So for the past few months, I've been working on a story that tied Manny Ramirez to performance-enhancing drugs. It started with a woman named Jennifer Navoy. It ended with Manny Ramirez. Kind of.
Back in January I received a strange email from Mrs. Navoy, who was trying to get in touch with Pat Jordan, the author who penned many, many books and the incredible "Chasing Jose" piece for Deadspin. The [Sic'd] email went as follows:
Dear customer service:
I was reading the article Chasing Jose, by Pat Jordan and would like to know if you have recent contact information for him? My husband is concluding his experience with the federal government for a federal case, steroid related, and he wanted me to find an author experienced writing about such things. I've checked out Jose's book, and to be honest, the guy is a moron and his book is a joke compared to the true shocking story my husband would like to have published. Can you get me in contact with Pat Jordan or another such experienced author? I was lead to believe by using a best seller author gets the book sold more,,and I really dont know what is true and what is not. I do know my husband is setting a landmark case, and he has incredible accurate knowledge of steroid and steroid like things. Also, we have many famous customers, one of which is a multi million dollar player renegotiating this year after leaving boston, going to the west coast. This baseball legend is moody enough as it is, he would be more so if we ratted him to the feds like they wanted us to after knowing he was a long time customer of ours. We've got a great story. All we need is a great writer. and the guidance to make the right moves. Please help. Jennifer
Usually I'd take this email and plop it into Deleted Scenes and move on. However, on this occasion, I Googled Jennifer Navoy just to do some background research on her. It turns out, she and her husband, Christian Navoy, were currently being prosecuted by the Feds for illegally selling bodybuilding drugs online out of their home. Jennifer obviously wanted an author to tell their story and was using Manny's name as bait. I bit. For months and months I emailed with Jennifer, spoke on the phone with her and her husband, text messaged with her, all with the hope of getting some verifiable proof that, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez, had purchased some sort of PEDs from them. Eventually, she told me what he was allegedly buying: tamoxifen citrate.
Jennifer clarified in an email:
"not bulk but repeatedly. It was the only product ordered. Chris says his phone is charging. Maybe you can call him later on. jen"
Now, tamoxifen citrate isn't a steroid — it's actually one of those drugs that body builders (and ballplayers) take to prevent gynocomastia, the dreaded "bitch tits." Mostly it's used for breast cancer patients to alter their testosterone levels. So at the very least, I thought, Manny may not be on steroids, but he could have breast cancer. But either way, it was a total red flag and would link Ramirez to steroids.
After months of conversations, Jennifer had finally realized that, no, I was not interested in helping her husband write a book about his encyclopedic knowledge of steroids and bodybuilding or anything like that. But, I told her, if you do want to drum up some publicity for any sort of book, doing a revealing q-and-a with Deadspin would be a great way to start. She hesitated. Her husband didn't want to do that. He didn't want to rat people out just to make some quick book money. He had a much bigger and better story to tell, she said.
So the story stalled. I was frustrated. During the ensuing months, I braced for the inevitable Manny Ramirez steroid news to make the papers. I shared my story with some high-profile news people in the hopes of finding another lead to break this. "This is huge!" they'd all say. "Why aren't you hopping on this? This is a total game-changer." It would be. It was. But I also knew that using the word of a soon-to-be-incarcerated man and his financially desperate wife to break this story would not be enough. I needed physical proof — which they said they had. When the local police raided their house, she said, there was a package ready for shipment to Manny that day. It had his name on it. It had his address. Could Manny be that stupid to actually be mailing this shit to himself in Boston? Given some of the bone-headed decisions the guy has made in his career, it was entirely possible.
"Can you send me that piece of paper, Jen?" I asked.
"Yes," she said. "I think I have it."
More weeks passed. I kept gently prodding her, trying not to aggravate her too much and risk her cutting off contact with me altogether.
"Let me see what the lawyer says," she said one day. Ugh. That can't be good.
Then in early April, Jose Canseco made his statement about being "90% certain" that Manny Ramirez was on steroids. From there, I knew it was only a matter of time before everyone started investigating Manny — reporters with more access than Deadspin could ever have — and I thought I'd lost it. I have to move on this. It's time to call in reinforcements. So I did. I reached out to some other reporters and told them about the whole story and asked them if there was another way to get this alleged piece of paper with Manny's name on it. They were intrigued and they wanted part of the story too. We were going to tag-team this thing because they knew how to backdoor the Navoys and get the evidence needed. "Fly down to Miami, knock on their door, and get your hands on it," they said. "This is too fucking big."
We were off. The other two reporters began doing their background work. Soon many of the documents that Jen had resisted sending to me were showing up: testimony, search and discovery lists, all the case background. It was coming together. And then... the incriminating piece of paper was found:
"We got it!" I yelled. I began daydreaming about Pulitzers and the plaudits from the sports media elite. Once we get this, I thought, nobody could ever dismiss Deadspin again.
"Not so fast" the one reporter said. "We still don't have an address on him. We still can't prove it's him."
"It's fucking him. It has to be fucking him...," I said.
"I still need to go down there and check it out. Let me see if I can set up a meeting with them," the reporter said. Always by the book. There's still more?
Miraculously, a couple weeks ago, the reporter got through to Jen and Chris. They invited him down to their home in Miami to meet and "talk about their case." This was it. This was the last piece. This was going to happen. He flew down to see them. Then, that fateful Wednesday night hanging with the Sports Fella, I lost my phone. The next morning, I went into the Gawker offices and received a frantic IM from one of the reporters asking me to call him immediately.
"We have some news...can you call?" he said.
Awesome. I grabbed my notebook and paper and marched over to the private booth in the Gawker office to make the life-changing phone call. It was a stride, actually, and I couldn't wait to tell everyone that Deadspin was about to break one of the biggest sports stories of the year. I sat down in the chair, I dialed, the reporter answered.
"So [Redacted] went down to Miami and met with Jen and Chris..." he started.
Here it comes. I can feel it...
"And he was there for hours talking to them..."
So close... So close...
"Really nice people, actually...very nice..."
"But it turns out that their client is a different Manny Ramirez."
Yeah. I was still there. Half of me, at least.
"Yeah, this guy lives in Medford, Mass. We ran all the background on him. It's not the same guy."
"Are you sure? Are you positive? Are you fucking positive?," I said.
"Yeah. Sorry, man. Sometimes it just happens this way. At least we know for sure."
I hung up. I slumped back to my desk. I thought I was going to puke. All of those people I'd told about the story, all of that certainty, all that excitement and confidence was now replaced by one big ache of crushing defeat. It's been there for a few days, but I was ready to move on from it.
Then, today, the news broke. My screen lit up with IMs and Gchats from everyone: "Did you hear about Manny?"
Yeah, motherfucker. I did. Months ago.
The American schoolyard had beat me again.