Jockbeat: Lupica's Precious Sox Juicing? He Blames the Union, Naturally

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Since Selena Roberts's February 7 Sports Illustrated story broke the news that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, we've maintained that there's no mystery as to how and why these names are being revealed:  the federal agents who seized the 2003 test samples and the results have the information, so they must be the ones who are leaking it.

Why are they doing it? To give some credibility to their nearly seven-year investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, which has so far uncovered little and promises to produce little more.

But while we deplore their methods, we couldn't resist a snicker when David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were outed last week by Michael S. Schmidt in the New York Times.

For years, Yankee bashing has been one of the most popular sports in the Red Sox-centric New York press, with the pinstripers getting brushed back and knocked down for PED use.  Now we're licking our chops in anticipation of watching Daily News columnist and Red Sox homey Mike Lupica sweat on the same spit that he has been roasting the Yankees on for years --  but more on that in a moment.

In the meantime, we can't help marveling that it took the Times so much longer to get these names. It's no secret that their sports section has been Red Sox-obsessed for years -- you'll recall back in 2006, New York magazine went through the Times archives and counted that over the previous three months, the Times had printed 105 articles on the Red Sox to 103 on the Yankees and just 79 on the Mets.

The Times was always evasive about the question of conflict of interest created by their ownership stake in the Red Sox. (Until earlier this year, the Times Company owned a 17.8 percent share in New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Red Sox.) Considering that the Times seems to be the primary beneficiary of the leaks about the 2003 tests -- they "broke" the Sammy Sosa and now the Ortiz-Ramirez stories and former Times reporter Selena Roberts authored the A-Rod expose -- it's time to ask why it took so long for PED use by the Red Sox star sluggers to be revealed. The names of all the 104 players who tested positive were on the list, right?

At the very least, it will be interesting to see if the Times now devotes a fraction of the ink to Ortiz-Ramirez that it has to Rodriguez-Clemens-Pettitte-Giambi. Or, to paraphrase Toure in the July 26 New York Times Book Review, we wonder when someone in the Times will ask "Why do Red Sox fans still love the Red Sox?"

We're also wondering when, after ripping the Yankees for every drug whisper, Mike Lupica is going to get around to eating a nice big fat slice of humble pie now that stars of the Red Sox 2003 and 2007 World Series, Ortiz and Ramirez, are smeared?  Not this week, we think. His Sunday column was warm beer, indeed.

Guess who Mike thinks the villain is in the latest drug scandal -- Red Sox owner John Henry or GM Theo Epstein? Ortiz and Ramirez themselves perhaps?  Well, no. Lupica places the blame on the Major League Ballplayers Associations -- the union. Here's his opening sentence:  "To the end, nobody protects the innocent in baseball, certainly not the player's union, which sold itself out to the guilty a long time ago ..."

What was the union supposed to do? Agree to a drug policy that the owners had not proposed to them? Propose one themselves basing their recommendations on comprehensive studies of the drugs involved that had not been conducted and in fact still have not been made? And which the owners would certainly have rejected?

The truth is that none of the drug use which is now being revealed was MLBPA's responsibility or fault -- it was all management's responsibility since they, and not the union, had the players under contract. Finally doing something about it was exactly what both management and the union were trying to do in 2003, when after two decades of anger and mistrust regarding drug testing negotiations, they finally agreed to a plan. For better or worse, that is the way it's done in labor -- one side does not impose its will on the other, they reach an agreement. That's what finally happened in 2003 when the "anonymous" testing was agreed upon.

But the union makes a handy whipping boy for New York writers, especially Lupica, who's been licking his beloved Red Sox players' cleats for years. Now, he writes, "There is this nagging debate about whether the two Red Sox World Series championships are 'tainted.'  As Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci pointed out the other day, which World Series aren't over the last 10 or 15, or 20 years? Come on."

Yeah, Mike, come on. After years of working readers into a frenzy over drug use by Yankee players, now, when the stain spreads over your boys, the ones who had you doing cartwheels when the won World Series rings in 2003 and 2007, suddenly the bad guys arent Poppy and Manny, who are absolved of all personal responsibility, but the union. And, after all, it wasn't really their fault because which World Series winners over the last 20 years might not be equally tainted?  You might have thought of those arguments when writing about PED scandals any time this decade -- but of course, up to now your targets weren't wearing a red B on their caps.

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