WEEI>On Demand>>Minor Details Ep. 66: Gabe Kapler on the culture of PED speculation

Minor Details Ep. 66: Gabe Kapler on the culture of PED speculation

Aug 20, 2013|

Former major league outfielder Gabe Kapler, who played for six teams (including the Red Sox) over parts of 12 big league seasons, joins Minor Details to discuss the culture of PED suspicion and speculation that prevails in Major League Baseball. As a player who was subject to considerable speculation about PED use, Kapler explores what does and does not qualify as reasonable grounds for suspicions about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The conversation is based on Kapler's article on the subject, available at http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=21574

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Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Joined once again by -- -- -- where did this week we want to discuss in -- and really to to this great well at least incredibly rich subject. I that your -- Gordon in a beautiful piece I thought for basement for baseball prospectus. Related to. Kind of how we view people with suspicion and what this world of performance enhancing drugs is done. In terms of how we typecast. Who we look at with suspicion and I guess let me set before we kind of get some of the specifics of it I guess. You know have my my question is. A very broad one but. You're obviously putting a lot of thought into performance enhancing drugs and how we look at players in what it means. Just as someone who cares passionately about the game. How how visceral is the issue of performance enhancing drugs in baseball do you how much you're thinking about the question of you know of steroids in -- and HGH and you know and efforts to deny the aging curve. How much of your attention as a baseball as a baseball followers on that now. Alex too much. There that bet there aren't yet I think part of it is because. IP it would subject of so much but it -- so much speculation. And for me. -- dove into it myself I want to understand why people thought that I would mr. user. I wanted to defend myself which like an awful reason. -- in some ways a really nice catalysts. -- devouring. And -- for you know to answer your question directly from a visual perspective. I feel it in in every ounce of -- being. You have to remember. Missed this sort of speculation Serb Army nearly sixteen years ago and at every at every turn may -- may be more than sixty at every turn. I answered questions from teammates. Banned -- media members and so it would partner interest. To do little study union to understand the topical with better. -- and I I am so you'll. Of being one of those speculators that you're open you know that you're open to bow and and you know sort of pointing a finger in my own mind topic. That we shake myself. To look at it through I'm an objective. -- And so our outlook your your thoughts on how you feel about having problems we've not been. Accuse -- of disorder. -- what are you saying about my physique of and I. I mean at least in terms of it I I it shakes me a little bit because I ask myself what questions should I have been asking then what questions should I be asking now. -- there's a great discomfort in part because. -- I think that's partly my personality. I'd I don't think government I'm a particularly confrontational type and I'm also and I also like to be a trusting tiebreak which makes. That necessity of suspicion challenging one. Do you think that you know I do recall. Like with with great fascination thinking back to my first years of covering baseball thing you know I started covering the Red Sox in 2002 you're signed in 2030. And quite frankly I don't think that I had ever heard a question directly asked of up of a player. Do you use steroids or have you used performance enhancing drugs until you were signed by the Red Sox until you are required in June of 2003. And like the first question -- second question that you -- asked by Johnny Miller who's a unique as a unit and member of the media community. Here in Boston. And he said. Have you ever used steroids in what was that HBO test all about like I think I am not sure if that was before or after he asked are you excited to be a member of the Red Sox. End. Like that kind of direct conversation about it did not exist at that time but you were someone. For you know you like the fact you were a person who is subject to that. Late in that in that very direct fashion was striking the fact that you're someone. To answer that very directly. -- that or when I say I'm trying to remember actually the kind of substance of your. Of your response because my my sense is that. As proud as you weren't you talk about this in the article of having taken a test on HBO. You know having having had been come. Become it's you know of being in Chicago. They were trying -- -- blind side -- -- a little bit they approach the Rangers and said who wants to take a test I -- I will. And I get the sense that you're incredibly proud of having taken it incredibly proud of having obviously you know not shown any evidence of having taken PD's at that time. -- then perhaps there was a little bit of subsequent. -- I am trying to think what the right word is. You know some some misgivings or at least some. Some lack of Hoover's funnier part. And because about how that would be perceived among your teammates so you couldn't Wear that necessarily is the badge of honor that you might otherwise have done. Yeah your right Alex I'd -- -- so much. Mixed emotions about this topic and it and I'd respond the right to change my mind at any moment. Though there are there are on -- -- like. And I'm proud of of these experiences about and it's -- -- angered and upset and disappointed. There are out the fuel topic and the amount of work that I put in enduring outsiders that you routed to. With the Rangers I felt a lot of those mixed emotions you know restrict who. To have my teammates think of me like -- like the -- -- well the only way you can be muscular like god is if you take steroids and argued it. A lot of them up from my popularity. That was flattering in some way and it was sort of an -- -- in some -- and at its -- I would sort of backhanded compliment slap in the face if you will. With with my personal understanding that they were snickering about it that the saints aren't so and I are certain that people queuing around this topic. For aren't long and accurate -- -- -- -- he got accurately you can even to expand. You talk about. That particular moment in Chicago when HBO real sports came in and game did not -- I mean he got a lot of mixed emotions around not -- a little bit. Angry to be ambushed at the same time I was proud of of the bulk of -- and bush. I mean. You would you I think you're right they are seeing the Gergen it Johnny Miller interviewed particular. I have a lot of respect for for army and its willingness economy and its strategic takes steroids. Rather than what happened -- inform me -- reporter accompanying an upbeat about other players and really really saw in the interview up a little bit. And talk about my performance on the you'll and then sliding like that it yields could be. Associated with the word steroids. And Eric Martin you know give it to me straight to us. You know -- argued it -- right about. -- you might shoot WPP at the time. So we're gonna talk about that part about coming from talking about -- you about it straight up the mystery -- option the majority it. Indeed one of one of his somewhat of his merits that god did he he exhibits perhaps more than anyone else is the is the willingness. The unabashed directness of of lines of inquiry. But getting back to the the matter of the mixed emotions that you felt like to meet you know you you one of the things that you discuss the article and it's not the central part of the article what you what you write about is really you know -- -- suspicion what do what makes us suspicious about you know. To -- museum like and how we have to kind of retrain ourselves -- are not just a look at someone's physique to make assumptions. But instead turn to think a little bit more deeply look for more meaningful data but. But getting with regards to this the question of having the mixed emotions of having taken that test. One of the things that striking to me that you do touch on is this idea that there's been kind of a shifted the norms within. A Major League Baseball clubhouse like you're hearing. You know you're hearing other players calling out users you're hearing. John -- teachers say that Alex Rodriguez spit in the -- of every other member of the players association and so discuss them. Did the players association money is being used to support his appeal. Of his suspension you're hearing you know you're hearing given Longoria -- of the world speak candidly about the fact that. The fact that they want to get the game clean and that they think that people who. Who have used in the past. Our -- so you know I guess from your vantage point look it's not that long since you're in a Major League Baseball clubhouse. As a player. You like your last you know you had you were in spring training in 2011. Was was there a palpable shift in the normative culture. Of Major League Baseball inside of the walls of the clubhouse inside the dugout. Met with regards to the conversation about steroids and TDs. Or is it mostly in terms of how that's being communicated to the public that's changed. It's it's a really interest topic it did it and so -- we emerged in the about insurgents -- out. I think it was right around 2011. I don't think it's been damaged loaded like get out of course the last six months. Or even a year Arctic in the about it would still with -- and a lot of sort of conversation in the corner. Even at the end my career now I think I start talking about it more openly but I certainly don't think it's what impact for like out there. Over the course of the lot but they know six months to a year. It's an extraordinary like expect Geithner are extreme from the rooftop. Or what was necessary to really change. You get out the -- -- in my opinion which you know a really small. Or or every every every big movement part of the small step but. I think it's a loud crowd sort of load kind of reactions from players. And from -- for everybody collectively. Have a major change and I injured they were on our way to metres and -- -- -- there yet. Yeah I mean that was those kind of what intrigues me because I I think it's a pretty drastic change of like again getting to that idea of the normative culture and you know part of this is a bias based on the fact that I have a sister in law. Who works at a an act in a university community. Ends her job is basically changed the normative culture related to alcohol. Because all there have been too many like -- been too many you know like significant illnesses are kind of medical crises on that campus. Related to alcohol so you know so she focuses on changing the -- so that there are fewer of those incidents. Overall and like to me it is really interesting to hear this. You know this hard line stance by a number of players I mean shoot when when we're talking about 2003 when you when you came over to the Red Sox. You know that was a time when the prevailing. That the prevailing dialogue about steroids among players. By and large to my mind was simply. You know hey we need to be you know we we need to respect the fact did die you know they do there had there has to be respect for privacy. And you know there has to be concerned for the rights of the players. And oh by the way you know everyone has used in so you know like I -- there where there were people who at various points you know we're just shrug and say. -- so many people have done it. Dead you know did you can't like you can't single out one guy and say that his. That he achieved it by cheating so everything is legitimate you know like the Barry Bonds conundrum -- Intolerance. To me like the fact that fit dialogue has clearly changed although. You know although given that behind the scenes clearly there still are people who are users who are searching for an advantage. You know it's it's hard for me to separate out what is I wash and what's legit. He had to it's it's really interesting in the iron in all of this ballot is. I think. Guy like Alex Rodriguez it and it somewhere right on in anybody involved in the legal process. It's sort of -- -- what we get around for a really long time which is we have to follow protocol we opted. You know to respect the -- and really what people want each year is like brutal audit he could be as possible. Get to the point don't drag it out and that's what we are so many years around PD in in the club. And I remember sort of thinking that as it was happening I think in some ways that's where I've made me out about eight GOP's -- -- It was just out there in the open and answered it and it's evident. Around Alex Rodriguez right now that noble you have to like it -- -- pretty evident that -- -- nobody will literally do it. Because everybody always try to respect the process well. In respect -- -- -- you -- everybody around new. Of the pleasure of supporting one side or the other because we really don't know -- to believe and I think that was true for many years. About orbit and burn it to an extent it's still troops are yeah I don't I don't want it though. I mean by Genesis exit of the fact that by Genesis -- like you know it paid look the fact that they they managed to identify a number of people. And suspend many of them represent progress but at the same time. It is a great reminder that oh yeah just like the Olympics there's always a huge incentive. There will always be an incentive to use science to stay ahead of the curve. Right and and one of the things that are part of Russell. Is just letting got okay. You know and I and so literature and in my power cord or chain Monday. You know like you'll and you'll associated with my own wants for people to view. -- -- in a different way IQ how human -- work everybody everybody a little bit different it's it's it's certainly not my place. Jimmy -- -- not Internet all of which you would shed light on what you. They've -- important factors might eat and where we should stop. Right -- Forward they would they would stop looking at typical -- while. If that's really what people and so I mean on first is there aren't they're calling okay. I've got lost weight where I will not much means something. Well it probably does mean something -- just as likely that it means a physical changes occurring in the person body based on. They're horrible. You know during fires you can you can make the case but it got cut -- -- dropped. And that's -- -- -- -- at age forty. Is out responsible for man losing -- about anything else. And I think you're the only indicator. An -- and I want is is that it it's not the only renew our. Looking at everything collectively instead of like. Really small it's the information that we lean on art and art so you'll yeah. And I really -- a partner and use the opportunity. To change my perspective ended the war will be less -- That's -- well yeah because I was actually just about to ask asked this question you know we are if insofar as as I think you're you're excited about the fact that there is change of the normative culture related to. Related to use of PD's. So in I think a number of major league baseball players are as well that being the case. What is the function of suspicion is it important to be suspicious or at least two or at least two in the efforts to it in the efforts to find a cleaner game. Should we allow ourselves. So to look at the -- you know to look at at major league baseball players as a whole and say OK you know I'm going to try to find the right markers. To figure out if there are people who are using whatever is -- should we go through that exercise should we allow ourselves. You know it is actively being suspicious a productive enterprise. Okay well you normative for this -- -- package orchard for men I think it's important bolt catcher because. Just being different positions -- -- -- -- they're former bit awkward and out dabbling in journalism a little bit up and Europe. You know where your job is ordered to. Suspicions. -- and I think suspicion is probably the wrong work I think inquisitive. Interactive. And you know having a first for the that stocks and the knowledge in the science. Is it really productive. And that you know I just think we should look at that and more scientific studies that were out Paula Newton bill I don't think about it moments earlier could be. Suspicious because I think vineyard you you build or buy it in before it's part. And and I guess that's what I thought it -- degree. I will be that we should be inquisitive as possible when we're gathering information and before we make any sort of judgment. That substantial pile of are currently on. You go from your perspective on the journalist is an important for a visit. Inquisitive yes in interest in getting the right in using the right kinds of data absolutely rather than you know rather than kind of the red herrings of a superficial stuff that we think you know it it's important to figure out what we think is true vs what is true or what it what we think it's useful -- what is actually useful. Yes yes yes yes yes I -- You know the that challenge that we face then is OK so let's say in your case you know eight for instance you offer to I think a compelling sense of let's let's not look just a physique let's look at data so we looked at what physical bot what what -- person physically should be doing. As they move from their from their the prime of their career in their late twenties. Into their early thirties into their late thirties there's a natural testosterone decline in the body did should be less strength and so we should we should see that manifest itself. In all likelihood on the baseball field so that tips from my vantage point you know that I I buy into that I think that that's. An incredibly important part of baseball just the fact that there is going to be a decline. It's a fundamental aspect of you know of interpreting what a player is doing relative to. His expectations for certain agents are really important aspect of the business side of the game because. You know how you project a player to perform going forward it's incredibly important if you understand that there should be this natural. And decline in production. But because of a natural decline in. Just physical. You know physical strength physical ability. Then that leads to a set of expectations that leads to a certain kind of contracts that leads. That it leads to certain kinds of contracts. It leads to certain kinds of necessities in terms of shaping the rest of the roster around him but. Save you have a guy who out performs that ends you know. What do you do with that it's at that part is is what it that that leads to a really interesting gray area in terms of what reporters journalists. Have to do in terms of interacting with players in reporting really interest in case in point David Ortiz. Is a marble right what he's doing at age 3637. If you -- a statistic like for instance a PS plus which is a PS relative to league average. He's basically performing as well as he has. At any point in his incredible storied career. Age 3637. You're not supposed to be doing that. That led Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe to have the same kind of direct conversation with David. I did you know that Johnny kind of had with you all those years ago of so some of -- you know some of the direction of it was. And you know was was not just feet are using steroids you know like it was there were other factors it was like well OK so. We look at David Ortiz out perform his age in that makes us suspicious we look at David Ortiz is ethnicity nationality does -- became a little bit problematic for me but right government but you know nonetheless like. It's you know I IE I thought that you know I thought the exercise of you know of saying directly -- other other people don't -- going up to David Ortiz and say look. You know players are exposed to aids like tennis players are not supposed to in there at age 36 and 37. -- performing at this level. That is you know probably going to engender suspicions one wire you up performing -- -- you know where you are performing typical decline patterns you know to. -- you know do you understand why you know why that suspicion exists you know and that gets into the you know the question of whether or not as a reporter you asked that direct question. And oh by the way you know where are you know oh by the way are you using anything. In order to allow yourself to perform at this level on the debt that lends itself to really am comfortable spot that. You know that quite frankly like I I think a lot of reporters have come to have discomfort. Going to that level of -- direct question did Dan Shaughnessy was going to ask him to Johnny Miller is going to ask I certainly you know just in terms of because there's an implicit questioning of someone's integrity. I struggle with asking stature to question about that significant -- question. I struggled to your acting. Anyway we barely did -- take a -- like -- -- you're out of the equation at least a two out of sort of you've been to bring him into the discussion of current and not which struck it -- to. -- exactly did and he but straightforward approach that frankly I respect him minded in the about it. It -- the -- of the people. Were. Because you want. Emotional opposition as possible. And I get but for years to really understand it better. We just use -- player that is for warming like David or -- it. Act which is for sure. You know and they keep commerce and. I'm I'm sort energetic but just you know -- -- I would I don't want this to be like you know I don't want to speed misinterpret and I'm not saying like to know. If that's that's kind of the conversation that's where is coming from as well I don't want but people listen to this to think of Alex's like leveling this giant accusation. Against David Ortiz -- and and and and and no like I'm right I'm trying to get at the -- at the archetype of you know of player who outperformed us. You know who -- performs natural -- -- player who's performing basically yet. At a level comparable with that of the best of his career you know getting into. Kind of like the importance of that question. In stood in the different layers today it forces you to explore so anyway I with apologies for being objection please continue. No and and I and I -- in the region because he's somebody that we thought that a fight with you my teenage. EW cover for yours yours yours. You know deeper in the of the -- but. There are out with a -- out and you know all of which. Alex is for you are not expensive time and look looking yet we're all Bieber age. You know urged expert that -- -- in every problem on what you guys. The performed admirably -- -- if not. You know pretty you know aperture -- -- here I think everybody would be and I know that we -- We were -- a decline in many cases let you know -- is -- true. Does the baseball players and since you outline. That natural aging decline why that is we don't know yet. And and deal slipping and it really important discussion and what I got in trouble we have millions -- when you -- may have touched on briefly. Is that -- It's really naive to think that. That nobody in the history -- fire you'll -- Canseco right. Mark McGwire didn't find a way to get a niche and who don't vote at work without -- -- thing that we can identify -- it. All things there where we can go back and look at all papers -- and that we can eat some of the guys that really performed well in early thirties. And they were -- we're going on not that it. It never it's never in the game. But I you're think it'll all come out in the wash IQ will be that information can interpret because. People like you and I are so inquisitive. And because he wanted to understand. What happened in the history our beloved sport. As well as we. Yeah I think eventually we're gonna learn all about. So are idol idol than anybody it's sort of outline what they've what they've done and and I don't mean that in a way of like. You know we're we're gonna come hunt you -- or anything like out. Isn't really about information acquisition. And and the. So I guess you know let's let's wrap this let's bring this back to a place where where we were kind of starting because he said that. What if your motivations in terms of becoming. Versed in questions about what isn't is not meaningful data. As it relates to who might be using PD's was because of an interest in saying. Well look like there was suspicion cast upon me because if you do Google images search for Gabe Kepler. -- -- to turn up until after the -- like you know other flexing in speed goes right. You know and so you engendered suspicion you and the question became for you. How do I prove my innocence. You know and that's a mean like their -- it's it's that so that's a really thorny when I mean how in this era you know do you prove innocence. You don't you don't and I idol but you know like I'm not argument about the pain that -- thought I would be able to like articulate. The way I shall not mean that -- was you know yeah you know off about knowledge -- not believe life works people. Speculators speculate folks want you make judgment. They thought whatever there are following them will continue to and so big about it what is her for us our our traditional doubt latch onto you. He'd be analytical thought of people that not even -- it's not an easy for somebody to read what I wrote and -- all of it up her. You know plated ordered me now they're gonna be but they're gonna be a people it's safe way to set yet he's pretty popular. Pretty he's pretty pop vote there's only one word yet. So and that's bargain I understand it and and then but I found. Sort of inspiring was. The fact that I've brought back speculation on my belt aren't. Those pitchers nobody forced that camera in front of these other. 21 years old and I want to make a few bucks. You know -- to supplement my -- finally baseball so I stood in front of the camera part of -- you can of people speculate about it -- how to -- their picture. So but if they had to update its export -- -- percent speculation that mark all I'd do it on camera. -- -- -- there -- -- out of order out of writing the they're really. Really shined -- light on on some of the they're -- -- elements of my Rain Man sort of behavior. Indeed yes I thought they died you know it's it is fascinating like there there was. Kind of self tipper it's it's interesting obviously to have the perspective of the present on one on a pass part of Clinton's life. -- and you know it's be able to. To view with both of mixture of pride. Humor. Some you know -- like to note some kind of like oh god did I do that. That that mix of humility you know humility pride in amusement I think is a very healthy way to be able to look at things but. You know I do think that it it brings a light on. You know I -- I appreciate the fact that you would say something like you can't prove innocence and you know -- but getting back to the to the person who outperformed their levels that. Isn't that a fascinating thing because you know you accurately say that hall of famers. Hall of famers almost by by definition are going to be the guys who outperformed the normal aging curve that's why they separate themselves. So dramatically not just at their peaks but also in terms of proving their longevity in so basically. You know you get to a point where. Where if you want it to you to be suspicious but virtually any hall of fame performance because it's about wire. By definition it's an out liar I -- so it lends itself to this. You know that's that's why the hall of fame has become this weird might that way the hall of fame vote. The process is exceeded almost the significance of the camps today it's you know it's like it's it's yeah it's so. It brings us to a very strange point with regards to just appreciating greatness in its own right -- -- -- -- go ahead and just like sort of appreciating. And maybe it is just continually elect shifting the spotlight. Anything about the game that we know four or you'll. Our our jerk off again I hate that we got out there and it's like it's also in in some ways saying something in -- But let me just like the little one of the game one went on when they hit and run and and what -- whenever fine art though wanting to -- -- you know People Magazine -- gestures matter like it looked like. What is illustrated are for a little while -- street toward the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for awhile even though it's all on the pick up that cowboy you know magazine. It is. People Magazine vote will resents it's it's -- characterization as a tablet game. You're -- you're -- -- all -- ships okay about this since the rebels. They're but yeah it definitely yeah. It has -- up and he talked results -- and I and I I really enjoy talking about it so I'm glad that we are now. And you know and to respect the fact it is one that doesn't have clean answers I've -- perhaps being a little bit mistake it made there are a Freudian adjective but. And yet one that doesn't have. Obvious answer is there's there's we should embrace the fact that there's going to be like complexity. About this issue ended it is you know and I think that and I think. You know finally though we're getting to a place where I think that at least. We can have consensus on the fact that in terms of -- in terms of the types of information that we should be looking for. In terms of what that means in terms of -- in terms of how we should respect the potential. The potential innocence of people. Met verses having verses being in -- is that inquisitive thing I think that. But you know we're finally at least a point where we can where where everyone has kind of embrace the fact that there's a lot of tension there rather than saying. -- been saying black and white good or bad. You know cut and dried this guy used this guy didn't because I see it. Like I think that at least we've moved well beyond that point in I think that your pieces -- for reflection of that so I appreciate that and the fact that you can you know took this time. Too often to to meander with me through through that doubts about forest.

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