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February 18, 2009

Prospectus Today

The Rush to Judgment

by Joe Sheehan

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People are never going to be satisfied.

One of the ongoing notions in the past decade's witch-hunting is that people-really, the media-just want players to confess, to own up to what they did. The idea is that by coming clean, the public-really, the media-will forgive them and allow them to get on with their careers. In fact, most of the case against Mark McGwire is that he didn't do just that, and baseball fans-really, the media-have never forgiven him. The legal case against Barry Bonds isn't about drug use, but about words. Rafael Palmeiro failed a test, but his reaction to it, pointing fingers at teammates, is what doomed him. We-really, the media-hate this behavior, belittle it, and yearn for a player who will talk about his use.

Yesterday afternoon, Alex Rodriguez sat down and answered as many questions about his use of performance-enhancing substances as any team-sports athlete ever has. No one has ever gone into the level of detail that Rodriguez did in his statement and in the 40 minutes of questioning that followed. No one has copped to as extensive a usage history. Whether you think he would have been there absent Selena Roberts' reporting, the fact is that he provided more information about his personal use than any player caught up in this mess.

Yet it's still not enough for many. The reaction to Rodriguez's press conference has been at best apathetic, and at worst, critical. His demeanor, his word choice, his expressions, his inflections have all been picked apart, and he's been given no credit for the details he provided. There's an assumption that he's being deceptive, duplicitous, and insincere. Whether this stems from the dislike so many people have for this very insecure man, the dislike of his agent, or the general disdain for the successful and wealthy-let's face it, sports coverage has devolved into thinly disguised class warfare-this most open moment has been dismissed, and Rodriguez has been given no credit for providing it.

Contrast that with the reaction to the press conference at which the Chargers' Shawne Merriman openly discussed his... oh, wait, that didn't happen. It didn't happen because the NFL doesn't have a vested interest in making its players look bad to gain the upper hand in an unending war against its own product. The NFL would never sustain a story like that through multiple news cycles, never allow PED use to overwhelm the story of training camps opening, never contribute to speculation that its game and its stars were somehow less than because of their behavior.

The other day, Bud Selig whined that he shouldn't be held responsible for the so-called "steroid era," claiming that he wanted to talk about the problem as far back as 1995. As I've mentioned, Selig has flipped on this issue a few times, sometimes claiming to have been fighting it for a while, sometimes claiming he didn't know there was a problem. I suppose he could have been fighting a problem he didn't know about. It's not as if Selig was running a needle-exchange program, but given that the man was an owner for 25 years and commissioner after that, I'm going to say that he had both the knowledge and the authority to do more than he did. His busy schedule of misleading Congress, putting out endlessly innumerate claims of poverty, attempting to break the union, destroying franchises, and extorting billions of dollars from taxpayers didn't allow much time for attacking this issue.

Whether you want to blame Selig for what players did or not-both are at fault-what is clear is that he is as responsible as anyone for keeping baseball players' use of PEDs front and center in the public eye. Where the NFL never, ever talks about this-or really, any of the other million problems that the league has, particularly when it comes to player health-Selig and his partners have done everything in their power to keep this story alive. In fact, management openly used the image of cheating players to turn public opinion to their advantage during the 2002 negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. When the Mitchell Report was released, Selig could have used that moment to close the door on this issue, deeming it the final word on the subject. Instead, he hemmed and hawed and allowed speculation about punishments for named players to persist. When Barry Bonds was chasing the home-run record two summers ago, Selig fanned the flames by being openly disdainful of Bonds' accomplishment. Now, rather than keep the focus firmly on the testing program, the draconian punishments for getting caught, and the limited number of positives, Selig beats up on Rodriguez, saying that A-Rod shamed the game.

Maybe he did, but the more Selig points his finger at the approved villains of the last decade, the more his silence on previous ones becomes an embarrassment. Selig owned the Milwaukee Brewers for a quarter-century prior to becoming commissioner, 25 years during which the use of amphetamines-and for a time, cocaine-was much more common than steroids have ever been. The connections between amphetamines and performance are no more clear than those between steroids and performance, though the anecdotal evidence is somewhat stronger that amphetamine use was an essential part of being a major league baseball player.

Amphetamines were just as illegal as steroids in their respective time frames of prominence. It's just that we-really, the media-have decided that one category of performance-enhancing drugs is a soul-crushing evil, and the other merely part of the game's colorful past. That's convenient, but it's also intellectually bankrupt. The contrast between the two treatments is perhaps the biggest reason why I cannot take the current level of outrage seriously. One generation's illegal drug use is OK, while the other's isn't? Please.

The lessons of the Alex Rodriguez press conference are clear, and I hope his peers take them to heart. There is absolutely nothing baseball players can do to satisfy the people who cover the game. They will be portrayed as conniving in any case short of showing up at a press conference with a stash of old needles and a box of empty vials. The media wants blood, not nuance, and there's nothing about the story of baseball players' use of drugs dating back two generations that doesn't demand an embrace of nuance.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

64 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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hokie94

You nailed it!

Feb 18, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 5
 
roughcarrigan

I think Joe is a bit too kind to Alex Rodriguez in praising his openness. Yes, he got in front of the press and spoke. But he refused to take follow up questions and, frankly told a somewhat absurd story of using steroids only for an energy boost and never knowing just what they were or even if they were working but continuing to inject himself with them for 3 seasons. I can suspend disbelief a bit but I'd need cables like the Golden Gate Bridge to suspend that much.

Feb 18, 2009 10:17 AM
rating: 9
 
wbmurphy428

While I think you're right about the difference between the way the people in charge of baseball and the NFL have handled these sorts of problems, there is a fundamental problem in comparing MLB and the NFL in this among so many other areas, including relative popularity. There is a basic truth that baseball and football occupy separate spaces in our national collective consciousness. The cultural space they occupy is different. For whatever reason, rightly or wrongly, there is an awful lot of nostalgia for a lost, simpler, purer time in our history tied up in our cultural view of baseball as a sport. That this nostalgia is based on myth rather than reality, and that it ignores the sport's legacy of racism, gambling, alcoholism, drug use and various other vices throughout its history, dating back to the 19th century, is irrelevant. Baseball is held to a different standard than football because its place in our culture is different. The NFL may be more popular in terms of TV ratings and in polls of sports fans, but it lacks the raw cultural power of baseball in America. So, regardless of what Selig and Co. have done, the fans and media would react to steroid use in baseball differently than they do in football, and it would always be more of a story. Selig has certainly taken advantage of this in his ongoing fight with the union, but I doubt very much that he would have the power to make the steroid issue "go away" or become as insignificant in the public mind (or the media's mind) as it is in football. The difference in public perception is tied more to the separate cultural spaces these two sports occupy in our society than to the actions of the individuals who run either sport, even though you are right that Selig has delivered several self-inflicted wounds to baseball in his handling of this issue. But I really think the constant attempt to compare the NFL and MLB in so many different areas, from their handling of steroids to their relative popularity, is inherently flawed. Baseball and football operate in different cultural space and therefore will always be treated differently by the public, and comparisons between them are inherently problematic because of this.

Feb 18, 2009 10:19 AM
rating: 11
 
oira61

Joe, I can't agree with your conclusion. Andy Pettitte was more forthcoming than A-Rod and fans seem to have forgiven him. Jason Giambi was less forthcoming, but more sincere.

I'm disgusted with the media's focus on A-Rod when it's clear that more than 100 players were doing steroids. ESPN had a whole page of links to its columnists on the topic -- choose outrage in whatever flavor you want. So I agree with your starting point. Plus, I completely agree that Bud Selig needs to take responsibility both for steroids and for keeping the media obsessed with them.

But A-Rod was insincere and it's pretty clear he's still lying. Given the way some players have been forgiven by the media and public -- Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada, for example -- I have to say there WAS a way A-Rod could have defused the criticism.

Feb 18, 2009 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

I'm not going to bother defending ARod, but I disagree that there was something he could've done that would've resulted in Brian Roberts-like forgiveness. This is ARod. People already hate him. Now add in that he comes across as a total phony (and is probably, in fact, a total phony), and you have a recipe for disaster.

Feb 18, 2009 10:27 AM
rating: 3
 
Bill N

Yeah I can't see A-Rod having that same amount of anonymity unless he had spent a large portion of his career in Baltimore too.

Feb 18, 2009 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
Kingctb27

Good stuff my friend. I was talking with some friends the other day about how the NFL actually stands by it's players on these types of issues. You must have been dropping in on our convo...

Feb 18, 2009 10:21 AM
rating: 3
 
amazin_mess

excellent

Feb 18, 2009 10:27 AM
rating: 0
 
GilGaucho

If my memory serves me correctly, wasn't a certain HOF Brewer (Paul Molitor) hopped up on the yayo during Bud's reign as owner? Nice work Joe. Rip Fuel is bad for the game, but cocaine - well we'll just look the other way.

Feb 18, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 3
 
Pietaster07

Great article Sheehan!
Post this sucker on ESPN's front page...

Feb 18, 2009 10:48 AM
rating: 1
 
ZeusIsLoose

Last night during sportscenter, they had a poll about whether you wanted ARod on your team. 70% said yes, last I had looked, carrying every state but the new england area.

In another ESPN.com poll 70+ percent of the people that bothered to answer said they heard enough and just want to move on

As a whole, it seems mlb fans are past this. But yet the media still runs stories like we care.

I for one don't care who used PEDs before there was testing and punishment for it.

Feb 18, 2009 10:52 AM
rating: 6
 
kcboomer

As is custom at BP it's all about blaming Selig. God forbid we shine the light of truth on Donald Fehr and Gene Orza. Nothing wrong with ripping Selig on the steroid issue if it trips your trigger but to do so without calling out his very active co-conspirators is a sure sign of a personal vendetta.

Feb 18, 2009 10:55 AM
rating: -2
 
tdrury

"As is custom at BP it's all about blaming Selig. God forbid we shine the light of truth on Donald Fehr and Gene Orza. Nothing wrong with ripping Selig on the steroid issue if it trips your trigger but to do so without calling out his very active co-conspirators is a sure sign of a personal vendetta."

Fehr and Orza also didn't yap off yesterday about how it's not their fault at all in any way, shape of form. That's probably why there's not room for them in this article.

Feb 18, 2009 11:34 AM
rating: 4
 
Ameer

I agree. Fehr and Orza certainly share the blame, but Selig can't seems to keep his mouth shut.

The image of Selig after Bonds' record-breaking hr still makes me laugh when I think about it.

Feb 18, 2009 11:40 AM
rating: 1
 
antonsirius

It's Fehr and Orza's job to protect the players. Period. It is not their responsibility to police the game.

Calling the union "co-conspirators" is ridiculous on its face.

Feb 21, 2009 22:03 PM
rating: 0
 
jtwranch

There is enough blame to go around. Commissioner, owners, union, and players all deserve some. So, lets move on; but we must remain vigilent. As long as there is credible evidence that PED's pose a threat to an athlete's health they should be banned and the penalties for use should not be relaxed one whit. The penalties for using PED's are not even remotely draconian. (If you want to see what draconian looks like check out the federal sentencing guidelines.)

I'm not interested in judging the morality of usage. However, a player should not have to take drugs in order to compete. The penalties must be sufficient to deter those who will use them. In addition, urine and blood samples should be kept and subject to enhanced testing as new tests become available; this will discourage players from using PED's that can't be detected now but may be in the future. Only then will players feel like they don’t need to use in order to level the playing field. The alternative is to turn baseball into a blood sport that requires an athlete to sacrifice his health and his body in order to compete.

In addition to protecting the players’ long-term health, banning PED's and penalizing their use is essential to maintaining the fan’s interest in the games. If we lose the sense that the playing field is level for all players we lose interest in the competition. I have absolutely no interest in professional wrassling; because it's a drama not a competition. If baseball creates a product in which the athlete who refuses to use is placed at a disadvantage, we have drama not sport. Remember how cheated we felt by the East German women swimmers back in the 70’s and 80’s. I didn’t want American swimmers to use steroids; I wanted the sport cleaned up. So, yes, lets move on; but let us not move on blindly. Lets move on; but, never forget to protect the integrity of the competition and the game.

Feb 18, 2009 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
fishtaco

"There is absolutely nothing baseball players can do to satisfy the people who cover the game"? Baloney. They can be honest, for starters. Rodriguez wavered throughout the press conference between saying he was "young and naive" - at age 25 and then admitting he knew what we was doing was wrong which is why he didn't tell anyone about it. He contradicted several of the things he had said in the Gammons interview, which leaves most of us (Joe excluded, I suppose) sensing that he's still not telling the whole truth. He wasn't taking PED's to "experiment" but to improve his performance on the field but he never came out and said so.

Joe has to get off his soapbox about the media treatment of PED's in baseball. The people that pay the players' salaries - the fans - have a right to know when the sport is compromised and we rely on the media to give us this information.

Feb 18, 2009 11:04 AM
rating: 0
 
Ameer

Nice article, Joe. I was thinking along similar lines today as I watched a bunch of journalists on a news channel I won't bother naming dissect every word of Arod's press conference. It's pretty clear people didn't like the guy to start with, so what could he have done (given his squeaky-clean personality) to satisfy everyone? And, honestly, why should he even waste his time trying to satisfy everyone? If he showed up at the press conference and said, "Hey guys, I injected X and put Y in my protein shakes and it probably helped me hit 2 or 3 homeruns and I really don't care if you want to wipe out my numbers and go ahead and keep me out of the HOF and I'm going to donate $10 million to this charity to make up for it," would that have made a difference? Probably not.

ESPN and SI, on the other hand, are loving it up because they have something to write about. Take just ONE espn columnist:
http://espn.go.com/espn/columnists/archive/_/name/jayson-stark

That's 10 articles on sports since Feb 8 and 5 of them are about Arod.

Let's leave the issue alone. I'm going to watch baseball as a fan this season as I do every season. When Arod crushes a homer, I'm going to enjoy it. When Pujols lines one to the wall, I'm going to enjoy it. When Dunn k's 4 times in a game and hits two bombs in the next one, it's going to be great. I'm going to leave it up to law enforcement and to MLB to make sure the players are following federal laws and league regulations. I don't have the time or the desire to judge 750 different players on 30 different teams.

Feb 18, 2009 11:12 AM
rating: 4
 
Oaktoon
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His cousin?? Maybe steroids? maybe not? The 48 second rehearsed pause as he tried to summon tears while mentioning his teammates-- the same ones who basically hate his guts?

Joe Sheehan-- maybe you can't distinguish truth from falsehood, but most of us can.

As for greenies vs. 'roids, consider this simple fact: there were 4 seasons of 50HRs or more between 1957-1985 (the year before Jose Canseco played full time in the bigs). 4 in 29 years. In the 13 years beginning in 1995 and ending in 2007, there were 23. More than ten times the rate, even if we correct for number of players/teams.

Joe Sheehan-- are you willing to say with a straight face that this was all the product of mound height, baseball tightness, conditioning, and ballpark dimensions? That "greenies" were a more "essential part" (whatever that means) of being a ballplayer than steroids were? Cmon, Joe. We're not that stupid.

Feb 18, 2009 11:34 AM
rating: -10
 
Ameer

I don't know about Joe, but I definitely think mound height and ballpark dimensions were a much bigger factor than steroids.

Feb 18, 2009 11:38 AM
rating: 7
 
gecko1

Good grief. Why continue to defend this clown? He's a liar and a cheater who kept digging his hole with a completely ludicrous story of an unnamed cousin and "over the counter" supplements. He's absolutely earned the ridicule. That there might be hypocrisy in the media or management, etc. doesn't change any of it. He knew what he was doing was illegal and against the rules, he lied about it, is still lying about it and there is no excuse for it. If players want better coverage they should stop cheating and lying.

Now it's probably true that ARoid is in a tough spot. Being honest might put him or friends and family into legal jeopardy but that's all the more reason not to have broken the law to begin with. He's made his bed and is now going to have to live with it.

Feb 18, 2009 12:00 PM
rating: -2
 
Ameer

I don't think it's a matter of defending the guy. I certainly won't go as far as to defend him. The point of Joe's article is that the media was going to blast him either way.

Feb 18, 2009 12:08 PM
rating: 4
 
gecko1

No, there isn't anything A-Rod can say at this point that will help him. If he tells the truth he might go to jail. So he tried a non-apology apology. Nice try but that isn't going to work, nor should it. That isn't the media's fault.

Now I get the point about Selig being a hypocrite and yes, it's ridiculous that we aren't talking about the NFL, etc.

But the lesson isn't that the media hates the players and that nothing the players say will help them. The lesson is that lying and cheating will put you in a tough spot. Too bad, don't do that.

Feb 18, 2009 12:36 PM
rating: 0
 
Ameer

I don't disagree with anything you're saying.

I just think it's silly that the media and the fans are being so vocal and so angry about this issue when, as Joe points out, there are bigger problems in other sports and in this sport. It's a big deal because it's sensationalistic.

Feb 18, 2009 12:47 PM
rating: 1
 
Vilica

Oaktoon -

I would absolutely say that mound height, baseball tightness, conditioning, and ballpark dimensions had a MUCH larger role in producing the inflated offensive numbers of the last 25 years than anything else, including steroids. There has been no evidence at all of steroids actually increasing performance on the field, while the lowering of the mound after the 60's produced a very real and measurable effect on the game's offensive environment. Citing increased HR numbers and then exclaiming "steroids!" isn't an argument.

Also, greenies are absolutely 100% more essential than steroids. Could Cal Ripken Jr. have ever broken the consecutive games played record without greenies? Of course not, but nobody seems to care. Nobody has yet been able to lay out a convincing argument of why anyone using steroids before they were illegal is any different from all of the ballplayers who used greenies for all of those years. Both were illegal under federal law, but not mentioned (and therefore implictly legal) under the rules of the game. Implying that Joe thinks we're stupid and saying that he can't distinguish truth from falsehood seems to be missing the point entirely.

Feb 18, 2009 12:03 PM
rating: 6
 
Ameer

Great point on Cal.

Feb 18, 2009 12:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Oaktoon

Let's see-- mound was lowered after 1968 year of pitcher--

and then Stargell hit 65 HRs with those greenies

Schmidt hit 72

Kingman hit 60.

I guess you're right.

There were 2-- count 'em-- 2 50+ HR seasons in the 25 years after mounds were lowered. So we can dispense with that argument pretty easily.

As for ballpark dimensions, well of course they played a role. But what pray tell was the toughest park-- not the 3rd toughest, not the 2nd toughest, but the toughest-- for a Left hand hitter to homer in from its inception in 2000?

And which left hand hitter-- with no proof that steroids had any impact, of course, hit more home runs in a given season in that park than anyone before him? In the history of the sport??? And why did this marvelously conditioned athlete never hit so many home runs before the time, that we now know, he started using PEDS?

Please get your heads out the sand, folks.

Feb 18, 2009 12:48 PM
rating: -3
 
Oaktoon

I am going to repeat what someone wants to censor around here.

The mound was lowered after the 1968 season. In the next 26 seasons, only twice-- Georg Foster and Cecil Fielder-- did someone hit as many as 50 HRs in a season.

Whatever impact greenies may have had, a power surge wasn't one of them-- only 4 times in nearly 40 seasons did anyone hit 50+ home runs in the "greenie" era. Compared to 23 times in 13 years during the "juice" era.

Ballpark dimensions unquestionably played a role in greater home run numbers in the past 15 years-- but someone please explain-- if steroids have no measurable impact, how a left hand hitter playing in the park toughest, among all 30, for a left hand hitter to homer in, somehow hit more home runs than anyone else had in the history of the game?? Was Bonds not well-conditioned in the 1990s when he would generally hit 35-40 HRs a season? Was he playing in a ballpark that had a 500 ft right field fence?

Of course not. And what did happen, according to real testimony, sometime after 1998 and before 2001-- Barry Bonds began to juice.

Feb 19, 2009 09:27 AM
rating: 3
 
Ameer

One point I like to make:

Does the general reaction to this situation help us understand why McGuire has been hiding under a rock? What advantage is there to speaking to the media/fans if the backlash looks like this?

Feb 18, 2009 12:11 PM
rating: 12
 
baserip4

Exactly. People are going to believe whatever they want regardless of what he says. Better to simply stay out of the spotlight than try to satisfy the insatiable.

Feb 18, 2009 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

exactly....if i was a player that got caught, I'd tell the media they could "Kiss my ass... it wasn't against the rules when I got caught." End of story.

They'd have fun with that little sound bite.

Feb 18, 2009 13:13 PM
rating: 0
 
patdoc98

At least Joe is consistent. For quite a few years, I was on board with what seems to be the mainstream saber viewpoint (there's no evidence that steroid use improves performance, there's no hard evidence that Bonds, McGwire, etc. used steroids, and there's no way to tell who used or didn't use other illegal performance-enhancing drugs in past decades, including amphetamines).

At this point, I think I've gone over to the dark side.

My view now: Many of the best recent players used steroids. It was wrong and they knew it. A-Rod has said more than most of the caught players, but he comes across as really dishonest now, especially because of his past statements denying use. You can compare him to everyone from Merriman to Ripken Jr. to Selig, but none of that is any excuse. I feel bad for him, but he deserves what he is getting.

When Joe says, "There is absolutely nothing baseball players can do to satisfy the people who cover the game," he means "There is absolutely nothing baseball players can do to satisfy the people who cover the game. "

I think Neyer and others may be heading to the dark side also.

Having said all of that, it would be nice if an enterprising reporter could dig up new information on Selig's role in the mid-80s collusion, the decline in Brewers payroll/revenue that was nicely timed with revenue sharing, etc. Or unearthing new evidence of bribes by an owner to city officials in connection with approval of a ballpark financing. That type of witch-hunting / class warfare seems more worthwhile to me.

Feb 18, 2009 12:30 PM
rating: 10
 
patdoc98

meant to add the ALL CAPS: "There is absolutely nothing baseball players WHO TOOK STEROIDS can do to satisfy the people who cover the game."

Feb 18, 2009 12:31 PM
rating: 2
 
MarinerDan

While your general point -- that the media is partly to blame for the steroids scandal and that they won't let it die -- is a good one, your writing swings so far in the other direction -- defending the players at all costs -- that your argument loses much of its credibility.

The fact is that A-Rod's "apology" was lame. He used excuses -- "young," "stupid," "naive" -- rather than owning his behavior and turning the page. He lied. Again. (No one believes that he didn't realize what he was doing. The man was 25. He was a multi-millionaire athlete. That is simply not credible.) There is no way around that. Maybe you don't care, but the point remains that his "apology" did nothing to turn the page.

At the end of the day, no player has really stepped forward, been totally honest, accepted responsibility, and moved on. (Perhaps Pettitte came the closest, but his case is a bit different than the "typical" steroid user.) A-Rod certainly did not do that yesterday. Until that happens, the steroid era will linger.

Your rabid defense of the players you perceive as wronged by the media does nothing to advance the ball.

Feb 18, 2009 12:38 PM
rating: 4
 
baserip4

Rabid defense of the players? He correctly states that both sides are to blame, but that the management side (esp. Selig) is getting a free pass. There was no case made that the players are poor victims in this.

How do you know A-Rod hasn't stepped forward, been totally honest, and accepted responsibility? What would satisfy you? Previously unsuspected users coming clean? This comment completely proves the point that no matter what the player does he won't satisfy the media.

Feb 18, 2009 12:52 PM
rating: 1
 
MarinerDan

Some excerpts from the article:

Yesterday afternoon, Alex Rodriguez sat down and answered as many questions about his use of performance-enhancing substances as any team-sports athlete ever has. No one has ever gone into the level of detail that Rodriguez did in his statement and in the 40 minutes of questioning that followed. No one has copped to as extensive a usage history. Whether you think he would have been there absent Selena Roberts' reporting, the fact is that he provided more information about his personal use than any player caught up in this mess.
______________

No mention of the fact that the Q-and-A was replete with obvious excuses that no one could believe. Reading this article, you would have thought A-Rod owned up, no excuses, no attempt to pass the buck, no attempt to blame his "youth" or his "cousin" or his "naiveté." While he may have said more than anyone to date, that is damning with faint praise.

______________

Yet it's still not enough for many.

______________

Of course it wasn't enough -- it was a pathetic, excuse-laden pre-packaged statement. Nothing more. Joe is essentially saying that A-Rod sitting down and bullshitting for 30 minutes should have been "enough." I disagree. While I have no desire to go on a witch-hunt over the steroid issue, my intelligence is actually insulted by grown men claiming "naiveté" and "youth" as excuses. Own up and be done with it. Or say nothing. A half-assed mea culpa doesn't advance the ball.

And how do I know that A-Rod hasn't been totally honest? Because I have a brain? I mean, here is a guy who has lied repeatedly about this issue, so he is starting from a credibility deficit. And then his mea culpa is laced with incredible excuses, claims that he didn't even know what he was using, etc. So, I feel pretty safe in saying that he hasn't been totally honest. Do you think he has?

Feb 18, 2009 13:08 PM
rating: 5
 
JayhawkBill

You ask, "How do you know A-Rod hasn't stepped forward, been totally honest, and accepted responsibility? What would satisfy you?"

I guess that nothing short of his providing us the entire history of his drug testing from 2004-2008 to back up his words would do, and that would suffice only if it happened that there were tests that exactly coincided with his highest performance peaks in 2005 and 2007, disproving that he was using PEDs before and during those few weeks of great hitting. That's an exacting standard, but that's what it would now take for him to prove his honesty to me.

The challenge is that it's not just that A-Rod was caught. It's that he asserted to a national audience that he never used PEDs after he'd used them and even though he knew that he'd been caught using them. He's displayed an arrogance of dishonesty that is so great that I simply can't trust the man at his word any more.

If the national reaction to A-Rod's press conference is underwhelming, perhaps it's because others don't trust him, either, not because others dislike his agent nor because of class warfare. A-Rod didn't just try to use PEDs without notice; he lied about whether he used them to a national audience. It's understandable that his words of apology only invite skepticism: the man is a proven liar.

Feb 18, 2009 13:28 PM
rating: 0
 
WholeLottaGame

Great article, I agree with pretty much everything except what was already mentioned about A-Rod having some avenue that would grant him redemption. He's never going to have that. He's no longer an athlete, he's a celebrity, and every action of his is going to be analyzed endlessly. He's incredibly successful, wealthy, and attractive, and in general people hate that. Especially since I've heard it argued that one thing people like about baseball is that they can relate to many of the players (David Ecksteins, David Wells, etc).

Feb 18, 2009 12:40 PM
rating: 4
 
cbirkemeier

I find it comical that the media asked Rodriguez the question of whether or not he would have come forward if Selena Roberts hadn't reported his usage. And even more comical that they criticized him for dodging it. If he didn't come forward in the last five years, why would he have come forward without the report and do you think he's stupid enough to answer that question?

Feb 18, 2009 12:40 PM
rating: 1
 
pcanderson

The line that Arod was more open, and more forthright, than any cheater/abuser to date really isn't saying much. It says nothing at all, in my opinion. Yesterday was not about 5 years ago, and not even about 5 years from now, but about 15 years from now. This is Arod trying to protect himself and his HOF chances against the McGwire/Bonds effect. Thus all the emphasis on innocence and youth. Who can't forgive an innocent mistake?

Even if it was made by a 27-year old man and his "cousin"? Even if the drugs -- no Tic Tacs, according to young Arod --was an innocent energy booster and thus, in that way of describing it, sounds awfully like a Tic Tac or some Dubble Bubble? And even if our 27-year-old man has a weird but still yet childish combination of curiosity and incuriousity?

I also find the attempted linkage of "public" to "media" in the column as essentially false. Everyone I know is talking about this, and everyone I know is asking better questions, more pointed questions, than were brought up yesterday. And no one I know is in the media.

Oddly enough -- but I think in this case appropriately enough -- if one were to look back over the coverage of Watergate, one could find dozens if not hundreds of columns just like this one.

The proper response, when informed by the Yankees that there would be no follow-ups, would have been for the press to boycott the press conference. What you got was not Arod being open. What you got was Arod being packaged.

Feb 18, 2009 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
bflaff

Any time the subject of PEDs comes up, you can bet we'll all be wallowing in what Philip Roth described as "America's oldest communal passion: the ecstasy of sanctimony" pretty soon. From people on both sides of the issue. I'd like to see a lot more shades of grey added to the commentary we get on this, as neither extreme ('Can we ignore this and sweep it under the carpet?' vs. 'A whole era of baseball is ruined forever!') seems tenable.

Feb 18, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: 6
 
s0uthsider

Hogwash.

The only people capable of changing the drug culture of baseball are the members of the MLBPA. Not a stumblebum like Selig or that mysterious entity, "the media".

THAT is why people will never be satisfied.

Feb 18, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: 1
 
davidmartin

Joe's criticism of Selig is justified. But his insistence that PEDs in baseball is a mostly media-driven story is off the mark, I think. Non-badge wearers care about the stuff. Why, when PED use in football merits a shrug? Records, for one. Two of the most revered numbers (61, 755) in the game were broken by players who looked like show bulls.

Feb 18, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: 0
 
James Martin Cole

For me, clandestinely using drugs that are banned in almost every sport and that are assumed by most of the public to be cheating is wrong. Whether or not you can get away with it, or if it's been collectively bargained, the spirit of the act of using steroids is the spirit of cheating. There might be legal technicalities, but I'm not particularly interested in discussing law. There is no doubt in my mind that players using steroids knew that most people would consider it to be cheating, or wrong in a more general sense, and so I find it difficult to forgive people just because they apologized after they got caught.

Furthermore, I find arguments like "it wasn't in the CBA," "Shawn Merrimen was doing it" "the NFL doesn't care," and "Bud Selig's grandstanding is hypocritical" to be totally beside the point. It should be obvious that there are ethical issues at stake here and that these types of arguments don't address those issues; they are attempts to skirt them. At best, these arguments miss the point, and at worse they're a type of intellectually dishonest sleight of hand. They're a way of avoiding the tough, ethical, even personal questions that steroids in baseball bring up.

By far the most interesting point Joe brings up is "when should we be satisfied?"

What Alex Rodriguez did:
-Cheated for at least three years
-Lied about it when asked point blank, and bragged about how baseball was never difficult for him so why would he need steroids?

What Joe says should be enough to make up for it:
-Had an interview with Peter Gammons in which he admitted to something he had been caught doing.
-Held a press conference where he contradicted some of what he said in the interview.

Why in the world would that make up anything?

Feb 18, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: 2
 
ncimon

You're vision of the media is laser-targeted, and it ain't never gonna stop thanks to the way the machine is currently built. It needs to sell, anything and everything including indignation. So be it.
But what feeds this particular monster is the over-weening paternalism that's inherent in MLB ownership. It's why they hire stooges like Selig and why they probably always will. And it's why they can't ever resist the righteous indignation, the scolding, lecturing tone. It's a pipeline right back to the origins of the sport, a vision of a relationship built up through 150+ years of father-child, I get the money and you get the allowance if you're good, give and take.
The small minds that populate too many of the owner's suites have seen to it that non-entities like Bowie Kuhn get inducted into their hall of fame, while giants like Marvin Miller can't get in the door. That tells us all we need to know.

Feb 18, 2009 13:13 PM
rating: -1
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

For those who question ARod's sincerity, you are probably right and probably not being realistic.

How can an apology or admission of guilt be sincere when it is practically coerced?

What if, as I strongly suspect, the steroids were never really that helpful to him and he didn't really need them, and therefore had no problem quitting once the testing with penalties went into effect?

Then he probably doesn't feel too bad about having used them. Which means he only feels bad that people found out. Which means he has to fake his shame and tell people what they want to hear. Which is what we saw in his last two media appearances.

Feb 18, 2009 13:20 PM
rating: 2
 
sbnirish77

Frankly I'm looking forwrd to more first hand testimony to whether steroids provide any benefit. Many here at BP have already decided they don't provide any such help. I'll wait to hear from the users - something you'll never find out if you 'turn the page'.

Interesting that Arod thought they provided no benefit (at least in the way he was taking them) but yet offered no reason why he would continue taking them if they didn't.

Does any reasonable person expect Barry Bonds to offer the same assessment of his use of steroids (assuming that day ever comes)?

Glad to see Joe has decided to take an interest in the first hand testimony. Perhaps he can get some of his brethern to do the same.

Feb 18, 2009 13:21 PM
rating: 1
 
RallyKiller

It's not difficult to conclude that Donald Fehr and Gene Orza protected the illegal activities of union members. The tyranny of the union brotherhood is a factor here. Bud Selig tolerated those illegal activities while it served his purposes. The upshot is that many of the game's hallowed records have been debased.

I feel, too, that Joe has two major problems: he's in denial about the impact of performance-enhancing drugs and he's got a hate on for the media.

I agree with jtwranch: Let's move on--but in such a way that the health of the players and the integrity of the sport are protected.

Feb 18, 2009 13:56 PM
rating: 0
 
JoshuaL

Thanks Joe, I agree completely. After watching A-Rod's press conference with an open mind I actually felt bad for the guy. Sure he screwed up but the amount of venom directed at him and the effort going in to ripping apart every word and expression is so far beyond what anyone else has to endure I really question the whole media 'establishment'. I don't understand why there is no desire on the part of any reporters - none - to simply cut him some slack, accept the story, and move on. Does that make you less of a reporter? I don't think so, but then I'm clearly not a reporter.

A-Rod clearly has PR issues, but he seemed to be doing his absolute best at being forthcoming without throwing anyone else under the bus and I wish he could get some credit for that. Or, if not, then at least stop with the double standards.

Feb 18, 2009 14:44 PM
rating: 0
 
sgshaw

"The connections between amphetamines and performance are no more clear than those between steroids and performance,"

Do you have any evidence to back up this claim? The obvious difference between these two substances is that steroids resulted in players being able to hit 70 HRs in a season and to break the all time HR record by cheating. Somehow the obvious seems to escape your notice.

The only witchhunt that exists is in the mind of Joe Sheehan. A mind which somehow is incapable of accepting the concept of individual responsibility. This is something that Rodriguez not only understands, but embraces.

Rodriguez is not an apologist. Sheehan is.

Feb 18, 2009 15:12 PM
rating: -1
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

The burden is not on Sheehan to prove a connection. He is saying the connection is not clear. If you dispute that, YOU prove the connection and YOU provide the evidence.

How you do you know that steroids -- and steroids alone -- resulted in players hitting 70 HR? Were they taking amphetamines, too, just like Hank Aaron was when he was on his way to 755? How do YOU know which one helps a player more? What is your evidence?

Feb 18, 2009 17:07 PM
rating: 2
 
bflaff

But it's hard to prove anything re: PEDs when almost none of the people taking them will admit to doing so. If anyone has a worthwhile database of MLB players that has their stats w/ PEDs and their stats without PEDs, I assume it would be a unique item.

But the circumstantial evidence doesn't seem all the meaningless, because a number of players had outlier years while supposedly juicing. Should we just ignore that? Hell, if we wanted to end all the steroids obsessions, wouldn't the easiest way be to prove that they didn't impact the performance of the people who took them? Wouldn't proving the lack of a connection be just as useful to one side as proving that there is a connection to the other? Shutting down the conversation by saying that steroids is a moot topic because no one can prove anything is just a way to flee from a hard subject.

More sunlight is better than less, and if MLB fans five years from now have more confidence that the product is clean (whether it's b/c testing and prevention are ace, or b/c PEDs are found to have a negligible impact on performance), then MLB will be much better off than the supposedly smarter NFL.

Feb 18, 2009 19:56 PM
rating: 0
 
James Martin Cole

That's nonsense. It's very obvious that this can't be proven either way, so the burden's not on anyone. If it was on anyone, it would be against the people go against majority opinion; but the idea that there's a burden of proof on something that is, by its very nature unprovable, is awfully stupid.

The only studies that have been done re: professional baseball players + steroids have been terribly flawed, because (re: players caught using steroids) there's no information about what kind of steroids, how much of these steroids the people have used, how long they've been using, and what percentage of users have been caught.

But the links between performance and steroids in other sports is pretty well-established, some players have said that steroids helped them quite a bit, using steroids directly affects the composition of the human body, whereas amphetamines only offer transient effects.

Feb 19, 2009 06:33 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I don't understand how Bud is keeping PEDs in the limelight when it was an SI reporter writing a book about A-Rod, Congress going after Tejada (instead of Palmeiro), and Clemens are the ones keeping it alive.

I think a lot of this is the media's problem. I also find it weird that over the last few years, we've had no stories of marijuana or other drug use in baseball, no stories of domestic violence, and the few DUI cases that made the limelight were brushed off. Why isn't the media harping on those issues?

Feb 18, 2009 15:17 PM
rating: 2
 
AZMEL

Just read Joe's piece and every post, and I just noticed how very, very tired I am...of thinking...and listening....and bloviating...about this subject...zzzzzzz

Feb 18, 2009 16:15 PM
rating: -2
 
soBC

Holey moley. Didn't I just read this article a week ago?

Instead of another 1500 words on "the media", how about commenting on the issue itself. ARod cheated, lied about it to anyone who would listen, then gave a diluted version of the truth. He was the best player in baseball, taking steroids during his best years. That's news. And since when did 25 year old's become naive? To quote a phrase...Please. 5 year old's are naive. 25 year old baseball players are not.

Why exactly should someone be forgiven from their past sins, when they wont even admit they committed them? McGwire. Clemens. Giambi. Palmiero. Bonds. A-Rod. And hundreds of others. They all cheated. They all lied, or refused to tell the truth. And they all refused to accept responsibility for his actions.

You know what I love about PECOTA? It never tells me how evil the media is for beating up on defenseless baseball players. It focuses on the game of baseball, not the irrational media that surrounds it.

"People will never be satisfied."

I respectfully disagree. The media may never be satisfied, but fans will. Fans like me, who want baseball players to be honest and accountable, like most regular grown ups would be.

I'm a BP fan, Joe. I don't care about the media. Or the NFL. I'm a baseball fan. But I'm also a fan of integrity, honesty, and personal accountability. If baseball players don't exhibit those characteristics, then they don't deserve to be treated with kid gloves.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but don't lump fans like me in with the media. Just because ESPN goes on and on about something doesn't dilute its significance. It's still important that baseball players - or my son, you, the guy down the street, or anyone else - accept responsibility for their actions when they are caught doing something wrong. Until they do, they won't have the respect of the fans that watch them play. That's what's important here, no matter what the media says.

Feb 18, 2009 17:16 PM
rating: 9
 
hippoes

I perfectly agree with this post, no need to add anything. BP's agenda about the steroids era, or whatever it is, or it is not, is spoiling my favourite websites with too many articles that could be of much better use were they about, you know, baseballa analysis. I have reached the point in which, anytime I see a new article by Joe has been posted, I have to worry about opening it or not. I already skip past all of Will's articles, I can't skip another writer as well.
I sincerely doubt anybody comes to BP to read someone's position on steroids; please stay focused on what you do best, which also happens to be what I pay you for. We can find the rest on any other mainstream website.

Feb 19, 2009 00:59 AM
rating: 2
 
robustyoungsoul

News Flash: BP hates mainstream baseball coverage.

Feb 19, 2009 05:58 AM
rating: 2
 
Tuck
(667)

After reading this column, I'm just glad there weren't 200 Joe Sheehans in attendance at that press conference--"ok, sounds good to me. who wants to get lunch?"

Alex was open in his press conference. He admitted that he and his "cousin" (no name given) bought "boli" (experts have no knowledge of such a substance) in the DR and injected each other. He said it was the only substance he took (he reportedly also tested positive for testosterone). He said that he didn't know it was illegal (but knew he couldn't ask anyone about it). And he stopped doing it because he had a neck injury and got scared (he did not identify any health issues that "boli" caused).

People don't like being lied to, Joe. The public, the media, no one likes being taken for a fool. That's why Alex doesn't yet have the forgiveness granted Giambi and Pettitte.

"Whether you think he would have been there absent Selena Roberts' reporting" ... that phrase alone renders inert anything before or after. That you would even include that, Joe, shows you've got a highly distorted viewpoint on this. Another very disappointing effort.

Feb 19, 2009 07:02 AM
rating: 6
 
bristol

Couldn't agree with you more. Especially the fact that Bud Selig is the most inept and oblivious commissioner of any sport. I just can't take it; I actually hate him.

Feb 19, 2009 11:06 AM
rating: -2
 
JoeSky60

Certainly no gray area in the comments section. Those of you so righteously indignant do not seem to think that we are a nation of cheaters. How's that 1040 going for you?
Joe's opinion of "the media" certainly rings true. Much of "mainstream" media seems more intent on bringing "the mighty" down, and creating an audience for themselves. Most of us fans love baseball, despite all the warts(Ruth's drunken carousing, Cobb's bigotry, no black players until Robinson, 2 All-Star games/year, Steroids, Bud Selig). Most fans did not care about steroids, while "chicks were digging the long ball", and still don't today. Not that we want players "cheating", and presumably hurting themselves in the process, especially if it induces our children to copy them. It's just that we have no control over the situation, other than boycotting the games, which is NOT going to happen, we can do nothing about it. So, we get extremely tired of the media beating these stories to death(particularly in the A-Rod situation, because although he may be a great player, I personally find him repugnant).

Feb 19, 2009 14:17 PM
rating: -2
 
MarinerDan

And I get extremely tired of the apologists attacking the media.

Look, this is not an either-or situation. You don't have be either for the media and its coverage or for the players, defending them come hell or high-water. And while Joe pays lip service to the "players are not blameless" position, his writing on the issue has become a tiresome, one-sided defense of guys that, whether you are willing to admit it or not, cheated.

My position is a simple one: Some players cheated by using steroids. That was bad at the time and bad now. It is not the media's fault. And, yes, fans do actually care. They care about the integrity of the game. They care about the records. Will it show up in decreasing attendance or lower revenue? Hard to say, and I'm not sure we could ever test it. But it isn't solely a media-created issue. Joe confuses his own lack of concern about steroids with John Q. Public's level of concern.

Obfuscating and passing the buck at press conferences like A-Rod did is not my idea of putting the issue to bed. I would have preferred that he say nothing and not insult my intelligence. But the article doesn't care -- A-Rod's performance should have been "enough." I, and many people, disagree.

Feb 19, 2009 15:55 PM
rating: 2
 
soBC

I doubt that anyone's reading this post much now, but hey at least I'll feel better having said it.

I am extremely tired of listening to the "well, back in the 70's everyone had greenies and no one said anything, so quit being a hypocrite. Every generation has their warts."

In the early 70's, I was 5. Its not my fault that in-the-know baseball fans didn't have the cojones to speak up about baseball's illegal drug use in the 70's. Or 80's. Or even 90's. But in those times..who knew? It wasn't until the Internet came along that drug use in baseball was well-known outside baseball's inner circle. Forget about the media, who have long turned a blind-eye. They're hypocrites. We can agree, and move on.

But a lot of today's baseball fans obviously weren't around for baseball in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. And they are more informed in this, the digital age. Now that they know, they have a chance to finally speak out against drugs in sports. Why is that a bad thing?

Don't blame today's young fans for the (in)action of those who were fans of a different generation. I think it's admirable that today's baseball fans actually care enough about their sport to force illegal drug users to come clean and admit responsibility. Do the NFL's fans do that? Or the NBA's? Bodybuilders? Nope. Baseball fans are the only one who care. At least, some of us.

Feb 20, 2009 12:15 PM
rating: 0
 
John Collins
(110)

Ball Four was a best seller in the early 1970s and detailed the extensive use in baseball of amphetamines. So who knew? Anyone who cared to.

Feb 24, 2009 13:47 PM
rating: -1
 
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