The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Alex Rodriguez tests positive, the Lakers and more
Sports News

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, February 9, 2009 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Feb. 9 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions Alex Rodriguez's used of performance-enhancing drugs, his column Michael Phelps and more.

The transcript follows.

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Patterson, N.Y.: Michael - Tomorrow you get a call from A-Rod asking you to write his autobiography. Do you take the job, and if so, what are your preconditions?

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody...Just in from Bristol/NYC where the A-Rod story is so much hotter than anywhere else. It's all people are talking about...It's unreal there, the headlines, the radio reports, the talk on the streets and in the taxis and on the Delta Shuttle, for that matter...Anyway, yeah, I take the gig and get the biggest, fattest payday ever and say there's no topic and no question off-limits...or the answer becomes no...


Chantilly, Va.: At what point does MLB recognize that the worst thing they can do is to keep having leaks and rumors coming out about the steroid era players? By now they've probably gotten ten times the press coverage, fan outrage, and scandal than if they just ripped off that bandaid years ago. A-Rod isn't the first and he won't be the last.

Michael Wilbon: I agree COMPLETELY with you on this. MLB could have avoided so much of this, but they must keep thinking no more will come out, that no more names will surface, that there will be no more leaks, which is so incredibly dumb. At what point will MLB recognize, you ask? No point. None.


Washington, D.C.: Did you see that LT -- the real LT -- is going to be on "Dancing With the Stars"? So what do you say to him before he goes out there? Break a leg? Maybe he'll do to Steve-O what he did to Theisman.

Michael Wilbon: I can't wait to see LT--as you see the real LT for those of us over 40--in Dancing with the Stars. And no, you can't say "Break a leg," to LT...He doesn't find that funny, though, because he and Theismann are cool. I'll be they've played golf. I don't know that, but they're both great. Theismann's probably scratch. LT, I'll bet, is a 3 or 4. Can you imagine his dance partner's first reaction to, "Hi, meet Mr. Taylor!" Oh my...But I can't wait to see it. I can't imagien he'll be that good, but ex-athletes have been great...current athletes too for that matter.


Rockville, Md.: How long before Hank Aaron --Happy 75th Hank!-- is re-declared the Home Run king ?

Michael Wilbon: I think he's already been declared the court of Public Opinion. He certainly is, again, in my mind the Home Run King.


Los Angeles: Any doubt the Los Angeles Lakers currently are the head of the NBA pack? Even my wife points out that the Spurs are practicing the modified Shaq rule -- not playing seniors Duncan, Parker and Ginobili in consecutive games (all sat in Denver) so they'll be their best against Division leaders like Boston. Have any idea how much ticket prices have to be raised to pay these athletes to play consecutive games? Or is this an age discrimination thing? And Garnett missed two games for flu symptoms prior to showing up for the Lakers. Maybe Garnett should call Kobe for a referral to his doc or get better padding from the Spurs trainers to withstand those great butt taps from Lamar.

Michael Wilbon: The Lakers, by beating the Celtics and Cavaliers this week to complete sweeps of those two teams, have made themselves the team to beat as we head into the second half of the season. No question. For the Lakers to do this without Andrew Bynum is even more impressive. And Paul Gasol and Lamar Odom stepped up in a way yesterday in Cleveland that they didn't in the Finals last year...And they'll have to play that way in the playoffs, particularly against the Spurs, who ARE old, and who ARE once again great. I hear your complaint about paying huge money to see Hall of Famers sitting on the bench, but Coach Pop is trying to do one thing: win a championship. I find it hard to fault him for that, considering the Spurs results over the past 10 years...Dont' get me wrong, I'd be ticked, too, if I paid $500 for three seats and took two kids to see Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and--WHOOOOPS! they're not on the court, actually. I'd want my money back...But if trying everything to win is the objective, how do you stop him from sitting them? Tough, tough issue here.


Houston: As long as fans continue to support MLB, what incentive do league executives have to handle the steroid issue differently? I don't get it. With so many options available out there for sports entertainment I'm moving on to other sports.....

Michael Wilbon: The leagues don't have much incentive at all. And even less considering fans under a certain age (mostly under, 35 or so) don't seem to care nearly as much as old geezers like me.


Arlington, Va.: I apologize if I'm wrong on this, but isn't this something that can't be placed on MLB since they were under contract with the union to keep the names of all players under wraps? If so, then the blame is on MLBPA, not the league.

Thank you.

Michael Wilbon: It's NOT placed on MLB...not really on the union, either. It's on the government source who leaked the info...and on the government officials who kept the samples and the names six years after the data was collected and used for the purpose of figuring out how many people would test positive at that point...It's not on MLB at all...What's on MLB is sticking its head in the sand for so many years even though this was obvious to players and coaches...There's plenty MLB should be responsible for, just not this leak involving A-Rod.


West Allis, WI: Any truth to the story that Tiger's new little boy will be named Anthony Irwin Woods?

Michael Wilbon: Ha. God Help Us. Congratulations to Tiger Woods and his wife and two little childen...I saw and chatted with Tiger last week in Orlando and wished him as much then...How cool. I hope Elin and their new baby are healthy and happy.


Washington, D.C.: I was at the Wizards-Nuggets debacle on Friday night and one of the most disheartening part was when, at the start of the 4th quarter (with the Wiz down big and being totally embarrassed), the Jumbotron showed Nick Young goofing around and laughing! I love the vets on this team and the way they've carried themselves. But my impression is that the kids (Young in particular) just don't take the game seriously at all. What are you hearing around the league about this team?

Michael Wilbon: Just what you heard...Talked to a veteran player a few days ago who said he'd love to have Nick Young for a summer to beat the daylights out of him on the court, in terms of physical play and running him ragged and teaching him the game from that standpoint. He said he thought Young has enormous potential and causes opposing guards problem, but that's he not serious about the game, like a lot of kiddies who have to be put through boot camp, of sorts. I'm not exactly stunned by the assessment, but it was interesting to hear from an in-his-prime guard who knows the league...


San Jose, Costa Rica: Hi Mike,

The thing I find so hard to believe about steroids in baseball is MLB ownership's being "shocked, SHOCKED that our post-strike seasons were helped by steroids and of course we didn't know anything!"

You ask me, baseball's front offices (as well as us, the fans) were JUST as culpable as the players for doing NOTHING.

And that whole "anonymous survey" thing is horse-hockey. Whaddaya mean, you need to find out first if steroids is a problem in the game before imposing a stricter policy?!?

Michael Wilbon: Bingo...


Oakton, VA: Roger Mason hits another game winner for San Antonio. If you are keeping track, he's playing 30 minutes a night, scoring 12 points a game, and hitting 45% of his threes...

Should the Wizards have kept Mason instead of Stevenson? Or can this all be attributed to what happens when mediocre players have a HOF teammate to attract alot of attention?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, I am keeping track. Quick Story: When I was a member of Sports Club L.A. at the Ritz on M St NW Mason was a member as well. And I saw him every other day...He was dedicated and disciplined in his workouts...He's a local kid, a UVA kid, and nicest young man you could meet...He was a kid carrying his bag to the gym, working out, hoping the phone would ring...Well, the Wizards called eventually and he made the team and contributed. And then, Ernie Grunfeld made the decision to let him go to San Antonio, perhaps thinking Mason couldn't contribute at a higher level...But that assessment was dead wrong. Mason has hit five game-winning shots for the Spurs...FOR THE SPURS! He's effectively replaced Robert Horry, who has SEVEN NBA champsionship rings. Wow. Local Boy Makes good...What a story. Congrats to Roger Mason Jr., who ought to be a poster boy for all gym rats.


Washington, D.C.: I've had this question about steroids in baseball, though I worry you'll consider me dismissive of cheating. Here goes.

A-Rod isn't playing against Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth; he's playing against major league pitchers. Some of those pitchers, we now know, also took steroids. So, isn't that a fair fight, steroids v steroids? If so, does that make A-Rod's accomplishments a legitimate measure of his talent?

It suggests that it is only improper if the league itself guarantees that no players are doping.

I also kind of wonder what Aaron and Ruth could have done had they had videotape of every pitcher. It really is hard to compare eras.

Michael Wilbon: How do you know how many pitchers have used steroids? What percentage? How are you certain of that? Thing is, you're not. Nobody is. MLB doesn't know. Players throw out percentages but they don't know. We don't know how, exactly, steroids enhance performance. We don't know how long A-Rod was using and what effect it had on his body, his strength, his health. He's not the only one...But the highest profile players are going to be the ones who encounter the greatest criticism, whether we're talking McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, Giambi, Pettitte...Pretty good All-Star team in the makings, isn't it?


FYI - ARod: He just admitted to Peter Gammons that he did use performance enhancing drugs.

Michael Wilbon: I'm listening to it now...


Laurel, Md.: Simple prediction: Does Shaq get traded back to the Lakers by next week?

Michael Wilbon: Who would the Lakers trade and why would Phoenix want any of the Lakers cast-offs? Who? No, I don't see it.


Arlington, Va.: Michael -- Are you and Sally still getting along?

Michael Wilbon: As fabulously as ever...Sally and I have been going back-and-forth like this for 23 years, and she's one of my dearest friends and these in-print disagreements mean NOTHING whatsoever to either of us...I think Tony and I sort made something out of those disagreements, didn't we?


Washington, D.C.: How does MLB justify paying Bud Selig $17 million per year?

Michael Wilbon: You can't. Not anymore. You could a few years ago, but not in this climate where executive compensation is having to find more logical levels...I don't know that he's being paid that this year...


The Driving Range: Word's out that Tiger Woods is a new Dad. Congrats, to him and his wife. What's the word on Tiger's rehab? When will we see Tiger on the Tour? And for that matter, when will with see the Tiger Cub with a shortened driver in his hand?

Michael Wilbon: You'll have to scroll back to the earlier comment on this. Tiger is practicing and playing rounds. He told me feels great, and that's damn good news for anybody who loves golf...


Baltimore: Help me wrap my head around the "logic" of having the Pro Bowl a week BEFORE the Super Bowl. So are we just to assume that we'll never see participants from the Super Bowl teams in this game? Because if we did, those players would be idiots, right?

Michael Wilbon: There's no logic to playing the Pro Bowl, which has outlives its usefulness. There should be a banquet to honor Pro Bowl players every year...have it in Hawaii and a game if you want. But let's not act like it matters, because it doesn't even though millions do watch every year.


Washington, D.C.: Will any baseball player who took steroids ever be inducted into the HoF?

Michael Wilbon: Yes. Players who took steroids almost certainly already are...we just don't know who they are.


Silver Spring, Md.: I thought about your article on Michael Phelps in response to Sally Jenkins' "puff" piece on the subject when reading Boz this morning. For years Boz has been all over Barry Bonds for his alleged steroid use, but now that A-Rod and many others have been caught he now wants to call off the witch hunt that he started. Just as Phelps shouldn't be let off the hook neither should any of these steroid abusers who are nicer to the media than Barry Bonds. Thoughts? The Search for Truth (Post, Feb. 9)

Michael Wilbon: I feel very much the way you do about this. I read Boz with great interest this morning and was disappointed that he just seemed to let it go because "everybody's doing it" and Boz doesn't seem to have the stomach for it. Frankly, I was hoping for more outrage from Boz...He must be tremendously disappointed in the sport he holds dear and follows so passionately and writes about so insightfully and so stylishly. I know Boz has to be bothered more than he let on. Hell, I'm bothered and I don't care about baseball nearly to the degree Boz does. And I'm not with the sentiment that we don't need to know anymore, so just stop the bad news. Nope, I'm not with that at all.


DC: So if A-Rod apologizes, everything is OK right?

Michael Wilbon: more so than it would make it all right if Bonds did or McGwire did. Nope. And these apologies aren't even detailed and they're not comprehensive in scope...


Regarding Your Response to Washington DC: Then the question becomes Will any baseball player who is known to have taken steroids ever be inducted into the HoF?

Michael Wilbon: I don't think so, but suppose we're talking scores of great players? Will all of them be kept out? I don't know. Sitting here today, I think the easy answer is "they'll never go in." But what about the voters 10 years down the road when different voters, younger voters make these decisions?


McLean, Va.: Any comments with regard to the debacle at College Park between Gary and the AD Office and how it was "smoothed" out at last week's press conference. I didn't exactly see a warm embrace and tears afterward, never mind fist bumps.

Michael Wilbon: Don't expect a warm embrace or a fist bump. It's no secret that Gary Williams and Debbie Yow are not close and haven't ever been close. But they need to work together and having a powder keg situation in College Park doesn't help the basketball team, the athletic department or the university...


Laurel, Md.: I'm as severe a critic of baseball players using steroids as anyone I know, but I don't understand people's willingness to dump the game because of the abuses. Look at the physiques of many football players; we know steroids have to still be an issue. Players are suspended every year, if only for four games. Yet I don't hear people threatening never to watch football again. What gives?

Michael Wilbon: Great point. The answer is easy: the numbers. The records. The numbers in football don't matter...they don't matter in basketball or hockey. They matter in one sport: Baseball...Home runs, hits, RBI...Baseball is slavishly devoted to the numbers, the records...714, 755, 190, 61 (or 60) know the numbers...They matter so much and people hold them so dear that baseball has an issue the others don't have. AND, people will forgive anything in pro football because they love pro football. They don't care if players take steroids at halftime, as long as they make the adjustments to win and help them in their fantasy pools. I know this is a very cynical view, but people will tolerate anything in football.


DC: How was Gene Orza able to tip players off as to when they were going to be tested for banned substances?

Michael Wilbon: Because the union was notified about testing in advance.


Richmond, Va.: No Andrew Bynum and the Lakers crown a 6-0 road trip with wins in Boston and Cleveland. I know its only February but they look like the champs to me. What about you?

Michael Wilbon: We'll end with a basketball question, just because it was such a wonderful week of pro basketball...The Lakers, by going 6-0 on this trip and ending it by going through New York, Boston and Cleveland, made themselves the absolute favorite as the NBA begins the second half of its season. It's as impressive a road trip as the Lakers have had in some time. And it's going to be interesting to see if the Lakers can stay ahead of the posse that is the San Antonio Spurs, who've been red-hot as well lately and done well on the road, as well...I'm looking forward very much to the All-Star break, the Weekend itself in Arizona, and the immediate fury that we see in the days afterward...

Okay, you guys, gotta run and prepare for PTI...See you next Monday from Arizona, the day after All-Star Weekend ends...See you then.


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