The off-season woes of Bobby Abreu have been well-documented around here. Showing signs of a steep decline but still managing to turn in a 120 OPS+ last season, Abreu has been a free agent fielding few phone calls this season. With a week left until Spring Training, Nick Cafardo’s sources tell the Boston Globe columnist that Abreu may have to settle for a one-year, $3-million deal. For that money, the White Sox, Mariners, Angels, Dodgers, Braves and Mets could all get in on the bidding. I can’t imagine Abreu is too thrilled about the prospects of an 80 percent paycut. · (33) ·
Selena Roberts, former New York Times columnist and current Sports Illustrated writer, has a lot riding on her Alex Rodriguez story. Seemingly without seeing the list of players who failed the 2003 drug tests but corroborating her information with four sources, she has accused one of baseball’s biggest starts and its highest paid player of juicing.
She’s also two and a half months away from publishing an exposé on A-Rod called Hit & Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez. Baseball & The Boogie Down believes that this upcoming book raising some interesting questions:
From what I’ve gathered through several web searches, the book is described as “an expose of A-Rod’s controversial path to self-destruction.” Something tells me the purpose of this book is not intended to paint A-Rod in a positive light.
I’m sure Alex is aware of the book and I’m sure Alex knows who Selena Roberts is. Why would he give her the time of day and answer any questions she asks him? She should have known that he’d blow her off when she asked him about testing positive. His failure to say anything to her shouldn’t be read as an admission of guilt, which is kind of how it came across in her interview with Bob Costas. I may not have the quote 100% correct, but she basically said, “He could have said I don’t know who your sources are but their dead wrong.” Hence, she believes her sources even more.
Could this be just a ploy to sell a few extra books? If Alex comes out and says she’s wrong and that he never tested positive, then what? Then it turns into he said, she said and then how do we know who to really believe. What if someone trots out 4 anonymous and “reliable” sources that say he didn’t test positive and the SI article is a fabrication. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially when people say they have anonymous sources. There’s really no way for anyone, other than the person citing the sources, to verify it’s authenticity, right?
It’s certainly an interesting scenario, but the more time that passes without a statement from A-Rod, the less likely it is. If A-Rod wants to shed some doubt on this list, he first has to know for sure that he isn’t on it. At some point in the future during the Bonds perjury trial, the entire list will be made public, and if A-Rod has any doubt about his name’s appearing on it, he can’t do this.
RAB commenter Artist formerly known as “The” Steve summed it all up in an e-mail to me this morning:
For the sake of his legacy, denial is his only hope. I’ve heard HOF voters (Ken Davidoff) already say they won’t vote for him if this is true. But he can’t do that credibly if the Feds have the original list and samples and that eventually becomes public. According to the Bonds court case, they do. So everything will come out eventually.
I think he’s boxed into a corner. He HAS to fess up, and live with the consequences.
A 100 percent complete admission will be the first step in rehabbing an image, and as the silence continues from the A-Rod camp, the next few days will be quite telling.
Buster Olney opines on the A-Rod fiasco and feels that the Yanks’ third baseman is tarnished forever. Kiss the Hall good bye. Kiss the MVP awards good bye. From here on in, he’s simply A-Roid until death do us part. It’s not fair; it might not even be accurate; but now that the media has decided to pass judgment on a scandal it collectively ignored for the better part of a decade, that’s the way things are in the wonderful world of baseball. · (54) ·
When the A-Rod news broke this morning, I wasn’t surprised or outraged. Nothing that comes out of this ongoing steroid mess can shock me anymore. Rather, I was deeply and truly disappointed.
Alex Rodriguez was supposed to be one of the Good Guys. Since he was drafted in the early 1990s, he had labels attached to him, labels tagging him as one of baseball’s all-time greats. He was a natural talent who knew how to play the game hard. When, at the age of 20, in his first full season, he took Seattle and the AL by storm, we knew we were witnessing history.
Over the years, we know the A-Rod saga. He signed on with Scott Boras who pushed him to become the best in everything. A-Rod couldn’t just be the best player in baseball. He also had to have the best contract ever and eventually had to play on the best team ever on baseball’s biggest stage.
Now, I don’t mean to intimate that Boras’ pushing or A-Rod’s own internal demons led him to steroids, but it’s hard to ignore that theme in all that we know about A-Rod. As the last five seasons have unfolded, we have seen A-Rod’s highs and lows. We’ve seen Slappy McBluelips turn into a two-time MVP winner turn into a non-clutch post-season choker turn into an adulterer and now a steroid user.
Underneath it all, the kid I once was and the baseball fan I still am are both disappointed. I’m disappointed that one of those Good Guys, one of those players who went on TV and told Katie Couric that he never used steroids would turn out to be a liar and a fraud, disappointed that one player destined for enshrinement on his natural talents alone would throw it all away because everyone else was doing so why shouldn’t he.
Maybe I’m being too willfully blind to the history of baseball. Ty Cobb was a racist who never would have played against non-white players. Babe Ruth was hardly a model citizen. Mickey Mantle was a drunk, and countless players have philandered their ways across the baseball landscape.
Maybe the problem isn’t with the players, but maybe it’s with the fans who try to idolize guys who are just professional athletes. Maybe our heroes never existed; we just dreamed them into existence and refused to acknowledge their flaws until it was far too late.
In the end, moral outrage is sure to rule the day. The same reporters and league officials who turned a blind eye to steroids for twenty or thirty years will breach on about the ills of the drugs and baseball’s corruption, past and present. The games will go on, and I will live and die with the Yankees. But as anything scandal breaks, as another big name falls, the part of me that believes in baseball as America, that, as Annie Savoy does in Bull Durham, believes in the Church of Baseball, will feel a little less sure about the game and a lot more disappointment. Who are our heroes after all?
Via MLBTR comes a Jerry Crasnick story about Ray Durham. The 37-year-old switch-hitting second baseman has fielded no offers this off-season and is mulling retirement. Of note to Yankee fans is the fact that Durham’s agent tried to pitch the middle infielder to Brian Cashman. The Yanks, however, according to Crasnick, are “looking for a bounce-back year from Robinson Cano” and turned down Durham.
Now that the Hot Stove League is drawing to a close, a few readers e-mailed us today wondering if the Yanks should revisit Ray Durham not as a potential starting second baseman but as a back-up infielder. He did after all put up a .289/.380/.432 line last year. However, his fielding splits look pretty bad. It might be worth it for the Yanks to toss a non-roster Spring Training invite his way. His should be better than Angel Berroa, but I wouldn’t put much weight on Durham in the Bronx. · (18) ·
The circus has officially come to town, and it won’t be leaving any time soon. Hot on the heels of the news that A-Rod failed a 2003 drug test, baseball and its supposed drug problem has once again grabbed center stage in New York City. For the 2009 season, A-Rod and, by extension, the Yanks will be under the microscope.
Anyway, as the story developed during the course of the day, numerous threads developed. The Players Union and Alex Rodriguez will take spotlight, and this could get messier before it gets better. I’ll wrap them up for the open thread.
The A-Rod Angle
- MLB Network was all over this story today, and with Tom Verducci, Harold Reynolds and Bob Costas providing the commentary, the fledgling TV station did a great job. Obviously, they pointed to A-Rod’s 60 Minutes interview with Katie Couric from 2007. In the clip linked there, A-Rod categorically denies taking steroids. In another clip shown on TV today, A-Rod says he’s been tested “eight or nine times.”
At some point, one of these statements will be revealed as a lie, and my guess is that it’s the first one. I’d have to believe that A-Rod has been tested since the suspension program has been put into place. If he hasn’t failed those tests, would anyone care — or notice?
- How long did A-Rod know about this story? Why didn’t he tell anyone? Costas this afternoon talked with Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts. She says she approached A-Rod in Miami on Thursday and received a “no comment” from the All Star. Sam Border wonders if A-Rod kept this from the Yanks and if so, why. A-Rod will have to comment on this report soon. Roberts certainly gave A-Rod more than enough opportunity to refute the story, and he declined to do so. That does not look good.
- NJ.com examines Primobolan, a designer drug designed to retain strength but minimize bulk. Selena Roberts said that this drug is quick to cycle out of a user’s system as well.
- MLB Trade Rumors notes that A-Rod’s contract is steroid-proof. Joel Sherman wonders if the Yanks regret re-signing A-Rod in 2007. There are nine years left in this marriage, and it seems like an eternity.
- It’s also worth noting that the portion of Roberts’ story that broke today is just a part of the story. From her interview, it sounds as though her larger piece will again blame the usual suspects of steroid users with Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez due for another hit. On TV, she guessed that Scott Boras probably had an idea of what was going on with A-Rod in 2003 as well. Related: Does today’s revelation vindicate Jose Canseco? That’s debatable.
The Union Response
- Harold Reynolds and Bob Costas were both appalled at Roberts’ report that Gene Orza may have tipped off A-Rod to an impending drug test. Costas felt that this could be a blanket breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and that the owners could use this as leverage in their efforts to weaken the union when the CBA expires after 2011. It’s very possible that Orza’s job and the reputation of the Players Union are both on the line right now and how he handles the blowback will determine the future of the union.
- Why was the list from 2003 of the players who failed the screening drug test destroyed? The Union officials were supposed to destroy, and Ken Davidoff notes that the union leaders, who had the legal right to do so, completely dropped the ball. A lot of union members must be questioning their leadership right now.
The existence of this list may also, as Costas noted this afternoon, raise some Fourth Amendment issues.
- The Players Association and MLB both related statements focusing on the privacy angle. Neither organization refuted this report, and both noted that the samples should have been anonymous. What a disaster.
Keeping it all in perspective
- At one point this afternoon, Bob Costas compared the failure to handle the samples with the required care and anonymity to one of this country’s greatest and most shocking political scandals. “This is in the category of Nixon burning the tapes,” he said. Ross at New Stadium Insider wonders if the nation is ignoring larger problems for the spectacle of A-Rod. This is, after all, just a baseball story. Chew on that one for a bit. I think Ross has a valid point, but baseball has long been tied into American culture and identity. This is a fairly significant American scandal.
The Fine Print: Use this as your open thread tonight. Let’s not have any A-Rod or steroid flame wars. Play nice.
As the Joe Torre story broke a few weeks ago, news emerged that the Yanks were considering adding non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements to their standard contracts. When Joe wrote it about at the end of January, his post generated some interesting debates over the contract provision. Many criticized the Yanks for attempting to control the P.R. spin while others approved of the term.
Today, we learn that the Yanks would not be alone in keeping a lid on the clubhouse. The Dodgers, Torre’s current employer, already include a NDA in their contracts. Jayson Stark dropped this tidbit into his Rumblings & Grumblings column this week:
The Dodgers apparently have no reason to worry about Joe Torre’s writing a gut-spilling, sanctity-violating book about his current team. A friend of Torre says the Dodgers included a confidentiality clause in Torre’s current contract. So sadly, we’ll probably never get to read the Dodgers’ catchy clubhouse nicknames for Manny or Derek Lowe.
When the Yankees do it, they’re accused of violating their employees’ First Amendment privileges, but when the Dodgers do it, it becomes accepted industry practice and hardly registers in the news. Nope. No double standard in baseball.
The Yankees’ defense over the past few years, perhaps over the bulk of the decade, hasn’t been very good. Whether they trot out a crew of all-bat, no-D players, or whether they give playing time to guys whose D has drastically declined, the Yanks have been below-average preventing batted balls from turning into hits. Eric Seidman at FanGraphs takes a look at the phenomenon using UZR. I know that some have a problem with defensive stats, but what our eyes, or at least my eyes, saw in 2005 is consistent with the numbers. The Yanks D was terrible. Thankfully, it appears that the team will field potentially average or above average players at every position (except Jeter, of course) this year. · (88) ·
According to a report in Sports Illustrated, four independent sources have confirmed to Selena Roberts and David Epstein that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003 and was subsequently tipped off to a drug test the following year. Needless to say, this will create some media circus for the Yanks and A-Rod in the coming weeks.
Roberts, a former Times columnist, and Epstein, a long-time SI staff writer, got a hold of what should have been a sealed list. The government just hasn’t been very good at keeping a lid on confidential information during this largely unnecessary steroid investigation. But what’s done is done, and the news does not sound good for A-Rod’s image. The two write:
In 2003, when he won the American League home run title and the AL Most Valuable Player award as a shortstop for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids, four sources have independently told Sports Illustrated.
Rodriguez’s name appears on a list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball’s ’03 survey testing, SI’s sources say. As part of a joint agreement with the MLB Players Association, the testing was conducted to determine if it was necessary to impose mandatory random drug testing across the major leagues in 2004.
When approached by an SI reporter on Thursday at a gym in Miami, Rodriguez declined to discuss his 2003 test results. “You’ll have to talk to the union,” said Rodriguez, the Yankees’ third baseman since his trade to New York in February 2004. When asked if there was an explanation for his positive test, he said, “I’m not saying anything.”
According to the report, A-Rod tested positive for increased testosterone levels and for Primobolan, a hard-to-detect designer steroid that minimizes what Roberts and Epstein termed “bulk development.” In other words, there’s no Jason Giambi/Barry Bonds effect in play with Primobolan.
At this point, I have to assume that A-Rod has passed numerous drug tests and has been clean, but this story will still be a P.R. disaster because of a subsequent development in 2004. After A-Rod’s failed test as a member of the Rangers in 2003, he may have been warned in 2004 when, as a Yankee, his name popped up on the testing rolls again. Reportedly, A-Rod is the unnamed player whom Gene Orza, COO of the players union, was accused of tipping off to an impending drug test in 2004. Si reports:
According to the 2007 Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball, in September 2004, Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the players’ union, violated an agreement with MLB by tipping off a player (not named in the report) about an upcoming, supposedly unannounced drug test. Three major league players who spoke to SI said that Rodriguez was also tipped by Orza in early September 2004 that he would be tested later that month. Rodriguez declined to respond on Thursday when asked about the warning Orza provided him.
Who knows what this will do to the Yankees? Who knows what this will do A-Rod and his reputation? People tolerated A-Rod because everyone always just assumed he was clean. At this point, it’s hard to believe that any player was truly off steroids. For the sake of the Yanks, I hope this blows over, but I, for one, am not too optimistic.
Just a quick heads up: you can still buy game used Staten Island Yankees jerseys over at Baby-Bombers.com, at reasonable prices too. There’s even a select few game used Trenton Thunder unis available. They’ve got jerseys from players like Dellin Betances, Steve Karsay, Octavio Dotel, Ian Kennedy, Shelley Duncan, Chase Wright, Jose Contreras, Wilkins DeLaRosa and tons more. Give it a look. · (2) ·