The news that a former New York Mets clubhouse worker has pleaded guilty to distributing performance-enhancing drugs to major leaguers from 1995-2005 and is now talking must make a number of players uneasy. Even though there was no testing policy in the game for a good part of that time frame, any association with steroids will be damaging to a player's reputation.
Once a player's career is over they are still very much defined in life by their time on the baseball diamond. It is still part of their being. They are ballplayers who run insurance companies. They are ballplayers who coach their kid's team. They are ballplayers who start their own business. You get the point. A ballplayer's reputation is a major part of who he is as a person, even when his career is over.
Damage to a player's image can haunt them for the rest of their life. Think of how differently we feel now about Rafael Palmeiro because of one positive test at the end of his illustrious career. Try to remember what you thought of Mark McGwire when he passed Roger Maris on his way to 70 home runs in 1998. His reputation has been sullied because of accusations from a former teammate and some bad advice he received before addressing the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Palmeiro and McGwire might as well be in witness protection the way they have disappeared from the public eye.
I am sure there are bunch of players hoping their name doesn't get released because it will change their life forever.
Baseball is probably torn over this latest development: It may be a real break in the Mitchell Investigation, but it will also bring the steroid story back into the forefront once again just as Barry Bonds approaches Henry Aaron's home run record. It does, however, reinforce the fact that no matter how much we want to deny it, this is still the "steroid era" in baseball.
I was often accused of being in the Mets' clubhouse too much during my years as general manager (1997-2003). I have to admit that I am hoping that there aren't any of my former players outed by this process as it would indicate that not only was I in the clubhouse too much but that I was also deaf and blind.
Steve Phillips, former general manager of the New York Mets, is a regular on ESPN's Baseball Tonight.