In between a humanitarian/World Baseball Classic training mission to his homeland of the Dominican Republic this month and reporting to spring training this coming weekend, Albert Pujols made an appearance at a baseball clinic in Kansas City on Thursday.
While in the Dominican, among the WBC players with whom Pujols worked out was embattled New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the current flashpoint for an entire generation of baseball’s mistakes. The two are pictured here together on February 3 of this year.
The world’s desire for juicy tidbits to report on the situation has meant everyone from Yankees captain Derek Jeter to the most obscure clubhouse boys are getting microphones pushed in their face, looking for any kind of A-Rod reaction.
Jeter, who became very savvy with the New York press as a survival vehicle, has made it clear he is not going to discuss Rodriguez until all reporters have arrived in Yankees camp.
He is really smart. Like A-Rod himself, just cover it once and try to move on.
What about Pujols?
Like seemingly every one of the 2000 or more players that will be reporting to WBC and major league spring training camps this coming week, the Cardinals star was asked while in Kansas City to comment on the scandal.
Being the wary individual that he is, Pujols answered, but didn’t.
“I’m making no comment about that,” Pujols told the Kansas City Star.
Of course, Albert couldn’t stop there. He had to say a bit more to qualify himself.
“That’s one thing I learned. Every time I say something, if I try to stick (up) for one side, they always try to throw me in the heap. So I don’t want to comment on that,” Pujols wisely observed.
He probably should have stopped there.
The final sentence of the quote was clearly well-intended, but seems naive.
“I’m just glad nobody on my team has had problems with that,” was Pujols’ conclusion.
Now, I interpret that to mean that Pujols is simply relieved that none of his Cardinals teammates are in today’s news for steroids-related transgressions. That way, Albert won’t have to deal with the numerous associated distractions as he prepares for the 2009 season.
I get that.
I am not picking on Albert’s words here, but using them to make another related point.
One might make another interpretation from the remarks that the Cardinals have been conflict-free with regard to steroid-related accusations.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that the news is yesterday’s, not today’s.
At least three stalwarts on the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals have been in the news in recent times for steroids-related issues. They include reliever Ryan Franklin, outfielder Rick Ankiel and third baseman Troy Glaus.
While with Seattle, Franklin was suspended for ten games during the 2005 season for violating MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. He denied any knowledge.
“There’s got to be a flaw in the system. I have no clue. I tested in [early] May and again three weeks later. The first was positive, the second was negative,” Franklin said at the time.
I am unaware of any more recent accusations against him.
In 2007, Ankiel was identified as having received a year’s supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from an internet pharmacy under investigation. Ankiel stated that any medications he took were prescribed by his physicians.
As part of the same 2007 disclosures, Glaus, a former World Series MVP and four-time All-Star, was fingered as having received multiple shipments of performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 and 2004 via a California anti-aging clinic, filled by the same Florida pharmacy linked to Ankiel.
Both the Franklin and Glaus incidents allegedly occurred before they joined St. Louis, information the club was aware of before bringing the players in. Yet there are others accused that may have been Cardinals at the time of use, but have since moved on.
I bring this up not to dredge up old dirt, but to remind us of the pervasive nature of baseball’s problem.
So maybe none of Albert’s teammates have problems in the headlines today, but what about the other 103 players who tested positive in the 2003 supposedly-anonymous testing?
Given there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, sheer probability would indicate that three or four Cardinals could be among those 103 still unnamed offenders. They might be players already knocked down, or there could be other hidden surprises.
Here is hoping that those names are not released and baseball can move ahead to try once again to heal its newly-reopened wounds.
Here is hoping that Pujols’ relief over the fact that his teammates names (or his own) are not on the front pages continues.
On the other hand, anyone, whether players, officials, fans, broadcasters, or writers who think an A-Rod-like mess couldn’t happen on “their” team today, tomorrow or next week are completely out of touch with reality.