Our next Pinch Hitter is a Missouri guy like myself. Geoffrey Woehlk was born and raised in Kirksville, Mo., and he’s stayed local to study communications at Truman State University (my best friend and one of my cousins went to school there, and I’ve spent quite a few weekends on that campus). Geoffrey runs Truman’s student radio station, KTRM, and was named the top station manager in the country by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System last year.
So why the Yankees? Geoffrey’s dad grew up in Connecticut following Mickey, Whitey and Yogi. As Geoffrey explains it, his father “passed along the Yankee fandom to me, which is always kind of fun in a hotbed of Cardinals fans. My favorite player when I was younger was David Cone, and I remember crying at breakfast when I saw on SportsCenter he went to the Red Sox in 2001. I was only 10 though, so that’s not embarrassing, really.”
For his post, Geoffrey takes a look at steroid situation, and he’s come up with an interesting public relations strategy for the next player who’s busted.
Players who’ve been caught taking PEDs have — litigation options aside — worked from a fairly limited playbook. For the most part, they either opt for a good old-fashioned vehement denial, or they fess up, apologize, and hope we let the whole thing go.
However, it won’t stay that way forever. In fact, very soon, it’s likely that we’ll see a third, very different defense: Reasoned truth.
What does that mean? Well, first let’s set the stage by taking a look at a couple of players who tried to make us “let the whole thing go” after they got caught cheating. First stop: old friend Melky Cabrera.
In 2011, Cabrera was quite possibly down to his last chance in baseball after being released by the Braves despite having another year of team control. He signed a one-year, $1.25-million contract with the Royals and — now suspiciously — had his best season to date, hitting .305/.339/.470 for an .809 OPS, which he parlayed into a $6-million contract with the Giants in 2012.
After testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone, Cabrera signed a two-year, $16-million contract with the Blue Jays last offseason, getting a raise in the hopes that his abilities while clean would still rival his juiced-up version. Unsurprisingly, the Melkman turned in a season almost identical to his year in Atlanta (.279/.322/.360, .682 OPS) while battling injuries.
Meanwhile, Exhibit B: Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta was suspended 50 games last season for his ties to Biogenesis after rebounding from the worst year of his career in 2012 to one of his best in his contract year of 2013. Peralta’s stock nonetheless remained high in the offseason, picking up a $53-million contract from the shortstop-starved Cardinals.
Lesson? Well it appears to be that crime does indeed pay, to the tune of future financial security that may not have been available to either player without their prescription predilection. In fact, if you were a player like Cabrera or Peralta, could you draw up a better contract year than one in which you perform very well then get 50 games shaved off before you get injured or your numbers slip? And as long as teams will respond by giving you a bigger payday than you’ve ever had — as both Cabrera and Peralta received — where exactly is the downside?
To me, this says that the days of wag-the-finger, blame-the-FedEx-guy defenses are in their twilight; there just isn’t much of an advantage to lying about PED use. Instead, it shouldn’t be a surprise if the next offender — and if Anthony Bosch is to be believed, there certainly will be one — issues a statement more like this:
“The reports alleging that I took PEDs are true. Now that the truth is out in the open, I want to be completely honest about what I did and why I did it. I took PEDs for two reasons, and two reasons only:
1.) I, like all professional athletes, am wired to be competitive, and I want to be the absolute best at what I do no matter what it takes.
2.) I saw the opportunity to secure my family’s financial future for the rest of my life and decided the pros outweighed the cons.
I hope that everyone can understand my reasoning, and I intend to fully cooperate with Major League Baseball and the provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement. I look forward to getting back on the field as soon as possible.”
Could a statement like that play in Peoria? I say yes. How could we reject a reasoned, truthful argument without thinking about it this way: If someone offered us the chance to perform better at our jobs and receive a lifetime of financial security even if we get caught, wouldn’t we have to at least think about it? Would the “integrity” of our professions be enough to stop us?
Most importantly, could we really blame someone who decided to take that deal even if we wouldn’t?
I know I, like many of you, would certainly try. I would. But I would find it difficult to look at another man who has made a reasoned, advantageous decision about his life and say that he shouldn’t have because I find the game he plays for a living less enjoyable when he does it that way.
But coming soon, there will be an athlete who will force us to hesitate a moment by putting up a mirror, and asking us the ultimate uncomfortable question about using PEDs:
Associated Press photo