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Yankee Panky # 42: Love Is Not in the Air
2008-02-15 06:11
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly.”
– Thom Yorke, Radiohead, in “Paranoid Android,” from 1997’s OK Computer

The Roger Clemens-Brian McNamee divorce dominated the Valentine’s Day sports headlines. And yet while media members clamored to dissect the proceedings in Washington, most people I spoke to, both in and out of the business, treated it with a resounding “Who cares?”

Newsday’s Johnette Howard summed it up beautifully here.

As far as the Capitol Hill proceedings were concerned, I found two poignant snippets of analysis from writers for whom I have great respect: ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant, and the Post’s Phil Mushnick (Laugh all you want. He’s cynical, yes, but he gets it right).

From Bryant: "Ultimately, we did not learn that Roger Clemens lied, nor did we learn he did not. As expected, the truth lies somewhere in the creases of the memories of the people involved. What we did learn is that Roger Clemens had an answer for everything the committee asked him. At the ready, his finger was always pointing at a reason, but it was never at himself. And that is why so many of the committee members did not believe him.” (Newsday’s Jim Baumbach and Robert Kessler echoed Bryant’s summary.)

From Mushnick: “Wednesday's hearings weren't quite as party-divided as many have claimed. While all the Republicans were seen as anti-McNamee and pro-Roger Clemens (vice versa with the Democrats), Mark Souder, Republican from Indiana, was one of the committee members who wisely refused a social meeting with Clemens days before the hearing. Souder condemned such chumminess as inappropriate.

And it was Souder, Wednesday, who was the only Representative to ask why team owners weren't being called to answer for their look-the-other-way role in MLB's drug scandal. And that's still a very good question. How did team owners miss what was obvious to everyone outside of baseball?”

Some other highlights:
Jayson Stark had a typically strong piece about the emotional toll Pettitte’s testimony could have on the Yankee clubhouse. A great quote from Mike Mussina in there comparing it to what Jason Giambi went through in 2004. (Mussina didn’t mention Sheffield, who at the time was also embroiled in the BALCO investigation.) The only detail Stark failed to mention regarding Pettitte’s absence from camp was that the Yankees gave him permission to report Monday, four days after the scheduled report date. With that said, it’ll be interesting to see the reaction in Tampa when he does report, and to see how willing or dismissive he is during reporters’ interrogations.

While I’ve found the coverage of these hearings to be fairer than the “rush to judgment” style exhibited following the release of the Mitchell Report, I’m feeling like Cush in “Jerry Maguire:” I just want to watch and enjoy baseball. I’m ecstatic to see stories with slugs like “Joba Chamberlain throws off a mound for the first time since ALDS.” At least if the word “injection” or “infusion” is used in and article with that angle, it won’t have anything to do with a needle.

SPEAKING OF COMPARISONS …
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was also on Capitol Hill this week, testifying before Senator Arlen Specter (R – Pa.) on the New England Patriots’ “Spygate” case. Can the media please stop attaching the word “Gate” to every scandal? It’s not original, nor is it applicable. I’d venture to guess that a sector of the population believes Nixon’s scandal took place at the Water Hotel because of this.

Mr. Goodell destroyed the Pats’ tapes in the League’s investigation. In not so many words, Goodell said, “It’s my league. We reserve the right to reopen the investigation if we see fit, and I stand by my actions.” Why can’t Mr. Selig do this?

I’m not a fan of many of the NFL’s administrative practices, particularly on the issue of health insurances and pensions for retired players, but one thing the league has done consistently is preserved its autonomy when pressed on how it polices itself. Meanwhile, MLB has continually sought help from external sources, including the federal government, and demonstrated disunity and a lack of leadership in this regard. Based on the coverage I tracked, few writers or sports/legal pundits addressed that fact.

Moreover, for politicians to cry foul on sports and attempt to legislate the leagues on a basis of purity, competition, and character is eminently hypocritical. Politics and athletics, since ancient times, have been two of the most corrupt entities, largely due to the presence of the most intrinsic and addictive of drugs: the thirst for power, success and fame.

Until next week …

Comments
2008-02-15 10:31:50
1.   williamnyy23
Very nice post...just two points of disagreement:

1) Mushnick, while insightful at times, is more often sanctimonious. What's more, he has the tendency to harp on irrelevancies (ok, so football analysts use 3rd conversion stats out of context…who cares! That doesn't make you a better person). Also, I always found it hypocritical when he would rail against "scam-di-cappers", only to then look below his column to see the Post running a whole slew of adds for them. I always felt that if Mushnick was so outraged, he should have resigned from the Post. Even today, a NY tabloid is hardly a credible place from which to launch attacks at other media targets.

2) I don't think baseball "invites" government scrutiny. Instead, it seems as if the government prefers sticking its nose into baseball. Of course, MLB has the strongest anti-trust exemption, so that could be the reason why. I don't think the NFL is inherently better at "preserving its autonomy".

2008-02-15 10:34:14
2.   wsporter
I actually liked Roger Cossack's take the best: "it is unseemly for the Congress to create a Star Chamber pitting Clemens against McNamee in this manner". Unseemly is exactly what that entire spectacle was; every member who participated in that farce should ashamed of themselves. They tried their best to create a perjury trap for one of the two witnesses who came before them with 180 degree divergent stories and they couldn't even get that done. If they couldn't pull that off how the hell are they going to manage creating Health Care reform?
2008-02-15 10:51:21
3.   Mattpat11
Mussina's now making the hard push for the Hall as the clean pitcher of the AL.

He should get in.

2008-02-15 10:53:37
4.   williamnyy23
2 I could be mistaken, but I am not really sure Congress has much authority in terms of whether a perjury charge is pursued. I believe that is entirely a DoJ matter. If Emery is correct and there is a big Republican conspiracy to protect Clemens, then presumably they wouldn't take up any recommendation for prosecution.

As for Congress having better things to do, well, I'd almost rather have them mess around with baseball than apply their real talents toward messing up something much more vital (although, having said that, I sadly realize that there might not be many things more vital to me than baseball!)..

2008-02-15 10:57:56
5.   wsporter
4 Congress would request that the DOJ investigate; thats what makes for the perjury trap. Congress sets the bait, entices the prey, draws out responses and then authorizes the DOJ to investigate.
2008-02-15 11:01:53
6.   rbj
3 So should Moose be the Opening Day starter? I'd think it would come down to him and Andy, and I would lean towards the clean pitcher.

Oh boy, talking about Opening Day starters!

2008-02-15 11:02:14
7.   Mattpat11
6 Wang.
2008-02-15 11:04:27
8.   Will Weiss
1 Thanks William. I don't agree with everything Mushnick writes. I don't want to give that impression. I know it bothers him that ads for the same things he criticizes appear in his columns, but he understands it's all about $$. I included his excerpt because it was different and few other writers, if any, highlighted the party-line division in that way. ... To your second point, that's certainly true; the government seems to have an affinity for "sticking its nose" into baseball. But when it does, MLB puts itself out there to be probed. Rarely do you see MLB take a stance the way that the NFL has, basically saying, "Our league, our rules, this is not your place."
2008-02-15 11:05:29
9.   Yankee Fan In Boston
4 "As for Congress having better things to do, well, I'd almost rather have them mess around with baseball than apply their real talents toward messing up something much more vital (although, having said that, I sadly realize that there might not be many things more vital to me than baseball!).. "

that just deserves to be read a second time. perfect.

2008-02-15 11:27:22
10.   standuptriple
6 Yeah, what do you have against Wang?
2008-02-15 11:38:04
11.   rbj
10 Nothing. I was just going by veteranness. Even though Torre's gone, some habits are hard to break.
2008-02-15 11:39:39
12.   wsporter
4 Given Waxman's statement that he wished the hearing had not been held I would imagine that Congress wont ask the DOJ to investigate since it looks like it will conduct it's own independent investigation anyway. Oye!

Andy, I'd like Andy to get the start.

2008-02-15 11:43:00
13.   Max
Apart from Bryant's takes before and during the hearing, my favorite was Shaun Assael's take for ESPN:

http://tinyurl.com/3bot7h

Charles Scheeler, an attorney who worked closely with Mitchell and seemed pressed into service mainly to separate the rivals, stumbled through incomprehensible answers about why, for $20 million, he couldn't get his facts right. At one point, he answered that he couldn't be held responsible for facts that showed he'd gotten his facts wrong. His performance was so dismal and inept, there was nowhere to go but to the wash room and flush the whole thing.

2008-02-15 11:45:39
14.   williamnyy23
5 Are you sure? From what I understood, Congress can recommend, but they can't authorize. In other words, the DoJ is pretty much free to pursue the case regardless of what Congress requests.
2008-02-15 11:53:58
15.   markp
Over at Pending Pinstripes, Alan Horne was the latest pitcher to be profiled. I respect their opinions as much as anyone's, and they seem to think he's close to being ready for the show (if he isn't already).
I had to check his 2007 IP, and he had 153. He's 25 and more of a power pitcher than a finesse guy, so he's probably capable of 190 IP in 2008. I realize he's not on the 40-man, but there's still some dead wood that can be pared to make room for him.
How big of a splash will it take for him to get to the bigs before summer? Even if he's only league average, he sounds like someone who can be (to a degree) an innings eater.
2008-02-15 11:56:32
16.   ms october
12 i think a lot depends on what jeff novitsky (sp?) does with this case and what becomes of macnamee's "evidence" of guaze and syringes; and then the potential perjury charges against someone

13 great last line

and i vote for wang too.

2008-02-15 11:58:30
17.   williamnyy23
8 Agreed on both points...Mushnick is at his best with comments like the one above. When I can stand him is when he tries to jam his "social agenda" down my thoat.

As for MLB not being as defiant as the NFL, could it be that they have more trepidation because they have more to lose if they lost their more robust anti-trust exemption?

2008-02-15 12:01:38
18.   wsporter
14 Yes, I'm sure. Congress writes a letter authorizing DOJ to investigate. Perhaps I'm using the word "Authorize" inartfully.

In any event what you wrote in 4 was "I believe that is entirely a DoJ matter." and that is not correct. Congress does have authority to move DOJ to investigate suspected perjury and prosecute it through the courts if that is warranted. DOJ has the authority to pursue independently as I said above in 12 or through Congressional authorization; they do not however maintain sole discretion in the matter.

2008-02-15 12:01:40
19.   williamnyy23
16 Speaking of Novitsky the IRS agent, I wonder if he has any interest at all in the many times Pettitte claims to have "slipped" McNamee $1,000 here or paid for a flight there? Do you think McNamee reported this compensation on his tax returns?
2008-02-15 12:02:42
20.   williamnyy23
18 I could very well be mistaken...if I can find the reference I thought supported my original claim I'll post it later today.
2008-02-15 12:11:28
21.   ms october
19 yes, i am sure he is looking into all the under the tables gifts and money that went to mcnamee and for that matter radomski to help trace this whole thing out

i would love nothing more for this to go away, but i am curious to see if another "strain" does come to light - bonds (and giambi, sheffield et al) were implicated (i am using that loosely) through balco; clemems (pettitte, lo duca et al) were implacted through radomski which led to mcnamee and the three names associated with mcnamee. it is possible that someone (like a novitsky if not himself) finds another strain. seems like the mail order people got off much lighter than these two bunches.

this whole thing with the bonds steroid test is quite odd.

alright sorry for the steroid talk.

2008-02-15 12:19:07
22.   Shaun P
19 If I were in charge of putting IRS agents on cases, I wouldn't let Novitsky near another one that involved high-profile athletes in any way. Maybe not fair, but my $0.02.

17 In theory, I think MLB is right to worry about losing its vast anti-trust exemption. In practice, I don't think it should give a damn. I don't think such a measure would ever pass a vote of the entire Congress, and be signed into law. But forget that and even leave aside the fact that anti-trust law has been castrated over the last 30 years - what practical concerns does MLB they have if the A-T E is gone? The government might force them to put another team in NYC? The Marlins won't be allowed to move?

The NBA and NFL survive quite nicely without the vast anti-trust exemption MLB has. No reason MLB can't do the same if it needed to.

I'm so frustrated by the whole damn thing: Congress, Clemens, McNamee, Selig, etc. Ugh.

-------------

Perhaps this is sacriligeous, but why not let the greatest Yankee pitcher of the last 40 years start the last Home Opener, and throw the first pitch, in the last year of the old Stadium? He doesn't have to pitch more than an inning. And seeing as we'd all like to see him throw the last pitch in the old Stadium (version 2) as well, it'd be the perfect bookend.

This is Yankee Panky #42, after all - which is what gave me the idea.

2008-02-15 12:32:53
23.   standuptriple
I'm actually interested to see if Karstens can make the leap. He seems to have figured something out. Whether it translates to the MLs remains to be seen, but I like rooting for the kid for some reason.
2008-02-15 12:35:34
24.   vockins
3 How does anyone prove that he was or wasn't clean? Or that any other player was or wasn't clean?
2008-02-15 13:15:38
25.   JL25and3
24 Thanks, you beat me to it. As I've been saying, that's why the report shouldn't have named names - everyone else is implicitly exonerated, and that shouldn't be.
2008-02-15 13:23:59
26.   ms october
22 Interesting thought. Never crossed my mind. I see you have been inspired to think "outside of the box" though :}
2008-02-15 13:53:34
27.   horace-clarke-era
I think william's got it here (I know, I know) ... Congress can invite, actually the head of this committee ALONE, of his own initiative I believe can invite a DOJ perjury file to be opened AND the DOJ always has its own discretion and right to open a file based on what it has heard or seen. That only makes sense, in fact.

A question, real one, as I'm wrestling with it: perjury is very serious. It sends a dangerous message. No one wants this to go further (with Miggy too, to my mind). Do we prefer the perjury issue to be ignored, in favour of just letting this single focus aspect die? Remembering that SOMEONE has committed flat-out perjury.

2008-02-15 14:00:23
28.   joejoejoe
Wil Weiss: "Meanwhile, MLB has continually sought help from external sources, including the federal government, and demonstrated disunity and a lack of leadership in this regard."

I wonder if it has to do with MLB having an anti-trust exemption while other leagues never had that crutch.

2008-02-15 15:34:35
29.   wsporter
27 You're right but I don't see how that's inconsistent with what I wrote. My only objection with William was his statement that "I believe that is entirely a DoJ matter." DoJ does have discretion, that's a separation of powers issue, but Congress does have a voice in determining if a perjury investigation will be pursued through it's ability to make the request. This conversation was ongoing in light of the perjury trap issue. I don't see this as all that complex.
2008-02-15 15:39:35
30.   RIYank
Wang lost his arbitration case -- the arbitrator awarded him the $4M that the Yanks were offering. So far, no player has won an arbitration case this year.

http://tinyurl.com/325nyp

2008-02-15 16:24:25
31.   horace-clarke-era
29 Ah, ws ... I was just trying to be nice to old wm, since we've been pounding on each other in the other thread...

It isn't entirely DOJ, as I think I also said above. If that was your disagreement ... we're all square. Have a beer.

Oh. This is NOT baseball (sorry!) but it ties in by way of the courts getting enlisted in damn nearly everything now:

APNewsNow: Suit filed over spy charges

NEW ORLEANS - A lawsuit filed Friday by a former St. Louis Rams player and others seeks millions of dollars in damages from the alleged taping of Rams practices by the New England Patriots before the 2002 Super Bowl.

The Patriots won the game 20-17 in the Superdome.

The $100 million suit, filed on behalf of former Rams player Willie Gary in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, names the Patriots, team owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick.

2008-02-15 16:26:15
32.   yankee23
A great piece by Chuck Klosterman is up over at ESPN. This time regarding PED use in (gasp!) the NFL for once:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3246484

2008-02-15 16:41:17
33.   wsporter
31 Who the heck do you think you are being nice to anyone HCE? :-)

Boy can this stuff lead to misunderstandings and short fuses. Think I'll by-pass the beer and head straight for the Bushmills. I'll drink the first one to you and WM.

2008-02-15 16:45:20
34.   rilkefan
32 Kinda skeptical about the relevance of the Beatles's drug use, and our view of it, to his thesis.
2008-02-15 16:49:15
35.   mehmattski
Yeah why does everything have "Gate" after it to denote a scandal?

If the Democrats had been staying at the DoubleTree Hotel, would all scandals have "tree" after them?

SpyTree
TravelTree
SteroidTree
StarTree: Atlantis

2008-02-15 17:18:28
36.   Chyll Will
35 Too bad they weren't staying near Hell Gate. That would have been interesting (if not appropriate)...
2008-02-15 17:48:55
37.   yankee23
34 I agree. I see the relevance to the general idea of PEDs, but not particularly to his statement. I believe he actually used that in a previous article unrelated to sports. Maybe he just felt like tying that in again. Klosterman's a hell of a writer, though. There's a great essay in one of his books about coaching Little League one summer during high school.
2008-02-15 17:50:37
38.   horace-clarke-era
30 Saw this. Anyone have a thought why team didn't split the difference - would have been $300,000 - and avoid the he's great-he's not so great junk of a hearing?

And think they brought up the post-season starts? That worth $300,000?

I honestly don't see it.

31 Who the heck do you think you are being nice to anyone HCE? :-)

Sorry. Sorry. Friday night and all that. Have another Bushmills for me.

2008-02-15 19:48:30
39.   Bruce Markusen
I love Mushnick. He's a watchdog who is far more interested in fan concerns than he is with pandering to either players or owners. He was also one of the first to take ESPN to task, long before Deadspin and "Fire Joe Morgan" entered the fray and essentially tried to take credit as being the first full-fledged critics of ESPN.

Mushnick calls the showboating of athletes, one of my pet peeves, what it is--bad sportsmanship, plain and simple. It's not celebrating, and it's not spontaneous; it's simply an effort to get face time on ESPN and the other highlight shows.

In regards to his criticism of scamdicappers, Mushnick has written in his own column about the Post's decision to carry such ads; he's taken the Post to task more than once on that issue. Now, expecting him to resign his position is a bit extreme. Everyone has an employer who does something they object to; if we decided to resign for every infraction, we wouldn't have any job for very long.

2008-02-16 06:29:17
40.   markp
Bruce,
I agree about Mushnick. He's been doing it for a very long time, too. That he speaks out against his employer is enough to keep his credibility-what's surprising is that his employer hasn't swatted him for it.
2008-02-16 06:42:51
41.   Will Weiss
39 40 I enjoy Mushnick for the same reasons you both, and have corresponded with him several times in response to his columns, both positively and negatively. He's a straight shooter, even in that forum. I'd say the reason he's still there is because News Corp recognizes that any publicity is good publicity, even if one of its own writers is criticizing its papers' practices.

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