Joe West does Tony LaRussa a Solid

Joe West

The Situation

Umpire Joe West, owner of the Major League record for most games umpired, decided to confiscate St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Giovanny Gallegos’s hat. There is a rule against pitchers using foreign substances and West wants to pretend he simply enforced that rule.

Major League announced at the beginning of the season they planned to crack down on such foreign substances. As of yet, despite record no-hitters, out of control spin rates, and many, many sightings of such material on gloves, hats, forearms, and everywhere else, this is first time we’ve seen a player’s equipment confiscated.

What Really Happened

Joe West and Tony LaRussa go way back. They are long-time associates and LaRussa’s team, the White Sox, were on the verge of sweeping the Cardinals whom LaRussa managed for many years. In the first two games of the series the White Sox pretty much led the entire game. In this third game the Cardinals were a run ahead when Joe West suddenly had his moral epiphany.

Joe West hoped to do his friend a solid by rattling Gallegos before he started pitching. It’s that simple. I’m certainly not suggesting Gallegos didn’t have a foreign substance on his hat. I’m saying every pitcher in the series did exactly the same thing and Joe West chose the most opportune moment to intervene on behalf of his friend.

Joe West now takes the morally repugnant stance that he attempted to do Gallegos a favor by not immediately ejecting the pitcher from the game. Ha. If Joe West had an ounce of moral integrity, a teaspoon of personal responsibility, he’d get up on the podium, announce he made a terrible error in judgment, retire from the game, and not speak again until he publishes his memoirs, which will remain silent on this particular subject.

Conclusion

I want to be clear that I’m of the opinion Gallegos likely had a foreign substance on his hat, probably suntan lotion, rosin, and who knows what else. I’m just saying that he isn’t doing anything different than almost every other pitcher in major league baseball. Joe West along with all the other umpires well know it.

It’s the timing of this incident that galls me. It’s clear to me it was an attempt to influence the game by the umpire and that’s a serious problem.

Tom Liberman

Ryan Braun's So-Called Mistake

Ryan BraunThe big news in sports this morning is Ryan Braun’s suspension for PED use. The reason it is such big news is that Braun tested positive for PED use over a year ago and defended himself with strong words. I want to examine two things: the so-called rage of fans and the idea that he made a mistake.

First a quick look at why everyone is so upset by this particular suspension. Braun was exonerated in another case thanks to the fact that the sample was not mailed immediately to Major League Baseball because it was collected on a Sunday. This was a technical violation of the rules for storing samples. It was never disputed that the sample showed PED use.

There is a lot of hate for Braun this morning because previously he lied and blamed other people for his predicament; even now he tells us how difficult the situation has been for he and his family. It is quite similar to the Lance Armstrong story. It’s a combination of PED use and lies told with absolute conviction.

First to my complaint with Braun has nothing to do with his PED use or even the lies he told. This was his statement late yesterday after the suspension was announced:

As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.

I’m tired of people claiming they made mistakes only after they are caught. They calculated the various advantages of action A and action B and willfully chose one or the other. This is not a mistake. This so-called mistake has served him very well. He signed a contract extension worth $105 million over the next five years. If he hadn’t taken PEDs and allowed players of lesser talent to have better statistics than him he would not make nearly this amount.

He won the Most Valuable Player award in 2011 and the Rookie of the Year award in 2007. He won these in part thanks to PEDs. His choice to use PEDs was anything but a mistake. That choice gained him adulation and riches.

This is the choice almost all athletes in the sporting world today face. One of the most decorated young players in the NFL, Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, faces a four-day suspension for his first PED violation, which means his third positive test.

If the modern athlete does not take PEDs they fall behind players who do use them. Players without as much talent. The masking agents make it extremely difficult to be caught using PEDs. The doctors and masking agents are far ahead of the detection techniques. Braun was caught not by a failed test but by notes taken at the laboratory where he received his treatments. Many baseball players are facing suspension from these notes made at a company called Biogenesis.

The fans of Braun, Armstrong, Miller and others are actually thrilled by the so-called mistake these players make. They love the performance. Well, that performance is brought to you by PEDs. If you’re mad at Ryan Braun, if you somehow pretend that Braun’s lies fooled you, frankly, you’re stupid. He was clearly guilty the first time and you wanted to believe his lies.

If you choose to believe obvious lies then I have as much time for your so-called outrage as I do for Braun’s so-called mistake.

If Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina test positive for PEDs next week I won’t be surprised. I won’t be outraged. It’s the culture that we the fans have helped create.

Ryan Braun can claim that his choice to use PEDs was a mistake but I, for one, know better. Fans can scream, shout, and pretend outrage but they are doing the same thing Braun did. They were caught in a lie and are now feigning outrage to cover their culpability.

They knew Braun was guilty and willfully chose to believe him despite all evidence to the contrary.

Tom Liberman
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