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Liveblogging The Hearings, Part II
2005-03-17 13:30
by Will Carroll
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

What follows is the second part of my tivoblogging of the Congressional Hearings on Steroids. These are simply my immediate thoughts on the proceedings and I should have something up today with more analysis and commentary on the proceedings. This section covers both the players and the management panels. Please, be sure to make your comments in, um, comments.

The players are starting. I'll be way behind due to a flood of interviews. Blanketing Canada is hard work, man :)

Jose, what happened to your advocacy of steroids? Why are you backing off and, as my pal Tom Gorman of Fogball says, "calling it a problem?" Jose looks very nervous, much worse than he's been in his various and sundry media appearances.

Palmeiro is coming off as very credible. He's strong, unequivocal, and not nervous in the slightest. I still want to hear him talk about growing up with Canseco.

Wow, I didn't expect to see Schilling backing off his steroid discussions of the past. Calling himself wrong and grossly overstated is a big reversal, something that has to surprise some of the Congressmen who called him. Waxman was certainly taken aback.

Someone's going to call Canseco a liar here pretty quick. Palmeiro came close in his opening statement. (jumping back up. See, Schilling called him a liar!)

Trainers keep getting pulled in to the discussion. I wish there would be a name change for Athletic Trainers so there's no confusion if we're talking about athletic trainers or personal trainers. In Canada, they're athletic therapists. I've always liked that.

(Ooh, Ottawa is doing my interview live. I like live better. Nothing to do with the hearings, I just wanted to let the people reading this know.)

I'd love to know who suggested to Waxman that there should be a Unified Drug Policy. I have some suspicisions and will try to run that down. Canseco's take on the UDP/WADA plan was pretty sad. McGwire was evasive and I feel old seeing him with the reading glasses and greying beard.

Do we really want a Unified Policy? You want to put the NFL, NBA, and MLB on the same footing, that's one thing. You want to force it on high schools and colleges, there had better be a significant funding solution. I don't think it's tenable and it's likely to be an unfunded mandate. Using the Olympic standard as some lofty goal is also a joke. Victor Conte calls the Olympics a "chemical circus."

Sweeney (R-NY) just vaguely suggested that the way he would fund it would be some sort of tax on owners and players. Schilling had a nice response, but the fastest way to kill this whole thing would be attempting to force the players and owners to write checks to someone they may see as their enemy.

Putting precursors and designer steroids in the same sentence is poor. McGwire's evasive "I'm not hear to talk about the past" is even worse. I'd rather he took the Fifth. I think it's equally damaging.

Cummings (D-MD) is calling Canseco on his pro-steroid take. Canseco's backing off it, reversing field and hurting his credibility. His answers are laughable. "Are you for a zero tolerance policy," he's asked. "Absolutely," Canseco says.

Davis is trying to save McGwire from taking the Fifth and Cummings is having none of it. I'll give McGwire some points for being direct. I'd like to hear more about his foundation. Is it actually doing anything? Where has the money gone? Not just McGwire, who I would bet is doing some good, but all these vanity foundations. This is one I wish Doug Pappas could handle.

Nice question by Miller, asking Canseco if testing would have kept him from using steroids. Selig is over Canseco's shoulder as Canseco calls his policy a joke. Nice face, Bud. Canseco's answer isn't very lucid. Now Dan Burton is in there again as Mr. Obvious, saying steroids need to be banned. Indiana is coming off very poorly today. I wouldn't trust Dan Burton to find his ass with both hands, let alone control athletic drug testing.

Lantos is back up again and I feel the Holocaust tension again. It's hard to criticize him despite him being as ridiculous as the rest of them. The problem is that it's the same sort of emotional response that gives Hooton and the other parents a pass. We don't want to criticize someone that's had a tragedy, from something huge like the Shoah to something relatively small like the suicide of a child. Unfortunately, both reactions are getting in the way of facts today. We're losing objectivity in the face of dead children and doing them a disservice because of it.

"Major national crisis." Again, how many kids were lost to drunk drivers? Illicit drugs? The Iraqi war? Schilling stood up to Lantos' 'yes or no' mandate. Only Sosa has given a simple yes. Sammy isn't coming off well, mostly due to the language barrier, I think.

Rob Manfred visibly cringed when all players responded positively to the idea of a third-party handling the testing program. He was hidden from view when the players then said that they'd welcome legislation.

Souder (R-IN) is reaching new levels of douchebaggery. I'm getting emails about him. He's not my Congressman, okay. I have the other douchebag to deal with. Souder's calling for public outing of the 2003 and 2004 results. I know that the committee has the list and expected it to leak today. He's calling for a public "pledge", for players to say "I'm clean."

Who's this guy - Patrick McHenry (R-NC). He hasn't been there all day and now he comes in this late and makes his opening statement. I guess its a good name for a Congressman, if nothing else. Heck, he can't even spit out his "is steroids cheating?" question. McGwire evaded the question poorly. What does he mean it's not for him to determine? Of course it's cheating. It's against the rules.

"Steroids is bad," says McGwire, channelling South Park. Good lord. He's not coming off ... wait, did McHenry just ask "How do you know they're bad?" Are you flippin' serious? If that's a trap, it's not a good one. Maybe he's chanelling South Park as well. Davis steps in and McGwire comes just short of taking the Fifth. McHenry asks another twerpish question, another run at the asterisk question. Sosa and McGwire are evasive, but it's a stupid question. McHenry asks if they tried to set policy with the Union. Oh sure, someone step up and kick this guy in the balls. Palmeiro is coming off well. He seems more like a lawyer than a player and that's a compliment in this case.

What kind of name is Edolphus? He looks like Bif Henderson from the Letterman show, so I can't take his questions seriously. Wait, Bif just suggested putting up posters. That jumps into the lead for Most Dumbass Suggestion of the Day.

Schilling kicks Canseco for "loose tongue." Canseco is no better at extemporaneous speaking than he is at catching a ball with his head. At some point, his lawyer needs to shut Jose up, but he hasn't done it yet. Schilling kicks at Canseco again. Methinks he doesn't like a rat.

Do those aides do anything, or do they just sit there?

Heh. Davis admits that "we don't do things very well when we're forced to act." Frame that.

"Testing for all levels, for all sexes, male, female, or otherwise." There's a joke there. Kanjorski's "smart pill" analogy is not something you should ask to Jose Canseco. Heck, I'm not sure you really want to ask that question to the Congressmen. (Issa came back to this one.)

10man in comments has a great point. Jose can't sell books, so he's not going to advocate steroids in this venue. His credibility is based on his ability to make a buck. That doesn't make him wrong, just questionable.

Can we quit making guys like Hank Aaron - who's admitted using amphetamines regularly - sound like the paragon of virtue? The good ol' days weren't so good if you really look closely.

There should be some rule about asking the same question someone just asked. I know they aren't really paying attention unless the camera is pointing at them, but couldn't Davis or Waxman say "hey, asked and answered." It could save some frickin' time.

Sanders(I-VT) actually brings up grandstanding. Good for him. I'm going to have to find out more about this guy. His rant about media only paying attention to this issue was great. He has my vote. Schilling called Canseco a liar - finally, I knew this was coming. Good call by Schilling to say that the testing is accurate. Another good statement by Palmeiro to say that 1% is too high. Canseco trotted out his idiotic 80% again and Schilling gives a great headshake. Curt would make a good actor ... or politician.

Sneaking in an aluminum bat. Now I'd really like to see someone try that. "No, blue, it's wood. Russian ping tree."

Really. I don't mean to talk politics and I know he's got some good issues, but who are they running against Dennis Kucinich that allows him to win? Yes, I know there's a big incumbency advantage, but come on. It's Dennis Kucinich. Of course, as I typed that, he made a nice anti-win at all cost rant that called society on the carpet. Whoa- busted out the Spanish to ask Sammy a question. Danny Davis has that voice of God voice that probably sounds good when he's prattling crap, but really, is Kucinich's district so advanced that they listened to the issues?

Pete Rose again! This Dent (R-PA) seems very bent by stadium subsidies. Why didn't he do something about it when the teams were begging for money? Does anyone really think there's a valid comparison between Rose's gambling and steroid usage?

Souder again scales the heights of douchebaggery. More drug testing for a financially strapped franchise? Old player has a good season? This is the kind of stuff that just shreds whats left of the Constitution. He breaks down civil rights in the name of ... well, what exactly? I think he just likes testing because he got away with it once at Lafayette McCutcheon in the late 80s. That precedent setting decision now allows testing for any extracurricular activities. We test truck drivers because a stoned truck driver might run into something and kill innocents. What might a juiced up player do to public safety? This is ludicrous.

First mention of Canseco's back problems and elbow surgery. I've often wondered if the steroid use weakened his UCL and led to his Tommy John.

Shays ... dude, we get it. The "or clause" is a problem.

YES! Lynch (D-MA) finally calls Canseco on the switch in tone between his book and today. I really think Canseco damaged his credibility with the switch. He's changed his mind - holy crap, someone play the tape of his interview with Bill Maher from just a few weeks ago. Better yet, get Steve Kettman on the line or someone at Regan Books.

It's nice to see Rob Manfred speak. Among everyone I've spoken to, he's among the smartest and most respected people at Park. He also did a great job with the last CBA negotiations for the owners. The idea that Manfred and Fehr are agreeing on "everything I am about to say" has to be some sort of positive. Both Selig and Manfred seem very strong about the "or clause" being a remnant of the previous agreement. Honestly, I believe them.

Manfred came off very well discussing boldenone, DHEA, and masking agents. Wadler had earlier kicked the MLB policy as weak on diuretics. Manfred came off strong on this. Manfred also came back on hGH with a strong refutation of Wadler's assertions. I wish Wadler was on this panel to see his reaction. Put him next to Green, Ayotte or even Manfred and he's going to come off much worse.

Good call by Fehr to chuck his prepared remarks and speak off the cuff. He's good at it and he comes off as very credible, yet still substantive. If I had something to negotiate, I'm not sure if I'd hire Fehr or Scott Boras, but I don't think I'd go wrong with either one. Fehr's statement was pretty bland, but effective.

Sandy Alderson is up and has some great points. Canseco was BA's #1 rated prospect even before his self-reported steroid use. I hope I'm watching the next Commissioner of baseball. His statement reads like Jay Jaffe's chapter of "The Juice." There's a lot of good stuff in the book, but it's Jay's chapter that I think will connect with a lot of people.

We've really wasted a lot of time on this "or clause."

Interesting - hadn't heard that the suspensions would be put into eBIS, baseball's transaction system. It would be very difficult for that not to get released. It's this system (a relatively new one) that handles waivers and trades.

Waxman almost asked the Fred Thompson question - what did baseball know and when did they know it? The fact is that baseball couldn't do anything without bargaining for that right. Selig was, in fact, powerless on this issue. Whoops ... the Nightengale article from '95 makes Bud's '98 epiphany seem off. ESPN's been slamming that one down our throat all day. Bud should have someone watching that should tell him and fact-check him.

Waxman's asking if the 'best interest of the game' clause could have been used to unilaterally enforce testing. This is an absolute joke for anyone with a basic understanding of collective bargaining. Selig is no Landis and Landis didn't have Don Fehr to contend with.

Wow, didn't expect to hear Manny Alexander's name today. Alexander's been in the minor leagues for a couple years where the testing policy has been stricter. This is a pretty interesting question and led to an interesting answer. Manfred actually gave out an individual result. Ok, we DID learn something today. Manny Alexander was clean!

Anthony asks in comments what Manfred said about hGH. Manfred stated that there are no available valid blood tests for hGH, something Wadler and the WADA contends is valid. Scientists are on both sides of the issue, but I do not believe that we should be using tests that aren't airtight.

Kevin Towers is sitting there because he was honest. No one's asking him questions. I feel for him.

"I've been sitting here for eight or nine hours and I'm still not clear on this testing program." - Cummings (D-MD) Ladies and gentleman, your elected officials. It's time to set the bar higher.

Souder's being a jerk again. He could show up at my door carrying a big check and telling me I won the Powerball and I still think I'd punch him in the nose. He's pontificating, pandering and grandstanding all at once, giving him the douchebag triple crown. He can't even bother with pronouncing Steve Bechler's name right. Wow, Bud just made the Home Alone face. I'm becoming a fan of Rob Manfred with his every new response.

Who's the guy over Manfred's shoulder, next to Bob DuPuy?

Selig's lost credibility on the '98 timeframe, but I'm still buying what he's saying. Congress keeps running back to the idea that we can come up with evidence from the 90's that simply doesn't exist.

(YES! Texas got beat. That's always a good thing.)

Waxman thinks Selig = Landis. He's not, flat out, and he's not supposed to be. Selig is the owner's man and until very recently an owner himself. If Congress really wants an independent Commissioner, that might be the thing they'd have to legislate back into existence.

(I can't believe I've been doing this for the better portion of twelve hours. Then I have to do an article on the proceedings. Shoot me.)

Hey - Towers gets to talk. There's been nothing substantive in the last hour. Kucinich made a nice run at the "protecting your investment" line of thinking. It didn't work, but it was a nice effort at trying to get at something.

Selig = Landis. Rose = Canseco. Gambling = Steroids. There's a lot of bad equations in the Congressmen's heads. I'm really not sure where this comes from. Are they simply naive or is this a more widely held position than I think?

Insulin is on the big poster of substances that this committee thinks needs to be added to the banned list. You can see the problems that might be raised if this is pushed through. Special circumstances and zero tolerance are not compatible concepts.

Watson (D-CA) admits there's nothing left to ask. That's not going to stop Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa's trying to bust the union, no question. That's pretty pathetic, but that's proven to be his MO. It's got to be tough on Fehr to not get up and throttle this guy.

Kevin Towers is an owner ... ummm, no. McHenry (R-NC) might want to figure out who he's talking with before he makes his comments. Nice of Ruppersberger (D-MD) to point out his colleagues error.

Great question - "Have you learned anything, Mr. Selig and Mr. Fehr?" Selig's answer is evasive and amounts to "no, I didn't." Good point on perception being more important than reality on the issue.

Shays (R-CT) wins the Douchebag of the Day award, despite it being hotly contested by Representatives from both sides of the aisle. Who gives a rat's ass about the draft of a week ago?

Isn't Waxman's contention that baseball has "run in place for 30 years" more reflective on Congress than on baseball? I mean, if you've been bitching about something for a while and haven't taken action, you can't really say that your bitching should have fixed things long ago.

This grandstand is finally closed.

Comments
2005-03-17 15:20:24
1.   10man
Jose (or rather his lawyers) knows that Congress is not a place where his book will sell so there is no point in pushing his previous positive stance on steroids.
2005-03-17 16:35:27
2.   TFD
Chris Shays highlights the absolute problem here. Executives of multi-billion dollar industry who are still in the process of drafting/changing/etc the main document that they have collectively bargained with their union.....Unbelievable.

And government is supposedly inept?

That, folks, is damning.

2005-03-17 17:29:09
3.   Anthony
Will, I did not see Manfred talking about hGh. Could you--or anyone who saw this part--explain what he said in refuting Wadler?
2005-03-17 18:37:13
4.   Anthony
Thanks for elaborating on the hGH point, Will. It's tough to follow the hearings and Tournament concurrently.
2005-03-17 18:40:18
5.   Derek J
TFD:

It's not really damning, it's pretty much the standard operating procedure for these owners and players.

At the time of the last CBA, back in 2002, there was a period of about four months (IIRC) between the players and owners announcing their agreement, and the draft CBA being finalized. Games were played during that time, and transactions went down, under the draft CBA.

2005-03-17 19:00:48
6.   TFD
DerekJ: "SOP for these owners and players"

exactly. that's the bar. *-egads-*

Will: It's amazing how differently we see this thing. I watch and see Selig, Manfred, and Fehr as incompetent stooges. You watch and see all the Congressmen and Congresswomen as the stooges. Young lady/old lady.

Somewhere there's a lesson in here about our lenses, I suppose.

2005-03-17 19:49:11
7.   Anthony
I thought Manfred came across very well. He answered the questions and made his position very clear. The committee members kept asking about the fine like 9,000 times after he made it entirely clear what it was about. Jeez.

Fehr handled the hearings as well as he handles everything else. Selig--well, he was a bajillion times better than at the hearings on baseball's finances in 2001. Umm...yeah, I'll give him that much.

TFD, can you point to something specific from those three that made you view them as stooges?

2005-03-17 20:33:51
8.   chris in illinois
Am I the only one whose jaw dropped when one of the elected dunces dropped the 1 in 16 teenagers is a steroid user figure??? Does anyone think that number can possibly be correct??

Maybe I'm just naive, but I find it hard to believe that here in Springfield Illinois there are 562 students taking steroids. Maybe there are entire schools somewhere taking the juice, but that 1 in 16 figure just called the entire process into question for me.

2005-03-17 21:59:04
9.   cubshistory
>Isn't Waxman's contention that baseball has "run in place for 30 years" more reflective on Congress than on baseball? I mean, if you've been bitching about something for a while and haven't taken action, you can't really say that your bitching should have fixed things long ago.

By this logic then, are you saying congess should go ahead and start passing laws that affect baseball?

2005-03-18 04:14:06
10.   Will Carroll
By that logic, yes, but I'm not advocating that position. I'm just suggesting that Waxman's position is illogical.
2005-03-18 05:29:04
11.   TFD
Anthony: Yeah, basically the fact that they came up with the lame excuse on the 'or' clause. I'm with Shays on this one, asking us to believe these high paid/high powered business executives could still be drafting this (and using the format from the previous CBA) is just plain unimaginable and frankly insulting to the intelligence of anyone who's been involved w/high level deal making.

Additionally, the Rep from Boston had the previous agreement and said it wasn't the same wording.

Manfred is clearly a VERY good lawyer - there's no doubt about that.

And...Fehr and his continued stance that the highest paid union in the world is somehow on similar grounds to what organized labor was originally formed to do (and continues to do today) is getting really tired.

Hey, I'm not saying there wasn't grandstanding by the Pols; there clearly was. But to put our heads-in-the-sand as it relates to MLB and its executives is really untenable at this point.

2005-03-18 09:00:13
12.   Rob Cook
Will, good call on Souder as a douchebag. He's the moron who crafted the law that denies college financial aid to anyone convicted of a drug-related offense, even a misdemeanor.

He's very high on the hit list of groups like DRCNet, the Marijuana Policy Project, and NORML.

2005-03-18 14:02:40
13.   cryingdutchman
Can anybody point me to any quotes or authority where Hank Aaron admitting using amphetamines? I'd like into this further. Thanks.
2005-03-18 15:25:22
14.   spycake
Is there a transcript of the steroid hearings available anywhere? I missed part of it and I'd like to see some quotes in context (if they have any).
2005-03-18 17:00:45
15.   beanbag
First, my lack of comments on Will's commentary should not be taken as an agreement with what he said. Frankly, the fact that Congress is pendatic has been confused with the fact that they have a right to hold these hearings. That said, why didn't anyone follow up on Kucinich's idea that money was to be made (and still is) from the effects steroids have on the game? Anyone else wondering this? Espn's recent poll suggests that this is a widely held belief among the public. Perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that fans like the entertainment value and results of muscle bound players, and therefore think that the owners must know this.
2005-03-18 17:12:09
16.   beanbag
here's a link to the testimonys

http://reform.house.gov/GovReform/Hearings/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=1637

2005-03-18 19:57:10
17.   cinthree
http://wfan.com/homepage/local_audioclip_077183703.html
here's an interview with the Douchebag of the Day on WFAN's Mike & the Mad Dog show. Mike & Doggie do a decent job of criticizing him. If the link doesn't work just go to www.wfan.com and you'll see a link to the interview.
2005-03-18 21:09:18
18.   Will Carroll
TFD - Jeez, don't you remember the last CBA, where they couldn't agree on what they'd agreed on for the worldwide draft? They ended up scrapping the idea rather than not finishing the CBA NEARLY A YEAR LATER. Getting high powered attorneys and negotiators like this together, I'm stunned they get anything done.

I'm now a Rob Manfred fan. I'd pay money to watch the next CBA negotiations.

2005-03-19 08:28:49
19.   spycake
"I'm now a Rob Manfred fan."

I didn't see much of his testimony, but he looked awful (I know, I know, I shouldn't judge on appearances) and he sounded frustrated and snippy, although you mention he was dealing with some congressional douchebags. In any case, I wasn't impressed by Manfred at all. He and Selig both seem to have the "people skills" of Tom Smykowski
from "Office Space" ("What the hell is wrong with you people?!").

What do you see happening after all this? What do you want to see happen? Or will that stuff be addressed in the book (although it was done prior to the hearings)?

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