Saturday Scorecard: A week of shocking stories
Welcome to Saturday Scorecard. Forget Arizona. It's so nice today here in Milwaukee that the Brewers should have their pitchers and catchers report to Miller Park and get down to business.
Speaking of getting down to business....
It was a week of shocking stories. We found out that Michael Phelps doesn't exercise his lungs only in the pool, Marquette lost a game at South Florida and Alex Rodriguez -- you know, the guy who was supposed to rescue baseball and its records from the taint of the steroid era? -- well, Sports Illustrated tells us he took steroids, too.
On to the notes...
A-Fraud? If the SI report is true, and there really is no reason at this point to doubt it, we have to ask two major questions.
First, can we really believe that any player who performed well in the first part of this decade was clean?
Second, what does it say about the secrecy of the "survey testing" that results have been leaked?
Major League Baseball can't thrilled about having Rodriguez, arguably the top player in the game, implicated in a controversy like this. Rob Manfred, the vice president for labor relations under commissioner Bud Selig, released a statement today:
"We are disturbed by the allegations contained in the Sports Illustrated news story which was posted online this morning. Because the survey testing that took place in 2003 was intended to be non-disciplinary and anonymous, we can not make any comment on the accuracy of this report as it pertains to the player named.
"Based on the results of the 2003 tests, Major League Baseball was able to institute a mandatory random-testing program with penalties in 2004. Major League Baseball and the Players Association have improved the drug testing program on several occasions so that it is now the toughest program in professional sports. The program bans stimulants, such as amphetamines, as well as steroids.
"Any allegation of tipping that took place under prior iterations of the program is of grave concern to Major League Baseball, as such behavior would constitute a serious breach of our agreement.
"Under commissioner Selig's leadership, Major League Baseball remains fully committed to the elimination of the use of performance enhancing substances from baseball. As the commissioner has said, we will continue to do everything within our power to eliminate the use of such drugs and to protect the integrity of the program."
The only good thing about this story, from MLB's perspective, is that the union may be busy investigating leaks to accuse owners of colluding during this slow and strange free agent period.
Other than that, it's another black eye for a sport that lost its way in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As for Rodriguez, it's a bit surprising that his secret didn't come out earlier. The guy lived with Jose Canseco for a while, and many resisted the urge to peg him as guilty by association.
Sunburned: We watched the play 15 times on the DVR and still can't figure out how Lazar Hayward missed a put-back that would have allowed No. 8 Marquette to avoid a stunning 57-56 loss to South Florida Friday night in Tampa.
The Bulls, who gave MU trouble in the same gym two years ago, played an intense, scrappy game and deserved to win. Marquette helped with some abysmal shooting. The Golden Eagles shot 38.9 percent from the floor (21 for 54), 43.5 percent from the line (10 for 23) and a hideous 16.7 percent from the three-point line (4 for 24).
Bottom line -- this loss won't cripple Marquette. (Have you forgotten the early-season, neutral-site loss to Dayton?). It could, however, be a solid wakeup call for players and fans as the stretch run approaches.
Rough patch: The Bucks, at least what's left of them, will square off against Detroit tonight at the Bradley Center. Seriously, have you seen a team with worse luck than Milwaukee? In the span of just a few days, the Bucks lost leading scorer Michael Redd to a knee injury, Andrew Bogut to a bad back and Luke Ridnour to a broken thumb.
The playoffs were a long shot a couple weeks ago. Now, they seem like an impossible dream.
Can anything positive come from the final 30 games? Of course. The Bucks can find out of Ramon Sessions and Joe Alexander can play. They can consider a trade for Richard Jefferson or Charlie Villanueva that will help in the long run.
The last thing that the Bucks should do is panic.
General manager John Hammond and coach Scott Skiles had developed some positive momentum during the first 50 games. Undoubtedly, guys as smart as they are were considering a three- and possibly a five-year blueprint for turning the franchise around. To deviate from that plan now would be short-sighted.
On the shelf: We also learned this week why Ben Sheets hasn't signed with a big-league club.
The former Brewers right-hander was poised to accept a two-year deal with Texas when he flunked his physical examination. MLB.com reported that Sheets will undergo surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon near his right elbow.
Sheets will likely miss the first half of the season, which could cost him millions, but the news represented a double dose of bad news for the Brewers. Not only will they have to pick up the tab for Sheets' surgery and rehab, but they won't get draft-pick compensation from his new club.
While many Brewers fans have declared Sheets to be "soft" and are feeling vindicated by his injury, the guy remains an elite pitcher when healthy. Most of his physical problems stem from the violent motion necessitated by his curve ball and weakness in his lower back, which set off a chain reaction of problems from a torn latissimus dorsi to shoulder problems and now the flexor tendon problem.
While it seems likely that Sheets will be able to help a major-league team in the second half of the season, there seems to be almost no chance that Milwaukee will be that team.
Castaways: MLB's players union may open a camp for "orphans" this spring. Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Garret Anderson, Orlando Hudson and Orlando Cabrera are looking for work, along with Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Juan Cruz and Eric Gagne.
Ask yourself this -- If you fielded a team of castaways, would it win more games than the Royals?
Sign of the times? We're eight days away from the Daytona 500, yet there doesn't seem to be a lot of build-up. You wonder if the Masters will experience a similar fate, especially if Tiger Woods can't play.
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