The Next A-Rod

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Football is out of control.

He’s a runaway freight train. The fat kid winning a trip inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Miley Cyrus getting ready to twerk.

Unstoppable.

We didn’t learn much about Johnny Manziel last year for a number of reasons. Freshman players at Texas A&M aren’t allowed to speak to the media. Manziel hadn’t yet morphed into Johnny Football. Most importantly, the college football world had only begun treating him like the guy Tim Tebow worships.

But now, Johnny Manziel is showing his true colours and they couldn’t be any uglier.

Obviously, the NCAA’s half game penalty to Manziel didn’t teach him a lesson. The slap on the wrist simply inflated Mr. Football’s ego. It confirmed his belief that he is invincible.

Time after time this off-season, Manziel has thrown the middle finger in the face of his critics. He didn’t care that he was sent home from the Manning camp. He knew it would cause an uproar going to a University of Texas frat party. He signed autographs in exchange for money even though his family is rich as holy hell.

Johnny Football don’t care because Johnny Football is above the law. At least, that’s how Johnny Football views the world.

After his performance on the field today, it is clear as to how Johnny Manziel perceives his place on this earth. He taunted a defender by pretending to sign his autograph. He celebrated on two occasions by giving the ca$h money sign with his hands.

I hate to put it in such a low brow way but Manziel is a douche bag. He isn’t just a douchebag. He is lord of the douchebags and seems perfectly happy with carrying that title.

By making reference to his recent mini scandal multiple times on national TV, Johnny Manziel is carving out his place as the next Alex Rodriguez in professional sports.

Manziel is the kind of douchebag that you can’t quite define. I’m all for taunting on the field but when Chad Ochocinco tries to bribe a referee with a dollar bill, it comes off as endearing. When Johnny For whatever reason, Manziel throws up the ca$h money sign with both hands, I’m pissed off. It’s not very hard to picture him as the dude wearing the Delta Kappa Epsilon t-shirt as a head band during college orientation week.

Douchebag.

If Manziel is able to translate his skills to the next level, he will become the NFL’s most polarizing figure. It’s incredibly simplistic to attribute his actions to “just being a kid” or “boys will be boys”. There are lots of “kids” who have been showered with praise in the manner that Johnny Manziel has without transforming into raging ego-maniacs. Tim Tebow, LeBron James and Sidney Crosby are names that immediately come to mind.

As much as people may hate LeBron James, it is not because he has that douchebaggy, A-Fraud kind of aura to him.

Sadly, Johnny Manziel gives off that vibe and it won’t serve him well moving forward. Alex Rodriguez is lucky he plays what is essentially an individual sport. As much as we hear reports that Manziel’s teammates adore him, those college kids who look up to him now will turn into grown men in the NFL.

Manziel isn’t merely enjoying the fruits of his labour at this point. He goes out of his way to flaunt his success in everyone’s faces. His ego has become the size of Barry Bonds’ head circa 2001. It’s a huge turn off.

If you look at the greatest leaders in the NFL, they aren’t frat boys who happen to play football really well. If Manziel continues down this path, ‘haters gonna hate’ will become his go to phrase on twitter.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin has to bench him. Benching him for a half will do a whole lot more than the NCAA’s pathetic double standard of a suspension did. He needs to take a page from Don Mattingly’s book. Yasiel Puig, who has been basking a little too hard in the glow of his own phenomenon, forced Mattingly’s hand. There were rumblings that players were getting upset and understandably so.

Puig’s ego ain’t got nothing on Johnny Football.

While Manziel’s future success is far from a guarantee, there are other things that are certainties. Professional football players won’t tolerate Manziel the way he handles that ego. The media won’t give him any breaks. Diehard football fans can be as ruthless and unforgiving as they come.

It is possible that Manziel will mature and shed this other label he is creating for himself. However, someone has to stop him in his tracks. And fast.

Because Johnny Football appears to be just getting started.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

This Needs to Stop

Alex Rodriguez

Other than FIFA, the MLB is the world’s most archaic league. No professional sports league in North America is as slow at adapting to modern changes than Major League Baseball. It took a lifetime in and a half for Bud Selig to finally install an expanded replay system.

While the importance of history in the game of baseball cannot be underscored, its rich history prevents the league from moving forward. The illogical phrase preventing change of “this is how it has always been done” rings truer in the game of baseball than it does anywhere else.

Last night, Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster gave us his variation of the ever-constant vigilante justice we see in baseball. Dempster took it upon himself to send a cryptic message to Alex Rodriguez. He threw one pitch behind his knees, two pitches far enough inside for a half-blind person to understand what was going on and finally plunked A-Rod high and tight.

It was an unprecedented moment in MLB history.

I can’t lie. I smiled after seeing that 4th pitch bean baseball’s most polarizing figure since Barry Bonds retire. My baseball coach in high school, Dave Empey, was Ryan Dempster’s coach and is still his friend to this day. When I saw that 4th pitch fly into A-Rod’s elbow, I could hear Dave, in his old, cranky voice telling us in one of his pre-game speeches, “Ryan Dempster was a man!” Granted, Ryan Dempster doesn’t have to bat in the American league.

However, the biggest takeaway from this incident has to be the MLB’s ignorance of the vigilante justice that has been as integral to the game of baseball as the Kardashian’s are to late-night TV writers. Players and fans accept it, as we do with so many other things in society, because “that’s the way it has always been done.”

The vigilante justice pitchers impose when they bean an opposing does make some sense. Human beings are wired for revenge. An eye for an eye, right?

In this day and age though, that foolhardy acceptance of such a simple concept needs to change before someone gets hurt.

There has been no hotter topic than the issue of concussions in sports over the past few years. The NFL and NHL have gone out of their respective ways in attempts to minimize head injuries. The games have changed as a result of it.

The MLB is happy with vigilante justice. It means that, for the most part, they don’t have to deal with the straining process of determining suspensions. Accepting and recognizing it as simply a part of the game ensures that they don’t have to be the bad guy. Say what you want about Roger Goodell, but he has no qualms with being the bad cop.

Although the concept of vigilante justice does make some sense, when you break it down, it’s about as ridiculous as a monkey wearing a cowboy hat and riding a dog. Players hurl a rock hard object, the baseball, at the bodies and sometimes heads of opposing batters at speeds of 90-100 mph from 60 feet away. It may be considered justice in the game of baseball but, in a court of law, that sounds a helluva lot like assault with a deadly weapon.

Yet the majority of players and fans still seem to be fine with it.

Ryan Dempster continued to pitch. Joe Giradi was ejected for standing up for what was right. Curt Schilling said on the radio this morning that he couldn’t believe that C.C. Sabathia didn’t take it upon himself to stand up for his teammate.

Baseball mentality at its finest.

The MLB has been lucky. Despite the countless number of balls that have flown intentionally and unintentionally at the heads of players, no one has been seriously injured or killed. This may sound crazy but the ‘law of being due’ ominously looms over the game like a dark, stormy cloud. With the amount of balls that are purposefully flung at delicate human heads, it’s only a matter of time before someone sustains a life threatening injury.

It just takes one ball to hit the wrong spot, helmet or no helmet.

Major League Baseball has to get a better handle on this. Pitchers who intentionally toss balls at players should be suspended. A zero tolerance policy. It takes something to the degree of what Ryan Dempster did yesterday for the MLB to hand out one of those 6 game, 1 start suspensions.

Those 6 game suspensions have to be the bare minimum. Even though I still smirk when I think about Dempster’s best Batman impersonation, he needs to be made an example of. I know he won’t be but he should be. It can’t be up to the pitchers to do the dirty work. It’s not fair to the pitchers and it’s even less fair to the often time’s innocent (star) players who have to bear the brunt of the pitcher’s dirty work.

I don’t think I can count on my fingers how many times Bryce Harper has been thrown at in his very short MLB career.

Like so many things in life, significant penalties are the only way to change the culture. It’s the only way vigilante justice in baseball can be reined in. We can’t continue to stand idly by and tolerate players putting their lives on the line every time a team feels the need for retribution.

This is an important issue that is constantly swept under the rug by that dreaded nostalgic mantra. I get it. That’s how it has always been done.

But, come on. Let’s not wait until something tragic happens.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Hall of Infamous

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds.

It’s not about morality with Barry in the slightest bit. It’s not that guys like Barry duped fans into believing they were heroes. It’s not that these guys brought shame to America’s past time.

I understand that Hall of Fame voting is partly determined by “character” but that isn’t why past steroid users should be kept out of the Hall.

This is about the question marks of their numbers. This is about the unknown, the unexplainable and the mystery. We have no idea what these all-time fakes would have done if not for their use of performance enhancers. The question mark surrounding what they have done is enough in itself to deem them unworthy of the Hall of Fame

I’m not exonerating the guys who cut balls with their belts, the spitballers and all kinds of other cheaters, but those guys are already in and that’s not going to change.

Steroid users gained a significant advantage. How significant is obviously up for debate but the uncertainty surrounding the level of significance is partly why these individuals should not be in Cooperstown.

People say that the “they cheated” narrative is simplistic and contrived.

Hardly.

I’m tired of the ol’ “everybody was doing steroids” narrative. Not everyone was on steroids. This article by Tom Verducci is a microcosm for the steroid era. A considerable amount of individuals were on the juice but there were also many who struggled immensely with the dilemma of whether or not to cheat. Whether or not to gain a significant edge over their competition.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that the vast majority of players were on steroids. At least where I come from, majority doesn’t mean unanimous. The era was much more complicated than “everyone was doing steroids.”

Steroids skew the numbers. To illogically assume that everyone was juicing would be to ignore the historical aspect of the game, where numbers from eras past are still comparable unlike so many other professional sports.

Ken Griffey Jr. has never been associated with performance enhancing drugs. How does he stack up against the Barry Bonds’, Alex Rodriguez’s and Mark McGwire’s of the world? He stacks up incredibly favourably even when ignoring the possibility of PED’s. However, without steroids, where does he stand? It’s incomparable. I have no idea and neither do you. We could argue into the night but we wouldn’t get anywhere.

This is exactly the problem. Ken Griffey Jr. wasn’t doing it, at least we don’t think so. It isn’t fair to him that he is seen on a similar level to those who were clearly able to help their own cause through unnatural means.

What about Hammerin’ Hank? The Babe?

The dark cloud that hangs over those who have only been speculated to have taken performance enhancers should be enough in itself to keep a player like Jeff Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame. The absence of an outright admission or positive test doesn’t remove the unanswerable questions that will always follow that individual. For a player as good as Ken Griffey Jr. to have avoided any resemblance of a cloud over his head during that dreaded era shows that it wasn’t impossible to avoid that kind of speculation and the unanswerable questions.

How immense was the advantage of steroids? Do I really need to go over the same clearly inflated offensive statistics you have probably heard a thousand times again?

Don’t tell me that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens would have been in the Hall of Fame anyway. You don’t know that. The fact that the numbers cannot be compared with former and future Hall of Famers because of the lack of knowledge surrounding the true effect of performance enhancing drugs is why no one can be certain of anything.

It’s not as if these individuals will be forgotten if they are not put in the Hall of Fame. Being such a big part of baseball history does not justify a spot for them in the Hall of Fame either.

It sometimes sounds like a segment of the people in favour of putting steroid users in the Hall of Fame want to do so only because they are tired of the debate. Personally, I don’t even think this should be a debate. Stellar careers were extended and made even greater into old age because of the technology. Fringe Major League players lost careers because other fringe players decided to go the steroid route.

I get that it must have been extremely difficult to choose the clean path. The best want to be the best and without steroids it was very hard to be the best during that era. Still, they knew what they were doing was wrong. Excusing them isn’t fair to those of the era who stayed clean and those in the past who weren’t exposed to the science of performance enhancing drugs.

Moreover, allowing the steroid era superstars into the Hall of Fame sets a terrible precedent. It opens doors that have no business being opened. No one seems to have considered the grave implications that admitting past steroid users could have on the inevitable future steroid users of Major League Baseball.

Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon have made it pretty clear that steroids are not out of the game for good. Technology is always improving and those who want to or feel as though they need to use will find ways to beat the system. What if a future Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez talent is found to have been using performance enhancers 30 years down the line? Welp, there goes your “everyone was doing it” argument.

The thing is, if you put the original Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Alex Rodriguez in the Hall of Fame, that means you have to put in the future all-time cheats of the world, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Don’t open Pandora’s Box.

It will only lead to no good.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

Thank You Albert Pujols

Ironically enough, it would seem as though the St. Louis Cardinals have a guardian angel watching over them.

In a coup that would have made William of Orange proud, the Los Angeles Angels residing in Anaheim snatched Albert Pujols for a cool $254 million. The 31-year-old spurned not only his hometown Cardinals but also the Miami Marlins who had reportedly offered him a tax-free $275 million (although the Marlins have denied this figure). The coup was a shock to the baseball world and most importantly the Cardinal fan base that have had the pleasure of watching one of the most consistent players in MLB history for the past decade. At this point, it would make sense for Cardinal fans to feel dejected or betrayed.

They shouldn’t. Instead, they should be thanking Albert Pujols.

Albert Pujols has done more than his fair share for the St. Louis franchise and with his departure to the Angels in this Christmas season, he is just the gift that keeps on giving for the Cardinals.

It isn’t news to anyone that Albert Pujols is already on the decline. He is coming off the worst season of his MLB career, posting a line of .299/.366/.906 to go along with a 5.4 bWAR, also the worst of his career. The last two seasons have seen his numbers drop significantly across the board. Hardly a good sign for a power hitter on the wrong side of 30.

Speaking of 30, the Angels should have considered talking to Donald Trump before they went ahead and signed Pujols. No one definitively knows Fat Albert’s age and even though his official birth date, January 16, 1980, tells us that he is 31 years of age, there is much speculation that Albert could be at least a couple of years older. As we know of course, those Dominican’s can be about as honest with their ages as Lindsay Lohan in a jewellery store.

Pujols’ undetermined age and declining numbers don’t necessarily mean that he will steadily decline year after year. However, I bet the guys in Vegas aren’t giving him the best odds to stay consistent into his mid 30’s. Assuming that he will be less than spectacular for the majority of his future time in an Angel’s uniform is a pretty easy thing to do given the evidence.

Related: To Sign or Not To Sign?

$254 million is a lot of money over 10 years. $25.4 million a year in fact. $25.4 million doesn’t seem like too much when your guy is mashing. $25.4 million seems like a lot more when the only mashing your superstar is doing is with the Idaho potatoes in his kitchen.

$100 million contracts rarely work out. The Angels have possibly the worst contract in baseball on their roster. They are still paying Vernon Wells for 3 more years at over $20 million per season (minus the $5 million eaten up by the Blue Jays). Now they have added almost another $20 million with the acquisition of C.J. Wilson.

And here I was thinking the Miami Marlins were the next franchise in line to fill the shoes of the New York Mets.

The only precedent the Angels, Cardinals and Marlins were able to look back and gather information upon is Alex Rodriguez’s most recent 10 year $275 million soon-to-be debacle of a contract. A-Rod is on the serious decline but, not surprisingly, that didn’t deter any of Pujols’ potential suitors. Rodriguez’s 3.6, 3.2 and especially ugly 2.7 bWAR in his last 3 respective seasons are a clear indication of age and injuries getting the best of him. That, and steroids.

Superstars are mortals. Albert Pujols will inevitably decline. It may not be this season, or next season, or the next but it will happen. It will happen soon enough to overshadow virtually any beneficial production that Pujols would have provided the Cardinals with. Unless a World Series is in the not too distant future for Pujols and the Angles, this contract will be a disaster.

The Cardinals got lucky.

They are fortunate to have avoided a contract that would no doubt have had their hands tied in a nice sheepshank for what would have felt like an eternity. The split wasn’t mutual but the St. Louis Cardinals now have a fresh start on the heels of losing their Hall of Fame manager and star first baseman.

Sometimes a fresh start is exactly what a franchise needs.

Cardinal’s GM John Mozeliak better make sure he has Albert Pujol’s new address. He ought to send him a Christmas card with a big thank you and maybe a few x’s and o’s.

While he’s at it, he might as well put one in the mail for Jerri Dipoto too.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Alex Rodriguez’s 600th will be bittersweet

Alex Rodriguez is soon to be part of the very exclusive 600 home run club

The day Alex Rodriguez hits his 600th home run will no doubt be a day cherished by him forever, but it will leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

The steroid era may be just about over, but it is still fresh in the minds of baseball fans everywhere. During the 1990’s, players were hitting home runs out of the ball park like it was nobody’s business and fans couldn’t get enough of it. However, since Major League Baseball started cracking down on performance-enhancing drug users the league has been experiencing some problems with run scoring. The 2010 season is being dubbed year of the pitcher. There is no doubt that that steroids are playing a part in this but it is impossible to say to what extent.

Alex Rodriguez is currently sitting on 599 home runs for his career and is looking to join some very elite company in the 600 home run club. Only 6 other players have hit 600 home runs in their career, which includes Barry Bonds (762*), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (610), and Sammy Sosa (609.

Despite admitting last year to steroid use between the years of 2001-2003, Alex Rodriguez has surprisingly received little criticism in recent months in that regard. There were also reports that A-Rod may have even been taking steroids since high school, but those soon faded away.

Did everyone seriously gobble up A-Rod’s “heartfelt” apology?

You can’t tell me with 100% certainty that he hasn’t used in the years prior or after to those admitted. Doesn’t the fact that he admitted to it so readily once he was caught make you think that there has to be more to the story?

These days when I see A-Rod mashing on the highlight reels there is always this uneasy feeling about me and there should be for you all as well. You have to wonder what his numbers would be now without the steroids that he claims he only took for 3 years. In 2007, Rodriguez denied to Katie Couric of ever having used performance enhancing drugs. However, once reports came out that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs last year in his AL MVP 2003 season there was no denying anymore for the superstar. It was obvious that someone smart told him to admit to the only things that they could prove and it has worked up to this point.

It is mind-boggling to see the amount of fans who are willing to tolerate steroids in baseball as well as other professional sports. Fans are so quick to forgive and forget the failures of athletes whether it is on or off the field. The difference between cheating on the field and indiscretions off the field is that one compromises the integrity of the game where as the other just compromises the integrity of the athlete as a person.

Barry Bonds is still under investigation for his involvement with performance-enhancing drugs

Barry Bonds cheated the game of baseball by taking performance-enhancing drugs. There is no way to argue that he could have put up those kinds of numbers otherwise. Barry Bonds was a very good player before steroids, but he would not mentioned in the same breath as Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth if not for steroids.

I hear fans say what does it matter if players use steroids if it makes the game better? Professional sports are meant for the fans anyways right?

Well, how is it fair to the other athletes going the straight route and playing the game with pure natural physical ability and talent? How is it fair to the record holders from years past who didn’t ever use the performance enhancing drugs that we now possess?

Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs without performance enhancing drugs and Barry Bonds hit 762 with performance enhancing drugs. Who is the home run king?

Moreover, steroids do not just help you hit the ball farther contrary to the beliefs of many casual observers. Steroids generate more bat speed, help you throw harder, run faster, and give you an all-around better game. Yes, you do still have to hit/throw the ball, but it just makes it easier.

In my opinion, anyone who takes steroids at any point in their career should not be even considered for the hall of fame. Nobody should ever get rewarded for cheating. Pete Rose deserves to be in the hall of fame more than any player who has taken steroids. Sure Pete Rose gambled on baseball, but he never cheated the game. His 4256 hits are legitimate and he didn’t need performance-enhancing drugs to get them.

The Hall of Fame rewards people who do great things for the game of whichever sport they are representing and people who cheat the game are flat out not doing anything good for the sport.

Tiger Woods may have had some indiscretions with many women, but he has not done anything to give himself an unfair advantage in the game of golf…at least not that we know of.

Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, the list goes on and on. The long line of players who have fallen to the temptation of steroids makes me cringe when people speak of them. Although they may be great players in their own right, they have also done their part to ruin so much of what is good in baseball and we are still trying re-build the solid foundation that this game was built upon.

600 home runs is a great milestone which may or may not be reached by any player for decades to come but you won’t see me cheering when Alex Rodriguez smacks his next one out.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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