There are home runs and then there are home runs. When a guy like Ryan Howard hits one off the sweet spot, chances are it’s going to travel a longs ways. However, when someone like Scott Podsednik gets one out of the park, you assume that there must have been a strong gust of wind somewhere around the end of its ride.
Similarly, there are drugs and then there are drugs. Now I don’t want to say that some drugs are all right because it’s true that most have some sort of side effect. But even implying that PED’s and a drug like marijuana have the same kind of effect on sports and the players or that they should be punished the same way is pretty ignorant.
That’s why I’m curious about this Geovany Soto admission. I don’t think it’s any secret that a lot of professional athletes enjoy a little visit with Steve Green every now and again and it has become even more prevalent and less stigmatized among the younger generation. But, MLB under Bud Selig has often shown a tin ear when it comes to these sorts of things. Their response to Soto’s test will show a lot about what direction they plan to head.
If it was up to me, I’d hand out the minimum. A slap on the wrist, some drug counseling or something along those lines. But you never know when and where reefer madness is going to strike and my guess is that they’ll come down disproportionately hard on Soto after screwing the pooch with the PED debacle. Hopefully they’ll see it my way but if it turns out that Soto is also growing a little on the side, maybe even mixed in with the ivy in the outfield, well, then all bets are off.
Last year was the year of Josh Hamilton. By the time the All-Star game rolled around, you couldn’t turn on ESPN or hit the internet without running face-first into one of the ubiquitous pieces on Hamilton and his recovery from depression and drug addiction. In fact, I think that my colleague, Mr. Lung, may have actually written the best piece I read on the subject.
However, it seems that our esteemed sportswriters may have missed Jeff’s column because the same thing is happening again. This year’s poster-boy is Zack Greinke and even places like Deadspin have begun to focus on his issues along with those of guys like Dontrelle Willis and define them accordingly.
Now, I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, it is important to destigmatize issues like depression and drug abuse by talking about them. And when athletes come forward and admit even off-handedly that they, too, face these kinds of demons, it’s good for our awareness of the issue. But, when their whole story then becomes boiled down to a point where we see them only as the guy who fought depression or the guy who overcame his drug dependency, we eliminate all the gains and just create a new stigma. They are no longer people. Instead, they become the disease they defeated.
This issue is all the more important because it affects more than just athletes. Thousands of our friends and family members are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan having seen and experienced things that are truly beyond human comprehension. But when the inevitable depression and its symptoms like PTSD and drug abuse start to rear their heads, the stigma keeps them from being able to seek help. This isn’t a new problem. The same thing happened to veterans of Vietnam, the two world wars and as far back as Ajax in Greek mythology.
I admit that I don’t have an answer to this stigmatization problem. If Sophocles couldn’t answer it and the best minds in psychology today can’t figure it out, it’s probably a little out of my range as well. But, it might be nice if from time to time we stopped referring to Greinke’s “amazing comeback” or Hamilton’s “heart-rending journey” and just appreciated them for who they are. A couple of guys who have overcome the same kind of problems that a lot of us face day in and day out and also happen to be able to do amazing things with a baseball.
As if facing Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic’s upcoming semifinals isn’t enough pressure on the already limping USA squad, once the laundry list of abominable possibilities finally settles in, we US Americans could be in big trouble.
Nevermind the impeccable team consciousness so calculated and so perfected by Team Japan during international competition. Nevermind Team Japan’s quiet gamesmanship deftly defining and defending their world-class status. Nevermind Dice-K and Darvish. There is much more to fear… for example:
Rape! Dear readers, Ted Bundy, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant… these guys ain’t got nuthin’ on the Japanese. Don’t believe me? Know this: from December 1937 to February 1938, the Japanese raped an entire city! The then southern stronghold of China, Nanjing (aka Nanking), was completely decimated by the Japanese in a not-so-quiet storm of raging pillage quite akin to the stomping Chris Brown gave Rihanna not too long ago.
If that isn’t reason enough to fear the Japanese, how about this?
Not only do they combine situational hitting with speed, they are also known to make sure the opposite clubhouse spread is spiked with magic mushrooms, leaving the competition confused in a burst of beguiling blur.
Yet nothing should invoke more fear in the hearts of Americans than the Japanese group mind. To illustrate, here’s a clip of Team Japan’s batting practice:
They may not be a hit on Broadway (yet), but the Japanese sure do know how to rhythmically scare the bejesus out of any and all opponents willing to scrap.
US Americans, let us unite! Persevere! And conquer!
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
P.S. Dear readers, if you haven’t already, make sure you purchase the Prince of New York Paul Lebowitz’s 2009 Baseball Guide. You can get it *here* and you should get it soon. It is your one-stop shop for all things 2009 MLB and it has magical powers (and by “magical powers” I mean “table of contents”). Believe me, this dude knows what he’s talking about. He’s the clean, charming, polite version of Jose Canseco.
On the real.
(Ichiro blur photo courtesy of Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
My esteemed colleague and oft unfocused baseball analyst, Mr. Allen Krause, recently enlightened us all to the magical means of the late Dock Ellis’ amazing no-hit “trip” from 1970. While he waxed on the intricately harmonious ballad that is sports-on-drugs by encouraging us to “follow Dock’s example”, as the only RSBS voice of reason, I feel it is my responsibility to post a warning to all those who find this to be a titilating alternative to the grounded world of sober sports.
Dug up by an RSBS intern, this vintage video footage of yours truly catching behind the plate proves that after consuming a wickedly toxic cocktail of magic mushrooms, Johnnie Walker Black and Mary Jane, the game of baseball becomes much more complicated than it really should be. Amazingly enough, my manager left me in the game and every one of the opposing nine went home with a headache. I, too, was seeing stars… but mine were of the more stimulating variety:
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Okay, I’m through dancing around this touchy subject, folks. I’m ready to face it and call it what it is: MLB is obsessed with “recovering” drug addicts and their attempts to get [back] into the big leagues.
If you’re like me (intelligent, charming, full of yourself) then you are decent enough to realize that yes, the Josh Hamilton story is important. It proves that that we, as human beings, do have the ability to overcome adversity and reach the highest levels of success despite our shortcomings if we’re determined, disciplined, good hearted and humble. That much is true.
However, when a player such as Josh Hamilton can no longer be recognized as anyone other than an ex/recovering junkie who just happens to be a successful baseball player, that’s when I have a problem.
And the problem is growing…
Because now Major League Baseball, realizing that the Hamilton story may be losing some of its saleability due to overuse, is desperate to find its next “Josh Hamilton” in Marlins’ prospect Jeff Allison.
Yeah, that’s what I thought too.
And as we find ourselves down to the last six weeks of the regular season, where heated division races are made and/broken, where teams break away from the pack while others fade to black, MLB.com’s front page today ignored all of that and featured a prospect no one has ever heard of — solely because he’s a “recovering” drug addict — “like Josh Hamilton.”
Dear readers, fear not, for I do not belittle the feats of these gentlemen in any way. Honestly, having battled my own personal demons, like Hamilton and Allison, I am no stranger to overcoming the obstacles of addiction. Indeed, I applaud them for their perseverance, their humility, their spirit. They are not the ones to blame here.
We should be shaking a finger at Major League Baseball, the media and every other story-hungry leech out there who can’t see Hamilton (and now Allison) as anything but a story to sell.
Google Hamilton’s name and see how many entries pop up that don’t mention his drug addiction. Watch a Rangers game without hearing about Hamilton’s “incredible comeback”. Bring up Hamilton’s name in any place in Anytown, USA and see what the discussion centers around. His talent? His numbers? No.
His drug habit.
That’s all you’ll hear. That’s all anyone cares about. But let me tell ya somethin’…
Addiction is not a character trait.
Addiction is not a reason to judge.
Addiction is a disease. And just like leukemia, multiple sclerosis or pneumonia, this disease does not define the afflicted. It is merely an obstacle: a hindrance to be overcome, defeated and moved passed but never one to ultimately define the character, the nature or the existence of the one who was chosen to endure its pain.
Don’t hate me, ‘cuz I couldn’t be any more right on this one.