Steroid users best liars ever, say writers assigned to cover them

As a diehard baseball fan, the steroids scandal just depresses me. Once it started to fall apart, it was pretty obvious which players would eventually be outed as users (the monster sluggers), along with a few surprises (Brian Roberts? Andy Pettite?). And while I will stress to my kids that they shouldn’t take steroids, I will not wag my finger at any of the players who did; who’s to say what I would do if I were in their position, and stood to make tens of millions by using a little juice, especially when there were no repercussions for getting caught? It’s a complicated issue that, by and large, is painted as a simple black-and-white question by many sports writers today.

And that is the part that bothers me. These same people covered the players while all of this was going on, and I can barely stomach their sanctimonious hindsight when flaying their latest target. With each new development on the subject, we are told that:

1. Lots and lots of players took steroids
2. No one else, not the trainers, coaches, managers, anyone in the commissioner’s office and certainly not the writers and reporters, had any idea these players were taking steroids

The first part is obviously true. The second part, however, I find highly unlikely.

Let’s break this down, shall we? In order for both to be true, it means that the players would all have to individually seek out dealers, who by the nature of their business are not the most upstanding citizens, without drawing any attention to themselves. Ever. That’s giving the players and dealers an awful lot of credit, don’t you think? One of them would have slipped up, and in a moment of desperation met his dealer at the team hotel during a slump. It’s just far too big a secret for so many people to keep. The odds of no one else in baseball stumbling upon it, even accidentally…well, there’s no point in calculating the odds, because it didn’t happen.

mac a rod

No one in baseball knew that these men took steroids. Uh, sure.

But this doesn’t just require all of the players and dealers to have the stealth of a ninja – it also requires the player personnel and writers to be blissfully unaware of what is happening around them, to a point that approaches obliviousness. And these people aren’t oblivious. That must therefore make them liars, yes? Well, it would be irresponsible of me to say, since I have no proof that anything I’m saying here is true, but let’s just say that each group of personnel involved here has their own reasons for keeping their mouths shut. Here is how it looks from my ‘Joe Sixpack’ perspective.

The players: Those inflated statistics raised the value of contracts across the board. Even the ones who didn’t take steroids benefited from those who did, the whole ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ thing. The primary reason the players are playing dumb, though, is because nobody likes a tattletale. If a current player dished on teammates both past and present, he would never stop getting his ass kicked. It’s like the mafia: honor the omerta, or pay the price.

Managers/coaches/trainers: I had an RA in college who summed up his supervisory role like this: “If I don’t see it, hear it, or smell it, I don’t care about it.” Managers and coaches are in a similar position. They need plausible deniability in the event that shit meets fan, but until that day arrives, what they really need is to win. If they don’t win, they get fired. That kind of motivation will lead a person to overlook a lot of things. And remember: the managers and coaches are all former players. Omerta.

Reporters: Two words: career suicide. If anyone who covers baseball were to break a story about steroid use, they’d be banned from every clubhouse in the country. Nope, that story will have to wait for an investigative journalist with no agenda and nothing to lose. Like, say, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who nearly went to jail over the content of their BALCO exposé “Game of Shadows.”

Let us not forget, baseball was dying when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went on their home run tear in 1998. Those two men are widely credited (and rightly so) with saving the game. Whether or not they achieved their results through illicit means, they put butts in seats, simple as that. The sudden spikes in home run numbers had to have raised an eyebrow or two at mission control, but I think it’s safe to say that the game’s salvation was a far greater priority at the time than its sanctity. Either way, that’s a hell of a choice to make, and in fairness to all concerned, I probably would have done the same thing. I mean, which would you rather be known for, being a participant in the Steroids Era, or the man who killed baseball?

And that’s the bottom line here. I completely understand why all of these people are denying any knowledge of the rampant steroid use that took place on their watch, and I don’t expect otherwise from them. But please, stop trying to convince us proles that the only people who knew about players using steroids were the players themselves. It’s insulting.

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The Rocket is looking through rose-colored glasses

Last week, Roger Clemens went on ESPN radio to defend himself against allegations written in a recently released book, American Icon. He once again denied that his former trainer Brian McNamee had injected him with any form of performance-enhancing drugs and his former teammate, Andy Pettitte, still “misremembered” their conversation on steroids.

And at the conclusion of the interview, you could slowly see Clemens turning into Pete Rose. Both determined to bully the public into believing their innocence, with the hopes of clearing their name and reputation.

After being banished from baseball in the summer of 1989, Rose would go on various interview shows to vehemently deny the allegations brought against him. He would laugh at the suggestion that a meeting took place between outgoing baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, incoming commissioner Bart Giamatti, and himself to discuss his gambling habits. That was his story and he stuck to it until 2004, when Rose took the money and wrote a tell-all book about his baseball gambling exploits. He wanted to beat baseball executives on their playing field, but it wasn’t game to them.

Clemens hired a media marketing firm that assists high-profile clients through PR crises, and they suggested getting his side of the story out to the press. Bad move. He said that it would be suicidal for him to take steroids with his family history of heart trouble. Clemens said that heart disease took the life of his stepdad and older brother. Hey, wait a minute! How can you inherit a genetic trait from your stepfather?

Clemens brought attention to a book that otherwise wouldn’t have received any media attention. Unfortunately, he sees this as a competition and challenges anyone to prove him guilty of steroid usage. Last year, Clemens told major league baseball to effectively “kiss his ass” following the release of the Mitchell Report. McNamee offers syringes with his DNA as evidence of steroid usage, and Clemens in turn files a defamation of character lawsuit against him. His competitive personality will eventually do him in.

A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but just like Barry Bonds, the general public has convicted Clemens of using performance-enhancing drugs. And if he follows Rose’s script, the Rocket will eventually admit to his usage in a book deal a few years down the road. Assuming he needs the money, of course.

Top 10 active OPS (On base plus slugging percentage)

Those of you gearing up for your fantasy baseball drafts might pay attention to OPS a little more than most folks. That is “on base plus slugging percentage,” measuring a player’s offensive worth more than almost any other statistic. Here is a list of the Top 10 active OPS leaders, minus players like Barry Bonds who are technically still active but not on a major league roster at this time:

1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (1.0489)—Albert is a freak of nature, averaging 42 homers and 128 RBI with a .334 batting average in his first eight seasons in the big leagues. Last year, he battled early elbow problems and wound up winning the NL MVP. This guy is just money year in and year out, and he’s only 29.

2. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (1.0044)—That sound you just heard was a combination of two things—a collective sigh of relief in La La land and the thud of millions of dollars landing in Manny’s bank account after finally signing a deal with the Dodgers this week. Like him or not, the Dodgers probably just bought a division title.

3. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies (1.0020)—I’m not accusing anyone of anything but it’s intriguing to me that Helton hit 49 homers in 2001, the same year Barry Bonds hit 73. And his numbers have been steadily declining ever since. I’m just sayin’, it sort of reeks of Brady Anderson.

4. Frank Thomas, Oakland Athletics (.9740)—The Big Hurt has averaged 36 homers, 119 RBI and batted .301 over nineteen seasons. Are you kidding me? Dude is a lock for the Hall of Fame.

5. Lance Berkman, Houston Astros (.9730)—Berkman hasn’t matched his highs of 45 home runs and 136 RBI in 2006, but he always strikes fear in opposing pitchers.

6. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (.9671)—It’s been a rough month for A-Rod, first with steroid allegations and now with a hip injury that will sideline him for several weeks. But dude is still king of the regular season in the batter’s box.

7. Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox (.9663)—For almost 20 years, Jim Thome has been one of the best left-handed power hitters in the game. And his .279 career batting average isn’t exactly shabby either. Not great, but not shabby.

8. Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels (.9634)—Check out these career averages—36 homers, 117 RBI and .323 batting average. How has Vlad only won one MVP award? Oh, I know—Montreal.

9. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (.9554)—Chipper is about as steady as they come, and he seems to be getting better with age. It’s too bad that hardly anyone goes to that ballpark in Atlanta.

10. Jason Giambi, Oakland Athletics (.9421)—Yeah, okay, we know Giambi used banned substances to aid his performance. But dude is still a pretty good hitter even off the juice.

Source: Baseaball Reference

Five MLB storylines to watch in 2009

The A-Rod steroid mess is finally boiling over, the World Baseball Classic is fast-approaching and making GMs and managers nervous, and the 2009 regular season is a little over a month away. It’s hard to believe we crowned the Phillies world champs a third of a year ago, but time does fly like Jose Reyes around the bases. With that, let’s look at some interesting questions that beg to be answered in 2009:

1. Who will be the surprise team this year? Last year it was the Tampa Bay Rays, who not only won the ridiculously competitive AL East, but also beat the Red Sox in the ALCS to reach the World Series, which they eventually lost to the Phillies. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies won 21 of 22 games after September 17, including sweeping the Cubs and D-Backs in the playoffs before losing to Boston in the Fall Classic. In 2006 it was the Cardinals who squeaked into the postseason with an 83-78 record, ultimately winning it all. Who is going to do it this season? Or will it be a big-market, big-money World Series match up such as Yankees/Mets or Red Sox/Cubs? It’s almost impossible to say I told you so at this point to this type of question, but here are the teams I’m telling you to keep an eye on: Indians, A’s, Giants, Marlins.

2. How will the choking of recent seasons affect the Mets, Cubs and Angels? The Mets’ bullpen imploded two years in a row, and GM Omar Minaya went and picked up not one, but two lights-out closers in K-Rod and JJ Putz. Still, the Mets are not going to have an easy go of things in the NL East, and their lineup and starting rotation are bordering on suspect. The Cubs and Angels keep beating everyone up in the regular season only to flame out early in the playoffs. Do these two teams lack what it takes to win, or has the luck and clutch hitting of other teams been their demise? Honestly, you can’t keep talented teams like these three down for very long, and I expect all of them to be playing deep into October this time around.

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The media’s steroid double standard

The media circus arrived in Tampa on Tuesday, and the star attraction under the big top was Alex Rodriguez elaborating about his steroid usage. The talking heads on the evil four-letter network, ESPN, inundated us with up-to-the-minute updates on what to expect from Rodriguez’s press conference and showed countless sound bites from his contemporaries in baseball expressing their disappointment with his actions; SportsCenter became A-RodCenter.

Then, after a 32-minute press conference, the commentators returned to voice their displeasure of A-Rod’s handling of the media’s questions. They screamed for more details on his merry trek through Latin America with his cousin Yuri in search of the banned substance “boli” (Primobolan). Their analysis of the latest chapter in baseball’s steroid scandal had feel of a good old-fashioned witchhunt.

My reaction to the coverage: you are all hypocrites!

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