What is it about writing in New York that turns normally excellent sportswriters into raving fools when the subject turns to Boston?
Of course there’s Murray Chass, whose exploits we’ve recounted in detail many times, there’s Peter Abraham, who can’t help complaining about how unfair life is when the Red Sox win, and apparently now there’s Selena Roberts, who yesterday wrote a rambling, disjointed column for the New York Times about … wait for it … how odd it is that no Red Sox have been implicated in the steroid scandal:
The Red Sox hopscotched across the infield grass last night as part of the joyous choreography of another World Series berth, with not so much as a suspicious dab of flaxseed oil on their darned socks.
Other teams have players surface amid the Balco case and steroid raids, in the pages of tell-alls or inside doping investigations. Other teams fret over findings.
Never mind that this is obviously, ridiculously untrue. The Red Sox likely would have won no division titles at all between 1986 and 2007 if not for one Jose Canseco, the granddaddy of steroid use, and his big bat in the middle of the 1995 club’s lineup. Paxton Crawford, who was barely in the clubhouse in 2000 and 2001, nevertheless gave a tell-all interview to ESPN Magazine that had Red Sox veterans answering uncomfortable questions for several days last season. Jason Giambi is a frequently used example of how the Yankees have been tainted, bur Roberts apparently doesn’t know that his brother — an admitted steroid user also — is a former member of the Red Sox.
Perhaps these don’t count in Roberts’ world. Perhaps instead of "not so much a suspicious dab," she meant "not so much a suspicious dab aimed at the players I really would like to see hammered for steroid use."
To be fair, Roberts seems to be making a larger point — though how can we tell when she hopscotches from the Red Sox to Paul Byrd to the George Mitchell report? — that Mitchell, a director of the Red Sox and unabashed fan, has a conflict of interest, and that it could taint the results of the report in the minds of many, particularly if names are named, and no members of the Red Sox are on it.
The conflict of interest isn’t exactly news, but conflicts don’t go away and neither should the scrutiny, especially as the report’s release appears imminent.
But I’m curious what results would satisfy Roberts’ desire to see fairness done. I have given three names of former Red Sox players, including a significant cog on a playoff team. Would that be enough? Or does a current player need to be disgraced? If Red Sox players aren’t named, but neither are, say, members of the Mets or 12 other teams, what would that signify?
Instead of acknowledging these difficulties and using them as an example of why Mitchell should not be heading this investigation — how can we ever be sure he hasn’t covered up for a member of the Red Sox? — she’d rather enter Murray Chass territory: Using blog rumors as a launching pad to engage in unsubstantiated innuendos that Mitchell must have leaked Byrd’s name to distract the Indians while they had the Sox on the verge of elimination.
Disappointment? It actually sounded more like suspicion. Here, the Indians were forced into dealing with a distraction before the most important game of their season while the Red Sox were unburdened.
Indians fan blogs were abuzz with conspiracy theories about leaks and motive and a destiny undone. What about the Red Sox? Why don’t they have these hobgoblins of H.G.H.?
Why doesn’t Selena Roberts just come out with what she’s suggesting? Although she makes clear that she’s not saying anything — It’s these damn blogs, after all! She’s just relaying what’s being said! — as a newspaper writer, she should know better. Investigative pieces and major scoops are nearly always held for Sunday editions, which contain more space for longer stories and circulate to a wider audience. That Sunday was the eve of Game 7 is unfortunate timing for the Indians, but not in any way evidence of some nefarious conspiracy, the suggestion of which is laughable on its face.
Mitchell has since denied he had anything to do with the leak, which was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. The last I checked, the Chronicle has some pretty good sources in the steroids and HGH investigations — and had them long before Mitchell ever took over MLB’s investigation. Likewise, Byrd’s is not the first name leaked in connection with the Florida clinic from which he allegedly received the HGH.
Roberts would do well to avoid spending too much time at the Times sports desk. It seems Murray is rubbing off on her.