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The Mitchell Report

It’s been a couple months since my last post, but I am back and plan to post consistently from here on forward. On to the topic of the day: The Mitchell Report

After completing his twenty-month investigation, former Senator George Mitchell published his much-anticipated report today, naming 77 players, 29 of whom were active in 2007. Mitchell’s proof heavily relies upon the testimony of former Mets’ clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee, a former Major League Baseball strength and conditioning coach. For most of the players named, the evidence consisted solely upon the here-say of one of those two men. Before even looking at the names in the report, the question must be asked: Are Radomski and McNamee reliable sources? If the answer is no, then there is no point at even looking at the names. However, both of these sources were confronted by law enforcement and threatened with possible jail time if they did not say names. These men did not come forward on their own to tattle on players. Facing possible jail-time if they lied, we can conclude that neither Radomski no McNamee was willing to risk going to prison and therefore told the truth.

Even as I write that, it sounds weak, as Barry Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson has spent a lengthy period in prison to protect Bonds. That is the first problem I have with the report: Fans are supposed to assume that these two men, proven steroid dealers, are telling the truth. If Mitchell had backed up the report with positive drug results or other pieces of evidence, it would have made it much more credible. Yet, except for a couple cancelled checks and testimony from a few former players, Mitchell is forced to rely on Radomski and McNamee as the only evidence. The worst case is likely with Brian Roberts. Here is the complete evidence against him:

Roberts and Larry Bigbie were both rookies in 2001. According to Bigbie, both he and Roberts lived in Segui’s house in the Baltimore area during the latter part of that season. When Bigbie and Segui used steroids in the house, Roberts did not participate.

According to Bigbie, however, in 2004 Roberts admitted to him that he had injected himself once or twice with steroids in 2003. Until this admission, Bigbie had never suspected Roberts of using steroids.

In order to provide Roberts with information about these allegations and to give him an opportunity to respond, I asked him to meet with me; he declined.

That is it. Roberts’ image and reputation will be tarnished forever, because of his inclusion in this report. If Mitchell needed that little evidence to include someone in the report, then I would have expected there to be 2000 players in it. Twenty months of investigating and that is the best you could come up? I would have thought a former senator would have known better than to accuse a player of steroid use with that little evidence. Even more so, I would have thought he would have had better judgment than to include him in a public report of this magnitude.

The two biggest names in the report are of course Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. The evidence against those two pitchers is fairly strong as McNamee used to be the personal trainer for both men and states that he personally injected each of them:

McNamee injected Clemens approximately four times in the buttocks over a several-week period with needles that Clemens provided. Each incident took place in Clemens’s apartment at the SkyDome. McNamee never asked Clemens where he obtained the steroids.

Unlike other reports where McNamee or Radomski claim that they just supplied steroids, here, McNamee is saying that he himself injected Clemens. If you believe that McNamee is telling the truth, the Clemens used steroids. If not, well then whether or not Clemens’ used steroids is still unknown. One would assume that if Mitchell trusted McNamee’s testimony, then it was true, but Mitchell’s poor decision to include Brian Roberts in the report leaves me skeptical about Mitchell’s instincts. If he thought that including Brian Roberts in the report was a good idea, he was wrong. Mitchell could easily have trusted McNamee’s word when other evidence suggested that he was lying. We have no idea whether McNamee is a trustworthy source and therefore, cannot conclude that Clemens or Pettitte used performance-enhancing drugs.

This renders the list of players who used steroids nearly useless, as the evidence against them is equally as inconclusive as it was for Clemens and Pettitte. If we ignore the list of players, than the next question is what does that leave in the report? I think there are two major results from it:

1. It identifies twenty ways that MLB can strengthen its drug-testing program and prevent players from using performance-enhancing drugs. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has already stated in his interview that every one Mitchell’s recommendations would be implemented as long as the Major League Players’ Association agreed. Having already adjusted the collective bargaining agreement twice, it is highly unlikely that the MLBPA will allow Selig and MLB to change it again

2. It may create a little bit of doubt in future players thinking about using steroids. If this many players were accused of using steroids with that little evidence then maybe being able to pass drug tests isn’t enough. You need to cover up any transactions and make sure that your dealer is trustworthy. If all Mitchell needed to accuse someone of steroid use was one person’s word, it greatly increases the risk of being caught and may cause players to choose against using steroids.

Many fans and members of the media have declared this a terrible day for baseball, but I would say otherwise. As said above, the only result from naming players is destroying those players’ reputation and possibly creating some doubt in future players’ decision on whether or not to use steroids. For a twenty-month investigation, I expected more, especially in terms of evidence. Yet maybe that is good. Casual baseball fans will not do enough research to realize the validity (or lack there of) of these allegations, but die hard fans will know that the players named are not definite steroid users. At least after reading this article they will (hopefully). Mitchell’s investigation has created a panic across the sport from players to owners to the commissioner, but now it is over. We can move past the report and try our best to put the steroid era behind us.

The last thing I want to comment on is Selig’s comments that he may punish players’ for accusations in the report. Unless Mitchell is holding back real evidence, suspending players (or worse banning players) with that little evidence would be absurd. Even if he found credible evidence against certain players, it is unfair to punish them, because they were caught. No one will ever know the extent of steroid use, so Selig must realize that he cannot fairly punish any players in Mitchell’s report. Use Mitchell’s recommendations to improve the league’s drug testing policy and clean up the sport. It is time to move on from the past, and focus on the future.

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