FORT MYERS, Fla. — It is around every corner, every team, every baseball season.
The fans, the media, nobody can seem to escape the issue of steroids, human growth hormone, testosterone, performance-enhancing drugs. It has become all-consuming. Instead of writing about baseball, we have to bring you the daily steroid report.
This time, it hits home.
Curt Schilling started this round, revealing Thursday on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio program that a non-uniformed member of the Red Sox organization suggested he use HGH in 2008 as a way to rehab from a shoulder injury and extend his career.
Major League Baseball’s investigation cleared that person of “wrongdoing,” according to a major league source familiar with the incident, and the person continued to work for the Red Sox. The person no longer works for the Sox.
Schilling testified before Congress in 2005 that there was little steroid use in baseball, yet since then, he has led the charge that he never took them and that he saw signs of steroid use all around him, including when he was told not to pat players on the rear end because that’s where they were injected.
The news that major leaguers such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Jesus Montero have been linked to a Florida anti-aging clinic being investigated for providing PEDs to players is a sign that the problem, though perhaps reduced because of stricter testing, hasn’t gone away.
The Schilling story is a reminder that the Red Sox are not immune to PED stories. In fact, two-time offender Manny Ramirez was a central figure of the 2004 and ’07 championship teams. And David Ortiz was on the 2003 list published by The New York Times of those who failed a random test when MLB was trying to determine whether to impose widespread testing.
Obviously, Roger Clemens has been in the middle of the steroid issue, albeit after his days with the Red Sox, and even recently, Marlon Byrd, whom the Red Sox picked up as a fill-in last season, was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for PEDs.
On and on it goes.
It’s a story worthy of the attention it gets, but to the average fan, it has to be a bore. I believe people still want to read about baseball, interesting stories about their team and the upcoming season. And too often that type of story gets bounced because of another steroid story. So, here we go again.
When Schilling, who is now a contributor for ESPN, talks about steroids, it’s news. What isn’t fair is that he didn’t name the person who suggested he use PEDs.
“If he was going to say something like that, he should have named names,” said the major league source. “I think it was a grudge-type thing that Schill had against the guy.” And since the person was cleared by MLB of wrongdoing, maybe it should never have been mentioned.
MLB has a group of tough investigators. They are extremely thorough, looking into every detail and interviewing all those involved.
The Red Sox knew of the investigation and cooperated fully. Some in the organization believe that perhaps the suggestion was made in jest and that Schilling took it seriously — seriously enough to report the incident to then-general manager Theo Epstein, who in turn reported it to MLB.
It has always been this reporter’s contention that PED use was widespread in baseball for a long time. With MLB’s new test for determining testosterone levels, it will likely be tougher for a player to cheat. And with year-round blood testing for HGH, you would think that would lessen the problem of PEDs.
Of course, there are always those out there who will try to stay a step ahead. Some of the players named in the records of the Florida clinic already have served suspensions.
They may have gotten away with it for a while, but they were eventually caught.
We’re not saying Schilling shouldn’t have revealed what happened, but you wonder why it took so long? How many other stories are there like this one? And why would any employee of a baseball team, well after the Mitchell Report revealed steroid use by nearly a hundred players, even suggest, whether jokingly or seriously, that an aging pitcher try to save his career by taking HGH?
It’s amazing that many years later, we’re still devoting time and stories to this subject.
That’s the sad part.
We’d all rather read and write about baseball.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.