Making Sense of the latest in the PED Mess

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This is going to be a very interesting next couple of days for Major League Baseball. It will be historic in fact, with the Commissioner setting precedents for how the league will handle PEDs from this day forward. It’s also the non-waiver trade deadline with several big names still expected to changes teams before Wednesday’s 4 PM deadline. Then, of course, there’s still games being played on the field (17 of them today thanks to 2 doubleheaders), although it’s easy for those to get buried under a slew of PED-related headlines.

It’s almost unbelievable what a mess A-Rod’s role in the Biogenesis Clinic and subsequent MLB investigation has become. As of today, we know that MLB will attempt to discipline Rodriguez sometime this week, with the punishment varying from 100-game suspension to a lifetime ban.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Commissioner Selig may try to discipline A-Rod under the CBA rather than the drug agreement. In doing so, the Commissioner would have carte blanche to suspend A-Rod for as long as he sees fit and Rodriguez would have little recourse, essentially losing his right to appeal. Selig’s decision would “constitute full, final and complete disposition… and have the same effect as a grievance decision of the arbitration panel.”

According to the CBA, “players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or prejudicial to the best interests of baseball…” Yes, that’s the same clause the league used to ban Pete Rose for life. The evidence that the league claims it has against Rodriguez along with his attempts to purchase and destroy key evidence in their investigation could be enough for it to take unprecedented disciplinary action against a current player.

There’s a new report everyday and no one will know exactly how this saga ends until the suspensions are handed out. If A-Rod is smart, he will do what Braun did and accept a deal in which he is suspended for a finite amount of time. I think the league is going to do everything in its power to ban Rodriguez for life to make an example of their biggest target (and admitted cheater) and to try and clean up the game for good. A-Rod’s case is especially unique in that even the player’s want to see him punished (or at least that’s what most of them say).

The only way to completely rid the game of PEDs is to institute a lifetime ban for anyone’s first offense. Anyone found using any form of PEDs at any time is no longer allowed to play the game. I know this is an extremely quixotic solution and that the players would never approve but that’s the only way I see the game becoming completely clean.

I know that baseball has never been completely clean but in my mind there is a difference between gamesmanship and injecting your body with a foreign substance. All of those records were broken because the best players of the late ‘1990s and early 2000’s had an advantage that no other players in the history of the game had. The steroid era of baseball happened and now it needs to become a part of history. I’ll never stop loving baseball but I just want to go back to the days when I didn’t think twice about a player having a great season.

Unfortunately, PEDs have been overshadowing some of the amazing stories happening on the field this season. Grantland’s Jonah Keri wrote a great article last week highlighting some of those unexpected story-lines. Miguel Cabrera, who is possibly the greatest right-handed hitter since Rogers Horsby (too much hyperbole?) is in the prime of his career. Chris Davis is hitting a HR every 10 at bats. Mike Trout is having an almost identical season to his stellar Rookie of the Year campaign last year. Young pitchers like Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Matt Moore and Gerrit Cole have been dominant. How could I not mention Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers massive turnaround? The Pirates are 20 games over .500. The Cardinals have the best record in baseball. The Rays, Red Sox and Orioles are separated by 5 games in the AL East. I can go on and on.

Even with PEDs and A-Rod getting the covers of the newspapers, last night was a perfect example of why the game is still great. The Red Sox and Rays squared off at Fenway with 1st place in the AL East on the line. David Price was pitching a gem for the Rays and held a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 8th. Price struck out Jonny Gomes to start the inning and then was replaced by Joel Peralta. Ryan Lavarnway hit a 1-out double off Peralta to put the tying run in scoring position.

John Farrell decided to pinch-run for Lavarnway with Daniel Nava (a questionable move as Nava isn’t known for his speed and Jose Iglesias was still available on the bench). The next batter Stephen Drew doubles over the head of Wil Myers. That would for sure score the tying run from second right? Wrong. Nava read the play poorly and had to stop at 3rd. The next batter is right-handed pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder (Nava would have been a great candidate to pinch-hit here against the righty Peralta).

Snyder flies to left, fairly deep. Sam Fuld makes the catch and Nava tags from third. The throw comes in a little up the first base line – Molina grabs it and jumps back in front of home plate to apply the tag. Jerry Meals calls Nava out, even though his foot got in milliseconds before the tag. Double play, inning over. The Red Sox would go on to lose the game 2-1.

It sucks to have a blown call – which Meals admitted he messed up – decide a game, especially between divisional rivals with 1st place on the line but it was so much fun to watch. Late-inning situations in important baseball games are about as intense as sports can get, even if you’re not watching your favorite team.

The Rays now lead the AL East by a half game and they made sure to let the Red Sox know after the game via twitter.

As any good rival should, the Red Sox fired back with this since deleted tweet:

Don’t worry @raysbaseball we look forward to seeing you in Tampa in September for our home games at the Trop.

The rivalry is alive and well and hopefully after all of this PED stuff comes to a head, this will be the type of stuff that gets lead billing in the baseball world.

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Rich Froning Wins 3rd Straight CrossFit Games

Rich Froning, Central East

Rich Froning won the 2013 CrossFit Games yesterday, keeping his crown as the fittest man on Earth for the 3rd straight year. I’ve been a casual observer of the CrossFit Games since last years games and I’ve been reading CrossFit blogs for about the past 18 months. There is a lot to love about CrossFit and I have completed a handful of WODs (workout of the days). Eventually, I would like to join a box (what they call their gyms) and get into CrossFit full-time. But for now I remain an observer and infrequent unsupervised participant.

The guys and girls competing in the CrossFit Games in Culver City, CA are beasts – and I mean that as a giant compliment. They all qualified through regionals and simply have outstanding strength and endurance. 138,00 athletes from 118 countries competed in the The Open stage of qualifying where open workouts were announced via live online broadcasts each week. Only about 50 men and 50 women advanced to the televised 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games. Having tried some of the exercises they are doing, it is amazing to watch them make it look so easy.

CrossFit varies the workouts everyday by having a different WOD. It breeds a positive competitive environment where you are competing with yourself, trying to improve on your time or weight, as well as competing against the others in your box. The competition helps brings out the best of everyone and it also creates a tight-knit community in which you want everyone to succeed. This was clearly evident when Rich Froning completed his winning set yesterday. He was exhausted (although he didn’t look it because as previously mentioned, he is a beast) and he just clinched his third straight CrossFit Games title, yet one of the first things he did was go to the other competitors and encourage them to finish strong.

Often times, I think about how much I miss playing competitive team sports. The camaraderie that develops from being physically tested together can’t be found anywhere else, or so I thought. CrossFit seems to offer that and watching the games yesterday was a great reminder. While many thought it might be a workout fad that would fade away, CrossFit continues to gain popularity and the games have a lot to do with that.

Many professional athletes have found CrossFit to be a very effective training method and it’s equally as common with the everyday person. It may not be for everyone but CrossFit seems like a great way for competitive adults to stay in shape and still satisfy thirst for competition, especially if their playing days are long behind them. I don’t think I’m too far away from being a full-timer cross-fitter myself.

Mets Season Not Over Yet

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Let me preface this blog by saying that I know there is something seriously wrong with me. That being said, I’ve been watching Mets games since the All-Star break as if we were in the heat of a pennant race. Monday’s loss to the division-leading Braves still stings a little. Gee pitched a gem only to have Parnell blow a 1-run lead in the 9th. Buck’s pass ball certainly didn’t help but after all of that Justin Turner appeared to deliver a game-tying (possibly game-winning) single in the bottom of the 9th inning only to be robbed of a hit on a spectacular diving play by Jason Heyward. It still stings a little just talking about – and remember we’re talking about a July divisional match-up for a team that is 10 games back. I know, I know… there’s something wrong with me.

It was the first of a 4-game set against Atlanta so a win would have moved New York to 9 games out, with 3 more to come in the series. Of course with the loss, the Mets fell to 11 back and to any normal fan that probably doesn’t seem any different than 9 games back. But for some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about how we could have  been 9 back and maybe 6 back after a 4-game sweep. Wishful thinking of course but I can’t stop.

The Mets ended up splitting the 4-game series with the Braves and currently sit 10 games back of Atlanta (and 4th in the NL East). Keeping with this idea of delusional fanaticism, just hear me out as I convince myself (and possibly you) that the Mets can still win the NL East. This weekend will go a long way in determining whether I’m completely out of my mind or just mildly delusional. At any point, if I begin to sound completely out of touch with reality, please feel free to refer back to the first sentence of this post. Here we go…

A doubleheader with the Nats today offers the opportunity to pick up 1.5 games on Atlanta and 2 games on Washington, who sit 2 games ahead of us. Philly is also ahead of us in the standings but all of us (Phils, Nats and Mets) have the same number of losses. Given how poorly the Nats and Phillies have been playing of late, I think we can be in 2nd place by the end of the weekend. The Nationals have won just once since the All-Star break and they needed a Bryce Harper walk-off HR after blowing a 4-run 9th-inning lead to earn that win. The Phillies have also only won since the break and they’ve lost 5 straight. Jumping them in the standings should not be much of a problem if these trends continue.

Atlanta opens up a weekend series with St. Louis tonight. The Cardinals have the best record in the league at 62-37 and they are hitting an other worldly .340 with runners in scoring position this season. The Braves will be tasked with defeating Wainwright (13-5, 2.44 ERA) tonight, Joe Kelly (1-3, 3.88 ERA) tomorrow and Shelby Miller (10-6, 2.77 ERA) on Sunday. The Cards also have three of the five highest averages in the NL in their lineup (Molina leads the NL with a .336 AVG followed closely by Allen Craig and his .334 AVG and Matt Carpenter sits in 5th with a .325 AVG). In summation, the Cardinals are really good and should take at least 2 of 3 from the Braves this weekend. A sweep is not out of the question.

Meanwhile, if the Mets can take 3 out of 4 against a reeling Nationals team, that would leave us 8.5 games back with 2 full months left to play. A tall order but with 5 head-to-head match-ups with Atlanta remaining on the schedule, it’s not an impossibility. If the Mets sweep the Nationals this weekend and the Braves get swept by the Cardinals, we would be 6.5 games back. That’s very much in the hunt with 2 months to play. The wild card, believe it or not, is more difficult than the division this year because the NL Central has three teams that all have a better record than the Braves right now.

We’ve got Harvey going every 5th day and our bullpen has been pitching better and better each day. The pen has allowed just 1 ER in their last 19 IP. After this weekend, if the Mets are still more than 10 games out, I’ll pack it in. But I still have hope and want so much for this team to give me meaningful games to watch in August.

This entire season the Mets have failed to put together a good couple weeks of baseball and that’s made it hard for the fan base to believe anything would come of this year. We have been playing our best baseball of late though (21-14 record in our last 35 games) so now is the time to put together a 13-5 stretch and give yourself a chance to make something of what appeared to be a lost season. I’m not asking for a Rays-like 22-3 run (although that would be nice) but just keep winning series and come September, we might more in the race than anyone ever thought.

I admit that last month, I thought we were down and out and it was all about 2014 but after some solid play, I’m back and focused on the present. Hopefully the players and Terry realize that they’re just one more good week of baseball away from being right back in the division race. Even if we don’t put this run together, at least we’re not A-Rod and the Yanks. There haven’t been too many times in my life that you can say that, but it definitely applies on July 26, 2013.

What I’m Listening To

I went to go see “Springsteen and I” with my dad the other night and I’ve been listening to a lot of Bruce since. The documentary was very good, using home footage of people describing what Bruce’s music means to them. While I could have done without some of the personal anecdotes (some people rambled on a little), the majority of them were very cool.

The stories varied from a girl describing her experience after getting brought on stage to dance with Bruce during “Dancing in the Dark” to an Elvis impersonator singing a song with Bruce on stage to a fabulous seat upgrade. Those people will never forget those moments and thanks to this documentary, even Bruce can share in those memories with them.

The documentary showed a lot of old footage and that reminded me of this awesome version of “Prove It All Night” from 1978. I’ve listened to it at least 10 times since seeing the movie. At the end of the documentary, we were treated to 6 songs performed by Bruce and the E Street Band at Live from London Calling. Finally, the epilogue showed some of the people that shared their stories in the first part meeting Bruce backstage after a show in Copenhagen. A very cool moment that capped off an entertaining film.

There’s a reason Bruce is the international superstar that he is today and that he has had such a long career. The Boss is one of the best storytellers and songwriters ever and his music means so much to so many people. Songs written 4o years ago feel as fresh as today’s music and his songs will be forever relatable. I’ll continue to go to Bruce concerts as long as he continues to tour – in the mean time, I’m going to keep hitting the replay button on this “Prove It All Night” video.

 

J.K. Rowling Releases Book Under Pseudonym

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J.K. Rowling is the author of the best-selling book series in history, having sold more than 450 million copies of her Harry Potter series. The last 4 books of the 7-book series set records as the fastest-selling books in history. Warner Brothers took her creation and turned it into an 8-part film series, which would go on to become the highest grossing film series of all-time. The Harry Potter brand is worth an estimated $15 billion and now even includes a theme park.

Since becoming arguably the most successful author in history, J.K. Rowling has published only a few select works mostly geared towards young children. Understandably, her works garner a lot of attention, especially her highly-anticipated novel “The Casual Vacancy,” which was published last year.  Rowling got tired of that pressure, so she released a crime novel, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The novel, by an ex-military man (or so everyone thought) received rave reviews but sold only about 1,500 hardback copies since it’s April release.

Rowling was revealed to be the author over the weekend and since then the book has skyrocketed to the top of sales charts on Barnes & Noble and Amazon in both the U.S. and the UK. Sales increased by more than 507,000% since Sunday! Rowling said she enjoyed writing in anonymity and getting feedback from readers who didn’t have knowledge of her previous works. The problem was that the novel was too good for a debut author and it got people suspicious. Eventually, it was found out that “Robert Galbraith” used an agent, editor and publisher who had worked with Rowling. Her experiment is over and as a consolation she will now sell millions of copies of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” thanks to her profile – not that she needs the money.

Rowling’s experiment got me thinking about a similar story. One time a world famous, classically trained musician brought his violin to Penn Station. People paid hundreds of dollars to see the same man play violin at Carnegie Hall earlier in the month. Predictably, this world famous musician was ignored in the train station. Shouldn’t people have recognized that they were in the presence of musical greatness? People are often in a hurry in a train station but I would hope that I would have stopped and realized that I’m witnessing something I don’t get to see everyday.

I wouldn’t have though. Too often, I find that people need to be told something is good before they can appreciate it. This isn’t always true of course but I recognize this even in my everyday life. When I listen to a new song on YouTube, I begin to form my opinion but I must admit that if I see positive comments at the bottom of the video, it enhances my listening experience and vice versa. Circumstance has everything to do with what perceive as appealing or noteworthy. I am more than capable of deciding what is appealing to me without the input of others but I don’t always do it.

I’m sure many who didn’t think about reading “Galbraith’s” novel will now read it and rave. Maybe even more people currently in the middle of the book will change their opinion now that they know the actual author. The critical acclaim of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” will skyrocket because Rowling is attached – and rightfully so. She’s earned it. But the material is exactly the same. Only the name on the front of the book changed but that won’t stop it from going from the unknown to must-read.

Greatness comes in many different forms, can be found in many different people and isn’t always instantly recognizable. Sometimes it takes a revelation like Rowling’s or the world famous violinists’. Often times, it takes no revelation at all. If you come across something and you think it’s great, then it’s great and that’s it. Simple as that. To each his own and nothing else matters as long as you find whatever it is you’re watching/doing appealing. Sometimes you might be the only person standing in a crowded train station enjoying a violin piece, but if you truly find it great, then you don’t need anyone else’s validation. Thanks J.K. Rowling for that reminder.

Citi Field will make a fine host for All-Star Weekend

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The first half of the 2013 season is winding down and now it’s time for everyone’s attention to turn to the All-Star festivities. For the first time since 1964, the best players in the game will be coming to Queens for the mid-summer classic and Citi Field is the perfect host for the annual event.

Prior to this year, the Mets had gone the longest period without hosting the All-Star game. This weekend will be a great showcase for our beautiful 4-year old ballpark as well as the two faces of our franchise – David Wright and Matt Harvey. Hopefully Harvey will start the game and Wright will be starting at third as well as participating in the HR Derby on Monday night.

The Mets have become a bit of punching bag in the past 5 years with their late season collapses and financial problems for their affiliation with Bernie Madoff, but this weekend should be a showcase of everything that is great about baseball in Queens. Mets fans will be welcoming hosts and everyone at the stadium should take great pride in showing off our ballpark. It should be a fun week to be a Mets fan and I’m looking forward to it.

Marathon Mets at it Again

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I sat down at 10:15 last night to watch the Mets take on the Giants. With Matt Harvey going up against Tim Lincecum, I thought the game would be a speedy one – 2 good pitchers working quickly. But I forgot that I was watching the 2013 Mets and sure enough 5 and a half hours later I was still watching this same game.

9 innings after Matt Harvey exited the game – the Mets scored the go-ahead run on a Brandon Crawford error in the 16th. After allowing the lead off man to reach base in the bottom of the inning, Parnell was able to record 3 outs and secure a win (at 3:45 Eastern Standard Time). 16 inning games are typically an aberration but this year’s Mets are trying to make them the norm.

Yesterday was the 4th time the Mets have played into the 15th inning or later this season. And it’s not even the All-Star break! The Mets and Dbacks played a 15-inning game just 4 days prior on July 4! (Don’t forget about the 13-inning game against the Dbacks on July 1 – but even that feels short by comparison).

Taking into account all of their extra inning games this season, the Mets have played almost 4 and a half extra games this season. It’s truly incredible and Monday night (actually Tuesday morning) was the first time the Mets earned a W in a 15-inning plus affair. They’re now 5-6 in bonus baseball this season.

As a fan, I don’t hate it – it’s exciting to watch close games and each inning the pressure intensifies. But sometimes as games go deeper and deeper (I’m theorizing a 12-inning threshold), things get sloppy. Add to that the fact that two of these 15-inning games have come against the Marlins – one of the worst teams in the league who the Mets still have trouble beating anyway – and it begins to feel more like an exercise in mediocrity.

Turning the game off is not an option because I’m not going to miss the end. So, listening to Gary and Keith is always a good way to get through a long game. Keith was in rare form last night. In the 15th inning he was openly discussing his travel plans for getting back to his brothers place after the game. He was worried that it was getting late and his brother needed to get up early for work tomorrow. Keith is so funny during long games because you can tell he wants nothing more than to get the hell out of there.

Gary was his usual entertaining and informative self. He even thanked the New York audience for sticking with the broadcast well past 3 AM. No problem Gary! You made it fun to watch 5 and a half hours of Mets baseball. Seagulls took over the stadium from about 11 PM local time on which only added to the uniqueness of the game. I’ve never seen so many seagulls in my life and often they would fly in front of the centerfield camera obstructing my view of the game. It’s easily the first time a bird has ever obstructed my view of a game while I was laying in bed.

The final game time was 5 hours and 26 minutes – the fourth longest game in terms of time that the Mets have played this season. I still can’t get over that. The 20-inning game vs MIA lasted 6 hours and 25 minutes. Maybe that’s why that one felt a little torturous. The most exciting marathon game this season was easily the July 4th 15-inning game that went back and forth game against Arizona. Game-tying solo HRs in the 13th and 14th before the Dbacks finally put it away in the 16th was definitely giving the fans their money’s worth.

5 games over 5 hours this season and it’s not even the All-Star Break. Hopefully the All-Star game doesn’t turn into a 5-hour affair at Citi Field just by osmosis. The Mets may not be going anywhere this year but we will always  have the marathon first half to look back on. Maybe they can add even more to the legacy before the break. The Mets and Giants are at it again right now – game tied 2-2 in the 4th. Hope Keith is ready for more bonus baseball.