Roid Rage

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.

33 comments… add one
  • Roberts has been awful a long time. She might be rubbing off on Murray.

    Nick-YF October 23, 2007, 12:30 pm
  • Maybe, and I’m guessing here, the Red Sox have their own strict testing procedures in place. I know some major colleges regularly test their football players in an effort to thwart any blemish on them before the NCAA intervenes.
    Or, maybe the article is heavily laced with sour grapes. I can name quite a few other teams that haven’t dealt with the issue. It’s not like the Red Sox are the ONLY team that is, so far, free of guilt in this matter.

    Brad October 23, 2007, 12:42 pm
  • lately, I mean. Not ever, since as it was made evident that the Red Sox have had their issues in the past, before this all blew up to where it is now.

    Brad October 23, 2007, 12:44 pm
  • “there’s Peter Abraham, who can’t help complaining about how unfair life is when the Red Sox win”
    Actually, PA was gracious in acknowledging the Sox success. The tar and feather, “raving fools” routine doesn’t help with the credibility when it comes to reviewing the media, no matter how ill conceived their stories.

    YF October 23, 2007, 12:45 pm
  • > testing procedures
    I don’t know, but I doubt any team could put any sort of testing qualification in place that was outside of the terms agreed to by the MLBPA, could they?

    attackgerbil October 23, 2007, 12:50 pm
  • Not sure how gracious accusing Sox’ opponents of “rolling over” is, or criticizing a Strike 3 call on a no-hitter, YF. To be fair, he has said some good things about the Sox over the past week — perhaps because the heat of the pennant race has died away.
    “Raving fools” was tongue in cheek, at any rate. There are plenty of great sportswriters in New York who rightly couldn’t care less about the Red Sox because they’re not a New York team.

    Paul SF October 23, 2007, 12:53 pm
  • Yeah, you’re probably right, AG. I had not given that any real thought, rather I was just trying to find a reasonable explanation to why the Red Sox have been able to steer clear of the whole Florida clinic and other bad places to be associated with:)
    Maybe she’s right. Maybe there is a list somewhere that has two or three Red Sox players on it, but is being kept secret.
    I really, really hope not.

    Brad October 23, 2007, 1:05 pm
  • Who are these “great sportswriters in New York” you mention?
    I read the New York Daily News, the Post and the Times and the more often than I read the Globe and the Herald, and frankly I can’t name a single great baseball writer in NYC.
    And that includes the supposedly Shakespearean Mike Lupica, who I find frequently cheesy and rarely anything but obvious.
    As for the Post MLB writers, they are nearly all buffoons, particularly Joel Sherman.
    The Times offers the execreble Mr. (Ch)ass, and the rest are fair-to-middling.
    So who are these “great” writers?

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 1:08 pm
  • PA also passively tore into Josh Beckett for swearing at a postgame press conference after Game 5 in Cleveland.
    A lot of people apologize for the commenters over at LoHud as over-the-top, but Pete sets the tone, frankly. We, as bloggers, should understand that. What is one to expect from the commentariat when Pete puts up posts like this one?
    I don’t think every member of the media is a “raving fool”, in fact the majority of them probably aren’t that, so I understand why YF prefers to avoid the blanket name-calling. Roberts’ article had one good point (Mitchell conflict-of-interest causing credibility problems for MLB) buried amidst baseless allegations, and it received billing on the front page of the Times’ sports section after Game Seven, and the one good point is an old one. It was a terrible article on many levels.

    SF October 23, 2007, 1:14 pm
  • Hud, from my standpoint I like (not always, of course) Kepner, Jack Curry, Dave Anderson, Vecsey. These four all write for the Times and I have very little beef; Kepner is a beat writer and a darn good one, I think. Curry has done a nice job covering the Sox as of late, and Vecsey and Anderson are more old-school, classy writers, IMO. And Richard Sandomir isn’t half-bad as a media critic, maybe the worst writing spot in a sports section. So that’s the foundation of a very good sports team, and the Times doesn’t really receive proper credit for this. Chass (who apparently used to be good, before my decade and a half here) and Roberts (intermittently) do nothing to raise the bar, but it’s not fair to say that they represent the Times more than the several other writers who do a good job with their beats and columns.
    As for the Post and News, I tend not to bother except to see the feeding frenzies after the Yankees crumble.

    SF October 23, 2007, 1:19 pm
  • Whatever any SF or YF wants to say about Selena Roberts, the outing of a Cleveland Indian’s name as part of an investigation led by a Director of the Boston Red Sox in the middle of a Boston-Cleveland playoff series is – and should be – newsworthy.

    IronHorse (yf) October 23, 2007, 1:22 pm
  • Tyler Kepner of the times for one is a damn good sports writer IMO.
    As far as the conflict of interest story goes, old news yes but I still think its appalling that a director of a team would be chosen to lead such an investigation. Says alot about Bud Selig’s decision making abilities.
    Also, to think that any one team has no PED users is really naive, as it appears that the problem was so widespread thoughout the league. So no matter what the report ultimately says I dont think any one group of fans can declare their team innocent or more innocent, etc. The report will include a list of people who got CAUGHT not a total list of all users. For example, many of the people discussed when it comes to steroid use were simply clients of BALCO which got busted big by the feds. The myriad of users who were supplied by other sources have more or less flown under the radar. If another Lab were busted instead, we’d be talking alot less about Bonds, Giambi, etc and more about some other group. The sources consulted will determine the list of players who are implicated.

    Sam-YF October 23, 2007, 1:27 pm
  • I recognize that Kepner and Curry are professionals. I just wouldn’t call them “great.”
    It’s not like I wake up and say “Oooh! Gotta hurry online to read Kepner!”

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 1:38 pm
  • this story isn’t likely to go away, seeing as the report comes out in a couple of weeks.
    i saw this post right after i finished ken rosenthal’s story on the same topic:

    Yankee Fan In Boston October 23, 2007, 1:50 pm
  • Kepner is very good at his job. Very good. As a writer, better than anyone I can think of at the Globe or Herald. Curry is also very good. I would put them in that “great sportswriters” bracket.
    Point taken on the “raving fools,” but I hope no one thought I literally meant that every sportswriter in New York is a raving fool. As it is, the sentence itself doesn’t even say that.
    IH, was Byrd’s name leaked “as part of” the Mitchell investigation? I wasn’t under that impression. It was leaked as part of a separate criminal investigation into a Florida company that I believe began with the now-infamous Jason Grimsley. It’s anopther strike against the article — tying together two separate investigations in two completely different jurisdictions just because they both have the same general subject matter, then intimating the release of information in the one must have something to do with who is running the other.

    Paul SF October 23, 2007, 2:03 pm
  • My god, I love LoHud, it’s a serious laugh. Some of these fans are just insane…
    “This thread is about Beckett’s recent profanity laced diatribe on public TV which by the way is watched by children. I find it hard to believe this man cannot express himself properly knowing that his interview is “live”, without using the “F” word. He deserves any and all criticism directed toward him for it. Forget about all the “yeah buts”. He has a history of being a jerk, I don’t care if he wins 30 games I don’t him anywhere near a Yankee uniform I’d prefer Kei Igawa.”
    Laced? It was one fbomb.

    LocklandSF October 23, 2007, 2:05 pm
  • One f-bomb in response to a stupid question about his personal life that was clearly designed to bait him into saying something inflammatory. So, yeah, I’m a bit more understanding on this one than the upholders of class and decency over at LoHud.

    Paul SF October 23, 2007, 2:08 pm
  • I guess there are different definitions of “greatness” in sportswriting out there.
    A great sportswriter is one whose columns might actually be worth re-reading 10 years from now. Whose best writings will merit a published collection, eventually.
    The New Yorker’s Roger Angell comes to mind.
    None of those currently toiling for the NYC dailies strike me as doing much more than documenting the action and issues of the day in workmanlike fashion — some very professionally, others at the level of a so-so high school paper.

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 2:09 pm
  • Which current writers in any city fit your category of great, Hudson? I think, by the way, that I agree with you. I can’t think of any “great” sports writers these days.

    Nick-YF October 23, 2007, 2:10 pm
  • Time, I guess, to create WARR.
    Words Above Replacement Reporter

    Paul SF October 23, 2007, 2:15 pm
  • lockland, i think it is funny that the commenter closes with a line about not wanting beckett “anywhere near a yankee uniform.” …because the chances of beckett coming over to the yankees is so great at the moment.

    Anonymous October 23, 2007, 2:19 pm
  • “tying together two separate investigations in two completely different jurisdictions just because they both have the same general subject matter”
    I’m not a lawyer, but as head of baseball’s steroid probe, I would be surprised if Mitchell didn’t at least have contact with the people in the Florida investigation.

    Anonymous October 23, 2007, 2:23 pm
  • Paul: I don’t know if the leak is from the earlier investigation or from the Mitchell team’s work. Has there been any definitive identification of exactly where the leak came from? If there is any uncertainty on this, then the timing of it and the identity of the particular team that Byd plays for, combined with Mitchell’s official link to the Sox can not but raise the controversy again.

    IronHorse (yf) October 23, 2007, 2:25 pm
  • There is a difference between this being newsworthy (the conflict of interest) and Roberts’ column, which is hackish. Let’s not confuse the two things.
    Had Roberts written an in-depth column about her problems with Mitchell’s conflict (which Selig has foolishly allowed to persist) then that would have been fine. But the column was only peripherally about Mitchell, and much more of a gossip piece laced with wishful innuendo.

    SF October 23, 2007, 2:34 pm
  • then the timing of it and the identity of the particular team that Byd plays for, combined with Mitchell’s official link to the Sox can not but raise the controversy again.
    The timing is coincidental. Revelations have been coming out about players every month or so for the last year. It came out on a Sunday for completely newspaper-related reasons (I’m 99 percent sure on that). The only thing about this that makes it noteworthy as far as timing is that it was a player on one of the teams who happened to still be playing. That’s an easy coincidence (1 in 30 chance) to have happen. So without any actual evidence that it came from anyone in MLB (there is none, and none of the sources who have since been revealed by the Chronicle thus far have been MLB sources), it’s hard to take such rumors seriously, particularly because the only people taking them seriously are bitter Indians fans — and now Selena Roberts.

    Paul SF October 23, 2007, 3:44 pm
  • ” it’s hard to take such rumors seriously, particularly because the only people taking them seriously are bitter Indians fans — and now Selena Roberts.”
    And how do you know that?
    Kind of like saying most of the people who believe ” The timing is coincidental” are Sox fans, no?
    Since the Grimsley story was broken months ago, I seriously doubt that the Byrd info is new. Given that, why not do the proper thing and wait until the Sunday after the Indians are out of the playoffs to break the story, thus avoiding all charges of impropriety?

    Andrews October 23, 2007, 3:59 pm
  • Many reasons possible for this, Andrews. Not least of which is journalism is competitive. They wanted to get it out before someone else did.

    Paul SF October 23, 2007, 4:03 pm
  • and they wanted to sell papers. Who knows who Paul Byrd is before or after the ALCS? But during it, people get to say, “Oh yeah, the double wind-up guy was juicing? Makes sense!”

    Nick-YF October 23, 2007, 4:04 pm
  • Point taken, but the writers do a real disservice to baseball fans as a whole, by causing in the words of Cleveland players “a major distraction” the day of game 7. Almost like the integrity of the game was compromised.
    (I thought the sox would win regardless) :)SF

    Andrews October 23, 2007, 4:14 pm
  • Nick: I don’t read papers outside of the Northeast except once in a blue moon, and even that is pretty much limited to the big NYC papers, some Boston press, and some regional ones. So I can’t really come up with great writers elsewhere, and am pretty much underwhelmed with what we’ve got in our area.

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 5:22 pm
  • coincidence paul, yeah right, like the indians swore that they didn’t know the chick that sung the anthem was a former girlfriend of josh beckett
    as for selig and his selection of mitchell…i honestly think he picked him because of his credentials, but in ususal bpud fashion, he screwed up by not thinking it through, that is, is this choice criticism-proof?
    red sox on phd’s?: who knows for sure?…it would be a discredit to the investigation and mitchell personally for him not to fully disclose all findings that he is obligated to regardless of how unappetizing that might be to his current employer…and, let’s face it every one of these investigations has a mole…if he attempted to suppress something, it’ll come out eventually, unless he sends the evidence to roger goodell for safe-keeping…frankly, it doesn’t really matter anyway…if the sox have someone implicated, join the club…so far bpud hasn’t had the sack to do anything about it anyway…
    selena?: another sportswriter vilified by the sox fan journalists on this site, and their sympathizers, because she happens to publish news that’s unflattering to the sox, or propose a theory they don’t particularly agree with, or worse, editorialize in a negative manner about the sox…come on guys, i know that there are no journalists as good, objective, or honest as you are, but give these upstarts a break…they’ll get the hang of it…it was obviously an editorial for crying out loud…

    dc October 23, 2007, 10:20 pm
  • I know I’m late to this discussion… but if Mitchell wanted to REALLY mess with the Indians wouldn’t he have leaked the information before Game 4, when Byrd was supposed to pitch?
    Releasing it later has almost no effect by comparison.

    Atheose October 24, 2007, 12:15 pm
  • More late commentary to this thread, but I really thought this exchange from Keith Law’s chat on ESPN today sayss it all about Mitchell and the Byrd story last week:
    “Q: Do you think the results of the Mitchell investigation will actually lead to changes in MLB?
    Keith Law: No, I think it’s a pointless exercise in self-congratulation. So Paul Byrd used HGH in 2005. Guess what? It wasn’t prohibited by MLB. What a waste of everyone’s time. And by the way, nice bit of ethics releasing that info right before Game 7.”

    Mark (YF) October 24, 2007, 3:10 pm

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