The implications of a former bat boy turned FBI informant in a steroid distribution bust are just now starting to surface, but one thing seems certain: Major League Baseball will be rocked like it has never been before.
On the face of the news from yesterday, one might say that because one Kirk J. Radomski left his employment with the Mets in 1995, the damage might not be as great as one thinks. After all, the first “survey test” for steroids wasn’t conducted until 2003 and regular testing of players till 2004.
Unfortunately, Radomski continued dealing in illegal performance-enhancing drugs until his Long Island, N.Y. home was raided in 2005.
With the FBI’s announcement yesterday of a plea agreement, there have been 17 months since the raid on Radomski’s home. Almost two years for the FBI to work with him in gaining valuable information on players—or, possibly dealing PEDs to players through the FBI in order to gain evidence on players. Could video surveillance of a sale or the possibility of Radomski wearing a wire when a deal was made have occurred? Given that those methods have been used before, with investigations into street drugs, how easy would it be to use them when the names associated could be star MLB players? Ambitious agents would surely like to see one or more star PED users mounted on their wall.
Could a former or current player that is in the crosshairs decide to a plea agreement as well? Could someone like Greg Anderson, Barry Bond’s former personal trainer, decide that he has enough cover to now come out in the open? The thread could become very long.
And, that’s just the FBI.
With part of Radomski’s plea agreement being that he would cooperate with the George Mitchell investigation, Mitchell and his staff now get what he could not get from interviews with former and current players: direct insight into the seedy world of MLB players and the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Mitchell will take matters where they lead, and with that, his report will most assuredly be more compelling than what would have come out before yesterday’s announcement.
In the end, MLB created this issue—an issue that will certainly be hanging over the game for years, perhaps more than a decade from now. While it might be easy for management to say that they would have been blocked at every turn by the MLBPA over PED testing, they are, at the very least, culpable in its proliferation throughout baseball. The homerun chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire had a huge impact on bringing back fans after the ’94 Strike.
So, it seems that Barry Bonds will surpass Hank Aaron before anything of substance could be presented. If for some reason Bonds were connected to Radomski, how would baseball deal with that? I’m sure there are other implications that will come to bear over the days and weeks ahead, none of which bodes well for the game.
Commissioner Selig’s contract ends in 2009, and with that a possible changing of the guard that will be left holding the bag. One has to think that Bud will surely be happy when the day comes where the specter of steroids doesn’t haunt him every day.
Maury Brown is the founder and president of The Biz of Baseball and an author for Baseball Prospectus. He can be contacted here.