Segui's excuses for hGH use don't clear himself, Orioles

June 22, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

By giving himself up in public the way he has since last weekend, David Segui did nobody a favor except himself. And chances are excellent that he didn't do himself as much of a favor as he thinks.

Sequi's position, as presented to ESPN and to The Sun, is, basically, "You can't pin anything on me, I'm clean." Yes, he knows about, uses and understands human growth hormone. He had prescriptions. He had doctor's notes. He had a diagnosed health condition. Everything was legal.

He was simply giving a concerned teammate the kind of sound medical advice you can only get from the guy who undresses next to you at work. Thus, so what if his name is under one of those black marks in Jason Grimsley's affidavit?

Segui's story has more holes in it than Sammy Sosa's swing last season.

It is not much of a coincidence that Segui 'fessed up just when baseball's steroid investigators had interviews scheduled with Orioles personnel. He probably had no choice but to beat everybody to the punch - the public, the media and the investigators.

Still, unless the people doing the questioning around this team and, eventually, around baseball are easily duped, Segui bought himself nothing more than a little time. There's no way he or the Orioles come out clean. But the concerns that the franchise's name is going to be sullied unfairly are unfounded. It just happens to be their turn.

For their part, the Orioles lawyered up like champs yesterday evening. In a gathering in the press box at Camden Yards, executive vice president Mike Flanagan offered so many versions of "no comment," you'd think his statement was written by Rafael Palmeiro.

In his defense, though, Flanagan clearly was clamming up on the orders of the commissioner's office, which apparently has decided that the best way to regain everybody's trust on this matter is to keep the public as much in the dark about their actions as possible.

Still, Flanagan was no less comfortable discussing this than the guys in uniform. For the second straight year, the Orioles players are living with the possibility that one way or another, a teammate is going to either expose them or use them as a human shield.

Sam Perlozzo, then, has to hold a team together once again with baseball officials and reporters sniffing around it, and with teammates wondering whom they can trust, including each other.

Unlike last year, no one on the roster has been unmasked - but could this cause dissension anything close to last season, when Palmeiro finally became too much of a distraction to keep around?

"As a general rule, I think guys are just tired of the goings-on," the manager said before last night's win over the Marlins. "I just don't think there are that many guilty ones out there, honestly."

One can hope.

As for Segui, his serving up of his ex-teammates is much more subtle than Palmeiro's tactics (a nice, hard shove of Miguel Tejada under the bus), yet just as transparent when you look close. Is that really supposed to clear his name to say that he was the guy in the clubhouse who could obtain a banned substance legally?

And are you, as a fan, absolutely sure you want to buy the medical-condition story?

This shows us once again that, in the battle against performance enhancers, baseball now is where track and field was 20 years ago. Palmeiro played the tainted-vitamin-supplement card. Segui is claiming he's got a real condition. Those are the two oldest pages in the test-beaters' book; witness the BALCO runners who simultaneously discovered their sleep disorders to explain away the banned stimulant they were caught using.

Hey, maybe Segui really did need hGH for what was ailing him, and maybe the only way to get it was from a doctor in Florida who doesn't want his name made public. And maybe he just kept forgetting to tell any team official about his problem; that is, in essence, what Flanagan said yesterday, that the club was not aware of a medical condition.

Regardless, another name is in the network. It's now gone from a Barry Bonds problem to a Grimsley problem to a Segui problem - and, in a sense, an Orioles problem - and one of these days, when enough names come out, it will be a baseball problem.

It's not particularly fair to the Orioles, but not particularly unfair, either. It's baseball, 2006-style. Question everything, take nothing on face value - what comes off a batter's bat, a pitcher's hand or anyone's lips.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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