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.
June 21st, 2006 → 5:11 pm @ Seth Mnookin
It was only a matter of time. Admissions or accusations of steroid use now plague almost every major league clubhouse, and today they officially reached the Red Sox, when ESPN The Magazine published an article in which former Sox pitcher Paxton Crawford talks about using steroids, human growth hormone, and speed while with the Sox in 2000 and 2001. (The article is available online, but only if you’re a subscriber to ESPN Insider.)
Crawford says he was introduced to steroids while in the Sox’s minor league system in 1999. “Shoot, why not?” he says he remembers thinking. “I’m just a country boy; I didn’t even think twice. It seemed like everybody else was doing it, so it wasnâ€šÃ„Ã´t a big deal, right?” When he made the big league team in 2001, he says a teammateâ€šÃ„Ã®and there are a number of players who were members of the Red Sox in 2001 that remain with the team todayâ€šÃ„Ã®introduced him to HGH.
Over the past half-decade, there have been widely varying estimates of how many major league players have juiced, ranging from Ken Caminiti’s 50 percent to Jose Canseco’s 85 percent. (It’s worth noting that the oft-mocked Canseco appears to have been more honest than many of the players called to testify before Congress last March, including Mark McGuire, whom the Washington Post called “a shrunken, lonely, evasive figure.”) After spending a year around Major League Baseball, neither figure would surprise me. (I want to make clear that I never heard a single player admit or acknowledge using, I never saw anyone use, I never saw the presence of steroids, and I never heard any member of the Red Sox management or ownership talk about knowledge of a player on the team using.) In the days and months ahead, there’ll be more and more players who either come clean or are outed as being usersâ€šÃ„Ã®sluggers, sure, but also marginal pitchers like Crawford looking to reduce their recovery time and gain a few miles on their fastball and slap-hitting singles hitters looking for improved reaction time.
In Boston, where baseball is more a religion than a pastime, the effects of these revelations would be absolutely devastating. Take a look at what’s happened to the Diamondbacks following the Jason Grimsley affidavit and think for a second about how much less suffocating Phoenix is than Boston. Recall the round-the-clock coverage of Theo Epstein’s interregnum last winter. And now imagine the feeding frenzy that would occur if a hero of the 2004 World Series team is revealed to be a user. It could take months, if not years, to deal with the fallout.
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.
June 8th, 2006 → 11:42 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Remember when Deadspin’s Will Leitch predicted that those blacked out names from the Grimsley affidavit would eventually leak out? He’s a prescient one: earlier today, Leitch posted some of those names, which he says he’s fairly confident about. Sammy Sosa’s name is apparently one of those blacked out, which comes as a surprise to approximately no one. Then there’s also this revelation: Leitch, a devoted Cardinals fan, says Grimsley named Chris Mihlfeld as the “fitness trainer to several Major League Baseball players” who directed him to a source that provided “amphetamines, anabolic steroids, and human growth hormone.” So what, right? Well, Mihlfeld–not the source who’s said to have served as Grimsley’s personal pharmacy–is not only a former strength and conditioning coordinator for the Royals, he’s also Albert Pujols’ personal trainer. Think anyone will start poking around now? (And why is it that Leitch, a hell of a blogger and apparently a decent reporter too, is the one breaking this news? As good as he is, he’s one dude being paid slave labor wages by a charming Brit. You’d think one of the thousands of accredited MLB reporters in the country might have come up with some of this…)
June 8th, 2006 → 4:26 pm @ Seth Mnookin
In an effort to figure out just whose names might be blacked out in the Grimsley affidavit, the Herald‘s John Tomase comes up with the best line yet in his column on this whole mess. Referring to former Sox reliever and former Grimsley teammate Heathcliff Slocumb, Tomase writes “If Slocumb took something, they were the worst steroids ever and he deserves a refund.” (To be fair–or unfair, as the case may be–to Slocumb, he does have a better career ERA than Grimsley. Slocumb, of course, was the bait in one of the most lopsided trades in history, when the Sox sent him to Seattle for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek on July 31, 1997. Heck, that almost–I said almost–made up for Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen.) Tomase’s guess as to which one of of Grimsley’s “better friends” he named for the feds? None other than Chuck Knoblauch, the 5-feet, 9-inch second baseman who saw a 142-point spike in his OPS between 1993 and 1994. (You remember Knoblauch. He was the short dude who had an annoying tendency to get hit by pitches and later forgot how to throw a baseball. Good times.)
June 7th, 2006 → 9:16 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Earlier this year, ESPN was showing a graphic on the number of home runs hit this season. After an eight percent decline in the total number of home runs hit from 2004 (5,451) to 2005 (5,017), Major League Baseball players are on pace to more than make up for that loss: if the rest of the season plays out on par with whatâ€šÃ„Ã´s happened so far, thereâ€šÃ„Ã´ll be 5,431 homers hit this year. A reliever was eyeing the ESPN graphic when a bystander remarked that the cause of this year’s uptick must be the recent surge in lighter bats. â€šÃ„ÃºYeah,â€šÃ„Ã¹ the reliever snorted sarcastically. â€šÃ„ÃºIt must be the lighter bats.â€šÃ„Ã¹
Thanks to the MLB testing program, there are no longer coffee pots laced with amphetamines and no longer the kind of open sharing of steroids Jose Canseco described in Juiced. Thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s also no real doubt that thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s still a serious drug problem in baseball. Earlier today, The Smoking Gun posted the affidavit of a Federal agent in support of a search warrant on Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Jason Grimsley. Grimsley was busted after a postal inspector delivered a package of human growth hormone to Grimsleyâ€šÃ„Ã´s Arizona house, and the search warrant was requested after Grimsley stopped cooperating with the feds. HGH, which is not detectible through urine testing, is recognized within baseball as the post-testing era’s preferred performance-enhancing drug of choice.
The Grimsley affidavit makes for sordidly fascinating reading. â€šÃ„ÃºGrimsley stated that throughout the course of his Major League Baseball career, he has purchased and used the athletic performance-enhancing drugs, anabolic steroids, amphetamines, Clenbuteral, and human growth hormone,â€šÃ„Ã¹ the affidavit reads. (According to Grimsley, a year’s supply of HGH cost around $3000.) Grimsley also fingered a number of players heâ€šÃ„Ã´s either used with or received drug tips from; their names have been blacked out, but, as Deadspinâ€šÃ„Ã´s Will Leitch notes, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s likely only a matter of time before they leak out as well. (Over the course of his major league career, which began with the Phillies in 1989, Grimsley, who played on the 1999 and 2000 championship Yankees teams, teamed up with Lenny Dykstra, Sandy Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Alan Embree, Jim Edmonds, Mike Sweeney, Carlos Beltran, Roger Clemens, Rafeal Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa, among many, many others. Grimsley asked for and was granted his release by the Diamondbacks earlier today.)
The Grimsley affidavit is yet another sign that baseball needs to get serious about the massive holes that remain in its testing program. As Jayson Stark writes, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s proof that the government still has baseball in its sights. And this could be just the kind of embarrassment that will force the players union to finally talk about allowing blood testing of its players; that way, HGH (and other maskable steroid) users will face the prospect of being found out if and when a more readily available test does become available. It might also force news organizations to put reporters who arenâ€šÃ„Ã´t also responsible for churning out a game writeup five or six nights a week on the story; itâ€šÃ„Ã´s not as if movie critics are asked to report out whether or not there are shady doings at the big studios. (Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s no accident that Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the San Francisco Chronicle writers who broke the BALCO story, aren’t Giants beat reporters.) The Grimsley saga might even be enough to convince casual spectators that it’s not just the freakishly muscular sluggers (check out these before and after pictures) or admitted HGH users like Jason Giambi who might be using. From my time in MLB clubhouses last year, I’d guess relievers–with their high work loads and need to recover quickly from the physical stress of pitching day after day–aren’t far behind.
UPDATE: In Thursday’s New York Times, Jack Curry writes that there is a blood test for HGH that was used for the first time during the 2004 Olympics in Athens. “Only several hundred of the tests have been administered since,” Curry writes, “because there is a limited supply of the antibodies needed for the test.”