George Mitchell found the iceberg right where it was supposed to be, bobbing serenely amid the somewhat roiled waters of major-league baseball.
It doesn't take a former United States attorney or federal judge - a couple of the jobs on Mitchell's lengthy resume - to figure out that baseball players have used and continue to use performance-enhancing drugs.
The Mitchell Report, commissioned by baseball to investigate the problem, wasn't expected to break any new ground, and it didn't. There wasn't a single player implicated yesterday whose name wasn't already on file with federal and local law-enforcement agencies.
Mitchell did get to announce some of those names for the first time, but they would have come out eventually when the Kirk Radomski, Brian McNamee and Jason Grimsley investigations reached their logical conclusions.
The former Senate majority leader tried to downplay the naming of names a little bit - tsk-tsking those interested just for the gossip value - but even he knows that's all he had to sell yesterday. The rest of the report was just a detailed recitation of everything that has been on the public record regarding steroids and other drugs for the last decade. Mitchell and his law firm dressed it up and put a nice bow on it, but this is just a book report turned in by the brightest kid in the room.
Mitchell didn't lay a fresh glove on Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa, the biggest and easiest targets from the so-called Steroids Era in baseball. He didn't because his investigation lacked subpoena power, lacked disciplinary power, lacked any real power at all. The players didn't have to talk to him. The team executives talked, but they mostly shrugged and said it was all a surprise to them. Even people who knew things, and said they knew things, didn't have to share their knowledge.
Former Phillies trainer Jeff Cooper, an honorable guy, was interviewed by the Mitchell commission about Lenny Dykstra, who had been a client of Radomski's. Cooper told the commission about another Phillies player of that era whose steroid use was "obvious."
From the report: "Cooper would not divulge the player's identity to us. He told us that he approached the general manager [apparently Lee Thomas] to report his concerns, and the general manager advised Cooper that he should raise the subject with the player directly. Cooper then did raise the issue with the player, who said it was none of Cooper's business. The matter went no further."
Mitchell heard a lot of that sort of thing. For every name of every cheater who has been exposed so far, there are 100 names that remain hidden. Some guys were unlucky enough to deal with a personal trainer or clubhouse connection who got busted. Some weren't. That's the way it went.
In a very real way, releasing the names was inherently unfair because the net that was cast has such large holes in it. But if the report contained no names, it would have had a big problem - no one would read it.
Understanding that, Mitchell did what he did, and, somewhat disingenuously, upbraided those only interested in rubbernecking the crash scene. In all probability, he got a few names wrong, too, but that will have to play out later.
Where Mitchell and the report are dead accurate, though, is what should be done in the future. He just didn't go far enough and didn't get the job done soon enough.
The drug-testing agreement between baseball and the players association is in place until 2011. By that time, yesterday's headlines will have long faded. The game's annual revenue - a record $6 billion last season - will continue to rise, and the fever to fix things once and for all will have cooled. In other words, it will be baseball circa 1996 once again.
If this were serious, and not merely a showy self-flagellation in which a few villagers are also sacrificed, then Major League Baseball would sign the World Anti-Doping Agency code, taking all testing and discipline out of its own hands and giving it over to an independent organization.
Testing, including unannounced, out-of-season testing, would be handled by the USADA and, as with all the international sports federations who abide by the code, a first positive result gets you at least a two-year suspension, maybe four. Same thing if you're caught purchasing or possessing the drugs, which would put a crimp in the mail-order human growth hormone business.
None of that will happen, of course. Baseball still wants the appearance of a clean house more than it wants a clean house. The union remains a stumbling block, and commissioner Bud Selig is even unwilling to finally admit he was asleep on the bridge when the boat hit the iceberg in the first place. (Selig, hilariously enough, said he hadn't read the whole report yet, even though his office got it on Tuesday. Must have been a busy Strat-O-Matic week or something.)
So, give George Mitchell credit for locating the problem and describing it. That was his job, and he did it well enough. There is a difference between locating it and getting rid of it, though.
For all the arm-waving and talk yesterday, for all the naming of names and nasty details, baseball didn't get a step closer to home in that regard.
Bob Ford |
More coverage, including video and the full Mitchell Report at
Bob Ford |
Mitchell Report Coverage
Former Phillies Lenny Dykstra, Todd Pratt, Ryan Franklin and David Bell are named.
Roger Clemens is the biggest name in George Mitchell's two-year investigation.
Timeline of scandal,