When Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson speaks his mind there is no such thing as self-censoring. And if you happen to be the focus of his ire, your head might just melt like Indiana Jones’ enemies in Raiders of the lost Arch.
“I’m not surprised that he hasn’t addressed people,” Gibson said about Ryan Braun’s PED use. ”He probably doesn’t give an (expletive) about me. But you know, he’s got it really good, and I was one of the guys who went through many things – work stoppages, etc. – so he could do that. So I would hope he respects me and everyone who stood up for him that came before he played the game.”
When he called out “cheaters” like Braun for taking away opportunities like he had in the 1988 World Series from clean players, everyone’s first instinct was to stand and applaud. Finally, someone, a big name in the history of the game, had the courage to come out and speak his mind about what has plagued the game for decades.
That is, until you look a little closer, or at least down the third base line.
Remember the old saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”? If Gibson were to throw a pebble from his perch on the top step of the D-backs dugout, he might just hit the reason he lives in a far-from-shatterproof dwelling.
That reason is third base coach Matt Williams. A D-backs “legend”, he is a large reason for the team’s early success and an admitted PED user.
Back in 2007, Williams was outed for purchasing HGH and other PEDs from a Florida clinic back in 2003 to help recover from an ankle injury. The former slugger, and key member of the 2001 World Series winning team, claimed he took it under doctors orders and discontinued use of it very quickly. Regardless of the reasoning, the truth remains the same, his name is connected to the Steroids Era in baseball.
Gibson being for a league free of PEDs is a great thing and even employing someone who was part of the problem during his playing days doesn’t make him a hypocrite. Where it gets dicey is when he brings up the 2011 Diamondbacks opening round series against Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I mean, all things considered, we should have won a game,” Gibson said of Game 5 in 2011. “All things considered, the last game, we tied them up and had a chance to win it. But there were other times in my career where I did overcome cheaters with my teammates. We had our chance.”
Would it be nice if the Diamondbacks had been on an equal playing field as Braun’s Brew Crew? Of course, but when you start playing revisionist history you are walking on a slope more slippery than a WWE wrestler covered in baby oil.
Can Gibson say with certainty that not one of his players who took part in the series was on or ever had been on a Performance Enhancer? You don’t have to be a prosecutor on Law and Order to deduct that the answer is most likely no. How about the 1988 World Series he lovingly refers to? Can he say without a shadow of a doubt that no one on the Dodgers who got a hit, threw a pitch or recorded an out was on any banned or illegal substances?
What about the 2001 World Series? We know at least one D-back who played in that series has been linked to PEDs and others have been suspected to have, probably more unfairly than not, to have as well. As a fan, would you trade in those memories, that experience and the city’s one title because it possibly could be tainted so you could have another shot at a “clean” Milwaukee team in 2011?
To me, this entire situation seems like Jim Carrey’s stance against his movie Kick Ass 2. After reading the script, signing on to be part of the film, acting in it and cashing his Kardashian-sized paycheck, he decided to denounce the film for being too violent. He even went as far as encouraging people to not see the movie.
Whether Gibson, fans or anyone else involved in MLB like it, we all, in one way or another, have benefited from, cheered for or been associated with someone who has been guilty of the dreaded three-letter acronym. (And I’m not talking about NBC.) We all were and are the steroids era. Unless you wipe the last 25-years of baseball from the record books and ban anyone from the game who has been connected to PEDs, you’ll never be able to truly take pride in the game and the accomplishments. Playing the “what if” game does nothing to help or change baseball for the better.
Who was clean, what memories weren’t stained by chemicals and who did or did not lie? They’re all answers we, and Gibson, will never know. That doesn’t mean we should stop speaking our minds and asking for the game to be cleaned up. We just need to take it to the next logical step to fix the problem forever. Baseball needs to get rid of those involved in damaging the past rather than wondering what could have been so we know what will be in the future is truly performances without any enhancement.