Thursday, March 1, 2012

Haterade: Five Topics From Spring Training

According to the latest statistics and national polls, baseball is still regarded as the second-most popular sport in the country. To be honest, this comes as a bit of a surprise to me -- you have the many stars of the NBA dominating sports marketing, the continual growing interest in NASCAR and racing, Tiger Woods and what he’s done with the sport of golf, and even the alarming rate of increase in the ever-growing Mixed Martial Arts cult-like following. But for some reason, baseball is considered America’s national pastime... no matter how hard the game tries to indemnify itself.

Ryan Braun - It’s not my pee!

Last fall, after being voted the most valuable player of the National League, Ryan Braun was undoubtedly becoming one of the faces of the sport. At only twenty-eight years old, with both a Rookie of the Year and MVP trophy to his name, Braun was supposed to be entering this new season with the Milwaukee Brewers with the whole world ahead of him. There is no denying what he accomplished a year ago. On the way to his MVP-award winning season, he joined the elusive 30-30 club, drove in 111 runs, led all NL left fielders in fielding percentage, and was an integral part in the Brewers’ regular season and postseason success. But all that’s for naught.

Do we view Barry Bonds the same way? Sammy Sosa? Mark McGwire? Roger Clemens? Manny Ramirez? Unfortunately, the answer is a defiant “no.” I am not specifically referring to the issue of steroids or HGH use, but squarely on the phenomenon we are seeing from superstars in baseball. Why do they continually make decisions that ultimately destroy their legacies? Hell, the league won’t even let Pete Rose into the hall of fame because of his poor choices. Why is this so common in the sport? All I’m asking is for players to stop lying to us. The MLB should either kick out all the liars or require everyone to disclose everything. Why is baseball so damn shady anyway? I personally don’t want it to be considered the national pastime anymore. When it comes to something pertaining to American history, I want to be able to think about a time of innocence, of honest competition, and of general camaraderie -- not one tainted with cheating, lying, gambling, and individualism.

Back on the topic of Ryan “my testosterone levels were 8 times higher than the average male” Braun, do you really expect us to believe it wasn’t your urine? Please give the American public a little more respect than that. Generally we give athletes, especially those whom we adore and look up to, the benefit of the doubt, but when you’re so obvious in undermining our intelligence, it's a turn-off. The fact is, 50-game suspension or not, you will never be looked at the same way. If people want to send me their record books, I’ll gladly draw the asterisk next to his name myself.

Albert Pujols - I am not a man!

After signing an historic contract with the Anaheim Angels, Albert Pujols decides that he is no longer a man. For those who haven’t heard, he created quite a stir in the media last week by complaining to his new ball club in regards to the text the team decided to unveil on their billboards. In Spanish, “El Hombre” means “man,” or “the man,” in this context. Unfortunately, the $240 million human being does not approve. When asked, Robert Alvarado (the team’s vice president of marketing and ticket sales), stated that he has never had to seek approval from players before and that everything they market is meant to be complimentary.
I guess the four season tickets to every home game for the next decade, a luxury suite at Angel Stadium ten times a year for the next decade, a hotel suite during all road games, the right to buy a luxury suite between first base and third base, and a guarantee of a $1 million annual salary if he decides to work for the ball club after retirement in addition to his $240 million contract is not enough to be called “the man” nowadays.

When it’s all said and done, you may go down in history as the best player ever. But this isn’t St. Louis, Missouri anymore -- you are playing under the bright lights of Los Angeles, California, a much edgier market with fans that could turn on you in a split second. So please stop nitpicking on things that ultimately do not amount to anything. Let people do their jobs, and you do yours. Just focus on getting ready for this upcoming season and living up to that ridiculous contract. Nobody likes a whiner.

Josh Hamilton - Bartender! I’ll just have one.

Josh Hamilton is an addict. What he has to endure through when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse ultimately comes down to it being a disease. During the season, he is required by Major League Baseball to provide a minimum of three urine samples a week to be sent for testing. On many occasions he has stated that he looks forward to this particular process because it helps him stay accountable. The unfortunate thing is that the struggle for an addict never truly ends. Three days a week of drug tests just means four days a week without it. And expectedly, he has had a couple lapsing episodes in the past few years, with both of the documented occurrences happening during the off-season. Both times he admitted he was wrong. And both times he vowed to never put himself, his family, or the people that care about him at risk again. But you know as well as I do -- it’s going to happen again. And then, it’s going to happen again after that.

Why is this spun into such a negative light? From the local reporters that follow the team on a daily basis all the way up to the national radio and television personalities, they have one thing in common: they focus not on his well-being but on his baseball contract. How long is he going to sign for, how much is he going to be paid, and which teams will offer him these aforementioned terms? I can make a case for why some Dallas area writers may focus on this because they are close to the situation. But when other members of the media, especially ones with a national following, fail to depict what is significant about the story, it is disappointing for everyone involved. Stay strong, Ham-bone, and let baseball be your sanctuary -- not something that defines you.

Boston Red Sox - No beer? No chicken? No fun.

New manager Bobby Valentine has laid down the gauntlet in Boston. We all know what happened a year ago. The choke jobs of all choke jobs to end the regular season. Players eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the dugout. Theo Epstein leaving for the Chicago Cubs. Terry Francona getting fired for bringing two championships to the city after an eighty-year drought.

In all honesty, if you delve into the numbers, what the team actually managed to accomplish in 2011 is pretty impressive. The Red Sox led the league in total runs, hits, on-base percentage, and slugging; was second in batting average; and third in home runs. And if you account for the multitude of injuries that hindered the team throughout the season, these numbers are even more surprising. But that didn’t stop the owners from doing what they did. And what they did was hire Bobby freakin’ Valentine. The same guy that won one pennant in fifteen years in the majors before deciding to go to Japan. The same guy that was ejected from a game in 1999 as manager of the New York Mets, only to sneak back into the dugout wearing a fake mustache. Yes, this really happened. And the same guy that owns a bar himself but decides to ban his players from drinking beer in the clubhouse and on team flights.

Is Bobby V really being serious? You’re going to tell your players what they can and cannot do as if they are little kids? Don’t be surprised if the team decides to quit on their manager, which will then lead to Red Sox nation calling for his head. This could get really ugly. Stay classy, Boston.

Bud Selig - Age is just a number!
It can be argued that Americans are still fans of Major League Baseball despite Bud Selig and all of his mishaps throughout the years:

  • The whole steroid and performance-enhancing drug era was under his watch. (I don’t know why more is not made of this.)
  • The infamous players union strike and cancellation of the World Series in 1994.
  • After the debacle of declaring a tie in the 2002 All-Star game, he made it a rule that the winner of the EXHIBITION game in subsequent years will determine who will have home-field advantage for the World Series.
  • His lack of foresight in not allowing instant replays into the fray even though countless games were being decided by miscalls year after year.
  • In 2005, he royally screwed over the Houston Astros by forcing them to play “home” games against the Chicago Cubs in Milwaukee, which conveniently is his hometown.
  • His continual rejection of introducing the game to the Internet age (go see if you can find a quality highlight video of Ken Griffey Jr. on YouTube).
  • And more recently, without any legitimate reasons, he rejected a television deal the Los Angeles Dodgers negotiated which would have taken the franchise out of bankruptcy.
Although he has stated that he will retire once his contract is up, for some strange reason, he keeps getting extended -- this time, it’s through the 2014 season. You have got to be kidding me. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1956, its time for him to be history. As in, please get out and allow the league to enter the 21st century.

Until next time, sip that haterade...

Other notable topics: Big money contracts; Manny’s “love of the game”; Yu Darvish; the state of the New York Yankees; Bye, National League. Hello, American League.

Photos and video courtesy of USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Ology, Zimbio

Connect with Albert Nguyen!


After reading this, I'm ready to begin my 2nd attempt to watch regular season baseball. Good stuff, Alby!

As a native of Stamford CT (where Bobby V's bar is located) and a Met fan, I am a firm believer in Bobby V. In the late 90s the Mets were overachievers and ever since then have only disappointed even with the increase in talent.

I'm backing Pujols on this one -- he wanted to respect Stan "The Man" Musial. And Angels fans would be psycho to turn their backs on THE GOAT. Of course, you and I should probably be rooting for that since we'll all be in AL West soon enough... F Bud Selig.

Pujols is a baby. Not discounting what he's done as a player and what he will do in the future (he may be considered the GOAT). But at the very least, this should have been kept in house.

I would like to thank everyone for reading the article. Thanks for the opportunity, @GClassAllstars!

I'm with Bobby V too...time to shake things up in Boston. Why do they need beer in the clubhouse any way? How many of us have beer in our workplaces?

Maybe Josh Hamilton should try to get traded to Boston to help him stay away from temptation in the clubhouse, haha. Sox desperately need someone to play RF.

I have beer at my workplace. There's also liquor. I'll take a pic of it tomorrow for ya. And yes, we can drink at any time of the day at Zynga.

It's not the actual fact that there isn't alcohol in the clubhouse, but more on the fact that Bobby V has to explicitly ban it. I'm with Francona on this one, it's nothing more than a PR move...and it's not going to sit well with the players.

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