Six Degrees of Slanderous Separation with Mike Lupica

lupica2.jpgDespite being jaded and cynical about The Ways of the World, I still manage to surprise myself with my naive ability to be appalled. This happened on Sunday as I read Mike Lupica’s rambling, borderline slanderous column in the Daily News about Jose Reyes. In it, he puts a bunch of dots on the same page as “Reyes”, “hyperthyroid issue”, and “HGH”, expecting you to connect the three without ever explicitly saying so.

It was a Fox News-ian tactic: say an extremely controversial thing that will play well with your core audience, but say it in such a way that allows you to deny (technically) saying it when the other side gets its feathers ruffled. Except that in the world of sports “journalism”, you can write such things and not face any consequences for actions that would result in censure in virtually any other arm of the fourth estate.

Here’s a few choice quotes designed to sow doubt in readers’ minds:

Reyes says he told the feds he didn’t get human growth hormone from a Canadian doctor named Tony Galea, often regarded as a patron saint of HGH.

Yes, I remember when the Pope officially canonized him as such last year. Galea is under investigation for HGH distribution, but I don’t think that makes him the “patron saint” of the shadowy substance any more than I’m the patron saint of Cheez-Its because I can’t stop eating them. (Though I would totally accept the position were it offered to me, or existed.)

[J]ust because Reyes now has a problem with his thyroid gland, and is in New York City for sophisticated testing on it, does not mean those problems were caused by any kind of synthetic drug in his system.

Although the tone of my article, and this snotty sentence, indicates I totally believe they were.

Nobody should be surprised that people are looking to draw a line from Galea to what showed up in Reyes’ blood tests.

I’m not surprised that people make such assumptions in blog comment sections or on sports radio. This morning, I heard the douchetacular Craig Carton scream at a doctor who dared suggest there wasn’t enough evidence to make this logical leap. But I am surprised that such accusations–which have no shred of evidence to support them–are given credence in a major newspaper like the Daily News.

Is there a way human growth hormone could have contributed to Reyes’ thyroid problems? There are doctors who think so. Would they ever say HGH definitely caused Reyes’ problems? No, they would not.

No, they would not say that because diagnosing a person you’ve never treated and revealing that diagnosis publicly would be a total violation of everything you learn from day one in medical school.

“Good medicine is about eliminating possible causes,” Dr. Lewis Maharam – a doctor of sports medicine who has made sense about performance-enhancing drugs for years – said yesterday. “It’s about differentials, making a list of possibilities and then eliminating them one by one. But there is a possibility that human growth hormone could cause a spike of thyroid hormone levels.”

There’s also a possibility that it could give you the ability to fly or learn ancient Sanskrit or grow  an extra set of arms. These things are all highly unlikely, but there’s no reason to think they’re impossible, right?

The negative side effects of HGH use aren’t well known, because HGH isn’t legitimately prescribed often, and most of its use is confined to the murky underworld of performance enhancing drugs, where users are reluctant to participate in clinical trials. So hell, why not say it could cause your hands to turn into saltines? You can’t definitively say it doesn’t do that, can you? I rest my case.

Also, Dr. Maharam “has made sense about performance-enhancing drugs for years”–I didn’t know you could specialize in Making Sense. Is that a lucrative practice? Is it any more lucrative than badgering Tiger Woods, which he also seems to specialize in?

Lupica closes out his piece by unfavorably comparing Reyes to Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter. He notes that Reyes played only 36 games last year and Jeter has never played fewer than 119. He fails to mention that Rollins had a terrible year last season. He also doesn’t mention that from 2005 through 2008, Reyes played at least 153 games every year, and played 160 games twice (something Captain Intangibles has never done). Because all of these facts would not jive with the well-established narrative of Jose Reyes as malingerer and malcontent and–now added to the pile–drug cheater.

I don’t think Lupica has anything against Reyes, necessarily. This is not an attempt to railroad him so much as it is an attempt to stir up controversy and sell some more papers/get some more page hits (which I am indirectly contributing to, I suppose). And in the grand scheme of things, writing a shitty, wildly speculative column on Reyes is pretty low on Lupica’s list of offenses.

For instance, he was directly responsible for driving Mark Kriegel and Lisa Olson away from the Daily News, all of them for petty personal reasons. He loves to insert himself into the news as much as possible, as he did during last year’s U.S. Open. He is, by multiple accounts, a miserable prick who lives to throw his weight around.

He’s risen to the heights of the sportswriting world, yet is still apparently haunted by jealousy and a fear of being outshone. What could possibly cause a man to behave in such a manner? I have no idea what personal demons Lupica may have within him, but I don’t think you can eliminate HGH use from the equation.

I have absolutely no evidence that Lupica has used HGH. And I also have absolutely no idea if HGH could even cause such emotional neediness. But I don’t have any evidence to refute these things either, do I? Lupica painted Reyes guilty by association on evidence just as flimsy, so I see no reason why I can’t do the same.