There's been a titanic shift in the way MLB and players are attacking the stain that has attached itself to the game of baseball since Jose Canseco outed the massive use of performance enhancing drugs that have permeated baseball since the late 1980s. And since the outing came, the MLB has not been sure how to respond to the public at large. I mean, we all know players cheated to get massive paydays from the owners and be the best they could be, right? Jason Giambi came out in 2005 and said he was sorry to the fans, but he really didn't say what he was sorry for.
Giambi could have been a child finally summoning the courage to tell the truth to his father. But he kept his composure, and continued. "I accept full responsibility for that, and I'm sorry," he said. What he did not fully say, however, was what he was sorry for.
Still, he did not directly admit to steroid use. "I know the fans might want more," Giambi said. "But because of all the legal matters, I can't get into specifics. Someday, hopefully, I will be able to."
A-Rod's presser was almost a complete disaster, and his admission was bizarre, but at least he didn't say that steroids had nothing to do with his performance. With a ton of names out there still waiting to be leaked to the media identifying players who have tested positive for PEDs, something had to be done. Enter the ex-Bush communications man Ari Fleischer. He stood in front of the White House press corps and answered questions day in and day out for the troubled Bush administration. Recently he joined forces with the powerful sports management company IMG.
Here's a little about Ari's new venture:
IMG, the world's premier sports, entertainment and media company, and Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary and leading sports industry communicator, today announced the formation of a new joint venture: Ari Fleischer Sports Communications.
The New York-based consultancy company will offer management advisory services, including media training and interview preparation, image management, crisis management and media relations to a wide range of athletes, coaches and high-profile sports industry executives. Fleischer will serve as the company's President. Sandy Montag, Senior Corporate Vice President of IMG Sports & Entertainment, will serve as COO of the company.
It's not a coincidence that IMG has Major League Baseball as a client and why McGwire went on the MLB Network to break his story. I first saw a new approach taken by the players with David Ortiz. After it was leaked to the press that Big Papi failed MLB's drug testing in 2003, Ortiz used a different method to try and protect his legacy. What Ortiz did differently is question what substance he actually was busted for taking, and since that information was not available to the press and possibly to the leaker, it gave him some room to try and deny that he was a serious user.
In a statement, Ortiz insisted he only learned of his 2003 positive test on Thursday - and claims he does not know what the substance was.
Instead of denying that he took PEDs, he questioned the substances that might make a player test positive. It's a joke to believe that an elite athlete has no idea what he or she put in their body as it relates to any form of drug or vitamin, because they make their living off of it, but that's the line he was able to use to draw some sympathy from the sports media. And to an extent it did work, but now a new stage of the game is being orchestrated by Ari. McGwire, while admitting that he took steroids for a decade, played the victim card. He said he wished he never played during the steroid era (poor him), and then went on to say that it didn't help his performance at all.
"It was brought to my attention that it was going to help me heal faster, make my body feel back to normal."
Asked repeatedly by Costas if he believed that his statistics and records were legitimate in light of the disclosure, McGwire did not budge.
"Absolutely," he said. "I truly believe so. I was given this gift by the man upstairs. My track record as far as hitting home runs ... my first at-bat in the league was a home run. They still talk about the home runs I hit in high school. They still talk about the home runs I hit in [American] Legion. They still talk about the home runs I hit in college [USC] -- I led the nation in home runs. They still talk about the home runs I hit in the Minor Leagues.
Is he serious? No, I'd say delusional. Many baseball players and writers backed up Big Mac after he came "clean" (so to speak) and some people even think McGwire should still go into the Hall of Fame. If you had the chance to see ESPN's Baseball Tonight on Mac's big day or MLB's Hot Stove, you would have been shocked by the reaction of the players and pundits who were so happy for him that he finally got the monkey off his back.
But now we are seeing a new narrative come forward: That players were already so talented and gifted by the man upstairs that steroids really had no impact on their careers or their statistics. Barry Bonds was an excellent player before he took 'roids, so why would you think he couldn't have hit 73 f*&king HR's without them? Any player that tells you PEDs didn't help their performance should be laughed out of sight. It makes you stronger, faster, bigger and heal quicker after injury. Take a look at the stats of Sosa, Palmiero, Bonds and McGire and see what they look like after steroids kicked in.
Ari Fleischer's plan has just started to take form. It's the players who are the victims of their times, and their talent is the only thing that counts, no matter what your own eyes tell you. If McGwire thinks steroids didn't help him perform, then why did he apologize to the Maris family for breaking the single-season HR record?
Goose Gossage is a lone wolf out there saying what all baseball players and pundits should be saying. Gossage wants dopers barred from Hall of Fame:
Baseball Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage says there should be no place in the hall for Mark McGwire or any other player who used performance-enhancing drugs.
"I definitely think that they cheated," Gossage said on Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "And what does the Hall of Fame consist of? Integrity. Cheating is not part of integrity."
Gossage was reaction to McGwire's admission on Monday that he used steroids in the 1990s to break the single season home run record in Major League Baseball.
For Gossage, Hank Aaron still holds the career record of 755 home runs and Roger Maris owns the season record of 61. The Goose tosses out the fantastic figures posted by Barry Bonds(notes), McGwire, Sammy Sosa(notes) as part of a "cheating era." He equated them with Pete Rose, barred from the Hall ballot because of his lifetime ban for betting on Cincinnati while managing the team. "The integrity of the Hall of Fame and the numbers and the history are all in jeopardy," said Gossage, inducted two years ago. "I don't think they should be recognized. Here's a guy Aaron, we're talking about the greatest record of all records. And he did it on a level playing field. He did it with God-given talent. And the same with Maris, absolutely. These are sacred records and they've been shattered by cheaters
It's real simple. If you get caught cheating with steroids you cannot be voted into the HoF. It's that easy. Forget the numbers and who else cheated.
I hope America isn't fooled by Ari's PR campaign to salvage these cheaters. McGwire came forward now because he wanted to get back into baseball and the statute of limitations ran out so that he can't be prosecuted in a court of law. The Cardinals had a major investment in Mark and want to be able to recoup what they can, and any player who has cheated wants to find a get-of-jail-free card as the years move forward.
Fleischer has helped dupe the American people into much worse situations than this while being part of the Bush White House. (You may remember the Iraq war.) I only hope that the American people and the sports media won't get duped again.