What Is The Motivation Behind Jack Clark’s Steroids Accusations?
Like most Cardinal fans, I awoke with surprise this morning to the Post-Dispatch article detailing Jack Clark‘s stunning accusations against both Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander. In a radio broadcast late last night, Clark declared that he had been told by Pujols’ former trainer Chris Mihlfeld that Mihlfeld had personally injected the MVP slugger with steroids in the early 2000′s. Clark went on to strongly insinuate that Verlander’s sudden drop in velocity makes the former Cy Young Award winner a steroid suspect as well.
Let’s state this up front: Pujols has long maintained that he never used steroids or other PED’s, and has often used his ever-present faith as one of the reasons why he remained free of drug-enhancements. As for Mihlfeld, his name has frequently surfaced since 2006 as a steroid-friendly trainer. However, Mihlfeld responded earlier today to Clark’s allegations with the following denial:
“I haven’t even talked to Jack Clark in close to 10 years. His statements are simply not true. I have known Albert Pujols since he was 18 years old, and he would never use illegal drugs in any way. I would bet my life on it and probably drop dead on the spot if I found out he has. As before, once again both Albert and myself have been accused of doing something we didn’t do.”
So what’s going on here?
It’s troubling to say, but Clark’s accusation against Pujols wouldn’t carry much weight if Pujols didn’t fit the exact profile of a steroid-era user: big, overly-developed upper body, superhuman statistics, oversized head, surly nature, and a peculiar predilection for chronic muscle/leg injuries. Pujols looks like a typical juicer. His rapid decline into marginal obscurity in the three years after MLB began a serious crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs is certainly suspicious. The whispers of steroid use have always followed Pujols throughout his career.
Which makes Clark’s sudden unveiling of this hidden knowledge about Pujols so odd. Why didn’t Clark say something in 2006 when Pujols and Mihlfeld strongly denied any steroid usage? If Clark is so “sick” over Pujols’ alleged cheating and lying, why wait seven more years before coming forward? Is it really “the game” Clark loves if he was willing to allow “liars” and “cheaters” to continue to debase it with continued PED abuse?
Many are accusing Clark of seeking ratings for his new radio show like an overweight, less-appealing version of Morton Downey, Jr. The attention from this firestorm will certainly help in that regard. I have little doubt that Clark is seeking an audience with his controversial claims.
But I can’t help but wonder if Clark is also motivated by the lost opportunities of his own career. Listen to these peculiar statements Clark made to end his on-air rant:
“They got the money, that’s what they went for. But when they get off the juice and that stuff’s not around, their body starts breaking (down) and obviously you start seeing some results going away … The greed … they juice up, they grab the money and it’s just a free pass to steal is the way I look at it.”
In my mind, Clark sounds jealous of the ludicrous amounts of money thrown at today’s players, many of whom established themselves through the use of drugs. And Clark is right — these players saw easy fame and fortune through a few needle sticks and a few straight-faced lies. There is no doubt that players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero, and Sammy Sosa used steroid-enhanced arms to reach out and grab every last dollar and accolade their drugs could provide before their bodies broke down.
I’m sure Clark looks at those examples and wonders what could have been. Clark earned approximately $15,772,000 during his entire 18-year career, or less than what Matt Holliday will make in 2013. Even if you adjust for inflation, Clark’s total career earnings would be less than what Pujols will make this year sitting in the training room getting foot rubs and pedicures.
Money has been an ongoing problem for Clark, who went bankrupt in 1992 after years of lavish spending and foolish investments. I’m sure it’s irritating to Clark, one of the most feared power hitters of the eighties, to see scrawny kids usurp his accomplishments and earnings by using steroids. I have no doubt that Clark would love to have the same chance at the contracts lavished on lesser players in today’s market. I can’t help but wonder if Clark would be so clean and virtuous if he had debuted in 1995 instead of 1975.
Like most people, I have my suspicions about Pujols. However, my heart remains hopeful that those thrilling years he brought to Busch Stadium were real. Pujols was supposed to be the player who made people believe in authentic, larger-than-life heroes after years of drug-enhanced frauds. I wanted to believe in that. I still want to believe.
As for Clark, he seems to be letting the bitterness of his lost and wasted glory days distort his ability to think rationally. Blurting out unsubstantiated statements about the integrity of another player — particularly one of Pujols’ stature — is tantamount to slander and continues the ugly innuendo that has damaged this beautiful game for many fans. In Clark’s attempt to smear Pujols and Verlander, he has only humiliated himself and the game he claims to love.