Week In Sports Examined

Another big-name player falls to allegations of steroid use in baseball and a National Hockey League team files for bankruptcy. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis discusses the week in sports.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

It's been another eventful week for baseball. The sport's highest paid player, Alex Rodriquez returns to the field tonight for the first time since his admission of steroid use. And the second highest paid player, Manny Ramirez, enters day two of his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test.

Here with some observations on this and other sports news is our regular Friday guest, sportswriter Stefan Fatsis.

Hey, Stefan.

Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (Sportswriter): Hey, Michele.

NORRIS: Another name falls in baseball. Should we even be surprised?

Mr. FATSIS: No, we shouldn't. And woe to any sports commentator who presumes that a single star player has been clean throughout his career. Here are my initial thoughts on the Manny Ramirez situation.

One, the preponderance of Latin players who have tested positive or been linked to steroid use. Baseball has to continue aggressively monitoring Latin-based baseball academies, agents, doctors and the culture of the sport.

Second, I'm still amazed that a player would, as Ramirez said yesterday, put anything in his body that came from anyone other than a team-approved doctor. Manny's never been accused of being the smartest guy, but still, it's remarkable to me.

And the third thing, at least we know the system works in baseball. Fifty games and the stain of this suspension will be devastating for a star player like Ramirez.

NORRIS: Now this has to be a huge embarrassment, not just for Manny Ramirez but for his entire team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. How are they responding to this news?

FATSIS: Well frankly with not enough candor from their baseball people, including manager Joe Torre. They praised Ramirez yesterday for taking responsibility for his actions but stopped well short of forcefully condemning those actions.

The business side of the team reacted with understandably more haste. The Dodgers have created a section of left-field seats called Mannywood and sold ticket packages there that included some Mannywood T-shirts. They offered refunds to the 2,500 people who have bought these seats already, and they offered vouchers for shirts at the team store. They're letting people exchange any Ramirez apparel bought at the stadium, and they're offering refunds for anyone who bought tickets to a Manny Ramirez baublehead night in July.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: I know it's not - I shouldn't be laughing there, but that is rather sad, isn't it? Now let's turn to hockey. The National Hockey League playoffs are in their second round, but the games were overshadowed this week by news that an NHL franchise, the Phoenix Coyotes, filed for bankruptcy-court protection. What's the story there?

FATSIS: Well, you have a team that's been hemorrhaging money, 73 million in losses in the last three fiscal years. The owner, a guy named Jerry Moyes, clearly wants out, and the league, and the city of Glendale, Arizona, which built a brand-new stadium for this team just six years ago, they've been trying to line up investors to bail them out.

Now it appears Moyes cut a back-room deal to put the team in bankruptcy and then sell it for $212 million to Jim Balsillie, the Canadian billionaire-owner of Research in Motion, that's the Blackberry company. He wants to move the Coyotes to Hamilton, Ontario, and what's really remarkable here is that the NHL had no advanced warning that this Chapter 11 filing was coming.

NORRIS: So how has the league responded?

FATSIS: Well, NHL's lawyers yesterday asked the court to dismiss the filing on the grounds that the league controls the team. It spent millions of dollars to keep it running in the last few months. The league said it stripped the owner of his ability to act on behalf of the club and said it controlled any sale or relocation.

But the owner says he still owns the team, and if the case stays in court, the bankruptcy judge could decide what's best for this business. Balsillie, the Canadian billionaire, he's twice before tried to buy and move an NHL team, and the bankruptcy filing here is carefully crafted to stack the deck in his favor.

What's really shocking to me is how the league seems to have been completely blindsided by this. If it fails to keep this team in Phoenix, and it said this week that it intends to keep the team down there, it'll be deeply, deeply embarrassing to the NHL.

NORRIS: All right, Stefan, always good to talk to you. Have a good weekend.

FATSIS: Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: That's Stefan Fatsis. He joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports.

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