Rick Reilly is a hack

Rick Reilly has written one of the most spectacularly horrible columns in his long history of writing spectacularly horrible columns. This time he purports to “re-award” MVP trophies to guys who he believes weren’t taking PEDs:

Step up here, Mike Piazza. The late Ken Caminiti of the San Diego Padres stole your 1996 NL MVP, then admitted he was into more juice than Jack LaLanne. Yes, it’s 13 years late, but the nameplate is new! And here’s yours from 2001, Luis Gonzalez, after you finished behind The Barry Bonds Pharmacy. We won’t even mention the home run title you would’ve won that year.

Now, for the man of the night. I have a U-Haul of hardware here for Jose Alberto Pujols Alcántara of the St. Louis Cardinals. You already have two MVPs, Albert, and you’re about to get three more, since Barry Bonds ripped you off worse than Bernie Madoff to win the award from 2002 to 2004. You hit .335 and averaged 41 bombs those years and yet you finished second behind the clearly creaming Bonds in ’02 and ’03 and third behind Bonds and Adrian Beltre in ’04. We’re throwing out Beltre since, while he denies ever using PEDs, he fell off the face of the planet once baseball put in stricter steroid suspensions in 2005. If he wasn’t cheating, I’m the Queen Mother . . .

. . . So step right up, Moises Alou, here’s your MVP for 1998, when you finished behind Sammy Sosa and the Dubious Dinger, Mark McGwire. Here’s yours for 2000, Frank Thomas. You were fleeced out of it by admitted ‘roider Jason Giambi.

As Cameron Martin notes over at Bugs & Cranks, how in the hell does Reilly know that Piazza, Gonzalez, Alou, and Pujols weren’t on PEDs? What evidence does he have that Sosa and Beltre were? It strikes me that if you want to play the “everyone was ‘roiding” game, fine, go ahead and play it because at least there’s a cynical consistency to it. But to say, based on nothing other than cuts of jibs, that player X was taking PEDs and player Y was not, is hackery at its most basic.

If the Mitchell Report and the A-Rod affair have shown anything, they’ve shown that fans’ and reporters’ steroid parlor games are pointless, because for every obvious case like Barry Bonds, there are several more guys who were juicing that you never would have suspected. In light of that, if Rick Reilly has actual evidence implicating Sosa and Beltre or absolving Piazza, Gonzalez, Alou, and Pujols, he should report it. If he only has reasoned suspicions, he should at the very least investigate them and then report them once he has something concrete. If he’s too lazy to do anything other than sling this kind of ill-considered and unserious garbage at his editor every couple of weeks and then cash his outsized paychecks, he should get the hell out of the business, because he’s disgracing both it and himself by doing so.

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  1. Kelly said...

    It is HILARIOUS that he chose Luis Gonzalez as a re-MVP considering that (no joke) Gonzalez WAS THE FIRST PERSON WHO REALLY TIPPED ME OFF TO STEROIDS.  He looked like a caricature of himself in 2001.

    This dude was an average outfielder at best and then suddenly in 2001 he was a power machine?  In 1999 and 2000, he OPS’d over .900 for the first two times in his career at ages 32 and 33.  Then at 34, he OPS’d 1.117 and hit 26 more homeruns than he had previously. 

    And this, to Reilly, says, “Totally clean!”


  2. Matt M said...

    Hear! Hear! Count me in the group that just figures everyone was/is on PEDs and really doesn’t care.

    My theory is largely based on Jose Canseco. Every time someone else is “outed” as a user, Canseco grabs the nearest mike and claims vindication. Then there’s the general “the guy’s a jerk but he was telling the truth” reaction. Personally, I think he doesn’t have a clue who was clean and who wasn’t, but the population of users is so large that he can basically name anyone and have good odds of being right.

  3. bigcatasroma said...

    I wrote a LONG email (hoping to tie up the hack’s email address) with what Cameron Martin said. 

    What happens, when morons like Reilly, find out Piazza or Gonzalez did steroids?  Are we going to start shouting to give the 7th place finisher the MVP?  How does he know that Piazza or Gonzalez didn’t do steroids?  Is he gonna rail against them when he finds out that they did??

    An article like that makes me SO freaking mad.  And I hate the explanation, “that’s his job – to get a response.”  No.  Rick Reilly is irresponsible, knows nothing, and I can’t believe he writes for the World Wide Leader of Muck when I’m stuck here in Con Law II, listening to Scalia’s opinion declaring statutes banning racially based “fighting words” unconstitutional . . .

  4. Grant said...

    Like The Onion said, just give them all to Craig Counsell.

    I never read Reilly, but the headline for this one made me roll my eyes in a more exaggerated fashion than usual (well, I didn’t actually roll them because I was alone and what’s the point, right?).

  5. Rich I. said...

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but has Sammy Sosa ever been connected to steroids? Sure, he corked his bat, but I don’t recall ever seeing him accused of juicing.

    Also, as others have said before, the idea that Luis Gonzalez was clean is laughable. If I had to pick one player whom I think did steroids even though there is no concrete evidence of his usage, it would be Gonzo.

  6. MooseinOhio said...

    When Reilly turned his letter of resignation into SI to head over to ESPNtheMag do you think the SI folks were upset or thrilled?  I suspect that there may have been a little party going on after the left the building.

  7. Aarcraft said...

    Well, Sosa did forget how to speak English in front of Congress that one time when he was asked about it. I also think Reilly himself, in his SI days, also asked him to pee in a cup, and he refused. I’m sure if that man asked me to pee in a cup, I’d say no as well, but Reilly took it as an admission of guilt.

    I say lets do one better, lets go all the way back through history, figure out who WOULD have taken steroids, if they had the opportunity, and take away their awards too. That would be a fun game. Teddy Ballgame, always looking for an edge. Babe Ruth, didn’t care a lick about his body. Ty Cobb, he probably was anyway, he was so despicable. They are posthumously banished from our memories.

  8. The Common Man said...

    Guys, what you don’t understand is that Rick Reilly KNOWS who took steroids and who didn’t.  Rick Reilly is everywhere.  He sees all and knows all.  He is an omnipresent and omnipotent being who chooses not to meddle directly in the affairs of mere humans.  You see what I’m saying.  Rick Reilly is God.  Who else would have such a perfect knowledge of the order of the world, without any apparent evidence to support his claims?  So stop complaining and follow the example of your God, the sportswriter.  To the gallows with them all (except for Luis Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, and Mike Piazza, ‘cuz they’re righteous dudes)!

    By the by, I hope Mike Greenwell enjoys his 1988 award.


  9. bigcatasroma said...

    If RR can be irresponsible, why can’t we???


    Pass it along

  10. jayhawkowensjunior said...

    Of course Reilly has evidence that Sosa was juicing.  Sosa refused to show Reilly his peni—err, submit to a Reilly-administered (!) steroids test about five years or so ago.  That’s proof!  If Rick Reilly invades your personal space and out of the blue demands that you do something incredibly personally invasive for the benefit of his career, you sure as heck better do it—that is, if you don’t want to be convicted in the court of Judge Reilly and spend the rest of your career paying for it.

    Seriously, though, I refuse to even read his articles on TWWL.  I don’t want to bump his traffic numbers, and I’m more than convinced that I’m not missing anything at this point.

    But do you remember when he was a really, really good writer?  Ah, memories….

  11. lar said...


    Thanks for sharing that link. Pretty interesting read. I guess that’s about as hard-hitting and negative of a piece that Rick Reilly could ever write, huh? There’s a little skepticism in there, and some “clever” juxtapositions, but he did seem to be trying his best to not actually say anything negative. It certainly wasn’t scathing, though.

  12. Dan Whitney said...

    Isn’t there all kinds of insinuations about Piazza’s steroid use? I mean, 62nd (I think) round draft pick, only as a favor to Lasorda, goes on to become the top offensive catcher of recent memory? Lasts late into his career, avoids typical aging-catcher injuries, and continues to mash 500 foot homeruns? How can he be awarded Caminiti’s MVP when they were likely on the same sauce?

    Eff Rick Reilly.

  13. Conor said...

    Rick Reilly has been mailing it in and living off his reputation for years. The guy doesn’t even write complete sentences anymore. There was a time when he was a good writer, but everything he does now is half-assed and flippant. All he does now are fluff pieces and nothing to take seriously.

  14. Jeff said...

    When I read this garbage, I was horrified that someone in the mainstream media could legitimately write such bunk.  Then I thought maybe I was missing the point.  Maybe Reilly was making a joke that we can’t believe anyone is clean, that he is making a mockery of the people calling to erase records and return awards.  But no, its just irresponsible pseudo-journalism.

    I’m suspicious that many writers actually know a bunch of the players that were using, but since they didn’t report it at the time and don’t have proof, they have to be quiet about that now.  If PEDs were really that prevalent, and beat writers are in the clubhouse EVERY day for 6-8 months, it seems preposterous that they didn’t observe anything.  As a result of keeping those stories quiet they have compensated with their over the top outrage to people like Rodriguez, Bonds, and Clemens.

  15. APBA Guy said...

    Christine Brennan at USA Today wrote a much better article about PED’s in baseball than anything the never read Rick Reilly could conceive.

    Basically she said that until baseball (union, players, owners, commissioner) admits that their testing program is all spin, and they get an independently adnministered, year round testing system, there will be this drip, drip, drip of revelations.

    Speaking of Luis Gonzalez, how about Brady Anderson?

    And really, does anybody read Reilly? I put ESPN the Mag straight in the recycle bin. I’ve tried to get rid of it but it’s impossible. Worldwide leader my a**. Can’t even maintain a mailing database.

  16. pete said...

    If PEDs were really that prevalent, and beat writers are in the clubhouse EVERY day for 6-8 months, it seems preposterous that they didn’t observe anything.

    These guys are in the clubhouse every day (a key distinction that separates them from the lowly bloggers), yet every single one of them missed the biggest story of the last 15 years. There seem to be three possibilities:

    a. They’re not doing their jobs.
    b. They’re too chummy to give us the dirt.
    c. Clubhouse reporting is a lot less valuable than they say it is.

    I vote for (c). I’m sure that (a) and (b) apply to a large segment, but surely someone would’ve broken this.

  17. pete said...

    Worldwide leader my a**. Can’t even maintain a mailing database.

    It’s funny—I’ve moved twice in the past year and a half, and have updated my mailing address with ESPN.com each time, yet it continues to come at my old, old address (my old roommate still lives there). Strangely, I don’t miss it.

    I have to admit, though—they have some good baseball blog content. Of course there’s KLaw and Neyer, but Olney (if you can get past the harping on stuff like the evilness of Manny and Boras) and Gammons have some pretty interesting stuff to say, too.

  18. MooseinOhio said...

    Pete:  I think you should have added – d) too fearful of writing what they observe because keeping the job was more important than investigating a story.

    Granted it must have been difficult for some not to dig deeper and try to undercover a story but I suspect that for most the idea of ruffling the feathers by being the first to push the issue was too great.  Generally the first folks to blow the whistle get to deal with all the negative fallout, which in this case would more than likely have ended their careers as a baseball beat writer and I doubt many wanted to lose that gig.

    Not sure I want to call them coward but realists who struggled with the fear that doing what may have been the right things was too costly to bear.  Of course many of them can now be called hypocrites as they are ripping players for not coming forward and reaping the negative consequence for exposing the inner working of the clubhouse.  The MLBPA does not forgive those who break ranks – just ask Kevin Millar and a few others who to this day are still tarnished as being strike breakers and will not be covered by PA.

  19. GBS said...

    I love how Reilly indicts beat writers, and MooseinOHio makes a good point about not ruffling feathers and losing one’s job.  Put those two together, and the question becomes, why didn’t Reilly make a big stink about steroids a decade ago?  How many articles, other than the Sosa-wouldn’t-pee-in-my-cup one, did he write about steroids in baseball?

  20. BillyBeaneismyHero said...

    Shyster –

    That’s exactly what I wrote in the “communicate with Rick Reilly” section.  I normally can’t stand Reilly, but I had to read what crap he pulled out his ass to write that article.  It was John Heyman-esque.

  21. Connecticut Mike said...

    Way to take off the gloves Craig!

    The journalistic jackassery that flows forth from Reilly’s pen never ceases to amaze me.  I cannot fathom why ESPN thought it would be a good idea to give him that gigantic contract.

  22. BobbyRoberto said...

    In other news, Reilly’s next column will suggest that Gaylord Perry be removed from the Hall of Fame, Norm Cash’s 1961 batting title be stripped from the record books, and the 1951 New York Giants National League pennant awarded to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

  23. Nick Baird said...

    I’ve been am ESPN the Mag subscriber for about 3 years. I have read all of about 3 issues. The only reason I signed up for it is b/c it comes with being an “Insider” at espn.com. Its a useless magazine.

    Pete… I feel your pain, I’ve moved twice and have had more problems getting that mag delivered to the correct address.

    I read Rick Reilly’s book, “Who’s your caddy” and loved it. So when Reilly came to espn I was pumped. But what a disappointment. One craptastic article after another. This latest piece of journalism (if you want to call it that) about re-awarding MVP trophies has to top the cake for all time worst… I got done reading it and said to myself “so he wants to take away an award from one known steriod guy and hand it over to a different suspected steriod guy? (Gonzo is so dirty its a joke) What a great idea” I think Big Albert is clean, but the other guys have to be questioned, right?

    Reilly needs to stick to what he knows best: golf, divorces, and drunk abusive fathers.

  24. TC Shillingford said...

    I know he and Simmons are the big name, big dollar guys at ESPN, but shouldn’t have some editor gone to Reilly and said, “Uh, listen Rick, this article of yours, re-awarding the MVPs, it’s fine and all, and you can definitely talk about Bonds and A-Rod and Giambi being on PEDs, but we need a source more reliable than your gut about Beltre and steroid use.  We’ve got a lot of lawyers over here at the four-letter, and we asked them, and as it turns out, you can’t just declare every declining performer is or was on the juice.  Nope.”

    And on the note of Beltre, anyway, his 1999-2003 numbers aren’t much different than his 2005-2008 ones.  He must been on some crazy drugs that ONE YEAR.  Or lucky.  Possibly lucky.

  25. Joel said...

    The thing that kills me is the hypocrisy. I used to love Reilly’s stuff at SI—he wrote several of the most memorable articles I can recall from reading the magazine growing up. But the fact is that no one, NO ONE, celebrated McGwire and Sosa in 1998 than Reilly did.

    For evidence check out this story:
    It’s an incredibly story, and I remember being very impressed with both McGwire and Reilly at the time. But where is the accountability for someone like Reilly who was leading the charge for how great these guys were for baseball (I’m almost certain he wrote at least two or three other stories that summer extolling their virtues) and now wants to take all their awards away.

    And that’s not even considering what has been mentioned already, that this is all based on his speculation. Nice.

  26. VanderBirch said...

    TC, I vote lucky. Obviously, during the past few years it has become trendy to pinpoint every out of character season as steroid driven, but I call bullshit on that speculation. I mean, if Adrian Beltre or Brady Anderson had suddenly found 40 or 50 homer power in a needle, why would they stop after just one season?

    I’m not saying they weren’t users (Anderson in particular was spectacularly ripped), but baseball’s annals are filled with totally out of character seasons. Davey Johson anyone?

  27. Matt said...

    Scott hits it a few posts up.  If 104 players tested positive in ‘03 or whenever then it can be reasonably assumed the 1000 or so other players that round out 40 man rosters were clean (at the time).  Now, given they had a 90% plus majority over the evil dirty cheating players why didn’t they sound the alarms?  They either didn’t care because they were realizing some benefit from it, or being that close they didn’t see any perceived benefits from jumping on the bandwagon. 

    That last paragraph is right on too.

    If anything the A-Rod story is finally the straw that breaks my back on reading mainstream sports media.  I’m done with it’s worthless faux outrage.

  28. GBS said...

    And of course there’s Roger Maris’ 61-homer season, a number he never remoted approached before or after.  Was it the stress that caused his hair to fall out, or was it…THE DRUGS?!?!?!

  29. Scott said...

    It looks like Reilly is playing the “I like this guy, so he must be clean game”. It’s fun. It’s reassuring. I play it myself. Personally, because I am so fond of Luis Gonzalez (he gave us some good times here in Arizona), I’m kinda inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. But this is a game to play with your friends, not something you publish in a national media outlet. It’s only slightly more reputable than ogling starlets and wondering who’s had plastic surgery.

    At this point, I think I’m ready to believe that every player in MLB used performance-enhancing drugs. Even the “clean” players. They may not have poked themselves with a needle, but they were right next to people who did. And they all benefited from baseball’s beefed up stats and popularity. It’s not that I mind that everyone used PEDs. I got to watch some great baseball in the last 15-20 years. But this late-to-the party hand-wringing by people who should know better is driving me a little crazy.

    Here’s an article that I’m dying to see: an in-depth look at the PEDs themselves. What exactly were players hoping to get? What did they really get? What side-effects did they suffer and what might they suffer in the future? Not finger-pointing. Not shrill dogmatic wailing. But an informative honest look at what players were hoping to achieve. A columnist like Reilly would be in a great position to do this kind of article. But he’s disappointed me so far.

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