Just wind him up and watch him go! Warren Cromartie, who thrilled Yomiuri Giants fans from 1984-1990 not only with his stellar play but also with his banzai-inducing antics in the outfield, was back in Japan recently over the All-Star break.
The former major-league star, who, along with Ellis Valentine, Andre Dawson and later Tim Raines, formed one of the best outfield combinations in the game with the Montreal Expos from the mid-’70s through 1983, was in Tokyo to do some work with NTV and also to take part in the Suntory Malt’s “oldtimers” game featuring some big names from the past in Japanese baseball, including Boomer Wells, Randy Bass and Brad “Animal” Lesley.
I had a chance to talk to the Cro prior to the first All-Star Game at the Tokyo Dome last week. The first thing we discussed was the issue of steroid use in the major leagues.
“I think it ruins the integrity of the game,” said Cromartie. “I think it takes away from the stars who put up the numbers a long time ago, the Babe Ruths, Frank Robinsons, Willie Mays, all those guys who really put up the numbers.
“It’s a shame when it comes down to enhancing supplements. You’ve got kids watching the game now . . . Baseball’s all screwed up. The last thing we need is the steroids issue.”
So does Cromartie agree with the assessment of Jose Canseco, who says that 85 percent of major leaguers are on the juice, or Ken Caminiti’s claim that at least half of today’s players take steroids?
“I don’t know how widespread it is, but it’s there,” Cromartie continues. “I’m not going to stick my head in the ground and say it isn’t there — it is there. Guys are taking chances. Regular players become superstars, superstars become megastars, it’s all about the money.
“With agents and owners, it’s all about the home runs, the money. The players want to take (steroids) with the money situation the way it is now. I disagree with (MLB players) union leader Donald Fehr using it as a negotiating ploy. He sits on the U.S. Olympic Committee board that doesn’t allow any enhancement whatsoever. Now that he’s in charge of Major League Baseball, he wants to use it as a negotiating ploy. I disagree with that.
“(Drug testing) should be mandatory, period. Keep the game clean. I’d want to play in an environment I know is safe. I want to know it’s clean. It just takes away from the integrity of the game.”
Cromartie blames steroid use for a spate of injuries in the majors over the last few years.
“(The players) are dropping like flies now. A lot of injuries now, a lot of leg injuries, a lot of groin injuries. They’re dropping.
“These days, just like it’s hard to tell if a woman has real breasts or not, it’s hard to tell whether or not a baseball player’s on steroids when he hits a home run. It’s the same damned thing.
“You can’t tell the difference any more, but when you see it, it’s nice to see, you know what I mean?”
Sure do, Cro.
Cromartie also isn’t a big fan of current MLB commissioner Bud Selig.
“What a mess that whole major-league All-Star Game was!” Cromartie exclaims, in reference to the game being called off after 11 innings with the score tied 7-7 and no pitchers left — a Selig decision which was roundly booed by the fans in Milwaukee.
“And Selig . . . what a joke! It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” Cromartie says, dripping with sarcasm. “The man has bad karma, he has not been consistent. The owners love him because they’ve got him by the strings. It’s (the All-Star Game fiasco) one of those things where he looked real bad on that one.”
And what would Commissioner Cromartie have done in Bud’s shoes?
“What happened (with the game being called) should have happened. Let him pay the price for it now,” says Cromartie of the man who attempted to oversee the contraction of the Cro’s former team, the Expos.
“I don’t think a home-run derby would have been a good solution. Expand the rosters, start the game an hour earlier, maybe play two games like they do here.”
Cromartie posted a .321 career batting average with 171 home runs over his seven seasons here with the Giants. His best year was 1989, when he hit .378 and was named the Central League MVP.
The 48-year-old Cromartie currently hosts a Florida Marlins pregame radio show in his native Miami, where he also runs a baseball academy.