"They are talking about six years ago," Joe Torre was quoted as saying in The New York Times on the subject of Manny Ramirez appearing on the infamous 2003 steroid user list. "It's ancient history."
You've got to love Joe. Joe put up with The Boss when he was still a tyrant. Joe was the serene manager of those championship teams. But Joe, your Manny, and he is your Manny now, wasn't only caught using six years ago, although he was a user then, he was caught using again recently. It's not ancient history at all.
The baseball owners colluded to control free agent salaries. In retaliation the union flexed its muscle and helped create stratospheric compensation from the lowest to the highest paid ballplayers. The newly empowered union under Donald Fehr with the capacity to shut down the game battled ferociously against drug testing. With Bud Selig as commissioner, the owners got drunk on home runs and enhanced performances which boosted attendance. Law-abiding, clean ballplayers were playing on an uneven playing field, but getting rich beyond their fantasies and developed an insidious wall of silence about steroid use in the locker rooms.
Baseball beat writers are beginning to ask about the so-called good ballplayers and where they were while baseball and its statistics and history were diminished, while the marquee players who used were tipping the balance of the sport and the union protected them. Where were players like Cal Ripken, Gregg Maddux, Derek Jeter, why didn't they pressure the union to allow more stringent testing, why didn't they organize others of integrity?
And where were the managers, so attuned to the physical characteristics and physical conditions of their players that they make subtle decisions, who hits, who sits, who pitches and when, who stays in, who comes out. We know why they didn't speak out about steroid use, the owners who employed them were condoning the practice. And their ballplayers were going along with it. And maybe, just maybe they knew they were benefiting in their careers from the steroid-enhanced performances of their players.
But why can't a manager like Joe Torre speak out now? Sadly, about the names being revealed from the 2003 list, Joe Torre told The Times, "It's something that certain people have access to and they are choosing to systematically have fun with what they are doing with it." Joe, the leaks aren't the issue. People are still using. We know because some of them are getting caught. Yet testing in baseball still doesn't come close to Olympics Games or cycling standards.
The Yankee locker room on Joe Torre's watch was the very opposite of a steroid-free zone. To quote the Times again, "The list of Yankees who either admitted to or are accused of doping includes Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettite, Chuck Knoblauch, Jason Giambi, Jason Grimsley and Roger Clemens."
If there's still work to be done in cleaning up the sport, saying it's ancient history and blaming the messenger doesn't help. We really don't know whether you were an enabler in the locker room, Joe, but don't be an enabler in print.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more