Friday, December 14, 2007

Above the Fold - The Detroit take on the Mitchell Report

December 13, 2007 will be known as a day of infamy in baseball circles. The release of MLB's Mitchell report confirmed what we already knew, that baseball is rife with PED's, with the mid 90's through the early 00's being the golden era of steroids, so to speak.

The frenzy over the report was a tad over the top, as in all honesty, George Mitchell's investigation didn't pave much in the way of new territory. Save for one new name being exposed. One of the best pitchers in baseball history, Roger Clemens, as many suspected, was a steroid abuser on par with the likes of Bonds and Giambi. His legacy was severely, likely irrevocably, tarnished.

Mitchell was more effective in getting across the fact that his 2 year long investigation was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the MLBPA, the MLB owners, and commissioner Bud Selig, all need to agree to make big changes in their drug testing policy. It's currently a farce, with so many loopholes and different ways to beat or avoid the testing, it makes MLB's drug policies appear to be mere window dressing.

In the Detroit News, Bob Wojnowski boiled PED use down to a few simple questions...

If you still wondered why a major league player would do it, why he'd get involved with shady steroids-peddlers, why he'd arrogantly dismiss murmurs and cheating accusations, you got your answers Thursday, delivered with grim shame in former senator George Mitchell's historic 409-page report.

Why? Because baseball essentially condoned it, or just didn't care.

Why? Because so many others were doing it.

Why? Because with the right mix of talent and fake testosterone, a guy could get silly rich.

The majority of the players named in the report could fall into 3 different scenarios:

(1) Players on the down side of their career looking to hang on in the bigs (Hal Morris)
(2) Players with minimal major league skill looking for an edge (Nook Logan)
(3) Aging players whose once great skills began to diminish (Clemens)

You can't condone what they did, but do understand why they would feel the need to ingest/inject PED's. There was an immense amount of money at stake, PED's were deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball, and you would do absolutely anything necessary, even committing a felony in obtaining PED's illegally, to stay in the big leagues.

The Little Fella, who has been cranking out sports columns at unusually brisk pace, touches on the 2 names that gave Mitchell the bulk of his inside information, Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski.

The bulk of the damning information comes from two sources, Brian McNamee, a strength and conditioning trainer who worked with the Blue Jays and the Yankees (and offered the evidence on Pettitte and Clemens, two of his charges), and Kirk Radomski, a one-time batboy for the Mets who became a major dealer of steroids and human growth hormone. Radomski spilled his beans only because he had to, as part of a plea bargain deal with the authorities after he was busted. So don't be surprised if some of his accused start pointing fingers back, calling him a rat, a liar, a louse or worse. Already, baseball's union chief, Donald Fehr, fired a warning shot, using the phrases "nature of the evidence" and "reliability of the source."

Still, you'd have to be the craziest sort of conspiracy theorist to ignore the fire for the smoke here. Fehr can bark all he wants. What are all those checks from players to Radomski for? Car rentals?

And if they had nothing to hide, why didn't any of them talk? The biggest defense Fehr offered at his news conference was that there were other legal cases going on that their testimony could tie them to. Yeah. Those cases are about steroids as well.

It's damning to MLB players as a whole that the only active player to talk to Mitchell was "The Big Hurt," Frank Thomas. The rest refused to cooperate. Did they have something to hide? Is it an "Honor amongst thieves" philosophy? Probably some combination of the two. Mitchell got zero help from those with most to lose, the players.

The only reason McNamee and Radomski talked was that they were forced to sing like canaries by the heavy hands of the Feds. That says volumes about the effectiveness of an investigation that has no legal consequence. It has no effectiveness.

Pat Caputo was not surprised at all by the announced findings. He believes the big story, the only story, is Roger Clemens and his now tattered legacy.

To me, the big news was Roger Clemens’ name coming up. It has long been suspected, but that’s first time he has actually been fingered. Wonder how that will hurt his Hall of Fame chances? I have a vote and will have to ponder that one. We’re talking about one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Clemens is denying this, but he does have the recourse to sue. Why wouldn’t he sue if he wasn’t a user? It’s the question that has kept Mark McGwire labeled "guilty" in the court of public opinion.

Can you honestly see any of the named players sue? If you thought yesterday was a media circus, and it was a HUGE one, it would pale in comparison to a Roger Clemens lawsuit against MLB that went to trial. It would bigger than Mike Vick and Sean Taylor, combined.

Instead, he'll become a recluse like McGuire, and hope it all goes away. And it will, considering the short attention span of both the media and public. But when Clemens' hall of fame eligibility kicks in? To paraphrase the wise Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok, "It'll blow up good...Blow up reeeeal good!"

At Mack Avenue Tigers, Kurt thinks player punishment won't come from MLB itself. It'll come in the way these players legacies are viewed by the public.

I think the punishment has to come from the public. Whether or not Selig and MLB fine someone, or take a few weeks off their upcoming season, is ultimately a short event. Rogers Clemens and his accomplishments should never be looked upon the same again, if the allegations are true (He denies them). Same with Andy Pettitte. Same with Miguel Tejada, and all the former All-Stars. The late 90s-early 2000s era was already considered tainted. Now we have better proof of that. Ultimately, how we remember these players 20, 30, 40 years from now, means more than anything Selig can do to them during the 2008 season. If we choose to forgive and forget, that’s fine, too. But it’s up to baseball fans, not baseball, to dole out punishment.

Much like Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson will always be more associated with gambling, than their great careers, I think the same will happen to Clemens, Bonds, McGuire and others caught up in the use of PED's. Their records will stand, but they will be thought of as tainted, and always be associated with what's being called "The Steroid Era."

At The Daily Fungo, Mike has has 2 words to say about this mess. Nook Logan?

About three hours before the Mitchell Report was released today, I updated Twitter with this tongue-in-cheek ditty: Is today the day we find out Nook Logan was on steroids? Little did I know that his name would appear in the report (on page 277).

Two bits of interest for me related to Logan: First, didn’t know his first name was Exavier. Second, he preferred to pay by money order. So old school.

Now that Detroit Tigers fans have had two full seasons of Curtis Granderson in centerfield, can you even remember when Logan was thought to be a budding fixture in the Detroit outfield?

That was my first reaction as well. "Huh? NOOK LOGAN?" It goes to show that it wasn't just the big names juicing, 'roids were rampant throughout baseball. Even the marginal players felt the need to juice. Nook Logan is as marginal as they come...

At Roar of the Tigers, Sam points out that the Mitchell report is full of hearsay and innuendo, as there is very little in the way of first hand evidence and testimony. We need to remember that the most damning evidence are the recollections of a pair of convicted criminals who are trying to save their own respective asses from doing serious time in federal PMITA prison...

Hearsay is not the same kind of evidence as a positive test result, or a signed note saying, “Thanks for the steroids baby, they work so good!! My nuts are already shrinking! Love and kisses, Jose Canseco!!” For instance, the only evidence of Nook Logan’s steroid involvement in this report is Radomski’s word that Nook was referred to him by Rondell White, he sold and shipped one kit of HGH to Nook, and the fact that Radomski had Nook’s phone number in his cell. No paper documents are included, and so we basically only have Radomski’s say-so indicating that this is how it went down.

Federal charges will make most anyone sing long and loud. They'll throw so many names up against the wall, some of them are bound to stick. That could also mean that some innocent parties may be caught up in the dragnet. That's why I think the odds are good that MLB won't punish players retroactively.

Ian touches on our favorite surly Tiger, Gary Sheffield, at Bless You Boys. Specifically regarding the Mitchell report bringing up his involvement in the BALCO scandal...

Gary Sheffield was implicated in the original BALCO investigation, along with eight other players. It's been reported that he initially refused to cooperate with Mitchell's investigation, but eventually agreed to be interviewed. Due to his lawyer undergoing medical treatments, however, Sheffield hadn't arranged a meeting before the investigation concluded. He insists he never knew any of the substances he used while training with Greg Anderson contained steroids.

It's interesting to note that the normally verbose Sheffield, who will expound his opinions to anyone with a pencil and pad of paper, or holding anything remotely like a microphone, clammed up when it came to talking to Mitchell.

In the end, I tend to agree with Billfer's statement at The Detroit Tigers Weblog. Bud-lite is a buffoon.

In the end I don’t know much more than I did before. There did appear to be some assurances that the drug program is helping - not solving mind you - but helping curtail the use of steroids. The sport will never be clean, but the efforts to date look to be moving things in the right direction. The afternoon also affirmed most widely held beliefs about Bud Selig and his buffoonery. He schedules a press conference but can’t answer questions because he hasn’t read the report. Also Bud urges everyone to not dwell in the past when it comes to holding MLB accountable, but he’s prepared to hand out punishments for the players role. Nice Bud.

So the Mitchell Report is done. A couple years and tens of millions of dollar later we finally learn the information that local, state, and federal authorities discovered while conducting investigations. Whoopee.

Whoopee, indeed.

That's "Above the Fold" for Friday, 12-14-07!

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