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Double-digit days of August are upon us now and so summer is heading into its last weeks. The pretenders are being eliminated from the pennant races and only a handful of contenders remain. The Yankees are in command in the AL East after taking care of the Red Sox this weekend and the Tigers and the Angels are beginning to have to like their chances in their divisions. The wild card race will be a beauty among the Red Sox, Rays, Rangers and maybe the White Sox though the Pale Hose have not really distanced themselves from .500 very much. And wouldn’t you know it? Since his perfect game and his record-setting 45 batters retired in a row Mark Buehrle has struggled mightily. I should bite my tongue for even mentioning Buehrle’s 45 batter streak because that is one of those meaningless stats that clutter up our airwaves, cyberspatial outlets and worse, our minds these days.

Caught the 30-minute press conference Saturday afternoon with David Ortiz and the soon-to-be-confirmed new head man of the Players Association Michael Weiner. It was my first glimpse of Weiner and it is nice to see a new face emerging on the players side. While clearly an advocate for all members of his union, Weiner is known as less humorless and combative than the prior Big Three at the union – founder Marvin Miller whose huge portrait dwarfs the entrance to the Players Association office, outgoing head Donald Fehr and current chief operating officer Gene Orza. Whether the difference of tone will make a change in policy only time will tell. Since the 1994-95 strike that did something that neither World War I or World War II could do – wipe out the World Series – it is clear that both sides have a stake in keeping the games being played. And I think it will remain that way for the immediate future.

My thoughts on hearing David Ortiz act puzzled on how he could have tested positive in 2003 were less sanguine. It remains hard to believe that any world-class athlete didn’t know what he was putting into his body. And for counsel Weiner to say that andro was still legal for ballplayers as late as 2002 seems to beg the question of the unfair advantage that performance-enhancing drug abusers were taking. Buster Olney on “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN late in July made one of the better points in the seemingly endless superficial and repetitive coverage of this issue. He said that he was extremely selfish of those players who continued to take steroids when they knew it would trigger more substantial industry-wide testing the following year. Despite the trivial and accusatory nature of so much of the coverage, I still stand with Woodrow Wilson on a democracy’s need for “pitiless publicity.” Don’t expect the owners to admit their culpability in looking the other way and I do believe in the amnesty called for in the Mitchell Report. IF IF IF there is admission of the industry-wide dilemma and a clear statement of the public health consequences of indiscriminate use of performance-enhancing substances.

More thoughts next week on the pennant races and the steroid scandal that won’t die and may or may not continue to sell papers and boost TV ratings.

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