[This is what a fact-checking baseball reporter looks like. This is not Ben Schwartz.]
Last week, I posted on The New York Times publishing the names of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz as having tested positive for steroids in 2003. I went off on Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt for his limited reportage on this story and a similar story naming Sammy Sosa from the same 104 name list of MLB players who tested positive for steroids.
Times sports editor Tom Jolly wrote in to CSTB’s comments section, pointing out a fact that needed correcting in my story. In both my responses to the Ramirez/Ortiz and Sosa stories, I said that Schmidt based his reporting on evidence thrown out of Federal Court by Judge Susan Ilston in the Barry Bonds case. That was my basis for saying the Times based their stories on “discredited evidence.” I still say it’s discredited, or at least too weak to prove anything on its own. Jolly’s correction gives me different reasons to believe this.
As Jolly points out, Judge Ilston allowed the Bonds test results to remain as evidence. As I gleaned from this report, it’s the 104 names list she has problems with, as well as much of the evidence needed to corroborate the Bonds test results. I misread the report and took that she wants the 104 names list tossed out, which includes the Bonds original test, later retested by the Federal Govt, allegedly showing that he took designer steroids. It’s the retest she’s allowing as evidence. Confusing? Yes, but I should have gotten it right.
What was thrown out was a pile of evidence corroborating the Bonds test results needed to prove him guilty. That is, without corroboration, the admissible Bonds tests aren’t enough. The government case against Bonds collapsed in February. The prosecution currently scrambles to find a new way to nail the Sultan of Surly. The Bonds test, and anonymous lawyers quoting the players’ 2003 test result lists, are all The New York Times has on which to base the credibility of their Sosa, Ortiz, and Ramirez claims. That’s the evidence that gets you nowhere in court on its own. If not “discredited,” it’s at least too flimsy to mean anything by itself “ unless you’re The New York Times. Selena Roberts’ A-Rod story for Sports Illustrated has something the NYT still doesn’t have “ a confession from the named player, vindicating the reporter’s anonymous sourcing and accusations. I imagine it’s what the Federal Gov’t wishes they had from Bonds, too.
I definitely stand corrected on the fact of what got thrown out of court and what didn’t. My own ineptitude aside for the moment, you can decide for yourself on whether the government’s evidence looks even more discredited because Bonds’ tests are admissible and the case still collapsed “ or not. You can also read the same flimsy, in-need-of-corroboration evidence Schmidt uses, and decide on the Times case.
Fact Correction Acknowledged. I’m sorry Jolly didn’t address the bigger ethical problems of what the Times is doing to player reps on such evidence. It’s the reason I wrote the stories I did. Michael S. Schmidt, in this blogger’s opinion, is still getting played by someone with a creepy agenda. Here’s Jolly’s comments section note to me, and my response to him.