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To the season-ticket holders from Brian Sabean

Wonderful tongue-in-cheek write up by John Ryan at the Mercury News today regarding the letter sent by Giants general manager Brian Sabean to season-ticket holders. Saw this myself, sans the humor, and I’m thinking Sabes should’ve consulted Ryan before he wrote it. I would’ve have added only:

“Sincerely,

Brian R. Sabean

Senior Vice President and General Manager and Management Star of the Mitchell Report. 

Enjoy the laughs.

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A’s Fan Fest Weekend

A few thoughts on the A’s Fan Fest, which basically marks the first official weekend of the 2008 season.

— So Jack Cust denied he used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs. What else did you expect him to say? Baseball players have been borrowing variations from the “I didn’t juice,” handbook for years now, and Cust’s explanation was typical. Look, I like the guy as much as anybody on the A’s, and it was impossible not to get caught up in parts of his 2007 season, but like I’ve written so many times in the past, it’s impossible to believe anything a player says these days. Cust may well be telling the truth, but a player’s benefit of the doubt is a thing of the past.

— Regarding Cust’s explanation, it is interesting that we haven’t heard from one-time Baltimore Orioles outfielder Larry Bigbie in a while (looks like he’ll be playing in Japan this year). It is entirely possible, I suppose, that Bigbie was mistaken when he said he lockered next to Jack Cust during their Baltimore days. Or, it’s possible that maybe they were one or two cubicles down from each other, and Bigbie simply used the phrase “next to” in a general way. Again, that’s the problem with all the silence and all the lies. Getting to the truth is like trying to snag a foul ball amidst a crowd of 50,000 people.

—- Here’s why MLB.com is more a public relations tool than a journalistic site: The headline on their Sunday afternoon story was: “A’s annual FanFest a Big Hit.” Funny, only 12,000 people attended, the smallest ever for a FanFest at the Coliseum in the seven seasons they’ve had it there. First time ever below 20,000. I realize MLB.com is the way a majority of fans get their information, and there are great things about that site, but don’t ever mistake it as a bastion of journalism.

—- The story on the site pointed to the 35,000 single-game tickets the A’s sold on Saturday. I’m guessing that’s not going to push them over the 2-million mark when it’s all said and done.

—  Good to hear that the A’s are going to pour more money into scouting and developing, and that they may go higher with their signing bonuses for high draft picks. Don’t think for a minute that getting a Top 5 pick wasn’t on the “pro” side when general manager Billy Beane drew up his pros and cons for rebuilding.

— Finally, very ingriguing column recently by Ray Ratto regarding a possible punishment for the Giants, given their noteworthiness in the Mitchell Report. I believe Ray is right in saying that granting the A’s the rights to Santa Clara County would be the only punishment that would truly fit the crime. I don’t imagine any such thing would ever happen, though, even though A’s owner Lew Wolff goes back such a long way with commissioner Bud Selig. MLB never does anything that sensible.

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Baseball goes on

Received quite a bit of e-mail over the weekend regarding my column that suggests it’s time at least to discuss whether performance-enhancing drugs should be legalized. I was somewhat surprised that several of those e-mails either agreed with what I said or stated that I had opened their mind to the issue.

I don’t say that to brag. I do say it, because I think it speaks a lot to what fans think about this ongoing issue (they’re sick of it) and to the general hopelessness many of us have that a leader in any profession (be it President Bush, a CEO of a major company, a pro sports commissioner) will stand up and do the right thing.

The right thing, in this case, would be to ban for life all athletes who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Never gonna happen, of course, because of the lawsuits that would follow, and because _ assuming the testers ever moved ahead of the cheaters, and we got a full, accurate sample of the number of users _ no players would be left.

At any rate, it’s interesting to hear both sides of the debate. Honestly, I’d love to see a pro sports world that’s clean as a baby’s bottom after a bath. But in my opinion, it’s simply not a realistic goal.

What do you, the reader, think?

Anyway, promised some early winners and losers for you last week, so here they are:

THREE WINNERS

1) Stan Conte: The former Giants trainer was trying to the do the right thing by reporting his concerns about Greg Anderson being in the clubhouse and by reporting that some player on the Giants approached Conte about using steroids. Nice to see that some folks in baseball still have the courage to speak out, even if nobody is listening.

2) Jose Canseco: Unbelievably, he continues to be one of the most credible voices in the steroids scandal. Just about everything he wrote in “Juiced” has been borne out to be true.

3) The Boston Red Sox: Not one current player was linked. But there was no conflict of interest regarding George Mitchell.

LOSERS

1) Roger Clemens: The Rocket fuel was artificially enhanced, no matter what he may scream from now until the end of time. Incidentally, from the time Brian McNamee reportedly made his first injection into Clemens’ behind, Clemens has won 136 games. Take half of them away, and Clemens would still be 14 wins shy of 300, and one behind non-Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven on the career list.

2) Brian Sabean: We all knew Barry Bonds ran the Giants’ franchise, but the Mitchell Report showed us to what extent. And the extent to which Sabean went to avoid dealing with Conte’s concerns about steroids provides a ”how-to” on why baseball’s cultural ill was allowed to go unchecked. One more thing: None of this figures to cost Sabean his job.

3) Bud Selig and Donald Fehr: Again, another embodiment of why accountability has become a foreign concept in our country. Selig took no responsibility for the rise of the Steroid Era, even though the Mitchell Report takes him (lightly) to task. And he didn’t even offer up an, “I’m sorry.” Fehr did acknowledge that testing should’ve arrived sooner, but his inference that that the owners hurt their relationship with the players, because they didn’t deliver the report in a timely manner was weak.

And incidentally, on the same subject, am I the only one who doesn’t believe Alex Rodriguez?