On a day where the major national news story was the release of e-mails between the White House and the Justice Department which seem to prove that United States Attorneys were hired or fired based on their loyalty to the Administration, Gary Matthews Jr. finally issued the long-awaited statement regarding his alleged involvement with human growth hormone.
Is there a link between the two news stories?
Perhaps it’s not quite as far-fetched as you might think.
Put on your tin-foiled hat and play along.
You may not know that Angels owner Arte Moreno is a major fundraiser for President George W. Bush. So it’s not much of a stretch to think he knows how to get hold of Karl Rove or any other politcial operatives in the White House, especially if it’s to collect on a long-overdue favor.
Moreno has been pressuring Matthews to make some sort of public statement about the news report that Matthews’ name was one of many athletes and celebrities who allegedly ordered HGH from a Mobile, Alabama lab. The transaction allegedly occurred in August 2004, when MLB had not yet banned HGH, and reportedly Matthews had a prescription. The investigation by the Albany NY D.A. revolves around the physicians who issued these prescriptions; New York state law requires a physician to examine the patient before issuing the prescription.
Despite no evidence at all that Matthews had committed a crime, Moreno "promised" the press he’d resolve the matter by Opening Day. He let it leak that he’d hired attorneys looking for a way to revoke Matthews’ contract or otherwise punish him should Matthews refuse to come forward.
Matthews responded by hiring a lawyer. And recently he hired a second lawyer, Harold McGuire, who according to the Times is "a former federal prosecutor who represented the players’ union in winning a $280-million settlement from major league owners in 1990, as compensation for collusion in bidding on free agents."
When I read the McGuire story this morning, it occurred to me that Matthews would seek that kind of backup only if he thought he needed firepower to go toe-to-toe with Major League Baseball. Moreno trotted out Commissioner Selig last Saturday who stated that he supported Moreno 100%.
We know that MLB is very nervous about any governmental investigation of baseball and illegal drug use, having narrowly skirted Congressional action after the testimony by Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro et al. A pledge by Selig to voluntarily enact stronger drug testing avoided the possibility of Congress voiding baseball’s unique exemption from monopoly laws, if not worse (e.g. governmental regulation of the sport’s drug testing).
So what ties Matthews, Moreno and Selig to the brewing Justice Department scandal?
It’s a January 20, 2003 document sent to all U.S. Attorneys (those would be the political appointees hired and fired by the Administration) called the Thompson Memorandum.
In short, the Thompson Memorandum says that if a private business under governmental investigation compels one of its employees to give testimony even if it incriminates the employee, the government can go easy on the business itself when it comes to filing charges.
According to a December 5, 2006 article in the New York Law Journal, to circumvent the Fifth Amendment the government can employ a private business on its behalf to compel an employee into self-incrimination. That’s why the Thompson Memorandum is so controversial, because it was an attempt by the Bush Administration to do an end-run on the Constitution. If government investigators can’t compel someone to give testimony incriminating himself, have his employer do it.
So now we have the spectre of Arte Moreno, a loyal Bush supporter, trying to coerce an employee into making a public statement regarding a criminal investigation.
How about that.
And even though Moreno says he’s satisfied, according to the Times the commissioner said his office "is still investigating the matter," and a MLB spokesman said "baseball could not rule out any suspension of Matthews under its drug policy."
In fact, the Mobile, Alabama lab where Matthews allegedly ordered the HGH is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney in Mobile, according to ESPN.com reporter Mike Fish. "A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Mobile has said a federal investigation of Applied Pharmacy remains ongoing, even while the district attorney in Albany has moved forward with indictments. The warrant issued for the August search, as well as the documents and property seized, remain under seal in Mobile district court. A federal grand jury in Mobile convenes later this month."
Hmmm … So Matthews could already be the target of a U.S. Attorney investigation — an attorney appointed by the Bush Administration.
Some people have written on bulletin boards that if Matthews has nothing to hide, he has no reason not to make a statement.
But it’s not that simple.
For openers, let’s start with obstruction of justice, which is broadly defined as any interference in the administration and due process of law. Let’s say that Matthews’ statement, while sincere, inadvertently contained a false statement that one could argue was intended to lead investigators astray. Could one of those "loyal" U.S. attorneys bring obstruction charges against Matthews?
That might be enough to give Moreno — or the commissioner — what he needs to suspend Matthews, or even break Matthews’ contract, even though I’m sure the players union would fight it.
You can take off your tinfoil hats now.
There’s no evidence any of this is actually going on, but the scenario is at least possible, if not plausible.
Just because Matthews got a big fat contract doesn’t mean he gave up his rights when he signed. There’s no monetary limit, high or low, in the Constitution when it comes to protecting your rights.
For those who have failed to learn from history, go watch on DVD the excellent film Good Night, and Good Luck about the Joe McCarthy hearings and how CBS News finally showed the guts to stand up to him. That probably wouldn’t happen today, since networks’ news divisions are now part of the bottom line and are expected to produce a profit. Corporations like Viacom, NBC/Universal and Disney don’t want to invite governmental investigations as it might cause their stock values to drop, so they think twice about challenging the all-powerful. And don’t get me started on Fox News, whose president Roger Ailes was a longtime Republican political consultant and helped run presidential campaigns for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
So in an era when we can’t count on the Fourth Estate to be our watchdog, we’re left only with ourselves. And our lawyers.
If Matthews broke the law, I’m all for justice being done. When I was in law enforcement decades ago, we had a saying — "Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time."
But any conviction should come through due process, and a respect for constitutional rights. That’s my beef with what Arte Moreno did. There was no reason for him to drag this out in the press. Maybe he thought he would somehow save face. But the story would have died a couple weeks ago if he hadn’t hired lawyers, started issuing ultimatums through the press, and brought in the commissioner. That was overkill, and it served no purpose other than to pressure Matthews into giving up his rights under duress.
And that was wrong.
This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.
The latest episode of FutureAngels.com Radio is now on-line. You can get to the link through the home page at www.futureangels.com.
This episode features:
- Texas baseball historian Mark Presswood who talks about the Angels’ original Triple-A team, the 1961 Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers that included Jim Fregosi, Dean Chance, Bob Rodgers and Chuck Tanner.
- A memorable moment in the minor league career of Casey Kotchman.
- Cedar Rapids Kernels fan Lanny Peterson talks about the Kernels’ host parent program, and recalls some interesting stories about local families hosting minor league ballplayers.
You need Windows Media Player to listen. You can either stream the audio or download it to your MP3-compatible device.
We’re about one-third of the way through major league spring training camp, so let’s review where things stand with decisions affecting prospects.
Casey Kotchman will be at the bat many times this year if his health holds up.
FIRST BASE — Casey Kotchman hit a monster homer today to right field, and it’s starting to look like he’ll have a lock on the job come Opening Night. Kendry Morales hasn’t embarrassed himself either, but he still has work to do in the minors. Let’s not forget that Kendry has been playing pro ball for only a year and a half. If Casey nails the first base position, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kendry is moved at Triple-A Salt Lake to a corner outfield position this year to give him more versatility with the parent club when he finally arrives.
SECOND BASE — Howie Kendrick today muffed a grounder up the middle in the top of the 1st but otherwise has shown he’s capable of playing a major league second base. Offensively, he ended the day with a .500 average.
SHORTSTOP — Orlando Cabrera isn’t going anywhere. Maicer Izturis will be the utility infielder, with Erick Aybar being given every opportunity to make the club as well as a second utility player. It’s more likely that Erick will return to Salt Lake and play shortstop, with the center field idea shelved unless Arte Moreno somehow succeeds in banishing Gary Matthews Jr.
THIRD BASE — It’ll be Chone Figgins unless something goes bad. Brandon Wood twisted an ankle last week when he stepped on a bat in foul territory, but he returned to action today in the split-squad game at Surprise against the Rangers. Matt Brown has impressed in limited opportunities, but it looks like he’ll return to Double-A Arkansas with Wood playing 3B in Salt Lake.
LEFT FIELD — Garret Anderson looks healthy. He stole a base today in his first at-bat, showing last year’s foot injury is long gone.
Once a shortstop, Tommy Murphy could make the parent club roster as a spare outfielder.
CENTER FIELD — Gary Matthews Jr. hasn’t posted impressive numbers, but it’s foolish to judge veterans players by the first ten days of spring training. As we all know, he’s being pressured by his employer to give public testimony about his alleged ordering of human growth hormone in August 2004, testimony that could be used against him in court. Moreno brought in Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday as backup, and at the top of today’s telecast the Angels broadcasters (no doubt under orders) urged Matthews to tell all. Although his lawyers have told him he can’t force Matthews to compromise his rights, Moreno seems to be looking for a way to do so. One option not mentioned in print is to banish Matthews to the minors, which is unlikely but it shouldn’t be dismissed. If something happens to Matthews, then Tommy Murphy or Reggie Willitts would be the leading candidates. One of them will probably make the parent club as a reserve outfielder.
RIGHT FIELD — Vlad Guerrero looks fully recovered from last year’s nagging injuries. Of course, if anything catastrophic happened to Vladi then the Angels would be seriously hosed. With no ETA for Juan Rivera’s recovery, the Angels might want to think about giving Kendry Morales playing time at RF in Salt Lake, but there’s no sign that move is imminent. Veteran outfielder Curtis Pride saw some RF time in today’s game and would be the likely callup, although Murphy and Willitts have also seen RF time in the minors.
CATCHER — The three-way duel for two jobs continues between Jose Molina, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. Molina is a lock unless he gets hurt. Mathis has been the better defender so far, but Napoli has been the better hitter. My guess is Napoli gets the edge unless Mathis comes on strong this month and Napoli tanks.
STARTING ROTATION — John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, and Ervin Santana are all progressing as expected, although Lackey missed a start due to strep throat and Santana pitched with a neck strain in his last night. Bartolo Colon is rehabbing faster than anticipated, although he’s still only throwing fastballs in bullpen sessions. Jered Weaver is doing the same, although he’s expected to be ready sooner. Joe Saunders will be in the rotation until both of those guys are ready and then return to Triple-A, with Hector Carrasco the probable spot starter. Looking ahead at potential rehab starts in April, Salt Lake is at home April 5-12, then in Las Vegas April 13-16 and Tucson April 17-20, so it’s entirely plausible that Colon and/or Weaver could rehab with the Triple-A team instead of Rancho Cucamonga.
BULLPEN — Not many job opportunities here. Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Justin Speier are all locks, and probably Hector Carrasco and Darren Oliver too. That leaves one opening with many candidates. Chris Resop and Phil Seibel pitched today in the split-squad game against Oakland, but neither particularly took charge. Chris Bootcheck pitched two scoreless innings in the split-squad game against the Rangers. Also in the mix are Matt Hensley, Greg Jones, Marcus Gwyn and Dustin Moseley. Right now, Bootcheck is the only one who’s been effective, although Moseley pitched five scoreless innings yesterday in a split-squad start against the Rangers … The Triple-A bullpen will be well-stocked. Along with whomever doesn’t make the parent club, Jason Bulger returns along with Matt Wilhite and Alex Serrano.
I’ll be at minor league camp March 18-20, so look for another update after I return. For those unfamiliar with FutureAngels.com, I run it alone without any financial support from the Angels or their minor league affiliates. I’ll be returning with plenty photos, audio and video of the minor leaguers, some of which I might be able to post same-day from the hotel in Tempe. As with everything else on the web site, I can only do as much as the site financially sustains.
If you enjoy the site’s contents, please consider a donation or voluntary subscription. So far I’ve received $150 in donations for 2007, which is exceptionally generous. The donations not only help with the travel costs but also the addition of new features such as this blog, the bulletin board and the polls. Sales of the photos help a little but it’s never enough. So if you want to see more, please consider helping out.
This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.
FutureAngels.com is adding new features in the next few days in preparation for the season.
The first is polling. Whether you’re here on the FutureAngels.com Blog or you’re on the FutureAngels.com web site, you’ll be able to participate in polls asking you questions about Angels baseball.
In the next few days, FutureAngels.com will have a bulletin board and a guestbook.
Here’s the first poll … With all the controversy surrounding Gary Matthews Jr. and the possibility that owner Arte Moreno might try to suspend him, the Angels may have to find another center fielder. Who do you think should be the Angels’ center fielder in 2007? Select one of the choices in the poll.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Angels owner Arte Moreno is trying to force a confrontation with outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. over the report that Matthews may have ordered human growth hormone (HGH) in August 2004.
As previously noted in this column, media reports state that Matthews had a prescription for Genotropin. The substance was not banned at the time by Major League Baseball, and it’s not illegal to possess or use if you have a prescription.
Matthews’ name appeared on a list of customers for a pharmaceutical lab raided by the District Attorney in Albany, New York. Many other athletes appear on the list. The D.A. has already stated he will not prosecute the customers, only the suppliers, who are accused of issuing prescriptions without properly evaluating their patients and customers.
None of this seems to make a difference with Moreno, who rather than let the story die has chosen to escalate it into a confrontation with Matthews and the Major League Baseball Players Union (MLBPA).
This may explain why Matthews hired noted L.A. defense attorney Robert Shapiro. Maybe it wasn’t because he feared criminal charges, but he wanted to protect his Constitutional rights from a bully billionaire trying to force Matthews into incriminating himself.
According to the Times, the Angels are "preparing for disciplinary action against the center fielder unless he publicly addresses allegations he received a shipment of human growth hormone."
The article says that, "The Angels and Major League Baseball officials have discussed at least four possibilities — suspending him with pay, suspending him without pay, converting his guaranteed contract to non-guaranteed and voiding the contract." The Angels seem intent on forcing the issue although "they already have been advised that they probably could not succeed in voiding the contract unless Matthews were convicted of a crime," according to the article.
This isn’t the first time Moreno has resorted to hardball tactics. When an initial meeting with City of Anaheim officials didn’t go well, Moreno decided in the dead of a Sunday night to fax over to City Hall a press release announcing the team’s geographic appellation would change from “Anaheim Angels” to “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.” The Angels eventually won a lawsuit because the city’s contract with Disney, the prior owners, had been poorly worded, but it left an impression with many — including me — that Moreno is just a rich guy used to pushing people around when he doesn’t get his way.
So now we have Moreno ignoring the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be witness against himself.” Not to mention the agreement with the MLBPA that specifies a player can’t be suspended unless convicted of a crime.
Although I’m sure most players in the Angels clubhouse don’t approve of HGH or steroid use, neither do they approve of an owner trying to force one of their teammates into surrendering his rights under the law and under the labor union agreement.
In short, Moreno has succeeded in making a bad situation worse.
And when we should be talking about Angels baseball and the upcoming season, we’re talking about a billionaire owner bullying one of his contractual employees. Swell.
How easy is it to order Genotropin?
This is the substance Gary Matthews, Jr. allegedly ordered from a now-defunct lab in Mobile, Alabama. But did he do anything illegal?
To see whether this is actually a hard thing to do, I set out to see whether I could order it myself.
I started by doing a Google search on "Genotropin." I was shown a link to a page at Drugstore.com where I was assured that Genotropin could be ordered online.
Although it said that "Genotropin may be used to improve growth in children whose bodies do not produce enough growth hormone on their own," it also said that "Genotropin may be used to treat other conditions as determined by your doctor."
The page listed Genotropin in various doses, "7 cartridges per box." I clicked the 1 mg dose option and saw pricing for various amounts. The default was "21 ea." for $1,110.24.
I clicked "Add to Cart" and was brought to a "Sign In" screen. I was a new customer, so I clicked on the "New Customer" button. I was asked for my first name (optional), an e-mail address, and a password.
With a click, I was in. The "Proceed to Checkout" button appeared but I was told that "to ensure the quality of your medicine, any order that contains a refrigerated item is shipped overnight. This is because standard shipping methods do not guarantee that the medicine will be kept at the proper temperature in transit."
I clicked the "Proceed" button and was brought to a new screen where I was asked to "enter health profile information." It asked who the prescription was for, whether I have any drug allergies, current medical conditions or illnesses, and any current medications I might be taking.
Just to see what would happen, I entered a fictitious name ("John Doe"), address (I gave a P.O. Box) and phone number, then indicated that I had no medical conditions or allergies.
The next screen asked whether I might want a cheaper generic version. It also asked whether I’d pay the full amount myself, or whether my insurance or credit card would cover it. I chose "I will pay the full amount myself" and clicked Continue.
At this point, I finally reached a legitimate checkpoint. I was asked how I would provide my prescription information. I chose "I will mail in my written prescription," and entered fictitious information for my doctor.
When I clicked Continue, I got to a page where I was prompted for credit card information. This was the point at which I bailed, not choosing to carry this escapade down a more expensive path.
I didn’t carry it all the way through, but it appeared to me that there was little to stop me from ordering Genotropin if I wanted.
Oh, and while I completed the order, I got an e-mail from DrugStore.com welcoming me to "The Uncommon Drugstore." The e-mail indicated they’re based in Bellevue, Washington. No one seems to be after them yet.
The Sports Illustrated web site has updated its coverage of the Albany DA’s investigation into human growth hormone use.
Beat writer Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times suggests that the Angels’ "strong-arm tactics" have failed to sway Gary Matthews, Jr. into divulging all he knows about his involvement in the human growth hormone saga:
The Angels’ strong-arm tactics have had virtually no effect on Gary Matthews Jr., the center fielder who continues to test the patience of the organization by refusing to address allegations that he received a shipment of human growth hormone in 2004.
Sunday, it was owner Arte Moreno who said he was "not a very happy guy" and vowed that the matter would be "resolved by opening day, one way or the other." Tuesday, it was General Manager Bill Stoneman, who threw two no-hitters while pitching for the Montreal Expos, who came up and in on Matthews.
"We’ve made it clear to him that we want him to make a statement," Stoneman said. "We’ve encouraged him to get the facts out, get his side of the story out, whatever that story is. I understand that when lawyers get involved they generally tell you to be quiet about things. That doesn’t address the public side of it."
Matthews, whose name surfaced in a government investigation into the illegal distribution of steroids and human growth hormone, has hired attorney Robert Shapiro, who worked on O.J. Simpson’s legal "dream team," and a noted Southern California crisis management firm to represent him.
Though Shapiro said he was "firmly convinced Matthews has not violated any laws or rules established by Major League Baseball," he has advised Matthews not to comment until the investigation is complete.
Tuesday, Matthews, normally cordial and cooperative with the media, seemed perturbed when asked if it has been difficult for him to remain focused on baseball with the allegations swirling about him.
"If you want to talk about baseball, about yesterday’s game, we can talk about that," he said. "If you want to talk about getting prepared for the season, we can talk about that."
The Angels would like Matthews to talk about the allegations, because the longer he goes without discussing them, the more the public will believe the allegations to be true. When Texas Rangers utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. was implicated in the same investigation last week, he immediately denied receiving or using human growth hormone.
Attorneys representing the Angels have been in contact with attorneys for Matthews, the players’ union and MLB. USA Today reported Tuesday that MLB attorneys will be in Albany, N.Y., today to meet with Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who is heading up the investigation.
"Our involvement now is to apply pressure to everybody who is involved and move this thing forward," Stoneman said. "We want to keep reminding people that we’d like this to be brought to a quick conclusion. … It’s a distraction right now. We don’t want it to be a lengthy distraction."
The Angels signed Matthews to a five-year, $50-million contract in November, confident he would fill their need for a top-notch defender and a productive leadoff batter, but it’s clear the human growth hormone allegations have put a serious strain on the relationship between the team and its new center fielder.
"It’s certainly not an ideal way to start a five-year relationship with a guy," Stoneman said.
Bill Shaikin with the Los Angeles Times reports that the team would have no basis for breaking Matthews’ contract unless he was convicted of a crime.
After an initial review, lawyers advising the Angels have indicated the team probably would not have grounds to void the contract of outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. even if prosecutors can prove he received an illegal shipment of human growth hormone.
In the absence of a criminal conviction, the Angels probably could not void the contract, even if they would want to do so, according to two highly placed baseball sources. The Angels signed Matthews to a five-year, $50-million deal in November.
David Soares, the New York district attorney leading the inquiry into allegations of criminal sales of controlled substances, has said it focuses on distributors, not consumers.
If no charges are filed against any alleged recipients, Matthews would not be at risk of conviction. Investigators found documents linking Matthews to a 2004 shipment of HGH for which a prescription was written in Florida, filled in Alabama and shipped to the Texas address of a former minor league teammate, SI.com reported.
No word on how this reconciles with owner Arte Moreno’s "promise" to resolve the matter by Opening Day.
Matt Hurst of the Riverside Press-Enterprise caught up with Casey Kotchman, who said his winter ball regimen has him ahead of schedule:
Three hard-hit balls, resulting in a home run, single and line out, was how Casey Kotchman’s day went, and he says it’s because he played winter ball until mid-January.
"I think it was definitely beneficial for me to be playing up until January," said Kotchman, who spent two months playing in Puerto Rico. "All it can do is help."
Kotchman, who played just 29 games last year while dealing with the effects of mononucleosis, said he’s "definitely" ahead of schedule compared to past springs and has played as much as possible to show the Angels he’s healthy.
"I’m all the way back physically," he said. "Endurance-wise, it’s a matter of continuously playing. … I can play longer in games if they need to see that."