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As I rolled out of bed early Sunday morning, I expected your average day. As always I was getting ready for our shows on ESPN Radio that day, but in the back of my mind I was hoping to get out early enough to enjoy the beautiful July weather.
It’s tough to prepare for what is going to happen on any given day, but I didn’t expect what would happen on Sunday morning to set off fireworks within the Red Sox organization.
As the other producer and I sat down to prepare for the Mike Lupica Show, of which we both work every Sunday, we perused headlines that we could potentially discuss. Mike isn’t exactly a guy that needs a ton of information fed to him, he’s an encyclopedia of knowledge and never short on opinion, but we like to make sure we’ve got everything covered.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had planned to come on the show days before. Buck and Mike have long been friends, especially with Buck doing a stint here at ESPN a few years back. Not only is he one of the most respected managers in the game, but he’s always been candid with the media, so we routinely enjoy having him on.
One thing jumped out to us that we knew we needed to bring up with him during the interview. Following the Red Sox loss to the Orioles at home on Saturday night, starting pitcher John Lackey was asked about the performance of Orioles first baseman Nelson Cruz, who went 5-for-5 and came up inches short of the cycle.
“I’m not even going to comment on him. I’ve got nothing to say about him,” Lackey said. “There are things I’d like to say, but I’m not going to. You guys (the media) forget pretty conveniently about that stuff.”
It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize Lackey was referring to Cruz, who was busted in the Biogenesis investigation and served a 50-game suspension for PED use last season. He now leads the majors in home runs and RBIs.
It may have been the loudest “no comment” we’ve heard in a very long time.
As I sit in the studio with Mike during the Showalter interview, his first legitimate question is about Lackey’s “no comment”.
“I think everybody needs to make sure that their own backyard’s real clean,” Showalter fired back.
Eyebrows raised, Mike and I both looked at each other simultaneously as if to say “wow”.
Again, no psychologist needed, Showalter was referring to David Ortiz, plain and simple. Showalter doesn’t like Ortiz, has never liked Ortiz, and will never like Ortiz. He didn’t stop there.
“There are so many insinuations about people in every club. You usually don’t hear those comments after a shutout or something,” Showalter continued later on, referring to pitchers. “I mean (Lackey’s) doing really well. He’s up throwing 93, 95 again and he’s got the top ERA in the American League, which with the DH means in all of baseball. He’s a good pitcher… (awkward pause)… so… (awkward pause)… God bless him…”
More shots fired.
Mike then responded. “I wonder how he would feel if Nelson Cruz was a member of his team and hit all those home runs.”
“Maybe someone like that might be. He might want to be careful,” Showalter said.
Gun clip emptied.
As I sat in the studio with my jaw slowly inching it’s way to the floor the more Showalter talked, I managed to pick it back up and turn my microphone on to the control room.
“Hmm, I wonder who he was talking about there?” I said sarcastically.
By the way, you can listen to the full interview here and I suggest you do.
Word about the interview spread like wildfire throughout baseball. PED talk has always been the biggest topic in the sport, especially within situations where fingers are being pointed with no real proof.
Here’s the difference with Nelson and Ortiz: Nelson has been convicted of using PEDs, Ortiz has not.
At some point, talking heads on the MLB Network were discussing Showalter’s comments from our show. Apparently, one of them mentioned Ortiz by name (which, to be fair, he was not mentioned by name during the interview. Although, let’s be real, we all knew it) and talked about him getting a “free pass” regarding PED use in the past.
Ortiz’ name was reported to be amongst 100 MLB players who allegedly tested positive for PEDs back in 2003. The test was before the league implemented it’s drug-testing policy and was supposed to remain anonymous.
The comments on MLB Network set off Ortiz, who went on a rant when he talked to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
"What pissed me off about the whole thing is, why does my name have to be mentioned in that? What did I have to do with that?” Ortiz started. “In this country, nobody get’s a free pass. He wants to make it sound like I got a free pass because nobody can point fingers at me directly. The reason why I got the 'free pass' he said is because they point the finger at me with no proof."
“Bulls***, I call straight-up bulls***. You don’t get a free pass, especially a guy like me. That free pass bulls*** that they want to talk about? They can shove it up their a**."
“There’s a reason why I’ve been drug tested already eight times and we’re not even at the break yet. Is that a free pass? There’s a reason why I’ve been tested 40 times since they’ve approved the (new MLB drug) policy. Is that a free pass?”
I think it’s safe to say Ortiz’ name getting dragged into the situation has him a little upset. And honestly, who can blame him?
Listen, we live in an era of baseball where, if you’re a big time player, you’re innocent until proven guilty when it comes to PED use in the court of public opinion. Guys like Bonds, A-Rod, McGuire, Sosa, Clemens etc. all implemented the thought in our minds that if you’re a good player, you’re juicing. Is it fair? No. Is it reality? Very much so.
Since being rumored to be on the list of PED users in 2003, Ortiz’ name wont disappear from current PED talks. Last I checked, 2003 was 11 years ago, and was the league has implemented heavy testing since then. Ortiz has never tested positive under league testing.
We’ve reached a point now where it’s time to move on from PED talk of the past. Bringing up alleged PED users from over a decade ago to help justify use in today’s game has zero bearing whatsoever.
Everyone in baseball today understands the rules of PED use. If you choose to ignore the rules, like Cruz, you have to face the consequences of that. Bringing up the finger pointing witch hunt of 2003 is nothing but sour grapes and it makes you look foolish.