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 @

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

It’s only because I’m in a pissy mood that I’m letting myself do this. (Or: the old Manny, Ortiz, and PEDs debate)

August 19th, 2006 → 8:10 pm @

There’s a wingnut hanging out over here who is trying to bait me into an argument about why Manny and Ortiz are roiding up. I know this is wrong, but when I’m in a particularly bad mood, a good beatdown always of cheers me up. Comments by said baiter (screen name: pepsicorp) are in itals.

Ahh, the old Ortiz always had power claim. Of course, it’s pure BS. Lifted this from an ESPN post:
Theory 1: Always had power, just couldn’t hit as well. One poster says he had a season where he hit a HR every 16ab in MN (it was actually closer to 17). But in Boston he’s hitting HRs every 10ab. Heck of an improvement from 25 yrs old to 30. Another said he never made good contact in MN although he hit 270+ 4/5 seasons.

Ortiz has always had power. In fact, it’s one of the reasons the Sox wanted him — because their scout in the Dominican couldn’t get over what a superstar he was down there. In 2001, he hit .234 but had a secondary average of .400 — a sign of a player who could be on the verge of a breakout. If you’re interested, check it out.

Theory 2: MN coaches don’t know how to coach Ortiz. Nice theory b/c the Twins clearly sucked but they did have competant coaching. TK won 2 WS and manager of the year (you had Williams and Little). Ortiz is the only player from that horrid era of Twins play that left and became a better hitter. Others, like Knoblauch, McCarthy, Cordova and Meares clearly had their best hitting seasons in MN. Obviously, the Sox did have him look at his swing differently but a 40HR improvement based on coaching? Not a chance.

First off, get your facts straight: Ortiz didn’t play for Jimy Williams. Second, Ron Gardenhire was Ortiz’s coach in 2002. And if you’re going to tell me you think Ron Gardenhire is a brilliant manager I have some swampland in Florida to sell you. Maybe you missed the 2004 ALDS? The current Twins regime is notorious for relying on speed, pitching, and defense as opposed to power — to the point where they’d discourage people from going yard in favor of moving the runner along. In fact, this is exactly what they did to Ortiz, telling him to hit the ball to the opposite field as opposed to swinging for the fences; that’s why Ortiz said the Twins wanted him to “hit like a little bitch.” (From an article on why the Twins have’t had a player hit 30 home runs in 19 years: “Boston’s David Ortiz has become one of the game’s most feared sluggers after never reaching his full potential with the Twins, a point that Ortiz has made many times by criticizing the organization’s conservative approach to teaching young hitters. Minnesota’s philosophy: Go to the opposite field and form sound fundamentals before letting it rip. ‘It’s not that anybody is against hitting home runs,’ Gardenhire said. ‘It’s just that first the process comes with learning to hit and be a hitter.'”) Third, while Knoblauch may have had his best years by average in MN, he had consecutive seasons of 17 and 18 home runs in New York…after topping out at 13 in MN. Two of Cordova’s top 3 HR years came after he left Minnesota. Pat Meares was a lifetime .258 hitter — he sucked when he played for the Twins and he sucked when he left. And I have no idea who McCarthy is. (If you’re talking about Dave McCarty…well, then you’re talking about Dave McCarty.) Finally, Ortiz’s batting average — which you seem to equate with being a good hitter — didn’t spike up after leaving the Twins; his power did. In 2000 and 2002, the only two years in MN in which he had more than 400 ABs, he hit .282 and .272, which isn’t hugely off line with what he’s done in Boston: .288, .301, .300, .284. And over the past three years, Ortiz has hit .271 on the road…which would seem to indicate that the Sox were right when they thought he would be the type of hitter who could take advantage of Fenway.

Theory 3: PEDs. Why is this hard to grasp? In MN Ortiz was an extremely well liked player known for being aloof and lazy with a poor work ethic and being injury prone.

I’ve never met someone who was extremely well liked and known for being aloof, lazy, and with a poor work ethic; that’s just asinine. If he was aloof and lazy with a poor work ethic, he wouldn’t have been well liked. Another reason the Sox wanted him — besides the power he showed in the DR — was the fact that he was both well liked and known for his ability to keep a clubhouse loose. And he was injury prone because he was a big guy with balky knees who was stuck playing first base on artificial turf. Since coming to Boston, he hasn’t played in the field, and he hasn’t had to play on turf.

The Twins, a playoff team now, let him go for nothing and Boston was the only team that gave him a chance.

Terry Ryan has said exactly that…just as he’s said that letting Ortiz go was the biggest mistake of his career. What’s more, the Yankees also wanted him — but they had a logjam at first/DH, with Giambi and Nick Johnson both on the roster.

27 yrs old and he hadn’t even hit 60HRs in his career. Why wouldn’t he try some PED to improve his then failing career? I would’ve, you would’ve.

Look, just because you’re a cheater — or a wanna-be cheater — doesn’t mean everyone is. Plenty of players have seen spikes in their power from 25 to 30. In fact, plenty have seen spikes at age 27, the year Ortiz arrived in Boston. There’s Stan Musial, who’d never hit more than 19 home runs before age 27; in his next eight years, he topped 30 six times and 35 three times. There’s Dave Winfield, who never topped 30 home runs before age 27. There’s Dwight Evans, who didn’t top 20 homers until he was 26 and didn’t top 30 until he was 30. And, since I know you heart the Twins, there’s Gary Gaetti, who hit 5 home runs in a full season at age 25 (sandwiched between a 20 and a 21 hr season) before hitting 34 when he turned 27.

Theory 4: Twin fans secretly hate Ortiz for sucking for them and becoming good for another team so it must be sour grapes.

This is the best theory I’ve heard so far.

Well, I can’t prove this one if you don’t believe it. Red Sox fans became more hated than Yank fans over the years so you have some ammo here but I don’t really care.

That doesn’t even begin to make sense.

Since Seth is so high and mighty on the integrity of the game, I’d like to know his thoughts on PEDs on the Sox. You have a former pitcher who said it was everywhere. Manny came from Clev, a team that should clearly raise eyebrows.

My beef with Giambi wasn’t so much that he juiced, but that he juiced and now is moralizing about the reporters who uncovered it. Anyway, you’re talking about Paxton Crawford, right? The guy who played in Boston two years before Ortiz got there? I’m sure there are players on the Red Sox who have used PEDs. There might still be; I have no idea. The only people we know were juicing are those who’ve been implicated by their grand jury testimony or tested positive.

As for Manny, this is his 12th year in a row of remarkable consistency. During that time, he’s never hit more than 45 home runs and he’s never hit less than 26. Assuming he makes it to 37 this year, it’ll be the eighth year in a row (not counting his injury-shortened ’02 campaign) in which he’s hit between 37 and 45 homers. Compare that to the odd, late-career spikes for the folks we can reasonably guess used PEDs:

* Sammy Sosa hadn’t hit more than 36 home runs in a season before he put up 4 straight seasons of 66, 63, 50, 64.

* Mark McGwire had never hit more than 50 before hitting 52, 58, 70, 65 in consecutive years.

* In his first four years in the bigs, Jason Giambi hit between 20 and 33 home runs. Then, according to his grand jury testimony, he starts juicing. Voila! 43, 38, 41, 41.

* After hitting more than 30 hrs exactly once before he turned 30, Rafael Palmeiro had consecutive years in which he hit 39, 39, 38, 43, 47, 39, 47, 43, 38.

* And, of course, there’s Barry Bonds. In his first 14 seasons, he topped 45 home runs once (and 40 three times). Starting at age 35, he hit 49, 73, 45, and 45.

Let’s hear Seth’s version.

My version? My version is that in the current environment, it’s hard to say for sure anyone’s 100 percent clean (although Manny is as close to a model of non-juicing consistency as is possible and there’s a whole boatload of reasons why Ortiz has blossomed). My version is also that if you want people to take you seriously, you should come up with something – anything – to back up what you’re trying to say. If not, you just sound like a moron. Correction: an aloof and lazy moron with a poor work ethic.

Ahhh…I feel better already.

3 AM SUNDAY MORNING EDIT: Not surprisingly, pepsicorp answered with another inane comment. Only slightly surprising is the fact that I again took the time to answer. It’s below. This time, it’s my responses to his comments that are italed.


Hey, nice. You answered me posts. I’m actually impressed. Still, we have issues. The main issue I have with you is that you don’t know anything but apparently hung around the team for a year. That seems like you’re lazy/aloof or willfully blind. Either you know some players are cheating or you don’t – and odds are very good that that someone on the team uses. What % of players use? I’ve heard as high as 75% or as low as 10%.

However, I can’t imagine someone who has the access you do doesn’t know more than what you’re speaking of. I’m really hoping we’re not going to be reading an article from you in a few years telling us how you’re another victim and can’t believe players were hiding this from you. Enough columnists already wrote that article.

Lazy, aloof, willfully blind — or not physically in people’s homes when they would be using. I’ve written that I think the media was (and is) too credulous; it’s not my fault you haven’t bothered to look that up. I’ve also written that the clubs themselves have no idea who is or isn’t using — in an age when players change teams constantly, and an age when contracts are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, why, in god’s name, would players let team officials know they’re juicing? And finally, I’ve written that without a solid testing program — and the current one most definitely is not — we’ll never truly have any idea who is or isn’t clean, and because of that, everyone will be suspect. Try using a teensy, tiny amount of the time you spend writing comments on other people’s blogs actually doing some research.

Further, your defenses of Ortiz aren’t that sound. Ortiz was coached by Gardy one year, before that it was the TK era. And it was that era (94 or so to 2001) where the Twins clearly sucked. Still, no other Twin that left became a better power hitter. Knobby hit more a few more HR (best seasons in NY were 17 and 18, in MN it was 11 and 13) but only once did he even hit higher than his career slg avg. If the Twins organization was so bad you’d expect more hitters to leave MN and improve. Ortiz is the only player from that period that did. And he improved by a lot. And maybe the Sox were able to predict his future greatness but they took thier time to sign him – he was a free agent for 5 weeks. This sounds more like a defense after the fact.

In Knoblauch’s highest HR year in Minnesota, he hit about 72 percent of what he hit in NY (13 versus 18). During Ortiz’s last year in MN, he hit about 65 percent of what he hit the next year in Boston (20 versus 31) — and in Boston he was hitting in a park that rewarded his swing, with a team that encouraged power-hitting, and with protection from the best-hitting team in the history of the game.

Wait — let me guess: now you’re going to say that Ortiz went from 20 to 31 to 41 to 47. True. In 2002 (20 home runs) he had 412 ABs. In 2004 (41) he had 582 — meaning he had 1.4 about times as many chances to hit home runs. 582 ABs in MN in 2002 would have produced about 28 home runs…which means that, once you adjust for at bats, he hit about 68 percent as many home runs in 2002 as he did in 2004. By 2005, he was hitting in front of Manny Ramirez. And you can’t get better protection than that.

Finally — and I really do not know why you can’t get this through your thick head — the Twins have said they not only badly bungled that situation but that it was a defining mistake of that era.

Further, one of the reasons Ortiz hates TK was that TK thought he was soft and wouldn’t play hurt. Hence the rep.

You also state that the Twins didn’t let hitters hit HR. Not exactly true.

I’ve never in my life come close to saying the Twins didn’t let hitters hit home runs; I said they didn’t emphasize it, and they discouraged it when it came to Ortiz. The Twins have also said this. Repeatedly.

In 2000, Jones hit 19, Ortiz 10.

In 2000, 102 players hit more than 19 home runs.

In 2001, Koskie 26, Hunter 27, Ortiz 18.

In 2001, 46 players hit more than 27.

In 2002 (Gardy’s first year), Hunter 29, Jones 22, Ortiz 20. Sure, Ortiz blames MN for his failures as a hitter but remarkably NO OTHER hitter has. Amazing that Ortiz was singled out solely by the staff.

In 2002, 38 players hit more than 29. As I — and about every other media outlet in the country — have pointed out, the Twins had gone 19 years without a player hitting 30 home runs; 478 players had seasons of 30+ in that time, or about 27 players per season. The Twins haven’t had a player with an OPS of over .900 since 1996; last year, there were 27 players who had OPS’s of .900+. The Twins have been a crappy power team for years. That could be because the front office is stupid, or it could be because they’ve de-emphasized power in favor of small-ball, defense, and pitching.

You note that Winfield, Musial et al showed spikes at these ages. However, these players certainly had different career paths. There was no question about them at age 27 (Ortiz’ 1st year in Boston). They were complete players. Ortiz was a washout. A bit of a difference.

That he wasn’t able to stay healthy in his early 20s is blamed on turf? And now that he’s a DH on grass no more injuries. I suppose that makes some sense although that’s also very convinent. The big advantage, supposedly, for PEDs is much faster recovery time.

You suppose that makes sense? How is that very convenient? Perhaps you’ve heard of Occam’s razor. (Wait a minute: of course you haven’t.) It states that the simplest answer is usually the correct answer. What makes more sense: moving Ortiz off of artificial turf and not playing him in the field made him less prone to injury? Or Ortiz decided he was going to use steroids and therefore hatched a grand scheme to switch to grass and become a DH by pissing off a manager who’d left Minnesota a year earlier and then using his Jedi mind tricks to get the Twins to ask him to slap hit singles to the opposite field? Finally, if, as you say, Ortiz was “washed up,” why wouldn’t he have decided to start juicing before — say, in 2000 or 2001 or 2002. You know — the years that are now acknowledged to be the steroid era.

You mock me for making accusations with no fact. Well, since I’m not a reporter and have no access I don’t have much to go on.

Every single thing — everything — from my post and this response was based on “reporting” I did on the this new-fangled thing called the Interweb. Using high-tech, top-secret journalist tools like Google. You don’t have much to go on because a) you don’t have much to go on and b) you’re a moron.

However, we also know that the Twins organization and the Sox org have both been tied to steroids so I believe it is fair to suspect some players. If you don’t think so fine, but it does call into question your journalistic curiosity.

I’m not sure why you think you know anything about journalism, but let me give you a some quick lesson. It’s not “journalism” to go throwing around accusations in the total and complete absence of facts. That’s recklessly irresponsible. I don’t think it’s fair to call anyone into suspect in the absence of a single shred of evidence. What you’re citing isn’t evidence; it’s not even particularly suspicious, although I do realize you’d need a combination of a tiny amount of smarts and a teensy bit of curiosity to actually sit down, dig up some stats, and crunch some numbers.

But, for the record, there are lots of things I’m curious about. I’m curious about the inner workings of the Bush White House. I’m curious about Scientology. I’m curious about global warming and astronomy and the nature vs. nurture in human developement. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or the resources to go out and write books about all of these subjects. I wasn’t writing a book about steroids, although if I’d somehow stumbled upon any evidence — say, a syringe sticking out of someone’s ass — I’d have done everything I could to figure out what was going on. Right now there’s an MLB-endorsed committee granted near-prosecutorial powers and run by the man who helped broker peace in Ireland, and thus far they haven’t come up with any bombshells. I don’t know why it’s surprising that I didn’t either…especially since that wasn’t what I was working on.

Wouldn’t you like to know if the best hitter since Ted Williams is cheating?

I actually know that — or am pretty sure I know that. Barry Bonds was cheating. David Ortiz doesn’t come close to being the best hitter since Ted Williams. He’s not close to the best hitter currently in baseball. He’s not even the best hitter currently on the Red Sox.

Manny has been remarkable consistant – so were Palmerio and Juan Gonzalez – the hitter he most closely resembles. Ortiz was a washed up player who couldn’t stay healthy – now he’s an MVP canidate.

The steroid cloud is going to stay over a lot of players until people know what happened. Part of that will be good reporting. You credit the Red Sox wining on money, smarts and nerve. Shouldn’t you also determine how much ‘roids played a part?

It’s fitting that your email handle is “brat” — you have that rare combo of zero intellectual sophistocation and a petulant belief that whatever dumb thought comes into your head is not only correct but deserves being shared. Most people move beyond that when they’re 12. I’m know I deserve part of the blame for indulging you. Don’t worry — it won’t happen again.

Post Categories: David Ortiz & Manny Ramirez & Paxton Crawford & Rampaging morons & Steroids

Players union fights for right to drive bus off cliff

June 22nd, 2006 → 4:54 pm @

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.

Post Categories: Amy K. Nelson & Baseball & Daisuke Matsuzaka & ESPN The Magazine & Murray Chass & Paxton Crawford & Players Union & Red Sox & Sports Reporters & Steroids

Paxton Crawford and the downside of Red Sox Nation

June 21st, 2006 → 5:11 pm @

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 wasn’t a big deal, right?” When he made the big league team in 2001, he says a teammate—and there are a number of players who were members of the Red Sox in 2001 that remain with the team today—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 users—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.

Post Categories: Jason Grimsley & Paxton Crawford & Red Sox & Red Sox Nation & Steroids & Theo Epstein