Tag Archives: Roger Clemens

Once Again Bonds And Clemens are on the Outside Looking in

The other day it was announced that four players had been selected as Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2015 inductees.

Three of the inducted players were making their first ballot appearance while the fourth was elected on his third year on the ballot after missing induction by two votes last year.

While the four elected players represented the largest induction since 1955, once again players who were deemed tainted by the steroid era in baseball were left on the outside looking in.

In fact several of the roughly 500 men and women who comprise the voting members of the BWAA have gone so far as to say that they will not vote for any players who spent their careers in the steroid era regardless of whether or not they ever failed a drug test.

In taking this stance, the anti any whispers of steroid use voters cite the character clause in the Hall of Fame selection process as their reasoning for boycotting players from the so-called steroid era of baseball.

And speaking of the character clause that seems to be so en vogue with certain voters, are we to believe that every member of the Hall of Fame was an Eagle Scout and a scholar off of the field?

There can be character clause cases made against a number of the titans of the game who currently reside in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

Two players currently caught in the crossfire of the character clause point of view are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

I grew up watching both players and aside from a collection of baseball cards with their likeness on them, I was also fortunate to see both players in action at Minute Maid Park.

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players who were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them. Photo R. Anderson

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players who were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them.
Photo R. Anderson

While neither Bonds nor Clemens would be the type of athlete I would want to emulate off of the field based on the amazing egos both men seem to possess, by all accounts those very same egos drove them throughout their careers and should have made them locks for first ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.

Both men had lengthy careers and put up the type of numbers that made a statistician blush and opposing players and fans curse.

Unfortunately late in their careers both Bonds and Clemens were caught up in the net of suspicion regarding performance enhancing drugs and were brought in front of a congressional subcommittee to face charges that they lied about their use of PEDs.

Despite both men being acquitted of the charges against them, and with Hall of Fame caliber numbers, they still are not in the Hall of Fame despite calls from more than 75 percent of fans to let them in.

This year only a third of the guardians of the gate with their golden ticket votes determined that Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Fame worthy.

With only a few more years left on the ballot it is entirely possible that two of the best players of their era will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And therein in lies the rub and the disconnect related to Hall of Fame voting.

The Hall of Fame is decided by around 500 people who have been BWAA members for at least 10 years.

There is no requirement that they ever played the game but merely that they have covered the game as members of the media who have paid their club dues for 10 years.

Another wrinkle in the BWAA rules is that only 10 people can be included on any given ballot despite there being more than 10 eligible players each year.

I am not suggesting that the Hall of Fame turn into a sort of American Idol situation where fans can call in their votes for their favorite players.

But, I am also not sure that allowing 500 members of the media, who have different philosophies on what constitutes a tainted player, should be the only people guarding the gates of Cooperstown and determining who is in and who is out.

In all likelihood I will never be a member of the BWAA nor will I ever cast a Hall of Fame ballot.

But if I were able to ever cast a ballot I would be sure to do my homework on the players and consider their numbers as a whole and not in a vacuum. I would also not use my vote as some sort of political platform.

If steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should not be banned from the Hall of Fame, especially if no proof exisits that they ever took banned substances. Photo R. Anderson

If steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should not be banned from the Hall of Fame, especially if no proof exists that they ever took banned substances.
Photo R. Anderson

For example if steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players.

And by all means with players such as Bonds, Clemens and others who never failed a drug test for any substance banned by Major League Baseball, one cannot ban them from the Hall of Fame because they might have been dirty.

I might have run a red light today, or I might not have.

Should I get randomly pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket just because at some point when no one was looking I may have run a red light? Of course not.

That would be overstepping the authority of the police and go against the letter of the law that one is innocent until proven guilty.

So players need to be judged on their on-field performance and if their numbers support admission they need to be admitted.

Yes, there was a time when the game of baseball was riddled with steroids but it was not the only time in the history of the game where players sought to get an edge.

Are we supposed to go through all the way back to Babe Ruth and others to determine if their numbers were enhanced through supplements? No we are not.

I am glad that drug testing is part of the sport and I do hope that the use of steroids can be contained. However, players always have and always will look for an off the field edge to help their on the field performance.

The practice of using some vague interpretation of the character clause as a way to deny admission to players who have been found guilty of no crime but only appear guilty by association needs to be stopped.

Unless a player drops their pants at home plate and injects steroids into their buttocks in front of 35,000 witnesses, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and give those players with a Hall of Fame career their proper enshrinement in bronze if they have never failed a drug test.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about baseball has me craving a hot dog.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

Craig Biggio Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Houston Astro Craig Biggio was elected to the 2015 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame on his third year of eligibility.

Having missed out on being inducted last year by two votes, Biggio made his third time on the ballot truly a charm.

Joining Biggio in the Hall’s first four person induction class in 60 years are pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz who each were elected on their first year of eligibility.

The selection of Johnson, Martinez, and Smoltz marks the first time that a trio of pitchers was inducted in the same Hall of Fame class.

Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap. Photo R. Anderson

Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap.
Photo R. Anderson

Failing to make the cut this year were a pair of Biggio’s former teammates, Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemens.

Biggio received 82.7 percent of the votes (549 ballots cast). Johnson received 97.3 percent, Martinez 97.1 percent and Smoltz received 82.9 percent.

While each of the three pitchers elected to the Hall played on multiple teams during their careers, Biggio spent all of his 20-year Major League Baseball career from 1988 until 2007 with the Houston Astros.

Biggio is the 49th Hall of Famer to have played his entire career with one organization.

The seven-time All-Star will become the first player enshrined in an Astros cap when the induction ceremony is held on July 26, 2015 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It is fitting that the Astros first Hall of Famer was born the same year that the team took on the Astros name since perhaps no other player has been so widely associated with the Astros brand as Biggio.

There are of course other players in the Hall of Fame who have played for the Astros during a portion of their career, including Nolan Ryan, whose last year with the Astros was Biggio’s first season with the team, but each of those players were inducted wearing another team cap on their Hall of Fame bust since the bulk of their success occurred on teams other than the Astros.

Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired. Photo R. Anderson

Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, fellow 2015 inductee Randy Johnson also briefly played for the Astros as a teammate to Biggio but he will not be enshrined wearing an Astros cap and will most likely have an Arizona Diamondbacks cap on his bronze statue since he won the only World Series title of his career in the desert.

Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that Biggio retired.

Whether he was playing catcher, outfield, or second base one consistent component of Biggio’s game was his performance at the plate.

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Photo R. Anderson

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits.
Photo R. Anderson

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Biggio is fifth all-time in doubles and first among righthanded hitters with 668.

Whenever Biggio would come to the plate, the entire Ballpark would chant B-G-O in unison.

In true remember the glory days fashion, the Astros will honor Biggio with a public celebration at Minute Maid Park on Friday at 5 p.m. and it is likely that the B-G-O chant will once again echo through the rafters as fans pay their respects to a player who gave his all whenever he stepped onto the field.

The Astros will also offer fans a seven-game ticket plan centered on games where Biggio will be honored this season.

No word yet on whether those seven games will fall under the umbrella of dynamic pricing, or if they will be made affordable for the every day fan.

As the Astros continue to rebuild and move forward, there will no doubt be many moments this upcoming season where they look back at what was during the Biggio years.

There were certainly many memories generated during those two decades with the Astros.

I started following the Astros towards the tail end of his career but even in that short time Biggio became on of my favorite players and reminded me of a player I grew up following, Cal Ripken, Jr. Like Biggio, Ripken also played the game the right way while spending his entire career with the same team.

In this era of free agency and trading for prospects, it is entirely likely that Biggio will be the last member of the Astros to spend 20 years with the team.

Such are the economics of baseball where teams trade away their players in the same way that children used to trade baseball cards with their friends.

But once in awhile a team will stick with a proven commodity and the results can truly be Hall of Fame worthy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dust off my Biggio shirt for one more trip to the Ballpark.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Breaking down Tracy McGrady’s Professional Pitching Debut

As noted on Monday former NBA star Tracy McGrady took the mound for his regular season professional baseball debut last Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters.         

While McGrady’s pitching line of 1 2/3 innings, 35 pitches (18 strikes/17 balls), 2 earned runs, 2 walks and a home run by Somerset Patriots shortstop Edwin Maysonet certainly does not sound like a Hall of Fame effort at first glance it is certainly notable in so much as it is not every day that someone goes pro in a second sport.

McGrady earned two NBA scoring titles and seven All-Star Game appearances during his first professional sports career.

Tracy McGrady made his professional baseball debut last Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady made his professional baseball debut last Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

While McGrady spent 16 years in the NBA honing his basketball skills, the 34-year-old had not played organized baseball since high school.

Prior to Saturday’s game McGrady had just one inning of spring training work against Alvin Community College under his belt so he is obviously still green when it comes to baseball.

Speaking of green the Skeeters very well could be sitting on a promotional gold mine based on the sellout crowd on hand to watch the 1 2/3 innings of work.

Granted many of the fans arrived after McGrady’s debut had ended but if his outings get longer or the fans arrive earlier it very well could be win-win for all involved.

While I am not saying that the McGrady experiment is solely a money making promotional gimmick it is hard to forget that a 50-year-old Roger Clemens was sent to the mound in the team’s first season to drum up awareness of the new kid in town.

While many could question the long-term feasibility of McGrady as a pitcher, Sugar Land Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti stated in a post-game interview that he was sticking with McGrady as a starting pitcher.

Former Houston Astro turned Somerset Patriots shortstop Edwin Maysonet  (#12) collects his bat after rounding the bases on a foul pole rattling home run given up by Tracy McGrady Saturday night as Koby Clemens and the Skeeters dugout look on. Photo R. Anderson

Former Houston Astro turned Somerset Patriots shortstop Edwin Maysonet (#12) collects his bat after rounding the bases on a foul pole rattling home run given up by Tracy McGrady Saturday night as Koby Clemens and the Skeeters dugout look on.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course most managers prefer their starters to go until at least the sixth inning before making the call to the bullpen so clearly there is some work to be done there in terms of increasing McGrady’s pitch count while increasing his results.

Time will tell if he makes as big of an impact on the baseball scene once he works out some issues with his mechanics.

Personally I would love to see McGrady succeed in his professional baseball career.

While not all of us our multimillionaire former NBA stars with high name recognition, we all have dreams beyond our current jobs or other situations in life.

And if a 34-year-old retiree can chase his dreams it brings hope for the rest of us in terms of finding that next chapter to get out of whatever rut we find ourselves in.

The team has not yet announced McGrady’s next start but I am fairly certain that they will try to tweak the rotation to ensure that all of his starts occur during home games to help maximize the crowds and the aforementioned green.

It is even highly possible that McGrady has contract language similar to what Roger Clemens had with the Astros where he does not even travel with the team on road trips.

Tracy McGrady’s pitching line from his professional baseball debut is 1 2/3 innings, 35 pitches (18 strikes/17 balls), 2 earned runs, 2 walks and a home run.  Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady’s pitching line from his professional baseball debut is 1 2/3 innings, 35 pitches (18 strikes/17 balls), 2 earned runs, 2 walks and a home run.
Photo R. Anderson

While I do not know if that is the case I would certainly hope that McGrady is traveling with the team and getting the full Minor League Baseball experience. Taking the bus rides alongside his teammates would certainly be a good team bonding experience and just might make them run after his wild pitches and other miscues on the mound a little bit faster.

And while giving up a home run in your professional debut is certainly not something that any pitcher wants to do McGrady can take solace in the fact that the foul pole hitting shot came off of a former Major Leaguer instead of a college kid during spring training.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go work on my curve ball in case the Skeeters need a thirty something left handed specialist to come in and mop up in the late innings.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Skeeters Add Tracy McGrady to Roster

Yesterday the Sugar Land Skeeters announced that former NBA star Tracy McGrady had been added to the team’s opening day roster.

McGrady had joined the team as a non-roster invitee during Spring Training and wound up earning one of the 25 roster spots.

McGrady will work out of the bullpen as a pitcher despite never playing professional baseball before.

Tracy McGrady is trading in the arenas of the NBA for the Ballparks of the Atlantic League as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady is trading in the arenas of the NBA for the Ballparks of the Atlantic League as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

After the move was announced comments began to surface online about the move being a publicity stunt more than a way to help the ball club over the long haul.

Does signing a retired NBA player with local ties bring publicity to the Skeeters?

Absolutely.

When Michael Jordon retired for the first time 20 years ago and joined the Birmingham Barons Ballparks across the Southern League were filled to capacity with people wanting to see him play.

While some could argue that Jordon is a bigger star than McGrady the fact remains that people tend to pay attention when players try to pick up an entirely different sport than the one they are known for.

While the Skeeters are entering their third season of competition in the Atlantic League it is entirely possible that there were many people in the Houston area that had not heard of the team before the McGrady announcement was made.

Fans of the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping for many more visions of Tracy McGrady heading out of the bullpen. Photo R. Anderson

Fans of the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping for many more visions of Tracy McGrady heading out of the bullpen.
Photo R. Anderson

So yes, signing a retired NBA player to your roster does bring the sort of media coverage that helps build a team’s reputation.

One of the local television stations even broadcast live from Opening Day yesterday and had one of their meteorologists throw out the first pitch after she received some pointers from Roger Clemens.

It should be noted that McGrady also worked with Clemens before starting on the quest to become a professional baseball player.

Speaking of Clemens, the Skeeters were the team where “The Rocket” pitched his final two games as a professional player.

The Skeeters are also the team with current Oakland Athletics starter Scott Kazmir was given a second chance after seemingly losing control of his pitches and having his future as a professional baseball player in serious doubt.

The Skeeters gave Clemens a chance to “have a catch” with his son in a professional game before calling it a career and also allowed Kazmir to regain his control and resume his Major League career.

The Sugar Land Skeeters gave Koby Clemens a chance to "have a catch" with his dad Roger Clemens during the Rocket's last professional game. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters gave Koby Clemens a chance to “have a catch” with his dad Roger Clemens during the Rocket’s last professional game.
Photo R. Anderson

Granted Kazmir and Clemens were both Major League Baseball players at one time so their stories are slightly different than that of a retired basketball player giving baseball a chance but they both show a history of giving players a second chance more than staging mere publicity stunts.

McGrady did not play during last night’s opener which I am sure disappointed some people in the sellout crowd but it should also temper some of those who are calling the move to sign him a publicity stunt only.

Gary Gaetti is entering his third season as manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Gary Gaetti is entering his third season as manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

The fact that he did not pitch last shows that manager Gary Gaetti and the rest of the coaching staff are not in the publicity stunt business and are there to win ballgames.

Were McGrady merely a publicity stunt to sell tickets and jerseys than the Skeeters would run him out onto the mound at every opportunity.

Speaking of jerseys there was a wide assortment of McGrady items in the gift shop during Spring Training which pointed to the likelihood of McGrady’s inclusion on the roster well ahead of the actual announcement yesterday.

As a rule teams rarely spend money on jerseys for non-roster invitees.

Unfortunately the Skeeters fell in their season opener to the Lancaster Barnstormers but one loss does not always set the tone for the season.

And if signing a former NBA star does bring more attention to the region regarding the existence of the Skeeters than that is not entirely a bad thing.

The Sugar Land Skeeters kicked off their third season in the Atlantic League last night. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters kicked off their third season in the Atlantic League last night.
Photo R. Anderson

The Skeeters offer a good product at a reasonable price and provide that small Ballpark feel that the Minor Leagues are famous for.

While the roster includes many players with Major League experience there are also players who never quite made it to the “Show” and are merely playing for the love of the game.

Contrast that with some of the Major League players who seem to only be in it for the money and one can see why the Minor League version of the game is preferred by many fans.

While the Houston Astros are still the Major League Baseball game in town there is plenty of room for the Skeeters and other teams in the region.

In fact, the Atlantic League is set to add more teams in the Western Division in the coming years which will give fans other options when it comes to watching baseball.

More teams in the Atlantic League will also mean that the Skeeters will likely not have as many long road trips to the east coast.

In the meantime the Skeeters and the Astros could always just have a royal rumble for bragging rights in the region. Were the two Houston area professional teams ever to play a scrimmage together the result would likely be closer than one might expect.

As for Tracy McGrady time will tell if his transition from the arenas of the NBA to the Ballparks of the Atlantic League leads to a lasting second career and potential Major League Baseball debut.

For now the only thing that matters is that he can call himself a professional baseball player who is living out a childhood dream.

It is always good when dreams can come true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my tickets for the game tomorrow.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

McGrady Shows That he Wants to Be Like Mike

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon’s attempt to become a professional baseball player.

For those who may have been too young to know, or old enough to have forgotten, “Air Jordon” took a stab at being “Ballpark Jordon” during a stint with the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon's tenure as a Minor League Baseball player. Tracy McGrady is trying to be like Mike and make the rster of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League. Photo R. Anderson

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon’s tenure as a Minor League Baseball player. Tracy McGrady is trying to be like Mike and make the roster of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
Photo R. Anderson

As a 31-year-old multimillionaire with NBA titles under his belt Jordon certainly did not fit the mold of the typical Minor League Baseball player but in a gesture of good will towards his new teammates his “Airness” bought the team a new bus to travel all of the Southern League back roads on.

Throughout Jordon’s time with the Barons Ballparks across the Southern League sold out as fans crowded to see the future NBA Hall of Famer in action on the diamond.

Jordon’s time as a baseball player was also given the Hollywood treatment in the movie Space Jam.

When the Michael Jordon baseball carnival rolled into a Ballpark every media outlet in town sent a reporter and a photographer down to capture every swing of the bat and to capture the electricity in the stands.

By most accounts Jordon’s baseball career was a complete flop.

Or to put it more kindly Jordon was one of the many Minor League prospects who just don’t pan out and have to fall back on another career in order to put food on the table.

For Jordon the post baseball career included a return to the NBA and the Chicago Bulls and some more championships.

Now, 20 years after the Jordon baseball experiment another retired NBA star is set to try to find extra innings in his athletic career through Minor League baseball.

After retiring from the NBA, Tracy McGrady is trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.

While it is unknown if McGrady will earn one of the 27 roster spots available on the team his presence has already created a bit of buzz around the Skeeters facility.

At 6’8” McGrady creates a towering presence on the mound.

Former Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady is looking to join the ranks of the Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher. Photo R. Anderson

Former Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady is looking to join the ranks of the Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher.
Photo R. Anderson

Teams tend to like taller pitchers as they allow the ball to have more downward movement in most cases.

So from a size and stature standpoint McGrady has the intangibles to be a successful pitcher.

From a marketing perspective the Skeeters, fresh off of an Atlantic League crown, are benefiting from the publicity that comes from a former basketball player turned pitcher.

The Skeeters are also the team who lured Roger Clemens out of retirement to make a couple of starts during their inaugural season to stir up some publicity so they know a thing or two about putting on a show.

Like Roger Clemens who had both ties to Houston and a Hall of Fame worthy career, McGrady is also quite a household name around town with the local fan base since he was a member of the Houston Rockets.

Of course as Michael Jordon showed it is not easy to switch gears late in one’s career and try something completely new.

There have certainly been successful two sport stars before but most of them played both sports at a high level throughout high school and college before going pro.

Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are perhaps the most famous two sport athletes and each played both baseball and football at a high level.

If all goes to plan Tracy McGrady will be up on the Texas jumbotron soon for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

If all goes to plan Tracy McGrady will be up on the Texas jumbotron soon for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

But neither Jackson nor Sanders waited until after retiring from one of the sports to pick up the other.

I think the world needs another Bo and “Prime Time” to spice things up but I also think the commitments from teams on athletes nowadays would make it difficult for a two sport star to succeed.

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, and under contract of the Texas Rangers, is the next logical player to be a two sport star but it is unlikely that the Seahawks would want to risk their star quarterback getting injured on the baseball field.

Of course Wilson could always decide to go into baseball after his NFL career is over since baseball players on average can play longer than football players.

But that brings us back to McGrady and his attempt to turn pro in a new sport.

In order for McGrady to make the team he will need to knock one of the existing pitchers off of the roster.

Rosters will be finalized next week so it will be known at that time whether Tracy McGrady can add professional baseball player to his already impressive athletic roster.

There will be a few Spring Training games between now and the roster deadline to allow him to show his stuff on the mound and for the coaches to decide whether or not he makes the opening day roster.

If Tracy McGrady does make the roster for the Skeeters and trades jump shots for curve balls he will join a unique set of players who have enjoyed a second act with a new sport.

As another bonus should McGrady defy the odds and make the team is that his battery mate behind the plate will be Koby Clemens, son of Roger Clemens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch a basketball player pitch.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson