Friday, December 14, 2007

Disecting the Mitchell Report

The Mitchell Report is out and there is no doubt that it will have a profound effect on baseball. Players of all shapes and sizes have been implicated: from Roger Clemens, to Eric Gagne, to Len Dykstra, to Matt Franco, and on and on. It certainly only scratched the surface as far everyone involved but it no doubt gives everyone a glimpse into how rampant the problem was. I believe that Mitchell should be commended for his work, which I believe was quite thorough, however his conclusions were clear to everyone a long time ago. That is frankly not an indictment of Mitchell but rather of baseball and its fans.

Mitchell correctly pointed out that everyone shares responsibility: from ownership and MLB which looked the other way, to the Player's Union which successfully fought of testing for a long time under the ridiculous guise of privacy, to the players themselves for obvious reasons, as well as the fans who also looked the other way in order to enjoy more homers.

For the most part, Mitchell's recommendations are sensible however also easier said than done.

The Commissioner should establish a Department of Investigations

The Commissioner's office should more effectively cooperate with law enforcement agencies

The Commissioner's office should actively use the clubs' powers, as employers, to investigate violations

All clubs should have clear, written and well-publicized policies for reporting information relating to possible performance enhancing substance violations

Logging packages sent to players at Major League ballparks

Random drug testing of clubhouse personnel

A hot line for reporting anonymous tips

Top draft prospects should be tested prior to the Major League Draft

The design and implementation of the educational program should be centralized with the Independent Program Administrator

Spring training programs should include testimonials and other speakers and presentations

Explain the health risks in context and provide education on alternative methods to achieve the same results

Players need to understand the non-health effects of buying performance enhancing substances from street dealers and "Internet pharmacies"

Prominently display posters about performance enhancing substance use prevention

The drug testing program should be independent, transparent, with unnanounced year round testing

The biggest problem going forward is developing tests for such banned though currently undetectable substances like HGH. Without a test for HGH, the current testing program is to be kind lacking. The larger problem is staying up with all the new performance enhancing drugs that players will find that won't have a test for them.

I firmly believe that the era of wide spread use that we saw of performance enhancing drugs is largely over. While the sport is certainly not rid of cheating, I don't believe that it is systemic as it was. Still, the questions from that era linger. Questions about the hall of fame, records and more will haunt baseball for a long time.

I believe there must be some sort of a line as far as proof of cheating that will bar people from the hall of fame. I don't know what that line should be and it will ultimately be up to the writers to decide. I certainly don't think that the line is a failed drug test. I don't think that there is much legitimate debate as to whether or not Barry Bonds cheated, with or without a failed test. I think that the 75% threshhold for the hall will keep most suspected cheaters out regardless.

The records are even trickier. A friend of mine once suggested the draconian action of putting an asterisk next to any record set between 1988-2004. That would mean that Orel Hershhizer's record (if he took steroids they were certainly not ones that worked) would have an asterisk. If you think that is too harsh, look at the other side and realize the all time home run king is Barry Bonds.

Finally, there is unfortunately no real lessons learned here. Baseball was on the brink of disaster following the strike of 1994. They looked the other way while many people started to cheat. The cheaters started hitting homers at ridiculous clips and the fans took notice. Many of those players not only received extra accolades and attention but money. Most of the players that played fair lost out on the same thing. Many players that would have never thought of cheating before turned to it out of desire or necessity. (see the case of Wally Joyner) The ballparks filled again and baseball came out from under the weight of the strike. The fans didn't much care that players went from skinny to bulky overnight because they now hit lots and lots of homers. I doubt very much that attendance will be down as a result of this report, and thus cheating saved the game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Human Growth Hormone may not have a blood test, but it's use is simple to see. Just look for the characteristic lantern jaw.

Not sure about what that looks like? Then watch ESPN for a day and pick out the augumented announcers. Admittedly, it's easier when you're watching football game pre-game shows as opposed to ice skating...