Jewish World Review June 3, 2002/ 22 Sivan 5762


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Consumer Reports

Ditch Darren Oliver | The only consolation of Sunday night's 14-5 drubbing of the Red Sox by the Yankees was that the game was televised on ESPN-whose Jon Miller continues as baseball's best commentator-instead of George Steinbrenner's vanity cable station YES. One of my brothers, a diehard Yanks fan since 1947, lives in Nantucket and complained to me on Saturday morning about the bush-league bias of the Red Sox play-by-play announcers. He's right, although most teams are plagued by the same problem. But Michael Kay, one of Steinbrenner's YES-men, is the worst I've ever seen, with his "See ya!" exclamation each time a Bomber hits a homer and repetitious monologues about Derek Jeter's flawless defense.

Jeter is amazing in the field, and there's no batter I fear more in a clutch situation, but do viewers really need to see replays of his shovel flip to retire a lazy Jeremy Giambi at home plate last year in the playoffs?

As for the Bosox-Yanks series at Fenway Park, I figured it'd be a split. The positive news for Sox fans is the deterioration of New York's starting pitching; unfortunately, it's not as if Boston has a deep rotation or bullpen. Manager Grady Little ought to assign Darren Oliver to mop-up situations and replace him with Casey Fossum, a future star; when Rey Sanchez recovers from his hamstring injury, the slick infielder should bat behind Johnny Damon instead of Jose Offerman; and finally, the new Sox owners should be on the horn right now, locating both arms and bats from out-of-contention teams that'll soon be auctioning off their big-salary players.

One more thing: if Little doesn't start Pedro Martinez next Sunday at Yankee Stadium, his well-earned honeymoon with Sox fans will be kaput.


The Major League Baseball establishment is not at all pleased that just-retired Jose Canseco plans to write a tell-all book about steroid abuse in the game. Granted, Canseco has a chip on his shoulder about perceived mistreatment by owners and managers in the latter years of his once-Hall of Fame-certain career, but I hope he finds a publisher. It's ironic that Jim Bouton, quoted by the weasely Neal Travis in the May 24 New York Post, sniffs at Canseco's project. Bouton's Ball Four was a milestone in baseball history, as it pierced the charade that stars like Mickey Mantle were choirboys on and off the field. Bouton said Canseco is "just blowing smoke... He didn't keep a diary, like I did, to substantiate his allegations."

How in the world does Bouton know if the former Oakland A's superstar kept a diary? Sounds like jealousy to me.

Chris Caldwell, the prolific journalist who's also a friend of mine and fellow Bosox devotee, contributed a valuable piece on the subject to last Friday's Wall Street Journal.

He writes: "The Havana-born athlete, who hit 462 career home runs, has himself been suspected of steroid use. We'll find out when he publishes the book. For now we ought to congratulate him.

"Because clearly something has changed in baseball... Such contemporary mortals as Brady Anderson, Greg Vaughn and Luis Gonzales have hit 50 home runs in a season-a feat neither Henry Aaron nor Ted Williams ever accomplished...

"So if baseball owners are forced to choose between filling their luxury boxes with home-run contests and providing connoisseurs with more hit-and-runs, sacrifices and 3-6-1 double plays, then we can expect steroids to be with us for a long, long time.

"No one else has any incentive to stop steroid use, either. The major leagues' mighty players union protects the multimillionaires already in the big leagues, not the 13-year-olds dreaming of getting there, who buy human growth hormone (taken from the pituitary glands of cadavers and distilled to a high potency) from inner-city drug dealers...

"Propagandize all you want, but kids will notice. They'll figure out that if you want to grow up to play for the White Sox or Bulls, steroids will help by making you stronger. Once one star kid-athlete is found to be taking steroids (or is suspected of it), every teenager in the country will face a choice between drug abuse and renunciation of his profoundest aspiration. It's a big problem that the steroid use of pro athletes traps them in the potentially deadly equivalent of an arms race. It's a bigger one that they're not the only people so trapped."

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith