Valentine wants more aggressive policy

Updated: March 2, 2004, 1:30 AM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine thinks major league baseball and its owners need to be more aggressive in combating steroid use.

Baseball conducted random tests last season for steroids, and 5 percent to 7 percent were positive. That triggered a clause in the labor agreement allowing players to be punished this season if found using steroids.

"If the league is going to bring the hammer down on this they better admit they made a huge mistake," Valentine said Monday. "When I was a manager there was no advice given to the players, and you never heard of an owner coming down to the clubhouse and saying 'I heard you are taking steroids, you could have a heart attack at 55.'"

Valentine, back for his second stint with the Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League, spoke at a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

He came to the defense of Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants slugger who has denied using steroids.

"Barry Bonds does something at the plate that no other human does and it has nothing to do with steroids," Valentine said. "He has superior baseball skills. He's superior with his eyes and his ability to recognize pitches."

Valentine also thinks Kazuo Matsui, the Japanese shortstop acquired by the Mets, could face a rough transition.

"Shea Stadium is such a tough place to play in," Valentine said. "You have the swirling winds, the weather is bad early in the season and if he doesn't get off to a good start it could be tough."

The Mets moved promising shortstop Jose Reyes to second to make room for Matsui, who will be sidelined about a week after injuring a finger Sunday.

"If Matsui gets off to a bad start it's his fault," Valentine said. "And if Reyes gets off to a bad start it's his (Matsui) fault, too."

Valentine guided the Marines to second place in 1995 -- the team's best finish in the last 19 years -- but was fired after the season for what he called "philosophical reasons." In November, he agreed to a three-year deal to come back.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press