The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

LaRussa Implicates Himself in Canseco Steroid Mess

It’s just a few more days now until Jose Canseco’s tell-all book comes out. And yes, I will be in line on Monday to buy my own copy. Rumors are starting to circulate now that even more names – and many of them high profile names – are also outed in the book as steroid users.

What’s getting less attention though are the implications that Canseco’s allegations have on major league baseball, team managers, and front office people. Jose’s manager with the A’s during the team’s late 80s and early 90s hey-day, Tony LaRussa, has also said recently that Canseco would talk “openly” about steroid use in the A’s clubhouse. While steroids were not illegal by major league baseball’s standards at that time, they were illegal in the United States. The defense that baseball is using here is kind of like you expecting your boss to defend you for using cocaine at work because your company doesn’t have a policy prohibiting it in the office.

What makes LaRussa’s statement (keep in mind that Tony earned a law degree at Florida State many years ago) even more interesting is that the A’s GM at the time when Canseco openly talked about using steroids was Sandy Alderson. As you may know, Alderson now works in MLB’s main offices as the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations.

If LaRussa really knew this was going on at the time, he should have said something. The person he should have said something to was Alderson. At least one (by his own admission – LaRussa) knew what was going on here. If Alderson knew, he should have urged the commissioner and the other powers that be to do something about it before the more than a decade later before anything actually happened in major league baseball (i.e. the beginning of the testing program).

Apparently though La Russa and Alderson stayed silent, at least until now when LaRussa found it appropriate to come out and defend McGwire. In doing so though, LaRussa has apparently exposed himself as knowing that illegal activities were going on in his clubhouse and that he didn’t tell anyone about them. Given this, it will be difficult for major league baseball – or at least Tony LaRussa – to continue to claim that they didn’t know that this steroid problem was occurring, or that it had been occurring for so long.

Yesterday, on ESPN Radio, former Mets GM Steve Phillips even directly said as much when asked directly. While he did not say that he knew of any current or former Mets who used steroids, he did say that if he had been aware of it, he would not have encouraged it, but he would also not have discouraged it or alerted anyone else about it. Phillips stated that if he felt that other players on other teams were doing it and gaining an edge because of it, that his players should feel free to use steroids if they saw fit, because it could help his team win ball games.

The truth of the matter probably is that baseball executives didn’t care that it was happening, and if anything, probably supported the use of steroids by ballplayers. Stronger players means more home runs and other feats of strength that would cause fans to plunk down their hard earned money in order to see. Executives probably figured that by the time the dangers of steroids caught up with these ballplayers they would be retired and long forgotten and the issue would never come home to roost. Well, it has, and now major league baseball has some explaining to do.


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