Organic Matter: All-Star game muddied by talk of steroid use

It's too bad baseball fans can't sit back in front of their television sets Tuesday and enjoy baseball's All-Star game for what it has long been billed – the mid-summer classic.

But steroid use and the talk of it among ball players is getting more publicity in some quarters than the game.

Former major leaguers Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco, both of whom won Most Valuable Player awards, started tongues wagging earlier in the season when both admitted they used steroids during their careers.

Canseco went even further by estimating that up to 85 percent of major league players used muscle-enhancing drugs during his playing days.

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly has attempted to put things into a perspective that goes beyond gossip and innuendo.

"Unfortunately, for a lot of reasons, we're only getting one side of the story," Brenly told the Associated Press.

"A lot of guys are being lumped into a category that don't deserve to be in that category, and I think that's extremely unfair.

If and when testing does evolve, I think a lot of people will be surprised that the numbers aren't as high as has been reported."

Regrettably, Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa got people to wondering when he voluntarily said he would be near the front of the line for steroid testing, then backpedaled on that position when challenged by a sports writer to have himself tested right away.

Paying lip service to the problem is all Sosa did in effect.

"Put up or shut up, Sammy," is what I say to him.

Baseball players are not tested for steroids or any other drugs.

Management lawyers have proposed such testing, but who knows at this time if the players' union will go along with it or when if the union agrees?

The Home Run Derby, a special event for the players, is set for today in Milwaukee.

Accusations of steroid use being bandied about will not diminish the derby, Brenly said.

"It's highly doubtful any of these guys are using any kind of steroids or artificial enhancements to increase their strength," he said.

Players seemed ready for the derby last Tuesday when a record 62 home runs were hit out of major league parks.

That broke the previous one-day record of 57 set April 7, 2000.

But Rod Carew, who played for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels and won seven American League batting titles, is not as sure of the integrity of players today as Brenly.

Carew, a member of the Hall of Fame, said he suspected anabolic steroid use in the early 1990s when he was batting coach for the Angels.

The high salaries paid today make cheating difficult to refrain from.

"No one wants to be left behind," Carew said.

"Especially when steroids will give an average player with no power an opportunity to easily hit 25-30 home runs.

As for the superstar, well, they will hit 50-70."

Carew had a 19-year major league career that ended in 1985.

He amassed 3,053 hits, but struck just 92 homers.

Carew expressed doubt that testing would ever become mandatory because the player's union is strong and it argues testing would violate the right to privacy.

But he favors it, nevertheless.

"If you want the fans to respect what's left of the game's pureness, you're going to have to start testing," Carew told the Los Angeles Times.

* * *

Luis Amaro, 51, put a baseball bat to a different use June 29 while driving his Mister Softee ice cream truck through a neighborhood in Hartford, Conn.

Wilbur Troutman, 64, was embroiled in a campaign to get Mister Softee trucks banned in the city.

He had followed several of them for weeks, recording the music from truck loudspeakers, taking pictures, and harassing drivers, according to franchise owner Felix Rios.

Amaro had enough of it and allegedly attacked Troutman with the bat.

Troutman reportedly sustained arm bruises and a scratch on his head.

Police arrested Amaro and charged him with assault and breach of peace.

There was no mention in the AP story of whether Amaro or Rios had called police before the incident and tried to get the harassment stopped.

I have to wonder why.

Now, Troutman is going around proclaiming, "Mister Softee tried to kill me!"

Rios said Troutman's behavior was at least partially responsible for the incident.

"I'm not saying what our driver did was right or wrong because I wasn't there," Rios said.

"But I know this driver and he wouldn't lose his temper without a good reason."

Terry Organ is the Miner's education, health and weather reporter.