“As a fan of both baseball and due process, let me just say that today is a sad day, a shameful day, and that what we’re about to witness is a travesty.” – Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus
Other than season-ending strikes and lockouts, never before has a major American sport undertaken an affair as self-destructive as the Mitchell investigation. Flawed in concept, butchered in execution, and riddled with hypocrisy, Sen. George Mitchell’s investigation and subsequent report have set baseball public relations back to the Stone Age (1994), and to no discernible end.
Dozens of current and former baseball players, some guilty, some almost assuredly innocent, today find their reputations marred and their livelihoods endangered by circumstantial and specious evidence. Some of the worst steroid offenders are now exonerated in the court of public opinion merely on the basis of not being mentioned in a deeply defective, half-realized report. Maddeningly, this witch-hunt served no purpose other than the institution of baseball intentionally creating a storm of negative headlines for itself.
To be clear, steroids and HGH are blights on the game of baseball. Sacred records have been illegitimately smashed. In a sport so reliant on and enriched by statistics, the numbers have transmogrified to the point of being meaningless. It’s heart-breaking that Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, and likely fraudulent that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa passed Roger Maris. But the problem is systemic, and no one can be absolved by releasing a list of a group of players who were unlucky enough to have their trainers or dealers snitch.
The release of the Mitchell Report has placed the focus of this epidemic squarely on the individual players named therein. But Major League Baseball had no significant steroid testing policy in place. Reporters looked the other way as backne-covered man-beasts walked shirtless around locker rooms. Idiot fans basked in the McGwire/Sosa spectacle. Bud Selig and his compadres sat on piles of money like so many Scrooge McDucks. Everyone involved with baseball was complicit with allowing this to happen. It was like “The Wire,” — every institution within and related to the game was interconnected, and the faults of each validated the faults of the others.
The Mitchell investigation was destined to fail from the day of its conception. Bud Selig, panicked at the threat of Congressional intervention (and Congress has nothing to be proud of here, either), foolishly put together an “independent” investigation into steroid use without thinking through the consequences. In a stunning example of cronyism at its finest, Selig selected pal George Mitchell to head the inquisition.
Mitchell, a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate that allowed Ronald Reagan to run roughshod over the Constitution, later joined the boards of directors of the two most evil corporations in the United States: Disney and the Boston Red Sox.
So began an ineffectual, non-comprehensive twenty-month study into, apparently, which players used steroids and nothing more. Mitchell and his goons, enabled by the commissioner, coerced players to rat each out, promoted hearsay and kept the black cloud of steroids in the headlines continually for two full baseball seasons.
What could Selig possible have hoped to gain, other than making himself appear less culpable? What purpose could Mitchell serve by digging up rumors and dirt from the era before baseball began its new drug-testing policy? Perhaps Selig was looking for a scapegoat; perhaps he thought the problem would be less severe in the end that the Cansecos and Caminitis of the world claimed. Perhaps he thought the report would be the silver bullet he needed to bring down Bonds, the great white whale of his tenure as commissioner.
Yet no matter how imprudent the Mitchell investigation’s design may have been, the results are amazingly even worse.
After 20 months of non-stop investigative work, Mitchell’s results were predicated almost entirely on the testimony of two former clubhouse types with incentives to both cooperate and lie. Beyond the names supplied by Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee, the report merely regurgitates findings from other newspaper and police investigations.
No wonder Mitchell couldn’t push the Clintons’ health-care initiative through Congress.
So two trainer-types flipped, and the players they were so associated with have the misfortune of being fingered, while countless other drug suppliers didn’t cooperate or weren’t found, and the players who bought drugs from them get off scot-free.
It’s been widely mentioned, but it can’t be ignored that Mitchell’s ties to the Red Sox don’t reflect well either on the high number of Yankees mentioned in the report, or the total lack of current Red Sox players present. Perhaps Mitchell is an above-board, stand-up guy who would never even think to let a conflict of interests like that affect his integrity. But perhaps not. And Bud Selig was insane not to think that conflict might become an issue when selecting the person to run his investigation.
The media has had its panties in a bunch about steroids for several years now, but the public remains largely indifferent. At the least, fans don’t seem to be boycotting the game or spending less money on consuming it because of their opinions about drugs. There certainly hasn’t been any kind of outcry to expose which players injected what when. So Bud Selig has allowed, even endorsed, a saga that sullied the game’s reputation all to examine water under the bridge.
So it’s alleged that Player X took HGH in 2002. So the fuck what? That accusation accomplishes what, exactly, other than making the commissioner look bad for not having a solid policy in place before he did?
Baseball needs to attempt to clean up the game moving forward. Retroactively humiliating a small subset of possible steroids users only makes everyone involved with baseball look bad, for a longer period of time than necessary.
Bud Selig should be ashamed by this self-defeating sham, this mockery of justice. Nothing good has come from the Mitchell Report, and nothing good will come. Baseball shot itself in the knee for no discernible reason.