Suppose it was only a matter of time before it came down to this. A blogger posting on the Midwest Sports Fans site (the site’s “managing editor” no less) made an offhand suggestion that Raul Ibanez could be taking performance enhancing drugs. He then actually tried to make a case for it.
“Maybe the 37-year old Ibanez trained differently this offseason with the pressure of joining the Phillies’ great lineup and is in the best shape he’s ever been in,” he wrote. “And maybe that training included … Well, you know where that one was going, but I’d prefer to leave it as unstated speculation. However, if Ibanez ends up hitting 45-50 homers this year, you can bet that I won’t be the only one raising the question.”
The headine of the post was meant to be provocative and that it was:
The Curious Case of Raul Ibanez: Steroid Speculation Perhaps Unfair, but Great Start in 2009 Raising Eyebrows
That’ll definitely grab your attention, make you want to read more. Only problem is, there was no proof of anything offered up. And Ibanez is furious about it.
“You can have my urine, my hair, my blood, my stool — anything you can test,” Ibanez told the Philadelphia Inquirer, which published a column today about how these types of sweeping insinuations are becoming more common. “I’ll give you back every dime I’ve ever made” if the test is positive, he added.
“I’ll put that up against the jobs of anyone who writes this stuff,” he said. “Make them accountable. There should be more credibility than some 42-year-old blogger typing in his mother’s basement. It demeans everything you’ve done with one stroke of the pen.”
I’ve spoken numerous times with Ibanez over the years about the subject of PEDs and he takes it very seriously. He hates that we live in an era where, unfortunately, all players, guilty and not guilty, live under suspicion.
But there is a difference between having suspicions and going public with it based on no supporting evidence. And no, this is not like the Barry Bonds case where there was leaked grand jury testimony and two extensive books written on the subject.
No one has ever come forward — until now — and outright suggested in public that Ibanez was anything but above board. Gut hunches don’t matter, at least not in my newspaper world when it comes to this stuff. Ruin a man’s reputation, you’d better be right about it. If not, jobs are often lost.
Here is what the Inquirer column had to say on the subject:
“MLB started the fire, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep it going by tossing players and their Louisville sluggers into the flames. At a time when anybody’s opinion can be quickly amplified and the weakest voices can suddenly make the loudest noise, I worry about fairness.
“Ibanez hasn’t tested positive, and he’s denied taking PEDs on multiple occasions. Until there’s proof to the contrary, shouldn’t all of us – from the traditional mainstream media to bloggers – be judicious about calling people cheaters? It’s easier to sling mud than ever before, which is why we need to be careful when taking aim.”
And so, I can sympathize with Ibanez demanding some accountability here. And he’s right. Anybody can sit back in anonymity and take pot shots at people. Throw “suggestions” out there.
Not as easy when you actually have to face somebody and put the question to them — as Selena Roberts did with Alex Rodriguez. The two are worlds apart.
Yeah, we can never rule out that “Player X” or “Player Y” might be taking such and such. But by that logic, we can’t rule out that they might be axe murderers either. You don’t see that up in headlines, do you? And once again, there is an accountability question here. Has the blogger spoken to anyone who played with Ibanez, past or present? Has he ever been in a major league clubhouse? Does he understand how devoted Ibanez is to personal fitness — keeping a hyperbaric chamber in his home? That he had a late career start as a major leaguer — meaning his body was not subjected to the same rigors as if he’s broken into the game in his 20s?
Did he give Ibanez a chance to offer an explanation? Or at least try to talk to him? No, he didn’t. Then again, maybe he doesn’t have to. He was, after all, writing an opinion piece, not a factual news story. OK, I’ll bite on that. But who exactly is this guy to be offering up an opinion. Yes, he’s entitled to an opinion. But is it informed?
As I’ve mentioned too many times now, the internet, blogs and commenting gives everyone a chance to have their say. But that type of democracy does not necessarily mean we have to treat every voice equally. Some people know what they’re doing and act responsibly. Others simply take the fast road and try to make names for themselves.
I’m sure this blogger thought he was being responsible pushing his reasoning in a public forum. Again, though, this is a man’s reputation at stake. And published words, as the uninitiated quickly learn, carry far more weight than Joe from Podunk calling up the local radio hotline show to rant.
Those words carry responsibility. And there’s a fine line between being respoinsible and being reckless.
Ibanez, as we all know from reading this space, is very blog-friendly and well-versed — to a point. That line has now been crossed.
Oh yeah, looks like Yuniesky Betancourt earned his way back into tonight’s liuneup.
Seattle Mariners (28-30)
Baltimore Orioles (25-33)
June 10, 2009 at 12:33 PM