Incomplete

There’s a lot to slog through in the Mitchell report, but my preliminary takeaway is that the Commissioner’s office gets a slap on the wrist and the few unlucky players caught in the crossfire of criminal investigations take the hardest fall, none harder than Roger Clemens. Though the naming of names is what will draw headlines, the sections in which MLB medical officers bully their colleagues into a suppression of meaningful discussion of steroids may be the most damning in the entire sordid document. As it is, the report is light on crucial contextual history; though it reviews the evolution of drug testing policy from the 1970s on, it pretty much avoids the poisonous labor relations that created the conditions in which steroid use could fester. Bud Selig will now be handing out punishments, but will pay no real price for his own failures of stewardship. I can’t help but suspect that in a few years we’ll see him patting himself on the back for sponsoring this report, and “cleaning up” a problem that he greviously exacerbated. The extent to which PEDs pervaded—and still plague—the sport is unclear. Players and owners have grown rich. The media has been acquiescent. Fans are disenfranchised. We live in a culture that largely condones personal enhancement through medicine. We all got here together.

42 comments… add one
  • “Serving up a few names on a platter isn’t going to change much”
    Well, maybe it has, in one sense, anyway. Clemens has been exposed as much as Bonds has as a fraud. That’s good enough for me, and should be good enough for baseball.

    RS Fanbase December 14, 2007, 12:08 am
  • and thats good for baseball how?

    sam-YF December 14, 2007, 12:33 am
  • To the extent that the exposure and shaming of athletes who prize their reputations (as Clemens does highly), it seems to me that naming names is a strong deterrent, at least in the absence of any meaningful testing and penalties regimes by MLB.
    Anyway, here’s a link to a Globe article which gives thumbnail summaries of the players named in the report.
    http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2007/12/13/thumbnail_look_at_players_in_the_report/

    Hudson December 14, 2007, 12:42 am
  • P.S. There seems little question that Selig, in commissioning this report, is playing a classic game of bureaucratic misdirection.
    Step 1: Scandal arises.
    Step 2: Appoint blue-ribbon commission, taking care to appoint credible people to it who won’t rock the boat too much.
    Step 3: Enjoy 6-18 months respite from questions about the scandal by saying you want to wait for the commission’s report, to let them do their work, not prejudge their conclusions, etc.
    Step 4: When the commission’s report finally comes out, embrace it in general terms, whatever it might say.
    Step 5: Enjoy another 6-18 months respite by referring all questions about the status of the scandal by saying you’re reviewing the report and studying how best to implement its findings.
    Step 6 (optional): If questions persist about the scandal, sacrifice some expendable people, but allowing them to retire or step down for “family reasons.” Note: If you’re George Bush, give these people Presidential Medals of Freedom.
    Step 7: Having bought as much as three years for the hype about the scandal to die down, declare victory over the problem or issue, and that your sport/business/government is entering a new golden age. If still asked about the scandal, say that is old news and that anyone still harping on it really needs to move on.

    Hudson December 14, 2007, 1:44 am
  • I don’t buy into the whole Mitchell/Sox favoritism conspiracy theory. I think it was largely a product of his lack of subpoena powers and limited information flows at his disposal, but the fact that very, very few former Sox were implicated is a sticky wicket that doesn’t help appearances.
    I think the fact that the names were publicized pretty much exposes this as an effort resembling what Hudson details above. Toss some warm bodies to the sharks and sail onward. In not providing a complete story Mitchell has created a number of (unnamed) accomplices who are anxious to not have themselves/their players exposed and will help Cap’n Bud steer the ship.
    In short, it pissed everyone but Selig off, and the MLBPA is not going to take it lying down. The shoddiness of the report, while not Mitchell’s fault, basically means that this “forward looking” report will trap everyone in the past for some time to come.
    Also, can we please accept that Cashman and Theo both had at the very least strong suspicions that their players were juicing? They’re both very competent GMs and it boggles the mind to think they were in the dark about this. The analogy with Capt. Renault’s “I’m shocked, SHOCKED to discover there’s gambling here” as a waiter hands him his winnings is almost too perfect.

    Saint Yrieix of the Yankees December 14, 2007, 3:17 am
  • Bud Selig will now be handing out punishments, but will pay no real price for his own failures of stewardship.
    How about an asterisk?
    Honestly, I feel the same way about this statement by YF as I do about the calls for Barry Bonds to be stricken from the Major League record books. Totally unnecessary. History will be Selig’s asterisk. The continuum of baseball history has been interrupted, momentarily, by an era where the Commissioner is horribly conflicted. Where the Commissioner was publicly buffoonish and, at moments, completely incompetent. History will remember Selig as the man who presided over these inflated decades of performance, who enabled them, and then who tried to record, piecemeal, the errors of his stewardship. And history will forever tie Selig to the exploits of men who violated the spirit of clean competition. Whether MLB and the MLBPA act on the Mitchell Report in a positive manner is yet to be seen, and if this does happen then Bud Selig will only gain some tangential credit, even if he tries to take all of it.
    I don’t think Selig escapes, whether he commissioned this report, whether he acts like he has helped the game, whether he comes completely clean and admits he has done a terribly flawed job and has decided to resign his position out of respect for the game. Not a chance. Selig is forever linked to this scandal, inextricably so. No asterisk necessary.

    SF December 14, 2007, 6:42 am
  • Selig is definately going to be held accountable, but like any other CEO or major business manager he is not going into the hole alone. They had to have some big names to take most of the heat off of the owners and Commish.

    Rob SF December 14, 2007, 8:08 am
  • Never thought I’d agree with Jose Canseco on anything, but he’s pretty much right on when he said, “Everyone was playing on a level field…the steroid field.”
    That’s exactly the feeling you get from reading the report…Far from closing the door on anything, it’s very clear that Mitchell did little but scratch the surface.

    yankeemonkey December 14, 2007, 8:46 am
  • I agree with SF – Selig does pay a price. He will forever be known as the Comissioner of the steroids era more than any of the other things he did – and contrary to some of what I have read here the past two days he did actually preside over some very good developments in baseball – not least of which the Wild Card system and revenue sharing – which I think even most Selig-haters will admit have helped competitive balance in baseball and have everything to do with the variety of teams and market-sizes that have taken home the championship in the past decade.
    But no – Commissioner Steroids is more likely to be his place in history than anything else. You can say he won’t have any immediate punshiment, but the above is not nothing – especially to someone in a position that ALWAYS gets discussed in terms of legacy.

    IronHorse (yf) December 14, 2007, 8:59 am
  • “Never thought I’d agree with Jose Canseco on anything, but he’s pretty much right on when he said, “Everyone was playing on a level field…the steroid field.””
    I don’t know about this based on reading the Mitchell Report. I know Mitchell makes the statement that steroid and PED-use was widespread, but does his report prove this? He alludes, but where is the evidence?

    Nick-YF December 14, 2007, 10:29 am
  • “…but the fact that very, very few former Sox were implicated is a sticky wicket that doesn’t help appearances.”
    Huh? Weren’t nearly as many Sox as implicated as Yankees? Wasn’t the ratio in the neighborhood of Sox:Yankees 2:3? Certainly not as many prominent, modern Sox were implicated, but the Sox definitely got tarred with the same brush. And I chalk the lower number of Sox players up to the fact that their best source was from New York.

    Devine December 14, 2007, 11:11 am
  • Nick, in this environment, there doesn’t need to be any evidence. Look at the beating Clemens is taking. He performed well around the time he was supposedly juicing and therefore people believe he was taking anabolic steroids.
    I said elsewhere that the only way these players can help themselves is by going at their accusers hard with libel lawsuits. At that point the accusers have to prove their claims.

    Jay-YF December 14, 2007, 11:23 am
  • let’s disregard the lack of substantive evidence in the cases alluded to in the report and say that all these 86 players are guilty of what they’re reported to have done. Does this then imply that this is just the tip of the iceberg? Well, yes, I’d imagine there are more names besides these ones. But then the question is how big is the iceberg. Mitchell states it’s a big one. But based on what?

    Nick-YF December 14, 2007, 11:26 am
  • It’s interesting to note that ESPN I believe said there were 3,000+ individual players in MLB in a three-year period during the steroid era (I’m sure I’m botching these numbers). So 89 players could be the tip of a 1,000-player iceberg, and that’s still less than a third of all the players in just that limited time period.
    Definitely keeps things in perspective.

    Paul SF December 14, 2007, 11:39 am
  • I think its fair to assume that any player that played during this time may have used. Even those guys who you think, “hey there is no way X took any PEDs”. It is at least within the decent realm of possibility he tried them.

    sam-YF December 14, 2007, 11:45 am
  • exactly, Paul. I think we can all agree that it would be preferable if no one ever took PEDs (although even this issue is complicated by a seemingly aribtrary definition of what makes something a bad PED and what makes it an ok PED)in baseball, but I wonder what people mean when they say that Mitchell Report shows just how widespread PED use was in baseball. That people from diverse racial and ethnic groups were implicated in Mitchell’s Report. What percentage makes it widespread and even epidemic? That seems like a highly subjective percentage. 10% might mean way too much to some people, and might mean not that much to others.

    Nick-YF December 14, 2007, 11:49 am
  • As Paul stated so well in another post: “Although the report broke little new ground in many respects — few of the names were earth-shattering, the recommendations were common-sensical, and it quoted liberally from newspaper articles and books anyone can read — it performed a vital service in collecting and disseminating in one place a study of the culture of the game in the mid 1990s to early 2000s.”, and if, as some think, the current system of testing is working, what real good can come out of this hamstrung investigation and report. To me, it’s quite like a tell-all novel – other than the voyeuristic thrill you get out of reading it, what real substance do you take away?
    IMO, as ugly as it could have gotten, a full scale congressional investigation, with the power to compel testimony, would have been a preferable alternative to this half-assed attempt. Before you write me off as crazy, remember the changes that came about after congress got involved in ’05. At the end of such an inquiry, we would end up with a much more complete picture of what went on, and much more meaningful changes going forward. All I see in the future is constant fighting between MLB and the players union over attemps to strengthen testing.
    Again, I fail to see how this report serves the best interests of the game.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 11:50 am
  • attemps = attempts

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 11:52 am
  • Sam, I think it’s a fair assumption that any adult I’ve ever met in my life may have used an illegal drug. And by the way, I completely agree with your statement. It just highlights to me that the Mitchell Report, at least after my first reading, revealed a truism about this era.

    Nick-YF December 14, 2007, 11:54 am
  • “I think it’s a fair assumption that any adult I’ve ever met in my life may have used an illegal drug.”
    But they may or may not have inhaled. :)

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 11:56 am
  • I should say “revealed” a truism.

    Nick-YF December 14, 2007, 12:00 pm
  • Jason Stark does the math – less than 2% of players that reached the major leagues from 1985 to today were named. Based on that fact, either it wasn’t a widespread problem or the report didn’t do what it proclaims it did.

    Mike YF December 14, 2007, 12:12 pm
  • I’m content to judge the players from this era for what they did on the field, since that’s still the only objective way TO judge them. As such, I expect to see a ratio, comparable to other eras, of these players make the HoF.
    But what will piss me off is when Bud does too. Because you know he will. I almost wish I had a ticket to his induction, just so I could boycott it.

    FenSheaParkway December 14, 2007, 12:18 pm
  • Mike – 2% doesn’t sound like a lot. But the investigators, as de-clawed as they were, made their report basically with 3 sources. Three! Unless we think that the Mitchell probe got incredibly lucky and got to talk to all three out of a possible three drug suppliers, and got every one of their +/-80 names, then that does sound like the tip of a very big iceberg. Just that one guy Radomski, operating basically out of New York only, was the source for, what, half of the names in the report? If he (along with BALCO) was Baseball’s steroid problem for a decade, then the feds beat MLB to it. But who believes that?

    FenSheaParkway December 14, 2007, 12:26 pm
  • YF, I couldn’t agree with you more. Great piece.
    Like I said yesterday, no good will come from this. I am not condoning the actions of those named in the report, but their names are ruined. It’s not just Roger Clemens, it’s Rondell White and all the lesser known players. Why were they singled out when WE ALL KNOW there are far more players that are guilty of this to this day! This issue should have been addressed years ago. This was an attempt by our commisioner to appease the media and the U.S. Government. Should Roger Goodell now go back and start an investigation on the 80’s/90’s steroid issue in the NFL? Nothing good would come from that and nothing good will come from this. I need facts, I want to see failed drug tests, not info from some RAT who is trying to save his ass. Without that this whole list loses credibility. In the interim you are tarnishing the game. I love this game, I don’t like it, I love it. After the strike in the early 90’s it took a long time to build back the fanbase it lost. Now this? Selig is crazy if he thinks this is going to help this sport grow. It’s only going to turn off more fans. It’s not going stop illegal substances from being used by any means. Players who want an edge will still get it.
    As for the kids, I coach HS sports and I know that PED’s are prevelant and I do not approve. But this report isn’t going to stop that. These kids want to get big, get fast and do it the easy way. Is knowing that Rocket got called out going to stop that? NO. They are young kids that think they are unbeatable, untouchable, this witch hunt won’t prevent any of that.
    Sorry to ramble, I am furious.

    John - YF December 14, 2007, 12:44 pm
  • I am too, Trisk. Furious, and deeply depressed.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 12:57 pm
  • john I agree with you completely. The thing that pisses me off the most is that while the intention of the report may have been right on, all the publishing names did was take away attention from the other findings. Some have suggested that adding names to the report will act as a deterrent for future users afraid of being embarrassed and I disagree with this fully. Quite the opposite, it in a way glorifies PED use. Even if Clemens’ name is totally ruined he made hundreds of millions of dollars and was wildly famous in the process. There are many people who will see that and would be willing to make the same trade off, damn the consequences to their own health.
    This report ends up being only destructive, reopens wounds that had just recently begun to heal, and really pushes us no further away from the problematic period.

    sam-YF December 14, 2007, 1:00 pm
  • I’m having a hard time understanding how the suppression of any formal investigation would have been the opposite of destructive. MLB put themselves (and us, the fans) in a no-win situation by assuming that no one would ever figure out their secret. What’s the alternative to this report – More “informal” witch hunting? Congressional intervention? Whistling in the dark? No thanks.

    FenSheaParkway December 14, 2007, 1:35 pm
  • As ugly as it could get, congressional intervention would more likely bring about the changes needed.
    With what amounts to a partial effort at an investigation, the end result leaves the game in worse shape than if there had been no investigation at all.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 1:46 pm
  • I think this is a really tough issue to discuss. While I completely understand the sentiments of John, Sheriff, Sam, YF, etc., I don’t share them entirely. I am not a big supporter of management. I hate Bud Selig. I don’t have any desire to see families and reputations destroyed by innuendo. But I do think that some good, maybe a lot of good, can come from what has transpired over the past day or so. I refuse to get into a zero-sum argument about the Mitchell Report, calling it useless or groundless or destined to be ineffective or a failure. The report is an historical document as well as a policy paper. It will be on MLB and the PA to make it into something far more important than either of those two things.
    Shame on us fans if these bodies don’t do anything and we continue to watch without a critical eye or a tight grip on our wallets. If we continue to dismiss detailed and intelligent reportage as nothing more than a charade we will be enabling, at best, the status quo, and at worst recidivism.

    SF December 14, 2007, 1:48 pm
  • The report is fine. Naming names of players that never failed drug tests is not fine. That’s my issue. Giving me names from the past, not helpful. Giving me names of players going forward that fail, helpful. Just to clarify.

    John - YF December 14, 2007, 1:56 pm
  • “I refuse to get into a zero-sum argument about the Mitchell Report, calling it useless or groundless or destined to be ineffective or a failure. The report is an historical document as well as a policy paper”
    How accurate of an historical document is it, with such a limited cross section of the people who were no doubt involved?
    The report is neither useless nor groundless; It is ineffective in the sense that most anyone could have given the same basic conclusions: Steroid and HGH use is rampant in baseball, and the players union and MLB need to work together to create a state-of-the-art testing program.
    Without the “tell-all-novel” style release of a very incomplete list of names, I might add.

    Anonymous December 14, 2007, 2:03 pm
  • me

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 2:09 pm
  • It is ineffective in the sense that most anyone could have given the same basic conclusions: Steroid and HGH use is rampant in baseball, and the players union and MLB need to work together to create a state-of-the-art testing program.
    But who would do this, sanctioned by MLB? Without that imprimatur the report would have been no different than a book by Howard Bryant or any other person, and that would have relegated it to the New York Times book section, where it would have almost no impact on public perception or awareneness and exert zero pressure on all parties involved.
    I cannot assert that the report is or will be effective. I do not know this. But I can see a scenario (not sure how likely this is, but I can see it) where changes are made and this report will have catalyzed the process. Call me naive.

    SF December 14, 2007, 2:24 pm
  • SF’s right – Even if the evidence itself is no less spurious than what we already had to go with, the aegis Mitchell was working under is the difference. MLB has to take their own advice now or really look corrupt. I mean honestly, who would have the gall to set up a costly multi-year, independent investigation, only just to ignore the results and proceed as if nothing happened? Wait, don’t answer that.
    Personally, I’m hoping Jose Canseco is offended enough at being locked out of the press conference to make good on that follow-up to his memoir he’s hinted at. I can’t wait for “Juiced 2: Anabolic Boogaloo”.

    FenSheaParkway December 14, 2007, 2:47 pm
  • But if everyone indeed wants changes, then why have such a “Mickey Mouse” effort?
    I didn’t want a full scale congressional inquiry back when Mitchell was asked to write this report, but now, I think that might have been a better alternative; with subpoena power and the ability to exert enormous pressure on MLB, changes would have been assured. Plus, we would have gotten a much more complete accounting of what really went on.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 2:51 pm
  • ” the aegis Mitchell was working under is the difference”
    Canseco’s “Juiced” had far more impact with regard to PED’s than this report ever will.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 2:54 pm
  • “Anabolic Boogaloo”
    Good one. If the situation arises, do you mind if I use that for a song title?

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 2:56 pm
  • Go for it, though I’m almost afraid to know what sort of song that will end up being.

    FenSheaParkway December 14, 2007, 3:30 pm
  • A boogaloo, of course.
    “Alligator Boogaloo”, “The Sidewinder”, “Watermelon Man” are examples.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 4:26 pm
  • Can you work out to boogaloos?

    Nick-YF December 14, 2007, 4:27 pm
  • Occasionally, one comes up on my ipod when I’m at the gym, so from personal experience, yes, you can.

    The Sheriff (Andrews) December 14, 2007, 4:29 pm

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