Alex Rodriguez has “come clean” about his dirty past, or at least the part of it that he was caught for. The whole world now knows that between 2001 and 2003, he used performance enhancing drugs to hit balls farther than the other guys he played with and against. But, in drug tests taken after the 2003 season, A-Rod is just one of 104 players who failed the test. That means we don’t yet know the identities of 103 players who took performance enhancers in step with A-Rod. How would you feel right now if you were one of the unnamed 103?
We can all guess as to who’s in that lot. Maybe Roger Clemens. Apparently, Barry Bonds was not part of that group. How about Jason Giambi, who’s been caught and apologized before? Andy Pettitte? Jason Grimsley? Remember, he’s the one who gave The Mitchell Report investigators loads of info after getting caught for ordering performance enhancers and having them delivered to his house. Could Rafael Palmeiro be in there? Paul Byrd?
We just don’t know who those 103 players are. Yet. Do they know? Did A-Rod know he was one of the 104 before the Sports Illustrated piece told us? Did he know in 2007 that damning evidence existed to refute his testimony when Katie Couric asked him if he’d ever used and he said no?
If the balance do know they’re part of this historical grouping, are these 103 players walking on eggshells today? Are they wondering when their names will somehow leak out? What would you do if you know you were on the list? You have options.
Here’s the worst option an MLB player who has been caught using performance enhancers can choose. The only one being convinced is yourself, which is bad because that means nobody believes you. Already in a hole, you are now digging it deeper. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens chose this route. So far, the results have not been favorable to either man. A risky move, especially if you did do some form of steroids, the only way out is to somehow have enough evidence to absolutely prove you did do them, which is hard because you did do them and the evidence exists. Here’s where the risk can prove fatal: When you try to bring others down with you. Maybe a trainer. Or a doctor. Or your father. Or a friend. Or aliens who injected you on some barren Arizona highway and you don’t remember a thing. You become convinced that you were set up and somebody else is doing all of the lying. You need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the people you bring in and all of the statements you make about them and their friends and the lies you begin to toss around like a new Rawlings ball in spring training. Denial. Choose this one and expect the worst.
Huh? means you admit you took something but didn’t know what it was. Bonds has used this. Gary Sheffield too. Rafael Palmeiro combined his Huh? defense with the Denial defense. He now lives a secluded life in a shack deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, typing manifestos all day on a broken typewriter. It’s not just a coincidence that the Huh? defense can be misread by the human eye as the HgH defense.
3. A Sorry Silence
This is the option most all of the minor leaguers who get caught use. This is generally an involuntary choice, because these guys were most likely using because they needed an edge. Their natural skills couldn’t get them to the big leagues, so they felt they had to use performance enhancers. After being caught, we see their names in a short Baseball Notes blurb in the Sunday paper or at the end of your favorite team’s game recap. And we don’t hear from them again. Not enough people cared when you were using. And now that you’ve been caught, you are branded as a cheater and, unless some scout with loads of organizational pull sees you’re a future no-doubt All-Star, you’re back home in the Dominican months later, playing baseball for a dollar a day; the hopes of your family ever dragging itself out of poverty lost for another generation.
Andy Pettitte used this successfully in 2008. After his inclusion in The Mitchell Report, he spoke about how and why he used performance enhancers. Because he had always been considered a “clean” player and was respected in the league and by fans, this worked for him. Sure, he suffered some embarrassment and his family became involved in his and the Roger Clemens scandal, but by mid-season, it was mostly a footnote to his career. He was believed and that was that.
Paul Byrd took the same approach during the 2007 ALCS, when the news broke that he had used HgH, his name found in some seized records. That same day he took on the media. He wrote about his use in his book, Free Byrd, and he spoke to me about it candidly as well. Paul will be the first to admit that he was never a Roger Clemens-type pitcher, with an incredible pitching resume and massive fame. But he had been successful enough to make headlines when “caught.” And he explained his side of the story. Like Pettitte, it was largely forgotten as the 2008 season wore on.
Of course, Jose Canseco is the one who has influenced MLB and its surrounding worlds of fans, media & agents when it comes to admission to using performance enhancers. While he’s considered a joke when it comes to his lifestyle and attitude, he broke the Clubhouse Rule of telling stories and naming names, especially his own. While he reasons for doing so were not pure; he wasn’t trying to better society and save the lives of kids, since he needed the money from the sales of the book and movie rights, his legacy will be that of someone who gave legitimacy to the allegations players, lots of players, used performance enhancers. Love him or hate him, Canseco admitted and has reaped benefits for doing so.
5. Surprise Admission
This has not been used yet. This is what a guy like A-Rod could have done months ago, or years ago, and been praised for. Let’s say you are one of The Unnamed 103. It’s just days before spring training begins. You know time is short when it comes to your anonymity. You know, as we all do, that someday, maybe next week, maybe next year, those names are all going to come out. You can still take control. The message will be delivered. Before the world hears it, you can be in charge of the delivery method. Let it leak. Let Bud Selig release the names, with union approval (and public & government pressure), formally. Or stand up now and admit you believe, or you know, you’re on the list.
This cannot hurt you. You can appear respectable. When you are inevitably asked if you know who the now Unnamed 102 are, you honestly say that it is not for you to say. You can say you may know, or have some idea, who a handful of them are, but you can say it’s not your place to name names. “The only name I feel I have the right to reveal is my own.”
Suddenly, you have character. You came out and spoke the truth. And you didn’t pull a Canseco and bring down others with you. Instead, you are now instantly compared to Clemens and Bonds and Giambi. And you are looked at as a stand-up guy. People will respect you for telling the truth about yourself. And they’ll respect you more for not being a tattle-tale when it comes to others.
The natural reaction of someone when they are caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing is to say, “I didn’t do it.” Look at politicians. Look at people who cheat on their spouses. The mind’s first defense is to lie and deceive and hope that tact works. But, in the public forum of the early-21st century, you are guilty until proven innocent. This is based upon so many people actually being guilty and just not admitting to it. Maybe if there was more truth-telling from the outset, there would be more forgiveness as well. While we wait for these Unnamed 103 players to be dragged through the mud, maybe the smart move for some of them would be to come clean now. If you’re going to get caught, you might as well tell us on your own terms.
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