Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alive and all too well – McCarthyism and MLB’s steroid probe

McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-Communist suspicion in the United States that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. This period is also referred to as the Second Red Scare, and coincided with increased fears about Communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the actions of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" later took on a more general meaning, often referring to “witch hunts”, where names are all too often associated with events and incidents those mentioned in relationship to what has been suggested are never found guilty to anything. A report in Wednesday’s New York Times reeks of the worst kind of McCarthyism – naming names of Major League Baseball players who if one reads between the lines of the Times report might believe the players named have used performance enhancing drugs during their MLB careers.

According to the Times report: investigators into steroid use in baseball are seeking medical records from at least two of baseball’s premier sluggers over the past dozen years, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, along with dozens of other players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, a baseball official with direct knowledge of the request says. Two points, the creditably of the New York Times report isn’t at issue, the Times report is above reproach as is the quality of journalism in one of the true bastions of American journalism. What is questionable is why “a baseball official with direct knowledge of the request” spoke with the New York Times, what his true motives were and how much damage this so called “baseball official” has done to the overall goals of Senator George Mitchell’s commission.

The Times report mentioned other names: Senator George J. Mitchell have also asked the Baltimore Orioles to send medical files relating to Jason Grimsley, Jerry Hairston Jr., David Segui and Fernando Tatis to those players, the official said. The players will then be asked to authorize their release to Mitchell, although they are believed to be unlikely to do so. Who in their right mind would consider releasing their personal medical records to anyone when in this case that commission doesn’t have the ‘power’ or the ability to seek those medical records? One of the strongest foundations America has been built on is a person’s right to privacy. It isn’t Mitchell’s, Major League Baseball’s or anyone else’s business what information is included in medical records unless a medical was required when they signed a contract with the Orioles. And if the Orioles requested medical clearance when they signed any of these players the Orioles have the medical records. It is reprehensible for someone who is working for Major League Baseball to name names to the New York Times, the newspaper with the largest circulation of any paper in the United States. Full marks to the Times for writing and reporting the story, but if Bud Selig had an ounce of respectability for the process Senator Mitchell is attempting to enact, Selig would find out who spoke with the New York Times and fire that employee immediately. What trust can any MLB player have in Senator Mitchell’s commission if they believe anything they say can be leaked to the media? None is the answer.

"We can't comment on any of that, the medical records," Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

Mitchell trying to deal with his seriously leaking commission, released a statement Tuesday evening saying, “While it is our practice not to comment on the investigation, any suggestion that the investigation is focused on any single team is incorrect.”

Mitchell did try and lend some clarity to what was reported in Wednesday’s New York Times by adding: "This is one of the final phases of the investigation and obviously will be significant, especially since, as I have previously said, the principal victims of the illegal use of performance-enhancing substances by some players are the majority of players who don't use them," he said. "Other work remains, but I hope and expect that I will be able to complete the investigation in the coming months."

Most members of the Orioles choose to make themselves off limits to the media before the teams’ game Wednesday night or put on headphones and ignored the media horde – the same wasn’t true for the Orioles management team.

"Nobody has asked me any questions about it and I really don't have anything to say," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo told The Associated Press. "We are going about our business like we always have. We can't worry about somebody else. Somebody else will take care of that."

At Yankee Stadium, Sosa said "no comment" before his Texas Rangers played New York.

Hairston, who also plays for the Rangers, again denied ever taking steroids.

"I'll just state what I said all spring training. It's just amazing my name has been brought up, but sometimes in life things are going to happen that you just can't control," he said. "I've never done anything illegal. Never have I taken steroids. That's all I can say. What else is there to say? I've passed every record, I mean I've passed every test, confidential, not confidential, there is."

"What are you going to find in my records, my height and weight? What's that going to show them?" Segui told The Baltimore Sun. "I don't even know what's in my records. A lot of cortisone shots. I don't even know how you're supposed to comment on this. I'm not concerned about it. I don't know what there is to be concerned about."

Are the Orioles being singled out – regardless the naming of names without any real basis of foundation for those names to be named is classic McCarthyism – you’re guilty and if you’re innocent no one will care by the time the media is finished destroying you and your career.

The Times report suggested none of the players (thank God for this) will submit their personal medical records to Mitchell or MLB that however didn’t stop Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling from slamming Barry Bonds – now 11 home runs away from establishing a new MLB career home run record.

“He admitted that he used steroids, there’s no gray area,” Schilling on WEEI-AM Tuesday morning. “He admitted to cheating on his wife, he admitted to cheating on his taxes and he cheated on the game. I think the reaction around the league, around the game, seeing what it is, is an indication of what people think - Hank Aaron not being there, the commissioner trying to figure out where to be. It’s sad.”

“I don’t care that he’s black or green or purple or yellow or whatever - it’s unfortunate,” the Sox right-hander said. “There are good people and bad people. It’s unfortunate it’s happening the way it happened.”

Nothing like “brothers in arms” MLB players sticking by each other and keeping their opinions about fellow players where they belong – in the clubhouse and not on the highest rated all-sports radio station in America.

Red Sox Manager Terry Francona appearing on the same show on WEEI but on Wednesday morning made it clear he wasn’t happy Schilling was being critical of another major leaguer, let along one Schilling could face when the Bonds and the Giants visit Fenway Park in mid June as part of baseball’s interleague schedule.

"For a guy who doesn't talk much to the media, he sure does talk to the media," Francona said. Schilling yesterday said fans should not embrace Bonds' pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record because, he said, Bonds had cheated on steroids, on his wife and on his taxes.

Here's more of what Francona said when asked about Schilling's comments by Michael Holley:

"I talked to Schill yesterday about it. He's never been short on opinions, and so many of them are insightful. I just thought that this was an area where you're better off just leaving it alone, and he didn't. And the problem is, it makes it tough for me, because then he comes to the ballpark and doesn't talk to the media, so I'm left to kind of clean up the mess, which I really don't feel like. But again, I've been with Schill a long time (in Boston and in Philadelphia), nobody's more crazy about Schill than me. I just kind of asked him to zip it a little bit, which I think he will."

Schilling is a free spirit, never afraid to tell it as he sees it. While there’s nothing wrong with someone expressing how they feel about something, Schilling comments should have remained in the Red Sox clubhouse or as part of a conversation Schilling and Barry Bonds may have had when the Giants are in Boston. Schilling as a longtime major league veteran knew that and did best to apologize to Bonds Wednesday on his personal blog.

“Everyone has days and events in life they’d love to push the rewind button on, yesterday was one of those days. Regardless of my opinions, thoughts and beliefs on anything Barry Bonds it was absolutely irresponsible and wrong to say what I did. I don’t think it’s within anyone’s right to say the things I said yesterday and affect other peoples lives in that way.

“I’d love to tell you I was ambushed, misquoted, misinterpreted, something other than what it was, but I wasn’t. I’m thinking that waking up at 8:30 am to do the weekly interview we do with WEEI is probably not the greatest format and if you heard the interview it’s not hard to realize that I’m usually awake about 30-45 seconds before it begins. That’s still no excuse or reason to say what I did, or even answer the question that was asked. The question I was asked and the answer I gave yesterday affected a lot more people than just he and I. His wife, his children, his friends and his family were all affected by that, as were mine and my teammates.

“As someone who’s made it very clear I have major issues with members of the media that take little or no pride in their work it’s the height of hypocrisy for me to say what I did, in any forum. I started this blog to give people a look into the life we live on and off the field, not to get into back and forths with people I don’t like or have issues with. Doing that will only make this a rant filled no content bunch of words.

“Quite a few people have tossed Biblical references my way in the past week or so after the Thorne incident in Baltimore talking about turning the other cheek and being above the fray. I’ve often thought I do and try to be that way, but it’s very clear in the last two weeks I’ve done the exact opposite. That’s not to say I won’t respond when I feel someone’s calling me out and is wrong, but doing so in every instance will serve no one and only make me say and act like the very people I have issues with.

“The only perfect human to walk the face of the earth died a few thousand years ago, that much I know. I am far from perfect and make more than my share of mistakes, which is something I have no problem with because that’s part of being human. However when my mistakes adversely affect other peoples lives, that’s a big deal. It was a callous, wreckless and irresponsible thing to say, and for that I apologize to Barry, Barry’s family, Barry’s friends and the Giants organization, my teammates and the Red Sox organization as well as anyone else that may have been offended by the comments I made.” Schilling admitted he had made a mistake

It takes a real man to admit he was wrong and Schilling was a wrong as he’s ever been in saying what he said to the media. He has every right to believe whatever he’d like to about Barry Bonds but Schilling is savvy enough to understand how the media would use Schilling’s words against Barry Bonds to embarrass Bonds and Major League Baseball. The true pro Schilling is, realized his mistake too late, but at least he understood the mistake he had made.

Where however was the moral indignation from Bud Selig when someone from his offices (as baseball’s commissioner the buck stops with Bud) spoke with The New York Times about matters that should have remained confidential? True leaders who are looking for the truth and leaders who are not prepared to put up with the certain specter of McCarthyism being linked to Mitchell’s Steroid Commission would act in the best interests of the game and find out whoever spoke with the New York Times and fired that person immediately.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun

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