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Friday, December 14, 2007

The True Fallout Of The Mitchell Report

Hey kids, remember how Roger Clemens pitched all those years in the American League by striking out ridiculous numbers of batters and aiming at the heads of those batters that got hits off of him? Turns out he might have been juiced and possibly suffering from ‘Roid Rage.

And remember how Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in a season and everyone except Barry and his kids said he was cheating? Chalk one up for everyone. It looks like he was cheating.

And remember that amazing season of relief pitching that Eric Gagne had a few years ago? Apparently dominant relief pitching is that much easier with a little advanced chemistry in your system. He looks to have been loaded up and cheating too.

Forget about "the names" for a minute. In addition, let’s set aside the ridiculous discussion of who gets how many votes for the Hall of Fame as a result of this report. Those arguments are for unctuous baseball writers who love to belabor points for the sake of circulation and discussion, and no one outside of themselves really cares. I’d like to get a little deeper with topics I’ve yet to hear about in to 30+ hours since the Mitchell Report hit the news.

Three things strike me about the Mitchell Report. First, virtually all of the new "evidence" presented in the report comes from clubhouse employees for the Mets and the Yankees. Mitchell spent over a year on this report, and there’s no documentation in the report that states that he talked to any other clubhouse personnel in Major League Baseball. The commissioner, who is employed by the owners, requested this report. Clubhouse employees are not members of the Players’ Union; they are employees of the individual teams. If the owners really wanted the truth about what is going on in all of baseball with performance-enhancing drugs, they would have had Mitchell’s investigators interview every clubhouse attendant in Major League Baseball. In the end, without these interviews, this report ends up looking like a McCarthy-style witch-hunt deliberately constructed to name as few current and former players as possible. Now the owners can say "it was a big problem, but we’re working on it" and almost keep a straight face due to lack of evidence.

Second, how can we trust that any major sport is the unvarnished truth anymore? I have the same feeling now about baseball as I do about the NBA and its tainted referee pool. When I turn on a TV, I like to think that what I’m watching with regard to sports is true. I gave up on the bullshit that is TV news years ago, save for the Weather Channel. Sports until very recently were my last bastion of "what you see is what you get". It’s been a bad year for that thought. With Tim Donaghy, the Mitchell Report, the Patriots Spygate scandal and the only unbeaten team in NCAA Football excluded from playing for the National Championship, what is believable and virtuous in the sports world anymore? And no, golf is not a sport.

The third impression that strikes me is the fact that the War on Drugs is now finally exposed as the absolute racist joke we all thought it was in the first place. The federal government has spent trillions of dollars since the 1930’s attempting to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States. Now if the Mitchell Report is to be believed, the two clubhouses belonging to the teams playing in one of the world’s largest cities have for years been one-stop shops for illegal drugs received through domestic sources. As we incarcerate insolvent black and brown people in large numbers in this country in a foolish attempt to convince ourselves that we’re keeping drugs out of the hands of our kids, an entire generation of the best millionaire athletes in one sport are being exposed as users of illegal drugs. I guess those Coast Guard cutters can’t patrol Shea Stadium. If you’re going to selectively fight any war, it’s not a war at all. It’s just a lot of people with guns and uniforms dicking around and wasting tax dollars.

The Mitchell Report, coupled with the trial of Barry Bonds, will probably be non-stop stories on ESPN for the rest of recorded time. Questions will be asked of Bud Selig about the integrity of the sport, which he will defend at all costs, even if ultimately it isn’t true. Why let the fact that your entire enterprise is a massive con job get in the way of selling tickets?

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