Knee-jerking 20 times over the Mitchell Report:
1. Today was to be baseball's stern reckoning with its past. I don't have a sense of closure, though. While it feels a bit like well-choreographed theater today, I suspect history will look back on this day and this report as a seminal turning point for the game -- but only if Major League Baseball and its players union respond in the right way.
2. Here's your list of Orioles included in the report: Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Jay Gibbons, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Bigbie, David Segui, Jack Cust, Jason Grimsley, Ricky Bones, Jerry Hairston, Tim Laker, Gregg Zaun, Manny Alexander, Kevin Brown, Howie Clark, Todd Williams, Kent Mercker and Gary Matthews Jr. Biggest surprise on the list: That Tim Laker was an Oriole? Yes, for seven glorious games in 1997. Biggest disappointment: Further confirmation that Roberts is strongly linked to performance-enhancing drugs. More on this later in this column.
3. Kudos should go to Andy MacPhail, who might have timed a trade better than just about any other executive in the game. He shipped Miguel Tejada to Houston just one day before his name surfaced on Mitchell's report. We don't know whether there's any penalties attached to today's news, but suffice to say, Tejada would've been tougher to move tomorrow than he was yesterday.
4. That said, will Roberts bring as much in trade as he would've a week ago? Because of the nature of the allegation against him (more on this later), don't expect the difference to be significant.
5. This report has been regarded much like a supermarket tabloid. Now that it's out and the names, the timeline and Mitchell's recommendation are a part of baseball's eternal record, our attention should turn to the idea of accountability. Not just the offenders named in the report, but those who resisted this battle or simply turned an eye to the problem.
6. Of course, if we were to really have a conversation about steroids and accountability, Bud Selig and Don Fehr would be in an unemployment line right now.
7. Mitchell today recommended that baseball move forward and not punish the players listed in today's report. This might be difficult to do. Jay Gibbons' 15-day suspension, announced last week, tells us that Selig does not necessarily need a positive test to dole out punishments. And if the players in today's report receive amnesty for some reason, Selig might have to revisit Gibbons' case. I say, if Selig trusts Mitchell's work and Mitchell's findings, if there are players on the list who are known to have used performance-enhancing drugs after the last collective bargaining agreement toughened baseball's drug-testing policy, it'd be a shame for these players to escape punishment entirely.
8. Suggested follow-up investigation for Mitchell: How could 18 Orioles have used performance-enhancing drugs and have still performed at such a poor level for so long?
9. Mitchell said that "the onset of mandatory random drug testing is the single most important step taken so far to combat the problem. But it was delayed for years by the opposition of the Players' Association." If the union were truly interested in cleaning up the sport and in delivering a clean, honorable product to fans, they would've played a much more active role.
10. Even before the report was released, it seemed clear that information it contained would be swallowed as gospel by fans. In fact, today's report shouldn't be viewed as any sort of verdict, rather as simple charges and accusations. Mitchell headed an investigative body; he didn't preside over a courtroom. And the report explains that even though more than 700 witnesses were interviewed, Mitchell didn't have full cooperation from the players, among others. Unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, we don't always wait to hear both sides, and my guess is that any player's name who was included in today's report will be branded "CHEATER" for a long time to come, regardless of whatever defense he tries to put forth.
11. Anyone else think that Roger Clemens receives the same level of ire and loathing that's been heaped on Bonds? Me neither.
12. At the end of the report, we have an addendum of evidence. Included: Copies of six checks from David Segui to Kirk Radomski and two from Miguel Tejada to Adam Piatt, Tejada's former teammate in Oakland. Tejada's checks were both dated March 21, 2003. There are also several checks from Piatt made out to Radomski.
13. Piatt's lawyer contacted Mitchell and the report commends him for his cooperation. In Oakland, Piatt and Tejada had lockers next to each other in 2003. "According to Piatt, Tejada asked specifically if he had any steroids," the report states. "Piatt believed that Tejada asked him because Piatt was in good shape and generally friendly with him."
"Piatt had several conversations with Tejada before a transaction occurred. Piatt admitted he had access to steroids and human growth hormone and agreed to obtain them for Tejada. Piatt recalled that he provided Tejada with testosterone or Deca-Durabolin, as well as human growth hormone. Piatt emphasized that he did not know whether Tejada actually used the substances."
14. Radomski said he dealt more with Segui than any other player. The report further states that Segui led others to Radomski, including Larry Bigbie. "Segui and Bigbie were teammates on the Orioles from 2001 through 2004," the report states. "When Segui came to New York, Radomski occasionally socialized with him and some of the younger Orioles players, one of whom was Bigbie." This leads us to...
15. The report states that both Bigbie and Roberts lived in Segui's Baltimore house toward the latter part of their 2001 season. "When Bigbie and Segui used steroids in the house, Roberts did not participate," the report states. "According to Bigbie, however, in 2004 Roberts admitted to him that he had injected himself once or twice with steroids in 2004. Until this admission, Bigbie had never suspected Roberts of using steroids."
16. To me, that reads like the allegation against Roberts is merely second-hand, word-of-mouth information. That wouldn't result in a conviction in a court of law and it shouldn't result in conviction in the court of public opinion. Even if Roberts did use, if his use was limited to just a couple of times, I think fans and baseball observers could be very forgiving.
All of that said, he's now been linked to the steroid controversy in a couple of different ways (the first was via former teammate Grimsley), so even Roberts' own defense is probably deserving of skepticism.
17. Best thing I heard from Mitchell today: the recommendation for an independent testing system, which included transparency for the public and unannounced year-round testing. This should have been done a decade ago, and it might be the only way to restore fans' faith in the game.
18. When we talk about the legacies of some of these players, much of the talk revolves around the Hall of Fame. In my book, the burden of proof is now on the players. If you want entrance into Cooperstown, then come clean. Lay out a timeline. Defend your accomplishments prior to your alleged drug use. The truth shall set you free.
19. A lot has been made in the past few days about the conflict of interest presented by the investigator's history with the Red Sox. Here's how Mitchell addressed that today: "Judge me by my work. Take a look at how the investigation was conducted. Read the report. You will not find any evidence or bias, of special treatment of the Red Sox or anyone else. Because there is none."
A cursory glance through the report makes me think that he's probably right and that he was able to conduct an unbiased investigation. That said, it still feels like a foolish decision by Selig to even allow a potential conflict to arise. As a colleague pointed out to me earlier this week, this whole investigation is about reassuring the public, so why give the public a reason to doubt the findings?
20. Mitchell said: "A principle goal of this investigation is to bring to a close this troubling chapter in baseball's history." Has it? Not by a long shot. For better or worse, today's release of the report will spark a whole new round of discussions.
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