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In light of a recent report in the Los Angeles Times and the failure of Keith Olbermann to promptly address the matter, Olbermann Watch is now calling on NBC News to intervene and direct MSNBC General Manager Dan Abrams and MSNBC News Anchor Keith Olbermann to retract its false claims about Albert Pujols and Chris Mihlfeld, his personal trainer and issue an on-air apology to Pujols and Mihlfeld.
h/t to Frank Paynter who has been following this story for months. Details follow:
Last spring, a baseball blog called Deadspin published a single-source, anonymous claim that a sports trainer named Chris Mihlfeld was named in an affadavit submitted by former MLB player Jason Grimsley in the ongoing federal investigation into steroid abuse in baseball. Keith ran with the story, repeating and expanding on the blog's claims, publishing a "mug shot" style photo of Mihlfeld, and repeatedly insinuating that Mihlfeld was lying when he told Sports Illustrated and others that he was not the trainer whose name was blacked out in the affadavit. He then further expanded on the meme in an interview with Jim Callis, Executive Editor of "Baseball America" while spending a good deal of time implicating St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.
The Deadspin story ran on June 8, 2006 and included a glarying qualifier about their source for the story:
How reliable are these names? We feel pretty confident in them, but we can't go 100 percent, since the information is secondhand. We'll say this: If Bud Selig issuing a press release naming the names is a 10, and picking a player at random out of the Baseball Encyclopedia is a 1, we're at an 8. So. Let's do it then. Remember: Betting lines are for entertainment purposes only.
Deadspin names Mihlfeld and notes his connection to Cardinals star Albert Pujols:
We just report what we're told, folks. Ever hope your source is wrong? This is one of those times.
Keith failed to mention ANY of these qualifying statements, did not speak directly to Deadspin's source or contact Mihlfeld, Grimsley or anyone eles for comment.
Here is the June 9, 2006 transcript of Countdown which shows Keith all but convicting Mihlfeld on air" (see below for complete excerpts)
'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 9
Updated: 10:58 a.m. ET June 12, 2006
Guests: Jim Callis
The biggest names in the baseball drug scandal, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Albert Pujols? Try Chris Mihlfeld, personal trainer to the pitcher who admits to using human growth hormone, and personal trainer to the brightest star of the national league. But Mihlfeld says he's clean, Pujols is clean, and he knows nothing about Jason Grimsley using hormones for training, even though Grimsley admitted he used them for training, and Mihlfeld was his trainer.
OLBERMANN: Chris Mihlfeld is suddenly one of the biggest names in baseball. He's the personal trainer of the baseball pitcher Jason Grimsley, and Grimsley is the man who admitted to federal agents that he'd used amphetamines, steroids, and human growth hormone as part of his personal training. Those same agents believe Grimsley may have also distributed the illegal drugs to other players.
But where it gets dicey is that the trainer Mihlfeld has also been the personal fitness guru, and to use Mihlfeld's sister's description, soul brother to Albert Pujols, superstar first basement of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the man widely nominated to lead baseball out of the steroid wilderness.
In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Mihlfeld speaks. In the affidavit filed by those IRS agents to get a warrant to raid Jason Grimsley's home, they quoted from their conversation with Grimsley in April, "Grimsley stated that (blacked out) a former employee of the (blacked out) and personal fitness trainer to several Major League baseball players, once referred him to an amphetamine source. Grimsley stated that after this referral, he secured amphetamines, anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormone from (blacked out) referred source."
Thursday, the blacked out name, the personal fitness trainer who Grimsley said led him to the source for amphetamines, steroids and Human Growth Hormone, was identify by unnamed sources of the sports Web site deadspin.com as Mihlfeld. Mihlfeld has now denied everything.
To the "Kansas City Star," "They've got the wrong name on that deal." To the "Sports Illustrated Web site, "I've never been involved in any illegal steroids, amphetamines or HGH activity. Period."
Mihlfeld also says both Grimsley and Grimsley's attorney have told him his name does not appear in that affidavit. Grimsley and Grimsley's attorney have not said that, though, to any reporters. And as to Pujols who hit 25 homeruns in this season's first 53 games before a strained oblique muscle, a lower back injury put him on the disabled list about a week ago, Mihlfeld recruited Pujols, coached him at a Missouri junior college in the late '90s. Still works with him so frequently that Pujols phoned Mihlfeld to set up the off-season workout program the day after the Cardinals were eliminated from the play-offs last fall. Mihlfeld insists Pujols is innocent even though he's only been the subject of speculation. Again to "Sports Illustrated, "He's just like me. He's got nothing to hide." To the Kansas City paper, "Albert won't even drink his protein shakes any more during the season because he's scared they're contaminated. That's been part of his training for the last five or six years, and all of a sudden he won't even do that. He's a great kid. Let him be great. He's clean.â€?
To describe him as Pujols' trainer is to probably oversimplify that relationship. We'll get a closer look at that in a moment. First the other headlines in this continually burgeoning story.
Senator McCain of Arizona, Congressman Waxman of California and Lynch or Massachusetts have suggested they may seek congressional hearings into Human Growth Hormone and baseball and my try to force the sport to adopt blood tests for those drugs.
And in the still ongoing Barry Bonds part of the investigation, the lawyer for former companion, Kimberly Bell, has told the former U.S. senator who is conducting baseball's investigation that the feds don't want his client talking to anybody but them, because of the "pending criminal proceeding." Bonds, himself, as that suggests, is still a possible target of a grand jury, which is looking into whether or not he lied to another grand jury about his own drug use.
And back at the start, to the man described in one place as "HGH Patient Zero." Jason Grimsley's agent he says his client will retire from baseball, but that may not stop baseball from punishing Grimsley. He may be liable for a 50-game suspension. Baseball's first big-scale drug suspension would go to a retired player? If that does not sum up this mess, nothing can. And it's likely to get worse before it gets better.
Back to the subject of Albert Pujols and Chris Mihlfeld, the personal trainer who didn't know his other client was taking Human Growth Hormones or steroid as part of his personal training. "Baseball America" is the leading publication in the field; it focuses on the minor leagues, college, and high school ball, and is the bible for those trying to track the development of young prospects, which is what Albert Pujols was seven years ago. Its executive editor is Jim Callis and he joins us now.
Jim, thanks for your time.
JIM CALLIS, "BASEBALL AMERICA": No problem, Keith, glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: Of Mr. Pujols' and Mr. Mihlfeld, is it indeed insufficient to call them trainer and client? Didn't Chris Mihlfeld essentially build Albert Pujols?
CALLIS: Exactly. I think you're right, Keith. I think they're more than trainer and client. I think Mihlfeld's sister, as you mentioned, described them as soul brothers. Mihlfeld, in some ways, was the guy who discovered Albert Pujols, recruited him in Maple Woods Community College in Missouri when he was basically an unknown. For whatever reason, it's a little bit unclear, it was not the head coach, by the time Albert got there, but apparently began training him there. And less than two years later, he went from an unknown in a 13th round draft to pretty much the best hitter or the best right-handed hitter in baseball.
OLBERMANN: Does anybody know, does anybody have the details, are there photographs, even, of what kind of physical transformation Pujols underwent between the time Mihlfeld got him into Maple Grove and when he literally came out of nowhere to hit the 37 homers as a rookies for the Cardinals in 2001?
CALLIS: Not that I've seen. I've never seen a photo of Albert when he was at Maple Woods. It's not like if you're looking at Barry Bonds' baseball cards from the late '80s and now you look at a Barry Bonds baseball card and his head's three times the size. I know just from talking to scouts who, to be honest, most of the scouts missed the boat on Albert Pujols back in junior college. One of the things that works against Albert was that while some guys liked his bat, he had kind of, what they described him as a bad body, you know it wasn't skinny, but it wasn't you know, the muscular, chiseled Albert Pujols we know today.
OLBERMANN: In baseball today, that who spectrum that you cover, from high school player - and Mihlfeld, by the way says he's now working with kids as young as middle school right through to the big leagues. How complete would a personal trainer's role be in the physical fitness regiments of an athlete like Albert Pujols or even Jason Grimsley? How much - control might be the wrong word, but how much influence over the day-to-day physical living of a guy would a trainer have?
CALLIS: A lot more than they did, say, 10 or 15 years ago. At the Major League level, a lot of these personal trainers are full-time employees of one particular player. Mihlfeld, I guess, has also worked with Mark Sweeney, so I don't think he's necessarily, you know, Albert's - or Albert's his only employer. But these guys, it's not just, you know - in the past, where you gave a guy a workout regiment to follow, now it's, you know, you're telling him what to eat, what supplements, you know, legal or otherwise, in any case, to use. It goes far beyond a workout and it sounds like in this case, with Pujols and Mihlfeld, that you know, they're much closer than that. You know, as you pointed out, as soon as Albert Pujols' season ended last year, he was on the phone to Mihlfeld, you know, figuring out a game plan to get ready for the next season.
OLBERMANN: Let's just clarify one thing, I think you said Mark Sweeney of the Giants, you meant Mike Sweeney of Royals.
CALLIS: I meant Mike Sweeney.
OLBERMANN: I just wanted to get that fact on the record, here. Whether it's Human Growth Hormone or it's Poptarts, is it plausible at this ultrahigh level that the athlete would not tell his Chris Mihlfeld, or whoever, that he's taking them, I mean, or is it plausible that the trainer wouldn't know?
CALLIS: I mean, maybe you don't tell the guy directly what you're taking, although I would suspect - you know, if we're talking about performance-enhancing drugs, here or Poptarts, you know, if you have a trainer you're relying on very heavily, you're going to run everything by him. But even, let's say, you wanted to keep it to yourself and not tell him and you were going down some path that the trainer didn't know about, I would think if you were taking something that, you know, baseball has banned or, you know, you're not supposed to be taking, that your trainer would have to be pretty naive not to notice the affect it would have on your workout. So, I would think, in these cases, if you're using something you're not suppose to be using, to think that the trainer would not know would be pretty naive.
OLBERMANN: Ultimately, Jim, this going to blow up as badly as people think it is?
CALLIS: I think so. I mean, I think I'm kind of like you, Keith, I'm kind of cynical about this whole thing and I didn't think baseball was anywhere close to having cleaned up this problem. I think baseball hoped to maybe from a public relations standpoint, act like it had a handle on everything, but here we go, HTH. Everybody's speculated, you can't test for HGH, well if you're not going to take steroids, these guys have access to the best pharmaceuticals in the world. Major league baseball players make a lot of money and I'm sure a lot of these guys are using HGH, and you know, Jason Grimsley is almost about the worst guy you could have blow the lid off of this. Here's a guy who played for any number of teams, it's not like he was a career Diamondback who had been there for 10 years or whatever, this guy has played with just about everybody in the Major League. So if I'm a Major Leaguer, and I've been taking HGH, Keith, I'm wondering if I'm one of those blacked out names if the affidavit.
OLBERMANN: In deed. Jim Callis, the executive editor or "Baseball America," great thanks for the insight. Thanks for joining us.
CALLIS: Thanks Keith.
On October 1, 2006, the Los Angeles Times revealed that the trainer whose name was blacked out was not Mihlfeld but rather former Yankees trainer Brian McNamee who is described as the "personal strength coach for [Roger] Clemens and [Andy] Pettitte.
On October 2, 2006, Deadspin published a retraction and apology:
As many of you will remember, back in June, a source we thought was reliable leaked to us that one of the names in the infamous Jason Grimsley HGH affidavit was Chris Mihlfeld, who is the former trainer for Grimsley and the longtim trainer of Albert Pujols. As evidenced by the Los Angeles Times this weekend, our source was, sadly, wrong. And therefore, so were we: Mihlfeld appears not to be named in the document. So, a clearing of the decks, a mea culpa: We were wrong to trust our source's information, and we were wrong to print their claim that he was in the document. We apologize to Mihlfeld and deeply regret the error.
On October 3, 2006 Keith went on the air knowing full well that neither Mihlfeld nor Pujols had been implicated by Grimsley but remained silent.
The shoddy journalism exemplified in the Pujols-Mihlfeld report which ran last June - lifting material directly from web sites (often without attribution), not bothering to do the most basic fact-checking it, not contacting subjects and providing them an opportunity to reply, using highly questionable information to launch hyperbolic attacks - is precisely the kind of reporting that led me to launch Olbermann Watch in 2004. The sad fact is that Keith airs these kinds of phony reports as a matter of routine. Although we report on Keith Olbermann's erratic fact-challenged form of "journalism" on this site every day, this case is so transparently despicable and Keith's claims so egregiously slanderous that we are taking the unusual (for us) step of demanding that Olbermann stop side-stepping the issue and air a correction and apology TONIGHT!.
UPDATE: Grimsley and his attorney are now claiming that the L.A. Times story naming Clemens and Pettite is inaccurate as to the names of the players named in the redacted affadavit.