Operación Mitchell is out

December 13, 2007

Sitting here watching the press conference and reading the Operación Mitchell report, I’m left wanting. Much of the report seems to try to aggregate the facts that have been known for years in professional sports in general and Baseball in particular. To summarize the report all you need to know is these two quotes. First from the report itself.

Since 1986, drug testing has been subject to collective bargaining in Major League Baseball. For many years, citing concerns for the privacy rights of players, the Players Association opposed mandatory random drug testing of its members for steroids or other substances. On the other side of the bargaining table, the owners and several Commissioners proposed drug testing programs but gave the issue a much lower priority in bargaining than economic issues.

Second, the report quotes Jeff Kent of the LA Dodgers as saying that “Baseball is trying to investigate the past so it can fix the future.”

That’s a tall order. Fixing the future will entail getting past the Players Association. I don’t hink they can work with them since they attempted to impede this investigation from the start.

The Players Association was largely uncooperative.

(1) It rejected totally my requests for relevant documents.

(2) It permitted one interview with its executive director, Donald Fehr; my request for an interview with its chief operating officer, Gene Orza, was refused.

(3) It refused my request to interview the director of the Montreal laboratory that analyzes drug tests under baseball’s drug program but permitted her to provide me with a letter addressing a limited number of issues.

(4) I sent a memorandum to every active player in Major League Baseball encouraging each player to contact me or my staff if he had any relevant information. The Players Association sent out a companion memorandum that effectively Discouraged players from cooperating. Not one player contacted me in response to my memorandum.

(5) I received allegations of the illegal possession or use of performance enhancing substances by a number of current players. Through their representative, the Players Association, I asked each of them to meet with me so that I could provide them with information about the allegations and give them a chance to respond. Almost without exception they declined to meet or talk with me.

So, I was wondering what the fix might look like. To Senator Mitchell, it is fairly broad.

(1) Major League Baseball must significantly increase its ability to investigate allegations of use outside of the testing program and improve its procedures for keeping performance enhancing substances out of the clubhouse;
(2) there must be a more comprehensive and effective program of education for players and others about the serious health risks incurred by users of performance enhancing substances; and
(3) when the club owners and the Players Association next engage in collective bargaining on the joint drug program, I urge them to incorporate into the program the principles that characterize a state-of-the-art program, as described in this report.

The bothersome point is that the drug issue is still positioned as a “collective bargaining” issue. The report points out that drug testing as a chip on the bargaining table is how we got here in the first place. I’m not naive. I know the power of the Player’s Association. I know the lack of will on the Owner’s side. They can’t even keep salaries under control, how will they attack this issue.

I also hate to see Congress get involved. When was the last time they fixed anything? That leaves WADA. I’m not even going there.

So, now the laundry is hanging out there for all to see. It is pretty dirty. Who has the detergent that can clean this up?


Names leaking out in Operación Mitchell

December 13, 2007

It is 12 noon (high noon) on Thursday December 13th and the names associated in
Operación Mitchell are beginning to leak out in the media. So far, there are little surprises. New York Yankees Johnny Damon, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte top the list. Also included is 2005 MVP Albert Pujols.

I figured that the New York connection would be big as the focus of information in the Operación Mitchell report seems to be former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski and former Yankee trainer Brian McNamee. The former cooperating as part of a plea bargain.

Let’s see if this spurs all the parties in Major League Baseball to put a concerted effort into cleaning up the sport. If they can, then look for pressure to mount on the other professional sports leagues specifically the NFL and NBA. Otherwise, things will continue to spiral down.


Baseball braces for Operación Mitchell

December 13, 2007

After 20 months of investigation, former US Senator George Mitchell is releasing his report on doping in Major League Baseball. Today at 2:00 Eastern, the report will be made public.

Those in the know are expecting a bombshell list chock full of the sports biggest names. Me, I’m a little more skeptical. Two key reasons have caused me to adopt a wait and see attitude.

First, the Baseball Players Association has strongly urged its membership against cooperation. In their words, there is nothing to gain and a lot to lose. Since Sen. Mitchell does not have any subpoena power or any other method to compel players to cooperate, he has operated with one hand behind his back.

The second is given the massive amounts of money in baseball, the bar set for inclusion in the Operación Mitchell report is high. Just because your name is on a pharmacy list for HGH does not mean you actually took it. The threshold is the same as if Sen Mitchell was bringing a court case. What evidence would be admissible in court.

This last item gives me mixed feelings. I think cycling has erred too much on the other side of hard evidence. With Operación Puerto, the burden of proof required for losing your livelihood is embarrassingly low. Then again, there are no athletes in cycling making $27.5 million/year. The kind of money in Baseball buys a lot of legal services. So in the end, I’ll accept the high burden of proof knowing that instead of innocent athletes getting caught, some guilty ones will go free.

So, I expect the report to come out naming quite a few names and blaming everyone. When everyone shares the blame, no one will take responsibility to change the sport. Also, what will happen to the players? Will they be banned from baseball for four years (2 from any baseball and an additional two from the major leagues?) Probably not. People will suffer embarrassment but not any financial repercussions. Do you really think George Steinbrenner will really fire Andy Pettitte?

The ultimate good news is that professional cycling will not be airing its dirty laundry today. It is time for baseball.


Cats and Dogs (Finale)

December 13, 2007

It might help if you read Part 1 for the back story. The premise is that most near death experiences are not caused by road rage or any deliberate act. What I am attempting to do is list the reasons so we can engage in discussions on how to make to roads safer for all who use them.

Today’s topic – “Et Tu Brute?”

Yes, it is not always the driver’s fault.  There is a piece of wisdom taught to those new to the sport of sailing.  While sailboats always have the right of way over power boats, that is little consolation to your widow.

When barrelling down that hill do you forget that we don’t ride on closed roads? Rolling through a red traffic light in order to break your best time on your time trial course is not the best way to finish the perfect ride. 

At the end of the day, I expect more cars and more cyclists on roads that will continue to suffer neglect.  Laws can only help after an incident.  It’s up to us to find a way for all of us to enjoy where the road ahead takes us.


Cats and Dogs (Part 3)

December 7, 2007

It might help if you read Part 1 for the back story. The premise is that most near death experiences are not caused by road rage or any deliberate act. What I am attempting to do is list the reasons so we can engage in discussions on how to make to roads safer for all who use them.

Today’s topic is  – The roads.

I’ve lived through a flood, countless hurricanes, and even a tornado. In all these instances, I had one constant, the ground beneath my feet. With the hurricane and the tornado, I was able to find a safe place to hide. low ground. In the flood, it was high ground. I have never experienced an earthquake so I don’t know the feeling of no ground. How can you mentally grasp a safety plan when you can’t trust the ground? I hope I never have to figure that out.

What I do know is the cycling equivalent. I have lost the trust of the roads. Over the years, the gradual decay is reaching the danger level. Many reports have chronicled the decaying infrastructure in this country. A 2003 report sums it up well. The report examining trends and assessing the progress and decline of America’s infrastructure was prepared by a panel of 20 eminent civil engineers with expertise in a range of practice specialties. In it, we received a grade of D+. Thanks for the plus guys!

The cause? Local and state budget deficits. So the cure is not likely to happen. I don’t want to get political here but I do want to meet the guy who convinced the roads department that tar and gravel (a.k.a. sealcoating) is an acceptable form of road maintenance.

loosegravel.jpg

As a driver, when I come up on a cyclist, I look at his/her movements to gauge how I might safely pass. The key is their line. I know that as I swerve, jump, and otherwise avoid the hazards of a crumbling road, I am scaring the heck out of drivers looking to pass me. Inconsistent moves are a cyclist’s worst nightmare. It’s going to take one misplaced zig or a pothole to make me the next hood ornament.


Cats and Dogs (Part 2)

December 6, 2007

It might help if you read Part 1 for the back story. The premise is that most near death experiences are not caused by road rage or any deliberate act. What I am attempting to do is list the reasons so we can engage in discussions on how to make to roads safer for all who use them.

Today’s topic is Distracted Drivers – gadgets.

Way back when in 1993, I decided to buy a driving machine. In fact, the ultimate driving machine. I had a good job and my wife and I were still young, carefree, and childless. I bought a BMW 325i and traded in my reliable, practical Honda Accord.

I bought the car from a small BMW dealer run by German family who recently came to the US. When buying the car, I remember my first mistake. I was sitting in the driver’s seat looking around the interior and I asked a seemingly simple question. I think this question nearly killed the owner of the dealership. The question was. “Where are the cupholders?”

After a brief pause, the owner looked at me with a mixture of emotions. He carefully chose his words and through his thick German accent he told me. “A car is for driving. If you get thirsty, stop and get a drink. When you are driving, you should be driving.” “Oh,” is the only thing I could think of to reply. Even today, look in a BMW. What few cupholders exist are clearly put there as an afterthought to the American market. In my current car, I have two cheesy cupholders. I imagine the fight in the design room being similar to asking a chef at a 4 star restaurant to make a child some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. In contrast, I counted my the cupholders in my wife’s minivan. There are 17.

I tell this story because there is a lesson. When driving, drive. Along with the 17 cupholders in the van, there is a DVD player, an iPod hooked up to the radio, a cell phone charger, a small drawer with a few emergency snacks when running all over the place. When does she have time to drive?

I’m no better. While I don’t have beverages, I’ve been known to use my Blackberry while chatting on my other cell phone. I’ve done this in Manhattan traffic as well as on the New Jersey Turnpike. I’m not proud but I find that my only spare time is in the car. My commute is no longer the solace I described in my first post. It is an office on wheels. My actions must seem incongruous with my Share the Road license plate holders.

On top of all this, add the new kid on the block. The GPS system. Is there room in our minds for this piece of equipment? I also read where there is a “Heads-up display in the works that projects information on the windshield. This is not an FA-18. This is a car.

Is it possible to take the advice from that German car dealer? If we just drive the car and focus on just that task, there should be plenty of room on the road for us cyclists.


Cats and Dogs

December 5, 2007

I am not a huge fan of Bicycling magazine. This month’s issue really stands out with a well written piece called Broken. David Darlington outlines in his piece the current issues facing both riders and drivers as we look to co-exist on roadways that are struggling to handle increasing traffic.

The good news as pointed out in the article is that cycling fatalities have remained constant over the years. I have no reason to doubt those figures even my gut tells me that every passing day brings more and more close calls. I’ll also state for the record I think most drivers are good people and are not out trying to reclaim the road. So I’ll focus my thoughts on how to make the figures even better.

I have several thoughts on this topic so I’ll probably break them up into segments over the next few days. Here is my first point of consideration. Distracted drivers – zoning out.

I am old enough to remember when a commute served a special purpose. A time to unwind and transition between working Jim and home Jim. Back in those days it was pre laptop and pre cellphone. When I left the office, I left the office. My briefcase may have had some papers that needed reading but when I drove, I let the workday fall by the wayside.

Today, our lives are so crazy that when driving, our minds are focused on everything but driving. We leave the office with a million and one things on our minds that take us into another world. Combine this with longer commutes and you have a recipe for a zoned out driver. When you get lost in your own thoughts, your brain goes on autopilot. Have you ever “come to” on your commute and wondered how you got there?

A brain on autopilot is a dangerous thing. It is programmed to see car things. Everything else gets filtered out. I remember reading a study that explained this phenomenon. If I ask you to get me the jar of mayonnaise from the refrigerator, your brain calls up a picture of the jar. You open the door and your brain, on auto pilot, scans the contents for that item in the picture. Everything else gets filtered out. If the jar is actually a new squeeze bottle then you will most likely not see the mayo. Men are most susceptible to this type of filtering. Go ahead ladies. Have fun with that one.

I’ve had this happen to me. I was riding over an overpass when a car exited the freeway.  At the top of the ramp, he was looking to take a right onto the road I was using. He stopped and looked right at me. Then he accelerated and nearly ran me over. After apologizing profusely, he said he never saw me. I was filtered out.

I find the most dangerous roads to be like the one I just described. I call them tweeners. They lie between the highway and residential neighborhoods. People exit the highways where the autopilot works well as there are only car things allowed. Once they exit, the brain has not yet engaged and the speed tends to be high. By the time a driver pulls into a neighborhood, most are human again.

With all the stresses in our lives, how do we coexist?