"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 2/19/09

Today’s news is powered by a classic baseball cartoon (goodness knows we could all use a laugh right about now) …

  • BP.com’s Joe Sheehan points out the media frenzy and the unfairness towards A-Rod’s actions:

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. …

  • Steven Goldman of Pinstriped Bible finished up with this thought after viewing the news conference:

Of course, none of these concerns go to the bottom line, which, as A-Rod correctly pointed out, is that he had his best season in 2007, and there has been a testing regimen in place for a few years now, one that seems to have been successful in nailing quite a few players. There remains little evidence that steroids do much more for ballplayers than build muscle, or that Rodriguez’s numbers were affected in any significant way. He remains one of the best ballplayers in the business and also one of the hardest to like. From the point of view of winning pennants, one out of two ain’t bad.

  • Jayson Stark gets some interesting comments about the whole A-Rod deal from the one and only Mike Schmidt:

… when Schmidt was asked directly if he thought he’d have gotten caught up in trying performance-enhancing drugs had they been part of his era, he answered: “Most likely. Why not?”

“A term that I think has been overused a lot, especially by Alex, is ‘culture’ — culture of the era he played in,” Schmidt said. “We had a culture when I played. There was a culture in the era when Babe Ruth played. And in the ’60s, there was a culture. It’s just that way in life. And apparently — I wasn’t involved, but from hearing everybody — that was the culture of the ’90s and the early 2000s. The temptation had to be tremendous to the young men playing major league baseball back then.”

But when he was asked if he thought that being “young and stupid” was an acceptable explanation for what A-Rod did, Schmidt said: “Young and stupid may be better [when you're] 12, 13, 14, as opposed to 23, 4, 5 and 6.”

  • Here’s my nomination for worst opening paragraph to an A-Rod news conference reaction piece (not surprisingly, its in the Post):

It wasn’t as bad as R. Budd Dwyer’s last press conference 22 years ago, when the Pennsylvania treasurer shot himself to death on national television. But yesterday’s performance by Alex Rodriguez was full of holes.

… Rodriguez will be asked to give a full account of how extensive his drug use was and who the “cousin” is who Rodriguez says injected him with a drug believed to be the anabolic steroid methenolone. Rodriguez said they bought the drug, which he termed “boli,” from a pharmacy in the Dominican Republic.

“They’re more interested in what happened in the States than in the Dominican,” one source said.

Representatives from MLB’s department of investigations are expected to ask Rodriguez whether his cousin, whom Rodriguez declined to name, had access to major league clubhouses and other players, and whether he or Rodriguez ever distributed drugs to other players. Under baseball’s labor agreement, Rodriguez cannot be punished for any banned substances he took before 2004, but he could be punished if MLB were to determine that he supplied drugs to other players.

  • A-Rod isn’t the only Yankee caught in the PED quagmire.  Andy Pettitte is STILL dealing with Congress regarding Roger Clemens’ alleged use of PEDs:

The Associated Press reported that federal prosecutors interviewed Pettitte last Tuesday as they continue to investigate whether Clemens lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. …

The AP reported that Pettitte had already told Congress much of what investigators wanted to know, and that it is unclear if Pettitte has been called before a grand jury. Because Pettitte has already given a sworn statement, prosecutors do not necessarily have to use the grand jury to make their case.

After playing in the Arizona Fall League, he took a month off and then moved to Pensacola, Fla., to train at the Athletes’ Performance Institute in Gulf Breeze.

The facility is affiliated with Dr. James Andrews. It’s where Manny Ramirez has been working out.

“I got stronger, faster and cut down on my body fat,” Jackson said. “I was there for about a month and a half. It was a great experience.”

  • Pete also has notes from the first full squad workout, including this:

Joe Girardi said that Hideki Matsui will not play any outfield in spring training because of his knees. He also conceded that once the season starts, Matsui would only play the outfield in an emergency. They want him working on getting knees healthy enough to run the bases. I guess now we know why Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher are still on the team. …

Derek Jeter talked for a long time about A-Rod and the game’s drug issues. I’ll post the audio later. But in summation: He’s disappointed in Alex but believes he is sorry for what he did. Jeter also is angry at the time he played being known as the “Steroids Era” because everybody didn’t do it. He wishes that he had spoken up to the union years ago but its too late to go back and correct that.

You can certainly understand Jeter’s frustration. He doesn’t want his accomplishments overshadowed by what the cheaters were doing.

  • The Times’ Jack Curry has more on Jeter’s thoughts:

Jeter said that he still has respect for Rodriguez “as a player” because Rodriguez stated that his steroid use was in the past. When Jeter was asked if he believed Rodriguez’s story about his cousin buying him a banned substance in the Dominican Republic, Jeter said that he did.

“I give everyone the benefit of the doubt,” Jeter said. …

And, for the record, Jeter, whose father was a drug and alcohol counselor, said that he has never used any performance enhancers.

“I’ve never taken performance-enhancing drugs, I’ve never taken steroids,” Jeter said. “I mean, that’s it.”

  • MLB.com’s Dodger beat writer Ken Gurnick quotes Torre as saying he will retire from managing at the end of his contract (after 2010), but wishes to remain in baseball.
  • Maury Brown of the excellent ‘Biz of Baseball’ site has an analysis of the signing bonuses given to the 2008 first round draft picks.  (The Yanks were not able to sign their pick, HS pitcher Gerrit Cole, who opted to go to UCLA).

Poll time!

[poll id="14"]

  • Happy 47th birthday to Alvaro Espinoza.  Espinoza spent 3+ years with the Yanks, and his BEST season was a line of .282/.301/.332 with 60 Ks and only 14 BBs in 544 PAs (1989).  In fact, Alvaro’s .050 ISO in 1989 is the 4th-lowest for any batting title qualifier with fewer than 20 walks in a season in the DH era.   He followed that up with the 5th-lowest BA (.224) and the lowest OBP (.258) for anyone with as many PAs (472) as he had in 1990.
  • Tim Burke hits the big 5-0 today.  Burke finished up his career by toiling for both the Yanks and Mets in 1992.
  • On this date in 1935, Lou Gehrig re-signs with the Yankees for $30,000, $7,000 less than he asked for, but still making him the highest-paid player. The 32-year old first baseman will hit .329 with 30 HR and 119 RBI.
  • On this date in 1957, the Kansas City Athletics ship pitchers Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, and Jack McMahan, and infielders Clete Boyer, Curt Roberts and Wayne Belardi to the Yankees. In return they receive pitchers Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Rip Coleman and Jack Urban, OF Irv Noren, plus infielders Billy Hunter and Milt Graff. Roberts didn’t go to New York City till May 4, while Boyer went a month later. Hunter and Urban don’t switch until April 5. The veteran Shantz and Boyer will be valuable pickups for New York, with Shantz leading the American League in ERA this year, and Boyer a tough defensive 3B for eight years in pinstripes. The A’s will eventually admit that when they signed Boyer for a $40,000 bonus in 1955, it was on behalf of the Yankees, with the understanding that they’d later ship him to NY.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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30 comments

1 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 19, 2009 9:10 am

The one thing I will always grant people is that the media treatment of Pettitte and Rodriguez is night and day.

The difference is I think Pettitte's nonsense should have gotten torn apart just as bad as Rodriguez, as opposed to both men being taken at their word.

2 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2009 9:28 am

Sheehan nails it pretty well. I also like Schmidt's answers.

So Matsui will only play OF in "emergencies"? That's going to be tough to give Posada, Damon, etc. a "half" day off by making them DH once in a while.

3 Rich   ~  Feb 19, 2009 9:37 am

Sheehan's comments are spot on. Beyond a mere admission of steroid usage, we don't need to know every detail that flows from it. These guys are athletes/entertainers, not people who hold public office who are violating the public trust. The self-righteousness of many sportswriters is comical.

Speaking of comical, George King should be fired on the spot for that paragraph, as should his pseudo editor.

Giving Matsui a four year deal was a bad decision at the time of contract formation and the ensuing years have proven that view to be too true.

4 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Feb 19, 2009 9:45 am

Lot's of interesting stuff, mostly on the Captain Quote thread, I'm moving here to try to stay current.

I think Sheehan is bang-on. Double in the gap, at least. I entirely agree with his note about the hating Rodriguez having a big class warfare, the greedy sumbitch aspect to it. That's why I date his downturn to 'scooping Tom Hick's cash' or however one reporter put it last week (it was nasty, loaded language, though I may be just off on it).

I disagree, again, with Dimelo on this (though I'm going to stay polite!). "I agree with one thing though, how the information was leaked is kind of shady but at this point what can you do? The cat’s out of the bag already." Kind of shady is a very mild point. It was flat-out illegal, though not by Selena ... her illegality will come when she refuses to name her source if asked in court. The real cats are not out of the bag until this is more than ONE man (the most famed, most disliked, etc.) being micro-analyzed for how long his pause was and if it was true or fake emotion. It is not possible, in any form of honest looking, to glide over this issue. Play a head game: if 104 names had been leaked, my guess is Alex Rodriguez would still be the media's main event, but there would be a LOT of press conferences, and if Pujols or another megastar were up there with him ... we'd be in a VERY different media space. Certainly no one would be screaming for the Yankees to write off their contract with him, and it would be harder for people to scream A-Roid at him next month and feel he was uniquely tainted.

I also have to say a lot of us were all over the unfairness of singling out Bonds as poster boy when it was pretty clear the use of PEDs was widespread.

I do agree with those saying 104 is very likely NOT the upper number (Jeter seems a bit disingenuous to suggest it). And the point about guys having better trainers, getting them tapered before testing kind of speaks to A Rod's 'amateur hour' work with his cousin.

Schmidt is good on 'culture' too. He's close to saying greenies were the culture at one point, isn't he?

rbj, My guess is half-days off are last year's news. If we keep both Nady and Swisher, Po will sit and pinch hit when Molina catchyes. My own idea would be that when Molina is in there, Swisher or Damon go to center, the other is in left, and Melky/Gardner sit, to leave us (we hope!) with only one dead bat.

5 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:04 am

[3] Re: Matsui - I didn't think a 4 year deal was bad at the time. Godzilla was a guy who had never been hurt. He was entering his age-32 season, so likely to decline some. Given his excellent health record, and the Yanks' needs, and the lack of other options on the market, I think it was a good signing.

In retrospect, the only decline he's shown when he's played is the blip in his SLG last year, which is explained by the knee issues - and you can hardly hold that crazy slide injury in '06 against him. But there was nothing in 2005 to suggest the knee/leg issues he'd later have.

6 Rich   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:16 am

[5] I don't believe in giving four year contracts to bad defensive OFers who are entering their mid-30s, that have played a ridiculous amount of games, as a result of that stupid streak, on artificial turf. I would not have given him more than a three year contract.

7 monkeypants   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:21 am

[6] Ironically, a 3-year contract might have turned out worse in the long run. At least with a four year deal, there is a chance that the team will get two full, productive seasons out of him. Between the knee last year and the freak wrist injury in 2006, your three-year deal would have been a disaster.

8 Rich   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:32 am

[7] Conversely, that extra $13 million that would have been freed up if Matsui's contract had expired after last season could have been used on Dunn, or perhaps even Manny if other contracts could have been jettisoned (e.g., Swisher, Nady, Damon, etc.).

Consequently, some times it's better to cut your losses and acknowledge sunk costs..

9 vockins   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:32 am

The Post is really on a hell of a run this week. Jesus.

10 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:48 am

[9]

Sadly .... there are lots of folks who eat that kind of stuff up (and yeah, that "chimp" cartoon from earlier in the week was at the very least easily taken to be insensitive)

I remember when the Post had the best sports section in the country ... nowadays, is there ANY reason to read the rag?

11 Dimelo   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:58 am

[10] "insensitive" that's putting it mildly, they should issue a retraction and a huge apology. I can't believe they did that, what were they thinking?

[4] One question though, I still don't get why Roberts is being mentioned so much about the leak. Apparently the NY Times was only days away from publishing the same story. Also, I am still amazed at the little attention that has been paid to what Kirk Radomski on WFAN that it was four former teammates of ARod that outed him.

12 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2009 11:10 am

[10] I've said it before and I'll say it again... I wouldn't even wipe my aspercreme with the Post >:'

13 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2009 11:10 am

[11] How would other players know if someone turned up on that list. I don't get that. The test was supposed to be anonymous, with the results to be destroyed. Now I could see Orza and maybe a couple others in MLBPA management knowing who tested positive, and warning them, hopefully to get the positivers to stop using PEDs. But how would other players get a hold of the names on the list. Roberts was specific that A-Rod was on that list, it wasn't that he was alleged to have steroids but rather that he was on the list.

And if Alex stopped by 2004, why leak it out now if you want to wreck his career/reputation. Heck if it were Yankees who had done it, the time to leak would be right after he opted out, to ensure that he would not come back.

14 Dimelo   ~  Feb 19, 2009 11:18 am

[13] Everything you state makes perfect sense, but Radomski (I thought) hinted in his book that ARod was juicing. So maybe he knows a lot more than any of us. I thought it was really interesting and maybe a few players did know of ARod's positive test.

15 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2009 12:08 pm

[14] The Radomski hint is plausible. I'm sure A-Rod knows more than what he's said, but that if he says more he's going to have name names & he doesn't want to do that. But that still leaves the question of how others knew of his positive test. Do they know of other players' positive tests too? If so, why only name Alex (aside from just hating the guy). Or were the four horsemen only given Alex's name, in order to leak it. If so, who & why leaked it to them?

This just keeps getting stranger and stranger. A-Rod at least confessed to his sin and gave some details. There are a lot of others out there who need to do so as well. And not just players who used PEDs.

16 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2009 12:18 pm

[15] Conspiracy theory #346: Tom Hicks. Maybe he's not as stupid as he usually sounds...

But Canseco coyly claimed he knew, and cryptically noted to wait and see. Hmm...

If I was a player, I'd be ready to string up Orza and Fehr at the next meeting, regardless of the money. Money isn't fixing this issue, so was it worth it?

17 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Feb 19, 2009 12:20 pm

[15] As I recall it was Canseco who hinted at A Rod, but I don't know if Radomski did, as well. I agree that Rodriguez is very probably taking pains NOT to name anyone else. It is entirely plausible that in the loosey-goosey culture there was some open or quiet talk about the drugs and he may not have been as discreet (cousin to cousin) as he said he was. I can bet that users were looking to find other users, to make themselves feel better about it (or, I suppose, to make the team better?).

Dimelo, it may well be that the Times was going to leak it too (please give some links to this) but just as A Rod stands alone right now, so does Selena! And she has a book coming, and pushed up in release date. She benefits hugely (not illegally yet, until asked under oath to name her source) from this chaos and from Rodriguez being the only target.

Anyone know if her profits from a 'crime' can be impounded if she's guilty of contempt of court in refusing to name a source she uses for the book? My bet is no, but remedies have been growing lately...

18 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2009 12:33 pm

[17] Gotta wonder who'd be on her side if she did name the sources. Do her colleagues come to her defense if she made a stand and then gave them up, or if she refused and went to jail? How does that jibe with the moral scourging they've been giving certain athletes? What happens if she just gives them up without a fight?

I'm not taking sides on it, but I think fair is fair; if the Crusaders go after the athletes, they can't ignore the reason they even got that info. Interesting...

19 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 19, 2009 12:42 pm

[17] [18] IIRC, Mark Fainura-Wada and Lance Williams, the guys who wrote Game of Shadows, did not name their source, almost spent time in jail, and neither they nor their publisher lost any profits. (I would have supported such a remedy though, h-c-e.) Oh, and their colleagues in the journalism world rallied around them in support when they looked to be facing jail time. I'm sure the same would happen here, and I can't blame them.

I understand that reporters need sources, and need to be able to protect them, but this isn't government wrongdoing we're talking about here, its baseball. When it comes to protecting a source who leaked sealed evidence/grand jury testimony vs protecting that sealed evidence/grand jury testimony, unless the evidence/testimony has to do with government wrongdoing, the source should lose.

20 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2009 12:49 pm

If Selena did give up the names, she'd be finished as a reporter. No future source would ever confide in her again. I think a lot of her colleagues wouldn't be happy with her either. She could become the A--Rod of the newsroom! (minus all those good stats).

21 hoppystone   ~  Feb 19, 2009 1:20 pm

I know this is idealistic, but:
What if her book came out, and nobody bought it?
Wouldn't that send the right message?

22 PJ   ~  Feb 19, 2009 1:20 pm

[20] Maybe she'd have better stats if she huffed Liquid Paper in cycles. At least then, she would be able to relate to being "young and stupid"...

;)

23 Dimelo   ~  Feb 19, 2009 1:38 pm

[17] Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/bvpxkt . And here's the part I'm referring to:
The Times had been chasing the A-Rod story. “We were working on it for many weeks,” said Tom Jolly, the paper’s sports editor. “It’s a story whenever there’s smoke around A-Rod for a period of time, and we were chasing that smoke.”

Again, I don't see how Roberts is the problem here. She was given information, which apparently was being shared amongst her other peers, and she just beat them to the punch. I am not defending Roberts the person, I just don't understand how her professionalism comes into question in this instance. In the Duke case, I understand and agree fully. But just cause she botched that up doesn't mean she did the same here.

The other thing is this, if they find Roberts is guilty and they throw her in jail for the rest of her life, does all of this go away? Does ARod admitting to PED usage automatically mean he no longer did it? It doesn't, it's just noise. ARod admitted to it, he said he got no gain whatsoever,

24 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2009 1:45 pm

[19] I question how the information they obtained by illegal means is even helpful or important. It's one thing if its government info that has an effect on society in general, but baseball does not have the same reach, regardless of it's popularity. What are reporters, and by extension government officials prosecuting; if not the use of questionable enhancements before they were declared illegal in MLB, then the actual trading of banned substances? They'd also have to excoriate certain countries that either don't consider them illegal, or turn a blind eye to their use. After all, certain countries have a trade embargo imposed on them for ostensibly political reasons (others to allegedly marginalize competition). Where do reporters stand on this?

25 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 19, 2009 1:48 pm

[24]

Comment of the day nominee ....

26 JL25and3   ~  Feb 19, 2009 4:09 pm

Despite what happened with Fainura-Wada and Williams, I think they'd have trouble compelling Roberts to reveal her sources.

There aren't any federal shield laws, but the Supreme Court did set a fairly high standard in Branzburg v. Hayes: the government has to "convincingly show a substantial relation between the information sought and a subject of overriding and compelling state interest."

I have trouble seeing that here. Of course, I have trouble seeing it with Fainura-Wada and Williams, and the standard is ambiguous, so who knows?

But because the standard is ambiguous, the fact that it held there doesn't mean it will hold here. (There's also a whole lot less information that was revealed, isn't there?)

Finally, the change from Bush to Obama might make a big difference. The government might well be less likely to seek a subpoena, and Holder might well be more likely to heed the protests and appeals that Gonzalez ignored.

I don't see this as anywhere near important enough to warrant that drastic an action.

27 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Feb 19, 2009 5:30 pm

I hope I'm not sounding as if I believe Selena Roberts should be 'in trouble' for this piece, as if she committed a crime. No. And I agree with JL (thanks for the data) that throwing a reporter in jail is a pretty major 'statement' and needs equally major reasons. I think whomever leaked the 104 names did commit (best I can tell) a criminal act. RECEIVING that info (Roberts, the NY Times people maybe, though they haven't actually said that, have they) isn't, as I understand it, a crime. She chased a story, was priming her book, and got lucky in a big way. The single name leaked certainly helps her a lot.

My interest is in how this would be spinning if 104 guys had been named. (And I am NOT saying it would even be 'better' if that had happened, just different in a big way, and a LOT less about Rodriguez.)

28 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2009 5:58 pm

[27] My interest is in how this would be spinning if 104 guys had been named. (And I am NOT saying it would even be ‘better’ if that had happened, just different in a big way, and a LOT less about Rodriguez.)

MLB is reeling today as the names of 104 major league ball players who had failed a major drug screening test conducted in 2003 before MLB mandated steroid testing were published in the current issue of Sports Illustrated. Among the over one-hundred names were several well-known players; the biggest name by far being arguably the best player in baseball, third baseman Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees...

That, or some variation with "Alex Rodriguez..." leading off.

{/cynicism}

29 3rd gen yankee fan   ~  Feb 19, 2009 9:28 pm

Bernie was at camp! Bernie was at camp! :-D

30 The Hawk   ~  Feb 19, 2009 11:19 pm

[27][28] Well it totally depends on who was on the list. It seems unlikely that someone even NEAR the same class of fame as A Rod is on it ... Well maybe it's hard to say, but I figure the biggest story by far is out. If there was anything close, that would be a huge story too and I assume would have leaked as well. I'm not buying this vendetta against A Rod business. The simplest explanation for why his name was leaked is that his is by far the biggest.

It's funny because it supports his "amateur hour" story. I don't know why people are so skeptical that he was juicing in such a haphazard way, but don't question the fact that he didn't stop for the test. Seems to me those two things actually compliment each other. If he was truly the superhuman professional control freak, he would have known what he was taking, sure, but he also would have knocked it off when the time came.

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