Guest: Tommy Lasorda, Mike Greenwell, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MCGWIRE, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: My heart goes out to every parent whose son or daughter were victims of steroid use. I hope that these hearings can prevent other families from suffering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS: A dramatic day and night on Capitol Hill. As the biggest names in baseball are grilled about steroids.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.
Today testifying before the House Government Affairs Committee, Mark McGwire, one of the greatest ball players of his generation, said under oath today‘s historic baseball steroid scandal is a reality.
Later, we‘ll hear from legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, and former Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell. But we begin with my colleague Keith Olbermann from “COUNTDOWN” here on MSNBC and his reaction to the hearings.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”: Well, Chris, I think what you‘ve seen is the first bipartisanship of the new Congress. That‘s the first thing. They were all ganging up on baseball owners and players.
But also, bipartisanship among the baseball players and the owners. They have stone walled collectively. They have agreed on something for the first time, perhaps, in the history of the game, dating professionally back to 1871 in this country.
Namely, they don‘t want this subject and have not wanted this subject fully explored. So you have gotten the stone wall versus people whose—whose goal, obviously, today was to knock down the stone wall as best they could.
But I think the headline still dates from—from this afternoon. And the comments of Mark McGwire, who broke the baseball home run record in 1998 and was given an opportunity to deny that he had ever used steroids and chose not to. I think that‘s—that‘s, above all else, what will come out of this hearing, was that much like—I think you heard Congressman Dent say that—he was invoking the memory of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who supposedly, or presumably, threw the World Series that year. He brought them up.
And it was an apocryphal story about that team. When Joe Jackson, Shoeless Joe Jackson walked down the courthouse steps after supposedly admitting to everything that had been done, a little boy was supposed to have come up to him and said, “Say it ain‘t so, Joe. Say it ain‘t so.” It never really happened, but it made a great story.
And Joe turned to the kid and said, “I‘m afraid it is, son. I‘m afraid it is.”
Well, today we had Mark McGwire being essentially asked that same question. He said, “On the advice of my counsel, no comment.”
MATTHEWS: But Jose said it was so. Let‘s listen to—Jose Canseco, that is. Let‘s—let‘s listen right now to Mark McGwire and his testimony, which you were talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCGWIRE: My name is Mark McGwire. I played the game of baseball since I was nine years old. I was privileged to be able to play 15 years in the major leagues. I love and respect our national pastime. I will do everything in my power to help the game, its players and fans.
First and foremost, my heart goes out to every parent whose son or daughter were victims of steroid use. I hope that these hearings can prevent other families from suffering.
I admire the parents who had the courage to appear before the committee and warn the dangers of steroid use. My heart goes out to them. I applaud the work of the committee in exposing this problem, so that the dangers are clearly understood.
There has been a problem with steroid use in baseball. Like any sport, where there is pressure to perform, at the highest level, and there‘s been no testing to control performance-enhancing drugs, problems develop. It is a problem, and that needs to be addressed.
Most importantly, every Little Leaguer, Pony League, high school, college player needs to understand that performance-enhancing drugs of any kind can be dangerous. I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor.
What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates. I have always been a team player. I have never been a person who has spread rumors or said things about teammates that can hurt them.
I do not sit in judgment of other players, whether it deals with their sexual preference, their marital problems, or other personal habits, including whether or not they use chemical substances. That has never been my style, and I do not intend to change this just because the cameras are turned on.
Nor do I intend to dignify Mr. Canseco‘s book. It should be—it should be enough that you consider the source of the statements in the book, in that many inconsistencies and contradictions have already been raised.
I have been advised that my testimony here could be used to harm friends and respected teammates or that some ambitious prosecutor can use convicted criminals who would do and say anything to solve their own problems.
Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers no, he simply will not be believed. If he answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations.
My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I intend to follow their advice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Keith, it‘s interesting that Mark McGwire sort of gave us a nondenial, denial. He didn‘t answer the question, whereas the other players denied having used steroids.
OLBERMANN: If you‘re Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro, who had preceded McGwire, just as you suggest, Chris, moments before that, and both said, “No, I never used steroids.” I think Sosa said it in two different languages. And then afterwards, Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox and Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, said, “No, I didn‘t use steroids either,” you have to wonder what Mark McGwire is talking about when he says, that if—if you ask a player the question do you use steroids and the answer is no, he will simply not be believed. What‘s he saying about those sitting next to them?
And then if he answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations, it is—it really is that trying to get out of Dodge without acknowledging that you own a gun.
I mean, it‘s such an extraordinary statement, and I think it got buried to some degree because the other headlines were he would not name names. Well, nobody asked him to name names. When they attempted to bring that up, the questioners were shouted down. Even the follow-up questions from some members of the committee, “Mr. McGwire, did you ever use steroids. It‘s not clear from your statement.” That question was never answered.
It was not a personal witch hunt here. This is not the case of Jason Giambi, of New York Yankees, who is involved, as is Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, in an actual potential prosecution. Who testified in front of a grand jury in 2003 in San Francisco about steroid use.
Mark McGwire is not facing any charges, and for him to face charges, there‘d have to be an investigation about steroid use pre-2001, which is when he retired. So I think he‘s put himself up as something of a martyr, and I don‘t think he carried it off at all.
What I think he did was—was permanently take that question mark that there has been since a supplement called andostenedione was found unhidden in his locker during his record-setting home run season of 1998. He‘s taken the question mark about whether or not he did that record clean and made it a permanent thing, as surely as if he‘d tattooed it on his own forehead.
MATTHEWS: You know, I think—I want to ask you, Keith, because you‘re a student of sports and headlines as well, and I want to give you some—I think I‘ve been creative here. Some new terms of art, unwitting positive, where you test positive for a drug somehow because you accidentally took an illegal drug.
Is that to be believed, as new form of innocence?
OLBERMANN: You know what? It‘s so remarkable to hear a phrase like that and see it introduced as something new in a particular area of baseball.
You remember, it‘s 1988 when the huge steroid scandal enveloped the Olympics in Seoul in Korea...
OLBERMANN: ...when Ben Johnson, the sprinter, after winning a couple of gold medals, tested positive for steroids and was thrown from the summit of sports, and is now racing against horses on, you know, race tracks in Canada, to try to make $20.
I mean, these were all new terms in 1988, and we are to believe believed that the whole process took 15 years or more to get in baseball? It begs belief, completely, and it underscores, you know, that this stone wall has been in place for a long time in baseball, and perhaps it was chipped away at.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Keith.
When we come back, we‘ll talk to legendary Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, and former Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, who says he lost out in baseball‘s MVP award because he says Jose Canseco was on steroids.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tommy Lasorda, of course, led the Los Angeles Dodgers to eight division titles, two World Series championships and 20 seasons as manager of the L.A. Dodgers. He‘s now in the Dodgers‘ front office.
In the year 2000, he managed the U.S. team that won the first ever gold medal in baseball at the Sydney Olympics.
And with us by phone is Mike Greenwell, who played 12 seasons with the Boston Red Sox before retiring in 1996.
Tommy, it looked like we had Jose Canseco out there with the other three blind mice. He‘s the only guy that seemed to know anything about drug use, steroid use in the majors. Who‘s right?
TOMMY LASORDA, LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Well, it‘s the question of who do you believe, him or the guys who are saying they don‘t take it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, the other guys are saying...
LASORDA: Jose or McGwire.
MATTHEWS: The other guys are saying they don‘t even know anything about it. They don‘t know there‘s even a buzz about it, that nobody talks about it. They‘re not aware of it.
And why would Canseco confess to it, if he didn‘t do it? Why would he talk about it?
LASORDA: Well, listen, Canseco said he did it. We know that, because he admitted it. But the other fellows have not admitted it, so who do you believe? Canseco said they didn‘t—they did, and they say they didn‘t.
The thing about it is, is if—if they did not take any steroids, and Canseco admitted that they did, then they have a good court case against him for defamation of character.
MATTHEWS: Talk more generally—but, Tommy, that‘s not the whole story here. Canseco says—he did, of course, name some names in his book, but his larger case is, it‘s prevalent in the majors. Is it your belief it‘s prevalent in the majors?
LASORDA: Well, there‘s people that have taken it. They‘ve already known that when they tested five percent were taking it.
The thing—that thing that I‘ve been saying, Chris, all the time, and I‘ll say it again, I‘m concerned more with the kids who are taking it. They say that there are 500,000 youngsters in high school who are taking steroids.
Now, that is a crime. Now, that is terrible. And the only reason why they do it is they look and think that the players are doing it, and they try to emulate them. We have got to stop those half million boys from taking steroids.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it‘s a lot like those kids that used to wrap a towel around their neck and jump out the window and die because they thought they saw Superman doing it.
Let me go right now to Mike Greenwell. What‘s your experience? Is Canseco telling the truth about himself and the rest or not?
MIKE GREENWELL, FORMER BOSTON RED SOX PLAYER: Well, I was his teammate two years in 1995 and 1996. And the one thing that I did find with Jose is he‘s an honest person. And, you know, I don‘t believe he‘s out there telling this and lying about it. But the other guys are not admitting it, so, you know, I can‘t point fingers and say they were or they weren‘t.
But you know, it was pretty obvious to me in baseball that there was at least a percentage. What that percentage was, don‘t know, but there was a percentage that was obviously taking steroids. And I‘m sure there was a percentage taking them, even a greater percentage, over the last few years, because of the way the numbers have changed so much in baseball the last 10 years.
MATTHEWS: Did you watch Mark McGwire today testifying?
GREENWELL: No, I did not.
MATTHEWS: Well, he was very impressive.
LASORDA: I saw him.
MATTHEWS: Tommy, he was crying. It was powerful.
LASORDA: Yes, I saw that.
MATTHEWS: He was apologizing—he was apologetic in manor, if not in his words.
MATTHEWS: He was feeling the pain of a guy who knew what kids were going through, like you were.
Let‘s take a look, however, at the key witness today, Jose Canseco.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSE CANSECO, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: My name is Jose Canseco. And for 17 years, I played professional baseball.
When I decided to write my life story, I was aware that what I revealed about myself and the game I played for a majority of my life would create a stirring of that world.
My heart and condolences go out to those families who lost their children to use of steroids. Today, I commit myself to doing everything possible to assist them in conveying to the youth of America the dangers that using steroids will bring.
After this hearing, I will be happy to work with them in whatever way I can to help convey to the youth of America the message that steroid use is unnecessary to be a great athlete and that they are harmful to use to those who take them.
And although my answers to your questions will be helpful in resolving uncertainties and issues facing this committee, because of my fear of future prosecution for probation violations or other unrelated charges, I cannot be totally candid with this committee. I, when appropriate, will invoke the protections offered me by the Fifth Amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow, Tommy Lasorda, you know, we all grew up with mobsters taking the fifth, and they looked like cynical SOB‘s. These guys looked like good guys. And they looked like the guys who were stuck in a situation their ambitions may have taken them to.
But Mark McGwire today, I‘ll say it again, in his body language, and the way he was almost in tears, I think he was in tears, feeling that responsibility you talked about. What do you think is the responsibility of a guy who‘s on a baseball card toward the kids of America?
LASORDA: Well, that‘s the big thing. The youngsters try to emulate them. They all want to be major league players. They don‘t want to be a mayor or a governor or a policeman or a truck driver. They all want to be big league baseball players, and they look up to those players.
Those players have more of an impact on the youth of our
Country than many, many people, because if they would spend more time
telling them to stay away from illegal drugs, and to get a good education, that education opens many doors to success, those youngsters would listen to them quicker than they would even their own parents.
MATTHEWS: Mike Greenwell, let me ask...
LASORDA: I know—if Babe Ruth...
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mike Greenwell, because I want to get your real emotions on this, sir. You know, everybody says everybody does it all the time. Every time somebody does something wrong in the world, somebody always says, everybody does it. They think that gets them off the hook. You didn‘t, did you?
GREENWELL: No, I did not.
MATTHEWS: And you paid a price for it. Tell us about what the price is for the guy that doesn‘t cheat.
GREENWELL: Well, obviously, in 1988, Canseco wins the MVP, goes 40-40. First player in history to ever do it. Admittedly was using steroids before and during that time.
So not only did it cost me the MVP, it cost me notoriety. It maybe cost me opportunities for endorsements. It maybe cost me financially. And I felt like it was very important now for this to come out for the players that maybe got affected. We already know of three players, two for sure that have admitted to using steroids. Giambi, we assume that he is admitting that he has used steroids.
But Caminiti and Canseco, all three MVP‘s. So there‘s other players out there that have been affected by this. And I think the message needs to get out there that you can be a star in the game without using steroids.
But it‘s also important that we let people know that we weren‘t playing on an even playing field.
GREENWELL: And the things we did in the game, we‘re very proud of. But I can tell you this, Chris, eight years into my career, I studied steroids. I studied whether—should I do them, shouldn‘t I do them, because I felt the pressure so much by—maybe the fans, by the media, maybe ownership to perform at a better level, to put up more power numbers, not that—my lifetime average was over 300, but I wasn‘t putting up 40 homeruns. I was putting up 20.
MATTHEWS: They wanted a slugger.
Tommy, we‘re going to come back, because Tommy made a comment the other day that it‘s hard not to agree with. I grew up with baseball, the fly out was the common play in baseball besides the grounder. The fly, the warning track, the way back near the stands. Now those balls, as you say, Tom, are going over the fence into the seats because of drugs.
When we come back, more with Tommy Lasorda and Mike Greenwell on how baseball is or is not handling the steroid scandal and how it should be handling it.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We are back.
Let me go right now to Mike Greenwell again. Mike Greenwell, you know, when you see kids cheat in school, at any level, and you know they‘re getting away with it, you‘re sitting the next aisle over and have to watch them do it, it burns you a couple of ways.
One, you know, they‘re getting numbers they don‘t deserve in school, and secondly, you‘re part of the cover-up. Because it‘s part of the system at school; you never rat anybody out. Is that what it felt like?
GREENWELL: It did feel like that. And like I said, I was teammates with Jose in ‘95 and ‘96, and believe me, I had many conversations, joking conversations about how—you know, I would tease him about was he keeping my MVP dusted and things like that.
And we talked several times about steroid use, even to the point where he said—I made a joke about, I wish I had your power.” And he said, “I wish I could hit like you.” And he said, “Why don‘t you come on down to Miami, and I‘ll show you how you can get my power.”
MATTHEWS: Wow. And he meant—he meant getting shot up.
GREENWELL: Right. So a lot of conversations about it. I made the right decision not to get involved, but, boy, I know I felt the pressure. And I think that‘s what‘s happening to our youth out there. They feel the pressure to perform, and the parents are pushing them to be the best they can be. And the kids are making mistakes.
MATTHEWS: Tommy, is there a code like there is in the police force or military, a lot of organizations. Good and bad, you don‘t talk about other players?
LASORDA: Well, you know, there‘s a—there‘s a silent code in baseball, and it‘s always what you hear here and see here, let it stay here.
LASORDA: And that‘s the way it‘s probably been for years. Now Mike was talking about...
MATTHEWS: That would go for girlfriends or whatever, bad nights out, but in this case, we‘re talking serious business. Do you think the code of silence that is part of probably the fun of being on a baseball team and part of the charm of having buddies you trust, is that affecting the way we‘re getting this testimony today?
LASORDA: Well, that‘s true. I would think that the code of silence still remains within baseball. I haven‘t been to the clubhouse in a few years now, but see, the thing about it is, as Mike said, he studied it, and he saw all of the reasons why not to take it.
First of all, today, if you watched the program today, you found out the severity of taking that stuff.
LASORDA: And look—what it‘s going to do and how it‘s going to affect you. And that‘s the reason why Mike didn‘t want to take it. These guys are putting up these big numbers, but they have put their life in jeopardy.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back and talk about why in the year 2004, last
year, there were a couple thousand more home runs hit that year than were -
· we were averaging in the early 1990‘s. What‘s popping those balls over the fence? Is it the juice in the ball or the juice in the players?
We‘ll be back with more HARDBALL with Tommy Lasorda and Mike Greenwell.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with long-time L.A. Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda, and former out fielder for the Red Sox, Mike Greenwell.
What caused the explosion in home runs, from about 3,500 back in the early ‘90‘s, to about 5,500 right—last year?
MIKE GREENWELL, FORMER BOSTON RED SOX PLAYER: I would say small ball parks and steroids.
MATTHEWS: How does steroids do it?
GREENWELL: Just the strength. Guys—I‘ve been in weight rooms with guys bench pressing 450 pounds, and me working five days a week, and me benching 300. It‘s just amazing the difference in the strength.
MATTHEWS: Tommy, you were quoted the other day in the paper, I went through the clips. I may have heard you say it, that the balls that used to be caught on the warning track on the gravel near the wall are now going into the seats. Why?
LASORDA: That‘s the reason—that‘s the reason why there‘s such an increase of home runs. The guys got stronger. They‘re hitting more balls out of the ball park for the simple reason that a lot of them could have been fly balls, 10, 15 years ago.
HOST: What happened to those balls? Why did they go another fete nationale or so? What happened?
LASORDA: Because they hit them that far.
MATTHEWS: That power doesn‘t come from the juice, the steroids?
Mike just said it does.
LASORDA: Who said that?
MATTHEWS: Mike Greenwell just said it, a second ago.
LASORDA: He just said that it comes from steroids? I heard him say that.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that?
LASORDA: Well, they‘re bigger. They‘re stronger, and Caminiti won the MVP. He told everybody he took steroids.
LASORDA: Canseco won the MVP. He told everybody that he took steroids.
MATTHEWS: Were you misquoted were you misquoted when you said that, that the balls that usually got caught on the warning track are now in the seats? Was that a misquote?
LASORDA: No, that wasn‘t misquoted. I said that.
MATTHEWS: What caused the ball to go into the seats?
MATTHEWS: What cause the ball to go further?
LASORDA: The guy hit it further.
MATTHEWS: That‘s by definition. OK. Let me ask you.
LASORDA: That‘s by definition—the ball that the guy would hit in front of the wall years ago, that ball is in the stands because the guy hit it further. He‘s got that strength. He‘s got that enhancing drug, and it allows him to be stronger.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you...
LASORDA: How do you think those guys hit all those home runs. How do you think—how do you think Caminiti did well, as he said, and Canseco?
MATTHEWS: You just told me, enhancing drugs.
Let me ask you about, when I was really a baseball nut as a kid, and you were around then too, of course, you‘ve been around a while, I remember the players were kind of skinny guys. They weren‘t really big guys. Some of them were wiry. I‘m not just talking about the short stops. A lot of players weren‘t that big. It seems to me all of the sluggers today are mooses compared to Maris and Mantle.
LASORDA: I‘ll tell you, you know, until it‘s proven that anybody is taking it, two guys admitted that they took it. Until the guys really and truly find out whether you know they have taken it or not, then you can make a comment about it.
But as Mike said, he didn‘t know for sure that the guys were taking it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Hey, Tommy, it‘s an honor to have you on, sir. I mean it. It‘s a tough day for baseball, but it‘s great having you on.
And Mike, I believe every word you said. Mike, I want to stick around with us. Tommy, thanks for joining us. You have to leave.
Mike, let me ask you about the impact of this in a world—let‘s just
take the players who did use steroids and the player that did,
What was the difference in their careers?
MIKE GREENWELL, FORMER BOSTON RED SOX PITCHER: It affected their legacy in the game. It affected their chances of notoriety. It affected their changes for commercial opportunities.
MATTHEWS: Does it put them in the Hall of Fame? Can it put a player with good eye-hand coordination, given the extra power, the extra slugging ability, can it put him in the hall of fame?
MATTHEWS: Can you think of players without naming them, who have made the Hall of Fame because of the drugs?
MATTHEWS: And you think guys would have been on if they had played the same game?
GREENWELL: Absolutely. Jim Rice (ph) comes to mind there. There‘s a guy who, you know, 463 home runs, something like that, not in Hall of Fame yet, because of what the media is looking at today, these guys popping 500 home runs, they set the bar. Unless you hit 500 home runs, you‘re not going in the Hall of Fame.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about the kind of players that really hit them on your own. I mean, you hit it on your own. The big guys like Mantle and Maris and Mays, all those guys way before. Frank Howard, there‘s lot of obviously all my heroes growing up didn‘t have drugs.
Let me ask you about today. When a guy hits a home run and he comes back to the dugout, does the manager say it‘s too bad you had to have drugs to do it?
GREENWELL: No, they‘re not saying that, but believe me, the manager is happy that he‘s hitting those home runs. So you know, it just got in the game. Players seeing what—the success some of the guys were having.
And you know, obviously Jose is out there talking to other players about it. You know, we could name player after player that their first five, six, seven years in the big leagues was averaging roughly 20 home runs, and all at once, they‘re averaging 35 to 40.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what Jim Bunning said, I grew up as a kid growing up, I rooted like hell for Bunning. He‘s a Philadelphia Philly pitcher, won 20 games years. It‘s like Robert Robinson, another hero of mine.
And he would go—he said that when he was playing ball, not 100 years ago, 30 years ago, the players got—they lost their ability as they got into their 30‘s. They weren‘t as good at pitching. They weren‘t as good at batting or slugging when they got older. He said, today, the guys get bigger and stronger the older they get.
GREENWELL: Well, right, because they—because of the steroids, they realize that for me to stay at the level or to get better, you know, I can do these steroids and stay in the game an extra five years, or an extra seven or eight years, and keep putting up these kind of numbers.
So it really, really has affected the game, and it‘s affected our society, and we‘ve got to clean it up. And the only way to do it is to get these guys to come out and say, “Hey, I was cheating.”
I‘m not looking for anything for it. I know it has affected me, but I‘m not going to get the MVP.
MATTHEWS: Mike, when you‘re watching a game, can you see a ball that goes over the fence into the seats because of that juice?
GREENWELL: Oh, yes. I see guys—I see guys that weigh 175 pounds hitting the ball in the gap to the opposite field, 30 rows up. You didn‘t see that 15 years earlier, and you didn‘t see it 50 years ago, why are we seeing it now?
MATTHEWS: They‘re punching it, huh? Unbelievable.
We‘ll come right back with Mike Greenwell. What a story you‘re telling us. Stay with us, everybody. We‘re getting an inside scoop on the phone, as to what really goes on in those dugouts. Mark McGwire, members of Congress, what a day for baseball, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, home run king Mark McGwire refuses to say whether he ever used steroids. HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Emilio Garcia-Ruiz is a sports editor—he is the sports editor for the “Washington Post,” and HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is also here, and with us by phone is still former Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell.
Let‘s take a look right now at an exchange between Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, and Mark McGwire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: As I understand it, both Mr. Schilling, Mr. Thomas, and Mr. Palmeiro, and I think Mr. Sosa has said they never used the substances. Is that right, Mr. Sosa? You said that, right? You said you had never? Is that right? All right.
Now, Mr. Mark McGwire, would you like to comment on that? I didn‘t get a definitive—I didn‘t hear you say anything about it. You don‘t have to. I‘m just asking. You don‘t want to comment? Are you taking the fifth?
MARK MCGWIRE, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: I am not here to discuss the past. I‘m here to be positive about this subject.
CUMMINGS: I‘m trying to be positive, too. But just a few minutes ago, I watched you excuse—no, no. I need to be able to ask my question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s it, isn‘t it, David? That‘s the heart of it today?
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, what makes this so significant is a lot of people credit Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for rescuing baseball when they had the dramatic home run chase in the 1998 season, where they both hit more than 70 home runs, and there‘s long been a suspicion about whether Mark McGwire was using steroids.
And today, by him being the only one on the panel who refused to say, by saying I don‘t want to talk about the past, that essentially perhaps destroys now Mark McGwire‘s credibility, and at least in the minds of baseball fans, that makes that season, the magical season for baseball, tainted.
MATTHEWS: Does it—or another interpretation could be—let me go right now to Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, who‘s the sports editor for the “Post.” Mr. Ruiz, this could simply be the man‘s following his own constitutional rights here.
EMILIO GARCIA-RUIZ, “WASHINGTON POST”: No, I don‘t think that‘s it at all. I think this is going to be the defining moment for Mark McGwire, especially when you contrast it to what Sammy Sosa did. Sammy came out, and his lawyer read a statement, that said, I didn‘t do it, I‘ve never done it. And then to contrast that with McGwire I think was very, very jarring for people.
MATTHEWS: Well, is it a reasonable deduction, Sosa did not use drugs, and that McGwire did?
GARCIA-RUIZ: I don‘t know if it‘s reasonable deduction, but I think a lot of people are going to walk away believing that at least Sosa came out and was definitive in his statement, while McGwire seemed to be waffling, choking up the whole time. It wasn‘t a very good performance.
MATTHEWS: People waffle for a reason, don‘t they?
GARCIA-RUIZ: That‘s true, but I think people are going to come to their conclusions about what that reason is. And I don‘t think it‘s going to be very charitable.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at Sammy Sosa‘s testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMMY SOSA, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: I was back then—I was watching the laws, and really shocked me, and break my heart. I want to send sympathy to those family that got to go through that situation. And, you know, we can resolve this problem, which is about the kid. I‘m willing to work with you guys and do the best that I can to stop that. I just want to say that. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How do we put together the two stories, the obvious sympathy, and I would say remorse the players showed today, especially Sosa and McGwire, about the bad education they gave these young kids, and at least in the one case, led to the death of the kid, and their refusal to basically take the blame personally? How do you put them together as a story?
GARCIA-RUIZ: I look at it as performance art. I mean, I think Sammy‘s performance was much more compelling. He was able to claim he didn‘t speak English at certain points. He was able to sort of have that look on his face, where he could pretend he really didn‘t understand the question.
It‘s an old dodge used by players who aren‘t from here when they don‘t want to answer a reporter‘s question. It‘s amazing how many people suddenly don‘t speak English when they don‘t want to answer a question.
And I think he was much more effective, whereas—and you know, Rafael as well, very strong, very forceful. Again, in comparison to McGwire, McGwire just does not come out looking that good.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get a little deeper here. Do you think Sosa is saying—setting up a defense, if it‘s later shown that he has used steroids, that there was some miscommunication today and he‘s covered?
GARCIA-RUIZ: Not being a lawyer, I‘m not exactly sure what his defense will be if it comes out that somebody witnessed him doing it.
Again, the problem journalistically with this story has always been it‘s almost impossible to prove. What source is credible enough? Do you need the person who injected it? You know, just having purchased it doesn‘t necessarily prove anything. My guess would be Sosa‘s people realize that and played that to their advantage today.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to Rafael Palmeiro and his view.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL PALMEIRO, PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER: My name is Rafael Palmeiro, and I am a professional baseball player.
Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period.
I do not know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never. The
reference to me in Mr. Canseco‘s book is absolutely false.
I am against the use of steroids. I don‘t think athletes should use steroids, and I don‘t think our kids should use them. The point of view is one, unfortunately, that is not shared by our former colleague, Jose Canseco. Mr. Canseco is an unashamed advocate for increased steroid use by all athletes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Emilio? Is Canseco a pusher of using steroids or is he a critic?
GARCIA-RUIZ: One of the amazing things today is when he was caught in between the fact that his book advocates using steroids, and that his testimony didn‘t—doesn‘t advocate using steroids. And he was caught betwixt and between and tried to talk his way out of it and didn‘t do a particularly good job.
MATTHEWS: God, it must be tough being a juror in this case.
SHUSTER: Chris, I would also say, another thing that was kind of absurd about this, is you got the sense that some members of this committee simply had no idea, the dynamics of baseball. Within baseball, when you talk to the coaches and the managers and the players, Canseco was already hated figure even before this book came out.
MATTHEWS: Well, a lot of us paid a lot more attention to baseball when we were kids. A few of us like you have stuck with it.
We‘ll be right back with Emilio Garcia, David Shuster, the aforementioned David Shuster, and former Red Sox outfielder, Mike Greenwell, who‘s been telling us a great story about information he‘s been giving us on the phone. We can‘t live without it.
We‘re going to hear from Curt Schilling, an outspoken critic of steroids when we come back.
And don‘t forget to check out Hardblogger, our political web site.
Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
MATTHEWS: Really a HARDBALL day in more ways than one. We‘re back with Emilio Garcia-Ruiz from the “Washington Post.” He‘s an editor, the sports editor there.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster, he‘s always with us. And former Red Sox outfielder, Mike Greenwell.
Here‘s some of the testimony today, from Red Sox pitcher, what a star he is—Curt Schilling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURT SCHILLING, RED SOX PITCHER: My hope is that this hearing results in an increased awareness of steroids and their inherent danger to America‘s youth. I recognize that professional athletes are role models for many of the youth in this country. Most athletes take this role very seriously, and I hope through my appearance here that I am conveying my seriousness and understanding of the issue.
While I don‘t profess to have the medical expertise to adequately describe the dangers of steroid use, I do believe I have the expertise to comment on whether steroids are necessary to excel in athletics.
I think it is critical to convey to the youth who desire to excel in sports that steroids are not the answer, that steroids are not necessary to excel in any athletic event. And success is achieved through hard work, dedication, and perseverance.
I also hope that by being here, I can raise level of awareness on several other fronts. First, I hope the committee recognizes danger of possibly glorifying the so-called author scheduled to testify today or by indirectly assisting him to tell more books through his claim that what he was doing is somehow good for this country or the game of baseball.
A book which devotes hundreds of pages to glorifying steroid usage, and which contends that steroid usage is justified and will be the norm in the country in several years is a disgrace, was written irresponsibly and sends exactly the opposite message that needs to be sent to kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re at the “say it ain‘t so” stage here, Mike Greenwell. What should the league do to convince the country it‘s cleaned up its act, at the end of all of this theater?
GREENWELL: Well, I think they‘ve got to go back and take some of the guys that have admitted to using steroids, and take some of their credibility away with some of the awards they‘ve received. I think that‘s a start.
MATTHEWS: Canseco‘s MVP award, would you yank it?
MATTHEWS: And you think there‘s any chance that Coopertown (ph) or whoever decides these things will do that?
GREENWELL: I‘m sure—I‘m sure he won‘t get enough votes to be in the hall of fame after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me go—let me go to Emilio. Do you think this is—we‘ve been through the Black Sox, the White Sox scandal, of course, when they threw the series. We‘ve been through Pete Rose, where he still hasn‘t come clean about his own—betting on his team, the Reds. What‘s going to be the end of this game?
GARCIA-RUIZ: Well, before you get to the end, take a small step, first. Selig is refusing to do any sort of an investigation of this. Baseball has shown absolutely no willingness to even form a panel to look at it yet.
We‘re a long way from awards being stripped, a long way from the hall of fame being affected. Baseball is hoping this whole thing will go away, and after today, they‘re going to have to re-evaluate that, I think.
MATTHEWS: If they hadn‘t been caught, would the owners have done anything about this?
GARCIA-RUIZ: Of course not. Come on. Why would they?
MATTHEWS: I love the way you say that.
GARCIA-RUIZ: The game on the upswing, attendance is up, the money is pouring in. They just sold this team, the Expos to Washington. Most of their problems were solved until this came about.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ve got a new team here in Washington. Do you think you will get better attendance if you have slugging duals, and it‘s 9-8, and it‘s final scores after the ninth? Or you have pitcher‘s duals, where it‘s 1-0? What gets a bigger crowd to the ball park?
GARCIA-RUIZ: Offense, I think, always sells. There‘s no question about that.
MATTHEWS: So the purists are alone, with their loose-leaf books, keeping score, those 1-0 pitcher duals do not sell tickets?
GARCIA-RUIZ: No, not in this day and age, where the NFL has become the No. 1 sport in America because of the violence, because of the action action, because of the pace of the game. The era of the 1-0 game has long since passed or hockey would our national pastime.
SHUSTER: But Chris, even the players want to take the step. Regardless of whether steroids gives you more offense or not, the time during today‘s hearing where the players were most affirmative, where they all agreed more wholeheartedly with the committee.
MATTHEWS: They were at the end of the career.
MATTHEWS: They‘d already benefited from the drugs.
SHUSTER: Right, but Chris, when they were asked whether they were in favor of independent testing, not Olympic standard testing. Independent testing that takes it out of the hands of the owners and out of the hands of the players association, that‘s when they all got out of their seats, leaned forward, and said yes.
They believe that even the system that has been proposed right now, the Major League Baseball, is rigged. That there are loopholes in the system, and as long as there are loopholes, there‘s going to be encouragement for some players to cheat to try to get ahead.
MATTHEWS: What‘s stopping reform?
SHUSTER: The only thing that‘s stopping...
MATTHEWS: You can blame it on Bud, but Bud responds to the owners.
SHUSTER: The players believe that there two problems: first the owners, who like the fact that they‘ve got control. And there are some players who are going to continue to take advantage of the system.
And the ones who don‘t want to use steroids are basically saying, look, you‘ve got to close the loopholes, because as long as there are a few players, we‘re going to be hitting more home runs than anybody else, because they‘re...
MATTHEWS: Amazing stuff. Thank you, David Shuster, as always.
Thank you, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz of the “Washington Post.” He‘s the sports editor.
And a great testimony on the phone from Mike Greenwell. Mike, we couldn‘t thank you enough for all the information you gave us tonight. You are a truth teller. It‘s an honor to have you on the show.
Tomorrow on HARDBALL, my exclusive interview with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who says many prominent Democrats have told him privately that they support his position in support of gay marriage, even if they won‘t say so in public. Fascinating stuff.
And then on Monday, Tim Russert‘s going to join me on HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for the COUNTDOWN with Keith.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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