It’s tough to get major league baseball players to talk about steroids these days. Particularly the ones who have been caught with PED’s or who are under intense scrutiny. Fortunately, I used my Between the Headset press credential to sit in on a high-stakes, no-limit poker game, and took some notes about the stuff the guys talked about.* Here’s how some of it went down:
Narrator: A dark, smoky room in in the basement of Manny’s house. I was surprised by how dumpy this basement was, but Manny assured me that the carpenter was coming to finish the basement on Monday. Apparently, these poker games have been going on for some time now, and they used to take place at A-Rod’s house, but they kept having to free Derek Jeter from bondage in the basement, and all of A-Rod’s cups were smeared with lip gloss.
On this particular night, the attendees were: Manny, Jose Canseco, A-Rod, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. An all-star cast, to be sure, with only half confirmed of taking steroids, and the other half being guilty in the court of public opinion.
The game was Texas Hold’Em, but the conversation soon turned away from cards and, as could be expected with this group, onto other things.The following conversations are as I remember them:
Clemens: Hey Big Mac, you remember that time I struck you out 4 times and you had to buy me all those shots after the game?
McGwire: I’m not here to talk about the past, bro.
Bonds: Come on Mark, stop doing that. The last time Sosa asked you about about your 70th homerun, you started crying. Get over it already.
A-Rod: Easy there, Bondsy. Let the man be. Some of us, er, some people are just sensitive.
Canseco: Hey man, if you’re upset I’ve got some stuff for you. In fact, I think I brought some with me in the car. We can go take care of it later if you want…
A-Rod: I’m not trying to end up like Manny with one of those 50 gamers. Manny, how’d that work out for you?
Manny: I didn’t have to play left field for like, 2 months man. You know how many errors that’s gonna save me this season? Like 35 or something.
Narrator: Not surprisingly, Manny was the first one to go all-in and lose. He bought back in a couple of times before giving up. Apparently, hitting a baseball really is the only thing he does well. Of course, the conversation eventually turned to steroids again, with Bonds being the center of attention:
A-Rod: Barry, how’d you keep all of that proof hidden all this time? How come your name never came out on any lists?
Bonds: I don’t know man, I really don’t. My lawyer told me to use that cream and clear excuse, like I didn’t know what they are. People didn’t believe it, but it kept them off my case. Cream and the clear? What kind of idiotic thing is that? That’s almost as dumb as Manny using that estrogen stuff.
Manny: Hey man, why are you attacking me like that? I’ve won a World Series, and people don’t hate me. And I somehow convinced people that whenever I do something dumb, it’s just Manny being Manny. I couldn’t have paid people to make that up.
Clemens: Everyone just thinks I’m a jerk because I’ve lied to every media organization out there. I lied on 60 minutes! That’s badass! But what those pricks don’t understand is that I’m the king of the strikeout. I party on the reg. Yachts on the reg. Good times on the reg. I’ve got the Dinali, and I’m not turning back. Who cares if I took some of that HGH stuff? It made my pecs look bigger when I wear tight shirts.
McGwire: Rog, what are you talking about? I’m the king…remember, King McGwire? I hit 70 homeruns one year. Tearing: It was a year that baseball fans will never forget. It saved baseball after the strike. Fans came back. People cared again. I saved baseball…
Bonds: You idiot, people hate you because you tainted the game even further. People cared until your whole steroids thing. Remember? Or can your mind not go back that far?
McGwire: Shut up, man. You’re the most hated guy in baseball.
A-Rod. Guys, guys, stop fighting. We’ve all taken steroids, there’s no need to for the bickering. By the way, Jose, I’ve been tired lately. You got anything that could pick me up?
Canseco: Boy, do I ever. It’s called JOOSE and it is awesome. Energy drink and malt liquor together in one can! Ever want to know what it’s like to have a heart attack before you get one from all the steroids later in life? Try some of this stuff. You’ll be reaching balls in the hole that Jeter could never dream of getting.
Manny: Do you think it’ll make me a better fielder?
Clemens: Remember that time you cut off a throw from the outfield as an outfielder? You’re a lost cause, bro.
Narrator: At this point, tensions are high between the normally friendly ballplayers. The poker has ceased and the guys are all having a beer and arguing. Some of the topics they argued about:
- Hot or not: Meryl Streep
- The fastest way to drive from Long Island to Brooklyn
- Is Jerry Garcia a descendant of Ghandi?
- Favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor
- Does the move in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall in which Woody’s character kisses Diane Keaton before dinner actually work in real life?
- Favorite sausage in the Brewers’ sausage race
As the night wore on and the players passed the point of tipsy and crossed into drunk-land, they became more reflective. Well, McGwire and A-Rod did. The rest just became belligerent. But inevitably, the conversation turned to steroids once more, and it seemed that the players were genuinely remorseful.
McGwire: Do you guys think we ruined baseball? I mean, will the sport ever recover from what we did to it?
A-Rod: I might break Barry’s home run record one day, but I’ll always have this steroid thing hanging over me. Why did we do it?
Canseco: Chellooooo…you made millions of dollars. You’re world famous. Celebrities. Big time. TMZ puts you on their website. I call TMZ every day trying to get the paparazzi out here. What do I need to do, invite Hannah Montana over for brunch?
McGwire: It’s not about the money, man. It’s about the integrity of the game. We all grew up loving baseball. It’s been in our blood since birth. And we may have had a part in destroying an entire era of the game. Why should I feel good about that for a little bit of celebrity?
Bonds: For me, when I get off my high horse and actually think about it, it’s not about the game. It’s about my own legacy, which is forever tarnished. And that sucks. A lot. Willie Mays publicly stands by me, but deep down the dude hates me. I cheated. He never would’ve done that. That’s what hurts me the most.
Manny: You guys see that ESPN piece about me where they interviewed people in my hometown about their reactions to my suspension? Made me cry, man. Made me cry. They didn’t even say it was just Manny being Manny. It was Manny being a cheater.
Clemens: But what can we do? Some of us are out of the game, some of us haven’t even been officially caught. You think the Mitchell Report is gonna keep me from Cooperstown? Think again.
Canseco: What if I inject every baseball fan with some of that stuff that makes them forget? Then we’ll all be clean.
A-Rod: Do you actually have some of that stuff? I’d be down for that plan. Actually, could you get me a supply? That way I wouldn’t be lying with the media when I say I don’t remember my bad games…
McGwire: OK, so here’s the plan. Jose injects everyone at parks across the country with that forgetful juice. Meanwhile, we start a public campaign against steroids. That way, we look like we’re ahead of the curve on the issue.
Bonds: I like it. Let’s put our hands together. Balco on three…one, two, three…
Narrator: And so that was how the night concluded. The personal drivers came to take everyone home, the poker chips were put away, Manny’s basement was finished that Monday just as he promised me, and I left that night thoroughly confused. Just when it seemed there would be a breakthrough in these guys coming clean and taking an initiative to fix what they messed up, something got the better of them. Thus, we are all still left in a cloud of uncertainty, weighing the steroids issue in baseball, without knowing exactly what happened.
Perhaps one day these men will sit around the poker table and decide to admit their flaws. Maybe one day they’ll all come completely clean. Perhaps David Frost needs to conduct interviews with all of them. Until then, we can all only speculate, just as I have, about what goes through the minds of some of baseball’s cheaters.
I doubt they are spending a whole lot of time debating whether Meryl Streep is hot or not.
*Because I don’t know what the libel laws are, this is satire and fiction and not true and I’m making all of this up. Not trying to get sued.