Friday, December 7, 2007

The Tainted 11: The Mitchell Report Looms

The Mitchell Report, the findings of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's 20-month investigation into performance-enhancing drug use that has tarnished some of the game's greatest stars and records is going to be released to the public next week.
What will it tell us? Whose baseball careers, if any, will be ruined? How will it change the American pastime? And maybe most importantly, what will MLB do in response to the report?
Early leaks tell us that the report will reveal the names of 11 current free agents who took steroids.
Critics of the report are already lining up, denouncing the report as being one-sided and outdated, but one thing is for sure – major league players from across the continent are more than just a little concerned about what the document contains.
"Well, it ain't Merry Christmas or Happy New Year for somebody," Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
One question that a lot of people are asking is -- who is George Mitchell? The 74-year-old former chairman of The Walt Disney Company was once offered a spot on the Supreme Court by President Clinton and famously challenged Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra hearings. He is a political veteran with an impressive pedigree.
But, what’s his agenda? Every politician has one. Will the report be objective? Is this thing going to be honest and candid, or are we looking at another Warren Report?
One thing that may taint Mitchell’s background is the fact that he is also a director with the World Series champion Red Sox, a role players say makes him hopelessly conflicted and a pawn of Commissioner Bud Selig, who appointed him. Players also claim Mitchell refused to show those accused the evidence he had against them, denying them a chance to refute the allegations.
For now, Selig claims not to know what's inside the report. Suffice to say, midway between Boston wrapping up the Fall Classic and the start of spring training, there are plenty of jittery people around the majors.
"Obviously, it can't be really good," New York Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "If there's some really, really big names I'm sure it's going to be a real impact in some ways."
Outfielders Jose Guillen and Jay Gibbons, linked in media reports to receiving human growth hormone, were suspended Thursday for the first 15 days of next season. The penalties are an indication how baseball might treat any players named by Mitchell.
Although some say Bonds' home run record -- and milestone ball -- should be marked with an asterisk, Mitchell noted the Hall of Fame vote in which Mark McGwire was picked on just 23.5 percent of ballots, nowhere near the 75 percent needed for induction.
That election in January was considered the first test on how history will view a period when bulked-up stars amassed bulked-up stats.
"If nothing else, the results of the Hall of Fame voting last week, and the reaction to it, offer fresh evidence that this issue will not just fade away," Mitchell said then. "Whether you think it fair or not, whether you think it justified or not, Major League Baseball has a cloud over its head, and that cloud will not just go away."
To some, the drumbeat of suspicion is falling on deaf ears. A lot of people no longer care about this subject.
"Now when it comes out, more people seem to be numb to it," said former Milwaukee manager Ned Yost: "I don't care one way or the other, to be honest with you."
Hired by Selig in March 2006, Mitchell and his staff spent millions of dollars interviewing people and collecting evidence. Their task: Provide a history of what happened off the diamond during a time when home run marks that had lasted for decades fell as suddenly strong sluggers changed the balance between pitchers and hitters.
Previously undisclosed names could be tied to steroids and HGH, thanks to the cooperation of former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. A national investigation led by the Albany, N.Y., district attorney's office also is believed to have provided evidence to Mitchell.
Active players largely have resisted cooperating -- the Yankees' Jason Giambi is the only one known to have spoken to the inquiry. Although this wasn't exactly Sing Along with Mitch, retired players have spoken with Mitchell, who did not have subpoena power.
Selig's decision to launch an official investigation followed the release of "Game of Shadows," in which San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams said Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs for at least five seasons beginning in 1998.
Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron's career home run record in August, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he lied to federal investigators about using performance-enhancing drugs.
The home run king was arraigned in U.S. District Court on four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice stemming from a Nov. 15 indictment. If convicted, he could spend more than two years in prison.
Bonds, currently a free agent who hopes to play in 2008, has denied knowingly using illegal performance enhancers. He nonetheless became the face of steroid allegations while dozens of other major and minor leaguers tested positive.
"I think we're all eager to get this era behind us and to get steroids out of this game, growth hormone out of the game, get things that change the competitive balance other than hard work and a desire to be the best ballplayer you can be," Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
To former World Anti-Doping Agency leader Dick Pound, baseball is an outlaw sport, refusing to agree to WADA's standards for testing and discipline.
But athletes in U.S. team sports, protected by collective bargaining agreements and American labor laws, have no interest in international standards.
"I think if you look at attendance, if you look at the health of the game right now, that would suggest that fans have digested what information exists and perhaps assumed that the problem has been addressed, at least for the moment," San Diego Padres chief executive officer Sandy Alderson said.

1 comment:

Billy said...

Most ballplayers today are taking homeopathic growth hormone oral spray because it's safe, undetectable, and legal for over the counter sales. As time goes on it seems it might be considered as benign a performance enhancer as coffee, aspirin, red bull, chewing tobacco, and bubble gum.