December 13, 2007

A Nation Shrugs

Say it ain't so, Glenallen!

Mitchell Mania is upon us, and Roger Clemens is the big name, but I don't think many baseball fans were shocked by that one. This is what I wrote when he rejoined the Yankees back in May:
"Or maybe, though I hate to bring it up today, it'll come out that he took steroids. There's no hard evidence, but the rumors have swirled for a while, and anyone with that kind of late-career surge has to make you wonder. Clemens also has that "my actual skull has expanded over the years" sort of look to him, plus roid rage (and little else) could explain the Mike Piazza-thrown bat debacle. But you know what? I'm going to ignore that for the moment, and hope there's no fire underneath all the smoke. Or that he never gets caught. Whichever."
Oh well. Clemens is denying it -- vehemently! -- but I don't think there's much doubt at this point. And if you argued that Barry Bonds should get an asterisk and be barred from the Hall of Fame, you'd damn well better argue the same about Clemens, or else all Bonds' ranting about a racist double standard will look a lot less like ranting.

The rest of the report, though, is largely useless, just because it's so clearly (and admittedly) incomplete. This can only be a fraction of the players who used PEDs, since Mitchell leaned so incredibly heavily on one source, Radomski, for so much of his information. We still don't know the whole truth, and we never will; time to work on better drug tests and move the hell on.

But, before we do that: While there are, by my quick and probably incomplete count, 15 players in the report who were on the Yankees at one time or another (I've got 10 Mets, but I might be missing some -- I don't recognize a few of these names), there's not one single mention in here of Brian Cashman or Steinbrenner (or Minaya or Phillips or Wilpon).

How could the front office have been unaware of what was going on, when at LEAST five players** on the 2000 Yankees --the World Champion Yankees -- may well have been juicing? And if they were aware, what, if anything, did they do about it? McNamee, the trainer who says he injected Clemens, was hired by the Yankees at Roger’s request, but dismissed after 2001. Why? Because they realized he was distributing PEDs? That’s just speculation of course, but it’s a natural question, and Mitchell doesn’t seem to have asked it.

The one front office guy who comes out looking truly awful is Giants GM Brian Sabean, and if the Giants have a modicum of integrity left -- unlikely, at this point -- they'll fire him immediately. It's one thing to look the other way while Bonds took steroids. But Sabean apparently heard as far back as 2002 that Bonds' personal trainer, who was allowed in restricted clubhouse areas against the advice of the Giants' own training staff, was getting other players on the team interested in steroids and probably distributing them. And Sabean did absolutely nothing about it (pgs 121-125). Staggeringly spineless and uninspiring leadership there, from the man who once signed Armando Benitez to a three-year, $21 million contract.

Anyway, it will be sort of morbidly interesting to watch the fallout from this, but outside of the Clemens confirmation, I don't think it changes much in the long run.

The day's other interesting story was Alex Rodriguez's conference call officially announcing his new $275 million contract: he said Scott Boras convinced him to opt out by telling him that the Yankees had no interest in keeping him. Can that really be true? Is Boras even creepier and more manipulative than we all assumed? Or is Rodriguez just trying to look like the good guy in all this? Does anybody still care? Tune in next time...

**Note: I'm not counting Pettitte because there's no indication here that he took anything before or after 2002; and David Justice, Mike Stanton, and Chuck Knoblauch are all described in the report as starting their (Radomski-related) PED use after the 2000 World Series. But if you're not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt -- and I would certainly understand if Mets fans felt that way -- you could make it nine. I've still got: Hill, Canseco, Neagle, Clemens, Grimsley.


Top Cat said...

On Roger

Canseco had no problem informing on his teammates.

That said, he offered qualified testimony on behalf of Clemens

Page 211

It was so open, the trainers would jokingly call the steroid injections “B12 shots,” and soon the players had picked up on that little code name, too. You’d hear them saying it out loud in front of each other: “I need to go in and get a B12 shot,” a player would say, and everyone would laugh. (Of course, that was the kind of joke you really only made around other steroid users, because obviously they were in the same boat as you. What were they going to do, tell on you? Not hardly.)

Page 211-212

It was the pitchers that kept the “B12” joke going. For example, I’ve never seen Roger Clemens do steroids, and he never told me that he did. But we’ve talked about what steroids could do for you, in which combinations, and I’ve heard him use the phrase “B12 shot” with respect to others.

A lot of pitchers did steroids to keep up with hitters. If everyone else was getting stronger and faster, then you wanted to get stronger and faster, too. If you were a pitcher, and the hitters were all getting stronger, that made your job that much more difficult. Roger used to talk about that a lot.

“You hitters are so darn strong from steroids,” he’d say.

“Yeah, but you pitchers are taking it, too. You’re just taking different types,” I’d respond.

And sometimes Roger would vent his frustration over the hits even the lesser players were starting to get off good pitchers. “Damn, that little guy hit it odd the end of the bat and almost drove it to the wall,” he would say. He would complain about guys who were hitting fifty homers when they had no business hitting thirty. It was becoming more difficult for pitchers all the time, he would complain.

I can’t give chapter and verse on Roger’s training regimen. But I’ll tell you what I was thinking at the time:

In Roger’s case, around the time that he was leaving Boston—and Dan Duquette, the general manager there, was saying he was “past his prime”—Roger decided to make some changes. He started working out harder. And whatever else he may have been doing to get stronger, he saw results. His fastball improved by a few miles per hour. He was a great pitcher long before then; it wasn’t his late-career surge that made him great. But he certainly stayed great far longer than most athletes could expect. There’s no question about that.

Quotes About Clemens Not Related to Performance-Enhancing Drugs

About Women - Page 91

Here’s something you probably don’t know about Roger Clemens: He’s one of the very few baseball players I know who never cheated on his wife. I was amazed by him, to be honest. His wife should be very proud of him. You see all these other guys- oh, my god, every chance they got, they would be hitting the strip clubs. They would have extra girls staying in the team hotel, one room over from their wives, so they could go back and forth from room to room if they wanted. They would have their choice of women in damn near every city imaginable.

Roger was the exception to that. I went out with him a bunch of times when there were beautiful women around, and he had a lot of opportunities and never took them. I was with him enough times to realize: This man never cheated on his wife. He was one of the rarities, the anomalies, in baseball. I can hardly think of anyone else who never cheated on his wife. I wish I could count myself as an exception, but I can’t.

It's a qualified denial and it only extends to their interaction, which ceased after the 2000 season. Still, at the time, Canseco had been using steroids for 12 seasons, and Clemens was objecting its usage.

Emma said...

Top Cat,

I've read Canseco's book, but I didn't take it as a defense of Clemens at all -- it seemed to me that while admitting he'd never seen Clemens use steroids, or heard him talk about it explicitly, Canseco thought circumstantial evidence suggested Clemens was using. In your quote from page 212 you left out a couple of significant sentences:

"I can't give chapter and verse on Roger's training regimen. But I'll tell you what I was thinking at the time: One of the classic signs of steroid use is when a player's basic performance actually improves later in his career. One of the benefits of steroids is that they're especially helpful in countering the effects of aging. So in Roger's case..." and so on.

Kind of changes the meaning when you put those two lines back where they belong, doesn't it? Obviously, this is just speculation on Conseco's part -- but for whatever it's worth, he's clearly suggesting Clemens was using.

Top Cat said...

I edited out those lines because I didn't feel they were balanced. Other signs include acne, male-pattern baldness, vascularity, lean mid-section, shoe-size, etc.

I think a reasonable person could view his account, in whole, either way.

Top Cat said...

before I forget, I loved the feature on papa eephus and Orson.

Emma said...

Hey, thanks.

I would never claim that Canseco's opinion (on anything, really) is balanced, so we do agree there.

But if you leave out those lines, it looks like Canseco had no opinion on Clemens' possible steroid use - which he pretty clearly does. He has no proof at all, it's just implication; but however flimsy his reasoning, I think he'd be a witness for the prosecution.

It'll be interesting to see if Clemens responds with anything concrete. If the report is wrong, you'd think he'd file a lawsuit...

top cat said...

Defamation is tricky.

One of the elements is damages.

He'll have to show he lost a sponsor or a deal because of the allegations.