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Skip Bayless is a d*ck, part II


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The Light in Baseball's Dark Day

 

By Skip Bayless

 

A friend called to tell me about taking his son, Sam, to an Orioles game Monday night for Sam's 10th birthday.

 

Naturally, young Sam had turned into a Rafael Palmeiro fan, as Raffy recently pursued a 3,000th hit to go with his 560-plus home runs. So, as they entered Camden Yards, dad bought Sam a No. 25 Palmeiro jersey and an Orioles cap to wear during the game.

 

They had been sightseeing all day in D.C., so they didn't hear the news until they settled into their seats and dad began listening to the local broadcast on his radio. Imagine his shock.

 

Palmeiro has kept his mouth shut as to what he might have taken if it wasn't steroids.

 

Imagine having to tell your son that, uh, well ...

 

"Dark day for baseball," my friend told me.

 

No, my friend, Monday and Tuesday were actually great days for our grand old game. I was pleasantly shocked twice. A star player and a drug-testing program I didn't trust were, respectively, exposed and exonerated.

 

Meanwhile, an ex-player whose book I defended from the week it came out has been, to quote the title of a planned sequel, "Vindicated."

 

Jose Canseco wrote "Juiced" in part because he believed baseball had scapegoated him as its only steroid-freak slugger, blackballing him and denying him the opportunity to reach 500 homers and the Hall of Fame. Off the field, of course, Canseco has often been a Hall of Shamer. But here's the better-than-fiction irony: He has written a book that now deserves a place in Cooperstown's museum.

 

The book has been that important in helping clean up baseball.

 

I don't know about you, but I want to know the truth and I want our children to know it.

 

Without "Juiced," there probably wouldn't have been a March 15 congressional hearing on steroids. Without it, Mark McGwire wouldn't have jeopardized his Hall of Fame future by saying, "I'm not here to talk about the past." Without it, Sammy Sosa wouldn't have raised doubts about his Hall worthiness by pretending he barely speaks or understands English.

 

And without it, a finger-wagging Palmeiro wouldn't have set himself up to go down as sports' biggest liar and hypocrite this side of Pete Rose. My friend grew up idolizing Charlie Hustle and wearing Rose's No. 14. But as Rose's gambling and underworld associations came to light, his nickname took on a whole new meaning.

 

We'd been hustled.

 

By using steroids, at least a player is trying to get better -- to help his team win. By gambling, it's possible a player or manager might help his team lose. Steroids are the lesser of the evils.

 

But they're still cheating; and for years, baseball all but forced every player to use them by not testing for them. That's the message for kids that should go beyond the potential dangers of unsupervised steroid abuse. They're an illegal drug that can give you an illegal advantage.

 

Even before testing, Canseco was cheating.

 

Yet when it comes to steroids and how to use them, Canseco is extremely knowledgeable and convincing. So when he wrote that, in Texas, he educated Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez and injected all three "many times" with a combination of Deca Durabolin and Winstrol, with smaller doses of testosterone, I believed him.

 

These weren't vague accusations. Canseco provided details.

 

Canseco's attorney says he received a threatening letter from Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who runs a powerful law firm. I publicly dared Palmeiro to sue Canseco, although I doubted he could prove Canseco wrong in court.

 

Canseco's claim was reinforced by merely glancing at Palmeiro's home-run totals.

 

Remember, Canseco and Palmeiro were born in Cuba and played youth baseball together in Miami. They were reunited when Canseco was traded to Texas midway through the 1992 season. That season, Palmeiro hit 22 homers.

 

Palmeiro had a sweet swing, but have steroids helped him build his career totals?

 

But from '93 through '03, Palmeiro's homers jumped to 37, 23 (in just 111 games), 39, 39, 38, 43, 47, 39, 47, 39, 47, 43 and 38. Coincidence? I think not.

 

Canseco specifically said he introduced Palmeiro to Winstrol, one of the more potent steroids. Which steroid did Palmeiro finally get nailed for? Winstrol, according to the New York Times.

 

Coincidence?

 

Palmeiro supporters argue that, gee, he never looked that bulked up. But remember, Palmeiro once led the league in singles. Canseco wrote, "Raffy, who's naturally stocky, made reasonable gains in size [muscles] and weight."

 

And what's another benefit of steroids if used in moderation? Recovery and durability. What's the most amazing and perhaps crucial of all of Palmeiro's achievements? Not once, in 19 seasons, has he been on the disabled list.

 

Pure coincidence?

 

So how, you counter, could Palmeiro have been so convincingly angry at the steroid hearing when he glared into the camera, shook his finger and said: "I have never done steroids. Period."?

 

In part because he was genuinely furious that his childhood teammate and fellow Cuban had blown the whistle on him. Palmeiro knew his Hall of Fame chances were teetering, too. You wonder how many times he rehearsed shaking his finger at a mirror.

 

Yet many of the members of Congress who were asking the questions sounded far more interested in hero-worshipping than grilling them. Not a single interrogator sounded as if he had carefully read Canseco's book. Obviously, none of them wanted this to be portrayed as a "witch hunt" of beloved sluggers based on a book written by an ex-player and an ex-con with an axe to grind.

 

Mainly, Congress just wanted these superstars to tell kids that steroids are bad for you.

 

So Canseco, who was not granted immunity, was at a humiliating disadvantage as he was attacked by Palmeiro and Curt Schilling. Canseco remains on probation in Florida. Canseco had to be extremely careful in his responses.

 

Palmeiro was hailed by several members of Congress as "our best witness." And after he tested positive, he quickly contacted Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) to say, yes, sir, he would provide any documentation about his positive test.

 

Of course, that test wasn't taken until after the March 15 hearing. So theoretically, that eliminates a potential perjury charge, right? It shouldn't.

 

Davis says Congress will look into a perjury charge, but you suspect he's just rattling his saber because he has to look like he's "doing something about this." Congress doesn't want to haul Palmeiro -- and Canseco -- back before the committee because the committee doesn't want to stoop to putting beloved ballplayers on trial.

 

Yet evidence mounts that Palmeiro, under oath, looked Congress in the eye and told a gigantic lie. Isn't that a crime? That's why Palmeiro and Canseco should testify again -- with Canseco granted immunity.

 

Now that would be a home run.

 

I want the truth, and I want every ballplayer who's still beating and cheating the system to hear it. Of course, Palmeiro and his agent say this was all a mistake and that Palmeiro eventually will tell the real story. So why the delay? Does he need more time to rehearse?

 

Palmeiro's agent, Arn Tellem, argues that MLB violated the drug program's confidentiality agreement by leaking that Palmeiro tested positive for Winstrol. Yet the "leak" appeared to be nothing more than excellent reporting by Lee Jenkins, a young New York Times writer who quoted "a person in baseball with knowledge of the sport's drug-testing program." That didn't necessarily come from the league office.

 

Besides, the confidentiality clause doesn't muzzle the player. Each major leaguer busted for steroids before Palmeiro has immediately said, basically, "the dog ate my homework." Each has been free to say he had no idea how he tested positive.

 

Of course, some over-the-counter supplements have a molecular structure similar enough to some weaker steroids that they will trigger a positive test. That simply means that major leaguers can no longer use supplements. Period.

 

No more excuses.

 

But none of those supplements will trigger a positive for Winstrol. Perhaps unwittingly, Canseco further incriminated Palmeiro when he said he doesn't believe Palmeiro used Winstrol this season -- but that the drug can leave "fingerprints" in the system that can cause a positive test. Hmmm.

 

But the great news is that, finally, a very big name flunked a steroid test. You had to wonder how many sluggers' positives hadn't been disclosed up to this point. Nor was this just any garden-variety 30-homer guy. This was Mr. 500/3,000.

 

This restored some of my faith in baseball's steroid testing. This also prompted commissioner Bud Selig to say Thursday he still wants an outside agency to take over the program, to eliminate any "debate" about full disclosure.

 

Go, Bud, go. You're heading in the right direction.

 

Palmeiro's downfall helps Selig back the players' association deeper into a P.R. corner. Selig wants the first-time suspension stiffened from 10 to 50 games. Hear, hear.

 

 

Yet in Palmeiro's case, a one-game suspension would have been equally damaging. Now he will be remembered as much for lying and cheating as hitting.

 

So in that regard, thank you, Jose Canseco.

 

 

Call Canseco a rat if you must. But rats have helped put away lots of mobsters.

 

Call Canseco a desperate-for-dough vulture if you like. But I thought he tiptoed through his first book because it was clear he was struggling with his friendships with Palmeiro and McGwire.

 

Now he's trying to give his fellow Cuban an esacpe route with a far-fetched conspiracy theory. He's suggesting MLB put Palmeiro up to testifying against Canseco in exchange for keeping previous positive tests quiet, then double-crossed him. And risk Palmeiro spilling his guts to Congress about this set-up? Absurd.

 

No, now that Canseco has burned all his bridges -- and been vindicated -- I welcome his second book. More detail. More names. I don't care if he makes millions off "Vindicated."

 

 

More truth, even for the 10-year-olds.

 

You can still admire Raffy's swing, Sam. But he can also teach you so much about the price of lying and cheating.

 

Yes, I agree that this makes it seem as if the testing policy has teeth, and yes, it's truly a vindication of Canseco, but nothing positive for baseball came out of this...nothing. To even write an article like this simply perpetuates what-ever "imagined" fued Bayless has with Palmeiro.

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