Bizarro Czar

From the people who blacked out the Yankees-Red Sox game in New York when I wanted to have a look at Manny Banuelos; those who reduced me to watching an internet feed, we get…faux NFL leadership.

It’s no secret that despite current labor strife, the NFL has its house in order. Commissioner Roger Goodell is in charge; his word is law; and if he wants something done in terms of player discipline or subtle pressure to maintain a positive public face, he has ways of getting it done.

The same cannot, never could and never will be said for the heads of baseball.

The two sports are so vastly different in terms of contracts, guarantees and strength of unions that the commissioner’s office can politely request certain behavioral templates from their players off the field and they’ll either be accepted or they won’t.

This of course differs from union pressures such as those now being placed on Albert Pujols to go for every single penny he can possibly get in his next contract for the good of the group. That he doesn’t want to leave St. Louis and knows the Cardinals won’t be able to pay him as lucratively as the more financially solvent and well-heeled clubs isn’t the union’s problem; they want that money to trickle down to the Eric Bruntlett-type players and that’s that.

On the other hand, the heads of baseball vs players/agents is adversarial regardless of how friendly a face they put on the relationship.

Now Marlon Byrd is feeling pressure from Commissioner Bud Selig because of Byrd’s decision to take supplement advice from Victor Conte—ESPN Story.

Yes, the same Victor Conte who was behind the BALCO nightmare.

There are varied opinions as to the expertise of Conte. In some circles, he’s considered a visionary in the world of supplements to boost athletic performance. Former client and NFL star Bill Romanowski said as much in his book, Romo.

Others have suggested that Conte is a parrot and huckster who learned a few catchphrases and can sell anything to anyone.

None of that is important as it relates to Byrd or anyone else who wants to consult with Conte.

Many of Conte’s supplements were banned from their various sports; this is of no consequence to those who are crafting them.

Outsiders to the subculture of performance enhancing drugs have never understood that.

It’s not the job of the provider (or dealer if you wish) to follow the rules of the specific sport in enhancing performance; their job is to make their clients better and keep them from getting caught; they’re not governable under individual league mandates.

Is it a big deal for Byrd to be working with Conte and should he bow to the pressures exerted from MLB and end the relationship?

It depends on the player. If Byrd is the type who can take the accusations and haranguing and not have it distract him from his job (and he doesn’t test positive), then he should just ignore Selig. If it’s going to affect his play, then he should take the easier road and find a different adviser.

The main issue is that Conte is a despised figure in baseball because he’s the name that’s associated with the PED scandal. The truth is, he’s a scapegoat for MLB itself turning a blind eye to that which they knew was going on and chose to ignore because no one cared; because everyone was making money; because ballparks were filling up with every homer crushed by Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds; with every age-defying performance from Roger Clemens. Once people started voicing their opposition to PED use and suppliers and players were getting busted, then something was done about it.

Baseball didn’t suddenly find morality. Bad public relations from historic records being broken by players who were “lying” and “cheating” was embarrassing, so action was taken.

It’s random and selective; Conte wasn’t the only one giving advice and PEDs to players; he’s simply the name everyone knows.

If I were Byrd, I’d tell MLB to take a hike.

Aside from being asked to stop working with Conte, what precisely is MLB going to do about it?

Nothing.

Byrd just better not fail a test.

If he does, that’s on him and he deserves punishment for being stupid.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN.


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  1. #1 by The Other Mike on March 15, 2011 - 1:32 am

    I liked Marlon Byrd when he was in Texas, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s either ignorant about Conte’s stigma or he’s planning to play the ignorance card when he gets into trouble.

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