Matthews Jr.'s link to HGH has really upset new team
Posted: Monday March 5, 2007 4:38PM; Updated: Monday March 5, 2007 5:38PM
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The Angels are said by executives of competing teams to be extremely upset that their $50-million acquisition, Gary Matthews Jr., was linked to Internet sales of HGH before he had even played a spring training game for his new team. Though publicly Anaheim, a classy organization that had previously not been touched by baseball's performance-enhancing scandal, remains supportive of its new centerfielder, Angels VP Tim Mead agreed that there's "concern" about the situation. He stressed, however, that "Right now, nobody's passing judgment."
While the Angels are publicly taking a wait-and-see approach to the allegations tying Matthews to an Alabama pharmacy accused of selling HGH over the Internet, team officials are also said to have been examining the language in Matthews' contract to gauge their chances for recourse should the allegations prove correct. In rare instances, such as is known to be the case with Barry Bonds' new deal with the Giants, a contract offers additional protection for a team against allegations that come to light after the deal is signed. It would, however, be surprising if there were any additional such protection in Matthews' contract, as he has never come under suspicion of performance-enhancers before.
Even if the allegations prove correct, Matthews, 32, could escape any punishment from Major League Baseball. As SI.com reported last week, Matthews was sent a shipment of HGH in 2004, before the substance was banned by baseball. But that would be small consolation for the Angels. Matthews is regarded as a defensive specialist in center field, and he is exactly that. But no one gets that sort of contract solely for outfield defense, and the Angels now have to wonder whether Mathews' recent jump in production -- which included career highs in batting average (.313), home runs (19) and RBIs (79) last season -- was achieved artificially. To this point, his mid-career surge had been attributed to the tutelage of Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and hard work for a late bloomer.
One Angels official said the team felt slightly "blindsided" by SI.com's report, though they appear to be cutting Matthews some slack on the notion that he's new to the team and didn't know who he could confide in, so he said nothing (nor is it clear when Matthews himself was informed of the allegations). Matthews has been similarly quiet with the media about the situation, except to suggest through his lawyer that it will all work out in the end. His quote to the press was, "At the appropriate time I will address the matter. When I get the information from my people, I can go from there. I don't have the information."
Gary Matthews Sr., a 16-year major leaguer and a new announcer with the Phillies, told SI.com, "Obviously I'm behind [my son] 100 percent. He's a great kid. It's really premature at this point. The only advice I'm giving him is to make sure he tells the truth. It is very, very early. One good thing -- he's never failed a test. That's always good and encouraging."
Meanwhile, the lawyer Gary Jr. hired, Bob Shapiro (of O.J. Simpson fame), says he believes that his client "has not violated any laws or rules established by Major League Baseball." Which is more than Matthews himself is saying, but doesn't quite clear things up.
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