Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
September 3, 2013 Issue
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Further Review: Parker a victim

Column by Ken Cohen
August 23, 2013 — You want to know why writers should never have anything to do with polling or Hall of Fame voting? Because they don't know enough. They are writers, and in many cases fans and wannabes. They are certainly not experts.
The latest travesty is the United States Harness Writer Association’s non-election of William Parker, Jr. into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. He is currently seventh on the all-time wins list with more than 11,000 first-place finishes. Several drivers with far less wins are in the Hall because they have won big races. Just listen to the comments of one writer who is on the Hall of Fame selection committee explaining Parker's absence.
“He has achieved impressive victory numbers. But he has never campaigned against the very best of the sport on a constant basis of any sustained sort. To prove that you are, as all Hall of Famers should be, ‘the best of the best,' this line of argument goes (that) you must test yourself alongside the proven and acknowledged masters at the very highest level of competition available.”
Well, first of all that's not accurate because Parker was the leading driver at Yonkers for a few years when it was one of the preeminent tracks in the country. True, he might not have won any Triple Crown or Breeders Crown races, but he never had the opportunity. There's a lot of luck and “who you know” involved with driving in the big races. There are hundreds of Hall of Famers in all sports who never won championships, some who never even played for one.
The reality is Parker showed more talent and skill driving cheap horses and claimers to victories at tracks all across the country. That's the mark of a Hall of Famer – how good he is, not how many championships he's won. But how would a writer sitting in a press box or in front of a television at home know that.

* * * * *

Mike Francesca was going on and on Tuesday about the Alex Rodriguez-Major League baseball confrontation. He essentially thinks Major League Baseball is bluffing when it says it has all this evidence on Rodriguez. Why else, he argues, would they have not gone through with a lifetime ban? They settled on the 211 games, according to Francesca, because they didn't have the goods to go deep. He also dismissed a 60 Minutes report that Rodriguez implicated other players for using banned drugs.
"You believe everything 60 Minutes says?" he asked one caller.
Yet, apparently Francesca believed unconfirmed reports that Major League Baseball was indeed considering a lifetime ban for A-Rod. Major League Baseball nor A-Rod ever stated on the record that was the case. It has always been just a rumor. But in Francesca's world, a rumor is solid and believable if it supports his argument; it's shaky and unreliable if it doesn't. That's why he's a talk show host and not an attorney – though he often thinks he is.
The truth is there is a lot of speculation concerning A-Rod and his latest run-in with MLB. Yes, he has admitted to using steroids before, and yes the other 12 players named in the Biogenesis roundup all admitted to being caught. So there is a very strong indication that A-Rod did something wrong here. But until he admits so or the damning evidence is revealed in some way, he is entitled to proclaim his innocence through our due process system.
I don't believe him for a minute – and I'm sure no one on his own team or any other team does. In fact, I would say that 95 percent of his peers would like to see him banished from the game because at this point he only stains it.
But democracy guarantees everyone his or her right to fight for freedom and innocence and A-Rod is exercising his. The system doesn't always get it correct and there is a chance A-Rod will get off free and clear. But that will never be the case because the fans and the baseball community have already found him guilty. I just can't see him surviving too long in such a hostile environment. But maybe there's some kind of drug he can take to withstand that type of animosity.

Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” appears every Friday.

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