IN THE DREAM, Bud Selig stands in front of a rabble of bare-chested baseball players. You could strike a match on their washboard abs, their size-20 necks, their monolithic heads. The commissioner is dressed in the uniform of a Roman Legion general. "Leniency will be granted to the man who identifies the steroid abuser named Barry Bonds," Selig thunders.
There is a long silence. Suddenly, a player in the middle of the mob holds his bat aloft and bellows, "I'm Barry." Two more take up the cry, "I'm Barry . . . I'm Barry." Soon, the assembled ballplayers are chanting as one: "I'm Barry . . . I'm Barry." The commissioner shrugs his shoulders and says, "Whatever." He mounts his chariot and is driven away.
Cooperstown's Main Street will not be lined with crucified members of baseball's now official unofficial and apparently vast Juiced Generation. I don't know exactly where the Great George Mitchell Snitch Hunt will be by the time 2008 Opening Day rolls around.
But I do know this: Operators manning Major League Baseball switchboards were not overwhelmed by irate fans canceling their season tickets after Roger Clemens and 84 others were outed during one of the most troubling afternoons in pastime history. A few "uh-huh" and "Will you vote for Bonds, Clemens, etc." e-mails limped in during the long afternoon of baseball's carefully prepared self-flagellation.
One of the few obvious conclusions to be drawn from what could be called "Eighty-Five Men Not Quite Out" is that Augusts in Cooperstown could be on the quiet side the next 20 years or so.
A number of strong Hall of Fame candidates are on Mitchell's list of implicated users, including hitherto first-ballot locks Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Gary Sheffield. In his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot last winter, Juiced Generation Poster Brute Mark McGwire fell more than 50 points short of the 75 percent required for election. McGwire was not on the Mitchell list of those connected to steroids.
When asked about the Hall of Fame implications of his impressive but toothless and legally indefensible 409-page indictment, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell basically peppered the ball to the BBWAA electors who marked McGwire lousy last year. And in his rush-hour standup a little later, Bud Selig promised to investigate and he said he will administer justice on a case-by-case basis. I'm not holding my breath.
That is tough luck for what appears to be the substantial tip of an iceberg the size of Iceland. Uh, handing a personal check to your 'roid supplier was the most striking part of the list of players snared in a Mitchell fishing expedition that depended on voluntary cooperation and little else with legal teeth.
The senator didn't have any more clout than the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that staged the 2005 dog-and-pony show where McGwire put a new face on the art of stonewalling and Raf Palmeiro vehemently denied ever defiling his bodily essence with evil chemicals.
Even before Selig mounted the Waldorf-Astoria podium, the Reform Committee honorables had asked Selig and Mitchell to appear at hearings on how baseball intends to follow up on a report that would not be admissible evidence in an Iranian court of law, let alone one governed by constitutional law.
So, let's cut to the real chase. Who prevails when the guy many consider the best hitter of all time digs in to face the pitcher many feel is the best righthander of the modern era? Does whatever Clemens vehemently denies he was taking trump the stuff Bonds insists he thought was flaxseed oil? Hey, good juiced pitching always beats good juiced hitting . . .
It would be poetic justice if neither Bonds nor Clemens played this year and thus became eligible for Hall of Fame election in 2013. What a December that would be for the diligent voters of the BBWAA.
On a day when the cliché "Cheaters never win and winners never cheat" took a third strike looking, it was hard to find a winner or a position to defend. Pinning events of such pith and moment on recollections and records provided by a guy, Kirk Radomski, whose weighty responsibilities included picking up used towels and loading dirty uniforms into the washer is not as sexy as having Sammy "The Bull" Gravano giving up John Gotti. But nobody ever said it would be easy for Mitchell to head a commission that didn't have subpoena power.
Bonds might walk away from this as the biggest beneficiary, thanks to a confirmed public suspicion that there is more
needlework being done in most baseball clubhouses than in a Hollywood Botox boutique.
Barry might be a cheater, but he applied the edge the Cream and the Clear allegedly gave him to unsurpassed hitting ability. We found it impossible to look away.
Now, he's just the guy at the head of a 85-player list the report shows is made up of many guys dumb enough to leave a paper or cyber trail. A much larger class that has been smart enough so far not to be caught is laying low.
Clemens is the biggest loser at all levels. If Roger was juicing, it was at a time when there was no testing and MLB didn't even have a banned-substance list. And even if the sleazoid who gave him up to The Mitch, a strength coach named Brian McNamee, is not a credible whistle-blower, the damage will have been done. This is a genie that can't be poured back into the bottle.
And how about that Ed Wade. One day, your favorite former GM was sending five Astros prospects to the gleeful Orioles for a downhill careening Miguel Tejada, his diminished range at short and $26 million owed him through 2009. Yesterday, Tejada had a whole page to himself in the Mitchell Report, admitting that he had injected Palmeiro and two unidentified Orioles teammates a number of times with what he thought was vitamin B-12. Uh, no.
As for the 10 named who were Phillies at one time or another, only Lenny Dykstra was a player of real significance. And only Bobby Estalella's super-cut upper body was developed while a member of the organization. The musclebound catcher was named in the BALCO investigation and was a member of the Giants.
That said, a lot of people from president Dave Montgomery down through the Phillies' medical staff is in the same boat as the front offices and support staffs of 29 other organizations.
You all have a lot of 'splaining to do . . . *