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Now a manager, Matt Williams must address his steroid purchases again

Oct 25, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Matt Williams

The Nationals invited some controversy by hiring Matt Williams as their new manager on Friday. He hasn’t gotten all that much attention for it, but Williams, who hit 378 homers over 17 big-league seasons with the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks, was, for at least a brief time, a steroids user.

Williams was outed by the San Francisco Chronicle in Nov. 2007 as having bought $11,600 worth of steroids, human Growth Hormone and making agents from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Clinic in 2002, when he was playing for Arizona. He was later included in the Mitchell Report.

Williams admitted to the purchase, saying that he was advised to try hGH to recover from an ankle injury and that he stopped using it because he didn’t like the effects. He didn’t discuss the other substances he bought.

Which was good enough in 2007, since no one much cared. Williams had retired four years previously and was working as a broadcaster then.

Now that Williams is the leader of a major league club, it’d be for the best if he went into greater detail. Unless he happened to just flush everything else down the toilet, Williams wasn’t merely using hGH to try to aid his healing. All we really know is that 2002 was the only time he was caught cheating. This is a guy who appeared to be making a run at Roger Maris’s single-season home run record with the Giants in 1994 when the strike happened (he had 43 homers in 112 games). Was he enhanced then as well?

Frankly, I suspect that those late-90s/early-aughts Diamondbacks clubhouses were about as steroid-riddled as any in the game’s history. I’m not suggesting Williams starts naming names, but as a franchise leader, he should at least come clean about his own past.

  1. stex52 - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Well, this discussion was going to occur at some point. Might as well tee it up. The next generation of managers will all be coming out of that time period.

    • natstowngreg - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      A good, though depressing, point.

      • Old Gator - Oct 25, 2013 at 5:51 PM

        Where is Skynet when you really need him?

    • natstowngreg - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:52 PM

      Adam Kilgore notes that Williams is the first manager to come out of the steroids era.

      • mybrunoblog - Oct 26, 2013 at 10:41 AM

        Remember when “coming out” meant something very different?

  2. shawndc04 - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    What do you want the guy to do, and what purpose would whatever you want serve? He used HGH and steroids 11 years ago and he admitted it. Are we at a point where every detail of a person’s transgression must be revealed for vetting and comment. Man, at some point it seems that one just moves on.

    • stex52 - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Fat chance of that. But the dialogue needs to go on about where these guys fit in baseball. We will end up accepting it, because that was how it was in that time period in baseball. But people are going to talk it through, anyway.

      I don’t really care too much what he has to say.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      This is good news for Barry Bonds managerial career, unless there is some sort of double-standard at work here.

      • emdash01 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        The greatest crime a player can commit is being a jerk, particularly to sports writers – we all know that. Guys everyone likes get leniency in the court of public opinion.

      • natstowngreg - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        It’s not as though Barry Bonds would ever have a managerial career,steroids or no steroids.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:36 PM

        Why not? McGwire is a hitting coach. Gibson is a manager. Hell, Bobby V had a job last year. Why shouldn’t Bonds be considered for the next hitting coach or other coaching spot?

      • natstowngreg - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:54 PM

        The statement was about Barry Bonds as a manager, not as a coach.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 26, 2013 at 3:35 PM

        Baby steps. One does not simply walk into the manager’s office.

    • mspauto - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      The problem is he is going to Washington where everyone is vetted and all the skeletons are pulled out of the closet. So, he needs to be very politically correct and say all the right things so everyone will accept him. Probably needs Olivia Pope to fix things for him. But he better be careful or Huck will get him.

      • mybrunoblog - Oct 26, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        umm he’s a baseball manager not a senator. Nobody votes for him.

  3. snitor - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    These investigations and tests are so effective. They always catch the guys in the one time they used something.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      Worked for Ron Washington somehow…

  4. billybawl - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I can be very critical of players using PEDs, but geez, what could he say that would be enlightening and/or satisfy you? A Ryan Braun-esque apology?

    I think the reason McGwire had to relive his past when he became a coach was because he had not yet retracted lies he had made before. Sounds like Williams acknowledged his PED use already. I don’t think anyone will care much.

    • skids003 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Only the sporstwriters trying to stir the pot.

    • raysfan1 - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      What lies did McGwire tell? He declined to incriminate himself before Congress, then he essentially went into seclusion. To my knowledge he never denied using steroids.

      • blabidibla - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:03 PM

        “Once and for all, I did not use steroids or any illegal substance.”

      • raysfan1 - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        Very well. While there is a possibility that the “illegal substance” part of that could be playing semantics, the never used steroids part would definitely be a falsehood seeing as it was public knowledge in 1998 that he was using androstenedione (legal over the counter at the time but nonetheless a steroid).

        Still, I decline to be outraged by it.

        To the other commenter below, no, McGwire did not affect Roger Maris’ legacy one iota. He still had a magical season in which he hit 61 homers in 1961. That remains amazing no matter how many homers anyone else hits. The comparison of whatever perceived crimes against baseball McGwire committed to the murders OJ Simpson committed is also a pretty ridiculous straw man.

      • jwbiii - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:59 PM

        raysfan1, It is very much semantics. Androstenedione and related compounds are considered to be steroid precursors. It depends on whom you asked and when you asked them. A bit of a timeline would helpful:

        1997 IOC prohibits andro as a steroid.
        1997 NFL prohibits andro (date unknown).
        1998 An AP reporter notices a bottle of andro in McGwire’s locker.
        1998 McGwire hits 70 home runs.
        2000 Medical study published; determined that andro was not a steroid but has some nasty side effects.
        2001 McGwire retires.
        2004 FDA lists andro as a Schedule III controlled substance (accepted medical use, low abuse potential, no longer OTC).
        2004 US passes a law declaring steroid precursors to be steroids.
        2005 US law takes effect.
        2006 MLB/MLBPA prohibits andro as a Performance Enhancing Substance.

        It wasn’t until several years after McGwire’s retirement that andro became illegal or was even considered a steroid. It was prohibited if you were an Olympic athlete or an NFL player.

        Here’s the medical study:
        “[T]estosterone levels significantly increased 16% after 1 month of use, but by the end of 12 weeks, they returned to pretreatment levels.”

        Here’s the law:
        “(A) The term ‘anabolic steroid’ means any drug or hormonal
        substance, chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone
        (other than estrogens, progestins, corticosteroids, and
        dehydroepiandrosterone), and includes—
        . . .
        (iii) androstenediol
        (iv) androstenedione”

      • raysfan1 - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:14 PM

        Androstenedione is the first biologically active molecule in the metabolic pathway in the body’s synthesis of testosterone. It is a naturally occurring steroid hormone therefore.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      I probably should have been more clear, but Williams’ acknowledgment came in the form of a phone call with a reporter. As far as I can tell, he’s never publicly addressed it in front a mic. And that’s what he should do.

      • billybawl - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        Why should he address this in front of a mic? Sincere question. I have no reason to believe such an apology would be sincere or truthful. I also don’t have a need to watch him squirm on camera, especially for things that happened long in the past and have no bearing on his managerial skills.

      • shawndc04 - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        Who cares to whom he acknowledged it? The important thing is that he did acknowledge it. He appears to be respected in the game, and it’s been a number of years since the use and the acknowledgement. Are you as a reporter going to now go before a mic and acknowledge anything you did wrong in your life?

      • chinahand11 - Oct 25, 2013 at 6:34 PM

        I believe that unless Williams discusses his roids involvement in an interview sit-down or in front of a group of cameras and reporters they will never get off his back about it.

  5. raysfan1 - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Just this summer Jeff Pearlman called for Mark McGwire to be banned from baseball.

    From my perspective, the “steroid era” happened and far more players used than we will ever know, and for longer than most seem to realize. I give pretty much everyone who used prior to 2004 a pass. That said, there does appear to be a double standard at work here.

  6. sandrafluke2012 - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    So, luís gonzalez juiced?

  7. makeham98 - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    People who perpetuate the “McGwire didn’t lie” are on the level of “OJ was found not guilty, therefore he was innocent”. You want a McGwire lie, start with “I want to be part of the solution” and “I want to help kids”. The jerk “embraced” the Maris family as he took a big dump on its legacy. Mr. Integrity, Mark McGwire.

  8. natstowngreg - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    It’s probably just a formality, but Williams hasn’t been hired officially, as Adam Kilgore notes.

    • shawndc04 - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:00 PM

      Bud doesn’t want hirings made official while the World Series is being played. No big thing.

  9. mvd513 - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    if it was 2002, baseball had not banned those substances yet. This doesnt matter as it has nothing to do with keeping the game clean today.

    • paperlions - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:19 PM


      McGwire was retired before testing began, was his situation ignored?

      The point, to many of us, is that the fans and media are selective in when they give a crap about a player’s PED use.

      Break a record, they care.
      Act like an asshole, they care.

      Have a solid career but don’t break any records or win any awards, don’t care.
      Considered a generally nice guy, don’t care.

      If the issue is PED use itself, then those people should always care the same no matter who did it, but that clearly is not the case.

      • raysfan1 - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM


      • Reflex - Oct 25, 2013 at 5:49 PM

        I’ll also point out hat whether or not baseball had banned it at that point is idiotic. It was a controlled substance in the United States at the time. It was illegal to use it as these guys did. And they were fully aware of that.

        While I don’t care for the witch hunt, I also don’t feel much sympathy for those who were caught. My sympathy is reserved for the ones who there is no evidence for but who have been tarred because some sportswriter thought bacne or their biceps proved something(Piazza, Bagwell). No evidence? Don’t ruin a reputation. But if someone is caught? Meh, I don’t care if I ever see them in the HoF.

      • raysfan1 - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:09 PM

        Well, they were controlled substances as of 1991. Still, it’s hardly difficult to get a prescription for testosterone. I definitively respect your viewpoint even though it’s a bit different than mine.

  10. NatsLady - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Let’s get real. The Nats just finished with Davey Johnson, who tolerated (or overlooked) cocaine and other drug abuse on teams he managed. Lives were damaged and talent squandered–and he’ll probably go to the Hall of Fame. So let’s just get past the outrage.

    (The Nats also had a favorite player, Mike Morse, who used.)

    It’s becoming more and more clear, as players from the steroids era become broadcasters, that the problem was wide-spread and commonly known. They refer to the practice as “what was going on.” Every team seems to have had a least a substantial minority who used.

    The question is not whether Matt Williams used, or to what extent–unless you are examining his record as a player. The question is whether that’s in the past and whether he will make it clear that it will not be tolerated in the Nats organization. There are a couple minor-leaguers playing now in the AFL with suspensions on their records. It needs to be made clear this is not the Nats Way. 😉

    • paperlions - Oct 25, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      To be clear, none of us that are bringing up his past PED use care about it….we also don’t care about former use by McGwire or any other player during that era when it comes to their potential employment as coaches or managers.

      People are simply pointing out the hypocrisy with respect to WHO the media targets (because the fans really only because upset about the PED use of the players that the media tells them to be upset about). The difference in the reaction to much of the media to McGwire being hired as a hitting coach (multiple interviews, calls for his banishment, etc) are totally different to when Williams was hired to coach (crickets) or now to manage (more crickets).

  11. largebill - Oct 25, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    “Now that Williams is the leader of a major league club, it’d be for the best if he went into greater detail. ”

    That has to be one of the dumber comments by a hardballtalk staffer. And that is saying something considering some of the PC nonsense spouted by others. How in the hell could it “be for the best if he went into greater detail?” No, buried deep and forgotten would be for the best. The Nationals won’t hit more homers or strike out more batters if their new manager does a crying to Oprah moments about past supplement usage. The only ones who benefit from rehashing past steroid BS is “reporters” looking to sell papers or get page views on line.

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