Throwing like a girl

I came across this fun article by James Fallows about throwing like a girl, from the archives of the Atlantic, at Baseball Primer today.

He opens the article by contrasting Hillary Clinton’s and Bill Clinton’s Opening Day pitches in 1994. Hillary’s was thrown at Wrigley Field at this game, which Jim and I remember not for Hillary’s toss, but for Tuffy Rhodes’s three homers.

Fallows addresses all the elements of a successful throw, one of which is the hip/torso turn. I have no problem with that; throwing is as natural to me anything. But–in what I think is a sign of how much more time I spent throwing than hitting as a kid–I never picked up the proper hip turn for hitting. I still hit with my arms rather than my whole body unless I really, really focus. Which means I’m not a very good hitter.

Bonds and Steroids

Given the illegal leaks from the trial last month of that shady character Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were hanging out with, it’s become more difficult to believe that Bonds has not used steroids. I remain in the innocent until proven guilty camp (a camp that, along with great s’mores, boasts the absence of both our former and our soon-to-be Attorneys General), but assuming the testimony is accurate as reported, then Bonds is either dumb, which anyone who’s watched him play knows he’s not, or he used some steroids that his shady trainer gave him.

So say Bonds used steroids. How does that make me feel about his accomplishments, since I’ve spent the last few years in the “Bonds is probably the greatest player ever” camp? King Kaufman gave his take on it at Salon: Bonds has fallen, in Kaufman’s estimation, from best player ever to one of the best ever.

I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Then one day, it hit me. I realize this isn’t by any means a perfectly analagous situation, but I feel a lot about Bonds probably using steroids as I do about Bill Clinton getting blown in the Oval Office: I honestly don’t really much care about the act itself, but I am irritated that either man would be so dumb as to do what he did, knowing the tremendous, irreparable damage it would do to his overall achievements if it came out.

As I said: not exactly analagous. For example, while there’s no rule against getting Oval Office action, there is a rule against using steroids while playing Major League Baseball. And while the damage to Bonds’s reputation is sad for me as a baseball fan (and as a champion of players of this era as, overall, the best ever), the damage to the country from Clinton’s public gelding at the hands of Ken Starr’s inquisition is much, much worse. Bonds’s possible cheating was unfair to those who played by the rules, while Clinton’s definite cheating was only unfair to his family.

But other than that, I find I can’t get all worked up about it. Sure, I wish Bonds definitely hadn’t used steroids. I wish Clinton hadn’t unzipped. But that doesn’t fundamentally change what I saw. With Bonds, I saw the best batting eye I’ve ever seen coupled with baseball smarts, a fierce competitveness, and a punishing work ethic. Without steroids, I firmly believe he would still have been the best player of his generation–he was well on that path way back when he was still skinnny. With Clinton, I saw the best politician of our lifetimes, who, while frequently frustrating me on particular issues, left our country in much better shape than it was when he took office. The fact that the Democrats were unable subsequently to capitalize on that, though partially his fault, doesn’t change my perception of Clinton’s gifts.

We’re less than six weeks away from pitchers and catchers.

Original comments…

Dan: One small point, though… Steriod use was illegal only from the beginning of 2003 (I think), which makes him “legal” for certain for at least 613 of his homers.

Sure, if he was using it, it was an unfair advantage, from the standpoint that he used it and the pitchers (that we know of) didn’t. But it was within the rules, on a very technical level. And all those pitchers could have used the same drugs to enhance their performance, too, during the same period.

All that said, the greatest player of all time remains Howard Johnson. With Barry Bonds and Melvin Mora “among the best.”


Toby: In my opinion, he’s not even the best Giants player ever (Willie Mays) or the best Pirates player ever (Roberto Clemente). Of course that could be a little biased since he left the Pirates (and made no secret he was going to…

His Life

If the index is correct, Bill Clinton’s new book only mentions baseball once. It’s on page 620, at the start of a discussion of what a tough time the fall of 1994 was. He opens the chapter by noting that Bud Selig had just announced that negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association were at an impasse, and that the 1994 postseason would be canceled.

He talks about sending David Lindsey to try to bring the two sides together, and about how he invited both sides to the White House for a talk, to no avail.

I wonder if there’s a reference librarian out there who’d like to research where the amount of baseball talk in Clinton’s book puts it in the ranks of presidential memoirs. I read Grant’s Memoirs last week, and they don’t mention baseball, despite its reported popularity among soldiers in camp.

Original comments…

Steve: Doesn’t he talk about getting to third base?

Levi: Now that I’m twenty pages into it, I have already found another mention of baseball, albeit a very brief one. On page 19, he talks about being taken to a St. Louis Cardinals game by his stepfather. They stayed overnight and Bill loved the game and the trip. I assume the Cardinals won.

Jim: But the real question, since you obviously turned to the index first: anything along the lines of “Clinton, Bill, depicted in clothes, to disturbing effect”?

Well, I guess the effect would be a lot more disturbing if Clinton, Bill were depicted out of clothes, but you get the idea.

Levi: On page 34, baseball is mentioned again. The Clintons get a new TV and Bill enjoys watching baseball, especially Stan Musial.

Think maybe this was indexed in a hurry?