Bravo to the cities of Detroit and Boston, which have perfected the art of flooding an inbox. It never ceases to amaze that hundreds of people will write the exact same thing, even if it is factually incorrect.
Tigers fans: Gary Sheffield did not make the list of best free-agent signings because Detroit acquired him in a trade from the Yankees for three pitching prospects and the promise of a contract extension.
Red Sox fans: Kevin Youkilis did not make the list of most underpaid players because he is in his pre-arbitration years and, thus, didn't qualify. If they did, Ryan Howard would have been the first baseman anyway.
Now onto my screw-up (aside from leaving Hideki Okajima off the underpaid list, which was a bad error). For five months, I have promised XM Radio's Holden Kushner that I would give him credit for the Dale Murphy interview that I attributed to his colleague Charley Steiner. So, Holden: I am sincerely sorry to have insulted your work and assaulted your character in such blatant fashion. Yahoo! Sports strives for accuracy, particularly with sensitive University of Kansas graduates who hold secret grudges because Syracuse wiped the floor with the Jayhawks in the 2003 national championship game.
On to the letters, Barry Bonds-free, because, seriously, who cares anymore? My comments are in italics.
YANKEES ("Clemens time," June 9, 2007)
It wasn't that long ago you said the Yankees were finished, too old, had no pitching and were 13½ games back of Boston, yet today, here they are. The powerful bats are out and they seem to have found some young pitching, which is blending in with the veterans. Now I know there are still seven weeks left, but even you have to admit the Yankees are more than just a threat to not only make the playoffs, but win the World Series.
I should have known better than to count the Yankees out. And, yes, if they do make the postseason, they certainly can win it all on the strength of their bats alone. Yet this team is really no different than last season's, and Detroit blew them away with superior pitching in the first round.
Until the Yankees prove in the postseason that their rotation and bullpen can stunt a strong lineup, I'm still not a believer. The mash-and-pray strategy hasn't worked in six years. Why would it now?
JACK HAMILTON ("Accidental villain," August 17, 2007)
Thanks for the article on Jack Hamilton and Tony Conigliaro, which brought a few tears to my eyes. My late husband, Jack Zanger, wrote the book "Seeing it Through" with Tony C. My husband, our infant daughter Nora and I spent many times with Tony as Jack was writing the book that was published in 1970 – soon after my husband died suddenly of a massive brain tumor. I always remember Tony looking forward to what might still be, with no anger about what happened in 1969.
Brenda Zanger Greene
Of course we could never forget. My whole family was in tears. My sister, a longtime Red Sox fan, was so upset that she couldn't even watch baseball for years. Those were the days when players were from their hometown and not just bought and paid for. Tony C wasn't just a baseball player. He was family. He was a Bostonian, like us. And since I'm a black person in a city that was very racist at that time (I lived in the almost all-black district of Roxbury), to think of an Italian as family is really saying something.
Does one pitch or one swing of the bat define all ballplayers?
James A. Gandee
That's a simple and great question, and I think the answer, in many cases, is yes. Herb Score, the pitching equivalent to Tony Conigliaro, is defined by the shot he took off the face from Gil McDougald. Kirk Gibson is defined by his World Series home run and Brad Lidge by the monster shot he yielded to Albert Pujols.
Are they all multi-dimensional ballplayers? Absolutely. Score was one of the great young arms in history. Gibson, though he never made an All-Star team, was a fearsome power hitter in the mid-'80s. And Lidge had been the most unhittable pitcher in the National League.
Even if the moment doesn't encapsulate what they're truly about, it's what sticks.
CARDINALS ("Won and done," August 20, 2007)
I enjoy your column. As a baseball fan, I am compelled to agree with your analysis of Mr. La Russa, the Cardinals and the NL Central. However, as a Cardinals fan, I hope you (please choose one of the following):
1) Slip on a banana peel
2) Something worse
3) Something far, far worse – something that would include broiling nether regions, bill collectors, ex-wives and/or the IRS.
SELIG ("Dear Bud: Your move," June 16, 2007)
You wrote: "Baseball doesn't need a tough guy. It needs a commissioner who can shepherd the game into the future with a policy of honesty and trust above scare tactics and feckless hunts." Dead wrong, Passan.
Baseball needs a tough guy but not a feckless, ignorant, arbitrary tyrant like Landis. They need someone who will draw a line in the sand and make a decision. The truth is that any medication obtained by prescription from your own physician is nobody else's business, but it is more important that there be a rule that is the same for everyone not just for All-Stars with abrasive personality traits. You can't throw the book at Bonds for unproven charges while you hold Giambi's hand for admitted indiscretions. One rule. It would be great if it were also the right rule, but it is more important that it be consistent.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
First off: Credit to commissioner Bud Selig for resolving this issue without any discipline. Selig threatened. Giambi talked. Selig backed off. It took a lot of posturing, but in the end, the right thing happened.
By the way: Who is this Bonds guy exactly?
One problem I have with your article regarding Selig's failure to act on the rampant use of steroids in Major League Baseball is the suggestion you make about potentially granting "amnesty" to players who come clean. Absolutely not. These people are professional athletes, most likely role models to children and should be held to a higher standard of conduct. There should be no amnesty when it is obvious that some of these individuals broke records by cheating. If you choose to cheat, you should get the same treatment the White Sox got back in 1919.
Amnesty is simply a vehicle to obtain the truth. If Major League Baseball is that interested in finding out how this happened – which is to say, if George Mitchell's investigation is truly more than an incredibly expensive P.R. ploy – then it needs to provide some kind of incentive for players. Otherwise, what good is it to talk?
Baseball essentially did this with Giambi, even though it was already well-known he had used steroids. Other players would go through an initial backlash upon their admittance, though, as we've seen with so many – from Giambi to Ryan Franklin to Rafael Betancourt – steroid use can be forgiven and forgotten.
OVERPAID/UNDERPAID ("Deal or no deal," May 30, 2007)
How could you have left off …
… Hideki Okajima
Because I'm an idiot.
This year, I'll still take Carlos Pena over him.
… Mike Sweeney?
You said the San Diego trade for Chris Young was the best trade of the past decade. You forgetting about Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan for A.J. Pierzynski, who only played one year for San Francisco? Clearly that's the best trade of the past decade. If Liriano continues to pitch like he did last year, could be one of the best trades ever.
Fine, maybe it's the second-best trade.
Trade of the decade: Bartolo Colon to Montreal from Cleveland for Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Philips. Not my fault the Indians gave up on Philips too early even though at the time he was the jewel of this deal.
OK, perhaps the third-best trade – but not by much. Young and Gonzalez are multiple-time All-Stars waiting to happen.
As for which actually was the greatest fleecing since 1997, man, that is tough. The best player in any of the deals was Sizemore, a franchise center fielder. If Liriano weren't sidelined with Tommy John surgery, that might be a coin flip. As is, he and Nathan run second and third best. Phillips is putting up superb numbers, albeit for Cincinnati, while Lee and Bonser have struggled this season.
Slight edge to the Twins, for two reasons: the player dealt (Pierzynski was a solid, if unspectacular, catcher, while Colon was an All-Star starting pitcher) and what the deal has wrought (in Minnesota's case, two AL Central championships and the promotion of Joe Mauer, while Cleveland is still waiting for its first playoff berth since 2001). Depending on how good Sizemore does get, and whether Liriano can still fire 98-mph fastballs and 92-mph sliders upon his return, the definitive answer is still a few years off.
How can we be comfortable with the "arrest/accusation-is-enough" standard and feel outraged by what happened with Duke lacrosse, where a coach lost his career and several players lost their eligibility? If we decided to move sports in the direction of the NFL's conduct policy, we're going to have to be comfortable with a few – certainly not the majority, but a few – players losing games, losing money, possibly losing their livelihood when they have literally done nothing wrong. If you're going to advocate that sort of action in MLB, I think you at least need to explain why you're comfortable with the Duke scenario.
Nolan L. Reichl
I got about 200 variations of this e-mail. And the best answer is: apples and oranges.
Unlike the Duke case, which we've since learned was built on fabrications, Dukes' ex-wife played the voicemail message for a St. Petersburg Times reporter. It was Dukes' voice. Dukes never denied that. So there is hard evidence that Dukes threatened to kill his wife and children. And whether Dukes' ex-wife did something to provoke the call or Dukes was just kidding or another cobbled-together excuse exists, a verifiable action of that nature deserves some kind of punishment.
By the way, Dukes – on the Devil Rays' inactive list – now faces a year in jail for violating a restraining order earlier this month.
Being proven guilty of a crime is only necessary for the state to punish a person. It has – or, rather, should not have – anything to do with whether or not a private business retains that person's services. The difference between those two concepts is, apparently, understood by everyone in America. Well, everyone, that is, except for MLB and the players' union.
San Jose, Calif.
What would you suggest MLB or the D-Rays to do? Kick the kid into the streets, with nothing, and pretty much just say, "We don't care and no one else does, either," and let him live his life with nothing to lose? Yeah, that would really work well. Turn your back on someone's troubles. That usually helps. Baseball is probably the only thing that has kept him from spending any major amount of time in jail and could be the reason he's alive. Just take that away from him because he made an ill-advised threat? People say dumb things in situations that they look back upon and go "What the hell was I thinking?"
Bowling Green, Ky.
So what next? When he actually follows through on his "ill-advised threat" and harms his family, do we forgive him when he asks, "What the hell was I thinking?"
Playing professional baseball is a privilege. And until Dukes proves he can operate with the decorum of a good citizen and not a violent punk recidivist, he shouldn't be granted that privilege.
Why did his wife not press charges? I agree that the league, the team and the fans have a responsibility to do the right thing, but what about the wife? If she will not press charges, what right does anyone else have to "convict" him? I agree that something should be done, but she has the most to lose and is doing the least.
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
I worked at a domestic-violence shelter for three years and know how hard it is to get abusers prosecuted. There is still an enormous stigma associated with being a victim; therefore many of these crimes go unreported (or charges are never pressed, as in this situation), only allowing the cycle of violence to continue. Where is the stigma of being the offender? MLB has missed (another) huge opportunity to address this issue and hand down a stiff penalty, and the union is just as culpable.
Courtney La Zier
South Fork, Colo.
That's why, Don.
COOPER BRANNAN ("Duty, honor and curveballs," March 5, 2007)
As Cooper's father-in-law, I've read most everything written on Cooper. I may have seen your piece before, but if I hadn't written to compliment you, I wanted to do so now. Your piece was well-written, in-depth and truly caught the essence of his story and Cooper the man. Thank you so much for doing him justice.
He continues to "fight" his way in the Arizona Rookie League, happy to be here and be alive. It has been a true learning experience. Although he is behind the learning curve, he is catching up. As much as I would love to see his dream end up with him in a major league uniform, I am simply so proud to have him as my son-in-law. He is a genuine person, a great husband and father, and he deserves any good fortune that should come his way. Whatever he achieves, he will have earned it – literally – through blood, sweat and tears.
Thank you once again for your story. The excitement of those beginning days is not forgotten, but it was nice to come across this piece and rekindle those memories. I believe his story is still just beginning and I look forward to the exciting years to come.
An update: After a solid start with the Padres' rookie-league team, Brannan has struggled of late. In his last three outings, he has allowed 13 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. For the season, he is 1-4 with an 11.14 ERA.
AND FINALLY …
You wrote: "Losing (Mike) Moustakas to USC would make Kansas City look positively cheap." Considering what USC pays their athletes, it may take a lot for Kansas City to sign the kid.
- Tony Conigliaro