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Sunday, May 17, 2009
Crazy time, sane discussion

The writer and the player met on the field after Sunday's game to discuss the Sun-Times' article and headline that attached Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot's latest power surge to baseball's performance-enhancing drug problem.

Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander waited for Theriot to finish his post-game duties, then talked to him along with myself and two Chicago camera crews. I asked Theriot what his response was to Telander's article and the attending headline, which Telander didn't write.

"I didn't like it very much," Theriot said. "My response would be, it's unfair and kind of hurtful for me just because of the work I've put in and the way I've gone about my business and the way I've lived my life up to this point. To have something like that come out, to me, is just not fair."

Theriot and Telander were very respectful of each other, and Theriot has always answered all the questions asked of him. Sunday was no different. Again, I asked the Cubs shortstop his main contention with the story.

"I understand the article itself and the article had a lot of validity to it, but the lead, headline and even the first few sentences of the story, to me, were a little irresponsible," Theriot said.

Telander at that point introduced himself to Theriot. Keep in mind, Theriot has been with the Cubs since 2006, and this was the first interaction between the two where they both had knowledge of each other. Telander said that he came to Wrigley so that Theriot could see the face that went along with the article, for which Telander deserves credit. However, Telander was also getting a second column out of the story that indicts baseball and Theriot's ability to drive a baseball himself. Telander then asked Theriot if he understood the article's intent, admitting some of it was done tongue-in-cheek.

Theriot's said he understood it "100 percent. It's true and it's a shame it's come to that for us players because realistically, playing baseball is a lifelong dream for me. To put on this uniform is something I worked for my whole life and to see the way guys are looked at as players is unfair to us. The ones that have done it the right way, the ones who have made sacrifices and not cut any corners, it's unfair to."

Telander, alluding to the latest Manny Ramirez situation, asked Theriot if there was any way he could prove, show or tell anybody how he was clean, when all the guys around him keep going down.

"I guess you can't," Theriot said. "Maybe you can look at guys' track records or show up early and see how much work a guy does in the batting cage, or talk to the coaches about the way a guy's swing has changed or his approach has changed in order to get better. It's tough. That's the way it is, unfortunately, for us."

Telander then showed Theriot an article saying that 25 percent of over-the-counter supplements would result in violation of the MLB drug policy. 1Theriot said he stopped using most supplements long ago because, in his opinion, it wasn't worth the risk to all the hard work that he had put in.

Talking to baseball people, the age where most athletes and in particular baseball players get stronger is between ages of 28 and 32.

"Power is the last thing you develop," Theriot said. "Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that. Am I a power hitter now? No. What happened was, I got some pitches to hit when the wind was gusting out, and I hit them over the fence. Nobody talks about how the wind was blowing out those days."

Telander then asked him the strongest thing he puts in his body. "Gatorade, water, Coors Light, occasionally," Theriot said with a snicker.

Factually, Theriot's body has gone in reverse of what happens to drug users in any sport. He said in high school and college, he lifted a lot of weights to get stronger, only to get too bulky and back away from that type of training. At that time, he said he weighed 200 pounds. He doesn't power lift any more, and now he weighs between 175 and 180 pounds. In my opinion, that's pretty much case closed. Steroid and HGH users do not lose weight.

The interaction between the reporters and the baseball player was refreshing. No screaming or yelling, just three people discussing the problems in sports today. The only gripe I have with Telander is that he could have cut two columns to one if he asked Theriot the questions before he wrote his first story rather than afterward.