Riding the Pine…

I’ve come back to take a hiatus from my hiatus. For those curious, I don’t know when I’ve been in the same city for more than 1 weeks time. I’m traveling for work and am out of St. Louis every other week. It’s hard on a pregnant wife (since it hadn’t been announced yet), but the benefits from work make up for it.

I wasn’t going to write anything until my travels stopped (and I have no clue when that will be). Today made me change my mind. I got an e-mail from “The Roundtable,” a collection of guys I work with that discuss the important issues: sports and co-workers.

“Did you see Josh Hancock’s family is suing Mike Shannon’s, the owner of the tow truck, and the owner of the driver that caused the accident?”

Let me back up. I was supposed to go to the baseball game on April 30; the game on Sunday Night Baseball between the Cards and the Cubs. I was set to get there early and get some autographs. Instead, I got numerous phone calls. “The Cardinals game tonight is cancelled. Josh Hancock was killed.” I felt like it was 5 years earlier with Darryl Kile.

I’ll be the first to admit that I couldn’t stand the guy as a player. In the third game of the season (yes, the series where the Mets swept my Cardinals, Daniels), Hancock came into a semi-close game. I looked at my brother-in-law and said “Here’s a guaranteed 2 runs.” Sure enough, he gave up solo shots to Reyes and Beltran. The game became out of reach. The Mets win. That summed up his career. He was good enough to make it to the majors, but not good enough to be known. He was the average Major League closer.

But he was still a person and a Cardinal. The fans were upset; the players lost a friend, a teammate, a family member. No one should die at the age of 29 (1 year older than I am).

But this was a lot different than the Kile announcement.

Kile was the all around good guy; he was a fan favorite, he pitched well, he was a family man. Hancock was part of the new age Cardinals: a little more cold to fans, part of something bigger. The image the Cardinals give to the town is that of being above them (of course you’ll have the good fan guys; the David Ecksteins, the Aaron Miles; but you also have the prima-donnas like Jim Edmonds, Chris Duncan, and Preston Wilson). Kile passed of something that no one expected at his age; unfortunately, something like this happens to people of Hancock’s age more than we would like.

Today, my whole perception of what happened changed.

Noel Hancock, father of Josh, filed a lawsuit; it’s a lawsuit that will tarnish his son’s name. Of course, Josh had many things against him; drunk driving (he was almost 2x Missouri’s legal limit), marijuana, speeding. But the fact that it appears his family is trying to get something else out of the situation just pisses me off.

Missouri has a law that blames bars for deaths of patrons that died because of alcohol (I couldn’t find a link). I had a feeling that Mike Shannon’s Restaurant would be blamed; the restaurant and manager (Shannon’s daughter) were first named on the suit. Days after the accident, reports started to come out from people that were at the restaurant. Many people over heard Shannon’s daughter offering Hancock a cab; he refused and decided to drive himself.

The most ridiculous part of the claim is, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “Hancock ‘regularly became visibly intoxicated’ at Shannon’s and that, ‘The intoxication of Joshua Morgan Hancock on said occasion was involuntary.'” I don’t think the restaurant forced alcohol down Hancock’s throat. He’s the same guy that showed up to a day game the previous week late because he was hungover.

The next named on the suit were Eddie’s Towing and the tow truck driver. They were blamed for not sufficiently marking the left lane of the highway as being blocked. The tow truck was responding to a 1 car accident, where the car crashed into the center median. It was after midnight, so the highway wasn’t that busy.

The final party in the suit was the driver of the car. He was cited as being “negligent in allowing his car to hit the wall and block the left lane.” I don’t know about anyone else, but most accidents involve someone being negligent. It’s part of life. If the driver of the car were drinking, it would be one thing; at this point it’s safe to assume he wasn’t; the driver would have been all over St. Louis TV for killing a Cardinal.

As anyone can imagine, this suit is ridiculous. The Hancock family is having trouble accepting that Josh shouldn’t have been driving. Sure, Mike Shannon’s let him leave; but they offered to get him a cab. They couldn’t have restrained him against his will. He was also driving while on the phone, while speeding, with drugs in his car. His family needs to understand that not everyone is perfect; even professional baseball players.

I’m beginning to assume that Hancock’s father is a conspiracy theorist. The Cardinals planned it all to cover up their bad start. They had the driver intentionally crash his car their. The idea itself is almost as ridiculous as the suit itself. If the family wanted, they could sue Ford since he was driving an Explorer; or the rental company that gave him the car.

Other Baseball Thoughs:

– Jason Giambi should be commended for stepping up. He’s essentially admitted using steroids (as much as he could without actually saying it) and bringing baseball’s problems to the fore-front.

The drug testing policy is still a joke – the suspension is harsh, but they don’t check any more than before. They are supposed to be checking more for recreational drugs; only Twins prospect Anthony Swarzak has been busted for something other than “performing enhancing” drugs. If they tested as much as the NFL or NBA, Josh Hancock would have been found before the accident (see the above mentioned Post article).

As far as MLB players testing positive, the only high profile player, under current rules, is Guillermo Mota; does he even count as a “high profile” player? People won’t know who he was if he played off of a coast.

– This could be the Brewer’s year. All they have to hope for is to stay healthy. JJ Hardy is having the year I expected last year. Keep an eye on them.

– New stadiums don’t have the personality that the older ones do. I’m still not sold on New Busch, and all of the other new stadiums don’t compare to the older ones. This time, Comerica Park in Detroit got me thinking about it again. I drove by the old Tiger’s Stadium and it looked more alive, even though it’s been vacant for a few years.

– Justin Verlander is a good kid; I was at the Tigers game last night and he signed autographs for everyone who wanted one (including 2 for me).

That’s it for now. I’ll hopefully get back to full time columns when I get off the road. I’ll have plenty more to talk about.