Robin Ventura understands why some people might be suspicious of any players who appear bulked up when they report when workouts start following the lockout.
Now an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, Ventura was a two-time All-Star and a six-time Gold Glove third baseman from 1989-2004. He played through the height of the Steroids Era and the start of drug testing, then managed the Chicago White Sox from 2012-16.
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“I think that would just be a natural reaction,” he said Tuesday. “I think even when there was testing, somebody showed up big, I think people still questioned that. So I don’t see any reason why that would change.”
Speaking during a news conference called by the New York Mets to announce the return of Old-Timers Day for the first time since 1994, Ventura said he had not been aware of Major League Baseball and the players’ association stopped steroids testing when the collective bargaining agreement and Joint Drug Program expired Dec. 1.
US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said the halt in testing is a concern.
Former Mets Daniel Murphy and Cliff Floyd also spoke during the virtual news conference. Murphy, who last played in 2020, was a member of the players’ ruling executive subcommittee when the union rejected management’s pandemic-shortened 60-game schedule two years ago. The union filed a still-pending grievance, claiming Major League Baseball did not play a season as lengthy as was possible.
With spring training workouts unlikely to start as scheduled on Feb. 16, owners are meeting from Tuesday through Thursday in Orlando, Florida. Union lawyers met with players in Arizona on Tuesday and have meetings in Florida scheduled for the following two days.
No negotiations on core economic issues are scheduled.
“I’m an optimist and a bit of an agreeable person by temperament so, yes, I am hopeful,” Murphy said. “I would be more hopeful after the owners’ meetings in Orlando if we can have a discussion with the union. There’s been a bit of tension since the last time they were able to get an agreement together.”
Murphy said that watching talks from a distance, he hoped a negotiating schedule could be set in the next few days.
“As a baseball player, the bell rings here pretty soon. Not for me anymore. I have tee times. But we’re only a handful of days away from the scheduled start of spring training,” he said. “I’m sure there’s anxiety on both sides.”
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Floyd came up to the major leagues in 1993 and was on the first-place expos when a strike began in August 1994 and ended the season prematurely, spilling over into the 1995 season.
“Being outside looking in, there are some similarities,” Floyd said. “You got to get built up. Baseball needs to be played. … I know they’ve got to dot I’s and cross T’s, but it’s just tough to watch, especially when the world is going through what we’re going through. So I think that in itself is a little bit different than ’94. … As you can tell, these are very uncomfortable conversations to have because it’s just two sides trying to do what they want so, hopefully, it gets done sooner than later. “