I just got back from the studio that ESPN sent me to for the taping of Outside the Lines this afternoon. I have not watched it, and could not see either Rosenthal or Gonzalez during the taping — just stared into a camera with a mic on — so I look forward to seeing how everything looks when I go home and watch it.
Update: The video is posted on ESPN.com now. I’ll probably post again later with more thoughts, because after watching it I definitely have a few more things to say. Anyway, here it is:
Here are my initial thoughts and reactions (written before I had a chance to watch it):
Great experience and I appreciate ESPN allowing me to come on and be accountable for and defend my post.
The most consistent reaction I am getting from people who watched it is that they felt like Ken Rosenthal and John Gonzalez were attacking me. I have to admit that it is hard to assess that with the mic in my ear as my only link to what was going on, but I did feel like my post was being unfairly characterized as being more accusatory than it was. I don’t particularly have a problem with this because, well, it is what it is, but that is the reason why I a) kept coming back to the point that I never accused Raul Ibanez of using steroids, only stated that I thought speculation was reasonable; and b) tried to bring the discussion back to the larger issue of why genuine and well-intentioned sports fans like myself would write such a post: the recent history of Major League Baseball that has conditioned us all to suspect the worst.
One point I did want to expound upon further and I’m not sure how well I explained it on the show draws on what Ken Rosenthal said about it being a different era than it was 10 years ago. Your darn right it’s a different era. Whereas before players, teams, and owners had to do more guesswork about how fans were reacting and responding to the stories published by the MSM and the events on the field, blogs give them a direct view into the heartbeat of the group of people who make the games possible: fans.
And guess what? The reality is that whether it be in stadiums, on the radio, in sports bars, in private conversations, on message boards, on Twitter…everywhere…sports fans, and especially baseball fans, are disappointed and frustrated that we can’t trust what we see, and an era has emerged in which everyone is suspected. Guilty until proven innocent may be the burden proof in a court of law, but innocent until proven guilty has become the reality of the sports world with respect to baseball and its fans. I, nor any of my fellow sports fans and bloggers, should apologize for living in a reality created by the players, owners, union, and Major League Baseball. We’re just reacting honestly to what we see.
As I said on the show at the beginning, though I think I stuttered a bit because I was nervous, if Raul Ibanez read only the Philadelphia Inquirer account of my piece, I understand why he’s upset. It characterized my post as calling out Ibanez out for being a steroid user. How ironic is it, then, that I state in my post that my entire goal in writing it was to debunk the steroid spectulation that I’d heard elsewhere?
And even if Raul Ibanez had read my piece, and maybe he has — I don’t know — I would assume that he’d be upset to have his name associated with steroids. My entire point is wondering whether I’m really the person he should upset with.
Update: I do want to make one more point regarding Ibanez. I absolutely applaud him for standing up and addressing the speculation right off the bat. Good for him. And if really is willing to take a test right now and everything else he said, I applaud him even more. It is no guarantee of anything, because we all remember Rafael Palmeiro shaking his finger at Congress, but it is a hell of a lot better than so many guys who have just sat back and said nothing. I’ll say again what I’ve said before: I am rooting for Raul Ibanez, I like him and respect him as a player, and absolutely hope he is clean. I think he misunderstood what I was trying to express in my post, but regardless, I applaud him wholeheartedly for being proactive in responding.
Baseball has had a problem with steroids for a long time, and what’s happened over the last 48 hours is proof that the problem lingers perhaps moreso than we all even thought. But instead of the players or Major League Baseball having to wonder what people are thinking, their most die-hard fans are publishing their thoughts every day in sports blogs. What a tremendous opportunity for the leagues and players to listen to the people who pay for and support their profession.
Get upset that the steroids story won’t go away; I don’t blame you. But I didn’t create the problem and I certainly didn’t start the speculation. Tell me how my post is all that different from the story in Sports Illustrated from earlier this year about Albert Pujols? The story addresses steroid rumors that have circulated about Pujols while stating the plight current baseball stars face because of the inevitable cloud of suspicion that accompanies great on-field production:
But this is not a great time to be the best anything in baseball. Barry Bonds was the best player, and now he is facing federal perjury charges. Roger Clemens was the best pitcher, and every other day another newspaper story takes him down one more notch. Mark McGwire was the best home run hitter, and after telling Congress that he did not want to talk about the past, he has all but disappeared into a Pynchon-like seclusion. Alex Rodriguez was the best player, and now he tentatively admits guilt while A-ROID! headlines splash and fans heckle and a hip injury shuts him down.
This is the uneasy state of the new baseball hero. Albert Pujols knows he cannot prove to people that he has never used steroids. He knows that there will always be doubters.
That article was written by Joe Posnanski, who I’m a big fan of, and by no means am I attacking him. Quite the contrary, I think the piece was great and addressed an issue that most, if not all, baseball fans have either discussed or thought about. I just want people who think I went out on some crazy limb and who accume me of being some whack blogger to understand that even the MSMers are acknowledging the cold, hard reality that Major League baseball faces.
That was my intention as well. I wish that a fresh comment from Raul Ibanez had accompanied my original post, as Posnanski has from Pujols in his article, but the truth is that I did not feel it would be possible for me to get one. So I linked out to the ESPN article in which Ibanez has denied steroid use in the past and was objective as I could possibly be. And I emailed the Phillies after the fact to open up Midwest Sports Fans for him to say anything he wanted in response.
In the end, however, the sad reality of baseball won out; and even for a guy that I wanted to completely exonerate from speculation, I could not honestly bring myself to do it. As I’ve said repeatedly, I personally think Ibanez is clean and I’m making no judgments whatsoever based on 250 ABs. All I’ve ever said is that the speculation was out there — it’s out there for every baseball player — and try as I might, I was not able to provide enough concrete evidence for myself to personally shut the door to the speculation.
Is that wrong? Some people apparently think so. I just look at it as the reality of the situation, and we can either hide from it and pretend it does not exist, as we all did — fans and media — during the 90s and early 00s, or engage in genuine debate about it. Look at the comments to the article. Because I write my piece, plenty of Ibanez fans have come forward with more compelling statistical evidence that I didn’t even think about. If anything, when you combine Ibanez’s strong rebuttal of the mischaracterized notion from the Philadelphia Inquirer that I’d accused him of using, and the great number of defenders who have discussed his character and provided additional statistical reasons for his success, I think more people may now be inclined to believe in his numbers that perhaps were before. Who knows.
The truth is, as I’ve commented on the posts here at MSF, I personally believe in him more now. Not totally — I don’t believe in any baseball player totally — but moreso than when I hit publish on the original article.
So all of the anger in the world can be directed at me. I guess on a certain level I understand it, and I can understand Raul Ibanez erroneously speculating that I’m a 42-year old blogger who lives in my mother’s basement — I guess that if Ibanez is really clean you could say we’re even on speculation that turns out to not quite match reality — but don’t let anger and emotional reactions divert your attention from the main point:
Major League Baseball has reached a point where everyone, including two of its most high character, consistent, and hard working players, are the subject of general speculation by genuine baseball fans about whether or not their numbers are legit — baseball fans who want nothing more than to believe in their heroes whose mighty on-field exploits are a daily obsession for so many of us.
Say what you will about my post, about me, and about bloggers in general. But to me that is the saddest fact of all.
Update: One final thought, as people are calling and texting me about what was said on Around the Horn. Apparently Jay Mariotti, who I’ve been very hard on in the past here on MSF, agreed with me or defended me to some extent. I haven’t seen it, but this is what I’m being told. If so…I’d like to extend my wholehearted appreciation to Jay for the support.