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At the letters: Barry Bad

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

First of all, it's not a Nazi haircut. It's a flattop. And it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I began to rethink it when Tim Flannery, then the third-base coach for the San Diego Padres, took a long look and said, "Let me guess, you're stumping for Roger Maris to go to the Hall?"

I told him no, it was my personal salute to Grace Jones.

When the folliclely-impaired guys start dogging your 'do, it's time to stop trying so hard.

There, that's the whole back story on the photo, just for the benefit of the guy in Georgia who asked.

To the emails. My answers and observations are in italics.

VETERAN FREE AGENTS ("Last shot for Ledee?," Jan. 16, 2007)

Wouldn't you think a team that's down on its luck and financially hurting like the Pittsburgh Pirates or Tampa Bay Devil Rays would take a flier on a relatively young Ricky Ledee and give him a major-league deal for the minimum and allow him the chance to show he still has it?

Gene
Stuart, Fla.

If Ledee's head is right, he'd better serve a good team, preferably in the National League, where he would get semi-regular at-bats off the bench. Just two seasons ago in Los Angeles – granted, on a bad Dodgers team – Ledee hit .278 in 237 at-bats, .286 against right-handers. Somebody could do something with that.


I guess I miss the point of your piece on Ricky Ledee. Am I to feel sorry for him? Last year he had a salary of $1,500,000. This for a ballplayer that never had more than 137 at-bats in a season and has a lifetime batting average of .244 and has been able to maintain a career in the major leagues for nine seasons. This is less than a mediocre career. He surely has something other than his deadly batting eye and fancy glove work keeping him in the bigs.

Elbridge
Fort Worth, Texas

So, Ledee earned about half the average salary in Major League Baseball. That's about right, wouldn't you say?


Tim, will Bruce Chen hook on with someone? I think he can still pitch and believe he just had a bad year last year. Also, he's still young.

Dan
Odenton, Md.

The good news for Chen: He's 30, he's left-handed, and there was a time when he got hitters out. The bad news: He's coming off 0-7 and a 6.93 ERA, and there isn't a park weighted enough toward hitters to explain that. Yes, he'll find work, primarily because he was born with the MLB-preferred dominant appendage. Chen pitched well this winter in Puerto Rico, where scouts say he rediscovered his changeup. He has a handful of interested teams, offering minor- and major-league deals. I'm thinking the Washington Nationals, whose ace, as of today, is John Patterson.


Where is Steve Finley going to play? If he plays one or two more years with decent numbers, is he a Hall of Famer?

John
Portland, Ore.

Finley, who will turn 42 during spring training, is waiting out the Jacque Jones situation in Chicago. If the Cubs move Jones, as they'd like to, it would open a spot for Finley or Cliff Floyd. The Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers are other possible destinations. Finley has been a good player for 18 seasons – twice an All-Star, five times a Gold Glover – but is not a Hall of Famer.


BARRY BONDS ("Victim's assistance," Jan. 11, 2007)

I loved your story on poor Bonds. As a priest and drug counselor working with residents of a rescue mission, Bonds plays the victim more than any homeless drug addict I've come across in the past six years. God bless.

Jim
Visalia, Calif.

I'll defer to your expertise.


Thanks for your insightful article. It contributes nothing to the sport other than showing that Barry Bonds' character is in question. Sure, he may have lied about steroids, but at the end of the day, nothing has been proven. It's innocent until proven guilty in this country. In any event, none of you so-called "writers" have ever used common sense in analyzing the impact of steroids on hitting. Ummm, hitting is hand-eye coordination, not brute force. You diminish the difficulty of the sport by making these boilerplate allegations of steroids. Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player of all-time. Please discontinue your nonsensical articles and let us baseball fans revel in his glory. Thanks for your cooperation in advance.

James
New York

I'm not sure this is going to count as cooperation, James, but here's what I believe about steroids:

I believe they aid the body in recovery, meaning longer, more intense workouts when other players aren't physically able. I believe that means a stronger, more capable player on day 11 of a two-week road trip, and in September of a six-month season. I believe it is an advantage over players who choose to play within the law, and within the rules or moral principles of the game. I believe players who use steroids not only artificially enhance their skills, but coerce other players to consider using them in order to maintain a competitive balance. I believe that using steroids is cheating, whether they are banned by the collective bargaining agreement or not. I believe that is common sense.


A humble foreign policy, says the campaigning George Bush in 2000. Continuing support for aggressive anti-drug measures, says Peter Magowan's Giants in 2007. Like a CIA strategy to muddy the waters, a constant barrage of Big Lies defeats even a relatively vigilant society's Big Lie radar.

J
Bath, Pa.

Ping. … Ping. … Ping.


What were the Giants thinking? If they truly want to show their fans they really want to win the World Series, let alone the West, they would have taken the $16 million they are giving Barry Bonds and put that with what they offered Jason Schmidt. You would have had Barry Zito and Schmidt as 1a and 1b. … It appears ownership is hoping to cash in on Bonds' chase of Aaron's record and not what is in the best interest of the Giants. What do you think?

Harold
Dothan, Ala.

Here's the thing about Bonds: The man can still hit and he'll help their offense, assuming his legs and elbow are healthy and his presence there doesn't become too unwieldy. In a pure baseball sense, the Giants needed the middle-of-the-order bat almost as much as they needed another starter. Almost. I'd have gone with the pitcher and a defensive upgrade, played to the ballpark and gotten on with life. But I'm not paying their bills. Even then, the Giants are having second thoughts about this contract, as they probably should, and now there's no real quality pitcher on which to spend their money.


Why are they accusing Barry Bonds of steroid use or other uses? He tests negative every time.

Chris
Reno, Nev.

Almost every time.


To the dismay of many, it looks like baseball must be pushing him to jump off the cliff once again.

Chris
San Dimas, Calif.

Actually, I think Bonds referenced a bridge. Either way.


Combine the steroids with the juiced balls in '98 and it's tough to put anyone who made their mark in that era in the Hall.

Dave
Redding, Calif.

Dave, welcome to the BBWAA. These are agonizing decisions made by writers who genuinely wish to honor the legitimate careers and, for most, sort out the rest. The available information is sketchy, the shadows are long and the consequences of being wrong are severe. The right answers today could be the wrong ones tomorrow, which, I think more than anything, helps explains the McGwire vote.


You must really be a Bonds fan. You actually have no stronger words for a man that tries to implicate an innocent teammate because of his own drug craze? You know professional athletes are just getting worse and worse and the only people that even come close to holding their actions up to the public are sports writers. And what do you do? Put on the kid gloves a deliver a soft-spoken commentary about the worst image in baseball, perhaps ever.

Bill

That's me, just another guy on the bridge.


HALL OF FAME VOTE ("Sticking it to Big Mac," Jan. 10, 2007)

What do you think of the chances of Barry Bonds getting into the Hall? I do not believe the sportswriters will deny Bonds the honor. Voting for Bonds, unlike McGwire, will be the politically correct thing to do. I can't wait to hear how they justify Bonds enshrinement while denigrating McGwire.

Lou
Beaufort, S.C.

The most common theory here is that Bonds was every bit the Hall of Famer before the documented timelines establish his alleged ground zero. I don't disagree, though it'd be interesting to know why Bonds felt it wasn't good enough.


What the H*ll? Why did Goose Gossage get shut out again? Why did Andre Dawson get shut out? These guys should be in! Are they going to do the same to guys like Fred McGriff when he is eligible? Are they ever going to let Gil Hodges into the Hall? This is a bunch of BS. What are the baseball writers considering when they make their choices? Is it a bunch of beer-drinking buddies that pick their favorites and only sure things? Gwynn and Ripken are no-brainers but Goose and Dawson should also be in. I am sorry, Sutter over Goose? I do not think so. I am not the only one who feels this way. I just don't understand.

Patrick
Middletown, N.Y.

The Hall is for no-brainers and sure things, yes. Was that the question?


I volunteer to caddy for free if Barry Bonds, O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson and Kobe Bryant ever tee it up at Riviera or Pebble Beach. I, for one, am tired of these innocent athletes being dragged through the mud in the media. If life was fair on that day, each of them would shoot a 59 and I'd be the most famous caddy in history.

Dave
Erie, Pa.

I'm now going to go lie down and re-read Golf in the Kingdom.


I was very happy to see Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken get into the Hall of Fame. Very few inductees are as qualified to be there as them, and growing up in the '80s I always admired them. However, I was amazed that neither of them was unanimous. Who were the writers that didn't vote for them and what on earth could their reasons have been for not voting? Thanks.

Eric
Washington, W. Va.

It seems some among the voters were distracted by the swirling peripheral issues and used their ballots as tools for protest, a strategy that is, at best, counterproductive. Fortunately, it did not cost Gwynn or Ripken, and Goose Gossage wasn't quite close enough for it to have made a difference. As for a potential unanimous vote, a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, whether he gets 75 % or 100 %.


A couple of questions for you and the other holier-than-thou in the sports world.

First, have you ever heard of legal rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the phrase "innocent until proven guilty"?

Plus, have you and the other holier-than-thous in the sports world robbed any banks lately?

If you answer no, then you have admitted to have previously robbed banks. If you answer yes, you affirm you robbed banks. And if you refuse to answer the stupid question you make everyone think you have something to hide.

Otto

Still lying down.


Major Baseball and the union make me sick. Bonds is being allowed to break Hank's record, who was a "natural" baseball player, not a "blown-up" clown. When will someone step in and stop the craziness?

John
Hahira, Ga.

Robbed any banks lately, John?


What makes this all the more remarkable is that Pete Rose, having violated the rules of the game in a profound way, arguably did so in a way that did not affect his ability to perform against his opposition or skew the genuineness of the games in which he participated. What Bonds, Mac, Sammy Sosa and the others have done goes directly to the manner in which they competed with their opponents and is, in the fairest and most neutral definition of the term, cheating.

Beyond merely hypothesizing as to whether Bonds will elude Mac's fate (a seeming perpetual fate, as I agree with you that a seismic change in voting in the years to come will not occur) is sadly under-responsive. Bonds will pass Aaron this summer if permitted to play. The contrast couldn't be starker – while Bonds whines about being victimized, Aaron really was a victim throughout his career. From the institutional racism that held him back in his earlier years, through the asinine threats during the race against Ruth (who, ironically, would have probably rooted for Aaron – a form of conduct Bonds would not accord to Ruth), Hank Aaron had to play the game with all forms of obstacles that are completely foreign to Bonds.

Simply put, it would constitute a blight on the game if Barry Bonds were permitted to steal a cherished record from a cherished star (again, as he, Mac and Sosa have ransacked the Maris legacy with MLB's smiling, detestable blessing). With the big leagues just barely holding onto legitimacy, Mac's shunning should serve as a blazing signal to the game's caretakers that action must be taken before we hear that massive collective moan of disappointment this summer, and the surge of patrons leaving the ballparks to go to the movies instead.

Marc
Rockaway, N.Y.

I wish I'd have written that.


Do you think Craig Biggio will be in the Hall of Fame? He is such a hard-working baseball player. He is like the definition of Mr. Baseball and for years I've seen him play with such heart and determination. Does he have what it takes to be in the Hall of Fame?

Chris
Houston

The comparables, according to baseball-reference.com: Robin Yount, Joe Morgan, Roberto Alomar, Lou Whitaker, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken. Bodes well for Biggio.


This is going to sound really bad, but if Mark McGwire is being left off ballots for refusing to answer questions about steroids, and everyone says they just want him to come clean and say he used them, why is there such a negative aura to Jose Canseco? He admits to using them. He named names and blew the lid off the whole steroid mess in baseball, but I get the impression that he is reviled rather than revered. I don't like the guy, but what he did was and is in the best interest of the game. On a side note, don't the words "lifetime ban" imply you can become eligible when you are dead? Someone should put Shoeless Joe in the hall.

Homer
Ft. Worth, Texas

Jose Canseco for overall contributions to the game? Bud would faint.


A letter from "Y" in your last mailbag blamed George Steinbrenner for ruining sports. I don't need to rewrite the rest because it is the most overused and boring statement that can be made: The Yankees spend money.

Are we really still printing letters like that? Don't you yearn to print original ideas from fans? This, by the way, from a Red Sox fan. You know, the team with the highest payroll in history to ever win a World Series.

Yawn.

Lastly, I'll point out that the Yankees don't set the market on ridiculous contracts, and that's true from A-Rod to the Phillies' crazy spending on middle relievers four or five years ago, etc. What they wind up doing is taking the financial hit for teams by taking big, fat, dead-weight contracts off other teams' hands.

I challenge you, Tim, to not post a "Yankee payroll" letter for 2007. We've heard it a thousand times before, and as the Bombers have shown restraint in this crazy off season, it's even more irrelevant.

Take care.

Jack
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Does this one count?


If we argued sports in a bar, I'd alternate between wanting to punch you out one minute, and hug you the next. So the distance provided by the Internet is better in both cases, and your column makes for great reading.

My comments are in regard your preseason prognostications. When OPS correlates over 90% with runs scored, as it has every year since Moses (John) and David (Andre) were playing, why do you (and others) predict that the Los Angeles Dodgers offense will be profoundly inept? The team will probably have an OPS of around .760 (about .020 less than last year due to Pierre's replacement of Drew), which will lead to right around 780 runs, which will be just above average for the NL. The improved pitching staff should give up something like 690-710 runs, which is a few more than the Padres will give up, and is 40-60 fewer than last year, with Jason Schmidt, Chad Billingsley, and Randy Wolf replacing Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson, Jae Seo, and Aaron Sele. In other words, the run differential should be identical to, or better than, last season's plus-69, and run differential has correlated very highly with Won-Loss record since the time of Kings (Jeff and Ray) and Dukes (Zach and Snider).

The only consistent outliers to the OPS-Runs correlation and the Run Differential-Winning Pct correlation are, respectively, teams that 1) steal an unusually high number of bases with a high success rate (who tend to outscore their OPS), and 2) have an unusually effective or ineffective closer and/or bullpen (who tend to outperform or underperform their expected W-L). The speedy, Saito-infused 2007 Dodgers will tend, if anything, to slightly outperform expectations on both counts.

Therefore, it is likely that the Dodgers will at worst repeat last season's 88 win performance, and at best, if the pitching is truly Padre-like, improve to the 92-94 win level. The team's depth limits any major exposure to injury, and there is no reliance on career years by any player, so I think this is as solid a prediction as for any team I can think of.

So what's my point? Well, all I ask now is that you recant your previous NL West prediction, admit that you suffered from a very narrow albeit shockingly deep ignorance with respect to the basic mathematics of winning baseball, and publish on Yahoo! Sports a 3,000 word article on why the Dodgers are now your choice to win the N.L. West.

Stay funny at all costs, and keep up the good work.

JT
Wilmington, N.C.

Dude, you had me at the hug.


What are your opinions of the Detroit Tigers? Are they a flash-in-the-pan, one-hit-wonder, every-dog-has-it's-day kind of team or are they going to be in contention for a while?

Michael
Doylestown, Pa.

There's too much pitching there not to contend again, particularly as it appears that the Minnesota Twins (Francisco Liriano) and Chicago White Sox (Freddy Garcia, Brandon McCarthy) have taken pitching hits, at least in the short term. Also, I loved the Gary Sheffield addition and Sean Casey re-signing. In short, Michael, it's more than an even-a-blind-squirrel-finds-an-acorn kind of team.


What do you think about Mike Hampton coming off Tommy John surgery? Do you like his chances of a comeback? John Smoltz has fared well. Why not Hampton?

Will
Atlanta

When Hampton pitches in April, he'll be 34 years old, about the same age Smoltz returned from his surgery. The Braves could have brought Hampton back sooner, perhaps, but the division already was lost and there was strong organizational sentiment to give him a full 18 months to recover. Barring a setback, he'll stand third in the Braves' rotation, behind Smoltz and Tim Hudson, just ahead of promising left-hander Chuck James.

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