February 19, 2009


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LONGSHOTS: Steroids muscle in on game’s strength
by Dave Long

I’ve got this great auto mechanic. His name is Leo Briand. And since I’m one of those folks who, whether it needs it or not, changes his motor oil every 100,000 miles, he’s got his hands full when my car rolls into Auto City in Manchester.

Given the care I give my car it can be a financial adventure for me as well when I send it in for a simple inspection. I just never know how much work it’ll need to get that elusive sticker. So while he’s a really good mechanic and easy to work with, the biggest reason I like him is that when I look at my bill, I never say, “Did I reeeally need all that done?” While I don’t want to cast doubt on upstanding mechanics everywhere, I can honestly say I’ve never not wondered it if I really needed it all done by anyone else who’s worked on my cars over the years. But with Leo I never do. 

Now why am I bringing this up? Because of the recent admission by Alex Rodriguez that he used steroids from 2001 to 2003, which Commissioner Bud Selig followed up with by saying he had shamed the game. See, I want to feel like baseball is as honest as my auto mechanic, and it’s not. In fact it’s getting slimier by the day.

Just think about what’s happened in the last month. Several reports say prosecutors in the upcoming perjury trial of seven-time MVP Barry (Government) Bonds have a witness and evidence linking him to the steroid use he said he didn’t do. The FBI is investigating if seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens lied under oath to Congress. A-Rod comes clean to Peter Gammons on ESPN only after he’s outed by reporter Selena Roberts on SI.com. A day later 2002 MVP Miguel Tejada pleads guilty to lying to Congress. A day later A-Rod shows up at the dedication of Alex Rodriguez field at the University of Miami which the U did after gladly receiving his $3.9 million donation.

Then old-timers weighed in. Pete Rose says on talk radio he’s not buying A-Rod’s story because he doesn’t think any ballplayer would walk away from it after hitting 52 homers, while adding he’s still in his corner. A day later the honorable Hank Aaron tells CNN baseball should leave Bonds number one on the all-time list. And finally this morning I read about I-Rod answering a reporter’s question about his long-suspected status as a roids boy with “Only god knows,” which of course is not true since he does. I took that for a yes. 

Can I ask something? Who is running this show — Archbishop Law and the Catholic Church?

And then there’s José Canseco, who weighed in by telling the Associated Press last week, “I think I have the ear of the nation now. I think everyone realizes I have not in any way, shape or form tried to create smoke and mirrors like Major League Baseball has and the players have. I have been excruciatingly honest about what’s going on in baseball.”

Except one thing. Yes, he told the truth, but he did it only for the same reason he took performance-enhancing drugs in the first place: to line his pockets. He’s the lowest skunk of all in this mess, because he cheated as a player to get a better contract and then ratted out his friends for money to profit from it again. But he is right about one thing. The powers that be have created a smoke screen to shield themselves from blame. It’s called the Mitchell Report — it was done by a guy who sits on the Board of Directors of the Red Sox and has brilliantly shifted the spotlight entirely onto the players and away from the enablers who looked the other way as the homers were flying out because the cash registers were going ka-ching.

That’s why the commissioner’s having the utter temerity to say last week that A-Rod shamed the game was so galling. Now I have no sympathy for A-Rod. He only came out because he got caught and the same guy who told Katie Couric he did not take PEDs on 60 Minutes. 

But here’s what I don’t like. The owners had to know what was going on. I was at a game in 1990 at Fenway when the entire place serenaded Canseco with the chant of Ste-ROOOOIDS every time he went to right field. Chad Curtis went on TV in 1999 talking about how unfair it was for him to compete for a job with guys who were using and he wasn’t. Buck Showalter said on Baseball Tonight Sunday that guessing who was on them was a common practice in major-league locker rooms. And then the homers started flying out. In the first 90 years of baseball players hit 50 homers in a season 17 times. In the next 13 years it happened 20 times. And that group included the likes of Brady Anderson, Luis Gonzales and Andru Jones — who two years later can’t even hit his own weight.

What baseball did by looking the other way was create a climate where for all but, ironically, the big-time stars now in the spotlight, you almost had to do it. Those guys were competing for the million-dollar lifestyle of the majors. If they choose not to and the guy fighting for your roster spot does, he’s looking at making $4,000 a month in the minors. So what would you do? And then there are the guys with warning track power — who might get an extra 20 feet out of a bottle to get 15 homers a year and a three-year deal that will set them up for life. What that means is that, Bonds and Clemens aside, it was not for the records but a financial decision to use, just as it was for the owners to look the other way.  

The weird thing is, especially for one who loves the records as I do, I don’t really care all that much about this and never did. After living through the shocking sex abuse cover-up by the Catholic Church this is pretty small potatoes. And unless the next revelation includes a player and a barnyard animal I’m pretty much numb to it all anyway.

Marvin Miller is right. This is a witch hunt to lay the blame exclusively on the players. So my real outrage lies with all the folks — players, Donald (have no) Fehr and the union, holier-than-thou look-the-other-way fans, owners and most especially the commissioner for trying to duck the blame instead of ’fessing up to put this sordid fiasco behind the game like the leader he’s supposed to be.

So his trying to lay it last week on A-Rod is both a joke and a disgrace.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.

2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming

2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
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11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
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9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
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9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
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12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
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11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
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01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
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Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat