Thursday, January 09, 2014

Theo Epstein and Peter Gammons Host 14th Annual Hot Stove Cool Music Benefit Concert this Saturday at Paradise Rock Club

Theo Epstein will return to Boston on Saturday night, along with Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons, to host the 14th Annual Hot Stove Cool Music Benefit Concert. The concert will be held at the Paradise Rock Club at 7:00pm. Doors will open at 6:00pm. The event benefits Epstein's Foundation to Be Named Later.

Foundation To Be Named Later (FTBNL) was launched in Spring of 2005 by Paul Epstein, a social worker in the Brookline public school system, and his twin brother, former Boston Red Sox Executive VP and GM and current Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein. Named after the MLB trade term "player to be named later," the mission of FTBNL is to raise funds and awareness for non-profit agencies, working on the front lines, serving disadvantaged youth and families. FTBNL invests in programs that teach leadership, education, and healthy development of families.

FTBNL has given over $6 million in grants and in-kind donations to over 200 non-profit organizations and has sent approximately 4,000 children, who would not otherwise get the chance to go to a game, to Red Sox, Cubs, and Celtics home games. The Peter Gammons/FTBNL College Scholarship (named in honor of Hall of Famer and FTBNL Champion, Peter Gammons) is the signature program of FTBNL and has sent more than 36 young people with high financial needs and high educational potential to the college of their choice. Each Gammons Scholar gets an adult mentor and a laptop computer to ensure college success.

This year's Hot Stove Cool Music Benefit Concert will feature rock super group The Baseball Project, featuring members of the iconic rock band R.E.M.; rock and soul band Trigger Hippy, featuring Joan Osborne and members of The Black Crowes; indie rocker Howie Day, Boston-born Kay Hanley, and rising stars Kingsley Flood.

Gammons and his Hot Stove All-Stars will feature Paul Barrere from Little Feat, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz, Belly’s Tanya Donelly, Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, the Upper Crust’s Chris Cote, Seth Justman from the J. Geils Band, Will Dailey, Jed Parish & Lucky Jackson from The Gravel Pit, with actor-comedian Mike O’Malley serving as emcee.

The concert will be followed by the Sports Roundtable on January 21, which will feature a candid forum about "Building and Maintaining a Winning Culture" with Gammons and a number of sports executives, players and journalists participating, including Red Sox pitcher, Craig Breslow.

VIP tickets to the concert and roundtable as well as general admission tickets for $40 are on sale now, and can be purchased at

Just Put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame

I don't like Barry Bonds. I don't like Roger Clemens. I hate both of them and think the tremendous success they had in the late stages of their career was due to their PED usage. I also think they're both jerks. I enjoy seeing bad things happen to them.

However, they belong in the Hall of Fame. And the BBWAA has no right to act as self appointed avengers, bringing baseball "criminals" like Clemens and Bonds to justice for their sins. The BBWAA has no right. Because the BBWAA were silent partners in the PED era dominated by Bonds and Clemens.

Countless players were shooting up and cycling right under the noses of the BBWAA. Arm muscles grew to the sizes of leg muscles. Players recovered from injury at an inhuman pace. And the writers did next to nothing to investigate the real cause. These miracles were attributed to wondrous advances in sports medicine and training technology. The BBWAA made no effort to investigate the effects of PEDs, and then look for those effects being displayed by players. "You still have to hit the ball," was a common dismissal of the theoretical impact PEDs could have.

And even after baseball admitted it had a PED problem, moral indignation and outrage was selective. Writers and fans in Boston, for instance, were quick to attack New York players who were listed as PED users. Myself included. Those same writers and fans were just as quick to forgive and embrace David Ortiz. And we didn't question Manny Ramirez's production in Boston until he wasn't in Boston anymore.

Then there were the San Francisco "journalists" and fans who vehemently defended Barry Bonds to the bitter end. Bonds was portrayed as a victim of being disliked, a victim of reputation, a victim of envy, even a victim of racism.

Most of us wanted asterisks added to records and achievements. In retrospect the entire era deserves an asterisk, not just a few players. And how come there are no movements to add asterisks to known spitball pitchers, or those who stole signs? Red Sox fans who wanted Bonds' records stigmatized with an asterisk don't request that the same be done to the 2004 World Series, or to series MVP Manny Ramirez.

In hindsight, it would be dumb for a player NOT to take PEDs during that era. There were no consequences. The sports media and BBWAA weren't putting any serious effort into questioning the gargantuan numbers and muscles of the era. The League ignored the issue, the Players Association denied it, the teams paid for it, we the fans LOVED it. The writers also gained financially as the game's popularity boomed because of the homerun explosion.

And now we want to punish a few players for what many/most did? Who are we to judge when we loved the product? Who are the BBWAA to determine the right and wrong of something they went out of their way to avoid discovering? The biggest sports story in decades was happening right in front of them and it took years and a Congressional investigation to unearth it? What right do the BBWAA have to judge an era's morality when they were part of it?

The Baseball Hall of Fame isn't a Hall of Morality. Just look at Ty Cobb, or the violent and overindulgent Babe Ruth, or the racist Tom Yawkey. How many other morally repugnant men have been enshrined? How many cheaters? What about admitted spitballer Gaylord Perry? If the BBWAA wants the Hall to be clean, they should start with the garbage inside before focusing on the garbage outside.

Removing morality from the equation, you can only assess players by comparing them to their peers who played in the same era. You can't, for instance, compare Rogers Hornsby's 301 career homeruns to Craig Biggio's 291 and say that they're comparable. But you can compare Biggio to players who played at the same time. So if we're comparing Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds within the context of the era in which they played, they were still the best. Bonds was the best hitter of the PED era. Clemens was one of the best pitchers. There's no arguing that.

The BBWAA wants to clean something that stained the game of baseball. But the BBWAA themselves are also stained. That entire era is. It's over. It happened. The BBWAA did its part to allow it to happen. It can't be reversed or righted. Certainly not by a bunch of holier-than-thou sportswriters who enjoyed the ride and profited from baseball's return to popularity. All that can be done now is to compare the players who played in that time, choose the best ones, and send them to Cooperstown.

The BBWAA failed to do its job back when Bonds and Clemens were playing. In an illogical response to that, they've assumed even more responsibilities. They've made themselves into judge, jury, and executioner of baseball sinners. And they don't have the right or the capability to fulfill that role. They should just vote for the best players.