John Rocker on New Book, the Mets, Bud Selig, Steroids, and Politics

John Rocker on New Book, the Mets, Bud Selig, Steroids, and Politics

John Rocker

John Rocker on New Book, the Mets, Bud Selig, Steroids, and Politics

Former Braves pitcher John Rocker joined me on last night’s radio program to discuss his new book “Scars and Strikes.”

It’s been over a decade since his infamous Sports Illustrated interview  with Jeff Pearlman that published on December 27th, 1999. If Mets fans are expecting the same brash and cocky individual they remember from the 1999 NLCS, think again. Rocker was extremely open, honest, and erudite during a 35-minute interview on the program. Here are some highlights.

- The book is not just a response to the Pearlman article. “There is a lot of baseball in there, a lot of baseball memoir, a lot of great stories about my time in the big leagues. Discussing individuals such Jim ThomeWalt WeissEllis Burks, and the tremendous guys I played with in the game.”

- He’s been working for years to dispel the perceptions created by the December 1999 SI article through television and radio interviews.  ”I never thought I got the fair shake and the fair justice of that perception. The old cliché says ‘don’t ever pick a fight with a guy that buys ink by the truckload.’ I actually got a quote in the book that says I decided to buy my own truck.”

- The off-the-field controversy had nothing to do with his exit from the game. “I was on the DL one time and I never came off.” When visiting Dr. James Andrews he was told that two rotator cuff muscles were 85% torn, labrum muscle was torn away from the bone, bone spurs, had to get his shoulder capsule shrunk, and he had a chunk of scar tissue the size of a ping pong ball taken off his bicep.

- He wishes that “37-year old John Rocker could go back and punch 23-year old John Rocker in his face.” He called himself a “young, hot-headed, idiot kid.”

- Talked about how a tough opponent the Mets were in ’99 despite “beating them handily during the regular season.” He admitted they were a “bit worried” about the NLCS going to a potential Game 7 since the Mets “never really would go away.”

- When I brought up the “I hate New York and the Mets” quotes from back then, he said some of that stuff was “for the camera.” Every big league player has a tremendous amount of respect for another big league player. To this day he has a ton of respect for the Mets and the guys that played on that team.

- He believes Pearlman’s book on the Mets “was unflattering and unfair” and the SI article about him “painted a wrong picture.” He also believes Pearlman painted the 90s Cowboys and Walter Payton in a bad picture. He points out how David Wells had an issue with Pearlman in an SI article that focused on Wells looks and hygiene, instead of the fact he was starting the All Star Game and leading the American League in numerous pitching categories. Rocker has spoken to Wells who still has a “thorn in his side about that article.”

- Admitted the veterans like Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz didn’t like the atmosphere that was created by the article. However, many current and ex-teammates such as Ellis Burks, Javy LopezBrian JordanAndrew Jones, and Eddie Perez  supported him and didn’t understand “where the article came from.” He believes the media chose to ignore much of the support he had in the clubhouse.

-  Media reports are inaccurate that stated he takes former Braves GM John Schuerholz to task. He had issues with him during his arbitration case, but understood that was part of his job.

- He takes Bud Selig to task. He believes if a more astute leader were the commissioner during the last two decades, he has no doubt MLB would not have the glaring black eye it has over steroids. He believes Selig allowed the story to go through third party mediums, Congress, and the Mitchell Report.

- He had some interesting things to say about Selig and the aftermath of the SI article. “When the SI story came out, the commissioner’s office and Selig were extremely upset with me,” Rocker said. “They asked me on four different occasions during the two week period to take a steroid test. The first three times I refused. The fourth time my agent literally pleaded with me saying please, the commissioner’s office is extremely upset with you; you need to take this test. You take the test, possibly pacify them, they go a little bit easier on you when they render their reprimand.”

- He finally took the steroid test and admitted to failing it, but the league denies knowing the results. “I finally succumb; ok I’ll take the test. Of course, I failed it miserably. And you mean to tell me the commissioner’s office who insisted over two weeks over four different occasions that I take a steroid test, they don’t know the result of said test?”

- I was surprised by his admission to taking steroids, so I asked him again if he was taking some sort of PED in 1999. “Yeah, of course I was. I mean who wasn’t? Let’s be honest here, who wasn’t?”

- As I mentioned, Selig has denied knowing the results of that test. Rocker believes he did and it should have resulted in a more in a more in-depth investigation of the issue. Obviously, Selig didn’t, and we know the fallout starting in 2004.

- I asked Rocker if he became a good pitcher because of PED use. “No. Can I throw 3 or 4 mph harder because of it? Yes. Was my breaking ball better because of it? No. The reason was (for taking it) with my teammates and their confidence laying on my shoulders, with the coaching staff and their confidence on my shoulders, with the millions of Atlanta Braves fans, I am not going to step on that mound with that kind of responsibility with my gun half loaded. Knowing the people I am going to be facing, I know what they’re doing; I am not coming to the mound halfcocked.”

- He doesn’t believe that Alex RodriguezRoger Clemens, or Mark McGwire will ever be elected into the Hall of Fame.

- For the political junkies in the audience, I asked Rocker who he is supporting for the GOP. “I have always loved Newt Gingrich. He is an absolute genius; just a marksman in historical value of pretty much anything you want to discuss. He’s got obviously the intelligence, he’s got the experience. I don’t necessarily like he’s the lifetime politician type. I would just as soon see us go back to a Herman Cain, someone who’s been in the citizen form, if you will, for the better part of his adult life. But I have always liked Gingrich; I would like to see him get the nomination.

You can check out more about John Rocker at his official website and you can purchase the book here.

You can hear a replay of the interview by downloading the mp3 here.

By Mike Silva
Monday, 12 Dec 2011

Steroid Era


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