Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell released his report on the use of illegal performance enhancing substances in Major League Baseball yesterday. Read the full 409-page report here, or the executive summary here.
It’s a depressing read, and disappointing, but not surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention the last five years or so. Named in the report are 89 Major League players who have used steroids or other banned substances to enhance their performances. Many of the players listed are retired, a few are dead, quite a few are still active and well known to most fans of the game. Among those named in the report: Barry Bonds (naturally), Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Eric Gagne, Andy Pettite, Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, along with guys who aren’t widely known outside of their hometown fan base, like current Orioles Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons, and former Orioles Larry Bigbie and David Segui.
Since most of them have never failed a drug test, which isn’t surprising since there was no drug policy to speak of in Major League Baseball until 2002, and no serious consequences for a failed test until three years later, we cannot consider their inclusion in the Mitchell Report to be anything more than an allegation. So I’m not sure what sort of disciplinary action Commissioner Selig will be able to take, short of calling the implicated active players into his office for a stern lecture. I doubt anything Selig says will carry much weight anyway, since he’s as complicit in allowing drug use to become so ubiquitous in baseball as any of the owners. Shit, he used to be an owner. If he had really wanted to clean up his sport, he shouldn’t have looked the other way for the first decade he was commissioner.
I blame the players who used performance enhancing drugs — who cheated — but I also blame the owners, club executives, managers and coaches who spent most of the 1990s watching players on every team juice and bulk up, and pretending not to see it. There’s fault enough to go around with this one. Anyone honestly think that if Congress hadn’t threatened to use legislation to force MLB to handle their shit, Selig and the owners would have taken a single legitimate step to solve the problem? They’d much rather be counting the money and watching those homers sail over the fences.
The lack of positive drug tests for Bonds, Clemens, et al, means that they can’t be suspended or punished in any official capacity by Major League Baseball. But that’s all right with me, as long as they get what’s coming to them come their hall of fame eligibility. I know the era of expecting athletes to be upright people of character and integrity has long since passed, along with the era of expecting athletes to at least be decent human beings. But is it now too unreasonable to expect players to at least perform honestly, without illegal pharmaceutical enhancement, for the fans who have made many of them millionaires? I don’t think it is. That’s why I don’t think a player who used steroids should receive a single vote from the BBWAA when his name appears on a ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
That means some of the most illustrious and accomplished ballplayers of an entire generation — Bonds, Clemens, Giambi, Pettite, Palmeiro, Tejada — would be denied a place at Cooperstown. I can live with that. If Major League Baseball wants to regain some of what this scandal has cost it, it will have to live with it, too.
Here’s a video of 2 year-old Dante, son of YouTube user dompace1, and his response to the Mitchell Report, specifically the fingering of Roger Clemens as a ‘roider: