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Friday, January 04, 2013

The Quaz Q&A: Tom Verducci

I dislike Pearlman as much as most here, but this is good stuff.

On covering Steinbrenner’s Yankees:

When Martin was hired, McAlary told me, “Get ready. You’re about to spend more time drinking in bars than you ever have in your life.”

He was right, of course. With Martin as manager, a beat writer’s night only was beginning when the game ended. You had to find Martin in the bar. It was a competition issue. Martin would talk about his team and his players in brutally honest terms when he drank, and if another writer was there and you were not, well, you missed not only the information but also the standing of being a “Billy guy.” Moreover, there was the high probability that Martin just might wind up in a fight with somebody. To survive, I had to borrow a trick from Buck Showalter, who loved to learn from Martin’s baseball intellect: the only way to keep up with Martin was to occasionally dump your drink into a potted palm.

On steroids:

The issue became obvious to me in 2001—not just innuendo or rumor about a few renegade players—because clean players were coming up to me and saying, “It’s an unfair game. There are so many guys using steroids that now I am at a competitive disadvantage.” The excuse makers today don’t want to acknowledge what it was doing to the game. You either had to stick a needle loaded with illegal drugs in your butt—God knows where the drugs came from or what it would do to your testicles—or you were at an obvious competitive disadvantage when it came to your job and your earning potential.

Perry Posted: January 04, 2013 at 06:16 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mlb_network, steroids, verducci

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Dale Sams Posted: January 04, 2013 at 08:04 PM (#4339357)
Would Mookie have beaten Buckner to the bag?: No.


What? The question should be would Stanley have beaten Mookie, and the answer is still no.
   2. John Northey Posted: January 04, 2013 at 09:03 PM (#4339380)
That was a fun interview. Well worth the time to read.
   3. Esoteric Posted: January 04, 2013 at 09:17 PM (#4339389)
Everyone could do worse than to click through to read the whole thing. Pearlman's questions are smart and Verducci's answers are extremely informative. I found his discussion of interviewing Ken Caminiti for the famous 2002 SI cover story on steroids, and his discussion of whether journalists REALLY "knew" back during the McGwire/Sosa home-run chase of 1998, to be fascinating in particular.
   4. Nasty Nate Posted: January 04, 2013 at 09:56 PM (#4339405)
Would Mookie have beaten Buckner to the bag?: No.




What? The question should be would Stanley have beaten Mookie, and the answer is still no.


? If the answer to the first question is really 'no', then the second question is irrelevant.
   5. Lassus Posted: January 04, 2013 at 10:13 PM (#4339410)
I'm kind of to the point where I don't even care if this is a good interview, any support of Pearlman means he sticks around five minutes more. Yes, I realize that's particularly small.
   6. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: January 04, 2013 at 11:20 PM (#4339443)
So long as you know.

I don't like Pearlman either, but this was well worth my time.
   7. AROM Posted: January 04, 2013 at 11:31 PM (#4339446)
? If the answer to the first question is really 'no', then the second question is irrelevant.


To those who watched Buckner play, the first question is irrelevant. Hence the 2nd question.

Buckner's job was to catch the ball. The pitcher's job was to get to first. On pretty much anything.
   8. Esoteric Posted: January 04, 2013 at 11:31 PM (#4339448)
I'm kind of to the point where I don't even care if this is a good interview, any support of Pearlman means he sticks around five minutes more. Yes, I realize that's particularly small.
Newsflash: your click on this link is non-determinative of the outcome of Jeff Pearlman's career.

To be fair I don't have the hate-on for Pearlman that so many seem to around here. In fact, I refuse to dismiss ANY baseball writer's material on a blanket basis**; I prefer to take each piece on its own merits. You never know: sometimes people make comebacks.


**N.B. There are two exceptions to this rule: Murray Chass and Bill Plaschke. Jay Mariotti used to also fall into this list, but he's nowheresville now, thankfully.
   9. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 05, 2013 at 12:27 AM (#4339455)
Pearlman is not, per se, a bad writer--he is, however, a despicable and loathsome human being. (Much like Roger Kahn, come to think about it)
   10. J.R. Wolf Posted: January 05, 2013 at 12:38 AM (#4339457)
I dislike Pearlman as much as most here


Care to place a wager on that?
   11. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: January 05, 2013 at 12:54 AM (#4339466)
as I said the first time this was posted, thanks Jeff for typing out Verducci's answers, or having someone else do it for you.
   12. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 05, 2013 at 01:32 AM (#4339486)
N.B. There are two exceptions to this rule: Murray Chass and Bill Plaschke.

Plaschke and no Simers? Maybe it was Plaschke fawning coverage of the Kings' Cup run but this is oddly upsetting. Plaschke can turn in a replacement level column with the proper topic (admittedly a very short list). Simers isn't even trying, much like Chass with his grumpy old man bit, all Simers has is his world class a-hole schtick.
   13. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 05, 2013 at 05:28 AM (#4339520)
I enjoyed the article with one unexceptional exception.

Verducci blames "the excuse makers" of today for refusing to acknowledge the reality of steroids’ impact on the game, and the players' individual situations. Elsewhere, he says, "The whole “the media looked the other way” stuff is overblown.”

Verducci talks about how the Yankee beat writers needed to work extra hard to be on the scene in case there was a scoop to be had about a drunken remark Billy Martin might make, while maintaining one’s standing as “a Billy guy.” He has no similar stories about the writers' time and diligence regarding steroids. The reader may decide for himself which was the more important topic: “what it [PED use] was doing to the game,” or “the high probability that Martin just might wind up in a fight with somebody.”

Verducci wants credit for being prescient enough to have asked Mark McGwire a steroid question in the spring of 1998. He would also like credit for writing the Caminiti story, almost four and a half years later.

Verducci: "I bring it up [the conversation with McGwire] to give you some context—that there was a steroid subtext to the Home Run Race of ’98." But when that subtext became overt text, the baseball media stood behind MLB’s inertia and indifference to steroids, and denounced AP’s Steve Wilstein for prying. Nevertheless, “The whole “the media looked the other way” stuff is overblown.”

Following Wilstein’s andro revelation and McGwire’s 62nd home run, and six months after asking McGwire about steroids, Verducci wrote, “McGwire made a permanent place for himself not only in Cooperstown but also in American folklore... He's the rightful heir to one of sport's great crowns... His humility and respect for the game have made McGwire a national treasure... you'd have to have had a heart made of tin not to believe in the power of baseball... Sixty-two would belong to the rest of us, a welcome touchstone in a cynical age. That's the good news according to Mark.” 14 years after lauding McGwire's power stroke with Biblical wordplay, Verducci said, “I just don’t get personally wrapped up in what somebody else does as an individual player.”

Three months later, and four months after the andro squabble, Sports Illustrated named McGwire its co-sportsman of the year. The magazine gushed, “They [McGwire and Sammy Sosa] went to such lengths to conduct the great home run race with dignity and sportsmanship, with a sense of joy and openness,” and celebrating the two sluggers’ “Summer of Long Balls and Love.”

In the same issue, Verducci wrote, “All over the country, anybody who saw or knew what had just happened in St. Louis had to smile,” and when he quoted the hitting coach who worked with McGwire at USC as saying his 70-HR season was “unreal,” there was no trace of sarcasm. In 2012, Verducci says he’d been hearing speculation that McGwire’s mid-90s injuries were due to steroid overload. In the 1998 yearend issue, written while these whispers were still fresh in Verducci’s ears, he quotes the coach on McGwire’s two lost seasons: “It had more to do with what was going on with him mentally that physically.”

In November 2001, with three additional years of perspective, Sports Illustrated covered McGwire’s retirement: “McGwire's record chase was briefly tainted by his involvement with androstenedione, a testosterone raising supplement. Sales of andro soared for a time, but he quietly announced in '99 that he had stopped using it.” An accompanying SI column put that “brief taint” into proper perspective: “Mark McGwire, maybe the greatest baseball slugger of this generation, always seemed so ... so darned big. It was the way he bent his knees in the batter's box, a huge man perfectly balanced, drumstick arms flicking a toothpick bat at a gnat of a fastball... Fellow players giggled among themselves as batting practice fastballs were battered off second-deck facades, swatted out of ballparks, smoked to deep center... There were rough spots, as there always are with the great ones. A nutritional supplement, androstenedione, was spotted in his locker by a reporter, igniting a controversy over McGwire's use of the testosterone-producing substance. McGwire, juggling the demands of the chase and his own need for privacy, was seen as brooding and miserable as his assault on Maris' 37-year old record continued.”

In 2012, Verducci told Pearlman that the steroid problem became obvious to him in 2001. That was in addition to the McGwire “speculation” he’d already been hearing since the 1990s: “that his body had been breaking down—especially foot and knee injuries—because he had overloaded his muscles and joints through steroids.”

This is what Tom Verducci wrote in late 2001: “Not since Mickey Mantle has any great player left the game with a more heart-wrenching what if poignancy. McGwire likely would have added 100 or more home runs to his total had he not missed the equivalent of two seasons with injuries to his feet and knees.”

Verducci’s November 2001 article concluded: “McGwire's most admirable legacy is his respect for the game... It is, like McGwire himself, entirely sincere.”
   14. Howie Menckel Posted: January 05, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4339553)

The dings re PEDs are fair, but the article itself is pretty interesting overall for those interested in how a guy who "made it," made it.

   15. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: January 05, 2013 at 12:13 PM (#4339615)
I thought this was a pretty solid article, and it looks like he's interviewed a good range of people.
   16. Rough Carrigan Posted: January 05, 2013 at 12:58 PM (#4339643)
#13. Yup. One imagines that if Tom Verducci went into a diner he'd reflexively order his eggs both over easy and scrambled out of a habit of trying to have everything both ways.
   17. Nasty Nate Posted: January 05, 2013 at 03:26 PM (#4339694)
? If the answer to the first question is really 'no', then the second question is irrelevant.




To those who watched Buckner play, the first question is irrelevant. Hence the 2nd question.

Buckner's job was to catch the ball. The pitcher's job was to get to first. On pretty much anything.


Well, Verducci answered 'no,' as in Buckner would have won a race to the bag. If one disagrees, then yes the 2nd question comes into play.

Unregardless of Mookie being out at first, Knight wouldn't have scored from second if Buckner catches the grounder.
   18. Squash Posted: January 05, 2013 at 04:01 PM (#4339711)
This was a good interview, but I had the same thought about the PEDs issue. He says he would have had to get a player to go on record, and a nice sourced story from a particular player's point of view would have been great, but he didn't need that to write about steroids - he could have written a general article about steroids at any time about how they were playing an increasing part of the game, that they were baseball's unspoken secret, the next big scandal, etc. He didn't in 1998 because he knew it wasn't what people wanted to hear and he didn't in 2001-02 because he was afraid he would lose access to ARod's hotel suite et. al. Which is likely the same decision every other writer came to consciously or unconsciously at that time.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: January 05, 2013 at 06:10 PM (#4339775)
Verducci’s November 2001 article concluded: “McGwire's most admirable legacy is his respect for the game... It is, like McGwire himself, entirely sincere.”

Clearly a violation of the character clause!

“McGwire made a permanent place for himself not only in Cooperstown but also in American folklore... He's the rightful heir to one of sport's great crowns... His humility and respect for the game have made McGwire a national treasure... you'd have to have had a heart made of tin not to believe in the power of baseball... Sixty-two would belong to the rest of us, a welcome touchstone in a cynical age. That's the good news according to Mark.”

And this is what I think a lot of it is all about. McGwire and Sosa made even old farts feel like 12-year-olds again in 1998. BUT THEY BETRAYED US!

Hell hath no fury like a sportswriter scorned.

   20. flournoy Posted: January 05, 2013 at 06:17 PM (#4339780)
You never know: sometimes people make comebacks.


What would Pearlman "come back" as? The disaster that he was five years ago? Or maybe the disaster that he was ten years ago? I'm perfectly happy to never click on any Pearlman link. In fact, now that I know this is a Pearlman thread, I'm through here.
   21. Boush Posted: January 05, 2013 at 09:31 PM (#4339834)
Interesting read. He father was very much a legendary NJ HS football coach. Hazard Zet Forward, Tom.

I agree with the comments about Pearlman. He really does hate sports. See, e.g., his interview with Seth Davis.
   22. base ball chick Posted: January 07, 2013 at 12:28 PM (#4340713)
someone should do the serious crime innuendo thingy to pearlman just as he has done to all these guys.

if these guys committed the crimes pearlman sez, then let's see the evidence. he just refuses to give any except to say, someone sez someone sez.

and he absolutely detests athletes. unless they suck him off and say that steroids = satan and celine dion should be put to death. the guy went to high school. he KNOWS what jocks are like. i think he expected to be admitted to their clique and was vengeful when they considered him a huge pain in the ass instead of one of the guys

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