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  • 'The Cream,' The 'Clear,' BALCO and BaseballAn Analysis of MLB Players Image

In 2003, the FBI raided BALCO laboratory. The client list of the "nutritional supplement lab" included Major League Baseball players Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. They were accused of using performance-enhancing drugs manufactured by BALCO. A content analysis examined newspaper coverage for three years. Results revealed articles had a negative tone toward the baseball industry, and sources were depicted as knowledgeable but lacking character. The players repaired their image by shifting the blame, evading responsibility, and apologizing.

Restoration Techniques

Baseball has been viewed as America's favorite pastime. President Herbert Hoover said baseball had the same impact on American life as religion by teaching right and wrong. According to Hoover, "The rigid volunteer rules of right and wrong in sports are second only to religious faith in moral training" ("President Herbert Hoover," 2007, ¶9). But that faith has recently been tested in several events that have exposed Major League Baseball (MLB) players as users of performance-enhancing drugs. In 2002, Ken Caminiti, 1996 Most Valuable Player in the National League, told Sports Illustrated he used anabolic steroids and so had a number of other players (Denham, 2004). Jose Canseco (2005), 1988 American League MVP, outed several MLB players for using steroids in his autobiography Juiced.

In September 2003, The Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) was raided and a subsequent investigation found evidence five professional baseball players had used performance-enhancing drugs. President George W. Bush [End Page 1] (2004) denounced the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports during his State of the Union address. Finally, in March 2005, several MLB players were called to testify before Congress about the use of steroids in baseball including Mark McGuire, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco. MLB had to repair its image after the congressional hearing about baseball and steroids drew more spectators and camera crews than the impeachment hearing of President Bill Clinton (Price, 2006). Players were again exposed for cheating when the Mitchell Report was released in December 2007. Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell (2007) found evidence seven MVPs, two Cy Young Award winners, and 31 All-Stars had used performance-enhancing drugs. A total of 85 names appeared in the report. MLB players have been shifting the blame, denying responsibility, and trying to reduce the offensiveness of their actions in order to repair their images after being accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs. The story of steroid use in baseball includes Barry Bonds, seven-time MVP, stating "The Cream" (a testosterone-based cream) and "The Clear" (THG – growth hormone) were flaxseed oil and rubbing balm (Anderson, 2004) during his BALCO testimony. Rafael Palmeiro, one of four players to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, committed possible perjury in his testimony before Congress (Barker, 2005), and two investigative journalists, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle, received fines and were threatened with jail time for not revealing their sources for the BALCO articles (Egelko, 2006). The BALCO investigation is still ongoing.

Some of baseball's greats have been employing Benoit's (1995) image restoration strategies to repair their images because of accusations of steroid use. This study examines how baseball celebrities (i.e., Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Garry Sheffield) repaired their images without actually apologizing. It also examines the tone of newspaper coverage and the credibility of baseball sources in articles discussing steroid use in baseball. [End Page 2]

Tone of Baseball Coverage and Depiction of Sources

In the early days of baseball, newspaper coverage about baseball was positive because baseball taught "valor: integrity, individualism, patience and temperance, as well as certain modern values such as teamwork" (Anderson, 2003, p. 14). The positive tone of coverage may have turned negative when newspapers started reporting on the cheating in baseball. In the summer of 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa became the talk of the nation as they were on pace to break Roger Maris's record number of home runs in a single season. An Associated Press reporter exposed McGwire's use of androstenedione, a banned substance by the International Olympic Committee, the NCAA, and the NFL. Early reports in the New York Daily News about "Operation Equine" specified McGwire's dosages of testosterone cypionate and testosterone ethanate well before the andro scandal of 1998 (Greenfeld, 2005). Fans were more upset at the reporters than with McGwire using performance-enhancing drugs (Denham, 1999).

A 2004 column by Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune suggested baseball players were breaking records at an alarming rate. He asked if it was fair to let players who were "juiced" have credit for something they would not achieve without the help of steroids. Morrissey (2004) wrote, "From about 1995 on … we have no earthly idea what was real and what wasn't, in terms of records. So we're putting a big, fat asterisk over the whole era … records are in question because of widespread use of anabolic steroids" (p. 1).

Jason Giambi became the "official face of steroids in baseball" (Lupica, 2005, p. 3) after his grand jury testimony in the BALCO case was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. Giambi admits he received several performance-enhancing drugs (injectable testosterone, "The Cream," and "The Clear") from Barry Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson (Fainaru-Wada & Williams, 2004). After the testimony appeared, media coverage was negative. The New York Post ran a headline "Boot the Bum [End Page 3] —Why the Yankees Must Fire Ugly Drug Cheat Jason Giambi Today," while the New York Daily News ran the headlines "Damned Yankee" and "A Big Dirty Liar! Jason Did 'Roids." When Giambi made his first comments to the media before spring training in February 2005, he stated "I'm sorry I can't be more candid with you guys about these things," he said. "I know the fans might want more" and he blamed the ongoing BALCO investigation for his vague remarks (Borden, 2005, p. 92). The negative headlines and the players not admitting their guilt (i.e., during Congressional testimony) may have influenced the relationship between MLB and the media. The positive relationship from the early days was strained because reporters started writing about the use of performance-enhancing drugs and calling attention to the level of play in MLB.


Most studies examining credibility focus on the source as a person, such a celebrity endorsing a product or a speaker or television personality attempting to persuade an audience. One key aspect of source credibility is the authoritativeness (or expertise) (Carlson, 1995). The source is perceived as an expert if they are informed about the topic (Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000). The audience will believe the source if the source is an expert on the topic and is honest in what he states (Carlson, 1995).

When examining credibility of news reports, the expertise or authoritativeness of the source of a report is translated into the expertise (and credibility) of the news report (Armstrong & Nelson 2005). Message quality (well written and well produced) influences perceptions about the message (Slater & Rouner, 1996). A media consumer will examine the source used in a story to assess the credibility of the information (Armstrong & Nelson, 2005).

Newspaper readers may deem baseball players less credible because of statements in the articles. For example, Bonds [End Page 4] stated he thought "The Cream" (a testosterone-based cream) and "The Clear" (THG) were flaxseed oil and rubbing balm (Anderson, 2004) and Palmeiro stated he did not use steroids because he thought the injection was a "vitamin B-12 shot" (Blum, 2005). These players are experts because they play the game but press coverage of the BALCO investigation or the broadcasting of the Congressional testimony may impact perceptions of credibility.

The relationship a sports writer has with a source might also impact the credibility of the source and the tone of the article. Sports writers usually cover specific teams, so they know the players well, which can lead to bias. Social Penetration Theory explains the amount of information exchanged and the level of information exchanged changes based on the time spent with someone (Taylor & Altman, 1975). The theory has often been analogized to peeling back the layers of an onion to expose more intimate layers of a subject. Spending a lot of time with specific groups can alter the tone of newspaper coverage. Research has shown reporters spending time with a specific group of people usually leads to more positive news reports, both in broadcast and print stories (Haigh et al., 2006; Pfau et al., 2005).

Sports writers spend their time covering a particular team and form relationships with the players on the team. The writer might start the season at spring training and then cover more than 100 games that season with a particular team. He/she might feel as though a relationship has formed with a player. If the player comes out and admits he used steroids, or is called to testify in the BALCO case or before Congress, the reporter might depict the player differently. Thus, the news report will change the relationship between the reporter and the source. How the player or the baseball industry is depicted may impact the tone of the article as well as the credibility of the source. The articles about baseball might have a positive or negative slant depending on the journalists' experiences with baseball players. If a reporter feels a relationship has formed, and they find out a baseball source lied to him/her, this may then impact the tone of the article. Also, the events and tone [End Page 5] of coverage regarding steroids in baseball might impact how MLB is depicted in the articles.

This led to the following research questions:

RQ1: What was the overall tone of the newspaper coverage about the baseball industry?

RQ2: Were baseball players quoted in news stories deemed credible sources?

RQ3: How was MLB depicted in the articles? Employing Image Restoration

MLB players have to do something to repair their image after news coverage exposes their steroid use. Benoit (1995) posited the theory of image restoration to explain the different strategies individuals use to repair their images. People have two options: accept responsibility and deny the action was bad, or admit something was bad and not accept full or any part of the responsibility for the action. These two strategies are known as excuses and justifications (Austin, 1961).

One has to examine the attack in order to explain how image restoration works (Benoit, 1995). One defense is to deny an undesirable act occurred or deny the actor is the one who performed it. One might also shift the blame (another form of denial). For example, Mark McGwire denied using steroids when he testified before Congress "I'm not here to talk about the past" (Starr & Conant, 2005, p. 26). And Rafael Palmeiro shifted the blame to another. "Rafael Palmeiro told baseball's arbitration panel that a vitamin he received from Baltimore Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada might have caused his positive test for steroid use …" (Blum, 2005, p. 3).

Another defensive strategy is to evade or reduce responsibility for the act. There are several ways actors can reduce responsibility. They can use provocation, defeasibility, claim an accident, or state they had good intentions. The actor may claim someone provoked him/her to perform the act. Defeasibility is another option, which is when the actor claims he/she lacked information or ability. A third way to reduce responsibility is to declare the action was an accident. The actor [End Page 6] can claim to have had good intentions when carrying out the act (Benoit, 1995). Gary Sheffield and Rafael Palmeiro used these strategies. Sheffield claims he did what Barry Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, told him to do – take nutritional supplements after his knee surgery (Fainaru-Wada & Williams, 2006), whereas Rafael Palmeiro said he took a shot he thought was vitamin B-12 (therefore lacking information) (Blum, 2005).

The actor may also try to reduce the offensiveness of the act by using the following strategies: bolstering, minimization, differentiation, transcendence, attack the accuser, or offer compensation (Benoit, 1995). Bolstering tries to improve the accused's reputation. Minimization attempts to reduce the degree of negative feelings toward the act, thereby reducing the negative feelings toward the actor. "Differentiation and transcendence (italics added) in their different ways, attempt to reduce the negative affect associated with the act" (Benoit, 1995, p. 73). The actor may attack the accuser to lessen the sympathy felt by others, while compensation should reduce the perceived severity of the injury. Threat to the image is associated with the function of committing the act. Therefore, reducing the offensiveness of the act should restore the reputation (Benoit, 1995). For example, Gary Sheffield had surgery on both knees. Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson started selling Sheffield a BALCO steroid. Sheffield would tell the grand jury "he had been duped into taking banned drugs, that Bonds and Anderson had assured him that The Cream and The Clear were innocent substances … The Cream was supposed to be a balm to rub on his surgically repaired knees … and the Clear … a medicine to clear up a liver problem" (Fainaru-Wada & Williams, 2006, p. 131). Sheffield did not know he was taking steroids.

The actor may take corrective action strategy. This is when they fix the problem and promise not to repeat the action (Benoit, 1995). Palmeiro, Sheffield and Giambi all stated they would not repeat the offense (Verducci, 2005; Fainaru-Wada & Williams, 2006; Borden, 2005). Finally, the actor might employ the mortification strategy, which is "an apparently sincere apology, expression of regret, or request for forgiveness" [End Page 7] (Benoit, 1995, p. 74). These strategies might partially restore the actor's image. Giambi is the only one to take this approach, even though he said he could not really tell the media and fans what he was sorry for.

There are a number of strategies one can take to repair his/ her image. It is not known what strategies MLB players used to repair their image. Research has not examined how choice of image restoration strategy impacts tone of newspaper coverage or the credibility of the source. This study examined what the most common strategies employed by MLB players and how the strategy employed might impact the tone of coverage or credibility of the source, therefore the following research questions are asked:

RQ4: What image restoration strategies were employed by Major League Baseball players to repair their images?

RQ5: Does the strategy employed impact the tone of article or credibility of the source?


The purpose of this study was to examine the tone of newspaper coverage about baseball, determine how baseball sources were depicted in print publications, and examine the image restoration strategies employed by Major League Baseball players to repair their images. A content analysis was conducted to answer the research questions. Sampling Method and Unit of Analysis

A content analysis was conducted of four national newspapers and four national news magazines. The analysis featured a sample of 292 articles provided by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Time, Newsweek, U. S. News & World Report, and Sports Illustrated. The San Francisco Chronicle was selected because it is a prominent West Coast newspaper and two investigative reporters from the paper broke the BALCO/ Bonds story. The Washington Post was selected because it is a [End Page 8] prominent East Coast paper, The Chicago Tribune because of it influence in the Midwest, and The New York Times because of its national influence. Time, Newsweek, and U. S. News & World Report are national news magazines that provide in-depth articles. Sports Illustrated is a major publication for sports enthusiasts and sets the agenda for sports stories. Since the story was a sports story, this was a logical publication to include.

The dates chosen for this investigation ranged from September 4, 2003 – March 15, 2006. The 2003 dates selected were based on the BALCO raid and ongoing investigation (Fainaru-Wada & Williams, 2006). The March 15, 2006, date was chosen because it was one year after the congressional hearing was held discussing steroid use in MLB. The articles were chosen using the search terms "BALCO, baseball and/or steroids" in the lead paragraph or headline. Full text articles were retrieved from the Newsbank Full Text Newspaper/Magazine database and LexisNexis academic universe. The unit of analysis was each single news story about a person, the ongoing trial, or the baseball/steroid issue with a clear beginning, middle, and end, excluding editorials, opinion pages, or commentaries as well as non-newsworthy items.

Coder Training

Two undergraduate research assistants enrolled at an Eastern university, conducted the content analysis. A written coding instrument was developed to code the sample. Coding norms were established during a supervised training session. Twelve percent (n = 35) of the sample was coded during the training phase. Coders established a high degree of standardization during the training session, resulting in effective inter-coder reliabilities of .92 (Rosenthal, 1984; 1987) for the interval level data. Next, the research assistants were trained to use Benoit's (1995) image restoration typology. Each quote from a baseball player was placed into the categories that applied. The coders found a percentage agreement of 88% for the image restoration information. The remaining articles were divided and coded separately. [End Page 9]

Variables Measured

The investigation featured three variables including image restoration strategies. Overall, tone of coverage was assessed using a global attitude measure adapted from Burgoon, Cohen, Miller and Montgomery (1978). Pfau and colleagues (2004; 2005) and Haigh and colleagues (2006) used this measure in previous content analysis research to measure tone of articles. It consisted of six, 7-interval semantic differential scales: good/ bad, positive/negative, wise/foolish, valuable/worthless, favorable/unfavorable, and acceptable/unacceptable. The reliability of this measure was α = .96. Coders would read the article and make an overall evaluation as if the story had a negative tone (1 to 3 on the scale), neutral (4 on the scale), or positive tone (5 to 7 on the scale).

Source Credibility Scale (SCS) introduced by McCroskey (1966) and perfected by McCroskey et al., (1974) was employed to measure the credibility of the baseball source used in the article. Armstrong and Nelson (2005) state interpretation of the story by readers depends on the story content and the sources used within the story. Therefore, this measure was deemed appropriate to gauge the credibility of the source used in the story. Three of the five dimensions were employed. The semantic differential scales measured from 1 to 7. Sociability consisted of a three-item scale that measured good nature, cheerful, and friendliness (α = .71). Competence consisted of a three-item scale measuring expert, intelligence, and intellectual statements (α = .72). Character was measured by honesty and goodness (α =. 71). The two dimensions not measured were extroversion and composure. These dimensions would have been extremely hard to evaluate in a print context. Indicators for these dimensions included poised, tense, calm, timid, verbal, or talkative. These indicators would have been easy to code for in broadcast, but in the print context there was no reliable way to evaluate them. [End Page 10]

Depiction of the baseball industry in news reports was assessed using the Individualized Trust Scale (ITS) initially developed by Wheeless and Grotz (1977) based on four, 5-interval semantic differential scales adapted to 7-interval scales for this investigation. Specific scale items included: trusting/untrusting, candid/deceptive, and sincere/ insincere, and honest/dishonest. The reliability rating of the trustworthiness scale was α =.96. Pfau and colleagues (2005) previously employed this measure in content analysis to examine depiction of the U.S. military in newspaper articles.

Benoit's (1995) image restoration typology was employed to examine image restoration techniques. Each minor category was coded for being employed or not employed in a story. Strategies included denial (simply denying the act), shifting the blame (the athlete might blame the athletic trainer and not himself), evading responsibility (someone else made the person do it), defeasibility (the action was due to lack of information), accident (the action was not intended), good intentions (meant to do good by behaving in this way), reducing offensiveness (improving reputation), minimization (reducing the magnitude of negative feelings), differentiation (making the act less offensive), transcendence (placing the act in a different context), attacking the accuser (blaming the other person), corrective action (the accused will not repeat the offense and will fix the problem now), and mortification (includes an apology, expression of regret, and a request for forgiveness). Coders determined if a strategy was employed or not employed by the baseball source. It should also be noted, that if more than one baseball source was quoted in the article, the image restoration information was filled out for each source.


The purpose of this study was to examine the tone of newspaper coverage about baseball and how MLB players were trying to repair their images after being accused of using steroids. [End Page 11] A content analysis was conducted to answer the research questions. Descriptive statistics were used to examine the first three research questions.

RQ1 asked about the overall tone of the newspaper articles discussing steroids and baseball. The overall tone of coverage was negative (M = 3.57; SD = .83) from September 2003 through March 2006. RQ2 wanted to determine the credibility of the baseball sources quoted in the stories. The sources were deemed sociable (M = 4.03; SD = .48) and competent (M = 4.02; SD = .28), but lacking in character (M = 3.81; SD = .71). RQ3 wanted to determine how the baseball industry was depicted in the news stories. The baseball industry was depicted negatively during this time period (M = 3.48; SD = .95).

RQ4 asked what image restoration strategies Major League Baseball players employed to repair their images. There were 17 different baseball players cited in the articles (N = 181 quotes). Barry Bonds (n = 86), Jason Giambi (n = 32), Rafael Palmeiro (n = 19), Mark McGwire (n = 12), and Gary Sheffield (n = 9) were the baseball sources quoted most frequently (n = 158; the others were quoted two times). Crosstabs were computed on the variables baseball source (Bonds, Giambi, Palmeiro, McGwire, and Sheffield) and image restoration strategies (see Table 1). Results indicate Bonds denied using steroids 90 times. Giambi denied taking steroids 7 times, Palmeiro 26 times, Sheffield 8 times, and McGwire 2 times. There are several ways to evade or reduce responsibility (provocation, defeasibility, accident, good intentions). Bonds employed this strategy 125 times, Sheffield 21 times, Palmeiro 28 times, and Giambi 3 times. McGwire did not employ any strategy that would evade responsibility. The next major category or strategy is to reduce offensiveness of the action. There are a number of ways one can do this including bolstering, minimizing, differentiation, transcending, attacking the accuser, or compensating. Giambi used these strategies most frequently (47 times). Bonds (26 times), Palmeiro (22 times), McGwire (15 times), and Sheffield (9 times) all tried to repair their image by discussing positive past actions. [End Page 12]

Table 1

Number of Times Image Restoration Strategy Employed by Baseball Player

Image Restoration Baseball Source
Bonds Giambi Palmeiro McGwire Sheffield
     Deny 71 7 19 2 4
     Shift Blame 19 -- 7 -- 4
Evade Responsibility
     Provocation 16 -- 1 -- 5
     Defeasibility 40 -- 12 -- 6
     Accident 39 -- 15 -- 6
     Good Intentions 30 3 -- -- 4
Reduce Offensiveness
     Bolster 10 21 10 8 4
     Minimization 13 24 11 6 5
     Differentiation -- -- -- -- --
     Transcendence 1 1 -- -- --
     Attack Accuser 2 -- -- -- --
     Compensation -- 1 1 -- --
Corrective Action -- 18 10 4 2
Mortification -- 5 4 -- --
Total 241 80 90 20 40
-- strategy not employed by player

Corrective action is another way to restore an image. Giambi (18 times) and Palmeiro (10 times) employed this strategy frequently. They stated they would not take steroids "knowingly or unknowingly" again. McGwire (4 times) and Sheffield (2 times) also said they would not take "supplements" again without knowing what they were. Mortification is the only image restoration strategy where the actor admits guilt and expresses regret for the action. Giambi (5 times) and Palmeiro (4 times) were the only players to apologize to the media or the fans.

RQ5 asked how the image restoration strategy would impact the tone of coverage or credibility of the source. No strategy employed made the tone of article positive. Means for tone range from 3.48 (corrective action) to 3.92 (mortification). Tone of coverage was negative regardless of image restoration strategy employed.

Credibility of the source was measured by three [End Page 13]

Table 2

Image Restoration Strategy Impact on Tone and Credibility

Notes: Means and Standard Deviations (in parentheses) for the image restoration strategy impact on dependent variables of tone and three dimensions of source credibility. Overall tone of coverage was assessed using a global attitude measure adapted from Burgoon, Cohen, Miller, and Montgomery (1978). Pfau and colleagues (2004, 2005) and Haigh and colleagues (2006) used this measure in previous content analysis research to measure tone of articles. It consisted of six, 7-interval semantic differential scales. Coders would read the article and make an overall evaluation as if the story had a negative tone (1 to 3 on the scale), neutral (4 on the scale), or positive tone (5 to 7 on the scale).Source Credibility Scale (SCS) introduced by McCroskey in 1966, and perfected by McCroskey et al., (1974) was employed to measure the credibility of the baseball source used in the article. Three of the five dimensions were employed. The semantic differential scales measured from 1 to 7. Sociability consisted of a three-item scale that measured good nature, cheerful, and friendliness. Competence consisted of a three-item scale measuring expert, intelligence, and intellectual statements. Character was measured by honesty and goodness.
Image Restoration Strategy Tone Sociability Competence Character
Denial (N = 133) 3.68 3.95 (.40) 3.91 (.25) 3.55 (.62)
Evade 3.64 3.99 (.43) 3.95 (.21) 3.67 (.70)
Responsibility (.74)
(N = 177)
Reduce 3.71 4.15 (.51) 4.04 (.27) 4.31 (.82)
Offensiveness (.68)
(N = 118)
Corrective Action 3.48 4.17 (.34) 4.05 (.15) 4.03 (.79)
(N = 34) (1.03)
Mortification 3.92 4.41 (1.36) 4.07 (.14) 4.19 (.81)
(N = 9) (.68)

[End Page 14]

dimensions. Image restoration strategy did impact the credibility of the source quoted in the articles. For the sociability dimension, denial was the least effective strategy (M = 3.95, SD = .40) and mortification was the most effective (M = 4.41, SD = 1.36). When a source denied the claims, it made them look less competent (M = 3.91, SD = .40) and lacking character (M = 3.55, SD = 62). Sources who employed the mortification strategy were deemed the most competent (M = 4.07, SD = .14), and those who tried to reduce the offensiveness of their past actions scored highest on the character dimension (M = 4.31, SD = .82). Table 2 depicts the means and standard deviations for tone and credibility based on image restoration strategy.


This study examined how MLB players tried to repair their images after they were accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, which many would consider breaking the rules that President Hoover said were almost as important as the rules learned in religion.

RQ1 examined the tone of newspaper coverage from September 2003 through March 2006. The tone of coverage was negative. On the scale measuring tone, 4 would have been neutral. This study found the mean to be 3.57, which places it on the negative side of the scale. Steroids and the possibility of cheating in sports are negative topics, which were reflected in the tone of articles.

RQ2 examined the credibility of baseball sources quoted in the stories. MLB players quoted were deemed sociable and competent, but they lacked character. Baseball sources are experts in the field of baseball, which would lead to higher scores on the sociability and competence dimensions of the scale, however, they were deemed to lack character because of the negative nature of the coverage. For example, an article discussing the Capitol Hill testimonies states "McGwire, under oath, would not repeat the denial. His evasive responses [End Page 15] were ridiculed by committee members" (Fainaru-Wada, 2005, p. A1). This calls McGwire's character into question because cheating would be a reflection of character, not of being an expert or authority on baseball, which McGwire is because of his records. Barry Bonds telling journalists they should have asterisks beside their names because they have lied (Pearlman, 2006) or saying he thought the steroids were rubbing cream and flaxseed oil also calls his character into question. By stating they took steroids by accident, Rafael Palmeiro and Gary Sheffield stating they took harmed the perception of their characters. Sources used in the baseball stories were credible because they are players, but the quotes used in the stories portray the players as lacking character because they cheated by using performance-enhancing drugs. The baseball industry was depicted negatively in the press (RQ3).

RQ4 examined how baseball players tried to repair their images by using image restoration strategies. It is possible a person's image may never be restored (Benoit, 1995). The strategies Barry Bonds used most frequently to repair his image were denial or evading responsibility. Bonds shifted the blame to his trainer Greg Anderson and tried to repair his image by bolstering or discussing his baseball accomplishments of the past. He also tried to reduce the offensiveness of getting called to testify in the BALCO case by minimizing his relationship with Anderson. He did not employ the strategies of corrective action or mortification. Bonds did not apologize for using steroids and has never openly admitted using them. He had to repair his image because of the leaked testimonies of Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Kimberly Bell, his ex-girlfriend, stating he took steroids (Fainaru-Wada, & Williams, 2006).

Jason Giambi used the bolstering strategy most frequently to repair his image. He denied using steroids, but after his BALCO grand jury testimony appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, he could not deny the allegations. Giambi claims he took the drugs to grow bigger and faster (having good intentions). He tried to minimize the fact he took steroids by pointing fingers at other players. He said he would never take [End Page 16] steroids again (corrective action) and apologized to the media and fans (mortification).

Rafael Palmeiro denied taking steroids. When his drug test came back positive, he shifted the blame to a B-12 shot. He claimed his teammate Tejada gave him the shot. He lacked information (defeasibility) about the shot his teammate provided and claimed it was an accident (Blum, 2005). Palmeiro employed the strategy of corrective action by stating he did not knowingly take steroid, and then he apologized (mortification).

Mark McGwire did not employ as many strategies to restore his image. He denied using steroids, but did not use any strategies to evade or reduce responsibility. He tried to reduce the offensiveness of the action (even though he claimed he did not perform the action) by bolstering, or speaking about his past accomplishments. He tried to minimize the negative feelings people may have toward him about using andro during 1998 by stating "I made all my comments six years ago … I find it comical that people still bring it up" (Jenkins, 2004, p. D. 2). McGwire never apologized (mortification) and never admitted to taking illegal substances (i.e., andro).

Gary Sheffield was not quoted as frequently in the stories. When he was, his most common strategy was to evade or reduce responsibility by claiming his use of steroids was an accident. He denied taking steroids, and then shifted the blame to Greg Anderson. He also used the provocation strategy by stating Bonds and Anderson told him to take the "supplements" as part of his rehabilitation program after knee surgery, which also led to Sheffield stating it was an accident. He tried to reduce the offensiveness of the act by bolstering his image and minimizing the action of taking the drugs. He took corrective action by stating he took the drugs "unknowingly" and that he would not do it again, but he never employed the strategy of mortification.

RQ5 asked how the image restoration strategy employed would impact tone of coverage and credibility of source. None of the strategies made the tone of coverage toward [End Page 17] baseball positive. The strategy did impact the credibility of the source quoted in the articles. When a source employed the mortification strategy, they were seen as more sociable and more competent. When they denied or shifted the blame, they were lacking in these qualities. When a source tried to reduce the offensiveness of his actions, he was seen as having more character. The mortification strategy is the best strategy to employ to repair the sociability and competency dimensions of source credibility, and the reduce offensiveness strategy is the best strategy to employ to repair the character dimension of credibility.

Anderson (2003) states the size of the league, the leadership, and distance from the fans and sports writers led to a public relations problem. This study found baseball has been covered negatively in print media, and the baseball players discussed or quoted in the articles lack in character. The BALCO case and the Congressional testimonies placed baseball in a bad light after the league struggled to regain fans after the labor dispute of 1994. The industry as a whole may need to employ Benoit's (1995) image restoration strategies. "We have every right to be concerned that the national pastime and all that it represents has been threatened by the selfish actions of a few," said Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., a Hall of Fame pitcher who was invited by the congressional committee as its first witness. "Baseball is part of our culture, our history" (Fainaru-Wada, 2005, p. A1). There were numerous baseball players quoted in the articles analyzed. However, Bonds, Giambi, Palmeiro, Sheffield, and McGwire received the most attention. These players are heroes in the game because of their statistics. In a game based on statistics, it is hard to tell what is real or not real after taking performance-enhancing drugs. These players employed all of Benoit's strategies, but it seems their images were not fully repaired. "Baseball is a game immersed in numbers, with fans who can recite statistics on command and who will scour record books for pleasure. [Bonds] … will be scrutinized within the context of his ties to the BALCO steroid scandal" (Fainaru-Wada, 2005, A1). [End Page 18]

Limitations and Future Research

One limitation is the coverage of steroids and baseball is still ongoing. The date of the Congressional testimony was admittedly arbitrary, but the BALCO investigation shows no signs of ending. Barry Bonds was still playing baseball and the Mitchell report was not available during the time period selected. Also, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote most of the articles analyzed. Their articles were reprinted in the other papers used in this investigation. This topic was localized because the BALCO investigation was happening in San Francisco and then the coverage became more popular in the New York media because of Giambi's involvement. The coders only coded the story once regardless if it appeared in several publications. Since the majority of articles were written by the same authors, it could impact the tone of coverage, depiction of baseball, and the credibility of the sources quoted. Given that the number of times each strategy was employed varied greatly it is hard to come to a conclusion about the impact on tone or credibility. This study provides an account of the image restoration strategies employed by MLB players. Future research should examine how Pete Rose and other baseball celebrities employed Benoit's typology. Perhaps there is a common theme or strategy employed by baseball players over the years when they get in trouble. Also, the tone of coverage could be examined for a longer period of time. This study examined three years of coverage, but baseball has had a public relations problem for a much longer period (Anderson, 2003). One could examine the baseball industry as a whole to see what image restoration techniques they have employed to try to bring a positive image back to the game of baseball since the labor disputes of 1994 and the ongoing BALCO investigation.

Image restoration strategies could also be examined longitudinally. For example, maybe Bonds will use more bolstering strategies now he has been indicted. It would be interesting to see if the tone of coverage and the image [End Page 19] restoration techniques employed in the future repair Bonds' image more successfully than they have the past three years. Other professional sports may be suffering from the same public relations problem. For example, a content analysis could be conducted to examine how the National Football League has tried to repair its image given the constant media attention of players getting arrested, fined, or indicted. Such coverage is usually about individuals, but as this study found, news about individual players tends to influence the tone of coverage about the league as a whole. The National Basketball Association had to repair its image after the brawl broke out between the Pacers and the Pistons in 2004. Also in 2004, the National Hockey League had to overcome an image problem when it became the first professional sports league to cancel a complete season due to a labor dispute. Different major league sports may employ different image restoration strategies. Public perception of each league could be compared with the tone of print coverage to determine if tone of coverage impacts perception.


This study confirmed tone of print coverage impacts the depiction of sources. There are multiple ways players repair image, but Major League Baseball may need to repairs its image as a whole. This study demonstrates actions of individual players can impact tone of coverage and depiction of the league as a whole. [End Page 20]

Michel M. Haigh

Michel M. Haigh (Ph.D. University of Oklahoma, 2006) is an Assistant Professor in the College of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University. The author would like to thank Amie Olaes and Genavieve Shingle, seniors in the College of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University, for their help with the coding. Funding for this project was provided by The President's Research Fund. All correspondence should be sent to the lead author at the College of Communications, The Pennsylvania State University, 221 Carnegie Building, University Park, PA 16802; phone: 814-863-3850; fax: 814 863-8161;


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