Still Wronged?

Jayson Stark at is reporting that Phillies reliever JC Romero, who tested positive for banned supplement/steroid 6-OXO last season, said that he wasn’t aware of baseball’s 1-800 hotline providing information about acceptable and unacceptable substances for players to take.  Perhaps more telling, Romero said that while he didn’t know about the hotline, he admitted

They probably did [tell him about the hotline]. But we have meetings at 7:30 in the morning, sometimes 8:30 in the morning in spring training. You can take most of the people here, and 8:30 in the morning, their bosses start talking, and they’re not going to pay attention to everything they say. … So I’m not trying to say that they didn’t say that to me. But I would say I didn’t know about the 1-800 number. I didn’t have any reason to believe I was doing anything wrong because I was very careful from the get-go. Since the system was in place, I was very careful about it. I was trying to really do things the right way because really, I didn’t want none of this to happen.

Romero made some good points in the interview, including that baseball needs to be better about passing along information about the hotline and other matters to Spanish-speaking players (and other non-English-speaking players), and the possibility that consulting the 1-800 number might be a “very slow process.”  However, the lengthy quote above reveals much, including the likelihood that Romero received the pertinent but overlooked information, allowing it to sail in one ear and out the other.  In particular, I find very lame the excuse that the early-morning times of such meetings resulted in players–including Romero–not paying attention.  Spare me the lamentations of enduring an early-morning meeting when players make millions to play a game.  When this suspension was announced, and without wanting to be too self-referential, I wrote at length that there were probably other factors that media and fans, especially those expressing the most rabidly anti-union commentary, had not considered–including the possibility that Romero may have overlooked what he should have known, and that he may well have lost the arbitration case because he did not follow the proper channels of information.

Buried deep within Stark’s story is another angle that, mysteriously, did not surface in any report I had read until now.  Romero ran out of a supplement he had been using and, since it was “kind of expensive,” he bought 6-OXO.  Romero lamented, “So $52 cost me $1.3 million,” the financial hit he’ll take for his 50-game suspension.  Count me among the unsympathetic.  Romero made $3 million last year, and he was penurious enough to worry about spending over $52?  For all I know, he might not have been raised in an affluent setting.  This can influence people’s perspectives for a long time afterward about the value of money.  But still, he admitted to wanting to save a modest amount of cash, and to the likelihood that he was told about the 1-800 hotline, but failed to consult it.  Romero is hardly a martyr here, especially for those all too willing to crucify the MLBPA over his suspension.

In good part, I’ve had my interest piqued about this case because, while the MLBPA has its faults and has made its mistakes, in all likelihood any possible misinformation that the MLBPA might or might not be guilty of (and was widely accused of) disseminating in the Romero case did not matter one single, solitary bit.  The MLBPA could have said nothing to Romero about the prudence or recitude of what he was taking and, since he failed to call the hotline, Romero still would have lost his case.  In light of this story, I’ll be keenly interested to see whether or not Rich Hofmann of The Philadelphia Daily News in any way steps back from or retracts any part of his superficial anti-MLBPA tirade on January 6, accusing the MLBPA of letting Romero down. Since the MLBPA is so often, and so often unfairly, an institution to malign primarily because it is a union, I won’t hold my breath.

It seems even clearer now that, more than simply taking the supplements in the first place, Romero let himself down.

[Edit: Thanks to for linking this post and the other on Melancon.]

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 8:03 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. In the long run his experience will just be a warning to others. It’s hard to feel bad for these baseball players when it comes to these PEDs.

  2. forgive my ignorance but what is 6-OXO and are there substances that are legal and available in health stores but banned by baseball?

    i agree with you that even though being penny wise and pound foolish is just that, it is a common practice.

  3. Jeez, Mike, sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier on this. I’ve just been very busy, but no excuses. Basically, 6-OXO is the supplement that Romero used, and it acts as a steroid would, according to researchers at Ghent University. Because of its effects, baseball banned this substance last year. Romero bought this at a GNC.

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