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Game of Shadows

When Kirby Pucket died a couple weeks back, I didn't post a memorial on The Crawfish Boxes. And when Hall & Oates came to town last week, I didn't post a review here either. And that's because I try as best I can to keep this space all Astros.  Al at Bleed Cubbie Blue posts theatre and concert reviews, and if it happens in baseball, he (like a lot of other bloggers along the SBNation network) is gonna be writing about it.

I don't think that there is anything wrong with that approach.  It's just not mine.  I know little enough about the Astros; you can fit inside thimbles what I know about the Twins or the Blue Jays.  And who wants to read what some clueless schmuck has to say about the Blue Jays?  Or see what that same clueless schmuck has to say about some obscure band like The Mercury Program*?  So I keep it All Astros, All the Time.

The preceding is by way of introduction, and is to explain why I haven't written anything concerning the biggest story in baseball right now, which of course is the tornado of qualified allegation and righteous denial that is spinning around our pal Barry Bonds.

I have definite opinions on the guy, and what he did or didn't do,  and a little gnome that followed me about the internet on my cyber-travels, looking over my shoulders as I read posts, and collecting my droppings whenever I comment, could guess  what my views are on the subject with a fair degree of accuracy.

I just haven't betrayed those views here.

But a post over at Baseball Musings yesterday got me thinking.  David Pinto had begun by suggesting that if a majority of fans disliked Bonds, those who attended games could transmit that emotion during the upcoming season by turning their backs on Bonds during his at bats.  Literally turning around and facing away from him to communicate his outcast status!

Which is an intriguing idea in and of itself, but what sparked this particularly long-winded screed of mine was the first comment, from a Red Sox fan who wrote that yeah, he had issues with Bonds, but that maybe it kind of looks like Bonds has been singled out by the media.  Giambi and Sheffield have gotten something of a free pass, he thought, and he looked forward to seeing what Yankees apologists had to say about that.  


*I do manage to sneak my likes and dislikes in there anyway, don't I?

Yankee apologists did indeed turn out, but the most intriguing response was the following:  

. . . in all likelihood you've unknowingly rooted for a steroid user. Let's not make this into some silly pissing match about fan allegiance.

And I immediately thought, why not?  Everything else in baseball comes down to team piss wars, why not this. . . . And more pertinently, it is the teams that could have done the policing.  To blame Bud Selig for allowing steroids is only on-target at the most broad level.  I don't think Bud is in the clubhouses on a day to day basis.  You probably caught Turk Wendell saying last week that Sosa's obvious as it seemed steroid use was a secret joke among Cub players.  If Wendell had caught on--and I don't THINK he has a degree in kinesiology--I wonder what the Cubs' trainer thought. . . .

When Bonds announced that he was filing suit against just about anyone involved with Game of Shadows yesterday, the Giants had no comment.  Just as they have had no comment throughout the whole saga.  Just as they have turned their backs on all the evidence that has been dug up by the San Francisco Chronicle or anyone else.  It has been made plenty apparent that whatever Bonds did, the San Francisco Giants do not want to know about it.

And I just think about the Houston Astros organization, and the man at the top, and the way it's run, and I wonder whether it's not so much baseball, but the Giants, who are more to blame after Bonds himself.

I've gone to this well before, and I'll do it again here.  At some point (and I don't think this was team generated), some of the Astros fans have adopted as their slogan "root for the good guys."  It's a good slogan, and it could work for many teams, but I think it has particular aptness for the Astros.  Because it does seem that there is an organization-wide commitment to "doing things the right way" and to simply trying to ensure that as many of the club's players as possible are quality individuals.

When sportswriters have tried to write about this somewhat nebulous guiding force in the organization, they have often pointed towards Biggio and Bagwell, and that's an easy thing to do.  Jeff and Craig are NOT on steroids, and they have always run out ground balls, they have always put their work in, they have always been respectful with fans and with the press.  They have had ultra-successful careers, and if they were not viewed as examples by others in the organization, there would be something wrong.

But there's more to it than that, because it starts with McLane.

George Thorogood always liked to say that though he loves the game of baseball, he's sometimes surprised that they let people like him through the gates.  

And if I had lunch with Drayton, to be very honest, he might wonder why they let me through.  While Drayton is often referred to by his philosophy of honesty, integrity and Christian principles, I find myself being able to come onboard with only the first two.  I have reservations about at least two of the companies with whom he has personal or business ties in Wal-Mart and Halliburton.  

For his part, McLane would probably find me a fabulous wastrel, and view with the utmost of suspicion my tastes in both music and film.

What I'm trying point out I guess is the supreme contradiction in the way I view McLane:  I'd probably not get along with him personally at all, but the organization he runs I find highly admirable.  

I do believe the Astros are a moral and honest operation and I do believe that those qualities flow from the top downward. Although I wonder about the two years when the post-MVP Ken Caminiti was in the organization, I certainly think Head Trainer Dave Labossiere would not turn his head if he knew an Astros player was using steroids.  I'm not saying he would alert the media necessarily, but he would alert others in the organization.  And I think you'd then find that that player wouldn't be an Astro much longer.

Certainly it worked that way with Adam Seuss, if you remember the name.  

Organizations can establish environments that are conducive to cheating, or they can establish environments that aren't.  I firmly believe that the Houston Astros have done the latter, while it certainly appears that the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs have done the former.

Another reason I'm an Astro fan I guess.