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We are still a national joke!

Eddie Altamonte

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Paper-clipping five more to Congress' hearings

Jan. 10, 2008

By Admin Dobrow

Special to CBSSports.com



It's been said that Congress will waste its time and ours with next week's planned hearing on performance-enhancing substances in baseball. It's been suggested that maybe they should devote their idle hours to pesky issues like poverty or immigration, or perhaps determining how to get 200,000-odd troops the hell out of harm's way. It's been argued that the hearings represent the worst kind of political showboating, that they're nothing more than an easy opportunity for a gaggle of Representatives to state affirmatively and for the record that they believe cheating is, indeed, bad.


I couldn't disagree any more strongly.



What would you rather watch: Raffy in front of Congress or ethanol debates? (Getty Images)

If baseball is truly the national pastime, then Congress has to be considered the national umpire. Rather than holding hearings on government waste or anti-terrorism efforts, the House Oversight Committee For Overseeing Lots Of Things must embrace its status -- its destiny, if you will -- as the one entity that can tell Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, and even Scott Boras to go sniff.


More hearings, say I. Give me Rafael Palmeiro's manufactured indignation and Sammy Sosa's sudden inability to speak English over C-SPANish blather about desperately needed farm subsidies. Give me a dramatic, eyes-averted encounter between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee rather than straight-faced debate about the propriety of free bus passes for war widows.


In fact, I don't think the Oversight Committee, headlined by Rep. Henry "Wax On!" Waxman and Rep. Christopher "the Shay Hey Kid" Shays, should stop with performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, I'd like to propose a month-long session in which the politicians, few of whom boast legitimate athletic, pharmaceutical, or ethical bona fides, hold court on everything about modern-day baseball that eludes our collective intellectual grasp.


Why? To Protect The Children! You're in favor of Protecting The Children!, right? Because if you're not, that's not going to play well in the next election. Here are the issues that I'm throwing on the table.


Issue -- Why nobody on the planet can state the infield fly rule in a succinct manner: Here's how the always-accurate Wikipedia "explains" it: "The infield fly rule applies when there are fewer than two outs and there is a force play at third (runners on first and second base, or bases loaded). In these situations, if a fair fly ball is hit that, in the umpire's judgment, is catchable by an infielder with ordinary effort, the batter is out regardless of whether the ball is actually caught in flight." Snuh? Passive-verb much?


Potential testimony: Titan of third-party self-reference Rickey Henderson could try to cut through the grammatical clutter: "Rickey says the batter's out if the fielder should catch the ball, but if Rickey's on base Rickey would have to tag up before going anywhere." We could bring in New York Times language gadfly William Safire, though there may or may not be a mysterious microphone outage when he discusses the etymology of "third base" during hour nine of his testimony. Yogi Berra could offer some further convolution -- which, by comparison, might impress upon us the clarity of the current wording.



What should Congress have a hearing on next?

Florida Marlins

Infield fly rule

Black Sox scandal

Designated hitters

Media fawning over 'Paul Bunyan'





How this will Protect The Children!: They'll gain an appreciation for the brevity of language, which should come in handy when they're asked to answer new-agey college application questions like "If you could have lunch with any baseball figure -- living, dead, or cryogenically frozen -- who would it be?" and "Would you order the salad or the soup du jour?"


Issue -- The inconsistency of employing a designated hitter in one league but not the other: I'm glad we got a few more years of watching Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines hit, too. At the same time, the DH destines American League pitchers to a life of limp-armed trauma and NL fans to feign interest in sacrifice bunts. Given that each team has eight or so interleague games on the road each year -- which forces them to do personnel backflips to accommodate the DH/lack thereof -- it makes more than a little sense to eliminate the disconnect.


Potential testimony: Happy-to-hit pitchers like Micah Owings and Carlos Zambrano, with the able assistance of Alan Dershowitz, could argue that the DH rule violates their Constitutional right to equal protection. David Ortiz and serial testimony-giver Jason Giambi might counter by noting that the elimination of the DH would force them into the field ... where they'd be asked to do horrible, foreign things, like bend at the knees.


How this will Protect The Children!: They'll realize that they have to be well-rounded in work and in life. Math nerds will discover James Joyce. Book runts will dissect frogs and take up the javelin.


Issue -- The continued existence of Florida Marlins: The fans don't give a hoot. The owners don't give a hoot. The players realize that they're only sticking around until they approach arbitration-eligibility. Maybe Congress can dole out a ration of reason and prompt somebody, anybody to fire up the moving vans.


Potential testimony: In true ogre-owner fashion, the Loria family will skip the proceedings due to a "previous commitment." But each of the 10,121 (wink, wink!) fans who attended the September 12 game in Florida between the Marlins and Nationals will be called upon to describe, in great detail, the profound loneliness and/or boredom that prompted them to show up. Local officials will then set about finding them girlfriends.


How this will Protect The Children!: They won't have to watch the Marlins play. Duh.


Issue -- The media's complicity in the steroid era: We're hearing now how so many writers had their "suspicions" about the bulked-up brutes of the late '90s and early 2000s, but didn't feel it was proper to air them without supporting evidence. OK, fair enough. So why is all the speculation OK now? What new evidence has come to light prompting a handful of basebally scribes to point their fingers at Jeff Bagwell? No matter how many tendons he may have sheared during his last few seasons, he never failed a test or became bestest buddies with a trainer who has a felony rap hanging over his head. Owing to such uninformed guesswork, I say we make all the microphone monkeys and laptop cowboys suck on their beloved freedom of the press.



One knee? No problem. Just don't ask Edgar Martinez or the current DHs to bend both in the field. (Getty Images)

Potential testimony: Sweet nothings from a few members of the sabermetric community ("I can't believe we're stuck here! Tim Raines' Hall of Fame candidacy needs us now more than ever!"), a few old-school grunts ("No, I don't own a blazer without any mustard stains"), and me ("I wasn't writing about baseball in 1998, but if I did I never would have farted out a Paul Bunyan/Mark McGwire comparison. I'm much more nimble in my usage of metaphor and simile").


How this will Protect The Children!: They can sleep well at night knowing that the newspapers their generation largely ignores will report the news accurately and ethically. Maybe, just maybe, some of that will carry over into Facebook.


Issue -- The Black Sox Scandal: Sure, we've got a pretty good idea of what happened during the 1919 World Series. But do we know for 100 percent sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, to a degree of certainty that would preclude getting the Mitchell Committee Band back together? I think not.


Potential testimony: If we're digging up the past by rehashing the steroid thing for the 7365453rd time, let's really dig up the Black Sox past -- in the form of exhumations and grave desecrations of the deceased individuals whose testimony could prove didactic. Shoeless Joe may be a bit ripe about now, but a few hours in the fragrant presence of his corpse is the price we must pay for the truth.


How this will Protect The Children!: In the simplified-morality pyramid, gambling's just as bad as cheating, and the Black Sox scandal involved both gambling and cheating. Just think about the potential for after-school specials. This has to happen.

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We've been a national joke for quite some time now...


We were a national joke from 1998-2002, then we re-appeared onto the national joke scene after the 2005 fire sale and the Girardi firing in late '06...now with the Cabrera and Willis trade it's more of a sad story than a joke.


You should be used to it by now


You can thank this man.

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We will remain a nation joke until we start winning.


First we need to finally have our stadium. Then, as the arms we have in the farm system start making some noise and we start signing our future stars to long term contracts....then, and only then, will we be respected. It won't be long. Patience!

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