Richard Justice, Jeff Bagwell, Jose Canseco & Steroids

Richard Justice is up on his high-horse again, this time in defense of himself, his colleagues, and Jeff Bagwell. The subject, surprisingly, is steroids. And Justice is pissed that there are people out there who happen to believe that he might have known what was going on during the late-`80s, `90s and early-`00s, and that he instead chose to cover it up.

"We looked the other way while players injected themselves, got big and made the game more popular than it had ever been before," he writes. "There's just one problem with this theory. It's 100-percent wrong. I was right there when it was all going on and simply didn't grasp what was happening. I was around those Oakland teams quite a bit, and what I saw made sense."

Note, those Oakland teams were the teams with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. And what he saw with Jose Canseco made sense to him. No wonder Roger Clemens thought he could get away with it, if the eagle-eyed Richard Justice didn't get it, then how could anybody, right?

Here's the thing. Play innocent all that he wants, but there were writers and reporters during that time who did get it. Former Justice colleague -- and one of the great baseball sports columnists of all time, Thomas Boswell -- got it.  He was writing columns about steroids in baseball in the 1980s. And the team he was talking about was that Oakland A's team Justice spent so much time around.

Justice then uses a point made by Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal to back up his ineptitude on this matter: Rosenthal writes that if he would have taken his suspicions about Barry Bonds and steroids to his editor, backed by only his suspicions, his editor would have laughed him out the door.  

But it's hard for me to believe that a respected reporter/columnist like Thomas Boswell could write on this issue, but Ken Rosenthal and Richard Justice couldn't. And after Ken Caminiti went public with his steroid usage and his assertion about the large number of players who were doing steroids, then Rosenthal and/or Justice would probably have been given all of the leeway they wanted to write about this topic.

It's my contention that they just didn't want to do it, especially Justice. Because this type of reporting takes real work. There's no time for TV or radio gigs when you're doing this type of investigative reporting. And you've got to be willing to make enemies. Or, like the guys with the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote about Barry Bonds, you've got to be willing to go to jail.  

Justice writes that all of the names that have been released as linked to steroids have come out through legal investigations. That, he says, is why he's never gone after Jeff Bagwell. Because he's never been linked to a legal investigation into steroid usage. But he's wrong. What legal investigation was Caminiti linked to when he went public? And Jose Canseco went public with a book. He wasn't linked to any kind of legal investigation at that time. But, while not named to as a steroid user by any investigation, Bagwell has been linked to several legal investigations involving steroid and HGH use.  

For instance, former Bagwell teammate Jason Grimsley admitted to HGH and steroid use after his house was raided by government officials. Numerous other former teammates of Bagwell were named in the Mitchell Report. And let's not forget former Bagwell teammates Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. I'm sure if Justice would have gone to an editor with that evidence, and told said editor that there were numerous whispers about Bagwell's alleged use of steroids, said editor would have given him the go-ahead to look into it.

In fact, I'm pretty confident he would have been given the go-ahead, especially seeing as how the Chron actually attempted to investigate Clemens and the Astros at one time. The Chron went so far as to attempt the hiring of an investigative reporter, but upper management refused. See page 281 of Jeff Pearlman's The Rocket That Fell To Earth. Yet I'm sure Justice, the star columnist and reporter, would have been allowed to investigate this on his own time.

If he had so wanted. And I don't think he wanted to.

I like Jeff Bagwell. Jeff Bagwell is my all-time favorite Houston Astro. And his use, or non-use of steroids/HGH doesn't, in my mind, detract from his greatness, just as it doesn't detract from the greatness of Barry Bonds or Manny Ramirez. But I'm tired of reading excuses like those offered by Richard Justice. Maybe if Justice and Ken Rosenthal would have done their jobs back then the reputations of the Jeff Bagwells and David Ortiz's would be safe from slander. But they failed then, and they're failing now.  

So don't blame me for the rumors. Don't blame bloggers or sports radio. Blame yourself, Richard Justice. You had the chance to do something way back when, but you chose not to. Stop shifting the blame already. Do like you demand the players do and accept responsibility.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal