It has garnered nary a mention in th sports pages, and as far as I can tell, only Deadspin has noticed this story so far. But it’s a bombshell.
According to reports in the Daily News earlier this week, Juan Gonzalez and his trainer nearly became unwitting pawns in the steroid story back in 2001.
Here’s what we know based upon extensive reporting by Sam Borden, Adam Rubin, Rodolfo Quebleen, T.J. Quinn, Michael O’Keeffe and Christian Red. In 2001, Canadian Border Service agents searched an unmarked bag that contained anabolic steroids and hypodermic needles. The bag was destined for the Cleveland Indians’ team hotel, and Canadian officials decided to track it to see who claimed it.
According to a Canadian Border Service Agency seizure report, the man who picked up the bag was Angel (Nao) Presinal, then 48, a fitness trainer to the Dominican Republic’s national basketball and boxing teams and the World Baseball Classic team, who has worked with some of the biggest names ever to come to the major leagues from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico: Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre, Moises Alou, Jose Guillen, Ervin Santana, Ruben Sierra, Francisco Cordero, Jose Mesa and Juan Guzman, among others….
On this October 2001 night, however, Presinal was one of the satellites in two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez’s entourage.
According to the seizure report, when agents stopped Presinal he said the bag and everything in it belonged to Gonzalez, then an outfielder for the Indians. Agents questioned both men for four hours before deciding they didn’t have enough evidence to link the bag to either of them. Gonzalez and Presinal were allowed to go free, and the bag was confiscated.
That’s a major story with some big names, many All Stars from Latin America. Presinal, according to the Daily News, worked with Juan Gonzalez throughout the season. He was a part of Gonzalez’s entourage as the slugger tried to proof to the baseball world that he deserved more than an 8-year, $140-million deal offered to him by the Tigers during the 2000-2001 Winter of Reckless Spending.
The story, however, gets dicier. MLB officials knew about the incident and banned Presinal from clubhouses. Then, as they were wont to do during the days of good publicity, they swept the incident under the rug. Presinal was spotted in Texas in 2002 and Anaheim in 2003. Each time, security agents warned MLB officials about Presinal’s appearance.
Then, earlier this year, Presinal made a bombshell of an appearance. He was the strenght and conditioning coach for the Dominican team in the World Baseball Classic. According to the article, many players specificially asked for Presinal to come along with the team.
Today, Presinal is still in touch with Major League Baseball players, 2005’s AL Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon included. Now, I don’t know anything about this beyond what I’ve read in The Daily News article from nearly a week ago, but this is a major story being swept under the rug.
First, baseball officials now definitely knew about a drug problem as early as 2001 and were actively working to keep it off the record. Bud Selig has maintained numerous facades during this debacle, but considering the depth and breadth of this scandal, is it too much for us to ask George Mitchell to investigate the Commissioner’s Office? What did Selig and Company know and when did they know it?
Next, these ties between these Latin American All Stars and Presinal are highly disturbing. Mentioned in the article are David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Adrian Beltre and, of course, Miguel Tejada. Tejada has been unable to escape the steroid scandal. He was teammates with Jason Giambi in Oakland; he received his B12 vitamin needles in Baltimore; and he was fingered by Rafael Palmeiro last year. For Ortiz, Martinez and Beltre to land with this crowd will, unfortunately for them, raise some eyebrows.
But what can Major League Baseball do about it? Depending upon how one construes the Fay Vincent memo, steroids may not have been explicitly against baseball rules in 2001. They were however against the law, and no one in the media has looked too kindly upon baseball cheaters. But will the media pursue this story?
A few papers have picked up on it, but no one’s done anything more than reprint the article from The Daily News. It’s time to start asking questions. What kind of relationships did these players have with Presinal?
The story is off to a slow start, but it should gather steam. It could be bigger than BALCO and could involve many active players who have come to represent the supposed non-steroid face of Major League Baseball. How baseball deals with the fallout will go a long way toward showing the fans how much they have and haven’t learned from the trials and tribulations of the steroid scandal.
I wonder if Jim Thome was in on it. Apparently, that Trainer worked primarily with Latin American players. Still, Thome was a Cleveland Indian at the time, and it gives me pause. You see, Jim is one of my favorites, and I've always wondered if he was ever on the juice. I don't believe so, as Thome is one of the few figures in baseball that I look at as being clean, but you never know, do you?
Bartolo Colon on steroids? It doesn't surprise me, cause of his injury history. Pedro Martinez? Oh God no, I love Pedro. I doubt it with him, as he's always been the same old Pedro, but who knows.
What d'you guys think?