Welcome to the Steroid Zone, A-Rod
Imagine you’re Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts and you’re asked by the magazine to go into a gym in Miami, seek out one Alex Rodriguez, and let him know: “We have four independent sources each saying you took anabolic steroids in 2003. Would you like to comment on this?”
In the past, the image-conscious Rodriguez has denied steroid use, but sometimes in carefully worded terms. However, when faced with this new claim, this is how he reacted: “You’ll have to talk to the union. I’m not saying anything.” In fact, SI did talk to the union. Or tried to. The same article claims that Gene Orza, the union’s Number Two, alerted Rodriguez in September 2004 that a drug test was imminent. Orza was approached by SI for comment, which was, “I’m not interested in discussing the information with you.” (When Roberts asked Rodriguez for a response to Orza’s alleged violation of CBA procedure, he turned his back on her and walked away.)
Having witnessed the public relations hell endured by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemensand how it's likely affected their personal lives away from the gameRodriguez came clean on Monday by telling ESPN's Peter Gammons that, yes, the SI story is true and that he did take steroids in 2003...and 2001 and 2002, for that matter. Interesting to note: In those three years, Rodriguez averaged 52 homers a season. In his ten other full-time campaigns, he's averaged 39.
Rodriguez claims he caved into taking steroids because of the enormous pressure he felt after signing his supersized $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2001. Like Bonds before him, Rodriguez said he shot up to assure his standing as the best player in the game.
With his confession, Rodriguez is banking that he'll be given a measure of forgiveness that Yankee fans gave Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte, both of whom also took steroids and later admitted to it. But he's still chasing a home run record and, also like Bonds before him, any recordbreaking feat on his end will now be frowned upon by the baseball public.
Of course, we're still waiting to hear a confession from Gene Orza. Good luck holding your breath for that.
The “four independent sources” that gave SI the same info is reported to have received it from the list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancement drugs in 2003, thus activating a mandatory testing program in 2004 because the list of positives surpassed 5% of all major league players. The players from that list were supposed to remain anonymous, but Federal agents raided one of the labs responsible for the tests as part of the government’s investigation into BALCO; currently, the Feds are attempting to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals, with the union opposing, that they should have complete access to the list which is under seal.
Some quick takes associated with this scandal, which certainly won’t go away anytime soon:
- Jose Canseco, who attempted to out Rodriguez in his latest book, may have been vindicated once again.
- We’re reminded once more that Commissioner Bud Selig, all $18 million of him, has been a disaster in dealing with the steroids issue despite the explosive financial growth he has presided over.
- If the clean playerswe assume there are more than a fewcan’t gang up and throw out the current union leadership over this, then it will likely never happen.
- The A-Rod story, fairly or unfairly, will harden the public’s blanket of doubt over all baseball players, especially current-day sluggers like Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard, whether they are clean or not.
- Finally, Rodriguez avoided the likelihood of a torturous media session when he shows up for Yankee camp around February 17, having admitted that the SI story was correct.
That's Not All...
So jurors may not hear all the evidence showing the disputed home run king to be baseball’s most crucial steroids cheater, but the court of public opinion has. If Bonds previously was hoping to reach the Hall of Fame within a few tries, that may be in serious doubt now.
Rodriguez certainly found company this past week with Barry Bonds, whose own steroids laundry was dragged into the public after the media convinced the judge presiding over Bonds’ upcoming perjury trial to publicly release documents connected to the trial. Those documents revealed that, four times between 2000 and 2003, Bonds tested positiveand not just for the clear and the cream, as he admitted without knowing at the time in his 2003 BALCO grand jury appearance, but for the anabolic steroids methenelone and nadrolone. Also released was a recorded conversation between Bonds’ former trainer Greg Anderson and former pal Steve Hoskins discussing injecting Bonds with steroids. Judge Susan Illston may allow that but is leaning toward not allowing the test results into trial, because Anderson, the man who can tie Bonds to all of this, will again likely refuse to speak. (If he does, then what was all that time spent in jail for contempt all about?)
...But Wait, There's More!
Let’s not forget that there was some ugly news regarding Roger Clemens this past week as well. Lab results show that Clemens’ DNA is on a used syringe held in a FedEx box kept by former trainer Brian McNamee. For those trying to show Clemens lied under oath and indeed took steroids, they’re halfway home with this development; the same lab is now determining if traces of steroids are also on the syringe.
Your Scandal is Bigger Than Our Scandal
Todd Jones, the former closer now writing for The Sporting News, had a rather interesting (and certainly minority) take on the A-Rod story. He believes that the outing of Rodriguez only helps the owners in their attempt to clean up the game on their terms, colluding against players who were testing then and are not being offered free agent contracts in favor of younger kids who weren’t around back then. In other words, Jones believes this is why nobody’s getting signed this winter. Yes, Todd, it always comes back to the owners, doesn’t it...
Baby, You're a Rich Commish
Never mind the $17.47 million Commissioner Bud Selig made in 2007, as was widely reported (and widely scrutinized) this past week. What caught our attention was that Selig earned nearly a half-million bucks each for employee benefits and expense/allowance compensation. We know Selig travels and dines in style, but think about it; that’s $8,000 a week in expenses. And those employee benefitswe’d sure like to read that Summary Plan Description.
Selig’s salary was surpassed in 2007 by only four major league players, all New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens. It was substantially higher than his colleagues at the other major sports leagues, including the NFL’s Roger Goodell (a prorated $11.2 million), the NBA’s David Stern (an estimated $10 million) and the NHL’s Gary Bettman ($5.6 million).
Bob's Your Uncle Again
Bob Costas has joined MLB Network, a terrific move for the fledgling cable channel that so far has received mostly positive reviews. Costas, who (unbelievably) turns 57 in March, picked a pretty good week to mark his debut, avoiding the relatively mundane free agent saga to seize on two controversial subjects: The Joe Torre book and the Alex Rodriguez scandal, resulting in sit-down interviews with Torre and Selena Roberts, one of two Sports Illustrated reporters who wrote the article outing Rodriguez. Besides the in-studio work, Costas will also provide play-by-play for 12 MLB Network broadcasts, his first on-air baseball action since 2000. Costas will continue his work for NBC but will drop his long-running HBO series Costas Now in favor of this gig.
One Bad Man
Now we discover that even Sandy Koufax was a victim of the mass Ponzi swindle perpetrated by Bernie Madoff. Give this guy the rack as soon as possible.
Somewhere, Francisco Rodriguez must be yelling out, “You gotta be kiddin’ me!” This after the New York Mets signed starting pitcher Oliver Perez to a three-year, $36 million contract. It’s roughly the same deal the Mets gave to Rodriguez, but let’s put this into perspective, shall we? Perez, a guy with a career 55-60 record and 4.39 ERA who led the NL in walks last year, gets the same amount of years and a tad less money than Rodriguez, a top-line closer who set the season record for saves in 2008 and is counted on to, almost single-handedly, be the difference for the Mets this coming year. Memo to Frankie: Fire your agentand hire Perez’s.
Wounded of the Week
Last week we mentioned that the Texas Rangers, already out two pitchers for the season, were growing paranoid to the idea of signing free agent starter Ben Sheets because of his injury history. Good thing the Rangers didn’t bite; Sheets revealed this week that his throwing elbow may be headed under the knife after an offseason in which it hasn’t properly healed. If Sheets does need surgery, who gets the bill? It might be the Milwaukee Brewers, Sheets’ incumbenteven though he’s not longer under contract to them.
The Cincinnati Reds are taking a chance on Jacque Jones, and that would have been a strange thing to say about four years ago. As America’s good times have fallen into deep recession during this time span, Jones’ good skills have fallen into a state of depression worthy of Zimbabwe. In the early 2000s he was a productive and dependable outfielder for the Minnesota Twins, hitting close to or over the .300 mark with home run power in the 15-30 range. A free agent in 2006, Jones signed with the Chicago Cubs and gave them a solid first-year showing with 27 homers, 81 RBIs and a .285 average. In 2007, he hit .285 again, but the power switch was suddenly turned off; he collected only five homers in 135 games. Jones was quickly traded after the season to Detroit, but after being given the starting left-field job hit just .165 for the Tigers into early May; out of patience, the Tigers released Jones and he was picked up by Florida, but his time with the Marlins was shorter (about two and a half weeks) and even less impressive, batting .108 in 37 at-bats. Nobody’s fools, the Reds have given Jones a minor-league contract which could be elevated to a $600,000 salary if he makes the roster for Opening Day.
It Won't Bring Them Back
The Colorado Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America handed out awards to Matt Holliday and Brian Fuentes as, respectively, the best hitter and pitcher for the Colorado Rockies in 2008. Neither player is still with the team; Holliday was traded to Oakland, and Fuentes, a free agent, signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Traitor For a Day
When the New York Yankees play an exhibition game against the U.S. World Baseball Classic team on March 3, Derek Jeter will not be in their lineup. He’ll be playing for the other side.
Now Playing at TGG
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