Retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is still miffed how his name was leaked to the New York Times eight years ago, when a Times report identified him as one of 104 Major League Baseball players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and whose name appeared on what was supposed to be a confidential list.
And Big Papi seems to suggest in a WEEI interview that a New York conspiracy of sorts was in place when the 2009 Times report was published.
“What happened in 2009, when they threw my name out there, I always sit down and think about what was the reason for them to come out with something like that? The only thing that I can think of, a lot of the guys from the Yankees were getting caught,” Ortiz said on WEEI. “No one from Boston. Who was the big guy in Boston? It was me. A newspaper coming out of New York with that news, I guess they were just trying to do what they did — call the attention somewhere else.”
Star-crossed Yankee Alex Rodriguez had been outed as a steroid cheat earlier in 2009, when a Sports Illustrated report said that A-Rod was on that list of 104 players who had allegedly tested positive for PEDs in 2003. MLB did survey testing in 2003 to determine if it was necessary to implement a drug-testing program. Rodriguez, in turn, gave a press conference in Tampa in February 2009, and admitted to juicing during his three seasons with the Texas Rangers, 2001-03.
But six months after A-Rod’s press conference, Ortiz held his own media session — at Yankee Stadium no less, when the Red Sox were playing the Bombers — where he responded to the Times report. With the late Players Association executive director Michael Weiner sitting by his side, Ortiz said then that although he was “careless” earlier in his career, he never used steroids.
“I definitely was a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying legal supplements and legal vitamins over the counter – but I never buy steroids or use steroids,” Ortiz said in 2009. “I never thought buying supplements and vitamins was gonna hurt anybody’s feelings. That happened. I’m sorry about that.”
Weiner told reporters that same day at the Stadium that the government investigating the BALCO steroids trafficking case at that time had seized a list from the administrative facility where the testing results of MLB players were kept. Weiner, who died in 2013, also said in 2009 that it was the union’s and MLB’s understanding that some of the results of players on that confidential list “were inconclusive.”
As for Ortiz’s recent WEEI interview, and his contention that a lot of Yankees were getting caught doping in 2009, Rodriguez’s name was the only Yankee outed that year. Of course, in the 2007 Mitchell Report on baseball’s doping past, compiled by former Sen. George Mitchell, former Yankees Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch were named in the report as PED users.
Gene Orza, the former MLB Players Association chief operating officer, told the Daily News Saturday that only a very small number of people knew the names on the list seized by the government in relation to BALCO. But Orza said unequivocally that the Yankees were not the source behind leaking Ortiz’s name to the New York Times.
“When (union officials) spoke to players, we never told them that they tested positive; we told them they are on a list, and that the government may incorrectly or correctly conclude that the player tested positive and therefore, may feel the player warrants further observation,” said Orza. “There is no way the Yankees could have leaked Ortiz’s name. The clubs did not have that list. I’m not saying Ortiz was on any list. But if he is on a list, it doesn’t mean he tested positive. And if he was on a list, whether or not he tested positive, the Yankees would not have known that.”
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said last year in Boston that when baseball and the union got the test results back from the 2003 survey testing, “we were well over the percentage necessary to trigger the (drug) testing.”
But Manfred added that there were “double digits of names — so, more than 10 — on that list where we (the union and MLB) knew that there were legitimate scientific questions about whether or not those were truly positives.”
Ortiz has had the 2009 report hang over his legacy ever since it was published. Whether it affects his Hall of Fame chances with voters remains to be seen.
“Nobody came to me after, nobody came to me before, nobody came to me ever to tell me that I test positive for any kind of steroids,” Ortiz said in the WEEI interview. “This was just something that leaked out of New York. They have still no explanation about it. It was just, ‘You’re name was there.’ I was like, ‘Oh, ok. See how that works.’ It’s not up to me anymore, about the Hall of Fame. I think I did what I was supposed to. I worked extremely hard to represent (Boston) the way I did.”