While praising SNY’s Keith Hernandez for “giving it all he’s got – no holding back…most of the time”, the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman wonders why the former Mets 1B is so reticent to compare and contrast his history of cocaine abuse with baseball’s ongoing steroid saga. “When we hear him talk about steroids, as he did last month after the Alex Rodriguez story broke in Sports Illustrated, it rekindles memories of 1985 and the Pittsburgh drug trials,” writes Raissman, who might be the viewer to have made such a connection.
Much of the testimony, including Hernandez’s, was graphic. No one is suggesting there is an urgent need for Hernandez to recount what he said on the witness stand so many years ago. Still, considering how he has evolved as a broadcaster, a glimpse into that part of his life, that part of his baseball world, would be fitting. The fact he has elected not to be so revealing on the air is disappointing.
Over the course of his broadcasting career, especially when the topic of steroids comes up, Hernandez has alluded to his past without offering specifics. On the air, he’s told viewers he’s not a saint or some kind of choir boy. That’s about as far as he will go.
Hernandez declined our request for an interview, but in the past, speaking with sources who have discussed this with him, a couple of reasons emerged for his reluctance to publicly discuss his drug days.
They say the story of the Pittsburgh drug trial, and Hernandez’s cocaine abuse, is an old one. It’s been out there for over 20 years.
“People are familiar with it,” a source said. “What’s there to say? They already know his part of the story. Why should he rehash it?”
Also, Hernandez, sources said, believes his cocaine use was “a performance detractor” that had an adverse affect on him. Steroids, although illegal too, are generally classified as performance enhancing. “This Pittsburgh thing is not the story of some parallel cocaine-steroids universe,” another source said.
Still, it is a story. A story baseball is not proud of. Maybe, someday, Hernandez will revert to his usual form and tell it.
I’m with Raissman’s unnamed source on this one. Hernandez took his lumps from Dick Young, Whitey Herzog and MLB and didn’t merely land on his feet in Queens, but thru 1988, absolutely thrived. The only comparison between Mex’s situation and that of A-Rod’s is that both had to address past transgressions under intense media scrutiny (more so in Rodriguez’ case), but that’s about it. Hernandez was neither considered the best player in baseball at the time, nor was he nearly as despised.
Hernandez’ testimony during September of 1985 wasn’t accompanied by multiple, stage-managed press conferences and interviews. Even if there’d been vehicles for that sort of thing 24 years ago, Hernandez simply wasn’t as big a national celebrity. Presumably there was a good reason for Raissman to remind his readership that Hernandez was at the center of a rather large scandal many years ago, but this seems a little gratuitous. There are former ballplayers turned talking heads who have first hand experience with PED’s and could, if prompted, speak to their impact, side effects, you name it. Rather than hound Hernandez, Raissman could just as well rewrite an earlier column blasting ESPN and Fernando Vina. Or failing that, enquire when we’ll be hearing some honesty on the matter from a manager that presided over what A-Rod so eloquently called the “loosey-goosey culture” of the Texas Rangers clubhouse.