- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2008

VIERA, Fla.

At times yesterday, Washington Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca actually seemed close to talking frankly about the shame of being named in the Mitchell Report.

“You do something wrong in your life and you get away with it, you still have something inside you still that burns,” Lo Duca said, facing a contingent of D.C. and national reporters yesterday in a press conference at Space Coast Stadium.

“Sometimes you don’t think things are going to happen, and they do,” Lo Duca said. “It is something that I’ve had to deal with in my life, and I will have to deal with forward in my life. People, even in your own family, will judge you in certain different ways, and I am going to have to deal with it.”

His moment of self-revelation, though, gave way to the public relations instinct to apologize without self-incrimination.

In the current atmosphere surrounding performance-enhancing drugs and baseball, it is the wrong instinct.

Lo Duca, with Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, assistant general manager Bob Boone and manager Manny Acta looking on, went the Jason Giambi route in saying he was sorry yesterday in a written statement. For what, he wasn’t specific:

“In regards to [former] Sen. Mitchell’s report, I apologize to my family, all of my fans and to the entire baseball community for mistakes in judgment I made in the past and for the distraction that has resulted. I am fully committed to being the best player and person I can be, on and off the field, for the Washington Nationals and the entire baseball community. I recognize the importance of my role in the community as a professional athlete, and I intend to focus my energies on making a positive impact in that regard. So that I can focus on making positive contributions and avoid creating further distractions, I respectfully decline to comment any further on the content of the Mitchell report.”

What mistake in judgment? Paying former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, a key witness in the Mitchell Report, with checks instead of cash for what Radomski said was human growth hormone?

When asked what he was apologizing for, Lo Duca replied, “Come on, bro. Next question.”

The strategy — not addressing the Mitchell Report, which came out in December, until yesterday, then reading a prepared statement — was a result of a consultation with his agent and, apparently, Bowden.

“The statement I made was by me, something I put together and never really considered what everybody else was doing,” said Lo Duca, who is recovering from knee surgery.

He might have considered what his old performance-enhancing pal, Colorado Rockies pitcher Matt Herges, had done. It was a blueprint for coming clean.

Herges, who according to the Mitchell Report met Radomski through Lo Duca when they were Dodgers teammates, met with reporters Friday and opened himself up. In doing so, he made himself a sympathetic figure who was regretful for much more than a “mistake in judgment.”

On Wednesday, Herges issued a statement apologizing specifically for using performance-enhancing substances. Two days later, he offered a lesson for all those implicated in the steroid scandal.

“When people see someone broken and they see humility about it, I think people appreciate that,” Herges told reporters. “I think that’s what people want. I think that’s what our country wants. People are like, ‘Just admit, show that you’re sorry, legitimately, and we’ll forgive you.’ ”

Lo Duca, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Washington but still could face a suspension because of the Mitchell Report, would have been well served to follow Herges’ lead — if it was in his heart to open up.

When asked whether he would consider doing public service spots speaking out against the use of performance-enhancing substances, he replied, “We’ll see where we go from there. Wherever we go from there, we’ll go from there. We’ll see how this year goes. I said what I needed to say, and I don’t need to comment on it anymore.”

Wherever he goes from there, he’ll go from there? Must be a New York thing, like Brian McNamee’s testimony before Congress last week: “It is what it is.”

What it is, wherever it goes, it isn’t good.


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