Sports Illustrated Stanley Cup Prediction: Kings in Six
The Celtics Big Three Have One Last Shot at a Title
A Look at the Work of American Realist Master George Bellows
Matt Cain Voted Baseball’s Most Underrated Pitcher by His Peers
(NEW YORK – May 30, 2012) – Ten years ago, Sports Illustrated’s exclusive in-depth look at the use of performance-enhancing drugs in major league baseball (MLB) led to a senate investigation. Former National League MVP and admitting steroid user Ken Caminiti told SI that he had used performance-enhancing drugs and believed that about as many major league players were using steroids as were playing the game clean. Senator Byron Dorgan opened the senate subcommittee hearing by citing the SI story as a call to action, a reason to decide whether any “legislative action is necessary.”
As MLB continues to expand its drug testing since the hearing, the focus has been on the tainted records and court cases that resulted from the Steroid Era. But the cover story for the June 4, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated looks inside the lives of ordinary players whose careers were defined by the choice they made, to cheat or not to cheat.
Senior writer Tom Verducci, who wrote the cover story in 2002, examines the playing careers of four right handed pitchers who were members of the Minnesota Twins organization in mid-to-late 1990s. They had similar skills and backgrounds. None were drafted by the Twins higher than the fourth round of the MLB amateur draft. One of the four, however, took steroids, and he was the only one who ever reached the major leagues. His name was Dan Naulty and his decision to cheat the game, his teammates and himself affected all their lives (page 38).
Naulty was 6’6’’ and 180 pounds as a senior at Cal State Fullerton, had a fastball that sat around 85mph and was drafted in the 14th round. After using steroids and other performance-enhancement drugs, he began throwing his fastball at up to 95mph and at one point weighed 248 pounds. He spent three seasons with the Twins, pitching in 97 games before being traded to the New York Yankees in 1999, where he won a World Series.
On the outside, he looked like many other major leaguers, but inside he was an emotional wreck from the steroids, the guilt of cheating and a drinking problem. Naulty hit rock bottom just after the World Series. After a night of celebrating with some teammates, Naulty asked his driver as they crossed the George Washington Bridge, “Tell me. Tell me if this is all there is to life. Because if this is all there is, just stop this car right now and I’ll jump…. I had no hope. I had sold myself that bill of goods so long that I believed it. But I realized at that moment I had totally destroyed my life. And I had destroyed countless other people’s lives. I was ready to die.”
Brett Roberts was the highest drafted of the four pitchers, and in 1996, the Twins invited he and Naulty to big league camp where Naulty beat him out for a roster spot. Roberts said, “It’s hard enough trying to make it in this profession. You want to make it on your own abilities and work ethic, and all of a sudden, when you think it’s an even playing field, you’ve got somebody cheating. I was very upset, knowing my chance to get to the big leagues was cut short. I was jealous, hurt, frustrated, angry . . . all that stuff. I guess I should have been suspicious. How can a guy go from 85 miles an hour to 95 in three or four years? As I look back on it, it’s so clear and obvious that I can’t believe I was that naive and incredibly stupid. All the signs were there.”
On the Tablet: Podcast with Tom Verducci and Richard Deitsch.
LAST STAND OF THE BIG THREE – IAN THOMSEN (@SI_Ianthomsen)
Despite a season plagued by injuries, the Boston Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference finals. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came together in Boston before the 2007 season and have since been known as the Big Three. After winning a title in their first season together, they have been consistently successful but haven’t won another championship. With Garnett’s and Allen’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, this is likely their last shot to win it all (page 58).
When Ainge traded for Garnett and Allen, he was reluctant to refer to his stars as the Big Three out of deference to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, who won three titles in their 12 seasons together in Boston. Now Ainge feels that the current trio has earned the right to be called Big. Ainge said, “When Kevin and Larry and Robert were healthy, they were extremely special. They just didn’t maintain it this long; Kevin and Larry weren’t the same players after their surgeries. When they were in their 20s, I’d give the nod to the Big Three of the ’80s. But in their 30s, I’d give the nod to the Big Three of today.”
QUEST FOR THE CROWN – MICHAEL FARBER
The Kings have gone 45 years without winning a Stanley Cup, which ties them with the Maple Leafs and the Blues for the longest active drought in the NHL. During that time, the franchise has wasted some of the best offensive talent in the history of the game including Wayne Gretzky. They have failed to raise their status in the city of Los Angeles in large part because they have never won the Stanley Cup, but they have a chance to rewrite history for now and years to come (page 52).
Luc Robitallie, the franchise’s all time leading scorer and president of business operations said, “Thirteen million people here. We’re not a city. We’re a country. The way we make a dent is if we compete [for a Cup] year after year. But our best players—27-year-old captain Dustin Brown, 26-year-old goalie Jonathan Quick, 24-year-old center Anze Kopitar, 22-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty—are our youngest players. We should be able to compete for six, seven years.”
On the Tablet: Slideshow of the Kings over the years.
THE ART OF BOXING – ALEXANDER WOLFF
The savagery and spectacle of prizefighting a century ago are at the heart of an exhibit of works by American realist master George Bellows. On June 10, the first comprehensive retrospective of his work in 30 years, opens at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., with further stops at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the fall and London’s Royal Academy of Arts next spring (page 64).
Said Charles Brock, curator of Bellow’s boxing work, “These are the greatest sporting images in American art. Bellows is an intensely serious and ambitious artist speaking to the entire history of art. His work can appeal on a popular level but aspires to the highest place in the culture” curator Charles Brock says of Bellows’s boxing work.” Senior writer Alexander Wolff examines his work which includes six oils and scores of lithographs and drawings.
MLB PLAYERS POLL
Who is the most underrated pitcher in the game?
Matt Cain, Giants 9%
Doug Fister, Tigers 8%
Ricky Romero, Blue Jays 6%
Dan Haren, Angels 4%
Vance Worley, Phillies 3%
[Based on 293 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: A whopping 98 hurlers received at least one vote—including four Cy Young winners (the Brewers’ Zack Greinke, the Phillies’ Roy Halladay, the Mets’ Johan Santana and, at ninth overall with six nods, the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez). . . . Combined career record for the top five: 264–233; combined ERA: 3.47. . . . Fister, who drew 16% of the votes from his own AL Central, is winless in five starts in ’12, but has a 1.84 ERA. . . . In a similar poll on Facebook, Romero led with 34%.
SCORECARD: A MATTER OF HORSE SENSE – TIM LAYDEN (@SITimLayden)
On Saturday, June 9, I’ll Have Another has a chance to become the first thoroughbred in 34 years to win racing’s Triple Crown, one of the rarest feats in any sport. Hundreds of thousands of people will be attendance and millions watching from their TVs, but the sport of horseracing has a number of problems going on that can’t be solved with one Triple Crown winner. Senior writer Tim Layden said, “It is only a moment, and the sport’s troubles will rise unchanged with the Sunday sun. But racing deserves that moment. Racing can again be great for a day” (page 15).
POINT AFTER: TO FIGHT CANCER, IT TAKES A TEAM – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
The California softball team is one of many sports teams, who are active members of the Friends of Jaclyn foundation, a nonprofit organization that pairs children suffering from brain tumors with teams, primary college. Barbara Wiggs, better known as Bebe, has been a fixture with the Golden Bears all season. As she continues to battle cancer, she is always around the team, providing a vast amount of inspiration. Said coach Diane Ninemire, “I hope we’ve given her half the inspiration she’s given us” (page 74).
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- Motor Sports (page 31): Great Scot – On the second hottest day in Indy 500 history, Dario Franchitti shot to the lead on the next-to-last lap to win his third 500 and enter the talk of IndyCar legends. (@LarsAndersonSI)
- MLB (page 34): Death, Taxes and Adam Dunn – White Sox DH Adam Dunn had one of the worst offensive seasons in baseball history in 2011, but he’s back on track in 2012, putting up statistics like his old self. (@SI_BenReiter)
- NBA (page 36): Market Watch – A look at free agents not named Deron Williams who will garner a great deal of interest this summer. (@chrismannixsi)
On the Tablet: Truth and Rumors
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 24)
- Megan Pinson (Fallbrook, Calif./Fallbrook High) – Rugby
- Allex Austin (San Marcos, Texas/San Marcos High) – Track and Field
- Maggie Fobare (Dallas/Hockaday School) – Lacrosse
- Brandon Newton (Ruston, La./Cedar Creek High) – Golf
- Jessica Simpson (North Canton, Ohio/Miami (Ohio)) – Softball
- Kyle Merber (Dix Hills, N.Y./Columbia) – Track and Field