Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday 12/14 A.M. Quickie:
Mitchell Report Defines an MLB Era

Today's Names To Know: Uh, Every Name That Came Up in George Mitchell's Report? Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, George Mitchell, Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, Mario Williams, Sage Rosenfels, Appalachian State, Kobe Bryant and More.

Start with the biggie: Roger Clemens. Layer in former World Series hero Andy Pettitte. Throw in an ex-MVP, Miguel Tejada. Or an "all-time" record-holder like Eric Gagne.

The only thing more fascinating than the lurid thrill of reading the names listed in the Mitchell Report was the range of the names themselves:

Stars. Superstars. Journeymen. Old Hands. Young Studs. Hitters. Pitchers. Infielders. Outfielders. Catchers. Starters. Relievers. In short: Everyone.

What a fitting bookend (or doorstop, in the case of the 400-plus-page report) to MLB's Steroid Era that Mitchell's report covered all bases (despite seeming to use only three sources -- BALCO, Radomski and a handful of individual interviews).

It is a reminder: The Steroid Era was everywhere. It touched every team and -- quite likely -- every GAME played.

The names included in the report are given a linguistic asterisk: "Mitchell Report" will be attached to the player's name forever, the mirror image of "Hall of Famer So-and-So" or "World Series star So-and-So." Now it is: "So-and-So, who was named in baseball's infamous Mitchell Report...." It is first-paragraph-of-the-obituary material.

Roger Clemens is the headliner: The greatest pitcher of the era, a cheater. I said this yesterday: That the greatest pitcher and greatest hitter of our generation were both cheaters says all you need to know about the Steroid Era.

What is the impact? Will it cost active players a suspension in 2008? Will it cost sure-fire Hall of Famers a first-ballot induction?

(Personally, I don't think it should. Not when it is so obvious that the entire playing field was tilted – if you think this is the extent of the cheating, you are naive or a fool. The many, many others escaped outing only because of the obstructions in the way of the fact-finding.)

More importantly, this is a statistically significant sample size that goes further than anything before it to prove the theory we all knew all along: The entire era was enhanced – bloated – with cheating.

I feel no need to penalize the listed players any more than the public humiliation – the permanent stain – of being cited in the Mitchell Report.

Just as certain as I am that cheating will continue – whether it is the untraceable HGH or whatever the new new drug ends up being in any particular year. It is arguable that the Mitchell Report doesn't signal the end of the Steroid Era, but simply its next Era.

If anything, I feel badly for the players who competed on the level – however many (or few) that might have been. (Let's not get into what was likely those players' rampant amphetamines abuse. Not against the rules, but enough against the spirit of the game that MLB eventually outlawed them.)

The "Mitchell Players," as they may come to be known -- a shorthand of a remarkable (and remarkably diverse) roster of an "All-Star All-Steroid Team" -- sealed their own fate when they made their original choice.

More on Mitchell fallout:

- "Collective failure" is a nice summation – but did it really take all that time and money to figure that out? Fans already knew it.

- Kirk Radomski: Speaking of names etched in history...

- "Call to action": Bud Selig appeared to react decisively, but the proof will be in the actions, not the words. Of the active players named, who will be suspended and for how many games?

- Don Fehr can't win by continuing to defend the status quo; the players' union utterly failed by not taking a more active role in this.

- In general, George Mitchell is getting very positive reviews. As expected, Mitchell's connection to the Red Sox (he's a director) has been brought up – more Yankees than Red Sox made the list.

- Frank Thomas should be credited with speaking to Mitchell. Presuming he was clean (and I do), will history remember him as the Steroid Era's "Greatest Clean Hitter?" (Probably not: That will go to Ken Griffey. But certainly The Big Hurt will be right up there.)

- David Justice, on the other hand, comes off as a bit more of a jerk: He talked with the Mitchell Commission, naming names, then it turns out HE was one of the names. Did he forget to mention that to them?

- Did Barry Bonds get advanced warning of MLB steroid tests in 2003? Well, no wonder he never failed a steroid test.

- Don't let the media off the hook: Keep in mind that baseball writers turned a blind eye to what they knew (or at least suspected) what was going on and were complicit in creating the Steroid Era.

- I guess we have a set of dates for the Steroid Era: 1988-2006. That's a lot of baseball -- most of your lives as aware fans, I would bet. That's crazy to think about.

(And just think: The report didn't even touch the issue of amphetamines, which have been around far longer, touched way more players and impacted way more games than PEDs.)

- Think this is behind us? Three words: H.G.H. There's no testing for it, and there's no reason to believe players aren't using it en masse.

(Painting with a broad brush? Really: After reading the report, the only thing you can really know is that PEDs are ingrained in the fabric of the game.)

- Roger Clemens: I will end with his name, because even more than Mitchell, Selig, Fehr, Radomski or any other, he is the name that defines the Mitchell Report. I am intrigued at how this impacts him.

Certainly he is as tarnished as Bonds, though I doubt fans will have the chance to jeer him in the same way they jeered Bonds (and I'm not even sure they would if they had the chance).

Clemens appears to have been cheating even longer than Bonds did, with even greater rewards coming to him for the effort.

Clemens is still a first-ballot Hall of Famer (as is Bonds), but his HOF plaque should be every bit as transparent as Bonds' should be:

"The greatest of his generation, but had to cheat to get there."

Must-read opinions:
Leitch at Deadspin.
Mottram at Sporting Blog.
Bois at Dugout/Fanhouse.
Silver at BP Unfiltered. Commenters.

Very quickly, everything else:

NFL This Weekend: It's all about Pats-Jets, which should be entertaining if only to see how unmercifully Bill Belichick destroys Eric Mangini. The 20-something spread is nothing; I'll say 40-plus.

(Update: As correctly pointed out in the comments, weather will play a big factor. But, to me, that just means the Jets will be shut out. You really think that the Pats can't score 5 TDs? Maybe "40" is a stretch, but 28-0? 35-0? Hardly, even in the bad weather.)

Oh, there was a game last night? Texans beat the Broncos, effectively eliminating any slim chance the Broncos had of making the playoffs.

Mario Williams (career-high 3.5 sacks) affirms that the Texans were probably right to pick him over Reggie Bush.

Sage Rosenfels re-affirms his place near the top of the list of backup QBs in this, the Year of the Backup QB.

This Weekend's Picks (Home in ALL CAPS)
Bengals over 49ERS
BROWNS over Bills
CHIEFS over Titans
Packers over RAMS
Ravens over DOLPHINS (0-16 Watch!)
PATRIOTS over Jets (19-0 Watch!)
SAINTS over Cards
BUCS over Falcons
Seahawks over PANTHERS
Colts over RAIDERS
COWBOYS over Eagles
CHARGERS over Lions
GIANTS over Redskins
VIKINGS over Bears (Playoff Destiny)

CFB I-AA Playoff Championship: Appalachian State vs. Delaware. App State is going for its third-straight I-AA title, confirming they are a "DynAAsty."

(Enterprising students who want to take that phrase and turn it into a T-shirt if/when App State wins, give me the credit – and a slice of the revenue!)

It would be a perfect bookend to a storybook season in I-AA that began when App State waltzed into the Big House and beat then-No. 5 Michigan, and followed with plenty of I-AA wins over I-A teams – not to mention a new rule where worthy I-AA teams could be ranked in the I-A Top 25.

Pick: App State.

CFB Coaching Carousel: Is this the weekend that UCLA will hire Norm Chow? Meanwhile, did Duke offer Tennessee assistant David Cutcliffe its head-coaching job? (And will he take it?)

NBA: Kobe and the Lakers are on a roll; they won their 4th straight AND beat the Spurs.

-- D.S.


Tom said...

As much as I'd love to see the Pats win by 60 points, I think it's going to be tough to get the running game going and difficult for the receivers to make good breaks in all the snow. Winter weather in New England is going to drastically reduce the amount of punishment the Jets receive. You should rethink your spread.

Unknown said...

The bias in the Mitchel report is HUGE. The only Red Sox player named is Gagne, now there is a real popular Sox player. Maybe if they arrested threatened and subpoenaed the 'guy' who hangs out in the Boston locker room then we would have Manny, Ortiz, Youkalis, Lowell, Beckett, Pedro and company on the list - and don't think for a split second any of them are clean.

The big point is that none of the evidence would probably stand up in court and was so selectively applied that there is no way the commissioner can punish these players.

Basically every single player who won a major post-season award in the last 10 years was cheating.

My attititude is that the speed limit here is 55 and I drive 70. So what, everyone else does. Am I still breaking the law - yes. Does anyone care - only naive self-righteous people who bury their head in the sand.

If they want to test then randomly draw blood as well as urine (they don't draw blood now) randomly after at least 10 games per season for all teams. Failure to comply is an automatic 40 game suspension. First positive - 20 games, 2nd positive - half a season, 3rd - ban with reinstatement possible after one year. Also random out of competition testing where players provide their location 365 days per year. Wrong location - same 40 day suspension.

Anything less and they just wasted $30M of my money. Actually no matter what, they just wasted $30M of my money. Shit, they could have paid A-Rod for one year for what they spent!

mike said...

A buddy of mine pointed this out: if there's one person who wakes up this morning feeling vindicated, it's Dan Duquette.

If Clemens truly started using steroids/HGH/whatever when he was with the Blue Jays, then perhaps Duke wasn't necessarily wrong in 1996 when he made the infamous "twilight of his career" comment. It's just that the Rocket's twilight was pushed back a decade by foreign substances...

John said...

I'm surprised you pick Steelers v. Jaguars as the game of the week. The most important game of the week is definitely Cleveland v. Buffalo. It will help to decide the AFC Playoff picture whereas Jacksonville and Pittsburgh are pretty much locked into the the 5 and 3 seeds respectively.

C.West said...

Actually I would love the see the Jets win and then witness the handshake at th end of the the game or the lack there of.

As for Steroids in MLB I am not shocked by the names at all. What I am shocked at is the amount of names from the so called greatest team. What was it the 2000 Yankees that won all those games?

hutlock said...


It just so happened that the dude they had to talk to worked for the Yankees. I know Gagne is not a big Sox name with the fans, but if you read that section of testimony, it looks pretty damn bad for them as an organization. There's even an email from Theo and back from a scout saying they KNEW. That's worse than naming a player, if you ask me.

But beyond that, EVERYONE needs to stop with the whole defending Clemens, et al and "innocent until proven guilty" bullshit. This isn't a court of law. If it were, Mitchell would have been able to subpoena people. They asked him to investigate and report and that's what he did -- he gave everyone a chance to talk to him and ONE guy chose to do so (Frank Thomas). There is such a thing as truth of law and there is such a thing as truth of fact. They are very different things, and all of these folks (especially on ESPN!) talking about Mitchell's report as if it needs to or should be able to stack up to actual LEGAL standards is pretty lame. They couldn't prove in court that OJ did it either.

Allen Wedge said...

I think people also may have missed one of Mitchell's main points in his speech: obviously without players consent/assistance there is no way to ever figure out all the things that happened in the past so lets focus on fixing the system for the present and future.

Justin said...

Glad to see people are finally paying some serious attention to Division 1AA football. great playoff system, and the championship game tonight is going to be a fun to watch, high scoring shootout. App St. makes it a 3peat, 44-27.

Armanti Edwards for Heisman in 2008

Go App.

Jamie said...

If you've read the Sabernomics blog recently, you'd realize HGH does little to nothing to enhance performance. It just screws up your body.

jeff said...

A side not of retrospectiveness:

Recall your post from this past summer:
“Tour de France: The epidemic -- of athlete cheating and of lost credibility with virtually every fan – truly justifies a "re-set" moment with the sport, where they allow any/all forms of performance enhancement. It can't possibly be worse than the current state. For goodness' sake: They sent home the LEADER of the FRIGGING RACE because he was cheating (lying about where he was training)!”
The above reflected the domestic opinion of most regarding the race and sport which was written off as corrupt and tarnished, regardless of the amazing skill of the riders and ridiculous physical demands of the race. Now to correlate that to current events…

How do you view the dichotomy between sports (supposedly for entertainment of the masses) that strictly test and police themselves for performance enhancing products against sports that do not strictly test? I would stipulate that many sports have long crossed the division between amateur (the feeling of watching and imagining that one can compete on the same stage) and the professional (a realization that with the specialized training, life devotion, ridiculous monies involved). Now that many sports are an economic engine unto themselves, it certainly does not benefit a sport to police itself too closely and reveal that their product is ‘tainted’. The question is this: does the public care that athletes commit so much to compete / entertain / earn large sums of money? My view is that we have long ago given up the fantasy of the everyman professional athlete and have realized that many athletes would do most anything to get the extra edge that can make the difference in 1) winning a game, 2) making a team, and most importantly 3) earning a living. The specialization in the sporting world and the money involved make performance enhanced training under the supervision of trained professionals (and doctors) an economic and social reality.

The primary problem is that in the U.S., with its farcical collegiate amateur athletic program blurs the line between amateur athletic competition and the for-profit athletic / entertainment sport industry.

The questions that should be discussed in the media and amongst us all should be these: How will the major U.S. sports respond: baseball, football, (and perhaps even basketball)? Will professional and amateur athletics adopt random independent private testing? What level of competition will be evaluated and how will the line between personal privacy rights and the apparent ‘need’ of transparency be balanced? Does the public even demand a non-enhancement athlete sport?

Cycling and Olympic testing (WADA, IAAF and others) require athletes to provide their itineraries year round and to make themselves available at any time for scheduled or surprise tests (blood collection as well as urine). It seems obvious to me that players’ unions in the U.S. would never agree to such a comprehensive and evasive program; so the last question is this: what level of testing should be adopted?

Penalties are the flip-side of the coin and can be discussed independently; but are obviously a major component of any regulatory program.

Hope that this stimulates some thought in addition to the sure to follow media flagellation.

Mills said...

RE: The Mitchell Report. One word. Bleh. (If that's a word.)

It honestly provided nothing new to anyone who has followed this stuff over the last 12-18 months. And if you are reading this on this site, I guarantee you follow it enough have seen very many "suprises." Heck, Roger Clemens name has been broughout numerous times, including on the Dan Patrick show a year or so ago.

Most of this stuff is nothing new really, and Mitchell was merely regurgitating stuff that we had already heard. Granted it provided more depth as to how things worked from the ground up, but still...

Very underwhelmed. Very.

Toby said...

Here is my solution to the steroid problem. Get the union to agree that the franchise has the option to void any contract of any player who tests positive for steroids.

Will they agree? Probably not, but this would end steroids use.

Unknown said...

The Mitchell Report is going to have as much of a lasting impact on MLB as the Donaghy scandal has with the NBA.

As in, none. The press will talk about it for a few weeks. Congress will try to get in on the act (too late though, they return to DC in January). Blah blah blah.

It will burn itself out long before pitchers and catchers report.

Michael W said...

You know what the most damning thing about this whole mess is? We can only speculate as to how many great players didn't really make it cause they couldn't compete with 'roid pitchers and 'roid hitters when they were perfectly clean.

Unknown said...

A bit late but I had to work yesterday. I completely agree Todd 2nd. I completely believe the reports about Clemens using. Hell, I was pretty sure he was using before the list came out. I just don't care that much.

We naively sit here trying to pretend our heroes betrayed us.