Friday, December 14, 2007

Fisking the Mitchell Report -- Part 2

This is Part 2 in ShysterBall's micro-breakdown of the Mitchell Report. For Part 1, go here.

With the summary and recommendations out of the way, we delve into the body of the report itself. In this installment, we cover Section I, which sets forth the reasons why this is all so important, and Section II, which provides us a nice little history lesson regarding how we got to where we are today and what, exactly, the rules really are. This is essentially all exposition and no plot, so it will probably be the most boring installment of this series. It'll certainly get sexier tomorrow.

Page 2, footnote 19:

Mitchell punts on amphetamines, as we knew he planned to do. Probably a wise choice given the risk of mission creep. Still a tremendous elephant in the room given that amphetamines (a) enhance performance; and (b) were widely used before Jose Canseco had peach fuzz. Going forward, there is going to be considerable talk about what to do and think about the Roger Clemenses of the world. It would be helpful to keep the historical context of all performance enhancing drugs in mind (i.e. what if anything were Koufax, Palmer, or Hunter taking, and should we care?) as we pass judgment.

Page 4, where Mitchell notes the reasons why steroids are bad, mmm-kay:

Third, the illegal use of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and similar drugs poses a significant threat to the integrity of the game of baseball. The widespread use of these substances raises questions about the validity of records and their comparability across different eras.
Man, if only there was some way to compare numbers across eras to account for changes in playing conditions.

Pages 5-10:
Mitchell outlines the health risks of steroids and HGH. The narrative is a bit simplistic. The footnotes provide much better sources. While I have no real basis to quibble with Mitchell's summary, I have found that no matter how innocuous a claim one makes about the negative effects of steroids, there is always someone around to say that you're wrong. Most of these guys can't debate you too long, though, because they're on their way to a gym or to kick someone's ass or they're starting against the Blue Jays that night or something.

Page 22:

In 1988 [emphasis added], androstenedione became the subject of national attention after a reporter observed a container of the supplement in the locker of Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals during his pursuit of the single-season home run record.
ShysterBall is full of typos, but that is mostly due to the fact that I do this for free and don't have a lot of time for copy editing. Baseball paid Mitchell a lot of money for this report. You'd at least think that someone would get the years right.

Page 28:

In 1973, a Congressional subcommittee announced that its staff had completed an “in depth study into the use of illegal and dangerous drugs in sports” including professional baseball. The subcommittee concluded that “the degree of improper drug use – primarily amphetamines and anabolic steroids – can only be described as alarming.”
He writes this, and we're still fine with him naming Jose Canseco as patient zero of the so-called steroids era? You know, if Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens had a baby, it might very well come out looking like Steve Carlton: a surly fireballer who, for his time, was considered to be quite the physical specimen. Who's to say he didn't use?

Page 28:

Subcommittee chairman Harley O. Staggers called on professional sports leagues to adopt “stringent penalties for illegal use, i.e., fines, suspension or even barring for life, if warranted . . . .” In response, Commissioner Kuhn issued a statement announcing that, as a result of its education and prevention efforts, baseball had “no significant problem” with drug use . . .
That's sort of commissionering that landed Bowie in the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the left side of the 1973 Pirates infield and two-thirds of the guys in AL bullpens were doin' peyote. Let's all remember this in five years when Roger Clemens is kept out of the Hall.

Pages 29-31:

A somewhat inexplicable tangent discussing the Fergie Jenkins case. Jenkins was busted with a bunch of drugs in Canada in 1980, and was suspended by Bowie Kuhn when he refused to cooperate with baseball's investigation. Of course Jenkins had criminal charges pending against him at the time, and was, you know, exercising his right to remain silent, and his decision to do so was subsequently upheld by an arbitration panel, and the suspension overturned. Mitchell sums it up thusly:

The Jenkins decision represented the first substantial limitation on the Commissioner’s power to impose discipline on major league players and to compel a player to cooperate with an investigation, at least when criminal charges are pending against him . . .
He then seems to cite it, as well as the results of arbitrations following the cocaine trials of the 1980s, as reasons why Selig has had so much trouble throwing the book at PED abusers. Overall, I have thus far been fine with the tone Mitchell has struck, but I read this section, as well as a few others, as an apologia on behalf of ownership, and a passive aggressive criticism of players for daring to insist upon their rights.

Page 44:

Rob Manfred, baseball’s current chief labor negotiator, recalled that anabolic steroids were included in the 1994 [collective bargaining] proposal to be proactive, and the decision to include steroids in the proposal was not based on any particular concern about the use of those substances in baseball at that time. He acknowledged that at the time the drug program was not as high a priority as economic issues.

Another way to put this was that ownership thought so little about steroids at the time that they freely used it as an easy "gimmie" in bargaining with the players, in the hopes that they could later say "hey, we caved on the drugs thing, so why don't you give us a salary cap." It's all about how we couch things, isn't it?

Page 55, footnote 163:

Mitchell notes that during the 2003 trial testing program (the one in which testing would kick in for real if more than 5% tested positive) some 93 positive tests came back. That's in a single year. Given that Mitchell's report has only 85 names covering a decade or so, let us once again remind ourselves that this thing is not even close to being comprehensive. This cuts a couple of different ways. On the one hand, it pretty much calls bullshit on anyone who claims that the report constitutes closure or something close to it. On the other hand, it should serve as a warning to any of us who would demonize those who are named here to the exclusion of others. Sure, Clemens used, but we have no idea, really, how many of the batters he faced did too, and the same goes for Bonds and the pitchers.

That's all for exposition. Tune in tomorrow for more exciting developments, as names begin to be named in earnest, and the juice really begins to flow!

For Part 3, go here.


Anonymous said...

Wow, this is really good work on your part. Nice job. Looking forward to more. I agree, I didn't understand why he delved into the Ferguson Jenkins thing.

jnr98 said...

Shyster: I loved part 1, so I eagerly print this out and plan on reading between work stuff... unless it makes good "library" reading.

Thanks for taking the time; we truly appreciate it. I gotta thank Neyer for the intro.

foolio said...

Really enjoy your summary. Thanks for doing it.

Anonymous said...

Love the summaries. Great work.

But I have a question about this:

"Meanwhile, the left side of the 1973 Pirates infield and two-thirds of the guys in AL bullpens were doin' peyote."

Dal Maxvill and Richie Hebner were doing peyote? Must have made Hebner's grave-digging interesting.