Spouting Off On the Mitchell Report
December 19, 2007
I really thought I had nothing to say about the Mitchell Report. I was already exhausted by the topic and I didn't feel anything new was revealed. Nevertheless, a simple e-mail from a reader got me spouting off again, so here is the transcript:
The Commish has no response to The Mitchell Report? Deafening silence indeed.
...the Mitchell Report was nothing more than many millions spent on an investigation (how exactly $65 MILLION is spent asking people questions and digging through old canceled checks, etc. is beyond me) to tell the general public what it already knew: many baseball players from superstars to subs have used PEDs over the past two decades. The reality is that Mitchell only used a handful of sources to acquire his information. There are obviously hundreds more abusers yet to be uncovered but, again, I think we knew that at this point.
The findings don't point us toward buying a Royals hat and rooting for KC simply b/c there weren't any Royals on the list (I'm not sure if this is true, I'm just hypothesizing). It just happens that Royals don't shop for their drugs in the Yankees clubhouse, through a Mets batboy, or from Jason Grimsley.
I do find it amusing that in several cases already, Mitchell's random findings just HAPPENED to catch the one or two times that guys like Pettitte or Roberts used in their entire careers. Puh-lease. Either you did or you didn't, and if you did, you are guilty regardless of whether you shot up to heal, get stronger, earn a bigger paycheck, or just score chicks. The penalty is the same.
Having said that, do we, the public, really care? We SAY we do ("screw those greedy bastards," etc.) but in the end, we keep going to games and we keep flooding ticketmaster.com for the right to pay exorbitant money for a playoff game ticket in the rafters. At the end of the day, it seems the majority would rather watch an impressive home run or strikeout courtesy of some pharmaceutical assistance than an ethical, upstanding game with potentially less "show" in the boxscore.
Selig will be hard pressed to punish anyone seeing as how a lot of the reports occurred years ago before the new suspension parameters were in place. On top of that, players outed because of a loose-limped teammate speaking to investigators is hardly proof in the sense that a player should be able to fight it easily if pressured with suspension or major fines. The guys whose canceled checks appear as evidence might have a more difficult defense, but the rest should benefit from a case of he said/she said.
Yes, it's nice to get some "official" names to go along with our suspicions, but I wish Selig and
company would just admit that the recent past has been an embarrassing one and lessons were learned that should and WILL be applied toward the present and future. I would like to see him condemn the players while taking a large part of the blame himself, acknowledging that owners, general managers, and Selig himself knew about a problem but was unwilling to
investigate it at the time thanks to boffo attendance, ratings, and profit.
Money often drives the decisions of the elite, and the same is true for the players. Using PEDs in professional baseball (or any pro sport) is as much an economic issue as it is an ethical one.
I would venture to guess that more than half of the users swore to themselves when they were younger that they would NEVER use steroids, etc. Suddenly, you realize you are a 27-year-old athlete will a crappy education and no real background for which to get a decent job in the future. You made a six figures two years in a row now but the contract is up soon and you
are feeling tired. Realizing you have less than a decade left on your money making career, you start using and working out. Before you know it, you set career highs for yourself and sign a 4-year deal somewhere for $10 million. You stop using, you convince yourself that no one was harmed (save for some damage to yourself) and life is good. It was totally worth it you say to yourself.
I'm a pretty honest and ethical guy I think, but the above situation is certainly not for the horribly immoral people only. It's easy to see how players can get caught up in it, especially when the guy next to them is doing it and outperforming them despite having less ability.
Imagine only having a decade left in your career in which to make a lot of money. Some guys at work are drinking an illegal drink that looks like Gatorade and are selling like crazy. You are a better salesman than them, you say to yourself. The drink is said to be bad tasting and may cause some medical problems down the road but nothing has been proven.
Based on what you see the chumps next to you doing, you are pretty sure a few swigs of that stuff will triple your commissions in no time. You'll only do it for a couple years then coast on the big paychecks for a little while after that. Nobody gets hurt (you believe) and you make a better living for you and your family. It's easy to see why that would be hard to pass up.
It certainly doesn't make it right, but my point is that it happened and enough people abused it that it probably leveled the competition as if no one used. Yes, it escalated everything so that home runs became a joke and middle relievers were being used seemingly every day, but that can't be fixed now. The real victim is the guy who stayed clean and tried to make it through hard work but failed because he was fighting a losing battle.
It's time to move on, fix the present so the future is safe. I'm not sure how the Mitchell Report will do any of that, but I hope it does.
How can WE fix it? Stop going to games and stop contributing to the insane high salaries until it gets to the point where signing the next contract is not worth illegal activity and risking your future health.
Ben's views of the issue can be found in the Letters to the Editor section of the December 22 issue of the Chicago Tribune.