After reading the morning news I am increasingly impressed that the Mitchell Report struck out! The total number of players listed is 85. Only 29 are active players. In 2003 5-7% of active MLB players tested positive in anonymous drug testing. Several players on the list released yesterday have strongly denied that they took drugs but the conclusion many will draw is that they are guilty. Let me give you one example.
Brian Roberts, a player currently seeking a new team as a free agent, is on this list. Roberts denies the charges. The evidence against him? Larry Bigbie, an admitted steroids user, said that in 2004 Roberts injected himself once or twice during the 2003 season. That’s the proof, period. Should such evidence be used to destroy a man’s career? Then there is Matt Franco. He is on the list because two witnesses who cited him were facing prison time and said they sold him steroids on one occasion in 2000. Franco agree to an interview with Mitchell and denied ever buying or using drugs. He cooperated with Mitchell, only to get listed and harmed irrevocably.
In the case of some of these players there is damning evidence in this new report. Take pitcher Eric Gagne, whose body has broken down now several times. In the report there is an air bill receipt for the drugs sent from a known distributor. But the simple fact is that there are a lot of statements in this report that are not seriously credible and careers are adversely damaged as a result.
The report is also suspicious because of who is not listed: Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire for example. McGwire already admitted he used andro. Sosa is not listed because no one would provide the evidence Mitchell sought. This is not to say that they are both guilty but so much evidence points that way that most of us would have to be unconvinced by good evidence not to believe they used chemical enhancement to build their upper body.
And, as I noted yesterday, the great home run race of 1998 drove this scandal more than anything else. Are we to let Selig and the greedy owners off the hook because this brought about a resurgence of fan interest and the economic recovery of the game of baseball? Adds Chicago columnist Barry Rozner, "How in the name of Babe Ruth and Willie Mays can you have a steroid investigation of the last twenty years without focusing on the poster boys who kicked off the entire debate?" Yes, how?
I stand by my initial response written last evening. The only way the Mitchell Report could have made a real difference was to admit the commissioner and the owners failed to rid the game of drugs for many, many years and they did so knowingly and willingly. These guys are a bunch of hypocrites, period! The report should have said, "We knew all along but we didn’t try to stop it because there was too much money at stake." That would have been honest. This list of players, some of the inclusions based on very flimsy evidence, has done us virtually no good, especially given the major omissions.
Bud Selig, by some accounts, has earned as much as $45 million since July 1998 as MLB commissioner. This does not include his sale of the Milwaukee Brewers and his compensation as acting commissioner from 1992-98 when he orchestrated the firing of then commissioner Fay Vincent, a truly decent man who proved that he loved the game above the profits. (Read his book if you want to see how he understood these matters so plainly.)
But Selig was allowed to lead the game down this drug-riddled road by the support of the owners. Owners have made big money as a result. Forget their tears about losses. They have profited. But so have the players and their union. Everyone profited and everyone shares in the blame, to varying degrees. And do not forget the vast majority of players who did not use drugs and the many who did not make it to the majors (refusing drugs) while others did enhance their performance and made it. The careers of honest players were cut short. There is little doubt about this fact and I find this extremely sad in so many ways.
The bottom line? This was all about the money. Both Selig and the owners know this and so do the players. And the fans? They loved the home runs. Remember, "Chicks dig the long ball." Attendance records have gone through the roof for baseball. Will this scandal change that? I doubt it. A skeptic could easily say the fans are stupid. I think otherwise. This is a great game and we love it. We will still love it but we should make sure the greedy parties understand enough is enough. We should pressure these owners to change their ways. There are ways to do that without bringing down the game itself.
In the end it was the owners who did the most damage during the last twenty years. They could have done something and didn’t. Some of the players were seeing their careers go down the drain and reacted, very wrongly. Don Fehr, the boss of the players union, admitted on Thursday that everyone waited too long to do something but he also said that he saw Selig pretending this was all news to him. I agree with Fehr, and often have in the past. All of Mitchell’s suggestions for testing have been around for years. They went unheeded while Selig admonished Congress to get involved. Sorry Bud Selig but you will go down in the history of baseball as a greedy, inept and hypocritical commissioner. You will not be the first. It makes me personally long for a Fay Vincent or a Bart Giamatti, real leaders who loved the integrity of this game and did not lead it just for the money.
Finally, none of the proven steroid users should go into the Hall of Fame, unless they create a special wing for drug-users. And neither should Pete Rose. I love the Hall of Fame. I’ve been there four times. I get chills at the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a special place. These players will tarnish the great shrine.
Man I miss Bart Giamtti. There was a class act if there ever was one. He was an academic with a real life and a man who also loved baseball intelligently. The man who had the guts to express tough love for the greatest game in America. We need another commissioner and we need him soon. I have seen enough of this guy Bud Selig. He is a joke.