Monday, February 09, 2009

Torre's Book and A-Rod

The Fan bought Joe Torre and Verducci's book, "The Yankee Years," and after reading about two thirds of the tome, it seems fitting after recent news that the book contained long passages about steroids and baseball followed by a long section on A-Rod. Two things stood out. First, Rick Helling, the former pitcher of the Rangers (his best years) and others is singled out as trying to force the players union to do something about steroid use in baseball long before any of us heard about the stuff. Secondly, Helling and others maintained that half of the ballplayers, if not more, were using some sort of enhancements.

This revelation makes Helling something of a hero in retrospect. Not only was he crying wolf long before the sky crashed in on baseball, but he was a true anomaly as a good pitcher for the Rangers, one of the few ever and he was good without drugs.

Helling was also a teammate of Rodriguez in Texas in 2001, A-Rod's first year as a Ranger and Helling's last. Put the two and two together and you have a player who was on the Rangers who saw usage all around him and felt strongly enough to speak openly at union meetings about what he was seeing.

Helling played with Rafael Palmeiro. He played with Juan Gonzalez. Both were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. And now we find out that he played with A-Rod and that player has been implicated as well.

Let's back up just a bit and make a few clear statements. First, the Mitchell Report should never have named names. The first reason is that the information was culled from basically two informants who only had access to a certain subset of players. Therefore, only some of the players who were cheating were found guilty without a court of law and hundreds of others will go to their graves with their secrets intact and no smears upon their names. That isn't right. And it will mean that some will be inducted into the Hall of Fame that are tainted and nobody knows about it and others will never be elected because of the randomness of Mitchell's reporting. That isn't fair either.

Secondly, these 109 tests performed in 2003 were part of a major league/players union agreement. If more than a certain percentage tested positive, then the union agreed to make testing permanent. Obviously, that percentage was met and testing was instituted. Also part of the agreement was that 109 that were tested were never to be identified. The reporting by Sports Illustrated and others is a breach of privacy that was part of a collective agreement and that is just wrong, if not a legal breach (which it probably is).

The Fan has always maintained that an amnesty was needed for all incidents that occurred before 2004 as there were no laws prohibiting anything. Plus, there was no way to punish all the hundreds of players who used because there would be no way of determining the actual scope of users.

The only way out of the wilderness for MLB was to move forward and make sure the players were clean from now on. And, thankfully, that is the direction we seem to be heading. The unfortunate fact is that it will be extremely difficult for anyone implicated by any of the means that implications have occurred, to get elected to the HOF and that is a shame for those players and their fans. What the players did was wrong, no doubt. But how can you taint a small percentage of the total number of players who did wrong by punishing those few?

Torre and Verducci's book is insightful and in no means damaging to the players who are painted with less than white paint. Even Jeter is painted as being cold to some who have hurt him. A-Rod is praised and damned for his good points and his bad. But it seems fairly presented.

The real compelling story of the book to this point is the heroism of one Rick Helling, who saw a problem around him and tried to stand up to his peers and tell them to stop it. Too bad they didn't listen. Too bad for all of us.


Josh Borenstein said...

I have no problem with people releasing names of cheaters. The fans have a right to know and deserve full disclosure from the Union. The Mitchell Report definitely has its flaws, but it was a step in the right direction.

Josh Borenstein said...

I'd like to amend my statement. If it's not legally permissible to release names (and it doesn't seem like it is at this point), then withholding the truth is in the best interest of all parties involved. Doesn't mean I have to like it, though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks William for your truly kind comments about Rick. They are 100% accurate and is somewhat sad not more could have been done at the time to stop the "steroid era".

All Rick ever wanted for every other honest player like himself was a level playing field.

Thanks, Rod H. (Rick's proud brother)

William said...

You're welcome, Rod H., and thank you for your comment. Give my best to your family. It must really be a nice one with a brother like you.