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“Cooperation” with an investigation does not mean talking to the media

Feb 18, 2013, 1:47 PM EDT

melky cabrera getty Getty Images

Buster Olney is usually pretty sensible about PED stories. He’s not an apologist or anything, but nor is he usually an alarmist. He’s a realist, mostly. He doesn’t condone PED use, obviously, but he also sees it as part of the landscape of baseball and a problem to be dealt with as opposed to some moral scourge that threatens the institution.

Which is what makes his column today (sorry, ESPN Insider) so baffling.

In it he takes issue — in a way more agitated state than he normally portrays about, well, anything — with the official statements the Biogenesis linked ballplayers have made since the story broke. He particularly focuses on their comments about how they intend to cooperate with the investigation, calling it “posturing”:

Isn’t it amazing? Everybody who is caught really wants to help, wants to cooperate fully, but can’t answer questions … 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.

Olney is confused, I think, about with whom these players have a duty to cooperate. They have a duty to cooperate with Major League Baseball and, if it comes to it, law enforcement. They do not have a duty to “answer any question from anybody.” Indeed, given that they are subject to investigations by their employer and, potentially, the feds, they would be absolutely stupid to be “answering any question from anybody,” and indeed, both Major League Baseball and law enforcement would probably prefer that they didn’t so their investigations aren’t compromised.

In any event, these players do not have a duty to cooperate with the media or to testify in “the court of public opinion,” which 100% of the time means “the opinion of the writer penning the column you’re currently reading.” I gather that Olney would rather have them say nothing at all — he tweeted a few moments ago that he’d prefer a “no comment,” — but how that is acceptable when a short “I’m aware of the information, will cooperate with the investigation but cannot comment any more publicly” is so odious to him, I’m not sure.

But while we’re comparing comments, let’s compare two more, also from Olney’s column. Check out this bit, referring to Melky Cabrera‘s statement that, in taking PEDs, he made a “mistake”:

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.

Then, a few paragraphs and a change of subject later, Olney tackles Todd Helton‘s DUI apology:

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.”

What, no angry rant at Helton for having the gall to call his crime — a far more serious one than Melky Cabrera committed — a “mistake?” No demand for more information about Helton’s decision making and his judgment or, alternatively, an invitation to shut up? Why, Buster, are you so agitated at Melky Cabrera copping to a mistake which harmed no one but himself but totally cool with Helton copping to a mistake which could have killed multiple people?

To his credit, Olney rarely if ever traffics in hysterical outrage. I suppose, then, that’s why he’s so uneven in applying it here. Simple inexperience.

  1. cur68 - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    The article is a bit baffling, considering the source. Its like Olney’s decided to go with “MyOutrageIsgGreaterThanYours”.

    What. Ever.

  2. dohpey28 - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    I think the point he was trying to make was that the other stuff was premeditated. You can’t make a premeditated mistake. Helton’s dui wasn’t premeditated, it was just stupid, calous and dangerous. However, he didn’t start drinking that day with the intention to get plastered and go buy a lottery ticket.

    • Kleinz 57 - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      I think that’s a bit generous of you on behalf of Olney.

      I see your point regarding premeditation, but the fact that he doesn’t tear Helton a new one for his DUI “mistake” definitely warrants attention. As a hypothetical, think how much the 2012 MVP narrative might have changed had MIGUEL Cabrera been linked to any substance rumors. I don’t suspect the man of anything, but let’s all remember he had a DUI of his own the previous offseason.

      ‘Magical pills? That’s 50 games.’ OR ‘Hey, coulda killed a family of four. Ah well, the company’s still got your back.’ It’s like a microcosm for MLB’s bass-ackwards disciplinary policies on alcohol and PEDS, albeit unintentional on Olney’s part.

      • dohpey28 - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM

        Oh I am not defending Olney at all. What Helton did was way worse then any player using PEDs. I was just trying to see his logic, whether or not I agree with it.

  3. Kevin Gillman - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Craig, I truly think that media members and athletes need to switch jobs for a few days. I know the media has to do their job, but at the same time, they also have to understand that ballplayers just want to play ball. So how would it feel to have a microphone up on their mouths all the time, talking about the incident the previous night, or the incident that took place five months ago, or even sometimes the incident that took place five years ago. But at the same time, athletes need to respect the media about doing their jobs, and how does it feel when the media just says to them “I made a mistake, no comment”, when they have a deadline to work?

    I think it would be great TV to see it unfold too. We can even call it “Switching Positions” on MLB Network, or NBC Sports Network.

    • paperlions - Feb 18, 2013 at 5:58 PM

      It isn’t the players job to make the writers jobs easier, and it isn’t the writers job to replace information with opinion. There is a reason baseball writers aren’t generally referred to as reporters anymore, they can’t be bothered reporting facts. Most can’t even be bothered to do basic background research for topics they write about and the opinions they have on those topics. Considering the effect that the opinion of writers have on the general public, such over sights are a great disservice to the public.

      Consider how many hundreds or thousands of PED articles have been written by baseball writers….and now think of how frequently you’ve seen them site medical research or experts about the effects of those PEDs. At this point, the writers have been lazy for decades, I see no reason for anyone to help them spew more bile about a topic they still (as a group) have not bothered to become educated on.

      • Kevin Gillman - Feb 18, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        You make a great point, part of the blame are 24 hour networks that have to get the information out quickly, and newspapers have followed suit, because they don’t want to get outscooped. Some of them also take little information of truth, and then just put the rest in as to how they think, and they wonder why the players don’t want to have anything to do with them anymore. So if we want half-truths, or opinions, we can buy an ESPN Insider package….LOL

  4. pisano - Feb 18, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    It’ll be interesting to see how Melky does being off the juice. He was a .250 to .270 or so hitter with the Yankees with occasional power, let’s see how he does this year. I always wished the Yankees had kept him, but that’s baseball.

  5. DelawarePhilliesFan - Feb 18, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    I don’t believe he is saying that if Milky has “duty” to answer any and all questions, (sorry, I call him Milky…..), I think he is pointing out the crocodile tears he is crying when he says things like:

    “I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down.”

    Sorry for…..being caught during a pennant race? Doing somethign worng? Setting a bad example? Losing money? Bad PR? I think it is valid to ask. If Milky doesn’t want to answer – so be it, people can decide what they think. Buster doesn’t like it. You are fine with it.

  6. anxovies - Feb 18, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    The media has long suffered under the impression that the First Amendment gives them and the public the “right to know.” This is a misconception. They have the right to find out if they can do it without trespassing or otherwise breaking the law. Nobody is obligated to talk to the media or air their faults and mistakes in public.

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