08.08.09

No Smearing in the Press Box III: Big Papi Vindicates CSTB Blowhard, Michael S. Schmidt Commences Damage Control

Posted in Baseball, Internal Affairs, Sports Journalism at 9:15 pm by

[This is what a working baseball reporter looks like.  I wish he had Michael S. Schmidt's job]

The backpeddling officially started yesterday, as The New York Times Michael S. Schmidt shifted gears leading up to today’s David Ortiz press conference at Yankee Stadium.  The same reporter telling you that Sosa appeared on the list of 104 last June, now saying Ramirez and Ortiz both appear on a list of “roughly 100,” got some fact corrections this afternoon “ like that his sources don’t even know what the actual list is.  The list confirmed by the players union, which once had sole possession of it, claims 96 names “ 21 of which don’t prove players tested positive for banned substances.  I quote from The New Jersey Star-Ledger:

In the supposedly anonymous and confidential testing conducted in 2003, there were only 83 failed tests, MLBPA general counsel Michael Weiner said. There were 13 other tests with “inconclusive” results. Weiner specified that these refer to test results, not players. It is possible that players may have tested positive twice.

“The number of players on the so-called ‘government list’ meaningfully exceeds the number of players agreed by the bargaining parties to have tested positive in 2003,” Weiner said in a statement. “Accordingly, the presence of a player’s name on any such list does not necessarily mean that the player used a prohibited substance or that the player tested positive under our collectively bargained program.

With 13 inconclusive, we can also remove some 8 more results from the “prohibited” list.  As Schmidt wrote in the Times yesterday: “Officials in the commissioner™s office and the players union have said they believe at least 8 of the roughly 100 players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 were using the supplement 19-norandrostenedione, which was sold over the counter at the time and contained a powerful steroid.”

So, 96 tests make up the list:  83 positive, 13 inconclusive, and of the 83, 8 for legal-in-2003 19-norandrostenedione.  So, 75 illegal users?  Which list was Schmidt using?  The much-publicized 104, the union’s 96, or his vague “roughly 100?“  Or all three?  Obviously, players appear on one list but not on another “ why?  Do substantially different lists of players make up the different lists?  Confusing, sure, but don’t look to the Times for an answer.

If the union’s 96 is right, and they should know “ the gov’t took it from them, it sounds like the killer number here is 75 players for illegal, anabolic steroids with 8 legal users (83).   Did Schmidt get his names from the confirmed 75 or not?

In my recent back and forth here with Schmidt’s editor at the Times, Tom Jolly, he pointed out to me that Ortiz a) admitted he “failed” the test, and b) “The point is that banned substances were found in the samples from Rodriguez, Sosa, Ramirez, Ortiz and David Segui.”   Actually, Ortiz confirmed his name appeared on a list, but did not know why.  13 tests, we now know, came back inconclusive.  Ortiz and his union say he’s one of those.  It means that unless Schmidt can verify specifically what Ortiz or other players he outted tested positive for, if they did test positive, he’s reporting that being on the list alone is de facto proof of using banned substances (as per Tom Jolly’s statement above).

As of today, that’s a rather reckless assumption if only 75 players of the “roughly 100” are confirmed as unquestionably positive.  Do Schmidt’s sources know which listed players did not test positive for banned substances?  Schmidt sure doesn’t.  Unless Sosa, Ramirez, or Ortiz pull an A-Rod confessional for Schmidt’s benefit, his stories are so much hearsay and rumor.

Ortiz claims he did not know his result came back positive.  As one of the 13 or more inconclusive results, that makes sense because Ortiz’ name does not appear in The Mitchell Report.  As Schmidt wrote yesterday, “All players who tested positive in 2003 were told that their tests had been seized by the government, according to the report presented to Major League Baseball by George J. Mitchell ….”  The report never cites Sosa, Ramirez, or Ortiz “ maybe because they didn’t test positive.  At any rate, that’s as plausible as Schmidt’s vague sources.

Yesterday, Schmidt started posturing.  The headline of his analysis reads:  “Ortiz’s Explanation Is Unlikely to Reveal Much.”   This assumes Ortiz has something to reveal.  Today, Schmidt’s assumptions have less credibility on this than Ortiz.  In the first paragraph of his story, Schmidt writes:

Since it was first reported nine days ago that the Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was among the roughly 100 major league baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, he has repeatedly said he would get more information about the test result so he could provide an explanation.

Again, more like 75, as I read it, substantially fewer than the “roughly 100,” or 104, Schmidt cites in different stories, both of which “meaningfully exceeds” the real results.  “Repeatedly”  is an odd word, too, as if Ortiz is a liar, rather than that he’s answered the question repeatedly asked of him.  You’ll find no recognition whatsover from Schmidt that he based his claims on an exaggerated or varying lists, as he now apparently accepts Weiner’s word on the union 96 list without question or challenge.   As Weiner noted of the Times reporting:

œThe result is that any union member alleged to have tested positive in 2003 because his name supposedly appears on some list ” most recently David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez ” finds himself in an extremely unfair position, Weiner said in the statement. œHis reputation has been threatened by a violation of the court™s orders, but respect for those orders now leaves him without access to the information that might permit him to restore his good name.

Indeed, violations that Schmidt sought/received from anonymous, unreliable sources, with agendas unknown.  I’ve asked repeatedly why all four leaked player names (including A-Rod, outted in Sports Illustrated) are Latino players “ and repeatedly why all but Oritz are well known, grandstanding, arrogant divas appearing to get some kind of petty payback via these leaks.  It’s only my opinion, or “analysis” as the Times might call it, but I believe Ortiz’ name was thrown to Schmidt along with Ramirez’ in order to make that story a headline.  Ramirez’ name alone isn’t steroid news after his 50-game suspension this summer.  I mean, 2003 results are a bit of a so-what in his case.  Ortiz’ name makes it a Boston World Series headline, and a screamer at that.

Schmidt then offers some self-serving For the Good of Baseball, Please Fess Up tripe:

The court restrictions also mean that the Red Sox faithful, who largely adore Ortiz, may not get full disclosure. Ortiz was a fan favorite as he helped the franchise end an 86-year World Series championship drought and add another title three years later.

Knowing the exact substance that Ortiz tested positive for would shed significant light on what he might have put in his body in 2003. What his fans and peers think of him and his hitting feats could be influenced by what illicit substance he is linked to.

Yeah, if only David Ortiz came clean and verified your threadbare story admitted his sins, those poor suffering Boston fans could find some closure.  Mr. Schmidt, here’s an idea, how about you report the rest of the story? You didn’t with Sosa or Ramirez, and now you want Ortiz to confirm what you couldn’t find out about him?  Since the Times story that started all this is so much gossip, maybe full disclosure of Schmidt’s weak reporting is what the Boston faithful need.

In today’s press conference, Ortiz gave his side of it.  It’s on Schmidt to dispute it.  Schmidt has another problem, i.e., following up on his claims re Sosa and Ramirez.  Are they in the 13 inconclusive or 8-possible-positives for legal-in-2003-but-not-now supplements?  Tom Jolly would say “no,” if they’re on the list they used banned substances.  But how does he know?

Finally, Schmidt reported one fact that at least narrows down somewhat who’s been leaking to him.  He wrote:  “In a statement Saturday morning, Major League Baseball said it did not possess the list of names of players who tested positive in 2003.“  If MLB itself doesn’t know who is on the list, the lawyers he refers to in the Sosa and Ramirez/Ortiz story seem to be from the players union or the government.   Maybe there’s lawyers on the players union side with their own self-righteous crusade to save baseball.  Or maybe it’s the gov’t “ whose case against Barry Bonds fell apart last February, just as A-Rod’s name somehow leaked.  I still say Schmidt got played by his sources.

Did Ortiz juice hardcore, needles and all, a la Mrs. Roger Clemens?  These days it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.  Still, I can’t say “yes” based on anything Michael S. Schmidt wrote “ nor can Schmidt.  Since it appeared in the Times, however, Ortiz has been vilified over Schmidt’s inconclusive half-story.  Boston’s Ortiz had the guts to hold his press conference in Yankee Stadium.  I hope Schmidt has the nerve to hold his at Fenway.

6 Responses to “No Smearing in the Press Box III: Big Papi Vindicates CSTB Blowhard, Michael S. Schmidt Commences Damage Control”

  1. Timothy Cook says:

    Ben — thanks. In addition to applying some badly needed attention to the rough/hatchet-job reporting of this murky situation, It’s pretty clear the privacy of an individual is nothing when there’s a leak to be amplified and repeated.

    I’d be curious to know why hasn’t the Times provided some investigative reporting into the bigger crime than having an falsely achieved OPS of 1.000+: LEAKING CONFIDENTIAL MEDICAL RECORDS, and MAKING SHIT UP?

    Where are the names of these leakers?

  2. Ben Schwartz says:

    Thanks. I’m only in favor of privacy violation when it comes to celebrity sex tapes or topless celebrities on European beaches. Everything else is outrageous.

  3. kt says:

    would these test results be considered medical records? and if so isn’t revealing them in violation of title II of the hipaa act of 1996?

  4. Ben Schwartz says:

    All Schmidt’s got is confirmation of names on lists, but he can’t verify anything Sosa, Ramirez, or Ortiz took — or even that the substances are banned. I don’t know what Schmidt’s sources are guilty of in terms of legal violations, but I doubt any jury could convict Schmidt of revealing anything at all in his two stories. At least, I wouldn’t.

  5. CMG says:

    This goes to show how stupid A-Rod was in handling this whole situation. He admitted what he took and used the defense of his cousin buying a substance that he spelled out for everybody. Not saying Ortiz came off well especially in the run-up but he was lucky Weiner chose today to address this situation. Now Yankee/A-Rod fans will argue why did they let A-Rod go under the bus, well he nor his group of people went back to the MLBPA for help.

    I should disclose that my father actually knows Michael Weiner and he is integrity with a Capital I. I sense there are some in the player’s union that do not agree with Fehr or perhaps Weiner for being the heir apparent and are taking it to some writers who seem to be based in New York City. Or it could be another rogue zealous government office in the DOJ (Hey the former Governor of Mississippi, Ted Stevens, and Valerie Plame all went through it, why not a few major league baseball players?).

    The Latino angle is definitely the most unique aspect of the case.

    Now what is still unanswered is who took what and if this list Schmidt used had anything wrong on it than it may be a case of we will never know. But again what about that revelation about A-Rod getting tipped off by Orza or is that another piece of bunk?

  6. Rog says:

    I think there’s still the question as to why David Ortiz doesn’t have an extra ear growing out of his forehead. Until Schmidt can connect those dots for me, I’m on the sidelines.

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