- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
TAMPA, Fla. -- A longtime player chatted recently about watching Melky Cabrera in the All-Star Game last summer. "Remember when he hit that home run?" the veteran said, referring to the laser Cabrera mashed over the left-field wall, among the many hits he got the last two seasons.
"I couldn't believe it," the player said. "That was a bullet. I couldn't believe it. Because I remembered what he was before. He wasn't a very good player, and then he's one of the best outfielders in the world? Please. It just pisses me off."
That is the same Melky Cabrera who worked from a written statement the other day:
- "Last season ended for me when I admitted taking a banned substance and accepted and served my punishment of a 50-game suspension. Since that day, my goals have been to serve my punishment and to put that mistake behind me, and to work hard to be the best baseball player I can be.
"At the end of last season, when it became clear that I would win the batting title despite my positive test, I asked the Players Association and MLB to make sure a more deserving player won, and I am very happy that my former teammate Buster Posey won that award instead of me."
To paraphrase: Aren't I a good guy for not accepting the batting title? (But please don't ask about the $4 million I took away in salary, even after you account for the $2 million or so I lost through the suspension.)
- "I also accepted the Giants' decision not to bring me back for the playoffs after I served my punishment. Instead, I continued to work hard so I could be ready for the 2013 season. I hoped and expected that I would be allowed to put my mistake behind me and to start this season fresh.
"I am aware that in the past weeks, there have been news articles written about so-called patient files from a Miami clinic, and the MLB and others are investigating those allegations. I have told MLB I will cooperate in their investigation the best I can, just as my legal counsel has told federal investigators. I have been instructed by legal counsel not to answer questions relating to the pending investigations.
"This statement will be the last comment I will make on the events of the 2012 season. I have put my mistakes behind me, have learned my lesson, and have served my punishment. I am here to play the best baseball I can to help the Toronto Blue Jays win a world championship."
A "mistake"? Would someone who embezzled money from his company say he made 'a mistake'? Would someone who used somebody else's ATM card to take millions claim he made "a mistake"?
Note to players who are linked to PEDs: If you get caught, please, enough with the statements that are supposed to convey contrition and sorrow and a desire to fix the problem of drug use in baseball. Just save it. Please, say nothing at all.
Nelson Cruz had this the other day, in addressing the recent report that tied him to Tony Bosch's clinic.
- "I want to be honest. When it's done I will address you and tell everything I know. ... I want to speak and I want to talk, but my lawyer told me I couldn't say anything right now."
Let's get this straight: Cruz's lawyers work for him, not the other way around. He can say anything he wants. If he wants to clear the air and give a full explanation, the world is waiting, and nothing is stopping him except him.
Yasmani Grandal, busted last fall for a positive drug test, offered up his own prepared statement the other day. From the Associated Press:
- "I have taken full responsibility for my actions and apologized to my teammates, the fans and the San Diego Padres organization," Grandal said, taking less than 2 minutes to read his statement. "I plan to put that mistake behind me, serve my suspension and continue working hard to be the best player and teammate I can be."
As for Biogenesis, Grandal said "I am aware of the various press reports about so-called patient files from a Miami clinic, and that Major League Baseball and others are investigating those allegations.
"I intend to cooperate fully in their investigations. I have been instructed by legal counsel not to answer questions relating to the pending investigations," he said. "Based on that legal advice, I will have no further comment."
Isn't it amazing? Everybody who is caught really wants to help, wants to cooperate fully, but can't answer questions.
From Ryan Braun:
- "I understand why a lot of you guys are probably here, but I made a statement last week. I stand behind that statement. I'm not going to address that issue any further. As I stated, I'm happy to cooperate fully into any investigation into this matter."
Let's see how that goes. Let's see how much cooperation there really is from Cabrera, from Grandal, from Braun.
Let's see if Cabrera tells Major League Baseball investigators exactly where he got his performance-enhancing drugs. Let's see if he gives them a road map for when he took the drugs, where the weakness in the current drug-testing system is, and who helped him along the way.
Let's see if Braun cooperates fully, and waives his attorney-client privilege and tells his lawyers to give up all the information they have to MLB about hiring Bosch as a paid consultant -- the contemporaneous notes that were taken, copies of the checks sent to Bosch for his work, phone records that will help corroborate the convenient timing of all of this.
If they're not willing to take that step, then please, save the public statements. Save the posturing.
If those who are busted are truly contrite, they can give money made to charity. If they were truly sorry, they would have nothing to hide and they could answer any question from anybody, as lessons learned and passed on to others.
There have been so many empty statements made through the years, from Marion Jones to Rafael Palmeiro to Lance Armstrong, that they are now meaningless. Nobody will believe them anyway, without action that supports them.
Don't say anymore that you are sorry; show you're sorry.
Don't say that you want to cooperate; pick up the phone and help.
Don't ask for forgiveness; just do something worthy of forgiveness.
Don't say you want to talk but that you can't talk; just talk.
Or just shut up altogether, and stop pretending that it wasn't about the money all along, and about gaming the system. Enough with the artful, lawyer-washed language. Enough with the relentless lying.
• Mariano Rivera hasn't formally announced his plans after 2013, but he is clearly contemplating the end of his career. While chatting Sunday in front of his locker at Legends Field, Rivera said that the morning after he blew out his knee last spring, he knew he would try to come back. "Because it couldn't end like that," he said.
Rivera was asked: What if you had been able to come back and pitch at the end of last season? Would you have retired last fall?
"A good chance," Rivera said, nodding. "A good chance."
• For the first time, Derek Jeter sounded philosophical about age, in speaking with reporters Sunday. Everybody gets older, he said, adding that when he's on the field, he doesn't think about age.
When questions like this have come up in the past, Jeter has seemingly taken them as a challenge. But there was none of that on Sunday. He looked good, at his usual weight, and sounded really good. He said he's aiming for Opening Day and knows he has to push himself to make that happen. He really can't ask himself for more than that.
Age and injury are likely to take their toll on Jeter in 2013, writes John Harper. There are core concerns for the Yankees for the first time since 1996, writes Joel Sherman. Jeter is back and the Yankees need him, writes Bob Klapisch.
• Alfredo Aceves did another strange thing Sunday. Boston is loaded with bullpen depth, and although Aceves has a good arm and can be useful, you'd have to assume that the Red Sox aren't going to have a lot of patience with him. They don't have to have him around to win, and they need a change of culture this year, with everyone pulling in the same direction.
The Red Sox should've gotten rid of him over the winter, writes Steve Buckley.
• The Astros' owner golfed with the president.
"I'm very grateful to my wife, my family, my teammates and the Colorado Rockies organization for their support. I am determined to learn from my mistakes, and I've gotten help."
Helton, 39, declined to discuss the nature of help he's receiving. He told The Denver Post after the news conference that he doesn't believe he has a drinking problem. However, he reiterated that he's following a protocol to avoid another misstep and recognizes the gravity of the situation.
Helton talked for 9 minutes, 47 seconds, his voice halting at times as he recalled telling his older daughter, Tierney, about the incident.
"I told her I made a mistake. Just like Daddy forgives you for your mistake. I have to learn from it. When I talk about taking the right steps, I am talking about her too," Helton said. "She holds me very accountable too."
Dings and dents
3. Yasmani Grandal hasn't started hitting yet.
The fight for jobs
2. The Jays' second-base job is up for grabs, writes John Lott.
5. Four guys are battling for the last two spots on the Tigers' roster, writes Lynn Henning.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. The Cubs may leave WGN after the 2014 season.
• Jordan Zimmermann's changeup is improving, writes Amanda Comak.
• Some old friends have been reunited in the Marlins' camp.
• A Marlins catcher is a plus hitter.
• The Pirates are looking to slow the running game this year, writes Bill Brink.
• Brett Bochy is pitching in the Giants' camp, for his dad. I can remember Brett playing catch in front of the Padres' dugout on the first day of the 1997 season -- he must've been 7 or 8 -- and having a crazy-good arm for a little kid, and accidentally smoking Bobby Valentine in the leg with an errant throw.
• The Blue Jays got the first look at the team they've compiled.
• R.A. Dickey's knuckler befuddles hitters, as Rosie DiManno writes.
• The Red Sox talked with Felix Doubrant about his conditioning.
• The hiring of Terry Francona has provided a foundation of hope for the Indians, writes Bud Shaw.
- Dustin Ackley is used to being the best hitter on his team, not the one flailing to figure out why he can't get on track, no matter what or how hard he tries.
And yet that's precisely where Ackley found himself last year, as he endured by far the worst season of his baseball life. The precision of his swing eroded. The bone spur that had sat in his left ankle since his freshman year in college caused increasing discomfort. And his batting average plummeted to .226, almost inconceivable for a hitter of Ackley's reputation. That's about 100 points below the best-case scenario envisioned for Ackley when the Mariners made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, right behind Stephen Strasburg and 23 picks ahead of Mike Trout.
When it came to his stance, his swing, the mechanics that had always come so naturally, "I didn't really know what was going on," he admitted.
• The Rangers must decide who will start on Opening Day, writes Evan Grant.
• The youngest player in any camp is with Oakland, writes Susan Slusser.
• Tom Ricketts is awaiting the next step in the Wrigley Field renovation.
• A third of the managers in baseball played the same position, writes Rick Hummel.
• The clouds have parted in the Red Sox camp, writes Tyler Kepner.
• The Pirates want their catchers to be louder.
• A Mariners player has taken on a diet of 6,500 calories per day.
• Sandy Koufax is back with the Dodgers.
And today will be better than yesterday.