It could be worse.
Not one current Phillie was implicated in the Mitchell Report, the 409-page document issued by former Sen. George J. Mitchell, commissioned by Major League Baseball and made public yesterday.
The Mitchell Report didn't leave the Phillies organization spotless, but for a team long loaded with power hitters and some top-notch relievers, the Phillies escaped only a little dingy.
By comparison, Roger Clemens taints both the Yankees and Blue Jays; the involvement of superstar shortstop Miguel Tejada, long coveted by the Phillies, has sullied the Orioles organization; and the superhuman feats of former Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, also a recent Phillies trade target, might have been just that - superhuman.
"I'm glad we were clean," a relieved Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday afternoon, minutes after a front-office representative came to his basement office at Citizens Bank Park and informed him that no current Phillies player was implicated:
Not current sluggers Ryan Howard or Pat Burrell or indestructible MVP Jimmy Rollins or former basher Jim Thome; not current, flagging reliever Flash Gordon or former fireballer Billy Wagner.
However, plenty of former Phillies were tagged as possible cheaters, though, generally, not while wearing the "P."
Of course, Lenny Dykstra and his use of what he termed "special vitamins" in the early 1990s served as a launching point for Mitchell's contention that Major League Baseball has hidden for more than two decades its culture of illegally procured and administered performance-enhancing substances.
Dykstra's close and long relationship with Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski (one of the two top witnesses in the report) is detailed in the report, as is Dykstra's admission to MLB, in 2000, that he used steroids during his career, which ended in 1996.
Dykstra neither responded to the commission's interview requests nor those of the Daily News yesterday.
A more recent connection to the controversy lies with former third baseman David Bell, and the depth of Bell's involvement in using performance enhancers is muddy at best.
The report referenced only a 2007 story in Sports Illustrated that, while playing for the Phillies in 2005, Bell bought a quantity of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) from the Applied Pharmacy Services, of Mobile, Ala., the business at the center of the current online steroid acquisition investigation.
The report notes that "HCG is a hormone that is produced during pregnancy; it is used by steroid abusers to counteract the effects of steroid use on the body's natural production of testosterone."
In the SI story, Bell acknowledged that he received the drugs but did so with a prescription aimed at addressing an unnamed medical condition.
Mitchell's report indicates no attempt by his commission to interview the 35-year-old Bell, who, due to injuries, was out of baseball last season.
Bell, light-hitting and injury-plagued during his Phillies stint from 2003 to '06, has not responded to several interview requests from the Daily News.
As for the rest of the Phillies connections:
* By the time righthanded pitcher Ryan Franklin played his disappointing half-season for the Phillies in 2006, he had served his 10-day suspension incurred as a member of the Mariners in 2005. The report indicates that Franklin acquired steroids from Radomski in 2004, also when Franklin was a Mariner. Phillies general manager Pat Gillick was a special front-office consultant for the Mariners in 2004 and '05.
* Catchers Bobby Estalella and Benito Santiago had left Philadelphia and were playing for the San Francisco Giants in the time frame in which they are implicated in the report.
* Catcher Gary Bennett had just left the Phillies in 2001 when new Rockies teammate Denny Neagle referred Bennett to Radomski.
* Righthander Jason Grimsley was 16 years removed from his days as a Phillie when, in 2006, he was suspended 50 days for admitting to federal investigators he used human growth hormone.
* Righthander Paul Byrd's admitted acquisition and use of HGH began in August of 2002, about a year after his tenure as a Phillie ended.
* Retired infielder Jeremy Giambi admitted in 2005 to using steroids. He is implicated in the report as a substance user as early as 1996. The report indicates that he reportedly testified before a grand jury in December 2004, when, reportedly, he admitted to receiving and using HGH before the 2003 season. Giambi was a Phillie for the final 4 months of 2002. The Phillies have said they knew of no steroid use while Giambi was a Phillie.
* Former catcher Todd Pratt is named in the report as having bought small amounts of steroids in 2000 or '01, when he was a Met and before he began his second stint with the Phillies. Pratt was a Phillie for 4 1/2 seasons after being traded from the Mets in 2001.
Phillies spokesman Larry Shenk last night said that he had no idea if the issue of steroid use was broached with Pratt, Bell or Giambi while they were Phillies.
Phillies players aren't the only members of the organization referenced in the report.
Revered Phillies trainer Jeff Cooper, who retired after the 2006 season, was interviewed by the commission concerning his knowledge of Dykstra's use of steroids. While Cooper never names Dykstra, he acknowledges that he alerted then-GM Lee Thomas to his concern about an unnamed player's "obvious" use of steroids in 1993. Thomas advised Cooper to confront the player, who, according to the report, told Cooper it was none of his business.
Cooper did not respond to interview requests.
The report also states that Thomas, who now works in the Milwaukee Brewers' front office, had already approached Dykstra about his possible steroid use by the time Cooper confronted the unnamed player. Dykstra denied to Thomas that he was using steroids.
Gillick also was interviewed as part of the investigation, but he was not named in the report. He did not return phone messages left yesterday.
Finally, an unnamed clubhouse attendant who worked in the visiting clubhouse in the employ of the Phillies in 2002 was implicated in an MLB investigation into Luis Perez, a bullpen catcher for the Montreal Expos in 2002 who was convicted of marijuana possession. The Mitchell Report states that Perez told MLB investigators in 2002 that drug use was rife in the majors, and that the Phillies attendant in question was especially accommodating of players who wanted drugs.
Those investigators interviewed the attendant, who denied any such involvement. The Mitchell Commission failed in its attempts to interview Perez, and its pursuit down that avenue ended with those failures.
Shenk said he was unaware whether any current or former Phillies employees other than Gillick and Cooper were interviewed for the report. As for feeling the relief Manuel feels, Shenk said, "We didn't focus on that. We didn't know what names were coming - current, former, whatever."
Perhaps - but with a fan base utterly smitten with a talented young team that earned the organization's first trip to the postseason since a juiced Dude led them there in 1993, a team press release transparently relished the fact that none of the new faces of the franchise turned up dirty:
"Our fans' trust in the integrity of the game is of utmost importance to the Phillies. We hope that our game took a significant step forward as a result of today's developments." *