Categorized | Mark Timmons

11-28-07 – Why Stan Conte Left the Giants

conte-saito.jpgMany people have speculated as to why Stan Conte was hired by Ned Colletti.  The Mitchell Report, starting on page 121 to page 124 may reveal some of the reasons why Conte could no longer stay in San Francisco (all the following italic is solely out of the Mitchell Report): 

In 2000, Stan Conte became the head athletic trainer for the San Francisco Giants, having served in more junior positions within the organization before then. (Conte is not related to BALCO founder Victor Conte.) According to Conte, he first met Greg Anderson and Harvey Shields during the Giants’ spring training that year. Anderson advised Conte that he was a “strength weightlifting guru” whom Bonds had sought out for assistance. Bonds, in turn, told Conte that Anderson’s presence was not a reflection on Conte, but that Bonds needed special attention as he got older. Shields also provided personal training services for Bonds.

Conte asked Anderson for a resume during spring training. In response, Anderson supplied a one-page document indicating that Anderson had graduated from high school and that everything else was “pending.” The resume did not reveal, and Conte was unaware of, any education or expertise that Anderson might have that would qualify him to train a professional athlete.

Conte observed Anderson training in the weight room with Bonds on numerous occasions during 2000 spring training. Conte was concerned that the workouts involved heavier weights than Conte would have recommended, which, in Conte’s view, created a heightened risk of injury. When Conte asked Anderson about Bonds’s weight training program, Anderson responded that “I’m doing what Barry tells me to.”

During spring training, Conte met with Giants general manager Brian Sabean to express his concerns about the presence of Anderson and Shields in the clubhouse, weight room, and other restricted areas. Conte felt strongly that personal trainers should not have such access, particularly where, as here, he viewed the trainers to be unqualified.

Sabean told Conte that if Conte objected to Anderson and Shields being in the clubhouse, Conte should order them out himself. Conte said he would do this if Sabean would support him when Bonds complained, which Conte believed would be the result of his actions. Sabean did not respond to this request for support, leading Conte to believe that Sabean would not do so if Bonds protested. Conte therefore decided to take no action to deny Anderson or Shields access to restricted areas.332

During winter meetings in 2001, Kevin Hallinan, the director of security for the Commissioner’s Office, lectured team physicians and athletic trainers about the importance of clubhouse security generally. Conte said that after Hallinan’s prepared remarks, San Francisco’ assistant athletic trainer Barney Nugent stood up and said that there were issues with clubhouse security in San Francisco that seemed beyond the capability of local security to control. After the lecture, Nugent and Conte told Hallinan about security issues related to Bonds’s entourage. According to Conte, Hallinan seemed to be familiar with the issue and promised that “we’re going to do something about this, it’s an issue and we know what you’re talking about.”333

In January 2002, Peter Magowan, the Giants’ president and managing general partner, met with Bonds in connection with the renewal of his contract with the Giants. In a subsequent letter to Bonds, Magowan set forth a series of “discussion points” that they agreed to during that meeting and that Magowan assured Bonds would “remain consistent” during the duration of Bonds’s new contract (covering the 2002-2006 seasons). Along with a number of other accommodations to Bonds, the Giants agreed that:

Barry will provide the Club with a list of the personnel typically and historically needed. We will also work closely with Barry’s publicists to assure them of the proper access. In return, we agree that any of the approved personnel are not allowed to bring along any friends or associates or family members and the personnel’s access should be limited to their area of responsibility to Barry.334

In August 2002, the Giants were visiting Atlanta for a series with the Braves. At the time, Anderson was traveling with the Giants. Conte recalls that during this series a Giants player asked Conte about anabolic steroids. Conte refused to identify the player to us, citing athletic trainer privilege. According to Conte, the player told him that he was considering obtaining steroids from Greg Anderson and wanted to know the health issues associated with the use of steroids. In response, Conte explained at some length the health hazards of steroid use and lectured the player about the unfairness to other players posed by the illicit use of steroids. Conte believed that it was “a good lecture” and that he put considerable doubt in the player’s mind.

Conte stated that he reported the incident to general manager Brian Sabean within an hour of its occurrence. He told Sabean he was concerned that Anderson might be distributing steroids to Giants players. While he refused to identify the player who had approached him, Conte otherwise described the conversation to Sabean in detail. Sabean suggested Conte confront Anderson and Bonds about the matter, which Conte refused to do. In Conte’s view, it was not the responsibility of the athletic trainer to address such an issue.

Sabean confirmed in his interview that Conte’s recollection of their conversation was accurate. He also acknowledged that he did not raise the issue with Bonds or Anderson. Instead, he asked Conte if he knew anyone who could “check out” Anderson. Conte said that he knew a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, and Sabean suggested Conte call the agent to check into Anderson. The DEA agent later told Conte that he did not find any information about Anderson. Conte relayed this to Sabean.

Sabean told me that he believed that if Anderson was in fact selling drugs illegally the government would have known about it. So when he received the report from Conte, Sabean did not report the issue to anyone in the Giants organization or the Commissioner’s Office, he did not confront Bonds or Anderson, and he did not take any steps to prohibit Anderson from gaining access to Giants facilities. Sabean said that he was not aware at the time of the Major League Baseball policy that required him to report information regarding a player’s drug use to the Commissioner’s Office.

Sabean explained that he was in a very difficult situation regarding disclosure of this information because, as a result of the clubhouse culture in baseball, he felt he could not risk “outing” Conte as the source of the information. He said that if he had insisted on Anderson’s ouster from the clubhouse, Bonds would have vigorously objected, just as he did when the Giants tried to bar Harvey Shields in response to the later (February 2004) mandate from the Commissioner’s Office barring personal trainers from restricted areas.

During spring training in 2003, Hallinan and one of his deputies asked Conte to join them in the dugout for a private meeting. Hallinan asked Conte if there was anything the security department could do to help him. Conte responded to the effect that “the horse had already left the barn and there’s no need to close the door now.” He did not report to Hallinan the conversations he had had with Sabean about Anderson the previous season, because, he said, the incident did not cross his mind at that time.

332 Sabean did not recall such a conversation with Conte in 2000 about either Shields or Anderson.
333 Giants assistant athletic trainer Dave Groeschner confirmed Conte’s recollection of events. Hallinan did not remember Nugent’s statement at the meeting or the conversation with Conte, Groeschner, and Nugent after his lecture.
334 Letter from Peter A. Magowan to Barry Bonds, dated Feb. 11, 2002.

No doubt in my mind why he’s not with the Giants anymore…  No way he could stay there with what was coming down with Bonds and Anderson!   Now, whether he is an asset with the Dodgers is a question that remains to be answered.  I can’t judge him on one season.  We should know more after 2008.

About Mark Timmons

When you see the invisible, you can do the impossible!

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