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Yankee Panky # 36: Fallout Boys

It’s been more than a week since the Report’s release, and the Yankees have been at the center of the coverage and analysis. Of the 86 names released in the 409-page document — how many of you have downloaded it? — 22 were Yankees, either past or present, with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte at the forefront.

What surprised me at the outset was the experts’ surprise at Clemens’ inclusion in the report. Ever since BALCO broke four years ago, Clemens’ name has been sprinkled among prominent players on the accused list of PED (performance enhancing drug) use.

"I don’t want to believe it," John Kruk said during the Mitchell Report special aired on ESPN that afternoon. He then contradicted himself by saying that as players age, they should not get better, and that since Clemens did, that’s a possible indicator of foul play.

"In my days as a general manager, I had heard rumors of Clemens using steroids, but I always attributed his success to his tremendous work ethic," Steve Phillips said on the same program.

Curt Schilling’s Dec. 19 post on 38pitches.com was interesting, gripping and will certainly be a talking point for a while. In his 3,200-word post, he wrote that if Clemens is found guilty, he should return the four Cy Young Awards he won in the time frame of the era in question, but that if he’s clean, he should come forth and declare it, as Albert Pujols did in response to WNBC-TV’s indefensible release of incorrect names two hours before Senator Mitchell’s press conference. If you’re going to scoop someone, at least make sure you have the facts and corroborate the sources.

The evidence presented by Jose De Jesus Ortiz in the Houston Chronicle supports that. Ortiz wrote that Clemens’ name was wrongly included in an LA Times story published last year on the players included in Jason Grimley’s affidavit, which at the time were redacted.

A few of the accused have, in fact, come forward and admitted their usage, like Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons, and most notably, Pettitte. Pettitte’s admission was strange, particularly the "if what I did was an error in judgment" line. HGH was still illegal to obtain without a prescription in 2002, so yes, committing a crime was an error in judgment. "It seemed like a good idea at the time," is akin to the Chewbacca defense.

On ESPN.com, Jemele Hill called Pettitte’s admission a farce, comparing the statement to "smoking weed for glaucoma." Her analogy may be a bit extreme (doctors in more than a dozen states can prescribe medicinal marijuana to glaucoma patients), but I understand Hill’s skepticism and the tone of her reaction. Every player who admits guilt or professes innocence will have his words interpreted 12 ways from Sunday, dissected for tone and leaving us to question the athlete’s contrition.

I credit Pettitte for issuing some sort of response to defend himself, given that one of his closest associates, trainer Brian McNamee, sold him out. And judging from my interpretation of Pettitte in covering him for two years, I believe he was sincere.

The media will be split in their interpretations of the admissions and their perceptions of the players who come forward — or don’t — because of their inclusion in the report. Friday’s opening of Kirk Radomski’s sealed affidavit, as well as Grimsley’s, could lead to an even bleaker picture of the game. In addition, journalistically and legally, the public release of those documents could change the way we access information, regarding what becomes public record.

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In terms of overall coverage, ESPN had the broadest and covered the most angles. I’m actually surprised they haven’t developed a microsite within the MLB index solely devoted to the Mitchell Report. The timing of ESPN forming its investigative team could not have been better. T.J. Quinn, Mark Fainaru-Wada, Shaun Assael, Howard Bryant, and Mike Fish were all over the report and finding stories behind the stories. It gives me hope that good journalism, even in the sports field, where traditionalists and professors still cringe at the juxtaposition of sports and journalism, exists.

The reporting has been generally well-founded, and I’m surprised that since the Report was released, fewer writers have rushed to the morality soapbox. That’s been left to the politicians. As a fan and a realist, I’m not a fan of the romanticization and preservation of the myth of purity in baseball or any other sport. Regardless of how much testing there is, or how severe the penalties are for the athletes who test positive, there will always be cheating. People will always look for an edge. It doesn’t just occur in athletics, it’s everywhere.

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David Justice’s inclusion in the report is surprising on one hand, but then not, when you look at the sharp decline after the 2000 (age 34) season. Declaring his innocence on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN Radio show is not exactly a way to boost credibility, either. (I apologize to fans of The Herd, but the way he treated Sean Taylor’s death was disgraceful, and having a segment called "Spanning the Globe" when all the news within the segment comes from within the U.S. is an insult to our intelligence.)

YES has not stated whether it will keep Justice as an analyst next year. How they treat the situation, and how KHTK Radio in Sacramento handles the broadcast career of F.P. Santangelo, may determine how other outlets who have hired ex-players named in the Report deal with the analysts and the allegations made against them.

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In other Yankee News, Buster Olney writes that the Yankees might be coming around to the Joba Chamberlain bullpen theory I’ve advocated in this space for several months.

Alex Belth has the full excerpt below.

Finally … Alex Rodriguez’s "60 Minutes" interview was illuminating, particularly the description of the depth of his rift with Scott Boras, and his admission that opting out of the contract was a mistake. But even though he came across as sincere, I had to laugh when A-Rod called the opt-out scenario and the subsequent series of events "a bad nightmare." As opposed to the good kind?

Here’s to hoping you all have a safe holiday free of bad nightmares, PEDs and long legal documents.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver