The Mitchell Report

Well, it landed yesterday, in all it’s 400+ page glory. I’ve only read excerpts, notably the ones about Clemens, Pettitte and Miguel Tejada. I also perused, as one internet wag called it, Kirk Radomski’s awesome MLB autograph collection on the canceled checks in the appendix. On the whole it reads like most other boring legal briefs. If not for the fact that Clemens and Pettitte had been mentioned previously as possible users when the trainer they shared got into trouble, they would qualify as the big names.

Throughout the past several years the performance-enhancing drug (PED) kerfuffle in baseball hasn’t moved me in any significant way. Perhaps because it really is just baseball, and as important as that is, other more important things are going on. The fact that the NFL gets far more of a pass on the subject is also a reason not to take the hand-wringing too seriously.

Ultimately, despite the cheating aspect of things I think one of the biggest reasons I don’t care is the fact that it is such an important issue to members of the sports media. It gives them a chance to write stories that cover the gamut of emotions. Shocked outrage that these titans of sport would stoop so low. Introspection as to whether they themselves should have taken brave stands in the past when everyone else turned a blind eye. Predictions as to what they themselves, in their collective group the Baseball Writers Association of America, will do when it comes time to decide who of this current generation should be enshrined in Cooperstown. While I’m sure there is some genuine emotion behind the flood of stories that will pour out over the coming weeks, to me it just represents a chance for the media to have fun with a story.

As far as the report itself goes, I think it was largely an exercise in ass-covering by baseball as an entity, to try to fend off any advances by an overly eager Congress and to make it look like they were doing something about this scourge of our times. When you break down the report and realize how much of it is based on hearsay testimony by some drug pushers that got caught, then you realize how little is actually there. I haven’t read the BALCO section yet, but it’s probably safe to say that there’s not enough hard evidence in the report that would support punishing most of the players named (outside of the few that actually confessed).

And what of the players? I’m disappointed that guys used PEDs. I wish they hadn’t. However, I can’t say with certainty that Clemens or Pettitte did that. The guy that accused them made his statements under threat of prosecution, with no other physical proof. That’s far from being guilty in my eyes. There are people who dislike them for various reasons who will argue that the report, while perhaps not clear-cut proof, is still damning evidence that they did. They’ll point to their performance before and after the alleged use and say that it’s conclusive. I don’t agree. In fact, I think the question is still open as to whether the actual of PEDs is really that significant. There are those who are doing research into the matter who are still not convinced that it is. Whatever the case, I’ll still be happy to tell people that I rooted for them and still do.

Barry Bonds is probably a different case, since he’s had U.S. Attorneys in California, who apparently can’t find any terrorists to prosecute, looking through his trash for the past several years. From his actual testimony and the accumulation of other facts, it seems likely that he did something, but while I think that tarnishes his legacy, it doesn’t blot it out. I’ll still tell people in the future that he was the greatest hitter of my lifetime to date, PEDs or not.

That’s my opinion on the subject. I’m ready to get ready for spring training now.

This Thomas Boswell column is a decent take on the report, particularly its effects on Clemens’ reputation.

The lawyers at the Powerline blog have their take on the report.

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