Where Does It Stop?

With the General Managers meeting this week in Orlando I fully expected to see some baseball news in the paper and on the wire services. Teams have until November 12 to exclusively negotiate with their free agent players. I had hoped that there would be news on the Diamondbacks front saying they had signed Tony Clark to a two-year contract or that Livan Hernandez was open to coming back to the team for another year. I was right in a sense, the Diamondbacks were a lead story not only on the sports page but in the news section as well.

The San Francisco Chronicle posted a story from a confidential source that Mariners outfielder Jose Guillen, retired pitcher Ismael Valdez and retired infielder Matt Williams each purchased Human Growth Hormone between 2002 and 2005. To Diamondbacks fans the name that leapt off the page was that of Matt Williams. This is the same Matt Williams who in 1997 was playing in the World Series for the Cleveland Indians while dealing with a divorce in his personal life. At the end of that season he approached Cleveland management asking them to trade him to the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks. His reason for wanting to go from a team poised to return to the post season to an expansion team that hoped to avoid losing 100 games in its first season? Matt Williams had two young children who wanted to be with their father. The early morning or late evening flights from Phoenix where the children lived to Cleveland where their father worked was just too much for the kids to bear. So rather than jeopardize his family Matt Williams was going to give up his professional dreams for the sake of his kids. The trade was agreed upon and Williams became the de facto captain of the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Jay Bell. Owner Jerry Colangelo attempted to surround Bell and Williams with additional veterans in 1999 and built a team that would end up winning the 2001 World Series.

In the spring of 2002 Matt Williams was struggling in Spring Training. By the final game before the opening of the season he had finally gotten his game to a point where he looked comfortable at the plate. In the last game before the team left Tucson for Phoenix; Matt Williams was at the plate against the Colorado Rockies. He fouled a ball straight down striking him on the foot breaking a bone. He immediately went down in agony from the pain. I happened to be at that game and saw the doctors rush out and diagnose the foot as broken. Williams would spend most of that season trying to recover from this injury but was never the same again. The following year Matt Williams continued to struggle and was released during the season ending his playing career. The Chronicle story stated that Williams purchased HGH from a clinic in Palm Beach that has been linked to other players who have taken hormones and steroids. Matt Williams was approached by the paper and asked to comment. Williams stated that he took the HGH on the advice from a doctor but quickly discontinued it use when he didn’t like how the treatment made him feel.

We obviously just learned of this. Matt informed us that a doctor recommended its use to help heal his ankle injury. It was a substance that he was not familiar with at the time, and according to him, did not like its effects after sampling. He discontinued the use of it and retired the next season. Matt is a stand-up guy, who without hesitation, admitted using it and not liking it. There is no doubt in our minds that Matt would decline such a recommendation today, knowing what we all know about enhancing substances.

Derrick Hall – President Arizona Diamondbacks

Here is an instance where a player has retired from the game and during the time in question was recovering from an injury. His statistics were declining and even further deteriorated during the time period he was supposedly taking HGH. At the time of this incident HGH was not a banned substance by baseball. Now five years after this occurred the newspaper decides it is newsworthy. The question I think a lot of fans are starting to ask is when is enough, enough? At what point do we cease to care about how deeply the steroids investigation goes? We are now seeing things brought up before they were wrong from the perspective of the rules of baseball and when they could be prescribed as valid medical treatment yet the media treats these instances as if they have uncovered a deep dark secret that is destroying baseball. Maybe I should be outraged. Maybe I should feel as though the game is a mockery and no one plays by the rules. The problem is that the way the media and baseball has handled this situation I just don’t care anymore. All of the records set during this questionable era of baseball will someday go by the wayside. For some it will happen in my lifetime for others it may take longer. The point is that for the overall good of the game it probably doesn’t matter. I just want to go to the ballpark and enjoy the game. I don’t want to look at every player or every play and question whether the result was natural or enhanced. When I didn’t know anything about steroids I went to the game and watched as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire challenged Roger Maris’ record. It brought joy to my life. Now every time I see someone make an incredible play the media has programmed me to question whether the play or the player was real. I hate feeling like that. If someone polled me today and asked me if steroids were ruining baseball I would honestly answer no, the media is ruining baseball. Players taking steroids is probably no more damaging to the game than spit balls or corked bats. Since the beginning of time players have tried to gain an edge. Right now it might be chemical tomorrow it will be something else. Sometimes having more information is better it’s just more cynical.

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