Well, it’s in. The long awaited, and anticipated report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Base Ball by former Senator George Mitchell. The media speculation and frenzy that prceeded the Thursday release was expected, but still a bit over the top. Even so, this is still an important document to the sport. Not the be all end all of the issue, but a begining to bring Base Ball in line with other professional and amateur sports.
So what’s actually in the report? Quite a bit, and I still haven’t managed to go through all 400 pages of it. Anyone who is interested in this has already read the summaries available through just about any media outlet. But the one thing everyone wanted to know was who was going to be named. That came out very quick, perhaps too quickly, as some of the context surrounding some names was not included.
I can’t say I was surprised at many of the names that came out. In fact only one did surprise me. The rest just fit into a certain pattern. The types of injuries they sustained on a regular basis, the out of no where seasons, a few flash in the pan type careers. Plus more than a few players who just never made the spot light.
A lot of the names were expected, and already known. McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro, had already been spitted upon the media lance. A note on Palmeiro here. Some may recall that when Palmeiro tested positie for steroids, he said at the time that he got what he thought was a B12 shot from Miguel Tejada (or Tejada’s locker). No one believed that claim, and certainly did not associate Miguel Tejada with steroids. Well, Miggie was named in the Mitchell Report as having used Steroids/HGH. This shoudl merit a second look at Palmeiro, though I doubt he will be vindicated in any form.
Two “new” names were added to the list in the Report. One doesn’t surprise me (just disappoints me), the other does. Just prior to the release on Thursday, reports surfaced that Roger Clemens and Andy Petite were to be named in the report. While Clemens being named disappoints me, it doesn’t surprise me. I watched him pitch his last year in Boston. Just like Dan Duquette, and everyone else for that matter, I thought he was done. But then he goes to Toronto (and then the Yankees), and has a couple of seasons where he looked like he was 22 again. But then he goes and decides to be a part time player, pitching only 2/3 of a season at most. While nearly all the evidence against Roger is circumstantial (excpet for McNamee’s testimony), it does add up. Roger is going to have a very tough time battling this.
But Petite’s being named did catch me off guard. This was an unexpected one, and the only one that I did find surprising. Petite was never one of those guys you looked at and wondered about. He had a number of solid seasons in NY for the Yankees, but was never a guy who put up outlandish numbers. He was solid, consistent, and knew how to pitch. Nor did his injuries of late fit the steroid pattern, they were “traditional” pitching injuries, ones that were part and parcel of a pitcher of his style. And to think, me a certified Yankee hater being shocked at a Yankee pitcher being named in this report!
So how bad is this report? Well, it’s bad, but not a disaster. Mitchell properly blames nearly everyone, from the owners to the GM’s, to the medical staffs, to the coaches, to the players, and the Player’s Union, and even the media. The only people he missed out on were the fans, but we get a pass because we’re not involved in the behind the scenes stuff, even though we shell out large amounts of dollars to see the games. So, in that repsect, Mitchell avoided the “bias” trap, as some had speculated would happen.
Even so, the report is lacking in a lot of ways. Some of this is due to collectie bargaining agreements between MLB and the Player’s Union, some of it is due to stone walling by players and the Union, while others are due to legal concerns with ongoing investigations and prosecutions (BALCO, Albany DA Soare’s investigation). These “holes” if you will, will inevitably give an impression that the report is more speculation than fact. I’m sure that in some cases this will be proven so. But just as Peter Gammons commented on ESPN’s over wrought coverage, the general picture the report paints is accurate, if some of the details are off.
The media frenzy over this has been somewhat entertaining to watch. ESPN’s coverage was essentially done before the report was released. The rest of the afternoon, other than the press conferences, was rehashes and reruns of earlier commentaries. CNN, Fox, and MSNBC all covered it briefly, before going back to over analyzing the “debates” and the polling data of the day. No what grabbed me was Friday’s NY Post.
The sports writers at the Post bleed white and blue pin stripes. I don’t think they ever say anything bad about the Yankees, untill now. How bad is this? Well, the Post is calling the 2000 Yankees’ World Series title “tainted.” They even referred to the team as the “B*ombers.” Ouch.
It’s going to be years before this is all sorted out. And yes it is important. Not just for the integrity of the game, but as a lesson to society (no easy short cuts), and for the sake of history.