Sheffield backs players union’s right to drive that bus right off that cliff, dares Congress to step into the fray

February 28th, 2007 → 11:50 am @ // No Comments

Back in June, when Paxton Crawford, who played for the Crimson Hose back in ’00 and ’01, copped to using speed, ‘roids, and HGH during his time at Fenway, I wrote about how the mini-maelstrom illustrated nothing so much as how moronically power-hungry the players association was:

“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.”

And here comes said world of hurt! George Mitchell — former US Senator, current member of the Red Sox’s board, and head of the MLB steroid investigation — is, to absolutely no one’s surprise, being stonewalled at pretty much every turn. He’s said that if that continues, it was likely Congress would take up the issue. There’s an implied threat there, sure. But more than that, there’s a recognition of reality. In the absolute joke of a Congressional hearing a couple of years ago — and to give you a sense of just how farcical it was, it seems as if Jose Canseco was just about the only person who told the truth — Senators said that if baseball didn’t clean up its act, they would. Thus far, the only real aftershock of those hearings was the assurance that Big Mac ain’t ever gonna sniff the Hall.

But now, thanks to Gary Sheffield, we know that the players association is doing everything they can to make sure that’s not the case for long. Sheffield recently told USA Today he wouldn’t cooperate with the Mitchell probe because it is a “witch hunt”; he then told the Detroit Free Press pretty much the same thing. Or, rather, he said that’s what his union had told him: “The [players’] association told us this is just a witch hunt. They don’t want us to talk to them. This is all about getting [Bonds]. If this was legitimate and they did it the right way, it would be different. But this a witch hunt. They’re just trying to collect a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any sense and throw the [expletive] against the wall.” (I’m pretty sure the expletive was “poopy.”)
It’s not surprising that Sheffield’s the guy who spilled the beans on the union’s behind-the-scenes campaign, just as it was no surprise that it was Sheffield who told SI that Barry was a snake who gave him “flaxseed oil,” just as it was not a surprise that it was Sheffield who told New York Magazine about the problems in the Yankees clubhouse: Sheff is known not only for being a prodigious hitter but someone who you can get to say pretty much anything. (Johnny Damon will now fill that role for the Yankees.) Nevertheless, it’s revealing. Once again, rather than work to take steps that will help convince the public the game is trying to clean up its act, the players association is doing everything it can to make it seem as if they’re defending their members’ right to use PEDs…which may very well be what they’re doing. Don’t be surprised in Congress does decide to step in before this is all over.

Post Categories: 2007 Spring Training & Gary Sheffield & Paxton Crawford & Players associatio & Steroids

6 Comments → “Sheffield backs players union’s right to drive that bus right off that cliff, dares Congress to step into the fray”

  1. elljay

    17 years ago

    But this a witch hunt

    To get Sheff’s enthusiastic cooperation, tell him it’s really a Bitch hunt.


  2. TheVoiceofReason

    17 years ago


    I’m not convinced that your harsh invective against the players association is warranted. I think that you would be hard pressed to find a self-respecting lawyer who would allow his clients to be interviewed under such circumstances. I suspect that the the union’s attorneys have reached the same conclusion. After all, why risk legal exposure when there is absolutely nothing to be gained? This is just lawyering 101. You suggest that the union should be willing to compromise “to help convince the public that the game is trying to clean up its act.” Frankly, I’m unsure that the public really cares a whole lot about the steroids issue. Despite the media hoopla and concomitant holier-than-thou handwringing, most baseball fans that I know don’t give the steroids issue more than a passing thought. Perhaps people care about it in some abstract, unquantifiable sense that “it’s bad for the kids”, but their moral sensibilities certainly don’t seem to be affected to the point that it’s stopping them from purchasing tickets to games, watching games on television, buying merchandise, etc. The fiscal state of the game has never been better, and the players are certainly reaping the benefits. Consequently, it’s difficult for me to understand what incentive the players association might have to change its stance on the Mitchell investigation.


  3. johnw

    17 years ago

    Why should the players’ association change its stance? Well, how about…

    — It would get them some positive publicity. The PA, unfortunately, has a long history of doing the opposite: being obstructionist at every turn, even when it would make sense to give a little ground. They have contributed significantly to the permanent cloud that hangs over some of the greatest athletes and performances of the last 15 years. Guys like Palmeiro, Bonds and McGuire made their millions, but at what cost to their reputations?

    –It would put MLB in the unaccustomed position of leadership on an important issue. The Orlando raids are another indication that this stuff is going to come out sooner or later; wouldn’t it be better for baseball to be out front once in a while, instead of either denying or playing catch-up?

    — It might help to end the extremely quantifiable reality that “it’s bad for the kids,” as was revealed at that infamous Congressional hearing. Teenaged athletes are taking this stuff, and it’s even more dangerous for them than it is for adults.

    — Oh, I don’t know — it’s the right thing to do???

  4. […] Airbus is trying to restructure, but its unions consider any layoffs “an act of war.” Fortunately, unions in the U.S. aren’t so off-the-wall. Well, at least they’re not trying to get an “employee free choice act” passed. […]


  5. ConsiderThis

    17 years ago

    Seth, with all due respect to your past work, there are bigger social issues involved here than any fan’s conception of the sanctity of Holy Statistics in a silly little entertainment arena like professional baseball. Remember, it’s only a game. I love the game, but that’s all it is.

    However, fighting against government snooping into people’s private lives is important. Defending the right to privacy is more important than protecting homerun records. Freedom from criminal prosecution for violation of chemical prohibitions is a good fight. Nobody should go to jail or lose their job for ingesting proscribed substances. Employer drug testing of any kind constitutes a violation of personal privacy, no matter what laws have been enacted. I believe this whole campaign constitutes public grandstanding on the part of government figures for two primary interconnected aims:

    1. Scaring more people into support for further governmental intrusion into our daily lives; and
    2. Undermining the presumption of innocence for targets of governmental repression.

    This is not primarily a sports discussion, but a political discussion with lots of nuance and detail, closely linked to other social changes underway for some time now. There is bound to be some sharp disagreement on this.

    One might argue whether the term “witch hunt” is being used aptly here by Sheffield, but “fishing expedition” would be right on target for how this whole morass is being conducted by George Mitchell, grand juries, and the entire repressive apparatus. It is highly reminiscent of the style of the late Joe McCarthy, and just as devoid of respect for human rights. “Are you now or have you ever been…a user of today’s proscribed performance enhancers?”

    Baseball is explicitly under government regulation because of its anti-trust exemption. Testing employees of a specific company and testing private citizens have nothing to do with each other — employers have every right to require drug testing (although in the case of MLB, the union has threatened to strike if they don’t agree with the testing program that’s put in place). The use of steroids without a specific medical reason is illegal; those aren’t chemical “prohibitions” — whatever that means — they’re laws. (You obviously know this; that’s why you’re using “proscribed.”) That’s why there was a huge bust this week. That’s why doctors lose their licenses if they prescribe steroids without a valid medical reason. And unless you’re a libertarian, this absolutely isn’t a political discussion, and to say it’s related to other governmental intrusion into our daily lives is a stretch of Iraq-was-connected-to-9/11 proportions; it also cheapens what most definitely is a very important discussion concerning those same intrusions. (And come on: if you know enough about McCarthyism to even refer to it casually, you need to know how ridiculous you sound.)
    Finally, I think you’d be hard-pressed to justify calling this a fishing expedition. Sheffield has admitted using steroids, although he says it was accidental. There’s loads of evidence that Bonds did too. It’s not as if, apropos of nothing, MLB decided to conduct an investigation into whether there’s a heroin problem in baseball.

    — Seth

  6. […] I’m on the record as calling the Players Association “full of crap,” “moronic,” and “power-hungry,” so I don’t think my feelings about Gene Orza and crew are all that opaque. But here is another instance where Orza et al were egregiously wrong; unfortunately, many of the players are so convinced everyone else is out to screw them it’s unlikely anything will ever change…at least for another couple of decades, when retired players start growing tumors out of their eyeballs and guys on the field wonder if the fight against effective drug testing was really worth it. […]


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