Silence sounds bad to Angels
Gary Matthews Jr. ducked questions about his alleged purchase of performance-enhancing drugs for a second straight day Thursday, a crisis-management strategy that appears to be placing a strain on the relationship between the Angels and their new center fielder.
Asked whether he felt the longer Matthews goes without confronting the allegations head on, the more people will think he is guilty of using performance enhancers, Manager Mike Scioscia said, “Yes,” his firm, one-word reply speaking volumes for how the organization is beginning to feel about the controversy surrounding Matthews.
Did Scioscia express this opinion to Matthews?
“I’m not going to talk about anything that has happened in our meetings,” Scioscia said. " ... This thing will be resolved, and eventually everyone is going to understand where everyone is.”
Matthews was one of several athletes linked to an ongoing investigation into the sale of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, and Sports Illustrated reported Wednesday that he was sent a shipment of human growth hormone in 2004.
The Angels are trying to support Matthews, who signed a five-year, $50-million contract in November, but they are growing frustrated by an apparent reluctance by the outfielder to share information with them.
“There are legal issues that maybe preclude us from getting all the information in a timely manner,” said Tim Mead, the team’s vice president of communications. “We’re not going to pass judgment. All the organization is entitled to is as much honesty and information as possible. No one wants to be caught blindsided.”
Asked Thursday whether he had any response to the SI.com report, Matthews said, “Not now. At the appropriate time, I will talk to you guys.”
Matthews, 32, was a career .249 hitter for the first six years of a big league career in which he played for seven organizations, but he had a breakout 2006 season, hitting .313 with 19 home runs and 79 runs batted in for Texas. He made his Angels debut Thursday in an exhibition game against Kansas City, going 0 for 2.
Is Matthews concerned that suspicions will grow the longer he goes without addressing the allegations?
“When I get more information from my people I can go from there,” Matthews said. “If I don’t have all the information, it puts me in a bad position.”
Reached by phone, Matthews’ agent, Scott Leventhal, who has been working with attorneys from the players’ union, declined to comment.
According to sources, Matthews has not been contacted by law-enforcement officials who were involved in Tuesday’s raid of a Florida pharmacy and arrest of its owners on suspicion of illegal distribution of controlled substances, including steroids and human growth hormone. The names of Matthews, former player Jose Canseco and former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield allegedly appeared on customer lists for a pharmacy in Alabama, according to a report in the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union. The two owners of the pharmacy were indicted by an Albany County grand jury.
General Manager Bill Stoneman has been in contact with Leventhal and the commissioner’s office. He said he didn’t know whether Matthews would be subject to a 50-game suspension under baseball’s drug policy if the allegations are true. Human growth hormone wasn’t banned by baseball until 2005.
“We don’t have the answers to that right now,” Stoneman said. “We certainly hope that’s not going to be the case.”
Asked whether he was disturbed by Wednesday’s allegations, Scioscia said, “It’s something that has the potential to be a distraction.”
Matthews has always been cooperative with the media, but he could be stuck with the stigma of being a steroids user.
“We’ve discussed that and the appropriate way to handle it,” Stoneman said. “It’s not our issue to handle in a sense that it’s really the player who’s identified in this, not the team. It’s really his issue.”