Throw out the lead runners

After everything the Mitchell Report laid out about the depth and breadth of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, after all the suggestions and recommendations, after all the names were named and blame was assigned ... the same two foxes were left to guard the henhouse.

Terrible mistake, and by far the biggest flaw in the report. Somewhere in those 409 pages should have been a demand for Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Players Association executive director Donald Fehr to be removed from their positions.

After detailing all the ways those two turned a willful blind eye to the growing steroid culture and purposely obstructed all serious paths to ending it - doing it all with dollar signs in their eyes - there is no justification for putting them back in charge of the cleanup process.

This is the quintessential fish that stinks from the head down. Any other multibillion-dollar company found to have made this much money over such a long period of time while perpetrating such widespread fraud, so widespread that a 20-month investigation is universally agreed to have scratched only the surface, would have to expect its chief executive to either step down or be pushed out.

Heck, the very position Selig disgraces was created when, in the wake of the previous worst stain on baseball, the Black Sox scandal, the game had to destroy its old way of running things and create a new leadership format. If it's not time to do that again, it never will be.

Meanwhile, any union whose leader blatantly ignores overall working conditions in favor of fattening the paychecks of the top fraction of his membership, and compounds that by openly supporting its crooked members at the expense of its honest ones, is crazy not to kick that leader to the curb.

Not only is none of that happening, but also no one with any serious clout is even suggesting it.

In fact, what's happening is far worse. The abuse, scorn and, eventually, punishment are being applied from the bottom up. It's the players who are publicly shamed. Jobs, salaries and reputations are going to be lost, no question; almost certainly, so are rewards such as Hall of Fame inductions.

Those who took the high ground and stayed clean get no satisfaction, financially or otherwise. They didn't get it before when they were competing in the Wild, Wild West of cheaters and won't get it now that their superiors have allowed them to be painted forever with the same brush as the pill-and-needle crowd.

Selig and Fehr are responsible for that, too. Trusting them with the solution is no better than trusting Victor Conte or the online quacks writing the human growth hormone prescriptions. In fact, it's worse.

Not that Roger Clemens deserves even a shred of sympathy, especially now that he can no longer avoid the brutal judgment of the public that always had been reserved solely for Barry Bonds - but why does he end up getting hung out to dry more than both Selig and Fehr?

In Selig's case, he represents baseball's biggest in-joke: The commissioner has never been a true commissioner, but a hired hand for the owners. Only they can remove him. But if you were them, why would you?

For two decades, they poisoned baseball and cashed in on it, and now they brag about the money they made while faking repentance over their own deceit and threatening punishment to the peons below.

That's evil.

Fehr, meanwhile, wants it both ways - he steers the players toward noncooperation with investigators, then moans about reputations destroyed by the information they refused to challenge. Once again, everybody forgot he works for the players, not the other way around. Plenty of those players wanted, and were entitled to, a level playing field, but eventually were forced into nightmarish choices.

To dope or not to dope. Or, to endanger my physical health or my financial health.

Overall, the health of the game became a pawn in a power play between two cartoonish arch-nemeses. Superman and Lex Luthor, they ain't. More like Paris and Britney. Putting the latter two before Congress to defend their actions would be only mildly less entertaining and stupefying than when Selig and Fehr do it.

Baseball is sick, and the doctors left on duty are Typhoid Mary and her twin. They're not the cure, they're the disease. Somebody please get a scalpel and cut them out.
Points after:

Guess what - a special baseball 'n' 'roids edition! These are the top five excuses generated by the Mitchell Report:

5. Needed substances to recover quicker from going to strip clubs all night and watching in-room porn all morning.

4. Poor grasp of English made it difficult to comprehend and follow the rules. (Lenny Dykstra only.)

3. Put up terrible numbers that season, so obviously there was no benefit from doping - unless you're counting the extended big league career and the extra millions in salary.

2. Can't believe you're calling eyewitness accounts, canceled personal checks and shipping labels with my name on them "evidence."

1. "Performance-enhancers?" Please. We've had 10 straight losing seasons.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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