A-Rod Reminiscent of Raines
As the saga of A-Rod continues to unfold, a lot of what has gone on in Yankee Nation in terms of the surprising revelation of steroid use, followed by the exclusive one-on-one interview, by Peter Gammons followed up by the first day of training camp "mea culpa" which was all she wrote in terms of talking about the issue, reminds me of the situation with Tim Raines and his cocaine rehab in 1982-83.
In September of 1982, near the end of his second major-league season, in fact on Raines' 22nd birthday, the news came out in a blockbuster feature in the Toronto Star, a well-written piece by Wayne Parrish, that Raines had been playing with an addiction to cocaine. The key moment was when he failed to show up for a game because of an announced "illness". In his failure, it turns out, he was not the Lone Ranger.
That period of baseball in the early '80s was a crisis situation for the game. The danger of cocaine was so new that most middle-age, white, stuffy old baseball execs, who did not spend a lot of time with their players, did not even know what was going on in their own clubhouses. I have my own mea culpa. I was a 28-year-old Expos' media relations director who travelled with the team and was not aware of the problem until the Parrish article was confirmed. So I'm damned sure that John McHale (team president) and Jim Fanning (manager) wouldn't have had a clue. It's a reflection of what happened in the '90s with the steroids issue. Only with coke, the clue was cluelessness, while with steroids, the clue was clearly visible in muscle definition and skyrocketing statistics.
In any case, the reason the A-Rod case reminds me of Raines is that after the '82 season, Raines went to a 30-day drug rehab centre in Orange County, California and we at the Expos had to decide how to handle the '83 season. My suggestion was to allow one even-handed, all-telling feature story to be written in the winter followed by one opening day of camp mea culpa, then the silence of the Raines.
I chose Montreal Gazette columnist Michael Farber because of his proven humanity, sensitivity and journalistic integrity. I was not proven wrong. Farber was the A-Rod equivalent of Peter Gammons and the exclusive ESPN interview - only better. Farber was given exclusive access to fly to visit Raines at his home in Florida and do the full story, with background, retell the genesis of the problem with the final solution being revealed, warts and all.
Knowing Michael very well as a true professional with integrity, a former Yankee beat writer, now a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame for his work with Sports Illustrated, if he had smelled a rat with Raines he would have written it. He treated Raines like a young kid that got too rich too fast, who had a chance to come back if he wanted to make the effort. Rock didn't let him or us down.
Then, on the opening day of '83 training camp, just as with A-Rod, Raines met the international media for his one and only session regarding his cocaine issues. Everyone by that time had had the definitive Farber piece to read and use as reference. The facts were out there.
It seems to me that utilizing a highly respected member of the print media was more effective for Raines than the electronic media was for A-Rod (even with the respected Gammons doing the interview). Rock also had Andre Dawson and other teammates there to support him. As far as the Expos were concerned, it worked out very well. Raines went on to a near Hall of Fame career. That's why I have had great difficulty criticizing the Yankees and MLB for the way the A-Rod issue has been handled. None criticizing A-Rod. He's an ass.