Lawyers, guns and money

With Opening Day approaching, the future of Major League Baseball is anything but rosy.

• Former Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose admitted on ESPN Radio last Wednesday, “I bet on my team to win every night,” and all facts published in the Dowd Report about his bets on baseball were true, he said. Yet the report reads that Rose did not bet on his team every night. If he keeps digging his hole deeper, Rose will reach China before he reaches Cooperstown.

• Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers added designated hitter Sammy Sosa to their roster. Clean and cleared of his former young-gun form, Sosa, who remains 12 home runs shy of 600, is scheduled to be a spokesman for Ocean Spray’s newest flavor: “Sammy’s Baseball Has Been Berry, Berry Good to Me Blast.”

• On Feb. 27, Sports Illustrated reported on its Web site that Anaheim Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. was sent human growth hormones from a pharmacy suspected of illegally selling performance-enhancing substances on the Internet. Taking HGH is proven to turn you from flabby and slow into a full-blown gun show. When asked to comment, Matthews finally did – 16 days later. During his silence, Matthews did what all guilty people do. He lawyer’d up and lied his ass off.

But Matthews cannot be prosecuted. Evidence only proves that Matthews purchased the banned drugs. Though there is no lawful way to pin Matthews with using HGH, common sense asserts that he did. My fellow readers, would you buy a slew of illegal drugs only to let them sit on your kitchen shelf? Hell no. You would sift through, smoke and snort until “Sesame Street’s” Snuffleupagus was doing cartwheels on your ceiling.

But alas, Matthews’s most cunning play was, in fact, performed off the field. As if it were a deep fly ball to center field, Matthews has charged up the wall, reached forward and robbed the game of its integrity.

Irony will be served if Matthews is there to catch Barry Bonds’ 756th home run just as it’s about to whiz over the wall. I won’t get into Bonds, because if you don’t know his story by now, what the hell are you doing reading the Sports section? This season, he is 22 home runs away from surpassing Hank Aaron as the all-time home-run leader. And while Aaron began his baseball career with the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns in 1951, Bonds is concluding his career acting like one.

• Yesterday, San Diego Padres pitcher David Wells discovered that he has Type 2 diabetes. When asked for a comment, Wells raised his head from a trough of doughnuts and said, “I have no idea how this happened.”

• The cast of characters continues with New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. According to A-Rod, this upcoming season is a “do-or-die situation” that will determine whether he will stay or go. In his years as a Yankee, A-Rod has remained apathetic about the Big Apple. In throwing down the gauntlet, Rodriguez sounds more like the baseball version of a brat from MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16”: He (A-Rod) is upset because his party hasn’t gone as successfully as daddy (owner George Steinbrenner) had promised. If only daddy could buy his brat a World Series ring – oh what a world it would be.

Welcome to Opening Day 2007 – where players don’t just bring their baseball gloves and bats. They’re bringing their lawyers, their guns and a helluva lot of money. Determining whether a player is a hero or a villain is as ambiguous as a Greek tragedy. Some are liars, some are cheaters. Some are gamblers, and some are over-eaters.

And the lesson of it all? From A-Rod to Warren Zevon: If you’re in baseball, and in trouble – bring lawyers, guns and money. Maybe your daddy will get you out of it.

• AL East: New York • NL East: Philadelphia

• AL Central: Minnesota

• NL Central: Pittsburgh

(hey, why not?)

• AL West: Anaheim

• NL West: Los Angeles

• AL wild card: Chicago

• NL wild card: New York

• AL champion: New York

• NL champion: Los Angeles

• World Series Champion:

New York Yankees

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