The time for knee-jerk reactions to the Mitchell report has passed. Now it’s time to commence with the backbiting and fingerpointing. Let’s look at some reactions from a few clean players.
For the most part, the players not involved in the Mitchell report have been keeping their heads down and not saying nuthin’. Those who do speak have mostly stuck to banal comments and harmless generalizations. The players named by Mitchell have resorted to a) silence, b) denial, or c) lame-ass apologies, such as those by Brian Roberts (“I didn’t inhale!”) and Andy Pettitte (“If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize…I accept responsibility for those two days.”)
The most interesting exception to this sit-down-shut-up-boo-hoo-poor-me spectacle has been the former players who were clean, and who are pissed as hell they had to compete against these cheaters. If there is any doubt that using steroids was cheating (and nasty, no-good, dirty, cheateriffic cheating at that), listen to the words of folks like Joe Oliver and Mike Greenwell. As Oliver wrote in an email to Boston Herald columnist Joe Horrigan,
I had to vie for a job every year and now I know it had something to do with certain players having a competitive edge on me…I spent all that time in the early hours running and lifting weights, these guys would shoot up and be done and get stronger, faster, and the owners knew who they were and the GM’s knew who they were. Every time I argued for a contract, I was competing with juiced catchers in the same boat looking for a job. They got the higher paying jobs and I got screwed.
That reflects the sentiments of Mike Greenwell, another former Red Sox player. He was never the kind of guy who got the awards or the glory or the big-money deal. He just showed up to work and played hard. (In fact, he turned running into the Green Monster into a kind of art, occasionally kicking the wall in retaliation for some of those bumps and bruises.) He had a couple of All-Star game appearances, over the course of his 12-year career, and then faded gracefully from view. His best season was 1988, when he came in second in MVP voting. And who should happen to have beaten him out that year? Why, Jose Canseco, who just that year had his 40-homer, 40-steal season. Now that Canseco has fully admitted to using steroids, shouldn’t the Gator get the hardware? That’s what he said back when Jose’s first book came out:
“Where’s my MVP?” Greenwell told the Fort Myers News-Press. “[Canseco's] an admitted steroid user. I was clean. If they’re going to start putting asterisks by things, let’s put one by the MVP.”
“I do have a problem with losing the MVP to an admitted steroids user,” Greenwell told the News-Press, adding that not winning the award likely cost him millions of dollars.
Even Curt Schilling, whose comments on the subject have been mostly of the don’t-make-waves variety (for a change) admitted that the idea of an uneven playing field disturbed him.
As a competitor, the one thing I can’t help but think is how different, or if at all different, my career numbers would be if I was playing against a level playing field and in an era that was already offensive-tailored and knowing that a lot of guys, well, everybody that’s been named, has done something against me in the past.
As for my part, I’m glad to see at least some players, current and former, standing up for themselves. Maybe it will help the players’ union remember, the next time they’re tempted to stonewall even the most pathetic, flaccid, symbolic steroid testing program, that it’s not just the Cansecos and McGwires and Bondses that they represent. But (heavy sigh) probably not.
PS—Just look at those pictures of Oliver and Greenwell and compare them with this shot of Canseco. Even with his catching gear on, Oliver looks like the proverbial ten-pound weakling next to Jose. And Mike Greenwell is a dead ringer for my fifth-grade homeroom teacher, Mr. Grosky. You have the Incredible Hulk in a mullet, there, versus Mr. Grosky. This playing field has a steeper incline than the Matterhorn.