Regulars may recall an April 7 column about Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Alex Sanchez. Sanchez, 28, was the first major league ballplayer to be suspended under Major League Baseball's steroid-policy-of-the-month; in this instance, the April 2005 version. Sanchez received a ten-day suspension, effective April 4, 2005, "for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program."
Crime fighter, Baseball Commissioner for Life, and government witness Bud Selig was pleased to authorize the penalty. The announcement was made on a Sunday, which, coincidentally, happened to be the opening day of the 2005 baseball season. Over here, ladies and gentlemen, we have the world champion Boston Red Sox taking to the field against their genuinely hated rival, the New York Yankees, on prime-time national television. Sit back, suck on a cold beer, and let's talk baseball. Or over there, if you'll get down on your hands and knees and look under that oil-caked Freightliner engine block, we have no-name Alex Sanchez, steroid criminal, playing on a team nobody cares about. Take your pick, dear baseball fans. Put your attention anywhere you'd like. It's a free country.
Although the steroid-suspension story ran on every sports page in America, it was surrounded by the usual downpour of gushy baseball opening-day reports. What a happy coincidence!
I promised an update on Sanchez as the season progressed. It's been two months. For readers who missed the April column, you should know that Sanchez is regarded as one of those marginal players who manages to hang around in the major leagues year after year. Hard to put your finger on exactly why he's still playing, but every spring, there he is, bottom man on one of the poorest clubs in the league.
Sanchez was born in Havana in August 1976. He left Cuba by way of raft 18 years later. Returned to Cuba three days after that by way of U.S. Coast Guard, who picked him up and sent him to Gitmo Bay refugee camp. Sanchez was penalized 16 months for bad raftmanship, then allowed to travel to Miami.
He started Major League Baseball with Milwaukee on June 15, 2001. Only played 30 games that year. He spent 2002 and part of 2003 with the Brewers; the rest of 2003 and all of 2004 with Detroit. The Tigers released him during spring training. Tampa Bay picked him up a few days later. He was suspended a few days after that. Every team he's played for has complained about his fielding, but he's a solid hitter: owns a career batting average of .292.
According to USA Today, Sanchez's 2005 salary is the major league minimum, $316,000. In other words, it would be illegal to pay him one penny less than he's making. Sanchez has been making close to minimum wage since Day 1 in the majors. There is nothing in his résumé to give an observer one good reason to think this will change. Indeed, one assumes that being the first major league player to be sent to the steroid stockades would cause Tampa Bay to seek out a replacement minimum-wage employee.
Not quite. Sanchez comes out of the penalty box and strikes the gong for good government and clean living. The Box is pleased to announce that Mr. Sanchez has, at the end of May 2005, a batting average of .345 and an incredible OBP (on base percentage) of .849.
Must have been the steroids that kept him down.
Breaking news for runners, particularly marathon runners who are into competitive collectables. What is the state of your collectables? Do you have all the action figures it takes to compete internationally? Do you? I thought not. Not too late to speed over to www.herobuilders.com and "Get your very own RUNAWAY BRIDE ONLY ACTION FIGURE $24.95. She Comes with her very own TOWEL and CROP TOP VEGAS BABY Jogging T." And, shoppers, while you're on the Internet, why not pick up the "Runaway country music hit 'RUNAWAY BRIDE' on CD, only $4.95."
Do it for Alex Sanchez.
The NBA has recently promised that it will end its season sometime in June. I hope Kobe Bryant is enjoying this year's playoffs, particularly the success of Shaq O'Neal. It was Kobe who got Shaq and head coach Phil Jackson fired so he could lead his team to a tie for last place in the Pacific Division, three games behind the L.A. Clippers. Shaq's traded to Miami and leads them into the playoffs. Phil Jackson takes a year off and is now dickering with Lakers management to return as coach. Kobe Bryant wins the Bullshit Quote of the Month trophy, found on Brainyquote.com, by saying, "I'll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it's sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot."
If you're going to throw up, kindly go outside.