Archive for STEROIDS!
MLB and the players’ union announced an agreement today that will allow for in-season blood testing for HGH. Chad Jennings has the full press release. The tests will be random and unannounced, though players can only be tested three times per season unless they give the league a reason to test more. Baseball will be the first major sport in the country to test for HGH.
Players were blood tested during Spring Training last year as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but that was just a test of the test. The two sides wanted to see how players responded physically to giving blood before implementing a new policy. Offseason testing began this winter, but it was not random and MLB needed “reasonable cause.” Apparently everything has gone well over the last 12 months and the two sides moved forward with the in-season testing. Great news and a great job by both sides, but obviously this won’t be the end of PEDs in baseball. The drugs are always one step ahead of the test.
I’ll admit the title is a bit of a misnomer. It should probably be “Some MLB players should consider cheating as it pertains to banned substances some of the time.” Also, before going any further with this, I’d like to point out that this article was inspired by one of my great friends (who will hopefully allow me to share his proposal on how to best resolve this issue at some point in the near future). For the sake of the article (and dialog in general), let’s put conventional sentiments surrounding ethics as they pertain to athletics on the shelf for a moment*.
* In other words, let’s not just claim players shouldn’t use banned substances simply because it’s “wrong.” Before you all completely hate on me for writing this article, know that my personal beliefs on performance enhancers are not being reflected, but rather, my observations on how players may perceive the current environment are. I am not really qualified to explain the long term effects of steroids to one’s physical health, so some of my points may be leaps of … ahem, faith. Okay, disclaimers in order … check.
As far as I can tell, the basic motivation for cheating comes down to one primary goal in baseball (and probably sports in general) – that is to obtain a competitive advantage whether it be via skill or durability. For some players, this means transitioning from “subpar or expendable” status to, say, a useful role player. For other players, it may mean going from very talented to exceptional. In any event, I believe certain players in Major League Baseball have much more to gain by cheating then they have to lose compared to others.
Now, I’m not talking about your Alex Rodriguez or your Barry Bonds. Personality traits aside, it’d be completely asinine to claim that either of those players weren’t incredible in their day. Both represent generational talents, who in their prime (and perhaps even past it), would represent an upgrade for any team looking to contend. The problem with cheating for these guys is a matter of perceived legacy. They were always likely to get paid assuming they could stay on the field. If they get caught cheating, the only real jeopardy they’d face is exclusion from the Hall of Fame (assuming the HOF doesn’t change its criteria which I think it will in time). Sure, they may face a suspension as the rules currently stand, but my guess is they’d still typically acquire the big contract more often than not as they’re naturally more gifted than their peers, and being gifted is an expensive commodity. To put this into clear context, I’m not talking about a guy like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, or any of the other exceptional players in the league.
No, the type of guys I’m referring too are of the Melky Cabrera ilk. Let’s rewind back to 2010. Having been traded to the Braves (in the infamous Javier Vasquez swap) from the Yankees, he was awful. We’re talking a .255/.317/.354 slash line (.292 wOBA) with four home runs bad. For those wondering, that translates out a 77 wRC+ and a -1.1 fWAR. Basically, if all was just in the world, he would have had to pay the Braves for letting him “contribute” to their cause (and he’d probably have to offer a sincere heart-filled apology to [insert generic replacement level player here] for keeping him in the minors). Instead, he was non-tendered as the Braves wanted no part of his $3.1M salary. But the point stands; at this juncture, Melky barely qualified for any Major League roster spot … anywhere.
But something happened, and no, it wasn’t the invigorating atmosphere of Kauffman Stadium or the refreshingly cool San Francisco air that caused it (presumably). Over the next two seasons with the Royals and Giants, Melky was legitimately good. This past season he was so good, in fact, he even contended for the batting title in the NL (.346/.390/.516, .387 wOBA, 149 wRC+, with 11 home runs). There were rumblings as far back as May, that by the end of the year, he was going to cash in a serious contract too, whether it be with the Giants or another team – some even mused a paycheck as lofty as four or five years, $50-60M (roughly $10-15M per year) which was probably quite realistic. For a guy who was about to potentially face a minor league contract, and who was barely a footnote in Major League Baseball as recently as 2010, that’d be one hell of a pay day.
Obviously, things went a bit differently though. Melky was caught using a banned substance. He didn’t win the batting title (because he withdrew his name from consideration), and he was suspended from baseball for 50 games. Now you’d think that teams might have been worried this offseason that some major performance regression could happen for Cabrera and that his performance as player wasn’t entirely legitimate the past couple seasons. You might reasonably expect that Melky could be an interesting “buy low” type of candidate for a lot of teams looking to strike gold on a player with some question marks along with some potential. Instead, the Toronto Blue Jays set the market with a two-year deal worth $16M – that is to say eight million dollars per season despite the question marks surrounding him! Not too shabby, really. And if he puts up solid numbers for the Blue Jays for the next couple seasons, he’ll be right back in line for another solid pay day the next time he hits free agency. That’s far more certainty than he had a few seasons ago when he was viewed as nothing beyond a fourth outfielder/depth guy.
So let’s pretend we’re the proverbial little red devil sitting on the shoulder of the next Melky Cabrera for a moment. We’re going to say. “Son, let’s be honest. You suck. Your dream of being a Major Leaguer could disappear very soon altogether. Go ahead; give yourself a boost while you still can. Maybe you’ll turn it around and extend your career a little while (let’s face it, you’re not getting any younger). Maybe you’ll heal faster from your injuries. Maybe you’ll even become more productive like the Melk Man with a just a bit of help, and you’ll put yourself (and let’s not forget your family) in a better position to earn whatever you can while you can! And if worse comes to worst, you’ll get caught, you’ll face suspension, and you’ll be viewed as a pariah. But then again, that sounds a lot like what’s happening right now. Just consider it. You know everyone else is.”
Of course, ironically, Melky still has the footnote to his name. He’s just substantially wealthier for it.
Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement has not been officially announced just yet, but details of some rather substantial changes have started to leak out. Here’s the latest….
New CBA will include blood testing for HGH
Via Michael Schmidt, the new CBA will include blood testing for human growth hormone. The testing will begin when players report to Spring Training in February, and a positive test will result in a 50-game suspension. Minor leaguers have been getting tested for HGH for two seasons now.
This is obviously a significant step for baseball and a major concession by the union. None of the other major North American sports leagues allow blood testing, though the International Olympic Committee does. Players that participate in the World Baseball Classic are subject to IOC rules and tests.
Type-A free agent relievers and Elias rankings will be eliminated
Via Ken Rosenthal, all remaining Type-A free agent relievers will not be subject to draft pick compensation this offseason. Teams will not be required to forfeit draft picks to sign them, though their old team will still gain a pick somehow. I’m guessing it’ll be just the supplemental first rounder. Click here to see all the Type-A and B free agents. Other Type-A free agents (Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, etc.) will still require a team to surrender a draft pick to sign them.
The Elias ranking system will be completely eliminated next offseason. In order to receive draft pick compensation for a top free agent, the player’s team will need to tender them a qualifying offer of at least $12M per season. I’m curious to see how they decide who is and who isn’t a top free agent, that should be interesting. Reportedly, the Yankees will still gain a supplemental first rounder if Type-B free agent Freddy Garcia signs elsewhere this offseason.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton has declared a mistrial in the case against Roger Clemens for perjury. Following a video of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ statements this morning in which the Congressman mentioned evidence — including testimony by Laura Pettitte — that the judge had ruled barred from the case, Walton determined that the current trial could not go forward without prejudice against the former baseball star. “Sadly I have reached a conclusion that to permit this case to go forward with the government having done what it did, Mr. Clemens will not get a fair trial before this jury,” he said. “So I will declare a mistrial.”
A mistrial doesn’t mean that Clemens is out of the woods yet or that the government will be forced to drop its case. Rather, it simply means that this jury pool has been tainted. The two sides will argue over the summer as to whether or not a second trial would subject Clemens to double jeopardy, and Judge Walton said he will hold a hearing on Sept. 2 to decide if a second trial can constitutionally go forward. The government, meanwhile, will continue to spend money on this witch hunt. (For more on the technicalities of this mistrial, check out The Washington Post’s coverage.)
Alex Rodriguez hanging out with his cousin is only news in the sense that he’s a famous person who did something. The story carries a little more interest, because of Yuri Sucart’s connection to steroids — after all, A-Rod was the one who outed him. But the meeting happened in a public space, and even MLB said there wasn’t any wrongdoing. Yet that has apparently led to an actual story, which Michael S. Schmidt and Serge F. Kovaleski reported in the Times yesterday. Apparently, MLB is still investigating Rodriguez’s connection to Dr. Anthony Galea, who is accused of supplying athletes with PEDs.
This is one of those things where you’re definitely better off reading the source article than our summary of it. Schmidt in particular has been following this story, and he lays it out in a reasonably easy to understand manner. But, for those who just want the facts, here’s what we know right now about the issue.
- A-Rod met with MLB before last season to discuss the former’s connection to Galea. He denied having received PEDs.
- Apparently A-Rod also testified before a federal grand jury for the case. I don’t think I’d heard that before. There is no word of what his testimony comprised, because of the rules of secrecy for grand jury proceedings. His lawyers wouldn’t even confirm that he did make the appearance.
- MLB specifically wants Galea’s medical records pertaining to Rodriguez, and he has acquiesced. “Alex fully cooperated with Major League Baseball and federal authorities in Buffalo regarding his treatment with Dr. Galea, including granting a release of his medical records,” his lawyers said in a statement.
- It is unclear why MLB has not yet received the medical records, which might be a bigger part of this story. If A-Rod did indeed give clearance, then why haven’t they seen them yet?
- Galea maintains that he didn’t give HGH to athletes, but rather to other patients. If you’re looking for a reason why MLB is continuing their investigation, there it is. That just sounds fishy. If he’s distributing HGH, is he really going to withhold it from athletes?
As was the case last time this story came to the fore, I expect it to again fade into the background until something moves in Galea’s case. For now there appears to be no connection between Rodriguez and Galea beyond the anti-inflammatories the latter gave the former. But with A-Rod’s hip doctor, Mark Philippon, sounding skeptical upon hearing about the connection, there are definitely loose ends in this case. Since MLB seems eager, maybe even overeager, to punish anyone remotely connected to anything that might be a performance enhancer, I don’t expect this to fully go away until Galea’s case is decided.
Earlier tonight, Mike reported on the stem cell procedure Bartolo Colon underwent to restore his throwing arm. Now it seems that MLB is questioning the surgery and the doctor who conducted it. Joseph R. Purita, Colon’s surgeon, has used HGH in the past, and MLB wants to make sure he didn’t employ the banned substance in Colon’s surgery.
Serge Kovaleski of The Times reported:
Purita said he flew to the Dominican Republic and performed the procedures for free, doing it at the behest of a medical technology company based in Massachusetts that he has done business with for several years. Purita, who has used human growth hormone in such treatments, said in an interview that that he had not done so in Colon’s case. The use of human growth hormone is banned by baseball. “This is not hocus-pocus,” Purita said in an interview here. “This is the future of sports medicine, in particular. Here it is that I got a guy back playing baseball and throwing pitches at 95 miles an hour.”
Purita said that he has treated at least two dozen professional athletes over the years, mostly baseball and football players, and that he has never given any of them H.G.H. “I just won’t give it to these guys,” Purita said. “I don’t need the stigma and that kind of reputation.”
For the last few years, baseball and other sports, while fighting to limit the use of performance-enhancing drugs, have been faced with a new and murky challenge: players getting sophisticated blood treatments, often from doctors whose practices involve the regular use of H.G.H.
Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, said Wednesday that he had not known of Colon’s medical treatment when the club signed him. Cashman said Colon’s agent, aware that The New York Times was working on an article about the procedure and Purita’s role, had notified him recently of the procedure. Cashman said he had, in response, informed Major League Baseball. “The Yankees did notify us and we are looking into it,” said Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball.
Major League Baseball has said it has no reason to suspect Colon or his surgeon of any wrong-doing, but they are investigating as a matter of due diligence. I would expect nothing to come of this, and I’m not sure they can do much anyway. Colon was out of organized baseball when he underwent the procedure last year. As long as he complies with the MLB drug policy now, there is no foul here.
Roger Clemens appeared this morning in federal court in the District of Columbia to enter a plea of not guilty to charges of perjury and obstruction of Congress. Clemens is facing a six-count indictment concerning statements he made in February 2008 in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Department of Justice and Congress believes Clemens lied under oath, and like it or not, the case against Clemens will partially rest on Andy Pettitte’s shoulders. Clemens, who left DC to participate in a golf tournament at Myrtle Beach this afternoon, has already rejected a plea deal and plans to fight the indictment. This case, however, won’t go to trial for a few years, and Clemens will stay in legal limbo until then.
Via Baseball America, Major League Baseball is investigating both Ivan Nova and Wilkin DeLaRosa for allegedly injecting each other with B-12 shots while the two were teammates last season with Double-A Trenton. B-12 is not on MLB’s list of banned substances, but only licensed physicians are allowed to inject the medication without a subscription. And, of course, they want to make sure neither player injected themselves with something other than B-12.
I honestly don’t know what happens from here, if there’s a penalty or something since it’s not a banned substance. Hopefully nothing comes of this.
Roger Clemens’ six season with the Yankees were, in the annals of his career, mostly unspectacular. He stole a Cy Young from his teammate Mike Mussina in 2001 and captured two World Series rings, but his numbers — a 4.01 ERA/114 ERA+ with strike out rates below his career norm and walk rates higher — show that the Roger who was in the Bronx was more hype than substance. He was, after all, pitching in his age 36-40 seasons and made his Yankee encore at age 44.
Still, the post-baseball Roger Clemens — the one embroiled in a PED scandal and facing an indictment for perjury — will forever be linked to the Yankees. Unfairly or not, Roger Clemens’ problems will cast a shadow over Yankee past and could impact Yankee present and Yankee future too. This nagging issue comes about because Andy Pettitte, it seems, is key to the Justice Department’s case against Clemens.
Once upon a time, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were very close friends. They wintered together in Houston; their kids grew up together; they trained together; and they, according to Pettitte, shot human growth hormone together. Clemens said that Pettitte “misremembered,” but in the he said-he said war, Congress and the Justice Department have seemingly sided with the current Yankee southpaw.
As former House Representative Tom Davis said late last week, Pettitte was the House’s key witness. In a phone call with ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor, Davis spelled out the Congressional case against Clemens and highlighted Pettitte’s importance. “If it was just Roger versus McNamee, it’s a different matchup,” he said. “We didn’t call Andy Pettitte, we deposed him, and he supported McNamee and that was a problem for [Clemens]. Without Pettitte, neither McNamee nor Clemens was that articulate or credible.”
Pettitte has yet to address Clemens’ situation and, if the case goes to trial in three or four years, Andy will likely be called as a witness. It will create an uncomfortable situation for the two men and for a Yankee organization trying to live down the Mitchell Report accusations. “Andy Petttitte didn’t want to testify against his friend,” Davis said to ESPN. “But when he raised his right hand, he told the truth. It would’ve been different without him. Roger was a great pitcher who’s done a lot for the community, and McNamee’s had other issues.”
Today, Clemens and Pettitte seem cordial at best, but their intense friendship has long since cooled. In an interview with Boston’s WEEI last week, the Rocket commented on Pettitte. Clemens, who must repeatedly deny any PED use, said he and Andy no longer speak. “My boys went out to a game quite a bit,” he said, but we don’t.”
While the perjury case may rest in part on Pettitte’s shoulders, Clemens’ lawyer is being aggressive — some would say overly so — in his case. He rejected a plea deal that would have required Roger to admit PED use in exchange for no jail sentence, and Rusty Hardin seems willing to let this drama play out in an open court room. “The government made a recommendation [for a plea agreement] and we declined,” Hardin said to ESPN. “I will tell you the recommendation they made was a very good one if he was guilty. And if he was guilty we would have jumped on it.”
Hardin too is engaged in his own he said-he said debate with Representative Davis. The former House member claims they gave Clemens ample opportunity to avoid testifying for Congress but that Clemens wanted to clear his name. “We’re sitting around, and they were deciding whether to go through with the hearing or not,” Davis, who insists that Congressional representatives urged Clemens to be as forthcoming with the truth as possible, said. “This wasn’t a mandatory hearing. We weren’t hanging [him] out to dry. We were only giving him an opportunity to refute the Mitchell report and to tell his side of the story.”
Hardin refuted that take. “So Tom Davis,” Clemens’ attorney said, “who I saw on TV last night, comes down to us, calls us aside and urges us to have Roger testify. And now that son of a bitch is on TV saying that Roger insisted upon it.”
It’s a nasty, nasty business, and Clemens has found himself embroiled in a royal mess. By the time this case goes to trial, Andy Pettitte will have likely retired. He’ll be called upon to rehash his own PED testimony, and he’ll have to again talk, under oath, about the conversations he had with Roger Clemens while both were on the Yankees. The era may be in the past, but the legal percussions will echo into the future. As Joe Torre, the man who managed a team hiding some steroid users, said, “It’s sad.”
Update (5:25 p.m.): A federal grand jury has filed an indictment against former Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens facing a federal indictment for perjury in connection with his 2008 testiomy to the U.S. Senate. The 19-page indictment, unveiled today, charges the disgraced hurler with three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. While the Department of Justice will not seek to arrest Clemens, the Rocket’s legal troubles are just beginning.
Michael S. Schmidt of The Times has more details on the incidents out of which the indictment arises:
Clemens’s allegedly false testimony came in a public hearing in which Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee, testifying under oath, directly contradicted each other about whether Clemens had used the banned substances.
“Americans have a right to expect that witnesses who testify under oath before Congress will tell the truth,” United States Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement announcing the indictment. “Our government can not function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress. Today the message is clear: if a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences.”
The congressional hearing at the heart of the indictment came just two months after McNamee first tied Clemens to the use of the substances in George J. Mitchell’s report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. After Mitchell released the report, Clemens claimed McNamee made up the allegations.
Clemens joins Barry Bonds as the two most prominent former players to face perjury charges in connection with statements concerning PED use. Bonds is scheduled to go to trial in March, and the two will appear together on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot.
The Feds, as Schmidt reports, investigated Clemens after Congressional leaders raised concerns over his testimony. Still, there are elements of a witch hunt here as Congress and the Justice Department have gone after only the two biggest names to be accused of drug use. If convicted, Clemens could face a sentence of 15-21 months, but my guess is that this case doesn’t get that far. Because Clemens allegedly never failed a drug test, the government’s evidence rests on the testimony of Brian McNamee, a former Clemens confidante who turned informant to avoid federal drug charges. McNamee claims to have old syringes that reportedly tested positive for both steroids and Clemens’ DNA.
The Rocket this afternoon issued a statement via Twitter denying the charges. “I never took HGH or Steroids,” he said. “And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court.”