Friday, December 14, 2007
Baseball is a talking sport. This blog didn’t even acknowledge the Red Sox’s recent sweep of the Rockies in the World Series because, well, frankly, it was such a dud. However, baseball is now on front pages everywhere due to yesterday’s Mitchell Report.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was commissioned by Major League Baseball to investigate the prevalence of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball during the last two decades. Mitchell released his report yesterday, with much fanfare and many familiar names. Among the names mentioned in the report were Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada, and Eric Gagne.
My first reaction to the report was: Duh! Of course these guys are doing the juice. How else would statistics be flying through the roof, and older players would be having career years in their 40’s?
The Mitchell Report was primarily based on the testimony of Kirk Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse attendant, and Brian McNamee, a former strength and conditioning coach for the Yankees. These guys were compelled by the federal government to spill the beans, as they are under investigation for drug trafficking. Most players, obviously, were not cooperative with the Mitchell investigation. Only two of 750 active players cooperated with the investigation. The players’ union, not unexpectedly, was a roadblock to any more meaningful results of the investigation. That’s not the first time the players’ union has blocked progress in the great game of baseball.
It is obvious, after the lockout of 1994, that the lords of baseball looked the other way as players were juicing their way into the record books. Attendance skyrocketed and TV rights were selling for record prices. The owners were making money hand over fist. It was not in their best interest to police the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs.
There were 89 players named in the Mitchell report. The majority of them were role players, some marginal players doing whatever it took to stay in the major leagues. For most of these players, the health risks of steroids were outweighed by the potential of big contracts. A player can make more money off of one contract in major league baseball than they could make for the rest of their lives. So, the players took the risk. There’s a big difference between playing for the New York Yankees and making a Triple-A salary playing for the Columbus Clippers, or being stuck on an independent league team somewhere.
As Sen. Mitchell said yesterday, this was just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many more players guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. We’ll never know the extent of the usage of such drugs. We may not want to know.
I’m afraid this report is just window dressing, designed to make the commissioner look good. There are changes being made to baseball’s drug policy, but the union will stonewall most reasonable changes for the benefit of the game. The players’ union does not have the best interests of baseball in mind, but only exists to protect the players’ gravy train.
Baseball is a great game. If nothing else, it is resilient. It has survived a point-shaving scandal, two world wars, clueless commissioners, numerous strikes, and a lockout. It will survive this. It is yet to be determined in what shape the sport will survive.