A female acquaintance swears she knows a baseball player who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the now-infamous "survey" to see who was doing naughty things in 2003. He's a famous player, she says, someone who even the casual fan would recognize. She knows he's on the list of 104 bad boys because he told her about his steroid use and the positive test it generated the same night he bought her a diamond necklace. She's pretty sure he also told his wife, his best buddy, some of his teammates, his agent, the kid who takes care of his car when the team is on the road and -- who knows? -- maybe the gardener and his tailor. He's one of the all-time talkers, this guy.
I met this woman years ago, when I was doing a newspaper story about the modern groupie. She's smart, rich (a trust fund baby), gorgeous and slightly insane. Is she telling the truth about the player who once called her his "road wife"? (So much nicer than "road beef.") Probably. Would I or any other credible journalist print the name of this player without backing it up with mounds of evidence and reliable sources? Not on your life.
Fehr can shake his broken paper shredder all he wants at reporters daring to pick the scab off what many are calling the biggest scandal in the history of sports. So the president of the Players Association is accusing The New York Times of committing a crime in its reporting of players who tested positive for illegal PEDs -- Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz the most recent names The Times disclosed to be on the 2003 list? Fehr's threat is meant to divert the uninformed public, his tactic as disingenuous as the game is long.
So Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera and a slew of other active players are calling for the list to be publicly released, a move that would halt the annoying trickle of names coming out every few months? Their weariness is logical, their understanding of the facts questionable.
The list of the 104 players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 is now evidence in a complicated federal court case: U.S. v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc., and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The names on the list can only be released by a court order -- and as a party to that case, Fehr could petition the court to make the list public. Have Pettitte, Rivera and all the other players moaning about the damage baseball continues to reap implored their outgoing union boss to help put an end to the madness?
"We just want it to stop," Rivera said recently. But the last time we spoke, Rivera, the Yankee closer and a caretaker of the game, said he hadn't lobbied his union to help curtail the drip-drip-drip leak of names.
Pettitte, a Yankee pitcher who was outed as a user of PEDs in the Mitchell Report, has admitted to using human growth hormone on two occasions, to help speed his recovery from injury. "I've always said that I don't want anybody else to have to go through it, but at this point, if somebody has the list and they can release it, I think it would be great," he told the New York Daily News. "If all 100 names are going to come out -- and I'm sure there are a lot of names on there that people won't even care about -- they ought to go ahead and just release it."
Another Yankee, Mark Teixeira, echoed the theme song from many players and focused on the illegality of the leaks. "Whatever your personal views or opinions are about the list, it doesn't matter, because those names were never supposed to be leaked out anyway," Teixeira, a member of the executive board of the Players Association, told the Daily News. "It's illegal what these people are doing."
But it's only illegal if those folks are connected to or are parties in U.S. v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc., and the Major League Baseball Players Association. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people on the case's periphery who can blab without legal consequence.
Just for instance: How many players have their own cousin Yuri? Alex Rodriguez's fall guy is not a party to the court case, and is thus free to talk to any reporter he wants. So are mistresses, clubhouse attendants, personal valets and disgruntled employees of MLB or the players' union. The amount of people who have knowledge of players on the list is staggering, a pack of octopuses hiding in a coral reef.
In its report revealing that Ramirez and Ortiz were on the list, The New York Times -- a minority stakeholder in the Boston Red Sox, by the way -- cited its sources as "lawyers with knowledge of the results." If these lawyers are under the court's gag order, they should be prosecuted, because even simple journalists understand the danger all citizens face when Fourth Amendment rights are illegally violated.
But leakers, snitches and whatever epithet you want to call them aren't always government employees wearing poor-fitting suits. Troy Ellerman once was a lawyer with a client named Victor Conte. You might know Conte and his lab outside San Francisco as ground zero of the steroid scandal. Turns out Ellerman disclosed privileged information from a grand jury to the San Francisco Chronicle during its investigation of Conte and BALCO. After admitting he secretly leaked testimony by Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and other athletes embroiled in the government's steroids investigation, Ellerman received a 30-month prison sentence for his illegal activities.
The players tested in 2003 were assured of anonymity by the league and the players' union. There is no excuse, none, for the union failing to destroy the results, no matter the convoluted reasons Fehr now gives. Those players on the list of 104 have every right to be upset if their liberties are being illegally violated. Those players also knew steroids and other PEDs had been banned by baseball since 1991, though users weren't punished until 2004.
The amount of people who have knowledge of players on the list is staggering, a pack of octopuses hiding in a coral reef. Those of us not as smart as Fehr can still examine the previous two sentences separately. As the Daily News noted: After Judge Susan Illston declared the details of the case sealed in March of 2004, the union went clubhouse to clubhouse "informing players that they could be on the list ... many people, including the players themselves, team personnel, agents, friends and family members could have been aware of the names and wouldn't necessarily be subject to the gag order."
Is it possible players, or the lawyers/agents of those players, are divulging personal but not illegal information to reporters about other players? Is it possible someone who once worked for Fehr is the leaker? An athlete would never go to bat with blinders on, so why do they choose to do so now?
For another instance: The Boston Globe recently reported that the Red Sox fired two security staffers last summer after an investigation into steroid use. (One sacked employee was Jared Remy, the son of Red Sox television commentator Jerry Remy.) Both employees confessed to being steroid users, but denied knowledge of drug use by the players. Neither is banned by the court from spilling whatever they might know.
It's fair to follow the crumbs, without violating any Amendments or liberties. The crumbs might lead from the Boston clubhouse to Manny Alexander, the well-traveled infielder whose Mercedes-Benz was stopped in 2000 by police near Boston, the glove department filled with anabolic steroids and hypodermic needles. A Red Sox attendant was driving the car, but maybe that's where the crumbs end. Maybe that's what Senator George Mitchell found when MLB commissioned him to lead a 20-month investigation into the use of steroids and human growth hormone in baseball. Mitchell, a director of the Red Sox who is listed fifth on the team's masthead, did name players with ties to the Red Sox, but the crumbs mostly led him further south, to Boston's bête noire.
Yes, that will be quite a conflicted chorus in the Bronx starting Thursday, when Boston and the Yankees open a four-game series that might decide the history of baseball as we understand it. (Come on, you know Red Sox-Yanks is the center of the universe, or at least the home office for players using PEDs. Follow the crumbs, from Pettitte to Roger Clemens to Giambi to Sheffield to A-Rod to both Mannys to Ortiz. Any Yankee fan who mocks Ortiz really ought to be ejected, just for being a slug too dumb to occupy a valuable seat.)
One last for instance, before we go back to tracking more cousin Yuris: Could someone close to Mitchell feel the urge to leak names on the list? It sounds ridiculous, but the point is, they would not be legally prohibited from talking to reporters, and nothing is beyond ridiculous in this scandal. Go ahead and scream "release the list," but understand that is up to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, and a judge who is said to be willing to at least listen to parties like Fehr if they were to petition her. But why would Fehr do that, when he has so much to lose?
Curse the leakers? Again, by all means, prosecute those evildoers if they dare snub the court's gag order. But when Mets catcher Brian Schneider says he hopes whoever is dropping names from the list "gets caught because what they are doing is totally wrong and they should get in trouble for it because it is an ongoing case, an ongoing investigation," he really needs to draw upon the instincts that have taken him this far.
It's not just the obvious sluggers who are slicing apart baseball. It's the octopus tentacles: the ears in the dugout, the gossiping friends and family in the stands, the eyes not under threat by any court. Agents? Mistresses? Clubhouse employees? Disgruntled union employees?
The list of possible leakers of the list is as long as the entourage behind every player.