NEW YORK - Bud Selig and Donald Fehr held press conferences at separate hotels, about a block apart in midtown Manhattan, after former senator George Mitchell released the results of his 21-month study of steroid use in baseball.
Their reactions were considerably farther apart than that. And considering that baseball's record attendance and revenue in recent seasons has been built largely on the basis of cooperation between management and workers, that's significant.
Selig, the commissioner who ordered up the report without first consulting with Fehr, head of the powerful players union, yesterday embraced Mitchell's conclusions almost in their entirety.
"His report is a call to action. And I will act," Selig said firmly at the Waldorf-Astoria.
About 90 minutes later, Fehr stood behind a podium at the Intercontinental and was far more skeptical.
Prefacing his remarks by noting that both major league baseball and Mitchell had spurned his repeated requests for an advance look at the findings - MLB got a copy 72 hours in advance of yesterday's announcement - he rejected the notion that the Major League Baseball Players Association had tried to impede the implementation of drug testing and that more and stronger testing is now necessary.
"History demonstrates that the players have recognized for many years that new steps were required to address performance enhancing drug use in major league baseball," he said. "Perhaps we and the owners could have taken these steps sooner. But the program in place today is a strong and effective one and has been improved on even in the last 2 years.
"I don't want to say we're opposed to any changes. On the other hand, if you make an agreement, I think you should stick with it for a while and see how it works."
Said Selig: "Sen. Mitchell's report reveals these efforts are not enough."
There were only two parts of the 400-page report that Selig didn't wholeheartedly endorse.
The first was the assertion that everyone in baseball, including the commissioner, had to share the responsibility for allowing steroids to fester over the last 20 years.
"Hindsight is wonderful," he said stiffly. "I respect Sen. Mitchell and I understand he feels that way. A lot of people in baseball feel differently."
Selig also declined to commit to Mitchell's recommendation that none of the players named be disciplined "except where the conduct is so serious that he must act to protect the integrity of the game."
The commissioner made it clear that he plans to vigorously examine each player who appears in the report and hinted that he's leaning toward imposing some sort of punishment.
"Discipline of players and others identified in the report will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If warranted, these decisions will be made swiftly," he said.
Naturally, this rankled Fehr. "We will make certain that should any player be disciplined he will have a right to a hearing and the full panoply of due process protections our agreements contemplate, and we will represent him in that process."
Asked if he believes that being linked to steroid use in the Mitchell Report "proves" that a player has used steroids, Selig demurred only slightly. "I think it's inappropriate to comment," he said. "[But] Sen. Mitchell is a former federal judge and a former federal prosecutor. He's a very, very sound human being. I can't see him doing anything he feels would violate anything.
"I feel that players have done what they've done and been named and they're going to have to live with that."
Fehr, while acknowledging that most players declined to be interviewed, said players who were named should have been given an opportunity to respond before being publicly outed.
"I'm still a bit surprised that, at some point, they didn't say, 'We have information on you and here it is.' But [Mitchell] must have had good and sufficient reason for doing it that way."
About 2 hours after the report was released, U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Tom Davis, R-Va., asked Mitchell, Selig and Fehr to testify at a House committee hearing next Tuesday.
Concluded Selig: "I think this is a very, very thorough report. [Mitchell] achieved what I asked him to do and what he set out to do. There's no sense in playing the blame game. Now that it's been done, I hope we can be mature about it."
Fehr reserved judgment. "We'll consider what Sen. Mitchell has to say and go from there," he said. "That's all I can say. I hope I will conclude down the road that this was not detrimental. I'm not prepared to say that right now." *