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Fifth-rate performance by McGwire

Surreal moments in sports history, #274: sitting on the bed, eating Girl Scout Cookies (Mint Thins, to be specific) and watching Mark McGwire blub gently over the matter of steroids in baseball.

I'm sorry, but hearing (the interestingly-thin these days) McGwire say he's willing to be a spokesman to kids against steroid use, is like Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano asking the judge if he can get off with doing a PSA about the dangers of drugs. About five years ago, Mark. That's when you should have been making this offer, when the question of 'andro' first raised its ugly head - not waiting until you got subpoenad by the federal government.

Nor was I impressed with him, basically, pleading the Fifth Amendment, saying he will refuse to name names, or answer questions about his own use, that could cause problems for his family or other players. Newsflash for McGwire: this culture of silence and denial ("omerta" would be the word Sammy might use...) is a big part of the problem over the past decade and more. And maintaining that cover-up makes you part of the problem too, Mark - no matter how much you try to coat it in "being a team player", and whether you yourself took steroids or not. Jose Canseco might very possibly be a lying douchebag (or at the very best, have an extremely poor memory), but I still respect him more than McGwire after that performance today.

It was, generally, an odd day. In the evening, went down to The Sets in Tempe, since Chris had a concert there, and needed to get the bands she'd booked set up. While she scurried around, I watched two impenetrable pastimes: NCAA basketball on the TV, and six tables at The Sets playing poker. The appeal of either "sport" escapes me: isn't NCAA like minor-league basketball? In Britain, pretty much the only college sport you ever see on TV is the Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race, which takes 15 minutes, once a year.

And poker... Actually, from a cinematic viewpoint, I can see the appeal - I liked Rounders and am vaguelly working on a script for a poker-playing female assassin (estimated date of completion at current rate of progress: 2012), or even on a participatory level. But watching other people play, as in the World Series of Poker, seems to me like watching someone gamble on the slots - the thrill seems distant and second-hand. But, hey, what do I know, especially in a country where NASCAR is popular.

Victory for both sides of the split-squad yesterday. We beat Colorado 5-3, with Chad Tracy driving in three runs with a double and a triple, while Williams, Kata, Hill and McCracken all added two hits each. Gosling pitched four shutout innings for the win, and may be back in the picture for the 5th starter's job, though Peterson and Jimenez were less impressive in their appearances. Over at Tucson Electric, another slugfest against the Milwaukee Brewers: their two meeting this spring have now resulted in a total of 49 runs! We jumped to a 5-0 lead, then needed to score in the ninth to tie it at 10-10, before Alan Zinter smacked a three-run shot in the 10th to win it.

Counsell went 4-for-4, Terrero had three hits including a homer, while Gonzo, Glaus (another homer, this one bouncing all the way out of the park), and De Renne had two each. As you'd imagine, not a good day for the pitchers: Webb went four innings and only walked one, striking out five, but did allow eight hits and four runs. Cormier, Nance and Medders were knocked around, to various degrees, before Bruney and Schultz put the lid on, combining for 2 2/3 innings of two-hit ball.

It's been a mixed spring for the "Killer G's" - Glaus, Gonzalez and Green - who are expected to be the heart of our line-up this season. Troy Glaus is hitting .476 (10-for-21), with two homers, and his 12 RBIs leads the National League in the preseason, although his defense hasn't excelled at third so far. Luis Gonzalez, after a slow start, and one where he didn't play every game to ease his shoulder back into play, is beginning to come round, hitting .238 (5-for-21), but has yet to hit a homer. He has looked much better in the field than last year. Shawn Green is a disappointing .200 (5-for-25), with one homer. Two out of the trio can be found in today's:

Heroes + Zeroes
Hitting (min. 18 AB)

Glaus, 10-for-21, 12 RBI
Terrero, 8-for-18, 2 HR
Hill, 10-for-23
Clark, 4-for-20
Green, 5-for-25
Quentin, 2-for-18

Pitching (min 4 IP)
Lyon, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER (+ 7 K's)
Nance, 4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER
Cannon, 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER
Peterson, 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER
Villarreal, 5.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER
Acevedo, 4.2 IP, 11 H, 8 ER

Interesting article on, about a game against the Cardinals, back in 2003, when Gonzo got plunked by Jeff Fassero in retaliation for Miguel Batista hitting Tino Martinez. It's based on an upcoming book called 3 Nights in August, about Tony La Russa - one of the chapters is called Gonzalez Must Pay. It details the method by which La Russa chose his target, ensured he'd get to bat in the ninth, and even the specific pitches Fassero was told to throw: "throw a breaking ball away so it looks like he's having a little control problem, then hit Gonzalez in the ribs with the next pitch." It's a nice insight, and if the rest of the book is so candid and revealing, it might be worth a look.