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.