Posted at 9:36 PM on December 12, 2007
by Chris Dall
With the winter meetings a distant memory, the baseball world is preparing for the next big December event--the release of George Mitchell's report on the use of substance-enhancing drugs.
The New York Times is reporting the 300-plus page report will be especially critical of the player's union and the commissioner's office for tolerating the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in the game for so long. According to the Times, more than 50 players will be listed in the report, and the names will include Cy Young and Most Valuable Player award winners. ESPN is reporting that Mitchell recommends the testing of players be outsourced to an independent agency.
That Mitchell would be critical of the way the steroid issue has been handled by baseball officials should come as a surprise to no one. Players, owners, and the commissioner's office downplayed or ignored the problem until everyone realized that every player would be under suspicion unless some kind of testing was implemented. But if indeed the report spares no words for the commissioner's office, that could ease some of the criticism of Mitchell, who has come under attack for being too close to Bud Selig.
But as ESPN senior writer Howard Bryant points out in this excellent article, the problems with the investigation don't stop there. For one, there is the minor detail of George Mitchell being a Director of the Boston Red Sox. Then there's the fact that no current major league players, aside from the already-compromised Jason Giambi, cooperated with the investigation. And according to Bryant, there were many teams that wanted nothing to do with the investigation either. Finally, many of the names in the report are coming from former New York Met clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, who pleaded guilty in April to providing major league players with performance enhancing drugs between 1995 and 2005, and agreed to cooperate with the investigation as part of that plea deal.
So get ready for lots of denials, excuses, counter-accusations, and questions over the next few days. If there are no Red Sox players on the list, will that completely undercut the report? And aren't most players and team owners going to simply attack the source of the allegations? Finally, without any real proof, how is the commissioner's office going to punish the players on the list?
It will also be interesting to see the public reaction to the report. Clearly, the days of people wringing their hands over baseball's lost innocence are gone. Just witness the collective yawn over the 15-day suspensions handed out to Jose Guillen and Jay Gibbons last week for receiving shipments of human growth hormone. (The Kansas City Royals clearly didn't care about any public backlash, or they wouldn't have shelled out $36 million to Guillen on the same day the penalties were handed down.) Yes, a big name like Mark McGuire appearing on the list might provoke a few gasps and even a few tears, but I think most people know the deal by now: performance enhancement has been part of the game for several years, and may continue to be.
And the report doesn't even address amphetamine use.