Friday, May 13, 2011

NY Times story raises more questions than answers

I've read through the New York Times story on Bartolo Colon's medical treatment several times, but I’m still struggling to understand the point the newspaper was trying to make.

Colon is one of the feel-good stories in baseball this year, saving the New York Yankees rotation after the loss of Phil Hughes to the disabled list, and pitching brilliantly for the most part. So I’m not surprised that a story has come out of nowhere that questions the medical procedure that obviously helped him regain the fastball that once made him one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.

The New York Times does not flat-out accuse Colon of using human growth hormone or accuse his doctor of injecting him with HGH, which has been banned by baseball. But it’s not clear to me why the newspaper expended so much effort to write about the stem cell procedure if there was no HGH use involved. Is this type of treatment illegal, unethical or against the rules of baseball if it does not involve HGH? Would Colon be subject to discipline by Major League Baseball for using the procedure if it did not involve performance-enhancing drugs?

I didn’t get any answers from the Times piece, other than a general reference to athletes getting sophisticated blood treatments from doctors that often use HGH in their practices. The story seems to want to make a connection between Colon’s treatment and the use of PEDs, but clearly had no evidence to substantiate an HGH charge.

The most interesting revelation in the story is that MLB is now investigating the procedure, likely to see if HGH was involved. But that inquiry only came after baseball was recently alerted by Brian Cashman and the Yankees, who were informed of the procedure by Colon’s agent after the Times started asking questions. That makes me wonder why Colon and his agent never bothered to tell the Yankees about the procedure before he signed, but that doesn’t mean the treatment was illegal. It could be that Colon and his agent didn’t want to give the Yankees a reason not to sign him. An unethical omission perhaps but did it violate any rules? (Can’t tell from reading this story, but the Times had a follow-up piece addressing that issue).

This reminds me a bit of the story that the Times ran during the 2008 presidential campaign about John McCain’s interactions with a female lobbyist, which seemed to imply that he had an affair with the woman, but could not flat-out say that because it had no proof. Here, the Times has no proof that Colon or his doctors used HGH in the treatment, but seems to imply some wrongdoing.

This story raises more questions than answers and as a journalist I have no patience for it. If they had proof that Colon used HGH or that his doctor treated him with HGH, that’s a story I want to read. But I don’t want to see a story full of insinuations.

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