I’d like to think I don’t whiff at the plate very often, but last week I did by letting my frustrations get in the way of my objectivity (see Time for the MLBPA to Release All the Names from the '03 Survey Test). As a poster going by the name of "Stately, Plump Buck Mulligan" said in a thread for Craig Calcaterra's outstanding Why the rest of the names cannot be released thread on Baseball Think Factory, "Why is Ozzie Guillen referred to as dumb while Maury Brown is referred to as smart?" The answer is, he isn't, or rather, wasn't for running the column he did. Hopefully, this one erases a bit of that.
My frustrations center around the “list”, the 104 names comprising players that tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 as part of a joint “Survey Test” that MLB and the players union agreed upon to determine if mandatory drug testing would become part of MLB’s landscape starting in 2004.
For those unfamiliar, here is the timeline that got me looking no further than the end of my nose:
- The list was to forever remain anonymous. The players only agreed to the testing because of this key issue. No anonymous testing, no mandatory drug testing we have now.
- The MLBPA had the right to destroy the samples, but for all the explaining that Donald Fehr has made on the issue, there were at least 5 days in which they could have gone about this hypercritical task and did not do so. That gaffe put is in the position we’re in now.
- The Feds seized the samples that were to be destroyed as part of the BALCO investigation, which touches on illegal search and seizure, which goes to the Fourth Amendment (see the Baseball Prospectus article, The Fourth Amendment, the MLBPA and the BALCO Investigation).
- The PA, now stuck with trying to gain back what they should have destroyed in the first place, goes to court to get the Survey Test information back. The court seals the documents until all is resolved.
- While the court sealed the documents, there are many lawyers that have access to the list. One or more of the lawyers is breaking the law, and is unethically leaking the names, which is how we’ve had the recent revelations that Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz were on the list.
- This past week, the media, in a case of knee-jerking, calls into question the World Series Championship of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 due to Ramirez and Ortiz testing positive in 2003, as opposed to calling into question who might have been using in 2003, ’02, ’01, etc. when mandatory testing was not yet part of baseball’s landscape.
As I said, frustrated.
The problem is, I saw all of this and missed the bigger picture. In my haste to say, “Stop the bleeding. It’s a PR nightmare. It’s a scab that keeps on getting picked at. Get the names out there, and it all goes away,” I failed to see the most important issues:
- The players on the list should not be made to suffer because of unlawful and unethical lawyers that should be disbarred and serve jail time for leaking the names.
- If the MLBPA releases the names you will never gain the trust the players ever again. Ever. They only agreed to the testing with the understanding that the names would forever remain anonymous. The MLBPA has a fiduciary responsibility to protect the players.
- If the PA were to release the names, there could be as many lawsuits as there are names on the list. The players would sue for financial damage and emotional distress. Even if the PA were to somehow want to release the names, they legally can’t. The documents are under court seal.
- Releasing the names would make the issue go away only insofar as rank and file players are concerned. Any player that might be Hall of Fame worthy associated to the list would dredge up the topic each time his name came up on the ballot.
So, Maury, you blew it. You saw Pandora’s Box open and impossibly wanted it to all go away. You let frustration get in the way of objectivity. You swung at one in the dirt. Time to hit the showers, look past the bad game, and get ready for a new one tomorrow. Just make sure it never happens again.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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