Sorting through the sewage

The list is of this writing:

  • Jose Canseco’s book “Juicing the Game”
  • BALCO
  • Jason Grimsley’s affidavit
  • Kirk Radomski’s client list
  • Signature Pharmacy
  • Operation Raw Deal

So far, according to Baseball’s Steroid Era there are 59 players both past and present that have admitted using, been implicated, or tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (feel free to skip over the list):

Ken Caminiti, Barry Bonds, Bobby Estalella, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Armando Rios, Benito Santiago, Gary Sheffield, Jose Canseco, Tom House, Wally Joyner, Jim Leyritz, Paxton Crawford, Jason Grimsley, David Segui, John Rocker, Mark McGwire, Manny Alexander, Chuck Finley, Marvin Bernard, Randy Velarde, Wilson Alvarez, Bret Boone, Ozzie Canseco, Juan Gonzalez, Dave Martinez, Ivan Rodriguez, Tony Saunders, Miguel Tejada, Lenny Dykstra, Dave Hollins, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons, Gary Matthews Jr., Jerry Hairston Jr., David Bell, Darren Holmes, Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus, Scott Schoeneweis, Alex Sanchez, Jorge Piedra, Agustin Montero, Jamal Strong, Juan Rincon, Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Palmeiro, Ryan Franklin, Mike Morse, Carlos Almanzar, Felix Heredia, Matt Lawton, Yusaku Iriki, Guillermo Mota, Juan Salas, Terrmel Sledge and Derek Turnbow.

That is a pretty good cross-section of the sport to be sure. I’m sure some of the implicated players will be able to clear their names since the evidence against them is pretty dicey at this point.

Probably the most significant event in all of this is that the often joked about George Mitchell steroid investigation has gotten the MLBPA to start sweating bullets. He asked to speak with 45 players (denied) and Mitchell has mentioned last Friday that he asked players to meet with him “for the purpose of directly providing them with the evidence about the allegations and to give them a chance to respond” reiterating what he said in July.

The question that has to be asked, are they all on the above list or are there new names? We still haven’t gotten all the names of the Radomski list, the client list from Signature Pharmacy (or other internet pharmacies) or any names that popped up in Operation Raw Deal. It looks like the 50-80% estimate of users made by various players might not be the result of deluded minds after all.

Right now however, the MLBPA is claiming that Mitchell has only provided players with general notice about being accused, the period and team they were associated with but not of the substances they are accused of using. Back on July 17, Mitchell told the New York Daily News:

“That’s part of the judgment that we’re going to make and I don’t want to foreclose any options before me now. But my preference is obviously a complete degree of cooperation, but also to give anyone about whom an allegation is made has the opportunity to meet with me to respond to allegations. That’s an important part of it. Every person who is included in an allegation, about whom an allegation is based, I have or will invite them to speak with me about the allegation. I don’t want to say anything until I hear both sides of the story.”

The union’s stance is odd because why is the specific drug so important? If it’s an anabolic steroid it’s an anabolic steroid regardless if it’s Winstrol, Deca-Durabolin, Stanozolol, testosterone, THG, the cream, the clear, or “Uncle Vic’s old-style flaxseed oil.” It sounds a lot like the MLBPA is stalling for time. They severely underestimated Mitchell (which I must admit, I did likewise) thinking that if the union encouraged the players to stonewall Mitchell, not much could come from his investigation.

This is starting to look a lot like an episode of “Colombo.” Mitchell had ‘just one more question’ and the perpetrator has the uncomfortable epiphany that he’s in a corner created largely by his own arrogance.

Of course there will be leaks; however it does raise some interesting questions.

For example, why is all this in the news in the time of year where baseball is king? Why detract from the post-season celebration. Why is this distraction being played out right now?

As usual, it’s best to follow ‘Deep Throat’s advice to “follow the money.”

A few points:

  • Despite the rhetoric and numerous editorials, knowledge that players are using anabolic steroids has not hurt business.
  • Over the long term this is good P.R. for Selig and the owners. Since John Q. Public has been reading for decades now about the spoiled, arrogant, greedy players and their sense of entitlement and general disdain for the common fan (courtesy of the mainstream media) many eagerly look forward to seeing them get ‘their comeuppance.’
  • The MLBPA is on the defensive and Selig wants to keep it that way. This puts the union in a very bad light. Make no mistake, the other three major leagues have a salary cap and don’t think for one moment that ownership still doesn’t want one. A salary cap would increase the value of every franchise in MLB.
  • Putting the union in its place will allow Selig to paint himself, not as the commissioner of the steroid era, but rather the commissioner that ended the steroid era.
  • Over the short term, the game is rolling in record revenues. ‘Outing’ top players as steroid users will hurt the player marketplace this off-season. Two things the commissioner fears: One, Alex Rodriguez getting a new record contract possibly smashing through the $30 million/$300 million barriers. Two, this year’s free agent class (A-Rod aside) is pretty weak. Record revenues coupled with a mediocre free agent class are how bad contracts happen. Last year’s class wasn’t overly strong yet players like Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells (while not a free agent, benefited from the 2006-07 market), Barry Zito all averaged $18 million a year deals while guys like Ted Lilly, Gil Meche, and Gary Matthews Jr. became $10-11 million a year talent while Adam Eaton and Jason Marquis became $7-8 million players. This will be the offseason of Caveat Emptor: Is the talent you’re hoping to buy natural or chemical?

There’s really not a lot of downside for ownership here. Some of the game’s biggest stars have been tarred with the steroid stigma either fairly or unfairly yet revenues continue to climb. Releasing the Mitchell Report before the free agency marketplace really gets going (a lot of clubs will wait for the Mitchell Report before finalizing deals) will lower expenses without hurting revenue.

Follow the money.

As we discussed on the Drunk Jays Fan blog (yes, I spend a lot of time reading Blue Jays blogs … misery loves company—and beer too it appears) this week: “If the report confirms that it was an epidemic rather than a few isolated “cheats” it will be easier to put the whole era into some kind of context. After all, if guys like Bonds (circumstantial evidence at this point, strong circumstantial evidence nevertheless), Palmeiro etc. were putting up their numbers against juiced pitchers and fielders it lets us know that they did it on a reasonably even playing field.

A final note, recently a couple of Scott Boras clients have been linked to steroid/hGH usage. What’s interesting about this is Boras prides himself on having in depth knowledge of his clients training habits. He denies knowledge of Rick Ankiel and Scott Schoeneweis’ usage, but what if other Boras’ clients come up in the report? It would be a major coup for Selig obviously, but it does beg the question: How involved were player agents in what is now known as the “steroid era”? If they were, will they receive any sort of sanction from the sport or any bar associations to which they belong?

Time will tell.

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