Jack Clark digs deep for drug accusations against Pujols, others

Harry How

Hey, who was expecting to be talking about Jack Clark in 2013? Not me. Which maybe was the point. He's been through some rough times since his playing career, at times in danger of fading into complete obscurity, and maybe he's just desperate to get back into the newspapers. Which he's done this week, with a vengeance (via stltoday.com):

He was known as "Jack the Ripper" during his playing days because of his power hitting, and Jack Clark has come out swinging hard in his new sports-radio position. He has accused former Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols of using a performance enhancing drug.

--snip--

Clark has brought Pujols’ situation up at least twice already on the air. The first time, after Slaten said last Friday that he long has believed that Pujols "has been a juicer," Clark jumped in before Slaten finished his thought and said, "I know for a fact he was. The trainer that worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that’s what he did."

Clark then talked about a conversation he had about a dozen years ago with Mihlfeld, who has worked as a conditioner with several major-league organizations. (Both men were with the Dodgers then, and Pujols was early in his career.)

Mihlfeld "had told me what he was doing with ‘Poolie’ — threw him batting practice, worked him out, shot him up, all that stuff," Clark said on the air.

Well, let's get something obvious out of the way: Clark doesn't know that Pujols was a juicer "for a fact." Even if he remembers perfectly what this personal trainer (Chris Mihlfield) said, that's hardly evidence that would stand up in court; Clark doesn't seem to consider even remotely the possibility that Mihlfield might have been lying, or exaggerating. Clark doesn't help his own credibility when he also accuses Shawn Green and Justin Verlander of drug use. And I've got a real problem with crap like this:

"That’s one reason why I don’t want to coach, I can’t stand it," he added. "I can’t stand to coach the guys that are cheating and faking, (are) phonies and frauds, for a game that I love when guys played it the right way and guys like (former Braves standout) Dale Murphy can’t get into the Hall of Fame, a quality guy and a great player and an MVP.

"He has to take a back seat to these creeps and lowlifes like (Mark) McGwire. It just makes me sick and I just can’t be a part of that anymore."

When Clark and his contemporaries played it the right way, they were also jacked up on amphetamines almost every day. I mean, not all of them. But a lot of them. Whatever you might think about that, there has never been a shortage in the game of creeps and lowlifes.

None of which means he's necessarily wrong about Albert Pujols. Clark's "testimony" about Pujols carries more weight than some newspaper columnist who just looks at a player's body and his statistics and levels an accusation. I happen to think that most power hitters 10 years ago -- and perhaps most players, of any stripe -- were using drugs. Pujols has generally gotten a pass, for whatever reason. Well, you can probably spot the reason in this quote:

"Why would I do something like that to my family? Why would I do something like that to God? Why would I do something like that to my team?" Pujols asked. "Just to try to gain some small extra? It’s part of what I believe: What you do in the dark will come into the light. I have nothing to fear. I’m just tired of hearing about it."

Players who denied drug use won some believers, but Pujols upped the ante by mentioning family and God, a couple of words that carry slightly more weight in St. Louis than they might otherwise. And I'm not immune. If he'd issued the strident denial without those words, I might have been 50/50; with them, more like 60/40.

I'm just making up those numbers (obviously). But words do matter, to most of us. And Pujols said all the right ones.

Which doesn't mean we should have believed him, necessarily.

Which doesn't mean we should now engage in a witch hunt, just because Jack Clark loves Dale Murphy and wants some attention. I still don't have any idea if Albert Pujols was juicing. Here's one thing about which I have metaphysical certitude, though: If steroids had been widely available during Jack Clark's career, Clark probably would have been shooting up, and so would many of his colleagues. Just like they sucked down all those greenies and slurped down all that joy juice.

Except for Dale Murphy, of course.

Update: Albert Pujols's personal trainer has denied Clark's accusation in the strongest of words.

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