John Rocker's got a new book.
Hey, I'll give it a chance. I love being surprised. Oh, and maybe he was kind enough to mention me! When the excrement hit the fan in 1999, I was one of the very few baseball writers who defended Rocker's right to say whatever he liked, and I agitated against his suspension. My opinion was so rare that I was actually asked to appear on FOX News ... with Sean Hannity in my corner (or vice versa).
Yeah. That actually happened.
Anyway, the estimable Mike Silva recently interviewed Rocker on the radio, and of course there were highlights. According to Rocker, in the aftermath of his Sports Illustrated profile, he was pressured by MLB and his agent to take a drug test, and finally he succumbed ...
"Of course, I failed it miserably. And you mean to tell me the commissioner’s office who insisted over two weeks over four different occasions that I take a steroid test, they don’t know the result of said test?"
I asked Rocker if he became a good pitcher because of PED use. "No. Can I throw 3 or 4 mph harder because of it? Yes. Was my breaking ball better because of it? No. The reason was (for taking it) with my teammates and their confidence laying on my shoulders, with the coaching staff and their confidence on my shoulders, with the millions of Atlanta Braves fans, I am not going to step on that mound with that kind of responsibility with my gun half loaded. Knowing the people I am going to be facing, I know what they’re doing; I am not coming to the mound halfcocked."
I'm sorry ... Throwing three or four miles an hour harder didn't make Rocker a better pitcher? I just love it when guys say yeah, steroids made them throw harder or hit the ball farther or heal from injuries faster ... but no, of course it didn't make them better baseball players.
Yes, I know the jury's still out on the effects of steroids, etc. I'm just saying the players' logic is terribly flawed.
I'm also saying I sympathize with Rocker, just a little bit. Of course he's right; he and his fellow pitchers knew, roughly speaking, what the hitters were doing. If you were a pitcher and saw a parade of steroid-fueled sluggers belching fire from their gullets and steam from their ears, wouldn't you consider balancing the scales a bit? By hook or by crook?
Granted, it didn't help Rocker enjoy much of a career. He did perform exceptionally well in 1999; afterward he lasted only four more seasons and recorded 48 saves. At 27, he was utterly washed up. Maybe the steroids allowed him to have that one shining season, or maybe they caused him to break down before his time.
When it comes to MLB and Commissioner Selig, we've got only Rocker's word on this one. But I think it's enormously obvious that the Commissioner and his employers became publicly dismayed about PED use in Major League Baseball at exactly the same moment that the United States Congress and the Baseball Writers' Association of America began to seem dismayed.
Selig suspended Rocker for running his mouth because he thought it was good public (and media) relations.
Selig turned a blind eye to Rocker's steroids use -- not to mention the steroids use of hundreds of other players -- because he thought it was good public (and media) relations.
Of course, he should have known, and probably did know, that the issue would blow up eventually. But long-term thinking is antithetical to human nature, and Commissioner Bud is, whatever else you might think of him, quite human.