Saturday, August 10, 2013

Jack Clark And Kevin Slaten Fired From Radio Show Over Pujols-Verlander PED Allegations; Clark Stands By Allegations

WGNU 920 AM co-hosts Jack Clark and Kevin Slaten have paid an initial economic price for speculating about the use of steroids by Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander on the air. They have been essentially fired from their radio show after only seven episodes.

Technically, it's not a "firing", since WGNU sells its weekday airtime to insideSTL Enterprises, which has a variety of employment deals with the hosts. So Clark and Slaten were not working directly for the parent company, which means the parent company could not "fire" them. But early on Saturday August 10th, insideSTL Enterprises announced it has terminated its relationship with Jack Clark and Kevin Slaten. To cover their ass and hopefully persuade Albert Pujols to detach them from the coming lawsuit, insideSTL Enterprises said that as independent contractors, they wanted to make it clear that the opinions expressed in WGNU do not necessarily reflect the opinions of insideSTL. In addition, as independent contractors, insideSTL did not have editorial control over the show’s content. Pujols had already vowed to sue both hosts and their employer. But Pujols could still choose to name WGNU as a defendant in the suit.

At least twice in the first week of a program that made its debut August 1st, 2013, Clark said that former Pujols trainer Chris Mihlfeld told him in 2000 that he “shot him up" with steroids. Both were working in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization at the time. Clark also has made other steroids allegations about Pujols, attributing them to comments Mihlfeld had made to him more than a decade ago. Clark also questioned whether or not Justin Verlander was also taking steroids because the velocity on his pitches had allegedly decreased during the past two years. Both Pujols and Verlander have strongly denied the allegations.

In response, Jack Clark merely stated that he plans to make a decision on Monday August 12th, although on Twitter he wrote "I completely stand by the story i told 8 days ago about conversations 13 years ago w/ Mihlfeld. He will never admit it", and also wrote "i never accused verlander or [shawn] green of PED use. If u didn't listen to show u don't know". But Kevin Slaten was far more forthcoming and critical of insideSTL, wondering why the company was turning him loose when it was Clark who definitely stated that Pujols was using steroids. Slaten and Clark both said they were told to not only muzzle their comments but also lie to listeners of their show on Friday August 9th after a meeting shortly before the program began when they were ordered not discuss Clark’s comments. The company wanted them to say the phones were malfunctioning. Both Clark and Slaten objected, saying they couldn't run from this. Slaten characterized insideSTL president Tim McKernan as "cowardly and slimy", and said he will sue insideSTL.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Jack Clark Accuses Albert Pujols And Justin Verlander Of "Juicing" (Using PEDs); Verlander And Pujols Fire Back, Hinting At Legal Action

Update August 10th: Jack Clark and Kevin Slaten fired from their radio show over the steroid allegations, and Kevin Slaten bares his soul in return. Updated post HERE.

Former major league slugger Jack Clark, who played part of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, just recently signed on as a radio co-host on WGNU (920 AM), and he's wasting no time trying to goose his ratings. Clark said he "knows for a fact" that Los Angeles Angels' slugger Albert Pujols, who once played for the Cardinals, has used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), and also accused Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander of using PEDs as well. Fueling the controversy is the fact that after a stellar career, Pujols' body seems to be breaking down in a similar fashion to admitted PED user Mark McGwire in 2000 and 2001, and is currently on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, while Verlander has a comparatively mediocre 12-8, 3.74 record just two years after going 24-5, 2.40.

Clark first voiced the allegations during his show on Friday August 2nd. When co-host Kevin Slaten said he has long believed that Pujols has been a juicer, Clark jumped in and said, “I know for a fact he was. The trainer that worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that’s what he did.” Clark also pointed his fickle finger of suspicion at Verlander, saying that although Verlander once threw 97, 98, 100 miles an hour from the first inning to the ninth inning, he can now bareley reach 92, 93 miles per hour since signing that big contract. Clark's premise is that some players deliberately juice up in order to get bigger contracts, then slack off so they don't get nailed on drug tests.

However, the trainer in question, Chris Mihlfeld, completely rebuts the story. Mihlfield said he hasn't even talked to Jack Clark in close to 10 years, and denounced Clak's statements as false. He added that he has known Albert Pujols since he was 18 years old and asserted that Pujols would never use illegal drugs in any way, saying "I would bet my life on it and probably drop dead on the spot if I found out he has". As for Pujols himself, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Pujols has vowed to take legal action against Clark and his present employer, identified as InsideSTL Enterprises, but offered no further specifics. ESPN recorded a complete statement by Pujols confirming his intention to sue and noting that he has been tested hundreds of times throughout his career and never once has he tested positive.

Justin Verlander also wasted little time in responding. Prior to the Tigers' August 9th game against the New York Yankees, Verlander said "It's moronic, look at the source. It's moronic to talk about something you know nothing about and clearly ... he's not watching." Verlander also rebutted Clark's claim that Verlander has lost speed off his pitches, saying that he hit 97 mph and 100 mph in his most recent start. Verlander also might be considering legal action against Clark, although he declined to comment on whether he and his attorney have discussed taking those steps.

Jack Clark has been one of the most fervent crusaders against PEDs in major league baseball and has been vociferous in his criticism of players who juiced. After Mark McGwire admitted to steroid use in 2010, Clark also came out firing, saying "All those guys are cheaters. A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez]. Fake, phony. Rafael Palmeiro. Fake, a phony. [Roger] Clemens, [Barry] Bonds, [Sammy] Sosa. Fakes, phonies. They don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. They should all be in the Hall of Shame. They can afford to build it. They've all got so much money. And they could all go there and talk about the next way to rub something on your skin. The whole thing is creepy. "They're all creeps. All these guys have been liars."

Monday, April 29, 2013

So Washington Wizards Center Jason Collins Becomes The First Active Pro Athlete To Come Out As Openly Gay; Why Should This Really Matter?

For weeks, it has been rumoured that a major active professional sports star would come out of the closet and publicly admit to being gay. On April 29th, 2013, ESPN reported that Jason Collins, who played center for the NBA's Washington Wizards in 2012-13 and is currently a free agent, is that player. Collins has played 12 seasons in the NBA, averaging 3.6 points per game.

The original source of the report is a story in Sports Illustrated entitled "Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now". Collins says he first sensed he was different around the age of 12, which is about the time most people enter puberty. He attempted to resist it; when he was younger I dated women, and even got engaged, thinking he could "marry" his way out of it. In his words, "I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue". He says he first started thinking about coming out during the 2011 NBA lockout, but what pushed him over the edge was when Joe Kennedy, his old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told him he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. Although Collins is seldom jealous of others, he felt envious. While he was proud of Kennedy for participating, Collins was also angry that as a closeted gay man he felt he couldn't even cheer his straight friend on as a spectator. He wanted to do what he now considered the right thing and not hide anymore. He wanted to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. And so on April 29th, he came out.

The New York Times notes that the NBA has long included programs for training and counseling on gay issues for its teams and players, and that the NBA, NHL and MLB are following suit.

Reaction: NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a statement, saying "As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue." Tributes were also forthcoming from Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and from Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. Politicos got involved; both the White House and former President Bill Clinton also issued supportive statements, as well as fellow NBA player Kobe Bryant. Human Rights Campaign said that Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports, but vaingloriously compared it to Jackie Robinson breaking the race barrier in baseball. I'm not sure all blacks are pleased at their civil rights struggle being compared to gays. A series of Tweets from others is documented HERE.

On the other side of the fence, a couple of NFL players took issue with it. NFL receiver Mike Wallace initially Tweeted "I'm not bashing anybody don't have anything against anyone I just don't understand it, All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH", but then backpedaled and Tweeted "Never said anything was right or wrong I just said I don't understand!! Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended". Detroit Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith merely Tweeted "Ppl are so sensitive-I have the RIGHT to not give that behavior any applause;I love everyone-don't hate anyone; not praising it! Excuse me!" and "it's a shame I have to apologize for my TRUE feelings." There are also some critical discussion threads on the F2 Anonboard; one criticizing White House support, and another decrying the gay reaction against Mike Wallace's Tweets. One F2 poster wrote "There should be a gay statue of him on the mall. Maybe it could be jason trying to swallow the washington monument".

The Toronto Globe & Mail says this matters because until everyone feels ho-hum about these announcements, it still does. They note that there are still teens who’ve suffered bullying from being perceived as “different”. However, teens have been bullied for a wide variety of reasons over the years, not just sexuality. While I believe Jason Collins is being sincere and not trying to be an attention whore, I just don't see why this matters. I personally disapprove of homosexuality; I consider it an emotional disability. But I don't feel any different towards Jason Collins now that he's out. He's still a qualified professional basketball player, and yes, he's still a man. Overplaying the "gay card" could incur the risk of backlash against gays.

ESPN is running a series of unscientific polls to gauge general public reaction. In response to the question "How surprised are you that the NBA is the first major league with an openly gay athlete?", 45 percent say they're not surprised, while 39 percent say they're somewhat surprised, and only 16 percent say they're very surprised. What would really be surprising is if an NFL player would have been the first to come out, since the NFL has an even more macho image. And in response to the question "What does 34-year-old NBA free agent Jason Collins coming out as gay do to his chances of playing next season?", 58 percent say it would have no major effect, while 28 percent say it will hurt him and only 14 percent say it will help him.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Week Four Of The 2013 Season Not A Good One For The Los Angeles Angels As They Go 2-5 And Drop To 9-15 For The Season

The inspiring three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers by the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim on April 19-21 did not prove to be a precursor to success during Week Four of the 2013 MLB season. The Angels dropped two of three to the Texas Rangers in Anaheim, although two of the games were tightly contested, and then lost three of four to the Mariners in Seattle, although two of the losses were by one run. Against Texas, the Angels had hitting but the pitching was weak; against Seattle, the pitching came around but the bats died, particularly in the last two games.

The Rangers came to Anaheim on April 22-24. In the April 22nd opener, the Angels jumped out to a 6-3 lead after six innings, fueled by Josh Hamilton's 4-for-4 performance. However, the Rangers started pecking away at rookie relievers Mike Roth and Dane de la Rosa in the top of the seventh, knotting it up at 6-6 when Scott Downs bobbled Jeff Baker's high chopper in front of the plate, permitting Adrian Beltre to score the tying run. Then in the top of the ninth, Ernesto Frieri served up a 386-foot blast to A.J. Pierzynski with two out, giving the Rangers the lead and eventually the game, 7-6.

On April 23rd, the Angels once again took the early lead, 4-0 after five innings, and once again the Rangers came back to tie it up. In the top of the sixth, with one out and two on, Nelson Cruz blasted one 439 feet off Jason Vargas to make it 4-3. Then in the top of the eighth, with Scott Downs on the hill for the Angels, two on and nobody out, David Murphy grounded into a double play, but Adrian Beltre scored on the fielder's choice. Game now tied 4-4. An error by Andrew Romine prolonged the inning; without the error, the double play would have ended the inning. But this game would end up differently, with goose eggs being exchanged until the bottom of the 11th. With one out, Howie Kendrick smacked a Joe Ortiz pitch 402 feet into center field to end the game, 5-4 Angels.

The April 24th game turned out to be an unmitigated disaster -- for the Angels. Rookie Mike Roth was given his first start of the year, and for three innings, he matched zeroes with Rangers' ace Yu Darvish. Then came the top of the fourth. The first five Texas batters reached base against Roth. The onslaught continued after David Carpenter relieved Roth; with two out and the Rangers already leading 3-0, Lance Berkman stroked a two-run single to make it 5-0. Still not hopeless yet, though. After the Rangers scored again to make it 6-0, Nelson Cruz slammed a three-run homer to make it 9-0. Now it became hopeless. In the sixth, the Rangers added two more runs to make it 11-0. Finally in the eight, with Yu Darvish long gone, the Angels woke up at scored three runs, but it was merely an afterthought. Final score: Rangers 11, Angels 3. The one positive note in the game was three scoreless and hitless innings by Jerome Williams, long after the game had been effectively decided. The Angels are now 2-4 against Texas this year.

On to Seattle for a four-game series against the Mariners. The April 25th opener, played before only 13,000 paying fans, was all Seattle. The Mariners scored two in the third, two in the seventh, and two more in the eighth. The big blow was Carlos Peguero's 451-foot solo moon shot in the third, the third-longest home run in Safeco Field history. However, Kyle Seager, 3-for-4 with three RBIs, and Jason Bay, 2-for-4 with two RBIs, sealed the Angels' fate as their hitters were virtually helpless against three Mariners pitchers. Brandon Maurer pitched the first 6.1 innings and got the win, while Garrett Richards was fairly strong for the Angels early, eventually allowing five runs in 7.1 innings. No Angel got more than one hit.

On April 26th, the Angels decided to jump off the blocks early, building a 5-0 lead after three innings on the strength of two-run homers by Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo. Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson was smoking on the hill for the Angels, striking out nine batters in only 5.1 innings. But Wilson had thrown 110 pitches, and it showed in the bottom of the sixth when the Mariners struck for two more runs, adding to the run they scored in the bottom of the fourth. But a parade of four more Angels pitchers were able to slam the door, and after the Angels added another run in the top of the seventh, they won 6-3.

The game of April 27th featured a pitching duel between the Mariners' "King Felix" Hernandez and the Angels' Joe Blanton. Blanton pitched his best game of the season, but it ultimately didn't prove good enough. The Angels struck first with two runs in the top of the third, one coming on Chris Ianetta's solo shot, his third of the year. But the Mariners tied it in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run homer by Jesus Montero, then after Mike Roth relieved Blanton in the seventh, Roth allowed an RBI single to former Angel Kendrys Morales. The Mariners held, winning 3-2.

The final game on April 28th featured a pitching duel between former Mariner Jason Vargas and current Mariner Hisashi Iwakuma, and Vargas was anxious to get payback on his ex-mates. The teams exchanged goose eggs until the top of the sixth inning, when the Angels drew first blood after Andrew Romine scored on an error. But victory was not in the cards for Vargas on this day, although he had enough gas to throw a complete game. In the bottom of the seventh, Jason Bay launched a bases-empty home run for the Mariners to tie it up. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Michael Morse launched one of his own to put the Mariners in front, 2-1. The lead stood up and the Angels lost three of four in this series, sinking to fourth place and a 9-15 record. The Angels are now 1-3 against Seattle this year. Illustrating the Angels offensive futility in this final game was the fact that Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo combined to go 0-for-16 with six strikeouts.

What's coming up? A three-game trip to Oakland on April 29th, 30th, and May 1st. The A's eviscerated the Angels, outscoring them 28-11 during a three-game visit to Anaheim on April 9-11. However, the A's have fallen on hard times recently, dropping eight of nine games to fall from a season high of 12-4 to 13-12 before rallying to beat the Orioles in Oakland on April 28th. The A's are now 14-12, and could be vulnerable if the Angels can mesh their hitting and their pitching together. The Angels really need to win two out of three against Oakland to start some momentum. The upcoming week then closes out with a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles in Anaheim; the Birds are in the thick of the A.L. East chase with a 15-10 record. The Angels need to win three out of four against Baltimore.

Once again, the vultures are circling around Mike Scioscia. The latest ESPN Power Rankings posted on April 29th have the Angels at number 19, no change from the previous week. They write "The Angels lead the AL in batting average, but are near the top of the league in runners left on base. They'll get a boost this week with Erick Aybar expected to return to the lineup, but will it be enough to keep them in contention?"

Facts and Stats:

-- Current Standings
-- Latest Individual Hitting Stats
-- Latest Individual Pitching Stats

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Los Angeles Angels Sweep Detroit Tigers In Anaheim On April 19-21, But A Hot Texas Rangers Squad Is Next

Last Sunday, I thought maybe the 2013 Los Angeles Angels had finally turned the corner on their disappointing start after they beat the Houston Astros two out of three in Anaheim and, most importantly, getting good pitching in the last two games of that series. But that was temporarily derailed after two straight losses to the Twins in Minnesota. On April 15th, the Twins clubbed the Angels 8-2, lighting up Joe Blanton for four runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings, and then sealing the Angels' fate with three more runs against reliever Mark Lowe. On April 16th, the Angels came a bit closer, battling back to tie the game 4-4 after 3.1 innings, but starter Jason Vargas couldn't hold them, and reliever Jerome Williams continued his on-again, off-again pattern by being tagged for three runs in 3.1 innings. The Angels battled back from an 8-4 deficit with two in the top of the ninth, but fell short, 8-6. The April 17th game was postponed.

Here we go again; Angels now 4-10.

But then a ray of hope appeared back in Anaheim. In the first game of a three-game series against the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers on April 19th, the Angels broke out to a 3-0 lead behind a solid performance by Tommy Hanson. But Angel fans, knowing the pitching problems, couldn't relax -- until the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Angels broke loose for five runs to take an 8-0 lead. The big blow was a bases-loaded triple by Peter Bourjos, who went three-for-four in the game. The Angels made a controversial move by batting Bourjos first and moving Mike Trout down to the number two spot in the order, and it seems to be working. The Tigers fired back with a token run in the top of the ninth before bowing 8-1.

On April 20th, the Angels decided not to keep their fans in suspense for seven innings. In the bottom of the first, they exploded for nine runs enroute to a 10-0 win over the Tigers. The big blow was a grand slam home run by Mike Trout in his second at bat of the inning, turning a 5-0 start into a 9-0 route and sending Tigers' starter Rick Porcello to the showers. But the other good news for the Angels was Garrett Richards' second good start of the season -- this time, seven innings of shutout ball. He allowed only two hits, walked none, and struck out eight, lowering his season ERA to 2.55. If he keeps this up, Mike Scioscia needs to put him in the rotation full time, and bump either Joe Blanton or Jason Vargas, whichever of the two is worse. We could answer that question as early as April 22nd when Blanton opens against the Texas Rangers. On the Tigers' side of the house, Drew Smyly pitched 5.2 innings of shutout relief, striking out seven; with Rick Porcello struggling, Smyly may have just become a candidate to replace him in the rotation.

On April 21st, Angel fans had to wait 13 innings for a decision. After spotting the Tigers a 1-0 lead, the Angels lashed out with three runs in the bottom of the third, sparked by Albert Pujols' two-run double. However, the Tigers knotted it up at 3-3 in the top of the fifth after Prince Fielder launched one into the seats with a man on. From there, the two teams exchanged goose eggs until the bottom of the thirteenth, although Angels' reliever Ernesto Frieri dodged a serious bullet in the top of the ninth. Frieri faced a bases-loaded situation with two out after giving up a hit and walking two, but he induced Victor Martinez to fly out. Then in the bottom of the 13th, with nobody out, Mark Trumbo launched Phil Coke's 3-1 pitch into the left field seats to seal the Tigers' doom, 4-3. As a result, the Tigers fall to 9-9, while the Angels improve to 7-10. Getting the win was the on-again, off-again Jerome Williams, who was "on" again with three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits. Now if Williams could just learn to be a bit more consistent...

Prognosis: This week, the turnaround may be for real. While the games were at Anaheim, the opponent was not the Houston Astros, a team in transition. The opponent was the Detroit Tigers, a legitimate contender. Furthermore, the Angels outscored the Tigers 22-4 in the series, although 14 of the runs came in two big innings. The April 21st game may be a bit more representative of how the Angels can play against another contender.

But...the Angels have the Texas Rangers on their menu next. Although they'll be playing in Anaheim, the Rangers just came off a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners in Texas, outscoring the Mariners 23-3. The Mariners are also in transition, but are not that bad. The Rangers are now 12-6, while the Mariners dwindle to 7-13. The Angels are outhitting the Rangers .287 to .245 so far this season, but the Rangers are outpitching them by a wider margin, with an ERA of 2.72 vs. 4.81 for the Angels. Scheduled starters for the Angels are Joe Blanton (0-3), Jason Vargas (0-2), and Tommy Hanson (2-1). Even at home, it will be tough for the Angels to win two out of three, which is what they need to keep their momentum going. A sweep of the Rangers would be real icing on the cake, but that's highly improbable. And now we've learned that Albert Pujols is not at 100 percent -- he's struggling with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation in his left foot. Pujols said he felt discomfort while running to second base on his double. Josh Hamilton is down to .176, going through what Pujols did last April. On the other hand, relief pitcher Michael Kohn has made a successful return from injury, pitching a scoreless inning in the 10-0 win over Detroit, so that will further stabilize the bullpen.

ESPN Power Rankings posted on April 22nd have the Angels at number 19, up four places from the previous week. They write "A walk-off home run from Mark Trumbo on Sunday capped a three-game sweep of the defending AL champion Tigers. It was the Halos' first sweep of the year, indicating they may have found the groove they've been searching for all season. The Angels need to keep the ball rolling as the Rangers roll into town on Monday".

Facts and Stats:

-- Current Standings
-- Latest Individual Hitting Stats
-- Latest Individual Pitching Stats