Sammy Sosa was crazy like a fox

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There’s an article up at the New York Times about the 2005 steroid hearings before Congress. Good stuff that attempts to put it all in perspective at the end of the decade. But I still gotta take issue with one often-repeated sentiment about those hearings:

Sosa said he had never taken steroids and suggested that he was not all
too familiar with speaking English, lending some comedy to the
proceedings.

Take it for what it’s worth, but it’s not true that Sosa denied taking steroids before Congress. He said “To be clear, I have never taken illegal
performance-enhancing drugs.” He said “I have not broken the laws of
the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic.” He said “I have been
tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.”

Those statements — and
many others he made during his testimony — allow for the possibility
that he used substances that were legal in the Dominican Republic that
would have been illegal to use in the United States. Those substances could have been steroids of various stripes. We don’t know for sure because no one on that Congressional committee asked the basic sorts of followup questions that even junior lawyers are trained to ask. It was a big show to them, not a serious legal proceeding.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Sosa wasn’t trying to give the impression that he hadn’t taken steroids. Clearly he was trying to walk a very, very thin line between admitting using PEDs and committing perjury. It won’t get him any popularity votes, but he did, technically speaking, pull it off, and by doing so he was able to avoid any sort of perjury beef when his name popped up on the list last summer.

And though it is now characterized as “comedy,” the reason he was likely able to pull it off: his Spanish testimony.  Those distinctions — I didn’t take illegal PEDs; I didn’t break the laws of the D.R. or the U.S. — were fairly subtle.  They could have been easily messed up if he spoke in his second language instead of his native tongue. No matter how funny you found it, Sosa’s decision to testify in Spanish was pretty smart from a legal perspective.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.