Matt Williams Powers Up and 'Fesses Up [sorta]

Let's start with the brighter news of the day. Congratulations to Orlando Hudson for winning his second-consecutive Gold Glove, at second-base. I felt his play this season was, overall, more solid than in 2006, and while perhaps not entirely in line with the statistics this is far from the worst choice. Overall, this year, it's hard to argue with Wimb's description of the awards as an "absolute joke", with some glaringly bad choices as winners. See the diary in the sidebar for more in this debate.

Fortuitously, it's also the day we announce the winner of the 2007 Pittie Award for Play of the Year. A late - some might say, suspiciously-late - spurt of votes propelled Brandon Lyon to victory there, for his sliding block of third-base in extra innings against the Giants. It's even more impressive as pitchers, and particularly relief pitchers, are generally not noted for their athletic prowess. I believe that qualifies Lyon to be honored with the title of "ball-player" by Mark Grace.

The bad news is, however, standing in the corner of the room like an elephant wearing a #9 jersey. Matt Williams has admitted to receiving shipments of human growth hormone, steroids and other questionable substances, over a period from 2002-2005. Williams says he took the drugs to help him heal after an ankle injury in 2002, but his explanations so far raise more questions than answers:

  • If this was a legitimate treatment, why did he not go through the team doctor?
  • Is he aware that HGH's approved uses are very limited, such as child dwarfism?
  • What about the steroids? And, in particular, the steroid masking agents [clomiphene] also apparently bought by Williams?
  • If he didn't like the effects, why did he continue to order the drugs for the next three years?

I'd also have a lot more faith in baseball players' explanations, if they came clean without waiting for a press report. Confession is good for the soul. However, the main question is, what happens to Williams now? Compare and contrast the almost-unseemly (but probably appropriate) haste with which Jason Grimsley was dumped by the organization, and Ken Kendrick leaping to Williams' defense:

Grimsley is a guy who admitted, over a long time in his career, usage of performance-enhancing drugs, that he was violating the rules of the game. Matt, on the other hand, to the knowledge that I have - by his own admission and by the records produced - used in the '02 period for about a month and no other time while he was playing. My view is, I'll accept someone who I know pretty well telling me the truth. I believe that he has done that. It's nonetheless disappointing, and I let him know that it's disappointing that it happened at all and it reflects on his status in the game and therefore reflects on any clubs that he has performed on. You can't separate it out.

Exactly: you can't separate it out. So will this admitted user of PED's continue to be a "Special Assistant"? Will he continue to be used to commentate on D-backs games? Or what kind of message will it send to 'the kids', if nothing is done? There's probably no easy answer to these questions, and I'm glad I don't have to answer them.

However, the way in which the Diamondbacks' management chooses to respond will go a long way to demonstrating whether they are merely posturing with their stated anti-drug policy, or are serious about it. It's one thing to drop a mediocre relief pitcher with a one-year contract. It's quite another to deal with someone who has a one-half percentage share in the ownership.

Inevitably, Dan Bickley weighs in. Laughably, he chooses to blame fans for the current mess: "The steroids era brought you back to the game, and you haven't left. Until consumers speak with their wallets and not just their voices (won't happen), MLB will do its best to feign concern over the great shame of it all." [Emphasis added] Of course, the en masse media fawning over McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, etc. is in no way responsible for the current situation, is it, Dan? That "you" really needs to be a "we", I think.

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