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Steroid talk hurts hard workers

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002

With the revelation by Ken Caminiti that he won the 1996 National League MVP award while using steroids, a suspicious eye will now be cast on every slap hitter who suddenly belts tape-measure home runs or comes to spring training wearing 25 more pounds of muscle on his frame.

Mariners second baseman Bret Boone is convinced of that.

"Guys are going to keep getting stronger and faster," he said. "It doesn't mean guys are taking steroids. A lot of the nutritional supplements out there . . . that a lot of people use are completely legal and have no known side effects.

"But now with that being out there, anyone that goes out and works their butt off and gets stronger and gets in shape, people are going to think, "Oh, he's got to be taking steroids.' It's sad."

Though no other admissions of steroid use followed Caminiti's disclosure, that the topic was finally brought to the public's attention is an accomplishment alone.

The percentage of players using steroids doesn't matter. The onus is on the union and owners to take some action regarding drug testing.

"I've been talking to the (union) about this for a long time," commissioner Bud Selig said. "I've been concerned. We test in the minor leagues. We educate people. We do everything we should. I feel very comfortable. But there is no question we need to do something at the major-league level."

Though the steroid issue shifted some of the focus off Selig and the ongoing labor squabble, the idea of testing is one several high-profile players agree with, including Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro.

"I want testing tomorrow, pitchers included," Thomas said.

Added Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, who also is the club's player representative: "It's something that needs to be looked at. The players association wants people to put up numbers so they can get paid more. Is that the integrity of the game?"

THE WHOLE WORLD IN A DRAFT: For every B.J. Upton, Scott Kazmir and Bryan Bullington taken in the amateur draft this week, there will be hundreds who sign as free agents from foreign lands.

Four out of every 10 major-league players on opening-day rosters came from places other than the USA and Puerto Rico.

The idea of a worldwide draft has been around for at least a decade and the owners are hoping to make it a part of any new labor agreement with the union.

"In order for the draft to work as it should work, to make the best players available to the weakest teams, it needs to be universal," Sandy Alderson, MLB executive vice president, told New York's Daily News last week. "That's true in all other sports. There's no reason it should not be true in baseball as well."

Owners devised the draft with the intent of it being a fair method for attaining talent and a way to prevent bidding against each other for a player's rights.

But the existing system doesn't encompass players such as Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideo Nomo and Kazuhisa Ishii who have signed with the highest bidder.

And those bids are increasing.

"A lot of people say it's going to save us money in the industry," Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said. "But you end up having more scouting, more travel money, more of those players are going to be drafted and signed.

"Okay we might be holding down the cost of the very high guys, but in the overall scheme of things I'm not so sure that Major League Baseball is going to save money by implementing a worldwide draft."

TAKE A PICK: Believe it or not, there was an upside when Oakland lost free agents Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Jason Isringhausen.

The A's gained six first-round picks because they were Class A free agents, meaning Oakland was given two supplemental picks each between the first and second rounds. It gets picks Nos. 16 and 39 from Boston (Damon), Nos. 24 and 35 from the Yankees (Giambi) and Nos. 30 and 37 from the Cardinals (Isringhausen).

It's a similar situation to the 1990 draft when Oakland made four of the first 36 selections. The A's certainly hope to fare better. They selected four pitchers that year: Todd Van Poppel, Don Peters, David Zancanaro and Kirk Dressendorfer.

Only Van Poppel, who's with his seventh club, is in the majors.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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