Why Albert Pujols had to care about Jack Clark's steroids accusations

Brian Bahr

Jack Clark is so easy to discredit that we're obliged to take him seriously.

This is the fundamental problem of most player-to-player steroid accusations: The players making the accusations are much more likely than the general population to already be insufferable self-promoters. Jose Canseco was convinced he'd been black-balled by a grand baseball conspiracy before he wrote his book.

Jack Clark is in a lot of ways even less credible: He's spent most of his talking-head career complaining about active baseball players for the same things he was once accused of. He's a guy who decries greed who is most famous, off the field, for having bought too many luxury cars and declared bankruptcy; he's an unwavering fan of baseball's old school who was a brilliant and controversial prototype of the walks-and-power sluggers who dominated the '90s. He's a famously injury prone star who explained, during the Justin Verlander portion of his exit interview, that one symptom of steroid use is the body breaking down prematurely.

And unlike Jose Canseco, he seems to lack even the basic self-awareness necessary to monetize all of that with a crazy Twitter account. At no point does it ever seem like this hulking power hitter who played (and got even more hulking) in the late '80s—after free agency, during the first and most unchecked part of baseball's steroids prehistory—believes he has anything to do personally with the problems he sees in baseball today.

If you were cobbling a perfectly ignorable ex-ballplayer out of spare parts he would look, sound, and act exactly like Jack Clark.

But the second one you made would look, sound, and act exactly like Jose Canseco. And that's why, I think, the steroid era has been so difficult to escape—why Albert Pujols took accusations made by a ridiculous ex-ballplayer cohosting a show with a ridiculous ex-radio-host so seriously as to threaten legal action. The people who have made real breakthroughs have been the ridiculous ones, the ones we would just as soon continue to ignore and feel a little sorry for.

That's not to say I believe Jack Clark; I don't. It's not to say I care, either—as someone who is presently between doctors (and thus Ritalin prescriptions) I am so, so in favor of easy access to performance-enhancing drugs right now. But Jack Clark's radio career wasn't cut to ribbons over the weekend because he was so easy to discredit, or because (alas) he's such a bitter, sour, unbearable person to listen to. Pujols's denial was so forceful precisely because baseball's Jack Clarks are the only ones alienated enough from their peers to say this stuff.

And as long as we care about steroids we're obliged, unfortunately, to listen to these cranks.

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