This one with Ken Rosenthal on the steroid saga:
FT. MYERS, Fla - Nearly a year has passed since five of the biggest names in baseball appeared before the House Government Reform Committee to testify on performance-enhancing drugs.
Jose Canseco, author of a tell-all book on his use of steroids, seems to have exhausted his final 15 minutes of fame.
Mark McGwire, who, like Canseco, retired after the 2001 season, essentially remains in hiding.
Sammy Sosa likely is retired, according to his agents.
Rafael Palmeiro, too, seems unlikely to play again; he tested positive for steroids last season just months after pointing his finger at the committee while denying that he had ever used such drugs.
Of the five, only Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling remains an active player — his worst offense that day was his admission that he "grossly overstated" the extent of steroid use in the game.
Schilling, 39, recently looked back on the hearing — and ahead to baseball's future — during a face-to-face interview and e-mail exchange with FOXSports.com.
As usual, he spoke his mind.
Question: The hearing wasn't even a year ago. Sosa is done. Palmeiro is done. Does it kind of blow you away what has happened?
Q: Why not?
Schilling: I think that there were people in the game that some of us believe — knew — weren't playing by the same rules. I'm not going to name any one player, but I think that a lot of us looked around. There's no mystery. We all get naked with each other. There were some changes in the game last year from a physical standpoint.
Q: Has the game changed due to tougher testing?
Schilling: I don't know. Do the numbers say it has?
Q: Slightly. The numbers are slightly down.
Schilling: Here's the hard part about it, from a fan's standpoint. When you talk about players in the NFL, what's the first thing you say? Guys that played in the 1970s would be a joke on the football field today. Physically, they don't even touch (today's players). The NBA, with few exceptions, (the same); the NHL also.
Baseball is not any different. We just don't wear pads. There's a different physical dynamic to our sport. But that doesn't mean our athletes are any less improved than athletes in other sports. Guys are bigger, stronger and healthier today than they were 25 years ago.
Mark Belanger was one of the best shortstops of his generation. Mark Belanger would be a 25th man today. Nothing against Mark Belanger. I love Mark Belanger. Those players don't exist anymore. It's all about putting the 14 best offensive players you can put on a roster, period.
Q: At the hearings, you seemed to backtrack.
Schilling: Hold on a second. I didn't backtrack. I was wrong. And I said that. I made the (initial) comment (about the widespread effect of steroid use) out of sheer ignorance. It was an irresponsible thing to say. It certainly wasn't the first time (he spoke irresponsibly) ... but in the context of how it came out, it made me think, "You make comments like that, you had better understand people are going to care what you say." But do I know? I have no clue. I played with guys that have. But it was one of those things; I never gave it a lot of thought. I'm not sure why, other than, like everybody else, I had my own career to worry about. It wasn't going to do me any good to think, "This guy cheats," or, "That guy cheats."
Q: Have your feelings changed at all about Canseco and his book? One could argue that the book helped focus attention on the subject.
Schilling: I don't doubt that it did bring the subject to light and that the repercussions are not a bad thing for the game. My issue is that this guy, who lied and cheated his entire career, whose every hit, every number he put up, is a fraud, is now supposed to be someone people turn to for expertise on the subject?
He cheated, and laughed in everyone's faces while he did it. He whines about the race card and being blackballed by the game. Talks about how his Cuban heritage hurt him in some way for endorsements and what not. He was the FACE of this game in the late 1980s and early '90s. This game gave him everything he is and was, and now that he's out — safe from the wrath of the game and the penalties he would have endured had he been half a man and admitted it when confronted, or not done it at all — only now he chooses to come out and basically ruin peoples' lives.
That's not to stick up for anyone that's done it, but basically the book was a gutless way to say, "Hey, look how bad the game is, even though I was instrumental in helping it get that way, even though I made over $100 million doing so, it's a wreck and you need to take care of these cheaters."
I stopped reading it at some point; the back-patting was sickening. I found it humorous that he stoked himself for being this player, a demi-god of sorts, while totally missing the point that had he not done steroids he'd have been a batting pitcher for a Mexican League team, according to him, right? He did say that were it not for steroids, he'd have never made it, didn't he?
Bottom line is he cheated, took his money, then dropped dime on a plethora of players after the fact. It sucks, it's ugly and in no way shape or form should he be lauded for being some sort of savior. The game took a hit, deservedly so, and the people that get caught from this deserve what they get; but let's not make him out to be anything more than the fraud he is.
Oh, and another thing. If even ONE Hall of Fame voter casts a ballot to get him into the Hall they should lose their voting privilege. He has OPENLY admitted he cheated, and that what he did in the game, everything he did, was a direct result of taking steroids. If you do vote for him, there can be no issues on EVER voting for any player based on some mistake they made.
(Canseco will become eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2007, along with McGwire).
Q: What about the ban on amphetamines in MLB's new drug-testing policy? Will it make a difference?
Schilling: Yeah, it will make a difference.
Q: Will players simply turn to other types of stimulants?
Schilling: From what I understand, there are legitimate ways to get that effect — healthy ways. The good thing about it is (that) nutrition is going to become an integral part of this sport for the first time in a long, long time. Baseball is in a better place because of that.
Q: As a player, do you still think certain guys are cheating, using non-detectable substances even though there's testing?
Schilling: No. I've played with guys and worked out with guys, that if you saw them on TV once a week, your first thought would be, "Whoa." But guys are so genetically different now than they were 20 years ago, that it's unfair.
I'll give you a great example — (Red Sox outfielder) Gabe Kapler. He is a physical specimen. Genetically, he is the anti-Curt Schilling. There are other guys. (Rangers outfielder) Laynce Nix. He is a monster. I watched him every day this winter at API (the Athletes' Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz.) bustin' his (butt). He is what he is because he put the time and effort into it.
Q: There's a theory that 20 years from now performance-enhancing drugs will not be the issue that they are today. There will be so many things people can do.
Schilling: From everything I understand, the cheaters are so far ahead of the testers that it's a cycle that will never end. If you get a chance to go on the Internet, there's a thing called Belgian Blue Bull (www.belgianblue.co.uk). There's a picture of a bull, a 2,000-pound bull. You will gag when you see it. He's got like, two percent body fat. He's genetically engineered to be (heavily) muscled. The only way to determine (the cause) is to take a chunk of calf or thigh from the specimen to test. That's not going to ever happen with us. You can't test it in the blood, in the urine, anything. They're genetically different. Some parent out there is going to genetically engineer a child because they want their son to be a professional athlete so badly. Is that a stretch? No, it's not.
Q: OK so when we look back at the game, will we look back at the steroid users and alleged users as negatively as we do now?
Schilling: I think bitter people will. I don't think baseball fans will. I'll give you a player: Mark McGwire. I have nothing but great memories of Mark McGwire, for a couple of reasons. One, he's a fantastic human being. Two, this game was dead in the water but for him and Sammy. The hypocrites in the media that fostered that rebirth while having a blind eye toward the physical nature of people in the game are the same people who don't vote and complain about the (U.S.) president.
Q: But with McGwire, the questions are legitimate questions.
Schilling: Sure they are. He didn't quell anyone's concerns that day. That was as hard a thing for me to watch and be a part (of) as anything I've ever seen. I love Mark. I don't think any less of Mark than I did the day before the hearing. Do I think he did something wrong? I don't know. If he did cheat and spent that day doing that, then yeah, but that doesn't make him any less of a human being. And anyone who criticizes him, there's that proverbial Bible saying: "Take the plank out of your eye before you worry about the splinter in mine."
Ken Rosenthal is the senior baseball writer for FOXSports.com.