Friday, February 18, 2005


Straying from Nats-talk, Robinson laments steroids-in-baseball, discloses he really, really liked being fourth

[LATE UPDATE: I just saw snippets of the press conference quoted in the AP article on Comcast SportsNet's "SportsNight." It is clear from the context thereof that Robinson meant some things in jest. Take what you read below with a grain of salt, then.]

AP wire story, picked up by tons o' media outlets today, including here.

Robinson has been reluctant to comment on the steroid issue, and he refused to cite individuals -- "I don't know if Barry Bonds is on steroids. Do you?" -- but he is clearly concerned about the blanket suspicion cast over all players, especially those who have bulked their bodies and improved their games by more natural means. "It's like when they had testing, back when I was playing, for certain drugs," Robinson said. "A lot of players took it as an invasion of privacy to be tested. I said I have nothing to hide. I've love to be tested. I wish we all would be tested because that would clear up the ones that are innocent. When you throw a blanket over everybody, that's mud on me, and I'm clean."

"I've love to be tested." Let's disregard the obvious scrivener's error in the article. (I guess Robinson actually said, "I'd love to be tested." If not, the writer should have written, "I [would] love to be tested.")

Has anyone, even the cleanest of the clean, ever said that---at the time of testing? I mean, lots of good and decent people abide by testing regimes. (I imagine I would, too, if the circumstances arose.) But "love" it? I've (I'd) seriously doubt it. It has to be kind of annoying.

Well, that's a petty point, admittedly. Back to the article:

For decades, Robinson's 586 home runs ranked fourth all-time -- behind Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays -- before he was passed by Barry Bonds. Robinson didn't link the home run record directly to steroids, but he openly wondered whether the recent power explosion will dwarf his acomplishments.

Yes, he's double-speaking. Which is his right, as a current manager, but let's be clear: it's double-talk.

Probably before I take my last breath, I'm going to be about 99th on the list," Robinson said. "And I'm afraid people are going to say 'Frank Who?' It's going to be such huge numbers up there at the top, they're going to say, 'You must have been a singles hitter that hit a few home runs.' That's the thing that's going to happen to this game. "I wish I had stayed fourth. It's a nice ring to it. You're up there with the elite. You're up there with the top guys in baseball, but as you slip people have a tendency to ignore you or forget about you. It's not a nice ring, 11th or 12th. We think of maybe top 10, but even in the home run category we've never thought about 10. It's always basically top five because there was such a gap.

See, I wish Robinson hadn't mentioned this. Now, he practically hands the writer of the article a different angle than he intends. As best as I can tell, he's expressing his worry about the "steroidal influence" in the game, from the perspective of a veteran, steward, and ambassador of the game.

But, by injecting his personal (read: selfish) interests, he sounds both concerned . . . and bitter. And guess which angle will get more play.

As if to amplify the point, here's the last line of the article. Here's the last impression the reader gets:

"Fourth. Fourth. Fourth. I kind of got used to that. And now fifth, it just sounds a little odd."

Oh Frank, I love you, but stop making a caricature of yourself. You sound crazy. Fourth, fifth: Who the hell cares?

Besides, juiced-up or not, I would expect the thought would occur to him that at SOME point, SOMEONE would pass him. In addition, I hate to say it, but the guy's essentially a footnote already. Prior to McGwire/Sosa/Bonds, people commonly mentioned Aaron/Ruth and then Mays. These were the 600 home run guys. Robinson just happened to be the top guy among the 500 homer dopes (sorry for the Kornheiserism).

Ironically, other people still knew this, and Robinson's stature was in effect increased in the eyes of those who really care about the issue, simply by being a quiet, dignified star.

Stay that way, Frank. Speak out on steroids all you want, but try not to sound loony about your inidividual accomplishments.

In the end, this is all dicta. Get back to the good stuff, Frank. Get back to talking about the Nats.

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