A former New York Mets batboy and clubhouse attendant named Kirk Radomski may have become one of the most important figures in baseball history April 27 when he pleaded guilty to distributing illegal drugs to major league players from the time he left the Mets' employ in 1995 to the day federal investigators raided his Long Island, N.Y., house in 2005.
Radomski, 37, is naming names and must now cooperate with baseball's internal investigation into illegal drug use. It's possible that in the not-distant future, the relatively few steroid revelations so far are going to look like the calm before the storm.
And if Radomski is the only former or current clubhouse kid who was using his vast network of millionaire athlete contacts to run a performance-enhancing-drug ring, then baseball clubhouse kids are the most unambitious, unimaginative group in the history of forever.
Or the most honest and law-abiding.
What the storm will accomplish is anybody's guess. Ridding baseball of its drug problem is almost certainly not among the possibilities, but the more we know about any problem the better, and Radomski could lead to a whole lot of knowledge.
Radomski, who pleaded guilty to one count each of distribution of a controlled substance and money laundering in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, began cooperating with agents immediately upon the December 2005 raid, and as part of his agreement will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and with former Sen. George Mitchell, who is conducting a toothless internal investigation into drug use in baseball.
Mitchell has no subpoena power, and thus no power, but at least now he has Radomski, who can give him the names of some guys who will continue to refuse to talk to him.
Radomski became a gym trainer after leaving the Mets. He admitted to having sold steroids, human growth hormone and amphetamines to "dozens of current and former Major League Baseball players and associates [on teams throughout Major League Baseball] and their associates," according to the plea. He could face a long prison term.
Though Radomski isn't connected with the BALCO case, he was nabbed by the same investigation. IRS agent Jeff Novitzky turned his attention to Radomski after the raid on pitcher Jason Grimsley's house in 2005. Novitzky had heard about Radomski from the FBI, which had learned of him from an informant, according to a story by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada of the San Francisco Chronicle, the reporters who broke the BALCO story and wrote the book "Game of Shadows."
Players union officials reportedly spent the weekend calling current and former players, warning them that Radomski might have sung or might still sing their names. A number of names were redacted from a search warrant in the case. The warrant quotes an informant as saying Radomski became a PED go-to guy in the wake of BALCO, that he "took over after the BALCO Laboratories individuals were taken down" in 2003.
And here we all thought BALCO scared everybody straight.
Actually, we didn't think that. What I thought is that BALCO provided inspiration and an open playing field for BALCO's successor as the maker and supplier of secret designer performance enhancers that investigators don't even know exist, never mind have a test for.
That may have been the case, and that lab might be doing a land-office business even as you slack from your job and read this.
Then again, maybe I underestimated the stupidity of baseball's criminal element. Among the key evidence reportedly seized by agents in the raid on Radomski: Evidence of personal checks from major league players to Radomski in amounts ranging from $200 to $3,500, written between 2003 and 2005.
Checks? These guys are buying drugs with checks? A group of people with an average income of more than $2.6 million a year and a minimum wage of more than $300,000, and, with that livelihood potentially on the line, they're writing personal checks to their drug dealers?
I've got to stop watching TV. The bad guys are always so smart. It's a fantasy.
We like to tell ourselves when these big breaks happen in the war on drugs that we've gotten closer to eliminating the problem, cleaning things up. I've been watching cops pose for the news cameras with massive caches of seized dope since I was a little boy, and all I ever hear about our country's drug problem is that it's still a problem.
What really happens in these big busts is we learn some things. It's possible that the Radomski plea will eventually lead to us knowing the names of a whole bunch of big-league players who bought drugs from this one dealer.
OK, more light. That might change the way we think about, say, Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. If they look less like outlaws and more like a couple of guys operating well within the mainstream of their business, perhaps all of us -- me included -- will go a little easier on them, take the pariah label off. Maybe not.
In the meantime I'll be over here shaking my head. They wrote checks!
Every time I hear something about the bad guys, in this and many other criminal cases, it's jarring to me how stupid they are. And yet they're mostly ahead of the cops. The cops aren't necessarily stupid. They're just waving brooms at the tide.
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Warriors go up 3-1 on Mavs [PERMALINK]
Still not ready to jump on that Golden State Warriors bandwagon, even as the W's have played terrific, exciting basketball to take a 3-1 lead over the Dallas Mavericks, who seem determined to hand over the series.
The Warriors won a barnburner in Oakland April 29, 103-99. In the other playoff games Sunday, the Chicago Bulls completed their sweep of the champion Miami Heat, and the Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets each took 3-1 leads with routs, over the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors, respectively.
The Mavs continue to refuse to play an inside game to take advantage of their size, and the Warriors continue to make them pay and pay. It's great. It has turned what should have been an easy first-round win for the top seed into a thrilling upset in the making. Dallas has to win three in a row, which frankly doesn't look possible, never mind likely.
If the Warriors win one more, they'll become the third No. 8 seed in NBA history to knock off a No. 1. In 48 tries. And they're doing it with about the most entertaining brand of basketball around.
In that now-likely event, the Mavs will have to go home and think about the fact that while you don't need much inside presence to win big in the 82-game NBA preseason, when the real season starts in April, you need it big.
Every team doesn't need a Shaquille O'Neal or Tim Duncan, though of course having a Shaquille O'Neal or Tim Duncan is very helpful indeed. But if DeSagana Diop weren't the loneliest man in America every time he stood on painted hardwood in Mavericks pajamas, the Mavericks would be a lot closer to winning a title.
It would also help if Dirk Nowitzki, great as he is, were the No. 2 guy, the Scottie Pippen. He's gotten tougher during his career and played grittier, more playoff-friendly basketball at times, especially during last year's run to the Finals. But he'll always be Dirk Nowitzki. When the money's in the pot, he's jacking up a jumper. He's great. But he's not That Guy.
If he were, the Mavs would be up 3-1 now, and we'd all be talking about how Nowitzki has been dominating in the paint. He's good enough to have done that. He's never going to.
What's next for the Warriors if they win? Probably losing to Utah or Houston. Styles make fights.
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Charles Barkley line of the night [PERMALINK]
An occasional feature.
On seeing a shot of Jessica Alba in the stands before the Warriors-Mavericks game in Oakland, Sir Charles interrupted what he was already saying and blurted out: "Is that Jessica Alba? Oh my God. Golden State's got good-looking celebrity fans now? What the hell is the world coming to?"
I know the feeling. I had it last year about the Los Angeles Clippers.
Later, with TNT host Ernie Johnson trying to defend the Bay Area from Barkley's constant dissing, came this exchange:
Johnson: How do you feel about Sausalito?
Johnson: Sausalito, California. Right over across the --
Barkley: [Dismissive] I never been to Sausalito.
Johnson: It's beautiful, right over across the Golden Gate.
Barkley: They got a team over there?
Johnson: Oh, my.
Barkley: What were you doing in Sausalito anyway, Ernie?
Johnson: I was on vacation a few years ago. My wife and I were out there. Beautiful place.
Barkley: You know, most people go to vacation to islands and foreign countries. Who ever says, "Hey, let's go to Sausalito"?
Johnson: Believe me. You don't know what you're missing.
Barkley: Cheap. You're just cheap, Ernie. Just admit it.
Johnson: Oh, Charles.
Barkley: [Incredulous, laughing] You took your wife to Sausalito?
Johnson: We were in San Francisco, went to Sausalito. Beautiful.
Barkley: Are you kiddin' me?
Johnson: Yeah. I'm not kiddin' ya.
Kenny Smith: He's not kiddin'.
Johnson: Not kiddin'.
Comedy gold. Love Kenny Smith in the Bill Daily role.
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