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Players not caught up in steroids hoopla

3/17/2005

Below are reactions from around spring training Thursday to the congressional hearing on steroids:

JUPITER, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals wore green jerseys and caps in honor of St. Patrick's Day, and they were hanging neatly in the players' locker stalls two hours before Thursday's Grapefruit League game with the Baltimore Orioles at Roger Dean Stadium.

As his teammates grabbed lunch, reliever Ray King diligently tended to his duties as caretaker of the Cardinals' NCAA Tournament pool. There's a 12-inch color TV on the shelf directly above King's locker, but it wasn't turned on until later in the day, when March Madness officially got under way.

More than an hour into congressional steroid hearings in Washington, the clubhouse television set was silent -- and the Cardinals were oblivious.

"You've got taxpayers paying for guys to go sit in front of congressional hearings, and for what?'' King said. "Nothing is going to be proven, in my opinion. Everybody is just jumping on it and trying to get a story out of it.''

Sure, steroids are a prominent topic of conversation in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, but it's more likely to manifest itself in press box banter between reporters and scouts. Players who consent to speak on the topic sound two recurrent themes: 1) Now that MLB has a drug policy, it should be given time to work; and 2) Jose Canseco will forever be reviled in big-league clubhouses as a turncoat and a traitor.

"A guy comes out and speaks maybe the truth, maybe not the truth,'' said St. Louis outfielder Larry Walker. "Nobody knows, but everybody is taking his word and he's ruining peoples' lives and making millions off it.

"Just forget about the whole baseball aspect of it -- it's against the rules of friendship. Are you telling me that Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro weren't friends at one time? Do you think they're friends now? I'm not going to rat out a friend of mine for doing something that maybe was wrong. I have a problem with that.''

Baltimore reliever Steve Kline was even more to the point.

"I hope what comes out of this is that Jose Canseco is a big fat liar,'' Kline said.

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Insider

Red Sox unaffected by hearing
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Like a handful of other clubs, the Red Sox had one of their own subpoenaed by Congress. Unlike most others, however, the Red Sox player called to testify hasn't been linked to steroid use.

Pitcher Curt Schilling is one of just two active players called -- Frank Thomas is the other -- asked to testify without any suspicion of use. Schilling has publicly questioned why he was included, though most likely, his personal friendship with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Senate's point man on the issue, was a contributing factor.

Because Schilling has been rehabilitating from offseason surgery on his right ankle and has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game, his day-to-day contact with teammates has been minimal.

"He's been on his own program,'' said Kevin Millar, "and it hasn't really come up.''

"I'll be curious to see what questions are asked and why,'' added Tim Wakefield. "But I haven't even asked him about it. I figure it's his business.''

Several Red Sox players said Schilling's testimony has been a non-factor because there was no threat of the pitcher implicating himself.

"But I bet it's different with the Yankees (Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi) or the Orioles (Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro),'' said one player. "That could be a real distraction. But that's not the case here because Curt isn't under suspicion.''

"It seems like a chance for some people in high places to call attention to themselves,'' said catcher Doug Mirabelli, "instead of calling attention to the issue. To have to go testify in front of Congress -- that's no small thing. But Curt handles this kind of stuff. He's kind of in his element.''

-- Sean McAdam, ESPN.com contributor