Monday, August 9, 2010

Catching Up

       By Ross Newhan

    --The irrepressible Ozzie Guillen may have fiound a better way to say it, but the Chicago White Sox manager was generally correct: Asian players come with their own interpreters or are provided one by their respective club while Hispanic players speak through a coach--if the club has a Hispanic coach--or are forced to learn English through clubhouse banter. One angle in response to Guillen's remarks has not been mentioned. For all of the reporters who have written on this subject, in support or criticism, how many have made the effort to learn Spanish or a second language during baaseball's global growth? I have often said that the biggest mistake I made during 45 years of covering baseball was not becoming more fluent in Spanish. It would have been an enormous asset. Anyone living in Southern California should learn to speak Spanish, whether they are covering baseball or not. In addition, papers can not be blamed for pursuing the hiring of multilingual reporters. The L.A. Times covered all of its bases a few years ago with the hiring of Dylan Hernandez to cover the Dodgers. Dylan is a fine reporter. Plus, he speaks both Spanish and Japanese. A coup, indeed.

   --The Dodgers release of Garret Anderson probably marks the end of a classy and productive career, but the assent of Jay Gibbons an an Anderson replacement is another indiction that baseball has not entirely put the steroids era behind it, nor do the Dodgers obviously care. Gibbons was suspended for the first 15 days of the 2007 season for receiving a shipment of a human growth hormone. He acknowledged his mistake in using HGH, apologized, and I guess we accept that as good enough.The Baltimore Orioles certainly did, setting up Gibbons for life with a three year, $21 million contract for his production during the period he was making his "mistake."

   --The reaction to Alex Rodriguez' 600th home run was appropriately blase. Look, no one hits 600 or more home runs without a lot of talent, and we know Rodriguez has a lot of talent. It's just not clear, in his case or others, what factor his acknowledged use of a performance enhancing substance played, but as I have written before, I will not cast a Hall of Fame vote for any player who has acknowledged use of such a substance, and I regard that as truly a shame. Whether Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and other otherwise qualified candidates ever receive the required number of votes is uncertain, but a Hall without them blackens the era forever--and so be it.

   --Do I carry a personal bias regarding the issue above? Definitely. My son and blogging colleague played parts of eight seasons in the major leagues. Might he have played longer and more often and made more money had he joined the crowd using performance enhancing substances? Probably. However, he chose not to, going about it honestly. He can look himself in the mirror and speak truthfully to his children. What price do you put on that?

   --The Tampa Bay Rays must be one of the strangest teams ever to challenge for a playoff berth. They still lead the American League wild card race by 4 1/2 games but have slipped 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the East with a five game losing streak as they opened a Monday night series in Detroit. On Sunday, as Brandon Morrow of Toronto threw the first complete game of his career and struck out 17 Rays, they came within one out and one single of becoming the first team in history to suffer three nine inning no hitters in the same season. As it was, they extended their considerable hold on the AL lead in the dubious category of strike outs while ranking first in the league in walks, third in runs and sixth in on base percetange. As manager Joe Maddon put it: "I don't think there's any doubt but that we are very schizophrenic offensively."

  --Since this is a year dominated by pitching, as reported previously and often, here is my Top Ten at this juncture: 1--Adam Wainwright, St. Louis; 2--Cliff Lee, Texas; 3--Jerald Weaver, Los Angeles; 4--Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado; 5--Roy Halladay, Philadelphia; 6--Matt Latos, San Diego; 7--Felix Hernandez, Seattle; 8--Josh Johnson, Florida; 9--Tim Hudson, Atlanta; 10--Johan Santana, Mets. And two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum? Another fine year for the offensively strapped Giants star, but he will have a difficult time repeating and even cracking a combined Top Ten.            


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