Monday, August 10, 2009

ESPN, Ortiz, and Steroids

Sorry for the long layoff again folks - Kyra is on a ballpark roadtrip in America's heartland while I am getting ready for trips to Vegas and the Jersey shore. But today we are proud to publish the first post by guest contributor Rob Warfield. Mr. Warfield is well known around the Central Jersey and Philadelphia region as a walking encyclopedia and his sports knowledge is second to none. We hope you enjoy his work on the blog as much as we do.

You may not have heard, but David Ortiz tested positive for steroids back in 2003. Since I arrived back from a London vacation last week, it’s been hard to watch ESPN for more than 30 minutes without some discussion of this fact. I have to admit, this revelation was not the least bit surprising to me: the obvious disparity in Ortiz’s physical figure from his Minnesota days to his large and in charge Red Sox glory years and subsequent jump in stats once arriving in Boston are cause for enough suspicion in the steroids era. That the positive test came the year he joined the Sox is surely not a coincidence. But regardless of these tell-tale side effects of cheating and doping, there is a greater point to be made here: I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if anybody was caught juicing.

It’s on this point where I think ESPN has dropped the ball. With the exception of Bill Simmons (I can’t believe I just wrote that) and Howard Bryant, ESPN has really misjudged the fans’ reactions here. I heard Mitch Albom open up the Sports Reporters on Sunday arguing that the fans “don’t care” anymore when players are caught. Steve Phillips, parlaying his miserable GM record into an equally miserable analyst’s job, happily relayed Jim Leyland’s assertion that fans “don’t care” during tonight’s Red Sox/Tigers broadcast. Shocking that he would use a game in which Papi’s team was playing to notify us. Can’t say I’ve heard Simmons’ or Bryant’s positions espoused on Baseball Tonight yet (Note: Simmons wrote in his July 17 mailbag that he would only be shocked to learn that Jeter and Griffey took PEDs. I agree, though I might add Greg Maddux to that list).

However, some people clearly do care. ESPN certainly cares, because they’re still discussing this in detail eleven full days after the original New York Times story went to print. It was also so important that Albom had to address it while opening the second episode of the Sports Reporters to air since the NYT piece. Fans care, because Ortiz was booed all weekend. Granted he was playing at Yankee Stadium, but I’m sure he’d receive the same treatment in Philadelphia, for instance.

If ESPN wants to cover a story like this for eleven days, they should actually get to the bottom of the story. Maybe I haven’t been watching enough, but I have yet to hear ESPN discuss Ortiz’ own hypocrisy on this issue; the NYT article quotes Ortiz as saying that he would “ban [those who test positive] for the whole year.” The assuredness of that statement wasn’t there this week, as Ortiz took nine full days to call a press conference to talk about how “careless” he was when buying vitamins back in the day. Regardless of these discrepancies and the obvious hypocrisy, ESPN is still more than happy to give Ortiz a platform after-the-fact (we also saw this in Gammons’ A-Rod interview). By now we’ve all been reassured by every episode of SportsCenter and every ESPN baseball telecast of the past couple days that it’s entirely plausible for some bad vitamins to result in a positive test. Last night’s ticker prominently displayed that a BALCO scientist confirmed this. Sweet irony. The hypocrisy is laughable.

It’s a shame that the network that currently holds a monopoly on sports coverage has no journalistic integrity whatsoever. There is no consistency to speak of here. Simply put, it’s disappointing, but this is what I’ve come to expect from ESPN. They’re more interested in making friends than exploring anything in detail.

I look forward to contributing to this blog in the weeks and months to come.


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