Writer revisits John Rocker's demise

Credit: Chris Gardner / AP

Credit: Chris Gardner / AP

"A minivan is rolling slowly down Atlanta's Route 400, and John Rocker, driving directly behind it in his blue Chevy Tahoe, is pissed."

That's how the love story between writer Jeff Pearlman and the then-Atlanta Braves closer derailed into a tale of hatred, guilt and the N.Y. Mets.

It's been nearly 15 years since the Sports Illustrated story by Pearlman unveiled the ugly side of one of the Braves' stars. Pearlman, in a piece published Friday in the Bleacher Report, revisits the odyssey.

In the way that's been done various times before, Pearlman recounts how the story evolved from a glorious piece highlighting the pitcher's "big heart" into a vitrol-laced smattering that reached across all races and New York buroughs.(Calling Mets fans "stupid" may have perhaps been the least offensive thing Rocker said in the piece.)

Rocker would eventually by suspended, fined and his days with the Braves numbered.

In Friday's piece, Pearlman maintains everything in the article is accurate:

"Rocker has maintained, on multiple occasions, that the quotes were pieced together and/or taken out of context. This is 100-percent untrue. When Rocker first made the case, I said I would play the tape for him. He never responded.

And yet...he was also young. And dumb. And naive."

Pearlman explains he felt guilt he would be connected to Rocker until the end of his career:

"Even though I told myself—repeatedly—that his downfall had nothing to do with my piece, well, I knew it was a lie. Before the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated, Rocker was one of baseball's elite relief pitchers. After the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated, Rocker was Doug Sisk. This wasn't the reason I'd become a journalist—to ruin people's dreams."

He concludes by affirming that Rocker's post-baseball rantings have made the guilt fade away (and perhaps implied), validated his original story:

"Fifteen years later, the John Rocker from my article remains as vocal and vile as ever.

I have nothing to feel guilty about."

Pearlman's complete story is available here at Bleacher Report.