Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-5-4

5/4/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Top of the 1st
OUT OF THE “SHADOWS”
If you think Barry B*nds did not knowingly use steroids, you have not read, “Game of Shadows”, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. If you have not read “Game of Shadows,” go to Billy-Ball.com, put the title of the book in the Amazon.com portal, purchase it and put it on the top of your list.

“Shadows” reads like a novel, but its roots are deeply entrenched in truth. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams have done an outstanding job of investigative journalism and for those you who believe that they have fictionalized this book in order to make money, you must still believe that Woodward and Bernstein published a fantasy when they wrote “All the President’s Men.”

The Woodward and Bernstein book is the closest analogy I can give you as Fainaru-Wada and Williams, painstakingly take you through the history of Victor Conte and BALCO. This book is much more about Conte than it is about B*nds as we learn about his efforts to market his “supplements” to track and field athletes. Your take away will be about B*nds, and believe me it is not a pretty portrait, but it was in the track arena where Conte truly established his reputation because track athletes and Olympians have been tested for years. If Conte could avoid detection with them, any athlete was safe from detection.

So, Conte publicly marketed his nutritional supplement ZMA and privately dealt “the Clear” which was placed under the tongue by a syringe, “the Cream” which was rubbed into the skin, and a combination of numerous other drugs that created an undetectable cocktail when injected. Yes, B*nds used them all.

The author’s write: “(B*nds personal trainer Greg)Anderson was certain that the players would never be caught using the drugs, because of Conte’s success doping Olympic athletes. The steroid test employed by Major League Baseball was not capable of detecting The Clear and The Cream, and no test existed for Growth.

Still, Anderson learned what he could about baseball’s testing program so he could get a handle on what Bonds would face. He summed up his knowledge in the secret recording, which was made early in the 2003 season.

In spring training, baseball had tested a small number of players. Bonds had not been among that group. Sometime before the All-Star break, a significant number of players would be tested. It was supposed to be random and computerized, and perhaps Bonds would not even get tested, but Anderson assumed he would be. Anderson was confident in the BALCO drugs, but in the meantime, Anderson was being careful not to give Bonds anything that might elevate his testosterone levels and cause him to test positive. But he said he had an additional reason for confidence: an insider who would tip him when the test was to be administered.”

The authors support their contention not just through enormous changes to B*nds’ physique and the inexplicable improvement in B*nds’ performance at a time when most athletes start to fade, but through statements to federal agents, the grand jury testimony of his former girlfriend, and the documents of his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, a former steroid dealer.

The book recounts the relentless efforts of IRS agent Jeff Novitsky who rummaged around through BALCO’s trash and found empty vials of the blood-boosting agent EPO and traces of human growth hormone. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Terry Madden was equally dogged in his efforts against track stars.

B*nds is far from the only athlete who is indicted by this book. Familiar names such as Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Bill Romanowski, and Marion Jones were participants as well. Commissioner Bud Selig, union honcho Donald Fehr, and San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan are found to be abusers in a figurative sense.

In an interview, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams explained the title of the book, “The title was born out of the reality that so much of what goes on in the games we watch is really determined behind the scenes, in the shadows. In many ways fans are in the dark about the lengths to which athletes will go to succeed – and about the people who are behind their successes. BALCO’s Victor Conte worked in the shadows, helping elite athletes evade detection by drug-testers while plying them with drugs that would help them run faster, jump higher and hit the ball farther.

They add, “Fans may well be shocked to learn how pervasive and accepted the use of drugs has become in sports. Victor Conte espoused a cheat-or-lose philosophy, and the BALCO athletes bought into it. They accepted that everyone in sports was using drugs, and they wanted their own drugs to remain competitive. The extent of drug use in baseball, and the calculated nature of the decision Barry Bonds made to begin juicing may also surprise fans: beginning after the 1998 season, this great player used a cocktail of banned substances to transform himself into a home run-hitting machine.

For us, it was shocking to learn how willingly elite athletes served as human guinea pigs, using illegal and unknown drugs without regard to health consequences. Some of the drugs were never intended for human consumption, like Equine Growth Hormone, for horses, and trenbolone, which is used to improve the quality of meat in beef cattle.

They were asked if it ever will be possible to get doping out of baseball or the Olympics for good or will the dopers always be one step ahead?

They responded, “Many experts will tell you this is an uphill battle; that money rules and elite athletes will be able to stay ahead of the testers by paying for undetectable drugs. Perhaps the most telling thing about BALCO is that the Olympic movement long has had the toughest steroid-testing policy in sports–and yet the BALCO track athletes routinely beat the tests. On the other hand, breakthroughs in the science of detection could change the entire dynamic. We think it is urgent for professional sports to take doping seriously and try to control it, despite the problems with testing. If steroid use continues to be tolerated at the professional level, it will become commonplace in high school sports – with terrible health consequences for young athletes.”

Read “Game of Shadows.”

Bottom of the 1st
WIN “GAME OF SHADOWS”
“Game of Shadows”, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams is the report of the most important story in sports in recent memory. I have a pristine, steroids-free copy of the book that I want one of my readers to have.

Here’s all you have to do – write 73 words, no more – no less, about Barry. Send it to bill@billy-ball.com and the best written will be the winner.

Top of the 2nd
THE BLUE JAY WAY
Many people in Red Sox Nation are not pleased that Billy-Ball continues to look at their beloved as a third-place team, but every time I watch the Toronto Blue Jays in action I am more impressed with them. Last night in the misty gloaming of Fenway Park, the Jays defeated the Sox, 7-6 with the winning run scored off of Little Papi.

You can tell me all you want about the pitching problems of the Jays, and how Burnett, won’t have an impact, but despite these problems Toronto is only a half game behind the Yanks and Sox who are in a virtual tie for first. The Jays have good starting pitching, outstanding hitting, a great manager, and they have the great B.J. Ryan as their closer. The Sox have fair starting pitching, very good hitting, a great manager, and they have the great Jonathan Papelbon as their closer. As the teams are currently configured, I believe that those slight differences will be the difference between second and third place

Top of the 3rd
THESE TIGERS ROAR
The Tigers beat the Angels 2-1 for their sixth straight victory. This is only the second time since 1950 that Detroit has won six consecutive games — allowing two-or-fewer runs in each of them. Detroit has the best ERA in the AL at 3.01, and the Tigers have allowed just five runs in their past six games. At 19-9, the Tigers are off to their best start since going 24-4 in 1984 en route to their last World Series title.

The Angels have lost six straight games for the first time since April 8-13, 2002 — they rebounded from a 3-8 start that year to win their only World Series championship. Mike Scioscia managed his 1,000th game (532-468), all with the Angels.

In April 1982 the Tigers had a seven-game streak allowing two runs or fewer in each game. Their starting pitchers then were Dan Petry, Larry Pashnick, Milt Wilcox, Pat Underwood and Jack Morris.

Top of the 4th
ALMOST A HERO
Barry B*nds was standing behind the batting cage in Milwaukee during batting practice last night before the Giants-Brewers game when rookie Giants infielder Kevin Frandsen fouled a ball back into the net, straight into B*nds’ forehead. B*nds yelped, then let out an expletive. Appearing stunned, he laid down for several minutes while the Giants’ medical staff tended to him.

“My heart almost stopped,” said Frandsen, a rookie who got his first callup last Friday. “I thought I was going to come in and my locker would be cleaned out.” As it turns out it was filled with gifts and notes from admirers including Bud Selig who wrote, “Don’t worry, you’ll get him next time, but you won’t get your money until you do.”

Jason Schmidt, Giants, threw a five-hitter and struck out seven for his ninth career shutout and a 2-0 victory over Milwaukee. B*nds went 0-4. The ball that struck B*nds through the netting is being tested to see if it was juiced.

Top of the 5th
A MICKEY MOUSE SITUATION
Plans to put a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis for the Twins received a boost when the state House of Representatives endorsed a proposal to build a $522 stadium. After nearly eight hours of debate, its longest of the legislative session, the House passed the measure on a 76-55 vote. Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently said, “We’re not going to lose the Minnesota Twins on my watch.” Let’s hope Pawlenty doesn’t lose his watch.

The Twins beat the pathetic Royals, 6-1 behind Brad Radke. For the third straight game Twins pitchers did not issue a walk. That ties the longest streak in the majors over the last four seasons. The last team with a longer streak was the 2002 Yankees, who went six consecutive games without allowing a walk — from Sept. 5 through Sept. 10.

The Royals are now 0-12 on the road and a major league-worst 5-20. They have lost a team record 13 straight road games dating to last year. They are only the sixth team since 1900 and the fourth in the last 70 years to lose their first 12 road games.

After 25 games, the 1962 Mets were 7-18.

Top of the 6th
BIG TRADE
Last Wednesday, Padres catcher Mike Piazza, hit for his 400th career home run and swapped it for an autographed bat. He offered observation: “In New York they drive a harder bargain.”

The Padres won their fourth straight last night walloping the Dodgers, 11-5. Piazza went 2-3 to boost his average to .221.

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 5/4/2006
R.I.P. to this former reliever, major league umpire and college basketball referee.
BULK KNELL I

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 5/4/2006
Who was the first Yankee captain after Lou Gehrig?
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 5/4/06
Happy Birthday to the founder of The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association
CHIN TO CHUNK – CHUCK HINTON

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 5/4/06
Who is the all-time home run hitter in Milwaukee?
Hank Aaron is not the all-time leaders in homer in Milwaukee. That distinction belongs to Eddie Mathews, who hit 211 home runs there, 16 more than Aaron. Robin Yount is third at 124.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
The Mets beat the Pirates in 12 innings, after Billy Wagner blew his third save in ten opportunities this season. With the Phillies last season, Wagner did not blow his third save until Sept. 7, in his 35th opportunity and he finished with just three in 41 save chances.

Top of the 9th
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE
Conservative columnist George Will and I disagree about just about eveything. However I find no qualms with this statement he made, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.