Jeff Pearlman

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Raul Ibanez—guilty (of doing nothing)

ibanez

Just watched Jerod Morris’ appearance on Outside the Lines yesterday. Was a funny scene—the, ahem, geeky blogger, the cool columnist, and my friend and colleague Ken Rosenthal, defending the turf like Mr. T when those crooks tried overtaking the bank, then Clubber came along and, well, yeah. You get the idea.

Anyhow, let’s get this straight: In the year 2009, Morris has every right—and every reason—to question Raul Ibanez’s insane statistics. The guy wasn’t saying Ibanez is using; wasn’t even saying he’s probably using. What he said—and it can be read here—is that there’s reason to be suspicious. Wrote Morris: The truth is that I sincerely hope that Raul Ibanez and every other major leaguer is clean. And there is no way I could look him in the eye and tell him I think he’s on steroids — nor was that my conclusion. But I think it’s also true that Raul Ibanez would have a hard time looking baseball fans in the eye and saying they have no right to speculate.

Well, I agree.

Raul Ibanez is 37-years old. He’s spent his career as a good, solid major league outfielder. Never an All-Star; never even a sorta star. Just a quality guy you put out there for 145 games. Joe Posnanski compared him to Ben Oglivie, and I think that’s about right. So to see Ibanez suddenly tearing the cover off the baseball—it’s eye-opening. Certainly doesn’t mean he’s using (and from hearing his denials, I’ll guess he’s not), but the questions have to be asked.

In fact, this is where I disagree with Ken. Strongly. Ken took offense to Morris making the suggestion; he said we’ve abandoned our journalistic principles; etc; etc. Yet where were we during McGwire-Sosa? During Bonds? During Giambi? During Brady Anderson? Journalistic principles? I have yet to hear a member of the mainstream media (myself included) work up the guts to approach a guy like Ibanez and say, “I have to ask. Are you using performance enhancers?” I obviously don’t fully blame we, the media, for the steroid mess that has poisoned baseball. But I do blame us for being cowards; for not stepping up and asking what needed to be asked. So perhaps it’s left to the bloggers to throw stuff out there. I’m not proud of it—but that’s where we are.

One more point: While I understand Raul Ibanez’s anger, it has to be asked: Where was that anger four … five … six years ago? When he surely knew of steroids in baseball? All these players who had to have known what was going on, yet refused to speak out for fear of violating “The Code” … well, congrats. Here’s what you get—suspicion.

  • Reader

    Jeff,

    You’ve hit the nail on the head here. Ibanez has no one to blame for the speculation but himself and the rest of the players. I’m sure social pressures and fear of “snitching” were good reasons to keep your mouth shut during the steroid years, but what the players have reaped is suspicion across the board. Makes you wonder if, ten years ago, a couple of strong leaders could have nipped this whole thing in the bud.

  • Jeff, you are 100% dead on right. I read the piece from the blogger and he was VERY fair about it and I thought it was well written as well. Certain writers and main stream media people have a big problem with bloggers because they may not be educated in the journalism field and polished, but in my opinion, welcome to 2009 and all bloggers shouldn’t be grouped together as geeks in their mama’s basement who have no authority to speak. It’s ridiculous.

  • Well put. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Wow, a sane MSM writer. Hard to find these days.

  • T Schranck

    So, Ibanez is guilty of…

    a) having a good start to a season in a league in which most reporters consider the pitching to be less effective than in the league he jumped from

    b) not publicly expressing his suspicion of other players’ performances during the same era that reporters, who are paid to find out these things, failed to report on them.

    The modern journalist abandons “write what you know” and replaces it with “write what you suspect”.

    Interesting. Maybe you have to stop swallowing gum, Mr. Pearlman.

  • Dann

    What I find interesting is that the person who questioned Ibanez (Jim Salisbury), doesn’t seem like he actually read the blog post, and was just working from the Philadelphia Inquirer article (which ALSO seems like it didn’t read, didn’t understand, or just deliberately ignored the point of the blog story).

    And nobody is really calling him on it. I mean, I’d bet I could pull a quote from your piece on coming out of the closet and ask a question of one of the quoted players that would anger them. It’d be ignoring the point of the piece, and that’d be MY fault, not yours.

    Oh, and I like how some writers don’t seem to understand that what they write tends to stay accessible for a long time. You’d think that would give them incentive not to contradict themselves, but you’d be wrong. At least in this case:

    http://www.raysindex.com/2009/06/jon-heyman-is-a-hypocrite-when-it-comes-to-ped-speculation.html

  • Very well said, Jeff.

    Actually, I’ve been quite surprised there hasn’t been more uproar over the Philly Inquirer columnist bringing this all to a head. Where’s his “journalistic integrity”?

    If we’re to believe blogs are the enemy and you can’t trust anything they write, why is he giving this one credence by linking and writing a follow up?

    Maybe to drive readership numbers and get on ESPN?

    Hmmm.

  • Yasiejko

    As a Philadelphia resident, I can tell you that the sentiment in Ibanez’s town is less against asking the question than it is against asking the question of a man whose physique seems to have nothing in common with confirmed users.

    I have pondered aloud the possibility, just as most fans these days are wont to do, that Ibanez could be using performance-enhancing drugs. But the conversation always ends with someone saying that he looks nothing like the players whose numbers also exploded late in their careers.

    I hope he’s not using. I assume he’s not using. His bat and his glove have shared the glory in this young season, and I find him to be a courteous guy in his public life.

    But you’re right about the validity of doubts. And although I can’t fault a guy for saying nothing when I don’t know of his personal experiences and situations throughout the steroids era, I am with you regarding those who do choose to remain quiet.

  • Rosenthal’s response is a big reason why I don’t follow baseball anymore. The steroids era started around ’96, and there was no coverage, no questioning of why average players in their 30s were suddenly putting up Willie Mays-like numbers.

    Now, baseball coverage is dominated by witch hunts of select superstars like Bonds and Clemens. Selective and dumb. Everybody was using. Declare it the steroids era, like the spitball era, adjust the stats accordingly and move on.

    EVERYBODY was complicit. The teams, the players and the press. Finger pointing is pointless. It makes the finger pointers look unctuous.

    If this nonsense would stop, I might watch the game again. But it won’t, and I won’t.

  • Jester’s Dad

    What bloggers lack in access, they make up for in speculation. As consumers of media, most of us understand that.
    Guys like Rosenthal have access and sat on the PED issue for years. The MSM needs to understand that today’s media consumers expect more.

    I’ll shine JP’s boots here – he gets this, and his book sales are evidence.

  • Legit Baseball Fan

    So Raul Ibanez gets off to a fast start and….

    Insert pathetic loser with nothing to do except make steroid accusations.

    Get a real job.

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