"This is a man with an agenda"
So said John Kruk yesterday on ESPN in regards to Brian McNamee, the former Yankees coach whose testimony, along with that of former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, is the platform for much of George Mitchell's damning report on steroid abuse in baseball. In a sea of hyperbolic newspaper headlines, photoshopped illustrations of veiny baseballs and holier-than-thou outrage from sports reporters who consider themselves our nation's beacons of hope, Kruk's words were, sadly, some of the few that put yesterday's bombshell in proper perspective.
McNamee and Radomski allegedly supplied and/or injected numerous players with steroids since the late 1990's, including Roger Clemens, arguably one of the top five pitchers in baseball history. Like Barry Bonds, Clemens is one of the best players not just of his generation but of all time, and finds his Hall-of-Fame resume in jeopardy. Clemens has already gone on record vehemently denying the allegations, calling McNamee, "a troubled man."
See, that's what everyone, the sports reporters most notably, is forgetting. Most of the Mitchell Report is based on the testimony of two admitted scumbags. Scumbags who testified to escape jail time. Are these really the kind of guys we want to be our primary witnesses to history? Who are judging dozens of men whose careers and reputations are forever, whether vindicated in the future or not, in the toilet?
Yes there is much damning evidence, and more likely than not most players whose names appeared in the investigation did take performance enhancing drugs. (BTW, 'performance enhancing drugs' has become a more reviled phrase than 'weapons of mass destruction' at this point). But much of the "evidence" is largely circumstantial, a case of he said/he said where at least one party (McNamee or Radomski) has the integrity of a sewer rat. I think sports reporters, to a large extent, are happy with the turn of events. They prefer to believe the sewer rat because the rat's story is more interesting. The rat gives them a lot to talk about. And nothing sells more newspapers and has more people watching SportsCenter than big, juicy scandal. Scandal is what turned Jose Canseco from clownish afterthought in the annals of baseball history into a bestselling author, and marked JUICED as the ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN of the steroid era. This from a "Surreal Life" cast member who now supports himself in part by auctioning off his various awards and career mementos. Total received for his 1987 Rookie of the Year ring and his 1988 MVP plaque? $35,100.
Are we really prepared to throw away the reputations and careers of many people based on the testimony of these "men"? I sure hope not. If Clemens, David Justice, and the others who deny the allegations are innocent, I hope they challenge the report and regain whatever credibility they have left. If they're guilty, I sincerely hope more proof comes to light to bolster the claims.
McNamee and Radomski did not come forward due to a sudden attack of nobility, but because a sharpened axe was poised above their heads. Taking their words as gospel is like the Feds using Salvatore Bompansiero as a CI. You're going to get a lot of dirt on some really important people, but you're also going to get a hell of a lot of fish tales.