June 2012

Clemens and clearing one’s name

Now that the verdict is in on the Roger Clemens trial and he was found not guilty on all charges, can we finally put a stop to this ridiculous waste of our American tax dollars? Please!

I am not a law expert. I’m sure those of you that have heard me speak or read what I’ve written before are not shocked to find this out. But just as a person with what I consider pretty good common sense, I knew from Day One that the government had no chance of winning this case.

My law knowledge stems from watching Law & Order, NCIS and pretty much any show that has to do with the law. What I’m saying is that I ain’t no rocket scientist, but common sense told me right away that the prosecution’s physical evidence had been stored in an old beer can. Ryan Braun’s suspension was overturned because the man who collected the sample — which by the way was triple-sealed — took the sample home with him to ship at the next earliest possible opportunity, which to my understanding is following protocol in that situation.

But the government went ahead with this trial anyway, spending no telling how much of our tax money in doing so. On a case that to anyone with common sense at all was unwinnable.

In the case of steroids or PEDs of any kind, Major League Baseball has done a great job of putting the new testing in place and enforcing the penalties that come with testing positive.

The problem as I see it is this: because we had a “Steroid Era” in baseball, anyone who had a long and productive career during that time is guilty until proven innocent. That is the exact opposite of our legal system. In our country, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The problem here is that Roger Clemens should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but the people who vote on the Hall of Fame had made up their minds before the trial. If there is any justice in this case, the voters will take into consideration what a jury found after hearing all of the evidence and vote Clemens in on the first ballot. But I promise that won’t happen.

I have stated many times that if you are proven to have used steroids — or if you have admitted to using them – you should not be a Hall of Famer. In this case, Clemens was found not guilty. What he can never get back is his good name. That has been tarnished forever, and it appears the people doing the accusing were wrong.

When we look back at our game, there have been what I call “freaks of nature.” Nolan Ryan was still throwing 95 miles per hour at 46 years old. No one ever questioned Nolan. Nor should they. He had a work ethic second to none. Clemens was cut from that same cloth. When Roger was with Boston, he would not report to Spring Training early, because he worked harder at home than they did in Spring Training. There are and always will be guys who are just superior athletes with superior work ethics.

What will this lead to now? If it were me, I would be filing a suit against the government for defamation of character. And guess what folks, it will be our tax dollars hard at work there, too.

It is time to put all of this Steroid Era garbage behind us. Between MLB and the Players Association, the problem has been resolved. I for one am sick to death of hearing about it. It was a big black eye on our game. It is healed.

The right ‘stuff’

I have done more interviews about closers and why there has been so many changes and injuries at the closer role this year.

I can say this: the closer role is not just about “stuff.” It is a combination of stuff and a mentality to make that stuff useful and effective. I have argued with so-called numbers experts who claim anyone can close. That could not be further from the truth.

The fact is that there are a lot of guys that have the stuff to close. But closing is about understanding a couple of very important things. The first of those things is that the pressure is not on you as the pitcher. You have the lead. The pressure is on the hitter.

I have and always will claim that the eighth inning is harder to pitch and get outs than the ninth is. Why is this? Simple. The hitters have a net. The hitters who come up in the ninth are the hitters who truly have the pressure to produce. So hitters in the eighth will work counts, and as the pitcher you have to make quality pitches.

In the ninth, the closer has to throw strike one. Once they have thrown strike one, the hitter becomes defensive and will chase pitches out of the zone to protect. The other thing young closers don’t take into account is the hitters’ egos. All hitters want to be the hero and hit the two-run walk-off homer in the ninth, so they can read their name in the headlines the next day.

I was told by my idol, Goose Gossage, that too much control in the ninth can be a dangerous thing. He couldn’t have been more right. You get ahead with strikes, you get outs with balls. I have seen more 0-2 and 1-2 base hits given up this year than I think I ever have. Pitchers are afraid that if they waste a pitch to set up another pitch, then that will count against them and that might make them unavailable for tomorrow’s game. The mission of the closer is to get three outs before the other team scores a run. I don’t care if it takes 50 pitches to do it. So what? In my 16 years as a professional pitcher, I never once went to a manager and said I wasn’t available that day. I figured if I could pull my pants on, I could pitch.

That is my take on why there has been so much inconsistancy at the closer role this year. The role is not just about stuff. It is about understanding the hitters you are facing, their egos, also the situation you are in. The pressure is on the hitter!

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