Was it unethical for the New York Times to report the leaked PED-users’ names?


It’s always fun to rip on The Blogger Murray Chass when he writes something ill-advised, bitter and ridiculous.  But sometimes he writes something bitter and thought-provoking (sorry: bitter is just part of the deal with him these days).

For example, over the weekend he noted how neither the New York Times nor the New York Daily News (UPDATE: Seen note below re: the Daily News) were quick to report the decision by the Justice Department to not appeal the court’s ruling that the PED-tests of the famous 104 were illegally seized.  While such editorial oversights are often innocuous, I agree with Chass that given how zealous both the Times and their PED-reporter Michael S. Schmidt and the Daily News with their Steroids “I-Team” have been in reporting even the tiniest PED-related story over the years, the fact that they were so slow to report what was truly big news in this regard was more than a little curious.  Almost everything those two outlets have written on PEDs over the past few years has been premised in some way on the list of anonymous PED tests from 2004. You tellin’ me that a final decision that the lists were illegal to begin with isn’t newsworthy? C’mon.

What interested me most, though, was that in the course of making that argument, Chass says this about Schmidt:

Michael S. Schmidt, the Times’ steroids specialist best known for inducing lawyers to violate a court seal and name protected names, did not respond to e-mail requests for comment, but Jay Schreiber, the Times’ baseball editor, did. Schmidt’s efforts incidentally in outing three players looks even worse now that the list of names can never be revealed. If there had been any good reason for the publication of those names or any names I might feel differently, but it served no purpose other than to serve some readers’ prurient interest and perhaps the reporter’s ego.

At the outset, let’s keep in mind that Chass has ripped every single New York Times baseball reporter repeatedly over the past few years because he himself was forced out of the New York Times and he just can’t stand it, thereby fueling his bile. But is Chass wrong to rip Schmidt for being the guy to report the names leaked as a result of the illegal search?

I wouldn’t rip Schmidt personally for it like Chass does but I think he and the Times made the wrong decision to name the names.

This is obviously a stance many would not agree with. Free press and free speech and all, both concepts of which I am a near-fanatical supporter.  Unlike some, I don’t think the Wikileaks guy should be assassinated. I believe that Nazis should be able to march in Skokie, Illinois.  I think the rule against yelling fire in a crowded movie house is a pretty good one, but I am skeptical of most other limits on information’s desire to be free.

But I was and continue to be troubled by the fact that the information in question here was taken in violation of the Fourth Amendment. And that the person leaking this information to Schmidt did so in violation of multiple court orders. And that, assuming the person is a lawyer, which I do assume, they did so in violation of their responsibilities as a member of the bar and officer of the court as well. Heck, because I happen to be a licensed attorney, I don’t believe I’d be acting ethically if someone gave me the names from that list and I reported on them.  Depending on the circumstances, I may very well be ethically-obligated to report the leaker to the bar.

Schmidt and most other reporters are not so limited. I realize that I’m probably in a very tiny minority on this issue, but I do think that reporting on those names is a less-than-clear-cut case from an ethical perspective, and I was and continue to be troubled by the New York Times’ reporting of the names.

UPDATE:  It has been brought to my attention that the Daily News did, in fact, report the government’s decision not to appeal the court’s ruling on December 12th.  Chass missed this and I committed an unforgivable journalistic sin in relying on Chass’ information. I mean, really, of all the people in the world to trust, why would I trust some lowly blogger?  So, apologies to the Daily News, who did get on this story earlier than Chass or I said they did.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Leave a comment

MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
Leave a comment

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.