star Yao Ming. Earlier this year, China’s designated professional sports entrepreneur Kenny Huang issued press releases about branching into baseball, so it may be the early innings of a contest between MLB and the home team in the world’s fastest growing consumer economy.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Crackpot threatens book burning

September 25, 2010

Hello. I’m Muhammad Cohen, and I have a stark warning for the American people.

My novel of Hong Kong On Air, a story of TV news, love, betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie, is now on sale at bookstores throughout the US and online. If you don’t buy my book, then I’ll have to burn it, and for the security and tranquility of America, you don’t want me to do that.

I’m a Muslim – Muhammad Cohen – and burning my book will offend the 2.1 billion Muslims across the world. It will offend Muslims in Afghanistan, where America’s finest are in harm’s way. So if you don’t buy my book and make me burn it, you’ll be putting our troops at risk.

I’m also Jewish – Muhammad Cohen – and burning my book will offend the world’s Jews. If you don’t buy my book and make me burn it, you’ll be inviting trouble from the powerful American Jewish lobby, not to mention thousands of doctors, lawyers and accountants.

My book is Hong Kong On Air – Hong Kong, like in China – and burning it will offend 1.3 billion Chinese. China already makes just about everything we buy, we’re in hock to China up to eyebrows, and they’ve got nuclear weapons. Burning my book is bound to get on China’s bad side, and that’s no where to be.

Hong Kong On Air is about the global media, especially big, family controlled global media that reaches across television and newspapers. Burning my book will get the powerful global media angry, and give them another reason to tap your cell phone.

I’m originally from Queens, the New York City borough that’s closest to America’s heartland. If you make me burn my book, Jerry Seinfeld will haunt you, and Sarah Palin will never stop tweeting you.

If you don’t buy my book, you’ll offend America’s sense of humor because Hong Kong On Air is the funniest book you’ll read this year. You don’t want to get on the bad side of the comedians who make America laugh every night, guys like David Letterman, Jay Leno, Glenn Beck and John Boehner.

I used to be a baseball writer, and I’ve still got plenty of friends in the game. Burning my book will anger people who make their living swinging wooden clubs and throwing rock-solid objects at great velocity with pinpoint accuracy – they could come looking for you. And, rest assured your ballpark nachos will never have jalapenos again. Besides, baseball remains America’s national pastime and if I burn my book… well, you can do what you want to me, but I’m not going to stand for you insulting the United States of America.

So, buy Hong Kong On Air, tell your friends to buy it, and give it as gifts. After you read it, post a review on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever else you can think of. Or the smoking book could turn out to be a mushroom cloud.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

George Steinbrenner, great American loser

July 15, 2010

Among the many despicable figures in baseball history, George Steinbrenner stood out as one of the most obnoxious and objectionable. I decry the revisionist obits of Steinbrenner and describe some of his offenses in this eyewitness account of Steinbrenner’s reign of error, posted on The Guardian website.

One topic the article doesn’t cover – not exactly mainstream, particularly for a British publication – is what baseball might have looked like without Steinbrenner setting the trend for the modern economics of the game that have added zeros to baseball salaries, ticket prices, and the rest. Yes, people have been predicting the demise of baseball’s popularity since they made foul balls strikes, but removing both the spontaneity and affordability factors from a visit to the ballpark seems to narrow the game’s potential audience substantially.

At the dawn of free agency in the 1970s, Steinbrenner presented the vision of growing revenue faster than salaries. A competing vision came from Oakland Athletics owner Charles O Finley, who wanted to keep costs stable. “Free agent is another word for unemployed,” Finley declared. “Let them all be free agents.” If Finley had won the argument, baseball would look different. Or perhaps Finley did win the argument in places like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Oakland, which nevertheless share in the expanded revenue stream that Steinbrenner helped create.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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