Chat with TJ Quinn
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN investigative reporter TJ Quinn stops by to chat about Mark McGwire's steroids admission.
Quinn is a reporter for ESPN's enterprise/investigative unit, and has reported extensively on performance-enhancing drugs in sport. Before joining ESPN, he was an investigative sportswriter for the New York Daily News, and previously spent seven seasons as a baseball beat writer. He is the former chairman of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He began his journalism career as a news reporter for the Daily Southtown in Chicago and then the Salt Lake Tribune in Salt Lake City, Utah, after graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Send your questions now and join Quinn Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
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T.J. Quinn (3:00 PM)
Hello all - thanks for joining me this afternoon. Let's jump into the questions.
Aaron (New Mexico)
We all see now he was juiced for the home run record. But whether he was or not, we can't deny his presence on the field as a good sport, and as a student of hitting. Most of all, would you agree or deny that he and Sosa saved baseball?
T.J. Quinn (3:02 PM)
I guess "good sport" is in the eye of the beholder. Following baseball in 1998 -- I was a beat writer covering the Mets at the time -- it was a rush to be around, and the joy he and Sosa seemed to feel was infectious. But I know a number of players who feel those two ruined the game by establishing a belief in some circles that a player had to juice in order to compete. They may have "saved" baseball at the time, but the question is at what cost.
Joey (Oakland )
Is Tony La Russa still a great manager now that steroids have indirectly helped him win games?
T.J. Quinn (3:03 PM)
That's really beyond my pay grade. His accomplishments are undeniable, even if you're one of the beleaguered A's or Cards fans who think he can't handle a bullpen. Unquestionably, he had players on his teams who used, but so did an awful lot of managers.
Biggy (Washington, NC)
I'm a huge baseball fan, but also consider myself to be a realist. With baseball now having 40 HR seasons as the exception, not the norm, is it time to recognize basically all 50 HR hitters from the era to be juicers? how can anyone believe in those statistics as clean?
T.J. Quinn (3:06 PM)
Well, that's exactly the kind of question that has left so many players resentful of McGwire and others who used performance enhancers. There are guys I've known who are adamant that they were clean, and hate that the taint from McGwire has spread to them. The sad legacy of the era -- which I would argue is not over -- is that we never can know. If there's an upside as a baseball fan, and I still consider myself a passionate fan of the game, it's that maybe people won't focus as much on the numbers and will enjoy the things that make the game unique.
Justin (Saint Louis, MO)
Hi TJ I'm from St. Louis and a die hard cards fan like most of us here, but my question is simple don't you think that when a man gets close to 28% of the votes when everyone knows he's lying and when he finally does come out with the information and that he didn't use every year he's deserving to get in, when cheaters like Barry Bonds might get in by keeping up their lie? O and I saw you went to Mizzou so I'll leave you with this M-I-Z-
T.J. Quinn (3:10 PM)
A hearty Z-O-U, Justin.I'm not so sure Barry Bonds will just sail into the Hall. A lot of my fellow Hall of Fame voters (yes, I'm a voter) have said they won't vote for Bonds or Clemens when they're on the ballot. There has been a great deal of evidence presented about them, and they're now trapped by the fact that they're facing federal law enforcement. Bonds has been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and for him to come clean now would effectively be a guilty plea. Clemens hasn't been indicted, but he's under investigation and would face the same fate.
Brian (Miller Place, NY)
Why do some people continue to insist that PEDs don't affect on-field performance? Nobody denies that weight training substantially improves performance and nobody denies that PEDs substantially improve weight training?ergo, PEDs substantially improve performance, right?
T.J. Quinn (3:15 PM)
Brian, I've heard players say for 15 years that steroids "don't improve your hand-eye coordination or help you hit the ball." They're wrong. They do. If I were to take the world's most sophisticated regimen I wouldn't hit 1 home run in the majors, much less 70, but years of research have shown that it would increase my lean muscle mass, increase my speed, increase my aggressiveness and confidence. Those are all factors. Steroids might not turn a schlub into a major leaguer, but they'll make anyone better. If a player can wait a fraction of a second longer on a pitch because he now has the added bat speed and power to catch up to a pitch, that's more time to identify a pitch. The physics are simple: force = mass x acceleration. You increase either factor, you increase force.
Alex (New York)
McGwire claims he took the steroids and HGH to combat injuries and stay healthy, but isn't it more likely that the repeated injuries he suffered were the result, and not the cause, of his PED use?
T.J. Quinn (3:16 PM)
It's hard to say what caused his injuries, but there is plenty of evidence that the increased musculature some athletes have acquired was more than their bodies could handle. Victor Conte used to preach to his athletes that "too much is as bad as too little."
TJ, as each of these ball players continues to come forward, do you get a sense of professional accomplishment, seeing as how you've been one of the people digging into this steroids story for several years now?
T.J. Quinn (3:18 PM)
Dave, a number of people have done outstanding work on this topic, and it's been tough keeping up with them. I don't feel any special sense of satisfaction that McGwire finally admitted it, but I guess there is a certain professional pride I feel about the work I did with Mike O'Keeffe, Christian Red and Teri Thompson at the New York Daily News five years ago when we were able to get information about the extent of McGwire's use.
Is this just another "no kidding" moment? It's not like no one suspected McGwire of using.
T.J. Quinn (3:22 PM)
I think it's a Mona Lisa moment - make of it what you will. No, few people are surprised, especially after my colleagues and I at the NYDN reported what he was taking five years ago. But the mechanics of all this are fascinating - what makes a man keep something secret for so long and then suddenly confess? What does it say about him and the people around him? How will the fans/writers/other players react? And I'm also curious how some Hall voters will react - I know many who have said they voted for him because they didn't have evidence he had juiced. Well, now they have it...
Rick (Syracuse, NY)
It seems somewhat hypocritical that some of the Hall of Fame voters say they will never vote for McGwire, but yet alot of them voted for Gaylord Perry who was suspended for cheating and is in HOF
T.J. Quinn (3:25 PM)
It's a fair point, and one that many raise every year. I think the difference is that there has been a big shift in the ethos of baseball. In the dead ball era, the spitball was just part of the game, and the governing principle was "if you ain't cheating you ain't trying." Players had a grudging respect for players like Perry who "cheated" successfully, just as they admired the great sign stealers. But with PED's, suddenly health was an issue. The worst thing Perry faced was embarrassment. The worst thing a steroid user faces is heart/liver/kidney problems. Not to mention that steroids are illegal, and spitballs are just gross.
will Mark Mcguire ever get in the hall of fame?
T.J. Quinn (3:27 PM)
It doesn't look good. I'm curious how other voters will react. Will some say "OK, he came clean, now I'll vote for him"? Or will some say "I voted for him in the past because I wasn't sure he had doped, but now he's lost my vote." And I think the guys on the veterans' committee will be less forgiving then the writers.
Drew (Orlando Florida)
I was one of many people who got to grow up in the 90's and watch the three man home run race between Mcgwire, Sosa, and Griffey. I looked up to Big Mac as some kind of baseball God. To finally have him admit to steriod use saddens me as alot of those great players in the 90's are probably nothing more than HGH fueled cheats
T.J. Quinn (3:29 PM)
Drew, one of the saddest things, to me, about the spread of doping in sport is that we have lost our sense of wonder. If Babe Ruth or Josh Gibson came along today no one would think they were clean.
What are your thoughts on Bob Knight's comment that Gatorade is also a performance enhancer. It is true after all.
T.J. Quinn (3:33 PM)
There's a difference between performance enhancement and doping. Exercise, nutrition and rest are performance enhancers. But they don't ask an athlete to risk his or her health. There are drugs that might fall into a gray area -- caffeine has PE qualities, but is considered acceptable -- but if you think there's no difference between Gatorade and Winstrol V, I won't be asking you for any Gatorade.
T.J., We all want to know who's on this 103 player list. Do you think we will ever find out? And, if so what other "big" names could be on it?
T.J. Quinn (3:34 PM)
I promise you if I find out I'll share it.
Nate (Saint Louis MO)
Does A-Rod have enough years to erase some the damage he has done with his own admission to steroid use? If so, will he get into Cooperstown?
T.J. Quinn (3:36 PM)
He's an interesting case. There is a general sense among many writers that anything he or anyone has done since testing was introduced is considered legitimate. I don't know that that's the case because testing is so incomplete and flawed, but if he can continue to put up HOF-caliber numbers for the rest of his career, I think he'll get more support that McGwire, Bonds or Clemens.
I'm also a huge baseball fan, but I have to admit that this steroid issue has taken some of the passion from me. The home run record chase one was of the greatest moments not just in baseball, but in all of sports, and now that great moment just seems like one big lie. I think every player who has admitted to, or tested positive for performance enhancing drug usage should have their entire career wiped from the record books. To me, it's the only true way to vindicate the honest players and the loyal fans who feel betrayed by the actions of this group of people. Your thoughts?
T.J. Quinn (3:40 PM)
There's something we'll never get back. Even if you erase the record books, you can't really erase the record books. No one will ever make me forget what .406, 56 or 755 mean. If we adjust for steroids, do we adjust for amphetamines? For segregation? Personally, I've tried to change how I look at the game. I don't know who the greatest home run hitter of all time is, but I know I got to watch Shawon Dunston and Joe McEwing run out every ball they ever hit, I got to watch Andruw Jones in center, I got to watch Rey Ordonez make plays I thought weren't possible, I got to see Pedro Martinez throw six perfect innings on two days' rest -- those are the things I hang on to.
the problem is olympians have to give back their medals, what do baseball players have to give? nothing? i think its crap that their stats are still considered legit
T.J. Quinn (3:44 PM)
That's the problem with team sports. If this were college and McGwire had been academically ineligible, the entire team's wins would be forfeit. Some people in sports, like former Oakland Raider Bob Moore, have suggested that the way to get individuals in professional sports to stop doping is to punish teams when players are caught, but I can't picture the MLBPA or NFLPA going along with that.
Zac M (St. Louis)
livin in st. louis, i do think that mcgwire did take to get on that feild so that we could beat them cubbies, seeing sosa going crazy out there, yes he took the steroids to compete and win, growing up watchin him as my idol i do believe he is a hall of famer just because of he beautiful and solid power swing
T.J. Quinn (3:46 PM)
A lot of people doped for a lot of different reasons. I think you've just expressed the essence of being a fan, though - to you and others who rooted for McGwire, the swing will always be the same. People will take from this what they want to.
Who exactly do you think you are to sit in judgement of McGwire?? Who? He came clean and admitted he used for most of his career in an era when lots and lots of players were using. At least he came clean and admitted he did it unlike way too many other players What else do you want from him? How would you like to be judged in how you do your job and what you put into your body? It is guys like you that make people dislike reporters. Sad you have a vote for the Hall.
T.J. Quinn (3:50 PM)
If by judgment you mean a personal moral or ethical reaction, I'm on no position to judge. If you mean my HOF vote, then I think I'm one of the qualified voting members of the BBWAA and I take my responsibilities for that vote seriously and with great respect for the game. Whether or not he "came clean" yesterday is not for me to say, but after watching that interview last night a lot of people were left asking the same questions, like how does he think they didn't help his career, and why didn't he come clean after 2006 when he was no longer at risk for prosecution? I'm judged in my job every day by viewers like yourself, and like anybody, I'm accountable for what I do.
Ramses (San Francisco)
Hi TJ, multi-part question: Why was is considered okay for Agassi, who could barely walk later in his career, to get some type of cortisone injection? Aren't there drugs that do help hand-eye coordination or one's vision? And I believe all of these 90s guys will eventually get into the HOF. Voters from future generations might have different opinions on all of this. Thanks
T.J. Quinn (3:52 PM)
First, cortisone is a corticosteroid, not an anabolic. It reduces inflammation, it doesn't build muscle, and isn't considered a performance enhancer. Anti-doping distinguishes between drugs that help heal, and drugs that help enhance performances. That's why some drugs, like testosterone, may be used by an athlete if he or she demonstrates a medical need and gets prior approval from his or her league. It's called a "therapeutic use exemption."
TJ, aren't the writers to blame for "burying" all the steriod leads from 1998? I remember one writer who is now working for SI who attacked people for Saying Big Mac was using anything but Andro. I'm as mad at the writers, Owners and Fans as I am at the players.
T.J. Quinn (3:54 PM)
Tarek, we deserve it. A lot of us were blind to what was going on, and our job is to have our eyes open. I was no better than anyone else.
How level was the steroid playing field? We know the best players of the early 2000s Yankees/Sox were roiding but what about the Twins, who were bounced? Were Radke, Santana, Hunter roiding? It seems like it was even (whereas in football, I suspect the Vikings have as many roiders as the Giants or Pats).
T.J. Quinn (3:55 PM)
There is just no way to know. What I've learned from this saga is that anyone is capable of just about anything. Just ask Andy Pettitte.
Zac M (St. Louis)
Why do you really think mcgwire used steroids, was it to compete with Sammy Sosa year after year, or too break the home-run record?
T.J. Quinn (3:58 PM)
I wouldn't dare to assume, but I know players have cited personal pressure, a desire to win, a desire to help their teams, a desire to get better, a desire for a bigger contract, a fear of losing, a fear of being cut, a sense that others are so you have to. And I've known some guys who would shoot their own mothers if it meant winning a $2 bet.
Yeah, yeah, yeah steroids are terrible for the game. But bigger question- Did you vote for Blyleven?
T.J. Quinn (3:58 PM)
Absolutely. I have every year I've had a ballot.
T.J. Quinn (3:59 PM)
There are still more than 100 questions on the list, but I'm afraid I can't do more than a few more. I just can't type fast enough.
the only way to fix the issue of single season home run all-time leaders is to erase everyones spot up there who has used them, I believe then the leader would be @ 61 home runs. also the all time home run listshould be cut down also to all the people who have used them...
T.J. Quinn (4:01 PM)
Baseball is in the same spot track found itself in - records become meaningless if you can't account for their veracity. Suffice it to say a lot of people will consider Maris and Aaron the people's champs no matter what the books say. But we've been cast out of Eden, I'm afraid.
Jim (New York)
They had an asterisk next to 61* until after Roger Marris died. That should be the standard then. Put an * next to the juicer's records until they have past away.
T.J. Quinn (4:02 PM)
Actually there never was an actual asterisk.
Tom (New Jersey)
What is interesting is that no one is mentioning is the fact that the dominate pitchers of the generation aka Greg Maddax were at a disadvantage, doesn't that make these pitchers that much greater?
T.J. Quinn (4:03 PM)
Ask a hitter from the 90s what he thought about the strike zone umps called for Maddux and Glavine, and who was at a disadvantage...
Paul (Playa Vista, CA)
I don't understand how Selig thinks that the steroid era is "a thing of the past." I believe that will continue for as long as PED's persist in not just baseball, but also other sports as well, compared to other illegal drugs.
T.J. Quinn (4:04 PM)
What we know is that baseball doesn't test players' blood, it doesn't test for HGH, IGF-1 or EPO. We know that testing is fairly easy to beat. We know that the incentives for money and glory are as strong as ever. You do the math from there.
Will any of the players even own up and admit that they took PED's to get better and not just for "health" reasons? McGwire missed a golden opportunity to be the first.
T.J. Quinn (4:05 PM)
So far the only athlete I've heard that from is Guillermo Mota.
That's not really fair, Maddux and Glavine earned those strike zones.
T.J. Quinn (4:06 PM)
I'm guessing that you, like I, never had to face them. But they were both nasty enough without the help.
Lance (Washington, DC)
Do you have any data to support the theory that high home run totals in 90's and early 00's as compared to other decades are directly linked to the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone?
T.J. Quinn (4:08 PM)
There's been a great deal of statistical research done on that topic, but scientifically of course you could never say that steroids were the sole cause of the anomalies we saw. What we know is that they make players better, and that players used them.
Is this just another era in baseball? PED's in any sport will exist and will be used. We don't know what players did 60 years ago to get an advantage, but they likely did it.
T.J. Quinn (4:09 PM)
Unless something unforeseen happens with the science, no, it seems unlikely that we'll ever see PEDs eliminated from sport. That's why I'm reluctant to call this the "post steroid era." I prefer to think of it as the age of enlightenment.
T.J. Quinn (4:13 PM)
There are more than 100 questions I wasn't able to get to, but we're out of time. Please accept my apologies, those of you who patiently waited but didn't get an answer. Hopefully I'll be able to get to some of them next time. My sincere thanks for the thought and effort.