“Even though its anonymous, it’s still ominous,” – Daniel Solove
Today I had the distinct displeasure of listening to Murray Chass –hereafter known as the one time journalist – tap dance around his rationale for leaving players off of his Hall of Fame ballot. It went something like this:
- If a player used PEDs I don’t vote for them.
- If a source tells me they did PEDs I don’t vote for them.
- If even ONE source tells me they did PEDs I don’t vote for them.
- If I say a player used PEDs my readers should trust me implicitly because I’ve been right more often than I’ve been wrong.
- If you had acne on your back I know you used PEDs
- 80% of players used steroids during that time
The one time journalist is a respected former baseball writer for the New York Times, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and currently opines on baseball at hiswebsite He is obviously entitled to his opinion and as it stands now even though he no longer employed as a journalist writing about baseball, his vote. However, his rationale is flawed.
He justified use of a a single source (if he knew them well enough) in his interview with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on XM radio because he’s used them in the past on for things like trades and contract information and he was “right more often than he was wrong.” Therefore we should trust him in this matter as well. Well. . . no.
When a writer gets a projected trade wrong there’s no real harm done to the player. If contract numbers aren’t right it may cause some haggling or disrupt negotiations but again the truth will come out and there’s no harm done. Alleging that a player used an illegal substance such as anabolic steroids without rock solid proof impugns that player’s integrity and damages his reputation permanently even if the allegation is later withdrawn. It can also effect his status in the community, his ability to work and damage his family as well. In case of implied criminal behavior – while we think of steroid use in baseball terms they are a schedule III controlled substance that may only be used under the care of a physician- and that my dear one time journalist is exactly what you are doing, one source isn’t enough. Three sources may not be enough, particularly if they are anonymous sources.
There are reasons to become an anonymous source. You may fear loss of a job for you or a family member. You may fear ridicule if the act being reported is not seen as serious, In extreme situations you may fear physical violence should you be identified. None of these apply to the use of steroids in baseball. Today you would be considered a hero.
It is in fact the duty of anyone working in Major League Baseball to report anything that contravenes the rules from gambling to use of banned substances; there is no risk of job loss and any attempted removal is covered by federal whistleblower statutes.
Clean players past and present (the great majority of players in my opinion) would applaud you for coming forward; no one is going to ridicule you for telling the truth and helping clean up the game.
The risk of physical violence is almost non-existent and I know of no reports of violence or threats of violence against baseball whistleblowers.
No ladies and gentlemen there are only a three reasons I can see why a source wants to remain anonymous. They are either passing on what they overheard or what someone told them, were involved in nefarious doings themselves and aren’t willing to admit their involvement or they are making the whole thing up. Otherwise why not step forward and take credit for making the game cleaner and keeping a cheater out of the Hall of Fame?
People who spread rumors are like walking infections. The lying words from their mouths spread like disease from person to person. The only way to stop the disease is to keep your mouth shut.
The one time journalist also explained that many people told him that Mike Piazza had acne on his back that cleared up when they started drug testing that counted. He assured us that acne on the back was an indisputable sign of steroid use. He had no positive test nor does he have any proof that it wasn’t something Piazza had struggled with throughout his life or caused by something else entirely legal. There’s some truth in that but just a some, mostly it’s a half truth with implied integrity.
According to WebMD about 4.25 million adult men suffer from acne vulgaris. The same article says “one 1999 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the median age of people with acne. . .(was) about 26.5 years.” If 26 years old is the median age there are a good many men fighting it well past that age and being a baseball player doesn’t exempt you from it. It also acknowledges that anabolic steroids causes acne in some men who use them. The article cites studies that say about one-third get cystic acne.
“The acne usually is on the back and on the chest, but it can be anywhere. Treating them involves getting them to acknowledge that they’re taking these performance-enhancing drugs. It is very difficult to treat because it’s intensely resistant to typical treatments.”
The one time journalist’s’ sweeping generalization about steroid users and acne is wrong 66.66% of the time. Clearing up immediately is also a mischaracterization as the article notes that “Such acne usually goes away gradually if the man stops taking the steroids.” So one time journalist and his sources are incorrect in their stereotyping of those with acne on their back and what it takes to get rid of it. Could Piazza have been using steroids? Yes. Is there substantial proof that he was? No. But as he said, the one time journalist doesn’t need proof just innuendo from an anonymous source or sources.
That’s A Wrap
The one time journalist is getting way too much publicity in this whole matter. I’m a small hall guy but I want the best players of their era represented there regardless who they played for. Pizza, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell – he left them off too- beat the Braves up when we played them but they were dominant players and are worthy of entry unless there’s proof they cheated. The key word there is proof. The problem is not only that the one time journalist slanders with impunity but that he does it at the behest of cowardly people without the spine to step forward and say it for all the world to hear. They skulk in the shadows hiding behind the pinafore of our one time journalist and others like him who use the journalistic shield to hide these jellyfish from taking responsibility for their words and actions. The one time journalist said that the loudest outcry was from Met and Astros fans and others didn’t care. Fans of the libeled speak more often than the rest because it’s their guy being tried and convicted without even a hint of real evidence. But here’s a flash for the one time journalist, all real baseball fans care about honesty and integrity in the game and in Hall of Fame voting. I’ll try to find an anonymous source to get the word to him.