Friday, January 4, 2008

What We Didn't Learn From the Mitchell Report

I normally don't link to forum posts, but yesterday over at BTF, David Nieporent reminded us all of the many, many critical questions the Mitchell Report didn't answer (comment #6):

Look, based on the Mitchell report we can guess and infer stuff, but it doesn't answer basic questions like, Are these players the tip of the iceberg? Did many hundreds of players use, and it just happened that the feds got one supplier -- Radomski -- out of the scores out there? Or was Radomski the biggest supplier in MLB, so that catching him means that most guilty parties were caught? How often did people actually use? Were the primary users people who got hurt and were trying to come back more quickly? Stars who wanted to become HOFers? Minor leaguers who wanted to become major leaguers? Old players who wanted to stay in the game, young people who wanted to get in the game, or a representative cross-section? When did people actually start -- high school, college, minors, majors?

Was use individual -- did guys decide on their own, based on their own personal experiences, to use steroids? Or was it a team effort -- did certain clubhouses have a 'steroid culture'? Was it just word of mouth that led someone to a supplier -- or did suppliers actively push their wares? Were the people who didn't use those who had moral objections, or health objections, or simply didn't think they needed it, or were they the oblivious sorts who didn't know where everyone else was getting steroids from?
Any or all of these answers would have been more useful -- though far less salacious -- than "Here's a list of names, starting with Roger Clemens, of people who used, talked about using, or met someone who used."

Whether you're a steroid hawk or a Bonds apologist, it strikes me that it would be helpful to know the answers to these kinds of questions before making anything approaching a definitive judgment about the kind of impact steroids have had on this era.

Update: not that some people aren't content to believe that the naming of names was the sole reason to investigate steroids (note "winner" number 1).


Jason said...

Shyster, I was surprised by the lack of depth of the M.R. It was NY-centric (OK, I admit I am biased). It flatly ignored the Texas and Oakland/SF areas which were notorious hotbeds of steroid usage (following the Canseco trail).

What about going back even further and discussion the drug use (like 'greenies') back into the 50's and 60's? Or even in the 70's when steroids were first reported (Tom House, I believe)?

The public and press got their pound of flesh in Clemens and others but that's merely a scratching of the surface, IMO.

Shyster said...

Mitchell was forced, basically, to rely on the work of prosecutors in the BALCO and Radomski cases, so that's all he really had to report. Given his lack of subpoena power and lack of cooperation with the players' union, he probably had no other choice. It was obviously, limited, though, and I think we'd be fools to think that there aren't many, many other dealers and players involved. Look at the list of players who have been two-time testing losers. All Latin players, all presumably on less-sophisticated PED programs, or else they would have cleaner testing records. Who are the dealers that supplied them?

I think the only way this could have been remedied is if Selig -- rather than doing the kneejerk Mitchell think right after that terrible Congressional testimony -- had tried to come to some agreement with the union that would have provided amnesty on the front end in exchange for cooperation in an effort to answer the kinds of questions Nieporent raises above.

Does the union go for it? Hard to say, but we'll never know now.

David Nieporent said...

Craig, I just want to reiterate something I posted elsewhere in the thread you linked to: although Mitchell didn't have subpoena power, he did have the power to compel minor leaguers to cooperate with him. Minor leaguers are not protected by a CBA (which is why they've been subject to testing for years, longer than the MLBPA has) and have no right to grieve disciplinary issues. Selig could have told them that they'd cooperate fully with Mitchell or be suspended.

That wouldn't have given Mitchell the major league names he obviously so desperately wanted, but it might have told him/us something interesting about the use of PEDs in baseball.

Pete Toms said...

One of many problems I have with the MR is the selectiveness of it. I agree with Craig, many, many other players are / were dirty. So if you were buying your juice from one of the suppliers investigated by the feds - BALCO, Radomski, McNamee, Signature etc. - you're screwed. And if you bought from somebody who wasn't investigated, you're ok. It's BS.

Why is testing so ineffective? Why aren't more players testing positive? Not everybody is on HGH - and I'm aware of the debate about who can afford HGH and who can't. The "anonymous" survey testing of 03 revealed that 5 - 7% of the players were dirty. That's farcical isn't it? Am I to believe that in a typical MLB game that of the 50 players on the combined rosters only a total of 2-4 are dirty? Is the testing that poor or is it rigged? How can Marion Jones NEVER test positive? How many friggin times was she tested?

Many have asked - and I would like to know - if the large majority of the players are clean why aren't they "calling out" the dirty players? The clean players are the most effected ( affected? I can't write ). I have to conclude that there is no mass hue and cry because most of them are dirty.

All elite sports - "amateur" & professional has been dirty for decades - literally. Anybody who doesn't understand that either doesn't pay attention to sports or is dumb.

The MR is about PR, it's not about cleaning up the sport. It's a response to the sabre rattling on Capitol Hill and the Feds investigations. I think MLB is doing a masterful job, assuring us all that they now realize the full scope of the problem and they will do everything possible to fix it...Mitchell even remarked about the "moral high ground" or somethin like that. I think the typical fan eats it up with a fork.

I could give a crap, take whatever the hell you want, the policies and tests and grandstanding are all a big show to manipulate opinion.

Can't wait for Opening Day though.

rone said...

Shyster, the question i have is: Given the lack of power that Mitchell was given, why would he accept the assignment? He set himself up for, if not failure, very limited success. Has his report made an actual positive difference on the game?

Shyster said...

I think the powers that be will say that the report has made a difference -- Selig just announced today a bunch of new tough measures regarding clubhouse access, etc. that he credits to the lessons learned in the report.

Of course they don't mean all that much and will be subsumed by the report's utter irrelevance if Clemens is able to clear his name, whatever that means.

In the end this is like a local bar association patting itself on the back for issuing a report about ethics and the practice of law. Everyone inside the process is impressed by it and will put it on their CV, but no one outside really cares or can perceive a difference in their lives for it having been done. Not that baseball is new to this territory: see, the Blue Ribbon Report on finances from six or seven years ago.

As for Mitchell personally: I actually like the guy and think he is one of those people who truly see themselves as a public servant and do the things people ask them to do when asked out of a sense of duty.

And the fact that his law firm made several million dollars putting the thing together didn't hurt . . .