Juan Gone...to Long Island
Looks like today is a sportsy day in Unfair Park. So, on that note...
On Saturday, the New York Daily News ran a story about a mysterious bag found at Pearson International Airport in Toronto three weeks after September 11, 2001. Canadian Border Service discovered that "a gym bag coming off a Cleveland Indians charter flight had no label on it, nothing to identify the owner," and when they unzipped the thing they found inside of it copious amounts of anabolic steroids and hypodermic needles. After Toronto cops and Indians officials were notified, they hatched a scheme to send the bag to the team hotel, where its owner would pick it up; after that, the cops would pop him, simple as that. As it turned out, the bag was claimed by Angel Presinal, a trainer whose list of clients included the likes of major-leaguers Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, Jose Guillen and former Texas Rangers Ruben Sierra and the just-traded Francisco Cordero, among many, many, many others.
Well, also among his clients was one Cleveland Indian named Juan Gonzalez, who, only two years earlier, was a two-time Most Valuable Player for the Texas Rangers and a shoo-in for Cooperstown. As it turned out, Presinal was tight with the man formerly known around these parts as "Juan Gone" and "Igor": The Daily News refers to him as "one of the satellites in two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez's entourage." Could those steroids have been for Gonzalez? Dunno--because nobody north of the border seemed terribly interested in finding out, suggests the paper. Says Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's senior vice president for business and labor, in the story: "The Canadians [said] they don't have enough information to proceed criminally, for reasons that still escape us."
Though the piece was published a few days ago, it's beginning to make the wire-service rounds, and Norm Hitzges was talking about it this morning on KTCK-AM (1310, The Ticket). Hitzges also pointed out that the Indians' general manager at the time of this incident was one John Hart, who knew about the incident but still brought Gonzalez back to Texas the very next year when Hart was the Rangers' GM. Gonzalez played only 77 games for Texas that season and hit a rather unimpressive .282.; he fared a little better in 2003, playing in 82 games before winding up in Kansas City, or at least on the Royals' training table.
It's kind of amazing this story surfaced over the weekend, because just last Wednesday, during my stint co-hosting "The Hardline" with Greg Williams, one of the things we talked about was Juan Gonzalez. We tried to figure out exactly how one of the greatest players in the history of the Rangers franchise wound up where he is today: hitting .305 in the independent Atlantic League, where he's trying to make a major league comeback with the Long Island Ducks, the same team that just signed former Red Sox-Cardinal-Giant-Royal Cory Bailey. We figured it had to do with a combination of a bunch of factors: advisors who gave bad advice, a series of marriages that ended in divorce, that infamous incident involving the 1999 Hall of Fame game when he refused to play because of baggy pants and Gonzalez's general air of disinterest despite having won the American League home-run title when he was only 22.
Last week, Greggo even threw out the theory that Gonzalez may have gotten where he is today because of steroids--something Gonzalez's former Rangers teammate Jose Canseco alleged in his book Juiced last year. Turns out, Greg may have been on to something. Gonzalez declined to talk to the Daily News and had his agent issue a statement in which he said he didn't know what was in the bag but nonethess "terminated my association with Presinal" after the incident. Just, ya know, because. Incidentally, Sierra's also considering signing on with the Ducks. But that is another story. --Robert Wilonsky