La Russa one the era’s great enablers

Opinion on the Steroid Era is decidedly mixed among baseball fans of all stripes. Some fans feel that the whole scandal is an overblown story and won’t matter until it can be determined just what effect steroids had on the statistics of the era.

Others see the steroid scandal as a breach of trust between players and fans. They see not a conspiracy, per se, but an organizational failure that runs from the players to coaches to front offices to the Commissioner’s Office to the beat writers and national media. I fall in this camp.

While I haven’t become any less of a fan because of the steroid scandal, I am not at all willing to dismiss out of hand because players cheated in the past (spitballs, home-field mounds, etc.) or because the numbers have yet to prove a conclusive link between steroids and performance. I say, look harder and look at what steroids do. They aid recovery time; they energize. The drugs contribute to more than just brute strength.

Currently, I’m reading Howard Bryant’s excellent book on the Steroid Era called Juicing the Game. First published last spring, the book, with a new epilogue, came out in paperback a few weeks ago. I’ll be reviewing it as soon as I’m done.

In the book, Bryant doesn’t hold back. While some commentators have tried to blame Bud Selig or the owners of the players’ union, Bryant blames everyone. In tracing the origins of the steroid scandal, he arrives back at the Oakland Athletics from the late 1980s. With the Bash Brothers leading the way, these A’s were a force in the American League.

Of course, Bryant spends a lot of time discussing Jose Canseco’s role and open talk of the steroid scandal. He also mentions Tony La Russa in less than flattering terms. The truth is that, while a well respected manager, Tony La Russa has been one of the greatest enablers of the Steroid Era.

In the late 1980s, baseball had a probable cause clause in terms of drug testing. If a front office believed a player was taking a substance in violation of the law, they could mandate a drug test. While Sandy Alderson in the A’s front office never took that step, Tony La Russa, the A’s manager, protected his players at all costs.

According to Bryant, La Russa knew in 1988 that Canseco was doing steroids. In a pattern that would repeat itself for nearly two decades, La Russa did less than nothing: he actively came to the defense of Canseco. La Russa berated beat writers who dared to write about Canseco’s steroid use.

Ten years later, La Russa would do the same thing with Mark McGwire. When McGwire was in the midst of his 70-home run season, a writer for the Associated Press, Steve Wilstein, found and wrote about a bottle of Androstenodione in McGwire’s locker. While Andro, under DSHEA, is not classified as a steroid, medical authorities conceded that it is a steroid. It stimulates testosterone production in much the same way that an anabolic steroid does.

At the time, Andro was not illegal in baseball. However, it did not look good that one of the faces of the game was using the drug in the middle of a record-setting season. La Russa once again came to the defense of his All Star. La Russa accused Wilstein of violating McGwire’s privacy and barred the writer from the locker room. While many in baseball rushed to McGwire’s defense, La Russa was there standing next to him.

This pattern has continued over the last 12 months as McGwire’s accomplishments have come under scrutiny from Congress. Last March, nearly one year ago, La Russa was quick to defend McGwire after the Congressional hearings. La Russa claimed that McGwire had bad legal advice, that he left himself open to criticism, that he wasn’t coached properly.

Now, La Russa is still standing by McGwire. While he has shunned Canseco since Jose’s book came out, he still maintains McGwire’s innocence. In an article last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, La Russa still defends McGwire:

La Russa, who maintains McGwire strengthened himself legally under supervision of current Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay, Thursday wished for a player of stature to assume the role McGwire pledged himself for last March.

“I have long felt, and still do, there are certain players who need to publicize the legal way to get strong,” La Russa insisted. “That’s my biggest complaint. When those players have been asked, they’ve been very defensive or they’ve come out and said ‘Whatever.’ Somebody should explain that you can get big and strong in a legal way. If you’re willing to work hard and be smart about what you ingest, it can be done in a legal way.”

Added La Russa: “That’s the basis of why I felt so strongly about Mark. I saw him do that for years and years and years. That’s why I believe it. I don’t have anything else to add. Nothing has happened since he made that statement to change my mind.”

Still, 18 years after Canseco’s steroid use became the most obvious secret in Major League Baseball, La Russa is still standing beside his favorites. As a manager and former player, Tony La Russa knows what’s happens in the clubhouse. He knows how players get big and what they use. But he still protects his favorites. He is, in other words, an enabler.

As long as people in baseball are overly protective of their players, we’ll never see a clean culture. While I do not expect people like La Russa to throw players like McGwire to the dogs, at some time, enough is enough. I don’t think La Russa should be so vehement in his defense of McGwire. It’s time for baseball to clean up its act, and it starts with those inside the game who are acting as enablers.

13 Responses to “La Russa one the era’s great enablers”


  1. 1 Remy March 21, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    While you are spot-on with respect to your commentary on LaRussa–and, oh, by the way, Tony consistently sees and doesn’t see things according to Tony’s coda that only he knows what the Game is about and how it should be played–it must be acknowledged that he is not alone in his irresponsible denial. Absolutely every GM in the game observed what was happening and, appallingly, Sandy Alderson, now the CEO of the Padres, went from the A’s to Baseball’s Number 2 man, now back to the Padres. Never once has he been open and honest about what was going on. Inasmuch as LaRussa has been typically disingenuous on the topic, there is much blame to spread around on this subject

  2. 2 Charlie February 25, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Thank you for this. Now he was talking about bringing Bonds in as well? He has quite an affinity for these juicers, just look at their current roster. Ankiel, Ryan Franklin, Juan Gon is in camp, and Troy Glaus. I can only hope karma will strike the Cardinals to the basement of the NL Central as they so deserve.

  3. 3 The Fat Pastor November 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Great article. I put a link to it in my blog post commenting on LaRussa’s retiring. Interestingly enough, LaRussa and McGwire will be eligible for the Hall during the same year (though different voters)

    http://fatpastor.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/if-larussa-goes-to-hof-why-not-mcgwire/


  1. 1 Talking Baseball Trackback on March 21, 2006 at 11:11 am
  2. 2 Cardinals Diaspora » Talkin’ Greenies Trackback on March 21, 2006 at 9:01 pm
  3. 3 Tony LaRussa Passes Out At The Wheel With Paltry 0.93% BAC; Dennis Erickson Questions LaRussa’s Manhood Trackback on March 24, 2007 at 11:11 pm
  4. 4 How’s that working out for ya, Boston? | River Ave. Blues | A New York Yankees blog Trackback on September 7, 2007 at 8:55 am
  5. 5 Breaking Balls » Cards blaming La Russa's failures on Jocketty Trackback on October 3, 2007 at 4:13 pm
  6. 6 River Ave. Blues » How’s that working out for ya, Boston? Trackback on January 27, 2008 at 9:52 pm
  7. 7 Mark McGwire admits to Steroid Usage « 15 Minutes of Stupidity Trackback on January 11, 2010 at 5:03 pm
  8. 8 Dog bites man | River Avenue Blues Trackback on January 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm
  9. 9 Scandal Lowers Cardinals' Flag « Faith and Fear in Flushing Trackback on April 1, 2010 at 9:05 am
  10. 10 If LaRussa goes to HoF, why not McGwire? | The Fat Pastor Trackback on November 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm
Comments are currently closed.



RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Failure to beat up on bad teams has hurt Yanks in the standings August 20, 2014
    Last night’s come from ahead loss to the Astros dropped the Yankees to four games back of the second wildcard spot with 39 games to play. Insurmountable? Of course not. Long shot? It sure feels like it. FanGraphs puts the team’s postseason odds at 6.3% while Baseball Prospectus has them at 5.4%. ESPN has them […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Robertson melts down, sends Yanks to 7-4 loss to Astros August 20, 2014
    So much for starting the homestand off on the right foot after those two wins in Tampa, huh? A rare David Robertson meltdown led to a 7-4 Astros win in Tuesday night’s series opener. The Yankees are now 1-3 against Houston this year. From 0-2 to 2-0 As usual, the Yankees traded zeroes with [insert […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogRoberts […]
    Michael Axisa
  • DotF: Severino returns in Trenton’s loss August 20, 2014
    The notes: RHP Luis Severino (oblique) was activated off the Double-A Trenton disabled list, the team announced. How about that? A minor injury that actually turned out to be minor. C Gary Sanchez was placed on the paternity list to clear a roster spot, according to the team. Congrats to him. 1B Mike Ford was […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Game 123: Opposites August 19, 2014
    The Yankees and Astros could not be any more different. One team has a huge payroll, the other has a laughably small payroll by 2014 standards. One has one of the oldest rosters in the league, the other has one of the youngest. One is actually trying to contend and doing whatever they can to […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogGame 123: Opp […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Phelps throws for first time since elbow injury, could return in 3 weeks August 19, 2014
    For the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation two weeks ago, David Phelps played catch today yesterday. He made 50 throws from 60 feet and told reporters he had an MRI yesterday. The results will be available at some point today. Joe Girardi told reporters that Phelps is […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Ya […]
    Michael Axisa
  • 8/19-8/21 Series Preview: Houston Astros August 19, 2014
    After a six-game turned five-game because of a rainout road trip, the Yankees are back home in the Bronx for a six-game homestand. They’re going to face two really bad teams and winning four of the six is the bare minimum at this point if they want to get back in the postseason race. The […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blog8/19-8/21 Series […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Caldera: Yankees have “ended any pursuit” of Rusney Castillo August 19, 2014
    Via Pete Caldera: The Yankees have “ended any pursuit” of Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo. For what it’s worth, George King says the Phillies are the favorite to sign him while Jim Salisbury says Philadelphia is not the front-runner, so believe these reports at your own risk. Caldera also notes Castillo is having visa issues […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Thoughts following Monday’s off-day August 19, 2014
    The Yankees were off yesterday for the third time in the last week. It’s not often that happens during the season outside of the All-Star break. For a team with an older roster and intentions of making a run at a postseason spot, a bunch of off-days bunched together in the middle of August might […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blogThoughts […]
    Michael Axisa
  • DotF: Banuelos struggles to throw strikes in Scranton’s win August 19, 2014
    Some notes: LHP Jeremy Bleich has been sent from Triple-A Scranton down to Double-A Trenton, according to Donnie Collins. The move clears a roster spot for RHP Chris Leroux, who rejoined the team after being designated for assignment and accepting his outright. If you’re interested, Matt Eddy listed the signing scout for every player who […]Post from: River […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Double-A Trenton giving away David Phelps/Adam Warren double bobblehead on August 29th August 19, 2014
    Just a heads up, the Double-A Trenton Thunder is giving away an Adam Warren/David Phelps double bobblehead to the first 2,000 fans (age 14 and older) at Arm & Hammer Park on Friday, July 29th. Here’s a photo of the bobblehead. I want one. You can buy tickets right here. That’s the Thunder’s last home […]Post from: River Ave. Blues A New York Yankees blog […]
    Michael Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 60,378 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: