- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Positive and Negative
Last week was a bad one for idols. On Friday the Italian soccer federation announced that Diego Maradona, the world's most famous soccer player, had tested positive for cocaine. The next day the Los Angeles Times revealed that Sugar Ray Leonard, once the most famous boxer in the world, acknowledged during divorce proceedings last summer that he had at one time used drugs and physically abused his wife, Juanita.
News of Maradona's positive test shocked the soccer world. "I can't believe it," said Luis Islas, a teammate of Maradona's on Argentina's 1986 World Cup championship team. "I only hope that he can get out of this in the best way possible." Maradona, 30, will be suspended from international play for anywhere from six months to two years.
While Maradona went into seclusion, Leonard chose to face the truth. At a press conference in Washington, D.C., last Saturday, Leonard admitted that from 1983 to '86, when his career was on hold because of a detached retina, he had drunk heavily and used cocaine. "I can never erase the pain and scars I caused so many people through my stupidity and selfishness," he said.
Before his 1989 fight with Thomas Hearns, Leonard and Hearns appeared together in antidrug public service announcements. While those antidrug messages leave Leonard open to charges of hypocrisy, they would take on a different resonance if he was telling the truth last week when he said he has been clean for four years. That would mean that Leonard knew whereof he spoke when he cautioned people to stay away from drugs. In a way, last week's disclosures lent weight to that message. As Leonard put it in his confession, "Here is a young man that had everything in the world from money to fame, glory, a beautiful family. Why would he do that? It's almost inconceivable."
Leonard was talking about himself. He also could have been talking about Maradona.
Out of the Blue
The Los Angeles Dodgers asked Fernando Valenzuela for the ball last Thursday. After 10 full seasons, 141 victories and 2,348.2 innings, L.A. released the 30-year-old lefthander who had brought millions of people to Dodger Stadium. At 11 a.m. Valenzuela was told that manager Tommy Lasorda wanted to see him. Said the pitcher, "They called me into the office and said, 'This is very hard for us.' I said, 'What is so hard? Just say it.' So they said it. I said, 'O.K., thanks,' and that is all I said."
And so ended an era that began when Valenzuela, then a portly 20-year-old from Etchohuaquila, Mexico, pitched a five-hit shutout on Opening Day in 1981. He captured the hearts of Dodger fans and the fancy of America, and in that first season of Fernandomania, he won both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young awards. He won 19 games in '82 and 21 games in '86. But in '88 he was sidelined with shoulder problems, and when he came back, his fastball was diminished. Still, he had enough stuff to pitch a no-hitter last June 29.
Over the objections of many people in the organization, the Dodgers signed Valenzuela to a one-year, $2.55 million contract last winter. However, it was not guaranteed, and by releasing him last week, the Dodgers are obligated to pay him only a fraction of that money. So Valenzuela, who had been shelled in his last two outings, found himself in the same boat as Pete Incaviglia and Oddibe McDowell, two other high-priced veterans cut last week to save some money.