Tuesday, May 03, 2005

How not to take responsibility for screwing up

Follow these easy steps, and you too could look unwilling to take responsibility for your own missteps!

1. Screw up. Obviously, this step is important. Without screwing up, you don't have anything to take responsibility for.

2. After you screw up and get punished for screwing up, allow your representative (or agent, if you will) the opportunity to speak on your behalf, making clear your intentions to appeal the punishment for your screwup.

3. Let's say your screwup was failing a drug test. Your statement to the media could look like this:

"I want to take this time to thank the Twins organization, the fans and the general public for all of the support they have offered me while dealing with this situation. Baseball is my life, and I was devastated after becoming aware that I tested positive for a violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The details are confidential and I have asked the Player's Association to challenge the suspension.

What I can share with you today is that I would never knowingly compromise my position within Major League Baseball or jeopardize my relationship with the Minnesota Twins organization or the relationships that I enjoy with my teammates.

I will make no further comments, or answer any questions, until the process plays out in its entirety. However, I will add that I look forward to returning to the field to continue pitching to the best of my ability to help the Twins organization win its fourth consecutive division title.''

I know that this is America, a land where one is innocent until proven guilty. But I'm going to play the percentages. The odds of Twins' relief pitcher Juan Rincon being the victim of some sort of mistake in the drug testing system are astronomically slim. I don't think it would be prudent to act as if there's much of a chance that Rincon is somehow innocent here.

With that in mind, he needs to own what he did. It's difficult to fathom any situation where a player thinks it's a good idea to take a substance that he knows he isn't supposed to take. We don't know what Rincon took, and we don't know how long he took it for, but we know that he took something that was on the list of banned substances.

Alex Sanchez tried the "I bought it over the counter before January 15" excuse, so that one was taken. Rincon's line about not "knowingly" doing anything to jeopardize his roster spot leads me to believe that we're going to hear the "He didn't know it was illegal" excuse.

This guy's not buying it. It's my understanding that players were given a complete list of substances that were banned. I'm sympathetic to language barriers, but only to a point. If Rincon or anyone else had trouble understanding what was on the list, they should have asked for help. You don't assume that something is okay. You don't assume that something is legal. And you don't take something without knowing what is in it, because the bottom line is that you are solely responsible for what you put into your body in a situation like this.

Rincon is going to pay a price for something that I'm guessing numerous middle relief pitchers have done over the years. He tried to gain an edge. I'm in the camp of people that believe there may be something to the fact that middle relievers around baseball are struggling so far this season. It's a trend worth watching, because if it continues, it might be a sign that a number of pitchers were taking some sort of supplement or steroid to help recover from the day-to-day grind that is middle relief. Over 162 games, everyone is susceptible to muscle pulls and other minor aches and pains. Some may have used now-banned supplements as a means to recover quicker and gain an edge, making it easier to work back-to-back days and make two- or three-inning appearances if necessary.

I don't want the Twins to trade Rincon, release Rincon, or punish Rincon beyond his 10-day suspension. It's not their job. For now, they should support their player and try to help him through this in any way they can. When Rincon comes back, it's important that his mind and conscience are clear, and that he can focus on getting the key outs the Twins will inevitably call on him to get.

At the same time, though, the Twins need to send a message to the other 24 men on the major-league roster, along with anyone outside the organization who will listen. They should make it clear to Rincon that they will, though, be much less forgiving should he find himself in hot water a second time, regardless of his status in the team's bullpen at the time.

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