[RT @TomJolly Who is Michael S. Schmidt? He's the NYT reporter who is breaking all the steroids stories - at age 25.]
Who knew The Daily Planet and The New York Times had so much in common? I found out only after reading John Kolbin’s glown’ NY Observer profile of the fair-haired boy currently outting ballplayers on hearsay: Michael S. Schmidt.
Indeed, there’s been so much national fan outrage, fury over privacy violations, and CSTB Schmidt fact-checking that the NY Times public editor Clark Hoyt stepped up to defend Schmidt in the Sunday Times. Hoyt mentions Tom Jolly’s comments here at CSTB obliquely: “If the steroids story seems drawn out, it is because it is hard to get. Tom Jolly, the sports editor, said nobody is slipping the list of those who used drugs under the door: it is taking old-fashioned digging to get each name.” Indeed, my favorite Hoyt defense cites former Bush Solicitor General Theodore Olson. Hoyt says, Olson “told me he has never been bashful about criticizing The Times. In this case, he said, the paper acted legally and ethically. ‘It™s your duty,’ he said. ‘We need to know what the players were doing.’
In Timesthink, if they can get a Republican to agree with them, they must be right! However, Schmidt based his claims against Sammy Sosa on the gov’t list of players obtained by the Bush Administration (see Schmidt blog post below), so you’ll excuse me if support from a former Bush solicitor general like Olson for overreaching Bush prosecutors doesn’t carry as much weight around here as the Public Editor’s desk. The government’s aggressive confiscation of private medical records, and the players union demanding them back, is at the center of why the court sealed the evidence list. The names only started leaking in February 2009 with A-Rod when the Federal case against Bond collapsed (pardon my conspiracy theory).
The NY Observer confirms something I wrote when Schmidt broke the story, that he’s been chasing Selena Roberts at Sports Illustrated ever since she broke the A-Rod story last February. Not only did the Times blow it, but Roberts is an ex-Times reporter. As Kolbin relates, beating her was Schmidt’s way to a by-line “ and imo, he’s recklessly smearing players to do it. According to the NYO‘s Kolbin:
The steroids story that has rocked the world more than any other”more than Bonds, more than Clemens”was when Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated broke the story that A-Rod tested positive in 2003. She discovered the existence of the so-called List. Terry McDonnell, the editor of Sports Illustrated, told us it was the biggest break he’s seen since he began editing the magazine.
And because she won, it meant that The Times had lost.
“I knew what was going on,” said Mr. Schmidt, who said that “mistakes” led him to lose.
Ms. Roberts told me a few days after her big break, “I respect Mike Schmidt™s work a ton. He™s had more than his share of big stories. On this one, it went our way. I™m sure next time, it™ll go his way.
It did. Since the A-Rod story, Mr. Schmidt broke the stories of Sosa, Ortiz and Manny”all players on the List.
Scoop is still making mistakes. Roberts had A-Rod confirm her story “ that’s why we know she was right. Sosa, Ortiz, and Ramirez haven’t done Schmidt that favor, and he has yet to confirm any of them as users of banned substances. Not one. Ortiz’s test results were “inconclusive,” and Sosa and Ramirez have refused comment. All Schmidt can claim, to the satisfaction of the Times, is that they appear on the government’s list. Unfortunately for his Sosa story, that list has now been discredited twice.
First, evidence from the gov’t list against Barry Bonds is so weak the Federal case fell apart. They received a trial delay as they scramble to corroborate Bonds’ test, while simultaneously fight giving the player tests and results back to the union. Second, the players union says that not all test results prove conclusively that a player used banned substances. As far as Tom Jolly’s comments here go, he thought they did while publishing the Sosa, Ortiz, and Ramirez stories. Says Jolly, “The point is that banned substances were found in the samples from Rodriguez, Sosa, Ramirez, Ortiz and David Segui.” Sunday, Schmidt and co-writer Katie Thomas wrote: “Federal court documents, however, show that the government seized only the records of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. It is unclear why that number was higher than the number of positive tests under the drug testing program.”
“Unclear” is a large word right now, indicating Schmidt had no idea the union would drop this bombshell on him. Specifically, the Major League Baseball Players Association claimed that the list Schmidt cites in his Sosa story last June “meaningfully exceeds” the MLBPA’s list of positive testing. Until Saturday, Schmidt used the government’s claims that their list of 104 names are all positive PED tests for what Tom Jolly has said here are “banned substances.“ Saturday, The MLBPA’s Michael Wiener cited a total 96 tests: 83 positive, 13 inconclusive, and 8 probables for legal-in-2003 over-the-counter supplements. As Schmidt told us in June, he has no idea what Sosa’s result is. None.
Worse, here is Wiener’s statement on the varying lists: “The Players Association made clear in its public statement today that there are substantial uncertainties and ambiguity surrounding the list of 104 names from the 2003 survey test. Indeed, there is even uncertainty about the number of players on this 2003 government list, whether it is 104, 96, 83, or less. Many of those uncertainties apparently relate to the use of then-legal nutritional supplements that were not banned by baseball.”
At this point, the Times has to answer for Schmidt’s Sosa story. What I see: an overzealous young reporter takes the word of overreaching prosecutors that their list of 104 names is, no-question, hard evidence of banned PED use. The MLBPA says 96 (minus 13 inconclusive and 8 over-the-counter supplements) “ meaning 75 hardcore PED users. One thing’s obvious: Schmidt has no source in the players union that knows anything, or he would not have cited 104 in the Sosa story. Meaning, it looks more and more like Schmidt took the prosecution’s word at face value. He did so after several blows to the government’s credibility: scathing comments from Judge Illston, the list’s weak value as evidence, and the government’s bully tactics in obtaining it. Schmidt then used their list to cite Sosa a PED user. Here’s a Schmidt blog post from last June:
Identities of Dirty 104 Leaking SlowlyBy Michael S. Schmidt
In the wake of the disclosures that Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa are on the list of the 104 players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, a number of commentators have suggested that the remaining 102 names on the list should be made public.
The commentators™ numbers are a little off. The names of two lesser known players and one of the game™s biggest sluggers have already been tied to positive tests in 2003.
Yep, gotta get those numbers juuuuuuuust right. What I’d like to know: As of Saturday, how does the Times justify the assumption that everyone on the list is “dirty” when the union flatly contradicts them? The Ortiz press conference states he’s “inconclusive.” The Sosa story itself says no one Schmidt talked to knew what Sosa’s test revealed.
The Times needs to explain or correct their assertion that Sosa is a PED user, or retract it.
Controversy or no, Schmidt fights on. Monday he profiled Jack Smalling, an Iowa crop insurance salesman, who has collected the home address of every single living ballplayer. Yes, he’s tracked them all down. Criticize all you want, but Schmidt’s dream of violating the personal privacy of every ballplayer lives on.