Gary Matthews Jr implicated in new steroids probe

DMZ · February 27, 2007 at 12:55 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

A New York state grand jury investigation started kicking off arrests, going after internet pharmacy operations. What’s the tie? The investigators are already leaking names

From the Albany Times Union:

The Times Union has learned that investigators in the year-old case, which has been kept quiet until now, uncovered evidence that testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs may have been fraudulently prescribed over the Internet to current and former Major League Baseball players, National Football League players, college athletes, high school coaches, and a former Mr. Olympia champion and another top contender in the bodybuilding competition.

The customers include Los Angeles Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Skip for a moment the ethical and legal issues around leaking stuff like that…

It certainly could cast Matthews’ late-career upsurge in a different light. Weirdly, as Dave noted his career year in 2006 wasn’t based on power:

Then, 2006 rolls around, and at age 31, he has a career year, hitting .313/.371/.495 as an everyday center fielder. However, there wasn’t a significant change in his skillset – his walk rate declined slightly, his power was exactly where it was the previous two seasons, he didn’t hit any more line drives, and his HR rate actually fell. The improvement was completely and utterly tied to his ability to have balls fall into gaps where fielders weren’t standing.

Where raw power is really where the steroids are supposed to help. You have to go back to 2004 in Texas to see a power spike in ISO (.186 in 2004, .181 in 2005, .182 in 2006) — but then, not knowing the scope of evidence here, maybe that’s how far back it goes. Who knows.

Anyway, here’s hoping it’s all a crazy mixup and Matthews is totally innocent.

Comments

22 Responses to “Gary Matthews Jr implicated in new steroids probe”

  1. Steve T on February 27th, 2007 1:04 pm

    Aren’t steroids supposed to help even more with resiliency and coming back from injury, not just serious injury but the kind of day-to-day knocks that every player suffers? And prevent it in the first place? I dunno, I haven’t read your book yet. But I thought the supposed “power boost” from steroids was largely a myth, at least in terms of HR power (not raw weight-lifting power). After all, a good portion of the guys who’ve been caught are pitchers, not hitters.

    Could Mathews have anything in his contract that lets the Angels off the hook here? Not that they want off the hook, but if the guy’s going to serve a suspension or something….

    I have to admit a certain amount of “screw youse guys, I wanna win” schadenfreude that it’s happening to a key player for a divisional opponent, though I certainly do not wish Mathews himself ill.

    Is the NFL going to be going “whew, it’s only drugs this time; at least there’s no gunplay”?

  2. DMZ on February 27th, 2007 1:09 pm

    Yes. I don’t want to give away the book chapter, really, but for pitchers, you’re indeed looking at injury prevention and reduction of recovery time, and there’s some reason to believe it can help velocity in some cases.

    For hitters, it’s helpful in allowing them to train a lot harder, maintain muscle mass through the season more easily, and the whole package can translate into extra-base power.

  3. DMZ on February 27th, 2007 1:19 pm

    As to the contracts – there’s generally a clause in there that says the player isn’t to engage in any horrible stuff or dangerous stuff – this is what gets dragged up when someone’s caught naked in a hotel room with a boys choir and three bales of dope, or if they snap a leg during a breakdancing throwdown.

    I can’t think of a case, though, where a team has exercised that clause to void a contract over steroids. Ron Gant springs to mind as an example of the doing-stuff-you-shouldn’t voiding, but we haven’t seen one for steroids yet.

  4. Spanky on February 27th, 2007 2:02 pm

    This is bad news yet again. As a fan, it makes you question any unusual “bounce in production” after the age of 30. DMZ, are there players with credible, sustained, post-30, improvement in production that we can look to as examples to help retain our faith in good old fashioned hard work?

  5. DMZ on February 27th, 2007 2:04 pm

    There’s tons. Nate Silver wrote about this, but when you look at really huge data sets, there are many, many players who peak early and others who peak late, including a lot before the 1980s, when steroids really made inroads into baseball. The age-27 peak is generally true, but there’s a lot of variability.

  6. Evan on February 27th, 2007 2:07 pm

    I’m hoping Matthews gets cleared just because I thnk the Angels are hoping to regret that contract, and I really don’t like the Angels.

    Otherwise, it would be funny to see their new acquisition start the season with a drug suspension.

  7. msb on February 27th, 2007 3:15 pm

    and the other Gary, Sheffield is claiming the MLBPA refers to the Mitchell Investigation ‘a witch hunt’. Donald Fehr, not so much.

  8. Eugene on February 27th, 2007 3:16 pm

    Weren’t all MLB players tested for steroids last year?

  9. DMZ on February 27th, 2007 3:20 pm

    Uh huh.

  10. Eugene on February 27th, 2007 3:25 pm

    So, let’s assume that he was tested last year and was clean, given that he wasn’t suspended during or after last season.

    If this is a “year old case”, can he be suspended for something that might have happened two (or more) seasons ago, when there was no essentially no testing and no punishment? Ultimately, I guess the answer is yes because MLB can do what they want. Still…

  11. DMZ on February 27th, 2007 3:43 pm

    Testing clean doesn’t necc. = clean, for one. But anyway –

    The CBA has a provision for a non-test positive – this is what Grimsley got hooked on, because he was caught accepting a shipment of banned drugs for his own use.

  12. Mike Snow on February 27th, 2007 3:46 pm

    I doubt he can be suspended for stuff that old, considering that the whole system is collectively bargained and the MLBPA would raise a huge stink and probably get it overturned. Remember, even if there’s evidence here linking him to actual steroids, he can still say, “I bought the stuff but never used it.” Grimsley admitted actual use.

    What might be plausible is to invoke this incident as reasonable cause to subject him to additional testing. But it’s not clear how much, if at all, that provision is being used to justify tests.

  13. DMZ on February 27th, 2007 3:50 pm

    We don’t know yet. There hasn’t been a test case: MLB didn’t act on the BALCO grand jury testimony, for example, and Giambi didn’t admit outside the jury that he did.

    Grimsley’s admission, though, at least shows that you can get punished while not testing positive.

    Until MLB attempts it, we don’t know what happens in practice. But hypothetically, there are provisions that could allow MLB to suspend a player over something like this.

  14. Mike Snow on February 27th, 2007 4:09 pm

    Well, if the issue is whether somebody can get suspended purely for use that predates the agreed testing-and-suspension regime, I doubt there will ever be a test case. We’ll simply have to wait out the passage of time on that, until the current generation of players retires.

    If the issue is what justifies a non-analytical positive, that may well be tested eventually. Without an admission, presumably the union would want to emphasize the “reasonable cause” option and argue that MLB should have to test players to confirm its suspicions, instead of going straight to the suspension.

  15. Tek Jansen on February 27th, 2007 4:10 pm

    I am a small, selfish, petty little man, and that is why I hope that this news has a tremendous damaging effect on the play of Matthews and the Angels’ season.

  16. Ralph Malph on February 27th, 2007 4:32 pm

    Let’s hear it for small, selfish, petty little men. Being one myself.

  17. oNeiRiC232 on February 27th, 2007 4:32 pm

    I want GMJ to come up so clean that they find Lysol in his stool.

    Or in other words, I want the Angels to feel the full brunt of that contract without any excuses or cop-outs.

    Go go Whizzinator, GMJ!

  18. msb on February 27th, 2007 5:17 pm

    wonder if the players will have any recourse to their names coming out, when promised they would remain secret….

  19. Hornets Attack Victor Zambrano! on February 27th, 2007 5:17 pm

    I foresee a budding industry in selling steroid metabolites to teams that want to dump a bad contract.

    “Sorry, Mr. Meche, you tested positive. Off you go!”

  20. big hawna on February 28th, 2007 2:07 am

    Who says raw power is where steroids help?

    Steroids increase your muscle mass in relation to the rest of your body weight, steroids improve your quickness, and endurance. They are used by cricketers, basketball players, track and field atletes, cyclists, boxers… Not just the McGwires of the world…

  21. DMZ on February 28th, 2007 8:06 am

    I guess we’ll have to wait for the book to discuss that aspect, but I’ll say… me. I say that.

  22. Mike Snow on February 28th, 2007 6:59 pm

    So, reportedly growth hormone purchased in 2004. As I was saying before, that’s not proof that he used it. Assuming he did try it, it’s also not proof that he didn’t use other things.

    It’s interesting to note that this is in the year penalties were first attached to steroids tests. Grimsley said he switched over to growth hormone only at this point after using other stuff before.

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