December 13th, 2007 → 6:46 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Lots and lots and lots and lots of actual and virtual ink will be spilled on the Mitchell Report, which is going to make life hell for a whole mess of people. I’ll resist added too much of my drivel and will instead limit myself to some few quick points on issues such as…
Roger Clemens. Why, you might ask, would a sure-fire Hall of Famer risk his reputation and legacy over these last five or so years by taking PEDs? People asked me that question again and again during the pre-season frenzies of last season and 2006. I have no way of knowing; for some reason, Clemens won’t talk to me. But I do have an idea: because he has never, in his entire life, had to deal with the consequences of his actions. He can act like a teenage mutant ninja freak and throw broken bats across the field and it’s chalked up to competitive fire. He can demand ludicrous contract clauses like Hummers and private transportation and he’s indulged. Why, after years and years of this, would he suddenly think that the rules applied to him? (Clemens is far from alone in this regard; this is something that crops up again and again in ballplayers, who are constantly reminded that the normal rules of society–stay faithful to your spouse, clean up after yourself, don’t eat McDonald’s for breakfast–don’t apply to them.
I Love (the fact that I’m not playing in) New York. Plenty of teams’ fans are going to be crowing/letting out a huge sigh of relief…so long as those fans aren’t rooting for the Mets and the Yankees. A quick scan of what is destined to become known as the list shows current and former New Yorkers including Kevin Brown, Paul Lo Duca, Mo Vaughn, Todd Pratt, Ron Villone, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Lenny Dykstra. Does that mean that other teams–like, say, the Sox–are (or were) any cleaner? Hell no. It just means no-one else had a clubhouse attended that got popped.
The non-inclusion of any of the Idiots: Earlier today, what turned out to be a fake list was leaked; that one included names like Nomar, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon, along with other usual suspects like Pudge, Pujols, and Milton Bradley. (Later in the day, well-circulated rumor had Varitek also on the list.) Back in 2005, a member of the Sox’s front office physically shuddered at the thought of what would happen in Boston if news ever broke about someone on the ’04 team roiding up. It looks like that won’t happen…for now, anyway. That brings us to…
Eric Gagne. Gagne, as everyone now knows, was on the list, which can’t be a surprise to anyone. (Also included in the report is news that the Sox inquired about Gagne’s supposed doping before acquiring him at the deadline.) It turns out that the biggest favor Gagne may have done Boston is sucking ass for the second half of the season–now, at least, no one can point to him as one of the reason’s for the team’s success.
That’s all for now. I’ve written plenty about steroids in the past, including last August, when I wondered why no one was wondering about Roger, and way back in October ’06, when I mocked the press’s surprise that Clemens had been fingered in he Grimsley affidavit. I also tagged Jason Giambi a gutless punk, ripped into the Players Union for defending the players’ right to destroy their livers, lamented the fact that Jose Canseco seemed to be the only honest guy around, and talked about how Bill James compared steroids to going through a divorce. (Sort of, anyway.)
More later, I’m sure.
October 1st, 2006 → 5:16 pm @ Seth Mnookin
You remember Jason Grimsley, right? Back in June, the Diamondbacks reliever was busted by federal agents when he signed for a shipment of human growth hormone; within days, he’d given an affidavit in which he named a bunch of names of MLB players who’d recommended PED regimens and/or used the drugs themselves.
Well, as Will Leitch predicted, the names in those affidavits didn’t stay blacked out for long. Today’s Los Angeles Times has a report in which they reveal those players: Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, who played with Grimsely on the Yankees, and Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons, who played with Grimsely on the Orioles. (David Segui, now retired, has already told ESPN he was one of the names in the Grimsley affidavit.) Grimsley, according to the Times piece, met his first steroid supplier through former Yankees trainer Brian McNamee, who remains Clemens’s and Pettitte’s personal strength coach.
Anyone who’s followed Clemens’s remarkable career shouldn’t be completely surprised by this. (As Buster Olney wrote earlier today, Clemens’s name was not “being whispered on background” after the Grimsley affidavit, “it was being shouted behind the scenes.”) Before the start of this season, Clemens had the best winning percentage of any pitcher after age 40, the third best ERA, the third best walks plus hits per nine innings, the third best hits per nine innings, the second best strikeouts per nine innings, and the fifth most strikeouts. Save for K/9, Clemens’s post-40 numbers are all better than those he put up from ages 21 through 39. The question is, why hasn’t someone looked into this possibility before?
Olney thinks the fact that Clemens’s name is in the affidavit won’t affect whether or not he returns next year. If true, I think that’s a sign of arrogance, although Olney clearly disagrees. But it should affect whether or not the Red Sox pursue Clemens in the offseason, as they did before before the ’06 season and at this summer’s trade deadline. As Jerry Remy noted in last night’s broadcast, the media coverage of the Red Sox is unique: “It’s probably the only place in the country where there’s a baseball story in both papers every single day of the offseason.” A PED scandal in Boston would make the tempest surrounding Manny’s knee injury seem like a decorous meeting of the local library lovers club.
Clemens will get a lot of scrutiny, and a lot of criticism, over the coming days and weeks. (Can you imagine what it would have been like had the Astros made the playoffs?) But this is a black mark on more than just a handful of players. It hasn’t been long since the country’s sportswriters made massive mea culpas — with special reports, investigative articles, and tendentious broadcasts — promising that never again would they turn a blind eye to players who mysteriously bulk up or show odd performance spikes. And yet there’s been very few questions asked of Jason Giambi concerning his remarkable return to his peak performances…which occurred during a time in which Giambi has acknowledged he was using steroids. And there’s been nary a published peep about Clemens.
Back in June, Jeff Pearlman asked, in Slate, why the country’s sportswriters were pretending that the steroid era was over. It was a good question then. It’s an even better — and more embarrassing one — now.
August 18th, 2006 → 10:20 am @ Seth Mnookin
The Supreme Court has considered a case involving reportorial privledge exactly once, in the 1972 case Branzburg v. Hayes. In that case, a trio of reporters were subpoenaed to testify about illegal activities they witnessed in the course of their reporting: drug dealing and Black Panthering. In his 5-4 majority opinion, Justice Byron White held that reporters should not have a “testimonial privilege that other citizens do not enjoy.”
In that same decision, White wrote that there should be a “test” before reporters are compelled to testify before a grand jury. Citing Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., White said that the government needs to “convincingly show a substantial relation between the information sought and a subject of overriding and compelling state interest.”
For most of the last three decades, this ruling against the press has been used to support the press: because of White’s establishment of a “test,” reporters have almost never been called before a federal grand jury to reveal their sources. (Most states have shield laws granting reporters the right to protect their confidential sources.)
This, as you might have noticed, is no longer the case. In the past several years, this “overriding and compelling state interest” has time and time again been interpreted as anything the government wants to know about a journalist’s sources or methodology. The latest battleground is the Balco grand jury leak case. Earlier this week, a Federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, San Francisco Chronicle reporters and the authors of the book Game of Shadows, must reveal the sources that provided them with grand jury testimony regarding Barry Bonds’ steroid use. Oh, and the sources who told them that Jason Giambi had admitted to that same grand jury that he had treated his body as a grand science experiment. (It’s no accident that Giambi shares cover billing with Bonds on Game of Shadows.) In that testimony Giambi acknowledged that, at the very least, he had used either steroids or human growth hormone during three of the four years in which he’d hit more than 35 home runs: 2001, 2002, and 2003. In the year after Giambi’s last acknowledged HGH-fueled year, he hit 12 home runs and batted .208.
I’ve said much every chance I get that I think the fact that Giambi won last year’s Comeback Player of the Year is a sham. And I haven’t met a single person in baseball–club officials around the league, New York beatwriters, etc–who is convinced beyond a doubt that Giambi is now clean: his turn-around is too stark, his history too suspect. I’m sure he’s being tested more than your average bear. But MLB doesn’t currently take blood samples (or store its urine samples) and has no way of testing for HGH…Giambi’s admitted drug of choice just three seasons ago.
Earlier this week, Giambi told a reporter from MLB.com that grand jury leaks are a “serious issue.” “When we were brought in [to the grand jury], we had to talk about our situation that we went through,” he said. “People want to know the same thing now, because these laws are what our country is based on. However they obtained it, it was illegal.” Indeed, Giambi says he’s now concerned about the sanctity of the American legal system (although the sanctity of the profession that’s made him rich doesn’t seem to concern him): “There are now a lot of people who won’t testify in front of a grand jury because of the situation that has gone on. It was a situation that, who knows what would have transpired” had his testimony not been leaked. “I went through what I did and moved forward. I haven’t looked back.” That’s for sure: Giambi is currently on pace to hit 48 home runs, five more than his previous best.
A year and a half after his pathetic non-apology apology, Jason Giambi is lecturing reporters on their need to take responsibility for their actions. (Giambi, for anyone who doesn’t remember, made the Yankees remove the word “steroid” from his 2001, $120 million contract.) Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein has said his paper will not comply with the government’s demand that his reporters give up their sources. And there’s now another brewing showdown that could result in reporters in jail.
I’m pretty much a First Amendment absolutist: I think a robust free press is necessary for the healthy functioning of a democracy. That doesn’t mean I think reporters shouldn’t be held accountable or should have free license to operate outside of the law. In the cases involving the New York Times‘s Judith Miller and Time‘s Matt Cooper there was, at the very least, a compelling argument to be made for both sides.
That is not the case here. There is no “overriding and compelling state interest” outside of the government’s desire to keep grand jury proceedings secret. This is about steroids and baseball, not WMDs and war. Jason Giambi will not have any effect on the ultimate outcome of this case. But the fact that he’s acting as if he’s now concerned the Balco leaks will effect whether or not people feel free to testify in front of grand juries in the future is pathetic.
August 2nd, 2006 → 8:44 am @ Seth Mnookin
Antidoping officials working on [Landis's] case already have evidence that some experts say is convincing enough to show that Landis cheated to win the Tour, regardless of further testing or appeals.
– “Experts Say Case Against Landis Is Tough to Beat,” Juliet Macur and Gina Kolata, August 2, The New York Times
“Rocked by drug allegations against Armstrong and an on-going Spanish investigation into illegal blood doping that forced their teams to send home Tour de France contenders Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, cycling has been looking for a new hero or anything positive to spin. …[Shawn] Hunter, [president of AEG sports], was able to smile Thursday and say, … ‘It was an unbelievable human performance, one of the greatest ever.’”
– “Landis Wins Stage in Huge Turnaround,” Diane Pucin, July 21, Los Angeles Times
“Many longtime devotees of professional cycling said they had never seen a performance–from Armstrong, from the legendary Eddy Merckx or from any other cyclist–like the one produced by Floyd Landis on Thursday in southeastern France. No less an expert than the longtime Tour director, Jean-Marie Leblanc, called Landis’s performance ‘the best stage I have ever followed.’”
– “Landis Climbs Back Into Contention,” Edward Wyatt, July 21, The New York Times
“He had a mischevious glint in his eye…the look of a punk kid who had made good on a ridiculous dare. That’s precisely what Landis did, turning the Tour inside out with a solo demolition of the peloton almost unheard of in recent editions of the race.
– “Pedal to the Mettle,” Bonnie DeSimone, July 21, The Boston Globe
“Like his old boss, Lance Armstrong, Landis has a seemingly superhuman ability to do the Greek pathos-mathos thing and transform physical and emotional pain into forward momentum on a bike for three weeks in July.”
– Andrew Vontz, July 21, Fox Sports
“The comeback was read by many as a master stroke, instantly enshrining Landis in cycling’s pantheon alongside greats like five-time Tour champion Eddy Merckx of Belgium for his show of both human frailty and superhuman courage in the span of 24 hours.”
– Associated Press, July 21
“The Hail Mary pass. … provided a gleaming counterweight to the doping scandal that had overshadowed this Tour since the day before it began. (Operaciâˆšâ‰¥n Puerto, as Spanish police called it, led to the expulsion of prerace favorites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, among others.) By single-handedly transforming stage 17 into a kind of velo Instant Classic, Landis ensured that this Tour will be remembered as much for the heroics of a rider who was there as it will be for the suspicion hanging over those who weren’t.”
– “The Amazing Race,” Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated
July 4th, 2006 → 1:29 pm @ Seth Mnookin
In the year and a half since Jose Canseco published Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, Madonna’s former paramour has served as a punching bag for those within baseball’s protective fraternity. During last March’s Congressional hearings, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire refused to be sworn in en masse because they didn’t want to be pictured with the greased-up, perma-tanned slugger. McGwire referred to Canseco as a “convicted criminal who would do or say anything to solve [his] own personal problems.” Schilling warned of “glorifying the so-called author” or “indirectly assisting him to sell more books.”
Cansecoâ€šÃ„Ã®who, at age 42, is attempting a comeback with the San Diego Surf Dogs (the same team for which the 47-year old Rickey Henderson put up a .456 OBP last year)â€šÃ„Ã®is back in the news, and it’s not because of his three strikeouts in his Surf Dogs debut last night. Before yesterday’s game, he had this to say: “They’re mafia, point blank, they’re mafia. I don’t think Major League Baseball is enthused about finding out the truth. There needs to be a major cleanup in Major League Baseball. I think they are treading on very thin ice, and [commissioner] Bud Selig has to be very careful what he’s doing because his job is on the line.” Has the new testing program solved the sports steroid problem? “The policy sounds great, but that’s not the problem,” Canseco said. “There are major problems not with the policies but the individuals who are instituting this policy. For example, and this is theoretical, if Roger Clemens gets tested and he gets tested positive and it comes back, what do these individuals do with this policy? I think it’s going to depend on a case-to-case, player-to-player basis.”
Canseco’s comments were treated with what must be by now a familiar brand of condescending disregard. At first, a baseball spokesman wouldn’t even deign to address Canseco’s allegations: “We wouldn’t comment on anything he said.” Later, an MLB official amended this statement, telling the Associated Press, “His allegations are complete nonsense.”
Of course they are. Just like his allegation that Rafael Palmeiro was a steroid user was complete nonsense. Canseco, after all, is the guy who embarrassed himself on national TV, the boob with the awful track record when it comes to telling the truth. Just look at the testimony!
Jose Canseco: “MLB did nothing to take it out of the sport. Baseball owners and the players union … turned a blind eye to the clear evidence of steroid use in baseball.”
ESPN The Magazine Special Report on Steroids, November 2005: “Who knew? We all knew: the trainers who looked the other way as they were treating a whole new class of injuries; the players who saw teammates inject themselves but kept the clubhouse code of silence; the journalists who ‘buried the lead’ and told jokes among themselves about the newly muscled; the GMs who wittingly acquired players on steroids; and, yes, owners and players, who openly applauded the home run boom and moved at glacial speed to address the problem that fueled the explosion.”
Mark McGwire: “I’m not going to go into the past or talk about my past. I’m here to make a positive influence on this.”
“My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family and myself.”
“I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates.”
McGwire, described at the hearings by the Washington Post as a “shrunken, lonely, evasive figure,” has not, to date, been involved in public efforts to discourage young athletes from taking performance enhancing drugs.
Sammy Sosa: “Everything I have heard about steroids and human growth hormones is that they are very bad for you, even lethal. I would never put anything dangerous like that in my body. Nor would I encourage other people to use illegal performance-enhancing drugs.”
Sosa averaged 48 home runs a year in the five years preceding MLB’s new testing program. Last year, he hit 14. He is no longer on a major league roster.
Rafael Palmeiro: “I have never used steroids. Period. I do not know how to say it any more clearly than that.”
“I am against the use of steroids. I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t think athletes should use steroids and I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t
think our kids should use them.”
“To the degree an individual player can be helpful, perhaps as an advocate to young people about the dangers of steroids, I hope you will call on us. I, for one, am ready to heed that call.”
Palmeiro was suspended last August after testing positive for steroids. He is no longer on a major league roster.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig: “Major League Baseball has always recognized the influence that our stars can have on the youth of America. As such, we are concerned that recent revelations and allegations of steroid use have sent a terrible message to young people.”
“Baseball’s policy on performance enhancing substances is as good as any in professional sports.”
In February 2005, after reports that Jason Giambi had told the BALCO grand jury that he knowingly used steroids, Giambi apologized in a much-ridiculed press conference. In October, MLB awarded Giambi its Comeback Player of the Year Award. (The award is sponsored by Viagra, for which Palmeiro formerly served as a spokesman.)
Baseball’s drug policy is so porous magazine articles give maps on how to beat it. Testing administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the organization responsible for testing U.S. Olympic athletes, is far more stringent than the testing done by Major League Baseball.
June 9th, 2006 → 4:32 pm @ Seth Mnookin
No doubt Jason Lee wouldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t approve of a post like thisâ€šÃ„Ã®and just wait, in the next two days Iâ€šÃ„Ã´ll probably lose a winning lottery ticket and news will break that Tim Wakefield has been a drug runner since his days with the Piratesâ€šÃ„Ã®but thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s yet more news about current or former Yankees players taking drugs now banned by MLB. On Thursday, Jim Leyritz said he began using amphetamines in 1990, his rookie year with the Yankees. This comes on the heels of the Jason Grimsley affidavit (Grimsley played with the World Series champion Yankees in 1999 and 2000). And, of course, thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s the fact that the two biggest names ensnared in the BALCO case besides Barry Bondsâ€šÃ„Ã®Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffieldâ€šÃ„Ã®both play for New York. Sheffield says he had no idea he was using steroids. The same canâ€šÃ„Ã´t be said about Giambi, who reportedly told the BALCO grand jury he was juicing while playing for in both Oakland and New York; back in 2001, the Yankees agreed to remove language prohibiting steroid use from Giambiâ€šÃ„Ã´s contract. I’m of the opinion that lots more names are going to come out in the not-so-distant future. But at the moment, a lot of what’s come out so far has some connection to New York.