08.29.09

WaPo’s Reid : MIke Sellers Is No Traitor…

Posted in Gridiron at 5:47 pm by

…he’s just a slob!  “I have a big problem journalistically with essentially questioning someone’s patriotism in a report without giving the person a chance to respond,” protests the Washington Post’s Jason Reid, criticizing an unattributed AP item that blasted Redskins FB Mike Sellers for throwing the American flag to the ground during pregame introductions before last night’s New England/Washington exhibition game.

I did not realize this occurred. Even if I had witnessed Sellers (above) drop the flag, I would not have made that a big deal about it because I have spoken with the man repeatedly, which is my job as a beat reporter, and am familiar with his background. Sellers’s father was a career military man, and I just don’t get the sense he would intentionally do something to degrade the flag.

“It’s been brought to my attention, carrying the flag out yesterday, that I didn’t put it in the proper spot after carrying it out. I meant no disrespect,” Sellers said. “My father retired [from the military] 30 some years almost, I grew up as an Army brat, I know the conduct when it comes to the flag and I made a mistake by setting it down the way I did and I’d like to apologize if I offended anybody out there.

“I was asked to bring it out last minute, didn’t know who to give it to, got hyped up, and put the flag down. Like I said, if I offended anyone, I apologize. That’s not me. I grew up in a military background. I know what it is to respect the flag, and I apologize. It was in the heat of the moment.”

It all seems like a big misunderstanding, but it doesn’t help matters that Bill Belichick can’t give a straight answer about whether or not the flag will be good to go in Week One.

08.28.09

Bernie Book Author : WIlpon Lost $700 Million, Mets Sale Pending

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 10:52 pm by

On an afternoon in which the Amazingly Disableds squandered a genuinely fine effort from starter Pat Misch, the Angels took on more than $20 million in salary in the form of ex-Met / Al Leiter nemesis Scott Kazmir (above)  — exactly the sort of late season move we once came to expect when New York’s 2nd richest baseball club was, well, rich. According to author Erin Arvedlund, whose forthcoming Bernie Maddoff tome, “Too Good To Be True” will presumably not be offered for sale at the Mets Team Store, Fred Wilpon was fleeced to the tune of $700 million, making his eventual sale of the Mets a foregone conclusion.  From Reuters’ Ben Klayman :

Arvedlund said she does not know the terms of the Wilpons’ bank loans but said the losses are steep enough that a sale of the baseball team is certain.

“It’s qualified by when,” she said. “It’s possible they would have to sell by next year.” Fred Wilpon was among thousands of investors defrauded by Madoff, himself a Mets fan.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to running the biggest investment fraud in Wall Street’s history, which investigators said bilked investors out of $13 billion to $21 billion.

Madoff is serving 150 years in a federal  prison in North Carolina.

The team said Arvedlund has no knowledge of the baseball team or its finances and repeated previous statements that the Mets are not for sale. “Her speculation that the Mets — or any part of the team — is for sale is completely false and is irresponsible,” the team said.

A team spokesman told MarketWatch that Arvedlund’s loss projection is inaccurate.

Let’s hope said spokesperson isn’t merely playing damage control.  As much as I’ve criticized Fred and Jeff Wilpon this season, all you have to do is look at the state of midtown Manhattan’s basketball teams — men’s and women’s —- to realize things could actually be much worse if the frontman of the Straight Shot added the Mets to his toychest.

Waldman’s “Lovely Conversation” WIth A.J. Burnett

Posted in Baseball, Sports Radio at 12:54 pm by

“We’re all human. We all have feelings,” WCBS’ Suzyn Waldman tells the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman. “And no one likes being ripped.”  Ms. Waldman surely knows of which she speaks, as does, presumably, Yankee hurler A.J. Burnett, yesterday’s 12K performance aside,  a target of recent Waldman criticism.

Sunday, in the fifth inning of the Yankees-Red Sox radiocast, Waldman had indignantly wondered why Posada was even being “brought into the equation.” Then she hammered Burnett.

“(Burnett) stunk up the joint (Saturday, giving up nine runs in Boston’s 14-1 win),” Waldman said. “He should just stand up and take it like Andy Pettitte (would have).”

Thursday, before Burnett (with Jose Molina catching) took the mound against Texas, someone asked Waldman if her Tuesday conversation with Burnett had anything to do with what she had said about him on the radio.

“Yes it did,” Waldman answered. “We had a lovely conversation. … A lot of times players don’t realize how their actions look on the field. I just think he was emotional about his failures. I don’t think A.J. meant to show anybody up.”

“If it’s something that I’ve said that gets a player upset, then I will tell him why I said it. But I can’t do my job thinking that if I say something someone is going to get upset with me. I can’t do that,” Waldman said. “Everybody’s got opinions. I know what a lot of people think, but I’m really not a (Yankees) cheerleader.”

“Everybody likes telling these guys bad news. Somebody’s wife hears it. Or somebody’s cousin reads it. Most of the time it comes back (to the player) incorrectly,” Waldman said. “Usually, it’s not what you said. That happens all the time.”

No Smearing in the Press Box IV: Is Michael S. Schmidt Baseball’s Judith Miller?

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 8:45 am by

[This is what a working reporter looks like ...].

Thanks to Jason Cohen for fwd’ing Maury Brown’s analysis of the recent Federal ruling forcing the government to return illegally confiscated test results of Major League Baseball players.  Unlike most of us, Brown read the whole thing.  Thanks to him, we know it contains some news regarding CSTB’s favorite cub reporter, Michael Schmidt of The New York Times.  Brown writes:

As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority in yesterday™s ruling, the leaking of names from documents that were under court seal, has done harm to baseball™s drug testing policy.

“The risk to the players associated with disclosure, and with that the ability of the Players Association to obtain voluntary compliance with drug testing from its members in the future, is very high. Indeed, some players appear to have already suffered this very harm as a result of the government™s seizure.”

The ruling then points a direct finger at The New York Times, citing examples:

See, e.g., Michael S. Schmidt, Ortiz and Ramirez Said to Be on 2003 Doping List, N.Y. Times, July 31, 2009, at A1; Michael S. Schmidt, Sosa Is Said to Have Tested Positive in 2003, N.Y. Times, June 17, 2009, at B11; Michael S. Schmidt, Rodriguez Said to Test Positive in 2003, N.Y. Times, February 8, 2009¦

At the heart of Schmidt and Roberts™ stories are one or more individuals (Schmidt cited unnamed lawyers) that had access to the œlist created by a federal investigator believed to be Novitzky (the list was created from an illegally seized spreadsheet in a mountain of other documents in what has been labeled the œTracey directory). Those individuals will now become the focus, as opposed to the players. As Donald Fehr and Michael Weiner said in a joint statement after the Ninth™s ruling, œAnyone who leaks information purporting to contain those 2003 test results is committing a crime.

Me, I don’t disagree that Schmidt might be on the receiving end of some legal ballistics, not that I want reporters to go through that. Confidential sourcing is vital to whistle blowing stories that make very positive differences in people’s lives.  That said, Schmidt’s stories appear to be nothing more than a mix of amoral ambition (his) and an embittered, failed prosecution (the Novitzky team, facing an Obama future).   If they go after Schmidt, he’ll be elevated to a status of 1st Amendment freedom fighter, obscuring something else:  The New York Times can’t back up anything he has said regarding Sosa or Ramirez.  That is, a reporters rights story will overshadow his incompetence.  The players union disputes Schmidt’s 104 list at the heart of his stories.  Schmidt himself stated he has never seen any testing or evidence.  Players Association lawyer Elliot Peters now states that the 104 list is nothing but a spread-sheet concocted by Federal investigator Jeff Novitzky himself.  If Novitzky created it, it’s hard to see how the players union, informants at the testing labs, or any “lawyers” (as per Schmidt), could have leaked “the list,” except the people who created it.  As stated here several times, Schmidt looks to have been played by his sources and their agenda.  I will also ask again:  why were the 2009 names “ Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez “ all Latino? Why did each leak happen after notable, and typically arrogant (or shall we say, “uppity”)  behavior by Rodriguez, Sosa, and Ramirez? Right now, it looks like someone with some real issues was out to get these guys.

Jason and I were e-mailing about the Scooter Libby/Judith Miller parallel to this (in how the gov’t fed Miller stories to their own advantage to appear in The Times) as well as the Howell Raines/Jayson Blair factor of a young reporter pushed up the ladder too fast.  While I don’t think Schmidt in any way sought to deceive like Blair, it’s just too familiar a scenario coming from the NY Times.  Schmidt’s done real damage to people’s careers here.  Hopefully any civil suits coming will be paid by the Times, as I doubt he has the resources to pay off Sosa, Ortiz, and Ramirez.  Still, once Judith Miller did her jail stretch, the Times went through her stories and bounced her.  After Schmidt based so much of his reporting on Novitzky’s 104 “dirty names” spread sheet, I hope he gets the same thorough review.

Btw, my offer to The New York Times still stands:  Out any member of the 2005 “world champion” White Sox as a steroid user, and all is forgiven.

08.27.09

Gators : Godly Tebow Wants No Part Of Your (Burning) Bush League Promotion

Posted in Baseball, Gridiron, Religion at 8:13 pm by

It’s sometimes hard to figure out where the blurry lines between public service, celebrity and commerce can and cannot cross, so please, consider this a tutorial.  Florida QB / reigning Heisman winner Tim Tebow can enhance his reputation (and future earning power) with acts of missionary goodness ;  if a Florida State League ballclub wishes to sell an extra few dozen tickets while giggling at the Christ-like signal caller, that’s a big no-no.   From The Palm Beach Post’s Tim Volin :

The Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League tried to hold a œWhat would Tim Tebow do? promotion at the ballpark last night against the St. Lucie Mets, poking a little fun at the whole Tebow phenomenon. Fans were going to be given promise rings, the first pitch was supposed to be a jump pass and a local man named Tim Tebo was going to walk on water, among other gags.

Except the Gators quickly jumped in and nixed the idea. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, Florida compliance director Jamie McCloskey sent the Miracle a cease and desist letter yesterday morning demanding that the Miracle remove any and all references to Tebow from their promotion.

Instead, the promotion was changed to œWhat would T.T. do? and fans that showed up in Gator gear were still entered into a drawing to win four tickets to the Florida-Arkansas game in October. Sadly, Tebo never showed up to perform his miracle.

On the contrary, Mr. Volin, simply by remaining a virgin on the campus of a large public university, I’d argue Tebow is performing a miracle every single day.

Never Before Has A Backup QB’s Signing Been So Celebrated…

Posted in Dogs, Gridiron, Modern Art at 2:57 pm by

…but that’s not necessarily a good thing (image swiped from The 700 Level) This does, however, make me wish someone in Minneapolis was working on a Favre mural.

Lennon : The 2009 Mets Are Amazingly Dependent On Cortisone

Posted in Baseball, Medical Science at 1:32 pm by

(above : page one of Ray Ramirez’ operations manual)

WIth a 4-1 lead over Florida in the top of the 4th at a very quiet Landshark Stadium, the Mets hope to snap a 5-game losing streak behind a star-studded lineup featuring Wilson Valdez, Anderson Hernandez, Corey Sullivan and Tim Redding. The club’s current medical and financial woes are best summed up by Metstradamus, who suggests “in a cost cutting move, Oliver Perez and Johan Santana will perform their respective surgeries on each other.” As for what brought us to this point, in stark contrast to Maury Brown’s implications the Mets are a bunch of malingerers, Newsday’s David Lennon alleges “while there has always been a clubhouse code – one that outlines the difference between ‘hurt’ and ‘injured’ – the Mets pushed that envelope with a dizzying number of cortisone injections and delayed trips to the disabled list.”

Carlos Delgado was basically a ticking bomb with the torn labrum inside his right hip. As soon as it went for good, he was done. But when that happened, others pushed to stay on their feet to fill that void.

Multiple sources said Jose Reyes had been playing with a slight tear of his right hamstring tendon, not simply tendinitis behind his right knee. So with the reliance on his legs, the Mets were kidding themselves trying to get him back without a prolonged period of rest.

When the tendon ultimately ripped for good June 3, weeks after he was placed on the DL, not even cortisone shots could keep him on his rehab schedule. Now he is likely headed for what the team believes is “minor” surgery to fix the problem when the season is over.

It was a similar scenario with Carlos Beltran, who tried to play through a bone bruise just below his right knee, again with the help of cortisone shots. Two sources said Beltran was unhappy with how the injury was handled, but when asked about agreeing to the shots, Beltran said it was he who accepted the risk.

So did J.J. Putz, who knew a shot was the only way he could try to pitch with a bone spur in his right elbow that the Mariners’ medical staff discovered at the end of last season. Oddly, the Seattle doctor told Putz there was no need for surgery, then he was traded to the Mets roughly two months later.

John Maine, in rehab limbo in Port St. Lucie, had three cortisone shots in the back of the shoulder before the Mets chose simply to rest him.

“While that cortisone was in there, I was great,” Putz said. “But cortisone is nothing but a Band-Aid anyway. It masks the problem. That’s all it really is…if you’re getting cortisone to cover up a torn ligament, or a slightly torn ligament, then yeah, it can get worse, because you don’t feel the stress.”

Bozich Warns Public Figure On The Travails Of Being A Public Figure

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 11:40 am by

It probably won’t make Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino feel any better this morning to contemplate how much life would suck if he were Billy Gillispie, but after an angry press conference to address videotaped allegations made by accused extortionist Karen Sypher, at least one local columnist is urging Pitino to take a fistful of calm-the-fuck-down pills.  “The next time that news airs about the Pitino-Karen Sypher encounter, Pitino and his family members should change the channel quicker than the coach changes point guards. If he finds his blood pressure escalating when he begins reading stories in the paper similar to this column, flip to a story about his beloved New York Yankees,” declares the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Rick Bozich, gently reminding Pitino that while this sex scandal might not be as crucial as “the economy”, living under scrutiny is part of the job description.

Don’t even consider trolling for stories or message boards on the Internet. It’s not pretty out there. Sexual affairs, especially ones involving extortion, abortion and intercourse in a restaurant, draw the public’s interest. It’s not the most admirable characteristic of the news culture, but it’s reality.

Pitino’s name sells tickets, books and seats at motivational seminars. He is one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball. He should not be surprised that his name sells scandal, too, especially after he behaved so recklessly by having sex with Sypher at Porcini restaurant.

Pitino should be as upset with himself as he is at the coverage. Fame comes with responsibilities as well as rewards. It also comes with a public backlash to irresponsible behavior. The backlash is only beginning. Pitino’s unhappiness with the coverage of this story, even if some of it is justified, will not change that.

What Pitino accomplished Wednesday was to recycle the story into another news cycle. He got everybody talking about something that he doesn’t want anybody talking about. Air ball. The story was subsiding nationally. Fresh Pitino sound bites gave it energy.

If Pitino’s intent was to overshadow the midday airing of police interrogation tapes of Sypher, he miscalculated. He created more uncertainty about his ability to survive the ordeal.

While I don’t think Pitino’s presser qualifies as a public meltdown, I also doubt it was necessary for the coach to note the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy.  Are we meant to believe news coverage of Sypher’s charges was somehow disrespectful to Kennedy’s memory?   If, by chance, the Cardinals make it to the Final Four this season, will Pitino be quick to turn down an interview with “60 Minutes” or ESPN’s “Sunday Conversation” because, y’know, there are more important things in the world?

Feds Busted, Must Return Steroid Test Results to Players Union

Posted in Baseball, Get Out Of Jail at 10:14 am by

http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2008/0327/espn_a_jnovitsky_300.jpg

[Bush's steroid investigator, Jeff Novitzky:  the man who can't prove Barry Bonds used steroids.]

[Thanks to David Williams for the link.] While it’s nowhere near as serious as torture investigations, Katrina, or invading countries on false pretenses, it’s nice to see one aspect of Bush Era overreach undone.  In this case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the Federal Gov’t to return test results confiscated illegally from the players union.  The tests, once thought to name 104 players for banned steroid use, were confiscated by the government before they could be destroyed in 2003, as players were promised they would be.  Since falling into gov’t hands, the list has been the basis of steroid stories naming ballplayers who agreed to be tested anonymously. That same list  is now strongly disputed by the union itself for two reasons, 1) the players union says substantially fewer than 104 players tested positive, and 2) that the results can even be called “positive,” since at least 13 players tested “inconclusive,” as David Ortiz did.  8 others tested positive for then-legal supplements, and the rest “ who knows?  Still, the myth of 104 positive tests is what the NY TIMES Michael Schmidt based his now unsupportable accusations on against David Ortiz, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez as confirmed users of banned substances in 2003.  The NY TIMES can’t confirm what they tested for “ but “outted” the players using information from credibility challenged prosecutors anyway.   The Silicon Valley Mercury News’ Howard Mintz reports the following on yesterday’s decision:

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s ruling marked the latest legal twist in a long-running court fight over baseball’s drug-testing program. The 9th Circuit slammed Justice Department officials for being overzealous, noting that they seized records that went well beyond 10 major league players linked to BALCO, including testing data from hundreds of baseball players and athletes from 13 other sports.

“This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in a 9-2 decision by a special 11-judge 9th Circuit panel.

Jack Gillund, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, said prosecutors are reviewing the ruling and evaluating their options, which now appear limited to appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or dropping the issue.

Attorneys for the players praised the ruling but expressed concern that the damage has already been done to some players whose names have been publicly linked to the list.

“The unfortunate thing is that people illegally leaked information that was unconstitutionally seized,” said San Francisco attorney Elliot Peters, who represents the Major League Baseball Players Association. “People’s reputations have been damaged because of that.”

The 9th Circuit ruling came in a government appeal of three lower-court rulings that also barred the use of the testing results, which involved the league’s 2003 anonymous testing program to determine the extent of steroid use in baseball. Federal investigators seized the drug-testing records in 2004 in connection with the probe into the Burlingame-based BALCO lab.

08.26.09

Dibble : Restricting His Tweets To A Privileged Few

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports TV, The Internet at 9:32 pm by

Having already run afoul of Washington’s coaching staff during his brief tenure as Nats color commentator, MASN’s Rob Dibble (above) is apparently a boor in multiple mediums. Nationals blogger Miss Chatter describes herself as “a bit taken aback at Dibble™s liberal use of the ‘block’ feature” on Twitter.

WHAT?! Ok, so this is weird. I consider myself a pretty amicable person who gets along with everyone and has a decent pulse on the Nats fanbase. I also get along with most media members and broadcasters (both radio and television). One television broadcaster has mentioned me during game broadcasts a handful of times this season and we™ve emailed back and forth about me teaching him how to effectively use Twitter (someday). His partner has mentioned his Twitter name (@rdibs49) during broadcasts and encouraged followers. I™ve been following him for a while (since before he started mentioning it during games) and kind of thought he should totally be following me to learn about the Nats fanbase. However, I discovered this afternoon that he apparently blocked me and I have no idea why. Talk about awkward!

For someone representing the ballclub who is supposed to help fans understand the game and remain faithful to the club, this is surprising to me and something I would consider a clueless act when it comes to social media. You don™t publicly pick fights with fans of the club you represent for one (which he has done, but then deleted later). Well, maybe œpick fights isn™t the correct phrase ” retaliate is more appropriate. I wasn™t going to mention that before¦ And you don™t ostracize one of the longer-tenured, vocal and influential fans. I™ve seen broadcasters come and go and will probably still be around long after someone else is in the Nats Park booth. So I™m trying not to take it personally, but am still puzzled.

(link courtesy Baseball Think Factory)