It’s still roughly four hours before the details of major league baseball’s Mitchell report are released, but as expected in the highly charged world of 24-hour news cycles, information is beginning to leak out, and it’s not good.
Reports indicate that a former New York Yankees strength trainer told Mitchell investigators that the trainer supplied 354-game winner Roger Clemens with steroids while as a Yankee. The Bergen (N.J.) Record is reporting that several prominent Yankees are going to be named in the potentially damning report, quoting a source as saying, “It’s going to be a rough day in the Bronx.”
Whatever else comes out, it appears as though there will be a relatively high degree of circumstantial evidence that Clemens was mixed up with steroids, at least enough to connect him to the performance-enhancing drugs like home run king Barry Bonds. Bonds, though, is reviled by many media types and fans alike. How, then, will the shock of Clemens’ involvement in steroids be taken? Will he be publicly defamed like Bonds has? Will critics call for asterisks next to Clemens’ marks? Will Clemens ultimately be discredited as a cheater?And, also, how will Clemens react to the news? Will he fess up, apologize and take responsibility for his actions? And if he does, how would the public respond to that versus how Bonds treated the claims against him, with repeated denials? A couple of things, though. What kind of substantiation do the Clemens accusations have? Is it just his personal trainer’s opinion, which is damaging, but are there canceled checks? Receipts? Documentation of any kind?This is going to be an interesting day, no matter what pundits had tried to tell us leading up to it. That Clemens is possibly involved changes everything.Check back for further updates.
A couple of things about the report — just how much validity will it be granted?That’s a tough call for a few reasons, and the questions may be enough for the players accused to simply dismiss it.For one thing, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell serves on the board of directors for the Boston Red Sox. There’s even a story going around that he was with a grandson in a Fenway Park dugout seeking autographs at the beginning of this season. You can be sure Yankees officials, “prominent Yankees” and fans alike will cry conflict of interest whether significant Red Sox players are named in the report or not.Also, Mitchell was never granted subpoena power for the investigation. So how credible is the information gathered? Is it conjecture? Opinion? Culled from somebody with an axe to grind? Are we really supposed to believe a former Mets batboy and clubhouse attendant, Kirk Radomski, with absolute certainty?And how will commissioner Bud Selig be regarded in the report? Will he be blasted along with the players and the union for allowing the steroid era to flourish, or, because Mitchell was hired by Selig, will the commissioner skate responsibility?
Today’s biggest news will no doubt be the caliber of names listed in the report.But the longer lasting effect — other than the impact on the named players’ legacies — should be what else is in the report. Or, at least, what else we should hope is in the report.How did steroids infiltrate baseball’s culture? How were they distributed? What were the avenues that players sought to learn about and receive steroids? And who knew what was going on when?
And how will baseball test for PEDs in the future? Reports indicate that Mitchell will suggest than an independent entity take over testing. If the report leads to that, and something like the U.S. Anti Doping Agency takes over, the report will be a success. That would be a huge step in the right direction. Flawed as the USADA is — BALCO certainly found a way around it for a while — it’s better than what baseball has right now.
The real effect this report will ultimately depend on how well baseball cleans up the game.
George Mitchell stood at the podium, snow and sleet raining down outside the conference room’s in New York, and tried to put a band-aid the major league baseball’s steroid era.
Instead, with the report of his investigation released for all to see, Mitchell has raised holy hell, the damage to one of the game’s most cherished heroes hot enough to melt any baseball fan’s soul.
Despite the fundamental flaws that come with the Mitchell Report — the lack of subpoena power, little no help from the players’ association, Mitchell’s position on the Boston Red Sox board of directors — the inclusion of seven-time Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent Andy Pettitte and former MVPs Miguel Tejada and Mo Vaughn, will undoubtedly rock the baseball world.
While much of the report’s most damning assertions are the result of interviews with former Mets bat boy and clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski that amount to little more than he-said, he said accusations with the benefit of a few canceled checks, there appears to be a mountain of detail surrounding Clemens’ reported use of steroids and human growth hormone.
Those accusations come from former Yankees trainer and personal Clemens trainer Brian McNamee, who, in connection with Radomski, claims that he supplied steroids to Clemens. He also said he injected Clemens himself in an apartment at Toronto’s Skydome while Clemens was with the Blue Jays. After Clemens signed with New York, Clemens brought McNamee, who was hired by the Yankees, with him and consulted with him regarding steroids throughout his first stint with the Yankees and during specific spring training regimens. It is all detailed within the pages of the report, beginning on page 169.
Clemens and Pettitte have long been workout partners, and there are more claims that McNamee injected Pettitte with HGH as well (page 175). Tejada’s and Vaughn’s connections to performance enhancing drugs are linked to Radomski , as are several others, mostly of lesser known players.
There are other damaging assertions throughout the report, and it’s not just focused on the players. Club officials are mentioned, and in regards to catcher Paul Lo Duca, Dodgers officials’ notes are quoted: “Steroids aren’t being used anymore on him. Big part of this. … Got off the steroids. … Took away a lot of hard line drives. … consider trading.” (Page 209). Notes from club officials about Kevin Brown and Eric Gagne also suggest that the word was out on many players inside organizations. Little seems to have been done aside from the almost imperative need to trade the suspected player as soon as possible, in essence, trading damaged goods once the ’roid-less player had used up his value to the club.
What does all this mean? It means that baseball, for a long time, has had a serious problem with performance enhancing drugs, and everybody within baseball shares some of the blame. Mitchell, calling it a “collective failure”, admitted as much.
But while the drama of the report will center on the players and reputations of those named — not to mention the effect on the potential Hall of Fame candidacy of Clemens, who has as much of a cloud surrounding him now as Barry Bonds — the success of the report will only be measured by what is done to rectify the problem in the future.
That was the Mitchell’s message on Thursday, one he tried almost desperately to emphasize a number times. Baseball’s drug testing policy has significant flaws, and it must be controlled and administered by a separate authority with the results transparent to the public.
Look, there are problems. A lot of the report is a product of hearsay that could cripple a ballplayer’s reputation. (Consider Brian Roberts, whose “use” was based on what Larry Bigbie says Roberts told him, that Roberts said he injected himself “once or twice“ in 2003 (Page 158).) And this report may signal a new world war between baseball and the players association. Any drug testing issue will have to collectively bargained, and it is certain that the union will find the report as another blatant example for why it mistrusts baseball officials so.
Mitchell said that he wants baseball to move on, sounding not unlike Mark McGwire did in his testimony in front of a Congressional panel to forego reflecting further on the past. He recommended that Commissioner Bud Selig hold off on disciplining players except for an excessively serious situation (and who decides what that is?).
But moving on from this era is next to impossible, at least for now. The game’s greatest slugger and the modern era’s most distinguished pitcher may have gotten that way artificially.
Baseball move on? Maybe when hell freezes over.