Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gibbons & The Mid-Summer Classic

For those of you who have been keeping score, or still care -- it looks like beleaguered slugger Jay Gibbons has found himself back in professional baseball.

In a country that prides itself on giving people -- or should I say, selected people -- a second chance, Gibbons is getting his; however, lest we forget, for the most part during the last three or so years, he's been treated (no pun intended) as the red-headed stepchild in a family in which he wore out his welcome.

From ESPN: The former Baltimore Orioles outfielder, who was named in the Mitchell report on performance-enhancing drugs and for months sought a chance to redeem himself, has signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Unable to find a job six weeks after his release, Gibbons, in a letter to all 30 Major League Baseball teams, acknowledged he had made a mistake. He offered to donate his minor league salary to charity if a major league team gave him a minor league deal.

The 31-year-old Gibbons was released by the Orioles in March after he batted .189 with no home runs and four RBIs in 16 games in spring training. He played in only 84 games last season because of surgery on his left shoulder.

Now, Gibbons, 31, is expected to spend the next 10 to 14 days at Double-A Huntsville before being promoted to Triple-A Nashville, if all goes according to plan. He had been playing with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.

"He's a little rusty, self-admittedly rusty," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said according to "The idea is to get him some minor league at-bats and then evaluate as we go along."

Ash was the Blue Jays' GM when that team drafted Gibbons in the 14th round in 1998. The Orioles acquired him in the 2000 Rule 5 draft.

"They sat down and basically interviewed him," Brewers GM Doug Melvin said, according to "Gord is familiar with him from Toronto, and [Gibbons] wants to get back and playing. I don't know exactly what his [off-the-field] issues were, but they were not enough to not give a guy a second chance. He's always been a good guy with a good work ethic."

I will admit -- I think Gibbons has gotten a raw deal. If old guys like Paul Lo Duca, the self-absorbed like Jose Guillen, or middle-of-the-road reliever Guillermo Mota and the countless others in the Mitchell Report could find jobs or maintain them, why couldn't Jay?

Some people railed against him for his drug use, physique and being named in the Mitchell Report, but let's be honest with ourselves.

He might have been a great community guy, good with the fans, and besides his PED episode never ended up in the police blotter or yet never had a bad word really uttered about him in the public domain.

The reason why no one wanted Gibbons is that he didn't produce. Never a great fielder, or a five tool guy, he had one great intangible -- he could smash a baseball, and that watered many people's mouths.

Do you think he would still be an Oriole if he was batting .300 annually and hit 25 homers? Of course.

Lest we forget, a good guy like Andy Pettitte used HGH and found his name dragged into the whole Roger Clemens affair -- however, he's been accused of the same thing that Jay and may have done, but he's employed.

His teammates went to bat for him, and so did the Yankee brass; alas, let's not forget -- he produces and wins! Do you think the Yankees would part with his 11 wins and 3.86 ERA in a pennant race to prove a moral stance.

Please. Sports is a business, and winning is everything.

Now, let's get back to Gibbons.

Honestly, his tenure with the Orioles came to an end simply because it was a referendum on his lack of performance, inability to field his position and injury concerns -- not because of the Mitchell Report.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.

The so-called cheaters in any game will always get ahead if they produce.

Um, then again, the same cannot be said for Barry Lamar Bonds who literally built the San Francisco Giants of the mid-90's into this decade, but is now on the outside looking in when it comes to the grand game.


This year's rendition of the midsummer classic was nothing short of amazing, and was worth every penny I spent on this trip. Though it was a drag watching a game go fifteen innings and having adrenaline keep you up, it was a lot of fun to partake in especially with the conversations I had with various fans around me.

In addition, getting to your hotel at 4 am after enduring a crowded sweaty trip is nothing to be happy about; then again, it's the All-Star Game.

I will say that the event this year at Yankee Stadium was perhaps underwhelming in comparison to what I saw with the last few I saw in person, it exuded a lot of class. The tribute the fans give to Bobby Murcer before the game was extremely touching; as well, seeing the Hall of Famers on the field side by side joined by the starters at each position added a touch of nostalgia and respect.

However, I have one caveat about the spectacle -- start the damn game earlier! Sorry, the ceremonies are nice -- does it have to be so overdone that it's dark by the time when the actual competition (I mean a so-called exhibition game, silly me) begins?

I say start the game at 7pm, so a generation of kids, and people on the East Coast can watch the game in it's entirity so they won't have be all dreary eyed by the time they walk into the work the next morning.

Making money is nice, but why alienate a portion of your audience, Bud Selig?

Oh finally, I think the game should be an exhibition -- not a determining factor of which league gets home field advantage during the World Series. I liked that the game this year was actually competitive -- but c'mon --did we really want to see J.D. Drew or David Wright pitching (oh, imagine the horror if one of them got injured), just because both teams ran out of pitchers?

I say carry extra pitchers -- or better yet, have the game on Wednesday (after the Home Run Derby on Monday), so everyone has a chance to pitch.

Baseball has done a fine job in building it's product in the past twenty years, but the All-Star Game can be very much improved.

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