Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Not so juiced. A victim of an earlier baseball witchhunt speaks out

Seems Bob Tufts is not unfamiliar with witch hunts. A relative was tried and convicted of being a witch in the 1680s. And then, three hundred years later...

Tufts pitched in 16 games for the Kansas City Royals in 1982 and 1983, and after the '83 season, four of his teammates went to prison. Willie Wilson, Vida Blue, Willie Aikens and Jerry Martin pleaded guilty to cocaine charges. Tufts, a left-handed reliever, had nothing to do with cocaine, but he says he was a victim of it nonetheless.

When he sought a job after the '83 season, Tufts said, "the response was underwhelming," although it should be noted that he pitched poorly for Kansas City in 1983, giving up 16 hits in six and two-thirds innings and ending up with an earned run average of 8.10. Still, Tufts had reason to be suspicious because he was a left-handed reliever, a coveted commodity. Left-handers are often employed as long as they are breathing. But not in this instance.

"The San Diego Padres wouldn't even take me for Double-A," he said. "The Royals wouldn't take me back for free. I tried to get a minor league deal with the Angels."

He said the Angels eventually informed him they were looking at younger players, only to turn around and offer a contract to Jim Kaat, "who was and always will be 15 years older than me."

So I guess he can be forgiven for taking a dim views of players who throw around accusations of other players like so many balls in the outfield during BP. And an even dimmer view of politicians who are using this non-scandal as a launching pad for their own blovermetrics.

When people like David Wells, the esteemed author, and Curt Schilling and many of these players, Canseco, say X percent of players use drugs, it drives me up a wall," Tufts said at lunch recently.

Nor does Tufts think much of congressmen and other critics of baseball's steroids-testing policy.

"You can't have it two ways," he said. "You can't say home runs are down this year because they're testing for steroids, and then say the steroids policy isn't working. Which is it?"

A strong believer in players' rights, Tufts says he does not see the need for the union to agree repeatedly to strengthen the current testing policy. The union agreed to one change in January, opening the collective bargaining agreement in midterm for the first time, and is now considering Commissioner Bud Selig's "three strikes and you're out" proposal.

"Players shouldn't worry about being loved by the public and therefore give up their rights," Tufts said. "They have to maintain their rights and do their job."

Murray Chass is one of the few sportswriters who have had the nerve to buck conventional wisdom and call bullshit on congressmen's own use of steroids to bulk up their reputations. It must cause him no end of pain to have to share the sports page with that Diva of the Pointless, Selena Roberts. In a front of the sports page editorial, she writhes in agony in the knowledge that Barry a...wait for it...jerk.


But wait, Selena baby is a member of The Mighty Times Elite Forces of Punditry. Sorry, Dear Reader. If you're not willing to pay for her blandishments of the banal, you can't read them. But, since her printed words burn a little spot on my lawn each morning, I'll give you a taste.

Bonds is often suspected of steroid chicanery. Even his recent promise to lose 30 pounds in the off-season sounds like a pre-emptive strike at those who will see him as another curiously shrinking slugger.

Or, more likely, a pre-emptive strike at those who think he's beginning to look like Babe Ruth as he leaps towards the Big Guy's record.

To be fair, though, Bonds has never been finger-printed.

Never trust someone who begins, "To be fair," because what comes next most certainly won't be. Finger-printed?

And this fact has driven feds, drug officials and pols into despair.

And more importantly, this Judy Miller of the sports page, too.


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