"I'm Mad as Hell, and I won't Take It Anymore"

08/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Roger I. Abrams Richardson Professor of Law, Northeastern University; Author

With apologies to Peter Finch's screed in Network, I have had it with the steroid controversy in baseball. Yesterday, I received a phone call from a reporter asking me if a ballplayer had any recourse when it is publicly disclosed that six years ago he tested positive for steroids.

I had spent the entire day away from my office and my computer, and so I was unaware of the latest bombshell about David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. After we chatted for a while, I just happened to ask why he was calling me now when this was such old news. "Didn't you hear?" "Hear what?" "About Manny and Big Papi." The news made me nauseous. I ran to the window (figuratively) and screamed: "I'm mad as hell, and I won't take it anymore."

Off in the distance, I could hear Commissioner Bud Selig (whose 75th birthday was yesterday -- happy birthday, Bud) and Mike Weiner (soon to be the Executive Director of the MLB Players Association) singing out in harmony: "I'm mad as hell, and I won't take it anymore."

Boston is officially pissed off -- that is a legal term -- about the disclosure. I have never seen a player more beloved by the fans than David Ortiz. While he struggled at the plate for two months at the beginning of the season, each member of Red Sox Nation struggled with him, willing him onward against the storm. When he hit his first home run on May 20, a packed Fenway Park gave him a standing ovation and called him out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Now this nasty news hits the front pages. As I warned a while back in writing about Sammy Sosa, we have become victims of disclosure water boarding. Even University of California-Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo would have to conclude that this is torture. What then do we do about it? It is one thing to call on the media not to report what is clearly news. You cannot blame the New York Times for the disclosure. If the Times had said no, the New York Post would have said yes. Although our newspapers are dying a slow death, there is no dearth of media outlets.

Someone has the list of the remaining one hundred players who tested positive. No one seems interested in outing these leaking law breakers. We are not talking about Dan Ellsberg disclosing the Pentagon Papers to save our country from the perfidy of Vietnam, but rather some renegade lawyers out to destroy baseball drip by drip. I have not been able to figure out what their motive is. Are they upset that their years of work have not yet landed a big fish like Barry Bonds? Are they insulted by the fact that some baseball players cheated? If they are lawyers, disclosing this confidential information under court seal is a crime. The perpetrators should be disbarred in the very least.

Manny has sloughed off the disclosure, but Big Papi immediately and publicly said he was first going to check with the Players Association to see if his name was on the list (it was) and then find out what the positive test showed. That would not be the conduct of someone who knew he had been taking bad stuff, especially someone like Ortiz who has been so open about his criticism of those who enhanced their performance through chemistry. That does not mean that Papi was a false positive. We need more information.

We don't need more information about this entire contretemps to say that we have had enough. It is time to take control. MLB and the MLBPA can agree to end this dripping mess by disclosing the entire list, as I have recommended on this blog before. Each named player should be given the opportunity to respond as a matter of simple fairness. Most, of course, are out of baseball by now. There are lots of people who deserve part of the fault for this mess, but doing nothing in the face of these insidious leaks would be a far greater crime.
Yogi Berra told us that when we came to a fork in the road, we should take it. There's the fork. Stick it in. It's done. Clean up this mess once and for all.