Thursday, March 1, 2007


By Sean Scanlon - Angelswin.com Feature Writer

There's been a lot of conversation lately regarding Gary Matthew's Jr. and the news that his name is listed on records during recent raids of pharmacies that are accused of illegally distributing performance enhancing drugs. This is unfortunate, for many parties. For baseball it's unfortunate for a number of reasons, the first being that they continue to live under a cloud of suspicion that a significant number of players did and are still using these substances.

Second because it casts further doubt that the programs put in place are actually sufficient to resolve these issues, and third because it occurs right at the beginning of spring training, a glorious time for all baseball fans, where fan's of every team can still dream that they will compete and have a successful season (unless you are a Mariner fan of course). It's unfortunate for the Angels in that their highest profile offseason signing, who was controversial to begin with due to the length and size of the contract for someone who many feel should not have been signed, now may be a worse signing than many feared.

It also creates distraction at a time where the focus needs to be on preparing for the season. It's unfortunate for baseball fans in that a sport they passionately follow is once again being cast as a group of cheaters. And it's unfortunate for Matthew's, if the rumors turn out to be unfounded, because now accused he will always be tagged as someone suspected of juicing.

When I read the reactions of some, I find it somewhat disingenuous. Many disagreed with the signing and are quick to jump on the news as further proof that Bill Stoneman is a bumbling idiot. Unfortunately we live in a time and place of the 24 hour news cycle where opinions are formed and dispersions cast before all the facts have been presented. The howling grew louder after Matthew's non-denial, and comments from Angel's management that basically supported the player without commenting on the accusations.

But let's be clear about something, at this point all we have to go on are some initial newspaper reports and until Matthew's and his representatives, or others caught up in this probe, have a chance to respond, it's unfair to convict him in the court of public opinion. As it stands, no charges have been filed, no drug tests have been failed.

Many have called for Bill Stoneman's head, with statement's such as "this is proof that the signing of Matthew's was a knee jerk reaction", "the Angel's didn't do their homework", "they should have asked if he was juicing". Well, my first reaction to that would be, most of those folks don't like Bill Stoneman to begin with, and are using this to further their case. They are taking an undeveloped story and waving it around as if they've found the bloody knife. There is no rationality other than a dislike for Stoneman and here's another nail in the coffin.

The whole "knee jerk" reaction to not signing Ramirez or Soriano is laughable in my opinion. To think that the Angels didn't lay out their offseason priorities and move from Plan A, to B, to C is just silly. No organization can be as successful as the Angels have been the last few years without having a plan. It's my contention, and I've seen nothing to suggest otherwise, that Matthews was always plan C. When Ramirez and Soriano fell through, Matthews was the next target, right or wrong. The Angels play the Rangers 19 some odd times a year, which gave them plenty of opportunity to study and scout Matthews. Now, maybe they got carried away by his success in 06, that's entirely possible, but to think they just pulled a name out of the hat in haste is erroneous in my view.

As for not doing their homework. I guess one could say that the signs were there that Matthews could be juicing. He came out of nowhere in 06 to put up huge numbers in a walk year after limited success in prior years. But he had never failed a drug test, and from a physical standpoint I don't recall drastic changes in his appearance. I'm not familiar with union rules, but I can't imagine it's realistic to ask a player "did you juice?". Hell, even in the real world you are advised that you may have to take a drug test, but you are never point blank asked...have you ever used drugs.

At least that's my recollection, the only time I was asked such a question was when working to get a defense department clearance. There are limits to what the Angels could do prior. If they had suspicions, they should have walked away from Matthews, but the fact that they signed him leads me to believe they did not suspect this was the case.

Again, no drug tests were failed, no "rumors" existed prior to this, at least publicly. If the Angels felt that 06 wasn't an aberration, than I’m not sure what other "homework" they could have done.

So now, let's move on to the response from Matthews and Angel's management. In Gary's case, what exactly do you expect him to say? I'm sure a lot of Angel fans would love to hear Matthew's say "I didn't do it" (well, actually I believe some Angel fans would love to hear him say he did do it so they can cast further dispersions on the signing and Stoneman). But in reality, he can't say anything right now. He has no idea what is known, and only he (and a few select others) know if there is any validity to what is being reported. If he's guilty, then that's unfortunate, and he needs to think carefully about what he says. Legally, it's his right. If he's not guilty, then he also needs to understand what has been uncovered so he can address it properly. Speaking now, regardless of the situation, would be a disservice to him and the Angels.

While opinions are formed early, it would be even worse to make statements now that may not be true as further information comes to light. And as for Angel's management, it's unrealistic to think that they would come out with any sort of statement while the facts are unknown based on speculation. I imagine they had a very frank conversation with Matthews, including asking him if the rumors are true, regardless of what they are publicly saying right now. But regardless of that conversation or what answers were provided, they are limited in what they can say right now. They are trying to prepare for a season and there's a good chance their 50 million dollar acquisition might have been under false pretenses. The last thing they need right now is to get in a public war of words, regardless of what position they take.

Did Gary juice? I don't know, from initial reports and his responses, it certainly casts that appearance. But again, why the rush to judgment, why base judgment based on speculation? Let this play out and see where it heads. The worst thing, for the Angels, Matthews, and fans, is for decisions to be made before everything is known.

red321
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