While A-Rod‘s name, as we mentioned in the podcast, will be in the steroid-related headlines for the foreseeable future, the Gene Orza scandal should have deeper ramifications across baseball. Earlier today, Jon Heyman wrote about how the union failed to do its job.
That list would have been long gone if not for the union; according to three baseball sources familiar with the testing process, players union COO Gene Orza worked long and hard to try to pare down the list. Orza’s mission, SI’s sources say, was to find enough false positives on the list to drive the number of failures so far down that real testing wouldn’t be needed in 2004 or ever.
Orza wanted to get the list down below the five percent threshold for testing to go away entirely. But after months of trying, Orza couldn’t do it, and baseball announced that a curiously imprecise 5-7 percent of players failed the 2003 survey test, enough to ramp up the testing in 2004, much to the union’s dismay.
And when BALCO investigators asked for the results of the players linked to that scandal, Orza did what came naturally to him, which was to fight. He had a history of winning his fights, so that gave him confidence that he could win this fight.
But this time he didn’t win. The feds subpoenaed all the records instead of just the BALCO boys.
All 104 players who tested positive were now at risk.
If I were one of those 103 other players, I wouldn’t be feeling too good about myself or the union leaders right now. This move could very well cost Orza his job, as Shysterball speculated, and the union some leverage during the next round of labor talks in 2011. If Orza, as originally reported, tipped off A-Rod to an impending drug test, the fallout will be even worse.
I can’t defend A-Rod though because of Orza’s ineptitude. He took steroids; he lied about it on national television; and his 40-hour silence has been deafening. Just because his name shouldn’t have been associated with his supposedly anonymous sample doesn’t excuse his behavior or actions. But the people he entrusted with his secrets have let him down, and that thread of this story will linger for a long, long time.