For Christians around the world, Easter is a time of rebirth and remembrance. In baseball, Opening Day evokes memories of the previous season — good and bad — that mingle with hopes for the new one. Last October, I experienced the rare joy of not being able to view the World Series in its entirety. As a New York Mets fan faced with the prospect of watching a Fall Classic featuring the despised crosstown rival Yankees and the reviled Philadelphia Phillies, I was thrilled not to encounter a single Derek Jeter T-shirt or reddish-pink “P” cap while overseas on business. Unfortunately, the trip ended and I returned to the States just in time to see the Yankees crowned as champions for only the 27th time since Christopher Columbus discovered America.
By the time the confetti strewn about Lower Manhattan had been picked up and carted away, the offseason drama
was already in full swing. Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers were ringside spectators to the ugliest baseball divorce in recent memory
, as owner Frank McCourt and his wife (and deposed Dodgers CEO) Jamie fought tooth and nail to ruin one another’s reputation and pave the way for what many believe to be an eventual sale of the club. One Dodgers season-ticket holder commented, “My hope is they both die and go to hell for destroying one of the four top baseball teams in the majors.”
Texas Rangers skipper Ron Washington revealed that he failed a drug test last summer. (That may explain some of his pitching decisions.) He admitted to snorting cocaine only once — qualifying as perhaps the first-ever gainfully employed man in America to start experimenting with hard-core narcotics after acquiring AARP membership — but later acknowledged consuming “greenies” (amphetamines) and marijuana as a player in the 1980s. Outgoing Rangers owner Tom Hicks rallied to Washington’s defense (“we believe in second chances”), but former relief pitcher Bob Tufts remembered a very different response from Hicks upon learning of Alex Rodriguez’s use of performance-enhancing drugs: “I feel personally betrayed. . . . I feel deceived by Alex.” (For a reminder of “how Tom Hicks became the most hated owner in baseball,” read Maury Brown’s column here.)
To no one’s surprise (other than his former manager, Tony LaRussa), Mark McGwire admitted to taking steroids in 1998 — the season in which he shattered Roger Maris’s single-season home-run record — shortly after he was named hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Washington Post had described his remarks before a congressional committee as those of “a shrunken, lonely, evasive figure,” but as NBC Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra pointed out, “Anyone who spent any time looking back at the tapes of McGwire’s 2005 testimony, however, quickly realizes that there’s no basis for even the suggestion of perjury.” (At those hearings, McGwire refused to answer any questions about his past.)
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, one of the most popular players in the game, described Latin ballplayers of African descent as being not black but “impostors.” Describing ex-teammate Vladimir Guerrero, Hunter commented, “Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.” The Angels’ center fielder subsequently apologized for his “poor choice of words.”