In an article in today’s Globe, Paxton Crawford explains why he doesn’t want to discuss his first-person account, printed in ESPN The Magazine, detailing steroid, HGH, and speed use while playing with the Red Sox in 2000 and 2001. (The article is available online, but only if you’re a subscriber to ESPN Insider.) “I thought it was a one-time story deal, bro,” Crawford tells the Globe‘s Gordon Edes. “If any other reporter called, I was not interested.”
Paxton’s use of the word “deal” is intriguing. Was he saying that he got paid for the ESPN piece?* Perhaps, and as far as journalistic ethics goes, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that: the subject of first-person “as told to’s” are not infrequently paid for their efforts. Or maybe, after a taste of the limelight, he wanted the world’s attention focused back on him, even if it was only for a moment and even if it was because he was telling the world he was a cheat.
There’s powerful incentive for both current and past major leaguers to stay silent about what they’ve seen or know; breaking omerta results in a lifetime banishment from the only fraternity many of them have ever known. (Off the top of my head, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and Jeremy Giambi are the only players or former players who’ve publicly admitted knowingly using steroids without being caught.) But Crawford’s story raises the specter of any number of fringe former major leaguers deciding they have nothing to lose (and perhaps some spending cash to gain) by coming clean.
There’s a fear within baseball that these trickling revelations will start a witchhunt, and indeed, there’s a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude that’s begun to attach itself to anyone who’s had a breakout year or one or two seasons that seem statistically aberrant. But the only reason anyone’s interested in Paxton Crawford’s story is that pretty much everyone–fans, the media, the feds, Congress–knows the current testing program, while better than nothing, is embarrassingly porous. If there’s only the slimmest of chances juicers will be caught, the thinking goes, perhaps the fear of a future unmasking at the hands of some dude who spent a day in the bigs will keep folks from shooting up the latest designer steroid. One obvious way to deal with this would be for MLB and the players union to actually implement a real testing program–one that can’t be beaten by anyone who knows how to read.
Right now, that doesn’t seem likely, mainly because the power-drunk players union refuses to allow blood testing (or actual random testing, or storing of samples) because any of those steps would be an “invasion of privacy.” That’s a load of crap. Playing professional baseball is not a right afforded to citizens under the Constitution; it’s a privilege. Workplaces implement all sorts of policies–regarding drug testing or dress codes or proper language or decorum–that aren’t (and can’t be) mandated by the government. Unless the players union takes off its blinders and starts to see the big picture, a lot of its members are going to find themselves in a world of hurt.
* EDIT: Amy K. Nelson, a veteran reporter for ESPN and the writer who worked with Paxton on the story in ESPN The Magazine, wrote to say Paxton was not paid for sharing his story. I did not contact Nelson prior to posting this item. Even though I didn’t see anything wrong with the possibility of someone being paid to collaborate on an “as told to” story, I should have made an effort to contact Nelson and ESPN.