Craig Calcaterra

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 14: Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies gestures to teammate Carlos Ruiz #51 after scoring on Ruiz's single during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins during a game at Citizens Bank Park on September 14, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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Ryan Howard, Ryan Zimmerman cleared in Al Jazeera PED report investigation

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Back in December, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals and multiple other athletes, including Peyton Manning, were linked to performance enhancing drug use in a documentary that aired on the Al Jazeera network. Their primary accuser was a pharmacist named Charlie Sly who worked for an Indiana-based anti-aging clinic in 2011 and was caught on hidden camera bragging about his alleged client list, which he claimed included these athletes.

Howard and Zimmerman sued Al Jazeera for libel and denied all wrongdoing. Another baseball player, Taylor Teagarden, was suspended for 80 games for violations of baseball’s drug policy. Teagarden, it should be noted, appeared on camera in the documentary openly discussing his PED use. There was no such evidence, or anything close to it, related to Howard and Zimmerman.

Today Major League Baseball announced that Howard and Zimmerman have been cleared, and noted their cooperation with MLB’s investigation. Major League Baseball’s official statement:

The Office of the Commissioner has completed its investigation into the statements made by Charlie Sly concerning players Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies and Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals in the Al Jazeera documentary “The Dark Side.” This thorough investigation did not find any violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by either Howard or Zimmerman.

Both Howard and Zimmerman fully cooperated with the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation. Mr. Sly did not agree to speak with the Commissioner’s Office or provide requested information.

The most likely explanation here is that Sly, not realizing he was being recorded, erroneously claimed that Howard and Zimmerman were clients of his. Though, of course, his refusal to speak to Major League Baseball leaves that an open question.

What is not open is (a) Howard and Zimmerman being in the clear with their employer; and (b) their lawsuits against Al Jazeera still pending. So have fun with that, Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman both released statements as soon as this decision was announced:

Zimmerman:

“I understand why Major League Baseball found it necessary to explore this matter, and I appreciate that MLB after a thorough investigation, was able to publicly affirm my innocence. Throughout my life and career, I have been true to myself my family, the Nationals organization and my community. It is not right that a so-called news organization and its personnel can publicly make false accusations that damage my reputation and call into question my integrity without any consequences whatsoever. As I said in January when I filed my lawsuit, I am determined to hold Al Jazeera and its reporters accountable for their defamatory actions.”

Howard:

“The accusations from Al Jazeera came out of nowhere, and I was shocked and outraged by their false claims. I welcomed the investigation by Major League Baseball as an opportunity to clear my name. I was fully cooperative and transparent in the process, and MLB’s findings validate what I have said publicly. I am glad that this part of the process has concluded, and I look forward to holding the responsible people accountable for these false and defamatory claims in my ongoing litigation against Al Jazeera and its reporters.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts praises Phillies fans

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 16: Chase Utley #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers tips his hat to the crowd prior to his at bat in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Pete Mackanin and some random radio hosts didn’t much like that Phillies fans cheered Chase Utley this past week. But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts thinks it was swell. So swell that he heaped praise on the passion of Phillies fans:

“Philly, these fans sometimes get a bad rap because they can be hard on their players, but they are very passionate, they are very knowledgeable, and for them to show their admiration for Chase every time he has stepped in the batter’s box, it has been impressive. It says a lot about Chase as a man, what he did for the city and as a baseball player, so for us to be in the dugout to see Chase get this admiration is pretty cool.”

I always smile when I see fans described as “passionate,” as if that’s the end of the analysis. Passion, in and of itself, is not a positive or negative thing. It describes the force or intensity of something. I can passionately kiss your mom. I can kill someone in a crime of passion. Fans can be passionate in cheering for a former player or passionate in hurling a D-battery at an opposing player’s head. The details of the actual behavior, however passionate it is, kind of matter. How is your mom doing anyway? Tell her I said hi.

Anyway, I’m on Roberts side here. I like that Philly fans cheered Utley and think anyone who says fans can’t warmly welcome someone, even if he currently plays for another team, is a sourpuss who should probably take a bigger picture view of why fans like sports.

Rob Manfred holds no grudges when it comes to A-Rod

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees stands at second base and looks to the outfield after hitting one run double in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on August 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
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Rob Manfred wasn’t yet commissioner when Alex Rodriguez was investigated and then suspended in the Biogenesis matter, but he was certainly A-Rod’s primary investigator, accuser and, ultimately, the enforcer. Bud Selig presided over everything, but the entire affair was a definitely a Manfred vs. A-Rod battle royale.

Now, a week after what may very well have been Alex Rodriguez’s final game, Manfred is striking a distinctly non-adversarial tone about the whole affair:

“God has been kind to me: I have a very short memory,” Manfred said, chuckling. “When I think about Alex, I have to tell you, I really don’t think about three years ago. I think about how positive he was about re-entering the game. The extensive effort that he went through to make that re-entry positive. The fact that he performed amazingly well last year.

“ …I’m always glad, Alex or any other player, to see a player go out on a positive note.”

It’s a lot easier to be graceful like that when you clearly prevailed in the acrimony, but Manfred’s comments were nonetheless generous and gracious.

Baseball has had a lot of guys get slammed for PED use and will continue to have them get caught up in that mess in the future. It’d be way better if folks took Manfred’s approach to all of this — punish, but then forgive and then move on and look at the bigger picture — rather than do the whole Scarlet Letter thing like we’ve done with Bonds, Clemens, Plameiro, Sosa and their contemporaries.