There are perks to being World Series MVP, as Mike Lowell happily recounted yesterday.
"I got to shoot an ad today with Rene Russo," the Red Sox third baseman said before the Boston Baseball Writers dinner at the Westin Waterfront Hotel. "I don't think that if I went 1 for 17 in the Series I would have gotten the same chance."
Besides posing with the actress at Fenway Park for several hours - "It was awesome. I didn't have to do anything. Rene played a fan and did all the work" - Lowell is headed to the White House next week with manager Terry Francona for a dinner with President Bush. "Oh, yeah, the White House," Lowell said. "Pretty cool, but I don't think George Bush will be hugging me."
Lowell's light mood did not survive questioning about the Mitchell Report and this week's steroids-related hearings on Capitol Hill. He said he did not watch this week's proceedings, but has paid attention to the release of the Mitchell Report and its aftermath.
"I think like everyone else I was curious to see if they were going to name names," he said. "I thought it was going to be much more in-depth, much more complete. I'm not sure we got all that much closure. Maybe because there was all this hype, I thought there was going to be all this FBI stuff - this guy did this - and we didn't have that."
Asked if he was troubled that Roger Clemens, arguably the dominant pitcher of this generation, was accused of using performance-enhancing substances, Lowell said: "I think I'm going to reserve my judgment because he's actually come out pretty adamantly. His course of action has been to attack. If I was accused of something, I'd want to attack it right away, but now I kind of want to see how things play out."
Lowell said he would be willing to submit to a blood test for HGH, under one important condition: "It has to be 100 percent accurate, because if it's 99 percent accurate, there are going to be seven false positives in big league baseball, and what if those names are one of the major names? You've scarred that person's career for life. You can't come back and say, 'Sorry, we've made a mistake,' because you just destroyed that person's career.
"There's got to be 100 percent accuracy, and that's why [union executive director] Donald Fehr puts himself in position where he's responsible for the seven false positives, not the 693 that test OK. Because, God forbid, what if it was Cal Ripken, you know what I mean? Doesn't that put a big black mark on his career? That's where I think the union has to make sure the test is 100 percent, no chance of a false positive. Some people have said 90 percent [accuracy]. That's 70 [false positives]. That's three full rosters."
Another troubling aspect of the issue, beyond the hits the game is taking to its image, is what Lowell perceives as a double standard that exists for baseball relative to other sports.
"The only thing I think is unfair is that baseball players are put on a totally different stage," Lowell said.
"I don't know Shawne Merriman and I don't know Rodney Harrison, but nothing was made about [their suspensions]."
Merriman of the Chargers and Harrison of the Patriots both served four-game suspensions for using performance-enhancing substances.
"It was actually, 'Aw, man, they're missing four games.' Nothing was made about them," said Lowell. "That's where the coverage, I don't agree with it.
"The baseball thing is, the world is coming to an end. Shawne Merriman makes the Pro Bowl that year. Baseball players are put under a totally different microscope. I don't know if it's people think pro football players should take it because they're so big and strong, but when a baseball player does it, it's major news. When a football player does it, it's turn the page."
Lowell, whose signing to a three-year deal in November was perhaps the biggest offseason move the Sox made this winter, said the club's comparative lack of movement so far does not mean more moves are not in the offing. He rates the chance of the Twins trading Johan Santana "a 7," and endorsed the possibility of the ace lefthander coming to Boston. Such a deal remains a distinct possibility, and perhaps soon.
"He can't do anything but make the club better, I agree absolutely," Lowell said. "He's one of the elite, if not the elite, pitcher in the game. I don't think anyone gets worse adding Johan Santana. Most teams wouldn't want to face [Santana and incumbent ace Josh Beckett] in a series."
Lowell said he spoke with Beckett a couple of days ago by phone.
"He's great," Lowell said. "He's doing his thing in Texas, whatever it is he does. Whatever he did last offseason, I hope he does it this season."
Beckett does a good deal of deer hunting in the offseason. Lowell said the pitcher has invited him to join him, but he's always declined.
"If I go hunting with him, I think my wife [Bertica] will have a gun ready for me when I get home," he said. "She thinks we're killing Bambi every time. I don't think hunting is in my future. But she eats steak. She's not a vegan."