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Monday, February 9, 2009

Time for baseball to end steroid coverup

Whenever a performance-enhancing drug scandal erupts in baseball, most people associated with the sport try to contain it to a single player or a single failed test. Even calls for releasing all 104 names on the list of those who tested positive in 2003 ultimately try to limit the damage. As Squawker Lisa pointed out yesterday:

In his 38 Pitches blog, Curt Schilling says he would be "all for the 104 positives being named, and the game moving on if that is at all possible." The pitcher/blogger writes "in my opinion, if you don't do that, then the other 600-700 players are going to be guilty by association, forever."

Schilling is right, but in 2002, he was quoted as saying things that suggested he was well aware that the problem was much more widespread than 104 players.

A Sports Illustrated article by Tom Verducci from June of 2002 talks about how "rampant" steroid use was at that time. The article begins with the following:

Arizona Diamondbacks righthander Curt Schilling thinks twice before giving a teammate the traditional slap on the butt for a job well-done. "I'll pat guys on the ass, and they'll look at me and go, 'Don't hit me there, man. It hurts,'" Schilling says. "That's because that's where they shoot the steroid needles."

And from later in the article:

Schilling says that muscle-building drugs have transformed baseball into something of a freak show. "You sit there and look at some of these players and you know what's going on," he says. "Guys out there look like Mr. Potato Head, with a head and arms and six or seven body parts that just don't look right. They don't fit.

The article quotes other players, such as the late Ken Caminiti and Chad Curtis, who are more forthcoming about steroids than what you hear these days from other players. Caminiti admitted his own use and said:

It's no secret what's going on in baseball. At least half the guys are using steroids.

As for Curtis:

Says Chad Curtis, an outfielder who retired last year after 10 seasons with six clubs, including three (1997 to '99) with the Yankees, "When I was in New York, a player there told me that hGH was the next big thing, that that's the road the game's heading down next. Now you see guys whose facial features, jawbones and cheekbones change after they're 30. Do they think that happens naturally? You go, 'What happened to that guy?' Then you'll hear him say he worked out over the winter and put on 15 pounds of muscle. I'm sorry, working out is not going to change your facial features."

But while some players might have been more forthcoming before the institution of testing, Verducci's 2002 article suggests that little has changed with the union and management:

Any such program would have to be collectively bargained with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which traditionally has resisted any form of drug testing but now faces a division in its membership over this issue (box, page 42). "Part of our task is to let a consensus emerge," says Gene Orza, the associate general counsel for the players union.

"No one denies that it is a problem," says commissioner Bud Selig. "It's a problem we can and must deal with now, rather than years from now when the public says, 'Why didn't you do something about it?' I'm very worried about this."


It's been almost seven years since the SI steroids expose was published. It should be part of history by now. But it's as timely as ever because of baseball's continued refusal to fully address the issue.

Sports Illustrated, like most media outlets, has chosen to make this primarily an A-Rod story, even going so far as to say that A-Rod was Barry Bonds' "most vociferous supporter" among players. SI.com doesn't even link to Verducci's 2002 article in their A-Rod coverage.

The Post's Joel Sherman is one of the few who thinks that A-Rod can still "make himself a hero."

A-Rod must become the first player to really explain the steroid era. We are not talking about naming names of others. We are talking about honestly talking about the culture in baseball at the time that motivated even the most talented player in the Milky Way to feel compelled to cheat.

Sherman adds that A-Rod should agree to stringent testing and having blood and urine samples frozen for future independent testing for something that might be undetectable today.

But one player can't crack the culture alone, especially one as widely disliked as A-Rod. Andy Pettitte had several longtime teammates alongside him when he admitted to HGH use. Who, if anyone, will stand next to A-Rod?

Forget the players - I'd like to see Don Fehr, Gene Orza and Bud Selig up there with A-Rod, finally facing up to the problem. But I've got a better chance of seeing Manny Ramirez become a Met.

10 comments:

Uncle Mike said...

Let’s put aside the fact that the suggestion is being made by Curt Schilling: If a suggestion has merit, people less loathsome than he (there are about 6 billion living on this planet today) will agree with it. The entire 104-name list should be released.

This brings to mind Joe McCarthy. Not the Yankee manager of the 1930s and early 1940s, but the crazy Senator of the 1950s. He would hold up a piece of paper and say, “I hold in my hand a list of (pick a number, any number) (pick a target: Communists, or Communist sympathizers, or enemy agents, or subversives) working in (pick an area: the State Department, the Justice Department, and so on). And the piece of paper, as it turns out, would be blank. Or it would be a shopping list, or a laundry list, or some document from his Senate office that had nothing to do with the issue of Communism.

I don’t know if the number 104 is accurate, but I want to see the names. And if that list has names from the 1996-97 Orioles, the 1997-2003 Marlins, the 1999-2008 Red Sox, the 2000 Mets, the 2001 Diamondbacks, the 2002-05 Angels, the 2006 Tigers, the 2007 Indians and the 2008 Rays, then we Yankee Fans deserve to know, so that we can say that the teams that “beat us” did it, too, or perhaps even more than our players have been accused of doing.

And, of course, Schilling could be one of those guys. Why wouldn’t he be? He used to be one of the biggest Clemens acolytes; if Clemens is guilty, why wouldn’t Schilling be? (Of course, it also works the other way: If Schilling is guilty, then how many defenses does Clemens have left?) Schilling says he’s clean. So did Clemens. So did Barry Bonds. So did Rafael Palmeiro. So, sort of, did Gary Sheffield.

Joel Sherman writes a good column, and he wrote a terrific book on the 1996 Yankees, “Birth of a Dynasty.” But right now, the percentage of people who think Alex Rodriguez is still a hero is roughly that of the people who think George W. Bush is still a hero. Come to think of it, Bush sold the Texas Rangers to Tom Hicks, who gave A-Rod that obscene contract. But this is one thing we probably can’t blame on Bush, even if Hicks is one of the guys he “pals around with,” to use a Republican faux-populist phrase.

The irony, Jon, is that you’re more likely to see Bud Selig, Don Fehr and Gene Orza up there and finally spilling the beans – possibly an intended pun, Boston fans – than A-Roid.

The only way we’re going to get anything resembling a confession out of him is if there’s a sportswriting equivalent to David Frost out there: “I’m saying that when the best player in baseball does it, that means it is not cheating!”

NAM said...

Mike,
I agree, release all the names. But I think it is a little pathetic that you think if it includes the names and teams you want (and you seem to really WANT those names to be ont he list), it somehow explains why your team has been beaten so badly this decade. Since many members of the Yankee organization were taking steriods, how can it minimize your losses if the teams that beat yours were as well? Wouldn't that at least make it a level playing field. But release the names and if Boston or other team's players are on it let's deal with it.

Ryan O said...

I laugh alot at this current ARod predicament and all Yankee involvement w/ steroids. But seriously...release the names and grill clubhouse attendants from major league teams.

This might not be legal so we might need Jack Bauer...he gets results.

The Emperor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Cue up the music......


"Please allow me to introduce myself I'm a man of wealth and taste......"

"Sympathy for the Devil"

Rolling Stones

NAM said...

A-Rod admitted to Peter Gammons in an interview today that he did use steroids as a Texas Ranger.

Anonymous said...

Aroid had little option but to fess up to the steroid use. He has handlers and pr people to help him through this, and unles they are morons, the only way was to fess up and say it was only during the 01-03 seasons. the fact that he has not had a positive test since then helps his case. he might be able to limit the damage, much as pettitte did with his mea culpa.
km

Uncle Mike said...

RyanO: Jack Bauer, like Joe Buck and other Fox characters, is fictional. He doesn't really exist. Good thing, too: Our government isn't supposed to torture. That's what pitching staffs are for. (Ha ha.)

Anon: A-Rod "a man of wealth and taste"? You're half-right, he has wealth.

"Nutball Gazette" said...

We see that (The Village Idiot) Schilling spoke out against Steroids in 2002. Wasn't him then in front of Congress say about Conseco. 'Lair, Lair, Pants on Fire' saying he knew nothing. He lied in #38 the Village Idiot lied in front of Congress and the American People. He has no legitimate voice to speak out. He should go to jail for his lying.

Ryan O said...

haha nice!