Chris Young was a 2007 National League All-Star pitching excellently for the Padres who became a 2008 YouTube All-Star taking an Albert Pujols line drive to the face. In the 2009, he's got something else on his mind: justice. Perhaps influenced by his wife, fellow Princeton grad and current law student Elizabeth Patrick (granddaughter of Lester Patrick, who was the namesake of the National Hockey League's Patrick Division and the Lester Patrick Trophy), Young recently chose to vocalize what most non-performance enhancing drug taking players have been thinking for a while, which is, the statistically inflated drug-taking cheats have been stealing their money! Usually the one bringing the heat, Young's honesty has put him on the hot seat. When I spoke with him by telephone, the Padres right-hander made an even more courageous pitch for fairness in baseball.
In the wake of the Alex Rodriguez revelation you recently told the San Diego Tribune "Not only are the guys that cheat the game cheating themselves, they're cheating their teammates and other players. At the end of the day, those (inflated numbers) are contracts for guys. They're numbers, whether its arbitration or free agency, that are significant. They made money off of people's losses. There are only so many dollars out there." So, why don't clean players who've unfairly suffered sue the dirty players who unfairly profited?
I've wondered that myself. I mean that's something that has crossed my mind. I think there is potential for a class action lawsuit. I don't know why guys haven't done it yet.
I like the class action idea, but I could also see a cause of action for individual players. For example, in 1988 and admittedly steroidal Jose Canseco won the AL MVP while Mike Greenwell, who had a career year, was the runner-up. What would it have meant to Mike Greenwell's contract if he had won the MVP?
Yeah, it's just one of those things. I guess you could go over the history of sports and figure out who's done what to whom and who cheated over time. But I guess some people would argue it's just the nature of the game and the nature of sports. People are always looking for a competitive edge.
Yes, but as you've noted the game at this level is a business. In any other business if someone uses an unfair trade practice or tortiously interferes with another's business you can sue for damages. Everybody in professional baseball is in business. What about the pitchers who's salaries were hurt because their numbers were impacted by juiced hitters or pitching coaches who lost their jobs because their staffs underperformed?
I guess the counterargument would be that performance enhancing drugs were not outlawed by the game until 2004. So, even though they were against the law, technically players who were taking those drugs weren't doing anything wrong according to the rules of the game. It's not that I agree with that, but it's a counterargument.
My counterargument to that: if there was nothing "wrong" with it, they wouldn't have kept it a secret.
Look I agree with you 100%. It's wrong. A lot of people suffered and a lot of people gained by cheating. But I think it's something baseball is working to clean up. And I think it's been a successful dug testing program since 2004. It's still not 100% foolproof and there's still things out there. I think as long as the game exists people are going to look for ways to cheat the system.
That "system" is a multi-billion dollar industry called Major League Baseball. And like other industries, Baseball has a union. The MLPA says they are protecting their members when they fight to protect against punishing players who use performance enhancing drugs. But when most of their members are unfairly losing money because a minority of their members are taking unfair advantages, why isn't that seen as gross negligence - failure of their fiduciary duty to their membership -- on the part of the MLPA? Why isn't there a revolt?
Again Dave, the counterargument from the players union would be that some of these guys who did performance enhancing drugs set the salary bar higher for other players and therefore raised salaries on whole from their performances whether they were legal or illegal. So the median salary went up. It's a touchy subject. To be honest, I'm not extremely conformable talking about it because I said those things a few weeks ago and from there I've just tried to move on. I've gotten a lot of attention and lot of focus and at this point I don't think we get past it unless we start looking forward.
Then let me just ask you this: When Alex Rodriguez was asked in his press conference whether taking performance enhancing drugs is cheating, he said that was not for him to decide. What do you think of an answer like that?
In my opinion it is cheating. I think that's a very vague answer from him. I'm very disappointed in that answer. I think a lot of fellow players are disappointed. I think we see right through him when he says something like that.
There's been a lot of recent high profile outings. What bothers me is that instead of someone like A-Rod or Jose Canseco or Roger Clemens being shunned they just get more press, more books written about them, more magazine covers and more spots on reality shows and talk shows. Why aren't we turning the microphone over to the Mike Greenwell's who were robbed by these guys?
I think that's consistent with American society and the media -- what the media fixates on, which is often the villain type characters. Which is unfortunate, because for every bad guy out there, there are 100 good ones. There are a 100 players doing the right thing for every one bad one. You gotta remember when they implemented this test in 2003 just over 5% tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. That means 94% of the players weren't doing it but yet that's what the media chooses to focus on.
You ever see the movie Serpico?
No, I haven't.
It told the story of the honest cop in New York City in the 70's who broke the blue wall of silence which is all about not ratting a fellow cop. I think it's gotta be the same thing with professional baseball players. It must be difficult for honest players to come forward. How hard was it for you to step up and say "This is wrong?"
I think it needs to voiced. I think as players we have the responsibility to say we don't stand for this and we don't want to be grouped into this with the few players that have done and are doing performance enhancing drugs. I don't want the connotation to be that every baseball player is on steroids. That's ridiculous. You can look across any profession, now matter what it is. Look at Wall Street. There's just as many criminals out there as there are playing major league baseball. These people are cheating, breaking the rules or doing whatever they can to get ahead. It's not something unique to baseball. This is something that's in every aspect of life but people fixate on baseball. How come the NFL doesn't have the same steroid problem baseball does? Guys get suspended for performance enhancing drugs in the NFL and they're back playing in the Pro Bowl. It's swept under the rug and people don't even remember it. For whatever reason people choose to harp on baseball. Maybe that's because baseball is held to a higher standard, and that's a good thing.
You're 6'10" which is a very big advantage for a pitcher. Have you ever been asked to play in a 6'5" and over league just to level the playing field?
No I haven't. (laughing) Height is certainly a big advantage that's allowed me to perform at this level. And in other ways it makes it tough for me. Mechanically it makes it tough.
Did you ever form a support group of you, Randy Johnson, C.C. Sabathia and other very tall pitchers to talk about your feelings?
I've talked to Randy on multiple occasions. He's been very outgoing and generous, offering advice from his career and experience - thing he has found will benefit me. I'm extremely grateful to him for reaching out to me the past four or five years.
It's been refreshing to talk to you, Chris.
Same here. Look, I'm very opinionated and passionate because this is an important subject to me. But at the same time I don't want it define my season or Major League Baseball on the whole. I want to get past this and I want to move on. I think the game has gone in the right direction I think the drug testing program has worked. We're talking about things that happened before the 2004 season with A-Rod and a lot of the other players. So with the program in place now, if you are cheating you are going to get caught.
For what its worth, when more guys like you and Derek Jeter stand up and say "most of us aren't doing this" I think that makes it go away a lot faster than when we hear from nobody but the cheaters.
You're absolutely right and I think we have a responsibility to stand up and say that and make sure the American public and the world is educated that in baseball the majority of us do not cheat. We play by the rules and we play fairly. Don't group us all the same category s with the few who have broken the rules.
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