Archive for March, 2005
Long-time reader and sometimes contributor Jim Adams once again makes a big impression:
I think the current steroids controversy is 99% similar to baseball’s drug controversy in the mid 1980s. In both cases a handful of players were caught doing something illegal, and there was widespread speculation that the real number was much higher. In both cases sportswriters devoted thousands of column inches to the topic of “tainted” records” and the “terrible example” the players set for the nation’s youth – even though these same reporters had ignored this story for years. In both cases Congress threatened to get into the act. Here’s Bill James’s diagnosis of baseball’s drug controversy in the 1980s, which I think applies to the steroids issue as well:
“As players became more professional, they became more savvy in handling the media, distancing themselves from reporters, showing less of themselves to the public…To older fans, the players no doubt began to look all alike, breaking from the pack only when caught with their pants down or arrested with drugs or prostitutes or underage cheerleaders. The media, denied access to the players as people, began to portray athletes as villains, as arrogant, over-paid drug abusers. In a decade in which attendance increased at a phenomenal rate, a dozen or more books were written moaning about how dreadful the world of professional sports had become. Drug use did become “rampant” among ballplayers in the early 1980s, although no one really knows whether this rampage involved 5% of the players, or 60%. I’d be inclined to guess it was closer to five, but you catch the irony: ballplayers cut themselves off from the media to hide their faults, and so the public attributed to all athletes the worst actions of a few, this being the only insight that was left to them.” (The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, page 297)
I just think this fits perfectly with today’s steroids controversy. I hope the analogy holds, because twenty years later the upshot of baseball’s drug trials has been – nothing much. How many baseball fans today can even name the players who testified at the Pittsburg drug trials in 1985? I hope that twenty years from now the steroids issue will have similarly faded. And it may well have – history simplifies, but none of us can predict what it will leave out…
The analogy holds like Krazyglue. It is clear that the major media outlets are not content to address the facts about the situation, constantly using the most inflammatory language, never considering the complexities of life in today’s world. The hearing yesterday let us all into another world where facts never get in the way of a good sound bite, politics, and we heard dozens. Were the statements made by Congressman David and Waxman accurate? Did they reflect reason and toughtfulness? Of course not.
Watching the hearings yesterday was surreal, the statements made all day long might as well have been made in a vaccum, or just written down. To summon baseball to a hearing and then not listen to anything being said, well, that’s beyond the pale. And most of the sportswriters were no better, having allowed themselves to degenerate into little more than gossip columnists, or worse, headline chasers; waxing poetic about how this athlete or that one has let us down, hurt the children, or been involved in some tragedy. Please.
Life is complicated enough, it needs no soundtrack or special camera work to illustrate how complicated and challenging it can be. And baseball fans are smart enough to know what is cheating, or who is good or bad, or whether something is important or not. Now Mark McGwire is a pariah, an outcast, after being the bread and butter superhero for all these sportswriters for all these years. “He shoulda said this, he shoulda done that, he let us down.” Huh?
Tell me something, how does a guy who spends his entire career in a gym, working out, to make himself stronger and faster and better player, end up being villified for this behavior? How do you explain that? Because that’s what a guy who uses steroids is doing, by the way. He’s doing everything he can to maximize his ability. Forget, for a moment, all the hype, all the “It’s bad for you,” or “You’re setting a bad example,” or any of that. At its core, people use steroids to be a better ballplayer. That’s it. All the rest is the story made up around it.
Bottom line, a player is using steroids to be better. And since we know that steroids without working out doesn’t work, we also know it’s not as simple as taking a pill and watching Oprah. We know that it’s not a shortcut. Mark McGwire owes no apology for being a dedicated athlete who put himself through a rigorous, year-round training regime in an effort to be the best baseball player he could. That is a well-known fact. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, these guys are noted weightlifting, workout fanatics.
What are we talking about here? Private decisions about how to get the most out of ones ability. Personal, private decisions and choices. But it’s illegal, you say? Yes, it is. People in the United States do illegal things every day, all the time. Lots and lots of them. People disagree about what should be illegal and what shouldn’t. People disagree about what’s right and what’s wrong. People break the law. Good people, smart people, people you know, people you work with, you. Illegal is not the same as immoral. It simply is not.
This is a complicated, challenging issue, one fraught with all sorts of angles and opinions. There is nothing black and white about it at all.
Peter Gammons takes a swipe at Selig & company here.
…. Several weeks ago in Florida, a player who might be the most intelligent man in uniform said, “if I were a four-A player whose game was power and I thought I could make $100 million by taking steroids, who am I to say I wouldn’t have done it? There was an entire culture on the periphery, and they were easy to get. There were no warnings in the game against them. They weren’t illegal in our workplace. I think the moral outrage directed at some of these individuals is pretty hypocritical.”
Union head Donald Fehr and chief operating officer Gene Orza are highly moral, principled men, but they and the Players’ Association are to blame. They represent their constituency, and if they did not know about the steroid subculture, they didn’t know their players. Orza had been a strong driving force in substance abuse treatment. Well, this mess is far worse than the Pittsburgh drug scandal of the 1980s.
They are to blame, and so is the commissioner’s office. Former commissioner Bart Giamatti rightly spent millions investigating Pete Rose. So when Washington Post reporter Thomas Boswell dropped the Jose Canseco steroids bombshell on CBS in 1988 and a Fenway Park crowd that October chanted “steroids,” should Fay Vincent have spent the necessary money on private detectives to get a read on the issue? And once steroids were made illegal in 1991 and in the next two years the subject was widely discussed — like at the 1993 World Series — where was Bud Selig to investigate?
I keep saying it, and I guess I’ll say it again here. I doubt that the steroids issue was ever much bigger than Canseco and a handful of guys; and I guarantee you, if after all this time no newspaper or magazine writer, (like, say, Gammons) has been able to come up with any real evidence, Boswell’s piece represents not the tip of the iceberg, but the whole damn thing.
Wouldn’t Gammons think that, hey, pretty much everybody that has been linked to steroids has also been linked to Canseco, with the notable exception of Camminiti…… maybe that’s because that’s all there is?
A friend and I just had a lengthy conversation about the steroids issue. For perhaps the first time, I was able to get him to see some of the inconsistencies in the way the story is being presented; how little evidence there really is, how the ‘scandal’ is mostly a product of media hype and political posturing.
This friend is a high school football and basketball coach, and has been for several years. I asked him what he thought about the assertion made yesterday that as many as 500,000 high school athletes have taken steroids, and he felt that it seemed likely to him. He said that while he had suspicions about 4 or 5 of the 50 or so athletes he coached, he only knew of two players, (different sports), who did, in fact, use steroids. That means that something like 10% of the players he coached this past season did or said something that led him to be suspicious that they might have used, and 4% did use.
That would be in line with what I think is true in general. A small percentage of players, whatever sport or level, will do anything to succeed; and an even smaller percentage of them will get caught.
12 out of 1200 get caught in baseball, but I certainly don’t believe that they are the only users. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of users were, in fact, closer to 5% than to 1%. But I don’t see how you conclude that if 1% get caught, 20% must be using. That makes no sense. And I also don’t see how even 5% of players using represents a scandal of biblical proportions.
However, I will stand corrected on my earlier criticisms regarding the high school athlete issue.
I just watched Bob Nightingale, Steve Phillips and some other sportswiter(Stephen Cannella?) on ESPN talking about yesterday’s winners and losers. All three sportswriters said that baseball looked terrible, that Selig and Manfred and Fehr were the losers, and that baseball still hasn’t done enough.
I’ll say it again. If sworn testimony isn’t enough, if an implemented drug testing program isn’t enough, if an historic renegotiated CBA that produces even more stringent drug testing isn’t enough, if a reduction in the number of positive tests from 96 to 12 isn’t enough….
In the face of facts, all anyone wants to do is talk about rumors. In the face of evidence, all they want to do is pontificate and speculate.
Rep. Lantos (D-Calif.): “To pretend that baby steps will solve this problem is ludicrous.”
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.): “What you’re telling the kids is you can break the law four times before you’re out of the game. To me, that’s amazing. To the commissioner, I don’t know why you don’t fight for what you want and fight like hell to get it.”
Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.): Mr. Manfred, we got a saying down home — ‘You got your hat handed to you.’ …. there’s a lot of people in prison that would like this sort of deal.”
Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vermont): “Let me just say this: I think people are saying, obviously we all know people with money are treated differently. There are God knows how many people rotting in jails. What people in America want to know is that people who are committing the same crimes are treated the same. And that is not the case. I would hope that the union and management would substantially raise the standards to tell people who are making millions and millions of dollars, if they want to make that sort of money, they have to not do drugs. Period.”
Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.): “I don’t want to badger you, but all I keep hearing is what we hear is this is a collective bargaining issue. But it’s a criminal and a moral issue.”
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.): “I’m disappointed in the testimony and the fact that people are still in denial that there’s a problem … I think Congress has to act now.”
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.): “I don’t mean to be harsh, but whoever makes the decisions for baseball ought to look at the situation we’re in and see that it’s time for a new leadership in baseball.”
In many cases, listening to the members of the committee, it was clear they hadn’t bothered to listen to the testimony at all. Even afer Manfred, Fehr and Selig addressed the ‘loophole’ in the penalty for a first-offense, several members, including some of the ones quoted, insisted that the players could choose to pay a fine instead of being suspended.
After hearing several times about the significant drop in the number of positive tests, after hearing that, in fact, during the first round of tests, the number of positives was less than 7% of the entire league, they continued to insist that the problem was widespread, rampant, destructive and ruining the game of baseball, as do most of the major news media outlets.
The hype continues. Senator John McCain is now on Sportscenter repeating, again, the problem with the wording of the penalty phase in the agreement, and how he found baseball’s testing program weak, because HE DIDN’T LISTEN TO A WORD THAT WAS SAID YESTERDAY.
Rob Manfred stated that baseball’s testing program was run by an independent laboratory in Montreal, one that is certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency. He and Selig and Fehr declared that all first offenders will be publicized and the players will be suspended, without question or equivocation. They said that about five times. Oh, what the hell, here’s Manfred’s actual testimony:
…. First, much has been made out of the fact that our agreement sets forth penalties in the disjunctive. For each offense, there is a suspension of specified length or a fine amount. That formulation of the penalties was included in our 2002 agreement and was carried forward into the new agreement. In retrospect, that language, as a drafting matter, probably should have been altered. There is, however, no dispute or misunderstanding between the bargaining parties as to how the agreement is going to operate. We have informed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) that the commissioner intends to and will suspend across the board for all violations. The owners ratified the agreement with that understanding. It is also my understanding that Mr. Fehr’s constituents are in the process of ratifying based on that same understanding.
The committee’s letter also takes issue with our process for disclosing positive results. Under the agreement if a player tests positive, it will be reported in the transaction list published in every paper in America that the player tested positive for violating the joint drug agreement. Given that we only test for steroids under the joint drug agreement, everyone will understand that the suspension was based on a steroid test. In terms of the general confidentiality language in our agreement, I would point out that virtually every drug program in America contains such a general confidentiality commitment, including the programs that have been adopted by the federal government to cover its employees.
The assertion that all steroids are not banned under the baseball policy is simply untrue. The plain language of our agreement bans all steroids on Schedule III as well as any other anabolic androgenic agent that cannot be lawfully obtained in this country. The list of substances in the agreement is clearly identified as a “nonexhaustive” list. As to the four substances specifically mentioned in your letter, one is anabolic androgenic agent that cannot lawfully be obtained in the United States and is therefore banned under the plain language of our agreement. A second, danazol, is a prescription drug which many experts believe may not have anabolic characteristics. A third, boldione, is a nutritional supplement, that Congress inappropriately excluded from the Steroid Control Act of 2004. We have been in conversations with the DEA and understand that it is going to be added to Schedule III, at which time it will be banned under our program. The fourth is DHEA, which despite our lobbying efforts, was excluded from the Steroid Control Act of 2004.
The assertion that our policy fails to ban designer steroids is also incorrect. The language banning “anabolic androgenic steroids that are not covered by Schedule III but that may not be lawfully obtained” has been previously used by the bargaining parties to ban THG and DMT. The bargaining parties have relied on this language in the contract to ban designer steroids in the past and will do so in the future. I would also point out that substances that fall within this definitional language are added automatically, without the need for action by the Health Policy Advisory Committee (HPAC).
The Committee’s criticisms of our position on human growth hormone is also unfair. Our experts, including the director of the WADA certified lab in Montreal has informed us that there is no verifiable test, blood or urine, for human growth hormone. We are actively involved with efforts to accelerate the development of a urine test.
The committee’s letter criticizes our program because it is governed by a joint labor-management committee known as the Health Policy Advisory Committee. No other professional sport uses an outside independent agency to supervise its drug testing program. This includes the NFL. In fact, I am unaware of a single collectively bargained private employer drug testing program anywhere in the United States that is supervised by an outside agency such as USADA. While the Olympics may take a decidedly different approach, the Olympics operate in a decidedly different environment, unrestrained by a collective bargaining obligation.
The Committee’s letter characterizes as extraordinary the provision that would suspend testing in the face of a government effort to obtain across-the-board testing results. At the outset, I should point out that this provision does not apply if the government investigation is supported by individualized probable cause. It is also important to understand that this provision did not arise in a vacuum. Baseball has faced efforts by law enforcement authorities to obtain across-the-board testing results absent individual probable cause. All the provision does is temporarily suspend the program while we resist an attempt by law enforcement officials to premise a criminal probe on private drug testing results.
Last, the committee’s letter criticizes baseball because certain of its collection procedures are not consistent with those used by WADA. At the outset, it is important to understand that many federal and state laws that make it very difficult for an employer to follow strictly WADA requirements. On the fundamentals, however, Major League Baseball’s collection procedures are entirely sound. All urine specimens are provided under direct observation of the collector. While players are occasionally allowed to leave the testing site for approximately an hour if they cannot provide a specimen, the opportunities for a steroid user to avoid detection during this hour are very limited particularly given that baseball tests for diuretics and masking agents and checks the specific gravity of all urine samples. Moreover, while players may leave the immediate testing area, they remain in the clubhouse where they are subject to observation by testing officials.
What part of that comes off poorly? He addressed virtually every concern voiced by Congress. He addressed every concern Senator McCain has voiced. He explained to the committee full of idiots how difficult it is to unilaterally impose drug testing in the labor environment that exists in this country. He explained how tough it is to balance privacy concerns against health concerns, something all labor lawyers understand. He explained that, in fact, baseball is the only sport that has an independent testing agency, not the NFL contrary to what so many sportswriters keep insisting.
They didn’t listen to a word he said. Neither did the idiots at ESPN, the Daily News, the NY Times, CNN, USA Today, or anybody else, it seems.
To the mainstream media, yesterday’s hearings ended with baseball, Bud Selig, and Mark McGwire looking bad. It’s hard to find anyone with a different view. Well, except me, of course.
What the mainstream media and Congress don’t care about are the facts. They use the claim that it’s for the kids, we’re uncovering this horrible travesty to protect the children. Yeah, right. The facts are, there is no steroids scandal in baseball. Steroid use isn’t rampant, and there is no evidence to suggest that it ever was. Steroid use in this country isn’t rampant, either. I challenge anyone to produce any evidence to support yesterday’s outrageous claim that a half a million high school athletes are using steroids.
Furthermore, the facts are that the medical ‘experts’ testifying yesterday admitted that they cannot prove that using steroids is harmful, or that they could be linked to suicides; other than to say that, well, they believe it. The facts are that all drug testing is fallible, is subject to possible contamination and/or false positives. The facts are that even the best tests have to allow a certain amount of doping to go unpunished because of the many variables that affect the human physiology.
The facts are that baseball saw the number of positive steroid tests drop from 96 to 12 in a single calendar year. The facts are that Curt Schilling, noted critic of steroid use, could not testify to ever seeing even one single instance of steroid use in his entire 15-year career.
The facts are that the work done by Rob Manfred, Donald Fehr and the rest of the men involved in the collective bargaining process was exemplary, and they acquited themselves very well yesterday, despite all of the efforts of the committee to try and make it seem like they were evading responsibility and/or oversight.
Not one time did the committee hear and acknowledge the evidence presented to them by baseball. All day long, “Do you agree that steroid use is cheating?” and “Shouldn’t the penalties be tougher?” Not one time did they come to the realization that, even using the state of the art testing facilities of WADA, baseball had but 12 positive tests in 2004.
Sammy Sosa told them under oath that he had never used steroids. Bud Selig explained in great detail of how baseball’s drug testing efforts had reduced positive tests across the board, minors and majors alike; and that he was extending the testing program to include essentially every area of baseball under his jurisdiction.
But all the committee could see was how the wording of the agreement seemed vague. Or how they didn’t think baseball had been forthcoming enough.
The fact is that steroid use is not and has never been widespread in baseball. The current testing policy, just renegotiated, has already begun to work. The penalties aren’t severe enough, the committee said. How come players can get three, four, five chances before they are exiled? How come baseball allows them to break the law five times before they get thrown out? What a ridiculous line of questioning. It’s not baseball’s job to prosecute criminal behavior. It’s not Selig’s job. It’s not Brian Sabean’s job.
….If Major League Baseball and the Players Association do not close loopholes and toughen penalties in the current testing program – which was agreed to in principle in January but has yet to be ratified – then Congress will force them to, even if it means adopting the severe penalties seen in Olympic sports.
Loopholes? The testing program has already begun to work. How could any of the experts testifying dispute that a drop in positive tests of such magnitude is evidence of an effective program, and still remain credible? In the last Olympics, there were a reported 24 positives, out of some 3000 tests. That is just under 1%. Is the Olympics testing program a joke? Should the punishments be more severe for Olympic athletes? I mean, the two year bans don’t seem to be working, do they?
Only baseball has to put up with this. And it is the fault of the mainstream media. The NY Daily News backpage tells you all you need to know about what you should think about the hearings. A picture of McGwire with the headline Tears of a Clown. That’s classy. ESPN’s coverage is under the heading STEROIDS SCANDAL. Sports Illustrated is calling for the resignation of Selig and Fehr.
Tom Verducci is still out there, continuing the hype he helped start, his headline reads, Selig and MLB paying the price for turning a blind eye.
The facts are there for everyone to see. There is nothing but speculation and innuendo over what happened five or ten years ago. Right now, you’ve got 12 positive tests. That’s your scandal.
Loyal reader Sean posted the following two backtalks:
My friend, if you think the American game of baseball came out of this day with any semblance of dignity, you are simply, and I’m sorry, not a credible person.
This was baseball’s Enron, Worldcom and Adelphia all in one day – and I’m beginning to suspect that your complacency or voluntary blinder-wearing on this topic is borderline delusional.
You’ll get it someday – when Congress steps in and takes over. You see, the game is OURS – not theirs. They just play it and get paid for it.
My record books have brackets opening in 1988 and closing around 2004.
I have one additional thought and an apology.
First, the apology: my comment above was too strongly worded, and I apologize – you obviously put a great deal of thought into your post, and knowing that you are a knowledgeable person on so many baseball topics, I am just a bit frustrated that more fans are not speaking out against what I perceive to be a serious problem (and, yes, I think it is ongoing, because the testing is a farce).
Second, can we all agree that there should be testing not only for steroids, but for human growth hormone and amphetamines? It should be the least we agree upon.
Apology accepted. Sean, I am on the outside looking in, and by that I mean, my beliefs put me about as far left as you can be and still be a US citizen. I understand how people can have the views you are expressing. I don’t have those views, but I understand them.
I have friends who watched the hearing with me, women and men who had but a passing interest or knowledge in the subject, (I mean to say that they were not sports fans AT ALL). They all had the same impression that I did, the committee looked absurd, and most of the people being grilled held up pretty well, other than the experts, who seemed to be contradicting each other, or openly campaigning for possible work for their companies. Not to say that I am right.
More importantly, Sean; the things you seem to be ready to advocate in your first comment, the things advocated by the committee today, represent an almost Orwellian nightmare for our society as a whole. Random drug tests, publicized results, penalties, confessions…. Not to mention, the more we get, the more we apparently want. It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying, “Why won’t Bonds just say he did or he didn’t?” Then his GJ testimony came out, and his answers weren’t good enough. He’s lying, we read.
How about Sosa? He answered, under oath. Is that enough now? Can we go back to celebrating his three 60 home run seasons? I’ve been to ESPN, the NY Times, and the NY Daily News all day long. Not more than a single line has been devoted to Sosa’s declaration, even though his name has been associated with steroid use for years. The Cub Reporter hits some of the early insanity. He has a similar interpretation of today’s show.
Major League Baseball has made tremendous progress in dealing with the issue of performance-enhancing substances. Today I would like to describe for you that progress at both the minor league and Major League level. I would also like to describe for you the newly negotiated Major League steroid policy as well as an effort we have undertaken with the Partnership for a Drug Free America aimed at educating America’s youth on the dangers of steroid use.
In 2001, I promulgated the first-ever comprehensive drug testing policy for minor league baseball. In the first year of testing under that policy, the positive rate in the minor leagues was approximately 11 percent. Confronted with this high rate, we responded with more testing and tougher discipline. In each subsequent year, that positive rate has decreased and the overall decrease has been dramatic. The rate was 4.8 percent in 2002, 4 percent in 2003 and just 1.7 percent in 2004. As we embark on the 2005 season, baseball has committed even more resources to the eradication of steroid use in the minor leagues. We will do more testing, expanding the program into the Venezuelan Summer League, and will continue to discipline violators in a manner that our medical advisors believe will eradicate steroid use.
Similar progress has been made at the Major League level. In 2002, Major League Baseball reached a new agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) which, for the first time, provided for testing of Major League players for steroids. Under the agreement, an anonymous prevalence study was conducted in 2003. The positive rate for performance-enhancing substances in the 2003 testing was in the range of 5-7 percent. This disturbing rate triggered a more rigorous disciplinary testing program in 2004. This more effective program resulted in a decline of the positive rate to 1-2 percent. In other words, the 2002 agreement that has been roundly criticized in some circles actually resulted in a significant reduction in steroid use.
Interestingly, or should I say, unsurprisingly, ESPN concludes that baseball was the one who looked bad.
…. In the end, it’s another public relations disaster for the national pastime. McGwire, sixth on the all-time home run list, is ridiculed for refusing to answer most of the committee’s questions. Sosa, Palmeiro and Schilling are criticized for saying next to nothing. And Selig, Manfred and the rest of baseball’s brass are condemned for revealing a drug policy that has “drafting errors.”
That’s funny. I thought baseball, especially Selig and Manfred, looked awesome. I thought they presented the facts of the situation most eloquently, and their argument that baseball has done plenty held water.
The players looked pretty good, with the exception of McGwire, who, by taking the Fifth, left himself open for complete scorn. I don’t know how he thought that it would be better to do that, rather than apologizing for using steroids, (if that’s the reason he wouldn’t answer any questions). Schilling came off well, as did Palmeiro. Sosa was useless as a witness once his statement was read; as he couldn’t understand most of what was being said, and he couldn’t speak English well enough for the few answers he did try to give. Thomas was just as useless, because the committee couldn’t afford a simple telephone connection and so had to rely on pre-20th century technology.
I’m sorry, but the committee looked ridiculous. (Murray Chass agrees). They ignored answers and facts that didn’t support their obvious agenda; in point of fact, many committee members left the room when baseball’s big dogs read their opening statements. Some individual members asked the same unanswerable questions of each panel, advancing their opinions regardless of what each person said. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) said the same thing to each group, that he was a labor lawyer and the agreement looked llike shit to him. Manfred’s response, which was to challenge his assertions, was ignored and interrupted.
…. Lynch thinks congress needs to act. Now.
“I don’t think we have time to wait,” he said.
Looking at the agreement in front of him, Lynch shakes his head. “There are so many loopholes, it’s just unbelievable,” he said. “And the statement that the language of the contract, a collective bargaining agreement … as a former union labor attorney, I find it unbelievable. Honestly.”
Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred interjects, defending the game.
“You’re entitled to find (in) it what you want, obviously,” Manfred said. “The language as written, you read it to suggest the player gets to pick if he gets a fine or suspension. The agreement, even as written, however critical you want to be … you’re misreading the contract. Who would read an agreement where the player gets to pick the discipline?”
Lynch interrupts Manfred and goes on a closing tangent. “You know, there’s a lot of stuff I’ve never seen here,” Lynch said. ” I’m not encouraged and congress has to act. The time for waiting has long since passed.
“I’m disappointed in the testimony and the fact that people are still in denial that there’s a problem … I think congress has to act now.”
Not out of character with the question/response interactions in general.
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) starts laying into baseball for announcing the new drug policy in January even though the document wasn’t completed until March. And the copy that baseball turned into the committee has “drafting errors.”
Shays, talking to Manfred: “I think I need to calm down. The commissioner announced this policy in January. And you’re telling me that the document wasn’t drafted until March? All you do by your answers is make me want to know more and more what the hell you do.
“Then you give us the information and tell us it’s a drafting issue. That’s unbelievable. Why should somebody have five strikes?”
Selig: “That’s the best we could do in collective bargaining.”
Shays: “So it’s the players’ fault?”
Selig: “It’s not the players’ fault.”
Shays: “I want to know why you can break the law once, twice, five times, then you’re out. Mr. Fehr?”
Fehr: “We believe in the concept of progressive discipline.”
Shays: “Even if you’re breaking the law?
“What you’re telling the kids is you can break the law four times before you’re out of the game. To me, that’s amazing. To the commissioner, I don’t know why you don’t fight for what you want and fight like hell to get it.”
There’s a perfect example. Shays ignores the fact that baseball isn’t responsible for enforcing US drug laws. Who cares about labor law either? Or privacy concerns? Or the fact that only 1% of all players tested positive, 15% of the number from just one year ago?
The agenda is clear. Tough on drugs and cheaters are we members of this sainted committee. Laughable. Terrifying. Embarassing.
Another “challenge” to strengthen baseball’s testing policy. The NFL is being held up as the standard now.
That’s it for me. The agenda for the committee was made clear. They believe the hype about how bad steroids are, and about how many players are using; in the face of the testing results and the lack of any other evidence other than Canseco’s book or Caminiiti’s SI expose’. And they are willing to trample US labor law, private citizens rights, state criminal investigations, and anything else that stands in their way.
Baseball missed its chance. Selig, Manfred, Fehr, and Towers all should have been prepared to repeat over and over again that the number of positive tests has dropped from 96 to 12. That baseball’s testing program is independent, and that it is run by Dr. Walder’s recommended testing orgainzation.
They should have been ready to say it over and over, in response to essentially every Congressman and woman’s insistence that the problem is so huge.
Update: Rep. Danny K. Davis just asked, what if the program wasn’t independent. IT IS INDEPENDENT!!!!
Rep. Gil Gutknecht seems to be saying that there is evidence that, say, the home run record (Bonds, 73 in 2001), is tainted by enough evidence that it should be removed from the record book. Selig, (looking as intelligent as he ever has), is vainly attempting to explain that there is no evidence.
Rep. Diane E. Watson is helping a colleague come up with a list of substances to ban in California high schools, apparently as they work to come up with a mandatory drug testing program for all California high school athletes.
Rep. Stephen Lynch is unimpressed. As far as he’s concerned, baseball’s management, depsite addressing whatever loopholes he’s worried about, they aren’t making him feel good. Manfred went after him, but he wasn’t gonna be swayed by logic or reason, or facts.
Not unlike the players problems facing the press, it doesn’t matter what answer management gives. Another committee member is trying to ask how many of this, how many of that. Zero tolerance, as in, one strike and you’re out, is now being proposed to Selig. Selig is, of course, finding such a policy untenable.
Selig is reading his written statement. He sounds terrific. His view of baseball’s efforts at eradication are compelling, much more well-presented than any of his critics.
Manfred sounds even better. He is slaying.
Update: After the opening remarks by baseball, (they’ve never seemed smarter), Davis asked some dumb questions, and then Waxman told Fehr that laws are what stop people from using illegal drugs. Laws and penalties.
That’s some statement.
Rep. Christopher Shays looks like the first witch-hunter. He’s badgering MLB about the four strikes before you’re out of baseball. Fehr is trying to explain how progressive discipline is a foundation of collective bargaining.
Here we go. The committee is finally showing their colors. Now, baseball has to sit there and listen to criticism and attacks and hyperbolic questioning.
Rep. Elijah H. Cummings is now at baseball’s team. Despite repeated statements that the number of positive tests last season was 12, not one of the members of the committee seems to have noticed. They keep harping on how weak the program is, even after Rob Manfred explained that baseball’s program is exemplary in about ten different ways.
Update: Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski is worried about protecting the average citizen from…. what? Steroids? What, are steroids running up and down the street and injecting themselves into people?
Manfred is awesome. I am totally impressed with his knowledge, charisma, and preparedness. He is so far ahead of the committee, it’s laughable. The committee, at this point, is finally hammering away with their real agenda:
1. They don’t think baseball’s program is strong enough.
2. Steroids are a horrible scourge of humanity.
Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland is repeating the objection to the progressive discipline part of the drug testing provision. Manfred is reminding him that the penalties for a failed test include suspension, with no exception, regardless of the letter of the agreement. He also just reminded the committee that the agreement is consistent with current US Labor Law.
Update: I don’t know who the white-haired guy is… he’s insisting that the steroids problem is enormous. Selig is trying to explain that that is not and was never the case. Selig flat-out says that Canseco and Caminitti aside, there is nothing else.
Rep. Bernard Sanders is the white-haired guy. He says that it appears to him that baseball players, (supported by management) are above the law.
Rep. John Sweeney has a statement…. Congress is not tolerant of steroids use. You guys are not handling the problem.
Update: Rep. (Bucky) Dent is again asking why steroids users aren’t dealt with as harshly as Pete Rose was. No one has told him that the lifetime ban for associating with gamblers was put in place before there was a union.
Fehr answered him, but failed to remind him that the number of positive tests has dropped from 96 to 12.