Guilty feelings consume GM

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

It's an exclusive club, one of the smallest in the world.

Only 30 men have the title of general manager of a major league ball club beside their name.

When they hear one of their brethren speak, like Kevin Towers, some agree or disagree but all feel his pain.

Towers, the respected GM of the San Diego Padres, told Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine of his feelings when he attended the funeral of former Padre third baseman Ken Caminiti, an admitted steroid user.

"I felt somewhat guilty because I felt like I knew," Towers said. "I imagine the other 29 GMs at one point or the other had reason to think their club was using steroids based on body changes."

Towers carries more respect than Jose Canseco, who is hawking books when he speaks of steroid use.

It wasn't because of steroids that Caminiti died Oct. 10 in the Hunter's Point section of the Bronx.

Tissue and toxicology tests showed Caminiti's death was caused by "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of cocaine and opiates," according to the New York City Medical Examiner reports released Nov. 1.

"Kevin is being a little hard on himself," Baltimore Orioles GM Jim Beattie said from Fort Lauderdale yesterday. "Kevin has a scouting background and when you are a scout at heart you get connected to players in different ways than other GMs.

"Kevin is taking some reasonability, but I'm not sure what recourse he had."

Caminiti won the National League most valuable player award in 1996. MLB did not begin testing for steroids until 2003.

GMs often spent part of their work day wondering about all the what ifs. What if he'd drafted the player in the other dugout, or if he'd thrown in another minor-leaguer to complete a deal for a starter.

Towers, with his introspective thoughts, took second guessing to a completely new level.

"Kevin was speaking from the heart," Beattie said. "It's a different response when you go to someone's funeral. Kevin and Caminiti were friends."

Like the Orioles, the New York Yankees try to educate players and have an employee assistance program.

"From my perspective when I feel there is a problem, I have to address it," New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman said in Tampa. "When I've had strong suspicions about substance-abuse problems or alcohol problems, I've confronted a player.

"I have to so I can put my head on the pillow and go to sleep at night. You do not want to roll back the tape and see something you should have done."

Cashman said he has not questioned anyone on steroids because he has not had a player leave in October and show up in February 30 pounds heavier.

"In meetings, you don't accuse players," Cashman said. "You say 'hear me out, I'm doing this for me, as much as you, here's a confidential number, you should seek proper help, I won't get a back-channel phone call. I'm trying to make an impact on your life.' "

Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan says he takes on problems.

"If I think something's not right downstairs I'll talk with a player," Ryan said from Fort Myers, Fla. "I'm going to address whether it's a drug problem or a marital problem."

The sad story of Ken Caminiti could have unfolded with any club. It happened to Kevin Towers.


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