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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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February 7, 2009 9:11 PM

McLaren: A-Rod won't tarnish M's legacy

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Spoke earlier today with former Mariners manager John McLaren, who is at home in Arizona, preparing to begin a new job with the Tampa Bay Rays that will primarily involve scouting in the United States and working at the team's international camps in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Brazil. McLaren was the bench coach and confidant to Lou Piniella during the M's "glory years" of the mid-to-late 1990s and earlier this decade, He was there when Alex Rodriguez was a part of playoff teams in 1995, 1997 and 2000 and insists he was unaware of any steroids activity taking place amongst players.

"In my years in Seattle, I had no indications people were doing any kinds of steroids,'' McLaren said. "Usually, you hear it. Later on, once we got into 2000, then you started hearing about people and names getting mentioned (around the game).''

But with the exception of David Segui and Shane Monahan, who both admitted to using steroids, McLaren insists he knows of no other Mariner who was involved in it.

"I don't know,'' he said. "I know some guys were doing greenies -- I'd heard that through the grapevine,'' he said of the M's. "But greenies had been around the game a long time before then.''

Again, McLaren said he'd only heard in general terms that some M's were using amphetamines. He did not, he added, know the specific names of who was using.

McLaren feels it's "unfair'' to many players that they are seeing their names and reputations tarnished as the result of leaks and allegations by former trainers and clubhouse attendants. He feels many of them are being convicted in the court of public opinion without a proper chance to defend themselves.

Some players, like Roger Clemens, have chosen to fight to prove their innocence. But Clemens -- like Barry Bonds -- seems to keep digging himself into deeper legal trouble with each new revelation about him that comes out.

The allegations against A-Rod are that he failed a drug test in 2003, three years after leaving the Mariners. But if the allegation proves true, there will be those who suspect this wasn't a one-time occurence and that his drug use may have started while with the Mariners.

"I don't see it being a factor on (how people perceive) any of those years at all,'' McLaren said. "It's something that baseball needs to put behind us. It just seems that some things keep coming out every few months and each time it does, it hurts the game. I think baseball has addressed what had to be addressed and done the best it could.

"I think just the education for everyone, the awareness. Players are more aware now of the damage they can do to themselves by using steroids.''

Monahan made headlines just over a year ago by suggesting the clubhouses he was a part of in 1998 and 1999 were rampant with steroid and amphetamine use. And while Monahan wasn't part of any playoff teams, it would seem naive to believe that -- if his allegations were true -- the widespread usage was contained to just those two years.

I asked Edgar Martinez about Monahan's allegations last spring (hear the audio by clicking the link) and he challenged the veracity of what the onetime Seattle outfielder had said.

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"I don't know why he said that,'' Martinez said. "I was there for a long time, and I didn't see what he saw. I don't know why he made those comments.''

Neither do I, but I can certainly guess. We know Monahan used steroids while with the M's. And now we have one of the most prominent players in team history accused of failing a steroids test in 2003. Maybe all of this doesn't tarnish the M's in any way, Many of you have suggested that today. After all, the Yankees team that beat the M's in the ALCS in 2000 did so largely because of that masterpiece thrown in Game 4 by accused PED user Clemens. Maybe it doesn't mean anything in the long run. All I know is, it just doesn't feel like a very good day for those glory years.

You know who I thought of first today when I heard of the A-Rod allegations? Bill Bavasi. Yes, that's right. Let me explain.

A lot of the subtext of what's come out in today's report is that all those 104 players caught in the 2003 drug-testing sweep were essentially told they had a year to get themselves off drugs before the punishments became more severe. In other words, by 2004, a lot of those players "juicing up'' likely got off their steroids and played the game clean. (Some may have gotten on to HGH, but we'll assume some were clean).

Then, along comes Bavasi to run the 2004 Mariners. All of a sudden, a 90-plus win playoff contender from 2003 plummets to a 99-loss season. The offense drops off a cliff. Is there a connection between those drops and the stiffer drug testing? We'll probably never know for certain. All I know is, Bavasi inherited a team that -- for whatever reason -- fell off the planet. I've never heard him complain about it. But I have heard other GMs talk about how much tougher it became to sign free agents and plan your team around the past performance of hitters starting with that spring of 2004.

Just more food for thought. There were potentially lots of people -- other than the players themselves -- whose careers and reputations were harmed by individual decisions on whether or not to use steroids. And the reverberations throughout the game are still being felt.

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