When it comes to media interviews and being outspoken, Matt Stairs will never be confused with former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
The 41-year-old major league veteran outfielder, infielder and designated hitter shies away from the cameras and is usually a man of few words when faced with a microphone or recorder — unless talk turns to something he feels strongly about — such as steroids.
“I don’t like talking about it because I have mixed feelings about it,” said Stairs, who is getting ready for the 2009 season at the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training camp in Clearwater, Fla. “I’ve never seen steroids in a clubhouse in my 20 years of playing. You know, you see guys come back for spring training and they’re a lot better and you can speculate it happened, but it’s none of my business.
“I’ve never seen it in a clubhouse. It’s something that in all the years I’ve played, I haven’t been around.”
The understated Bangor resident usually keeps his opinions to himself, but even he can’t resist sharing his thoughts on baseball’s biggest hot-button issue.
“If some guys have injuries and they thought HGH [human growth hormone] would help them out or prolong their careers, so be it, but back in the day, it wasn’t illegal to use in baseball,” Stairs said. “Who’s to say they didn’t use steroids or something else in the ’50s and ’60s? I’ve heard people say they used to use these little red pills. You don’t know.”
Stairs says one of the biggest issues of steroid or supplement use is knowing what’s proper to use, what’s improper, what’s allowed and what isn’t due to the complex nature of the products, many of which are easily available at the corner drug or health food store.
“There are things you can take as far as supplements that make you bigger and stronger, so what’s the real difference? I don’t know,” he said.
The thing that really gets Stairs’ blood boiling is the ongoing leaks divulging results of drug tests and the identities of players — such as the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez — who failed them.
“The only thing I have a problem with is those tests were supposed to be confidential, and I don’t understand how it leaked out. Confidential means you don’t tell anybody,” Stairs said. “As far as him doing it, I really don’t care. I’m not going to look at him any differently.
“Hey, if you get busted, you get busted, but back in the day they did those tests, they were supposed to be private. Why is his name even being brought out? It shouldn’t be. It was supposed to be a secret test, and this shows there are some people who don’t care about that. They just want to bury everybody.”
The release of certain names has further soured Stairs’ opinion of the mass media, in particular reporters with agendas and unethical or questionable methods.
“Yeah, we call them the rats. There are some guys who take an interview, change it around, and make you look like a total ass,” Stairs said. “There are certain people you talk to and certain people you don’t, some things you can talk about and certain things you can’t.”
Stairs, an assistant varsity hockey coach at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor in the offseason, says there may be a silver lining to the whole steroids issue. Young athletes, he hopes, will be less tempted to take them now that many of their dangers, complications and side effects are known.
“I hope so,” said Stairs, with a slight chuckle. “I know if you look at the size of our team, you won’t think there’s anyone on the team using steroids, that’s for sure!”