Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Word of the Day: Complicity

com·plic·i·ty [kuhm-plis-i-tee]
the state of being an accomplice; partnership or involvement in wrongdoing: complicity in a crime.

Another very well done article from ESPN's investigative reporter TJ Quinn about how the culture of baseball helped steriod usage blossom since the 1980's.

Center in Quinn's article is how tainted Torre and LaRussa have become as a result of the Mitchell Report. Quinn mentions that 20 players named in the Report have been managed, at some time, by Torre. That's pretty incredible. LaRussa's blind loyalty to McGwire is particularly damning, as is his Oakland/St.Louis loyalty to Dave McKay:

LaRussa's longtime first-base coach, Dave McKay, has never been accused of directly aiding and abetting steroid users, but he was certainly in their proximity. LaRussa made McKay his first strength coach in Oakland; McKay says he never thought that the change in player physiques had anything to do with drugs.
But, while we all knew it's true, it's particularly eye-opening to read just how complicity both sides of MLB are in this mess, Union and Management (emphasis mine):

Even when physicians and trainers began to raise the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in the late 1980s, baseball's sentinels were either unwilling to tackle the problem or unable to find an approach they could agree on, baseball insiders said.

"At one of those [offseason] meetings, a team physician stood up and said, 'We have a problem, and the problem has to do with possible drugs that are being used by athletes and players, and the only way we can deal with this problem is through testing,'" says Larry Starr, a team athletic trainer for 30 years with the Cincinnati Reds and Florida Marlins. "The basic feedback from that meeting and subsequent meetings for a number of years after that was, from the owner's group, 'We agree: We need to do testing. But the Players Association won't let us.' Players Association would say, 'We agree: Most of my members would say testing would be fine, but we don't trust the owners.'"

Speaking about the "culture" and sanctity of the lockerroom, Torre added this, lending further creedence to his complicity and flat-out fear of players reacting negatively to any PED questions. I guess this is how you earn the reputation of being a "player's manager"; letting them do whatever the hell they want without any fear of recourse or retribution:
"You've got to manage these players and you want to earn their trust, so you've got to allow them responsibility to take care of themselves," he says. "I'm not saying you don't talk about it. You're always cautioning them that you don't want to be embarrassed by this or that. [But] you don't follow players around or peek around the corner or whatever."

Tom Glavine, one of the most respected players in recent history, also shed light upon this culture and why players wouldn't make this a bigger issue: it was helping their teams win.

"Everybody, from the minute they get to the clubhouse, it's, 'What goes on in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse,'" Glavine says, sitting on a dugout bench at the Braves' spring training complex in Orlando. "And that's team fights, or team arguments or team meetings. All that stuff is supposed to remain in-house. That's the culture of the game and it doesn't matter if a guy has a drinking problem, or a guy is doing drugs or a guy is doing things in their marriages they shouldn't be doing. You just don't discuss that."

All that has ever mattered, he says, is performance.

"When guys start crossing the lines, [if] their actions or things they are doing become a detriment to the team or become a safety issue to the rest of the teammates, then it becomes a different issue," he says.

So, clean players let dirty players help the team, but only if they were truly helping the team. Sadly hypocritical, if you ask me. High character guys like Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux (just picking on this amazing troika from the Braves, sorry) should have used their well-earned respect and voices to empart change, or at least make this a bigger issue than it was back in the day.

Remember, too, it was Glavine and Maddux who did the infamous "chicks dig the long ball" commercials...

Maybe now, post-Mitchell Report, players will be more vocal internally and react before things become too much of an issue. I doubt it as cultures don't change this quickly, but I remain ever hopeful!

Play ball!

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