Saturday, May 16, 2009

Contreras, Theriot and other jocks worth rooting for

The Bald Truth

Here's something you don't see everyday: A ballplayer sending himself to the minors because he knows it's best for him and his team.

Once banished from the White Sox rotation, Jose Contreras could have gone to the bullpen to try to solve his problems. There, he would have continued to enjoy all the trappings that go with big-league life. Instead, he asked to be sent down so he could work things out while starting ballgames.

Here's a guy who came back much earlier than expected from Achilles tendon surgery because he wanted to help the team, and now he's making this sacrifice. It's almost enough to make me feel sorry for constantly poking fun at Jose's age, which is somewhere around 50. Give or take a decade.

Sure, he's still making his major-league salary, but in this era of egos run amok, Contreras' actions are pretty darn selfless.

Kind of makes you want to root for the big lug.

The Balder Truth

It's also easy to to root for the Houston Rockets, who are without Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming but have taken the Lakers to a seventh game. You go, Luis Scola, whoever you are.

Also, the feisty, young Blackhawks, who are about to begin an epic series against the defending Stanley Cup champs. I'm saying Red Wings in 7, but I never thought Patrick Kane, Nikolai Khabibulin and the rest of the Hawks could get this far. So I'm prepared to be wrong again.

And ever-hustling Dodgers LF Juan Pierre, who has the impossible task of replacing Manny Ramiroid and is doing a great job so far.

And even Michael Phelps, who could have gone into a defensive shell in the wake of Bong-Gate but instead has handled his return to the pool with humor and class.


Speaking of class, I couldn't help but admire the words and deeds of Ryan Theriot on Friday.

The Sun-Times featured a column by Rick Telander, who theorized that the steroid culture in baseball condemns everyone - even a suddenly-home-run-crazy little Cubbie shortstop.

It was a legitimate point, but the headline - which screamed: "SMALL HITTER, BIG PROBLEM" - suggested that Theriot was sharing syringes with A-Roid or something. (As is the case with most columnists, Telander didn't write the headline.)

Unlike most athletes, who only look at the headline and get mad at the writer, Theriot took the time to read the entire column. And while he didn't like the feeling of being dragged through the mud, he was able to focus on reality.

"Once you get into the article - and I have read it a few times - you realize the point is a valid point," Theriot said. "It's more about what the game's come to. The headline could have been written a little differently. When you read something like that, it associates you with something you don't want to be associated with. 

"I feel I have lived my life the right way from day one. Hopefully, that will overcome a headline like that. It's tough when others make mistakes and you get drug into it."

He went on to say he hasn't even taken any supplements since 2005.

"The risk-reward wasn't worth it to even take that chance," he said. "My supplements for the last four or five years have been Gatorade and water."

Most of the time, I don't believe these roid-denying jocks, but you know what? I absolutely believe Ryan Theriot.

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