- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2007

The old slogan “Oriole Magic” is taking on a whole new meaning with this organization.

Or maybe “Oriole Tragic” is a more accurate motto.

The Baltimore Orioles have been linked to the growing baseball steroid scandal yet again with the SI.com report that outfielder/first baseman/Popeye-look-alike Jay Gibbons received shipments of steroids and human growth hormone between 2003 and 2005 from a mail order pharmacy in Orlando.

That puts the count and the amount of former and current Orioles players linked to or suspected of using steroids at nine — Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Tejada, David Segui, Sammy Sosa (notice how his power numbers have dropped the longer he is away from the Dominican? Think it’s because he is homesick?), Jason Grimsley, Gary Matthews Jr., Jay Gibbons, Brian Roberts and Jerry Hairston Jr. A catcher, and they could field an all suspected-enhanced team (Javy Lopez, please pick up the white courtesy phone).

Of course, as baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig said every time he was asked a question about Barry Bonds as the Giants slugger got closer to Hank Aaron’s 755 career home run mark, “all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty.”

So there may be a very innocent reason why Gibbons was reportedly receiving shipments of steroids from Signature Pharmacy — probably just like there was a very innocent explanation why Palmeiro was suspended for a failed steroid test. And just like there is probably a very innocent reason why Mark McGwire refused to answer questions in a congressional hearing, and just like there is probably a very innocent reason why Barry Bonds went from 49 to 73 home runs in one season.

The reason in Baltimore? “Oriole Magic.” Gibbons should try that when he meets with Major League Baseball officials to explain why his name showed up in the Orlando pharmacy probe, being conducted out of the Albany, N.Y., District Attorney’s office. David Soares is the DA there. Baseball fans should remember that name. They may hear it a lot.

The Orioles may replace the Oakland Athletics (McGwire, Jose Canseco, Tejada) as the franchise most identified with performance-enhancing substances, which makes the Baltimore organization all the more pathetic. At least the A’s got a World Series championship out of it. How much worse could the Orioles, now on their way to a 10th straight losing season, have been if their players weren’t using performance-enhancing drugs?

The St. Louis Cardinals’ image could be tarnished, as well as Tony La Russa’s legacy. He was the manager of Canseco’s A’s, McGwire’s Cardinals and now the latest case: the feel-good story of former tortured-pitcher-turned-slugger Rick Ankiel, whose name has turned up in the Orlando pharmacy investigation in connection with receiving shipments of performance-enhancing drugs. La Russa has become the Zelig of the steroid era.

As the steroid story continues to unfold, the flow of information is starting to speed up. It is still a piece here and a piece there, but each piece revealed plants the seed for more to come, and with it the motivation to reveal more pieces. At some point, players will start to implicate other players because when the water starts to rise, everyone will be looking for lifeboats. There will be more retired players following Canseco’s lead who, to sell a book, will come clean with what they saw when they played.

And when a DA in a small city like Albany makes national news with a steroid investigation that raises his profile, well, you can be sure ambitious prosecutors from all around the country are paying attention.

There will be all kinds of self interest in play as information is revealed, but that doesn’t mean the stories won’t be true. No one throughout the steroid controversy to date has revealed any information that clears him. The explanations — such as Gary Sheffield claiming if it doesn’t come in a syringe, it isn’t a steroid — become more absurd every day (and think about what Shef’s book will have in it when he retires; he’ll have more names in it than a phone book).

I would think, though, that the steroid taint may have finally run its course with the Orioles. After all, how many more players could they have had for the past 10 years enhancing performances on those losing teams?

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