Thursday, September 08, 2005

MLB Conspiracy Theory

After reading this article about last night's crucial Yankee comeback, powered by Jason Giambi's clutch bottom-of-the-8th home run, I crafted a conspiracy theory that I'll have to pitch to Buster.

On Aug. 24, Major League Baseball announced that the annual Comeback Player of the Year award would be decided by fans' votes.

At that time, Giambi was no doubt in the middle of a 2005 resurgence, batting .273 with 21 home runs and 52 runs batted in -- vast improvements over his entire 2004 season, during which he hit .208 with 12 HR and 40 RBI.

Now hitting .270 with 27 HR and 70 RBI, Giambi is the likely favorite to win this award, especially when the other candidates were already great (Roy Halladay), play in small markets (Bob Wickman in Cleveland and Richie Sexson in Seattle), should have played well in the first place (Barry Zito) or had a dramatic drop-off in the second half (Jay Gibbons).

And, in case you've been asleep for the last year, sources in December leaked that Giambi allegedly admitted a year earlier to a federal grand jury that he had taken steroids and human growth hormone. On Feb. 10 of this year, Giambi held a press conference to make a quasi-apology, but never specifically mentioned steroids. The next day, sportswriters crushed him.

Since then, Giambi's on- and off-field progress dramatically improved, perhaps by default. In the clubhouse, he's made a point to answer non-steroid questions in a pleasant fashion. He's been seen signing countless autographs. Despite a prolonged slump to start the season and his refusal to find his stroke in the minor leagues, he's rebounded admirably and continues to credit batting coach Don Mattingly, a fan favorite, for approaching his MVP form. (Despite these improvements, my friend Valentina -- a Mets fan extraordinaire -- repeatedly has refused to get off her bike at their common gym when Giambi hints that he wants to use it.)

Enter Serico Conspiracy Theory: In late July, MLB officials realized Giambi's rebirth might have force them to bestow the Comeback Player of the Year award to a player connected to steroid allegations. Thus, letting the fans decide the winner allows MLB to avoid a public relations nightmare. Besides, letting fans vote for anything is virtually fool-proof from a PR perspective -- although, from a baseball standpoint, allowing Joe and Jane America to pick All-Star Game starters is downright wrong.

Irony Alert! The Comeback Player of the Year Award is sponsored by Viagra, fostering at least two "comeback" puns and one "player" joke.

Double Irony Alert! Rafael Palmeiro, MLB's biggest star to be disgraced by a failed steroid test, had been a Viagra spokesman. As my friend Brian described him: "He's more like the Go-Away Player of the Year." Perhaps like a balding man selling the Ford Focus in favor of a Porsche 911 to compensate for losses elsewhere, Pfizer is overcompensating for driving a washed-up vehicle by throwing lots of money toward a more appealing venture.


Rach said...

Comeback Player of the Year ... Viagra ... you know some exec in an office with a view is laughing over putting those two together.