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December 13, 2007 at 4:10 PM

Tainted names

Sorry I’ve been absent for most of the day. We’ve been chasing down some of the names mentioned today in the Mitchell Report. As you may have seen, I spoke to Jim Parque earlier on. Here’s what he had to say as I wrote in my story. Also trying to get a hold of Ryan Franklin. He had plenty to say a couple of years ago when suspended for steroids use, plenty of vehement denials. Hoping he can shed some light on today’s report, especially the parts that state he was introduced to former New York mets clubhouse attendant and steroid supplier Kirk Radomski by former teammate Ron Villone. The report says Radomski shipped steroids to Franklin before he tested positive. So far, no luck getting him.
My initial take on all of this? Tip of the iceberg stuff. We’ve got all these names pouring out based mainly on the sworn declarations of two people — Radomski and Brian McNamee. Just imagine how many we’d uncover if Mitchell had the power to force everyone to talk to him under oath. Small wonder there’s a Yankee-centric presence to the list. The two guys doing all the talking were both New York based.
Roger Clemens is the one guy whose reputation is taking the biggest hit today. Clemens is denying all of what his onetime personal trainer, McNamee, told investigators. All I can say is, that’s a heck of a lot of detail McNamee provided. We’ve all, in this business, heard the rumors about Clemens going way back — centered around his improbable transformation from washed-up Red Sox hurler to dominating ace once again when he joined the Blue Jays in 1997. The rumors began when Clemens was still in Toronto — where team insiders did a lot of nudge-nudge, wink-winking about why McNamee was really such a popular strength trainer with the Blue Jays players.
No, this report doesn’t have photos of guys injecting themselves with needles. In some ways, it has opened itself up to plenty of scrutiny from third-parties and the media for that very reason. It surprises me, therefore, that with all of these detailed accusations being thrown around and name-tainting going on, that the players themselves did not take a more active role in trying to set the record straight.
Clemens is letting his attorneys handle the denials for now. But I would truly like to see Clemens come out and explain how and why McNamee has been able to concoct such an elaborate fiction about him. Let’s face it: there is rarely going to be a smoking gun in cases like this. But what they do have are sworn statements under oath, at the risk of prosecution, by a guy who was closer to Clemens from a workout perspective than anyone else on his teams.
The reason I want this looked into further is that I received my Hall of Fame ballot yesterday. My very first one, now that I’ve been a card-carrying BBWAA writer for 10 years. I take this responsibility seriously. I’ve already wavered extensively about whether I will vote for Barry Bonds once his name comes up.
Like Clemens, there are no photographs of Bonds taking steroids. But there is a mountain of paperwork — which anyone can read about in Game of Shadows — that says he did. Simply making rote denials isn’t getting Bonds off my hook that easily. I expect some better explanations.
Same goes for all of the players mentioned today. Some of my Hall of Fame voting colleagues have suggested that they will be including all qualified members of the so-called Steroid Era, simply because we don’t know how far-reaching this scandal goes.
I don’t buy that. No one let “Shoeless” Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame, even though there is ample evidence that much of the baseball world was involved in gambling and even throwing games roughly 90 years ago. Jackson was not allowed “off the hook” though his involvement was tenuous at-best.
You know what? The names I’ve read aren’t getting off my hook either. They were the ones, just like Shoeless Joe, who got caught. So, it’s too bad for them. It was too bad for Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson two decades ago at the Seoul Olympics when he was the one guy in a juiced-up 100-meter final to get nabbed. And it’s too bad for all of the now tainted baseball names getting caught up in a dragnet that won’t snare everybody.
Clemens won three Cy Young Awards, but was a 200-win pitcher when he left the Red Sox after 1996. A nice career, but not Hall of Fame stuff. Since then, he’s won another four Cy Young prizes and about 150 more games. The question is, how tainted are those numbers?
Unless I start hearing some better excuses, Clemens is going into my asterix group along with Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and any other person who gets named and can’t explain all of the details and circumstances surrounding the tainting of their legacy. I know it doesn’t sound all that fair to some of you, but remember, I am not a trial judge. I’m not handing down prison sentences here. Just voting for the Hall of Fame.
As for the likelihood of any of those names making it on to my ballot, the way things currently stand, I’ll give you the same advice someone should have offered Pete Rose a while back: don’t bet on it.



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