I decided to wait on writing about this. So much would be written in the moments after the release, so much of it not fully in persepective.
So what did we learn from the Mitchell Report? Well, that 90% of the players don’t cheat. I don’t think Baseball has any more problems with performing enhancing drugs than any other sport (take a look at NFL Players), but Baseball has done the least publicly to keep people from looking for skeletons in the closets. The NFL suspends a player every now and then and people applaud them for having a strict drug policy. In my opinion they do just enough, for people (i.e. journalists and the feds) to not look any deeper.
But what are the real impacts of this report? Well none. The evidence in the report would never hold up in a court and other than a public relations nightmare and perhaps a fine or suspension (which the Union will challenge) players in the report will pretty much get off scot free. Some might try to sue Mitchell and Major League Baseball for slander, but you would have to show evidence that Mitchell was wrong and most players don’t want to go down that road.
Another aspect I got from the report is that steroids don’t do much to improve your skills. There is a big difference between Roger Clemens and Paxton Crawford, Adam Piatt and Barry Bonds. Clemens and Bonds had great raw talent and perhaps the use of drugs allowed them to extend their talent longer. But a majority of the players mentioned in the report were mediocre at best, proving that you still have to get the sweet part of the bat on the ball and execute your pitches. Many can throw 100 miles an hour, but throw it down the middle of the plate and Big League hitters can whack it.
So what does this all mean? Do Bonds and Clemens get to go to the Hall of Fame? They should. If the Hall of Fame considers itself a real Museum, their job is to document baseball, the good and the bad. Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame, Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Did these guys do bad things? Yes. But they were great players as well. Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame, and many will tell you he never threw a dry baseball. He cheated, he sought an unfair advantage, didn’t get caught and it all worked out. People think back on him fondly, he took a whimsical (if not illegal) approach to playing. How is what Bonds or Clemens did any worse than Perry?
But look who wasn’t named. Mike Piazza comes to mind, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Manny Ramierez. There are still a lot of great, clean players out there. These are the guys who will carry the sport, no matter what the Media makes of Bonds and Clemens. The Red Sox coming back from 3 – zip against the Yankees or 3-1 against the Indians meant more for baseball than stats. We forget that McGwire and Sosa (both juicers) essentially brought the sport out its funk following the 1994 strike. Should they be vilified for bringing the sport back? We might not all like the methods used to get to where we are, but we can’t argue we really like where we are.
Bud Selig should resign as Commissioner of Baseball and be replaced by someone who loves the game, but isn’t a former player or owner. A person who can have an objective view and do what is best for the game, not what is best for business. There are many people who could fit this position, but I think you need a relative unknown, someone like Bart Giamatti.
Drug testing should be widespread and open. Heck, if a person applying to Best Buy has to take a Drug test, why shouldn’t someone who is making millions of dollars a year, do the same thing? Just like a failed drug test would cost our Best Buy applicant a job, I think a positive drug test should make a players contract null and void (the players union would NEVER in a million years go for this, but it would clean up the game) and the player would be suspended until opening day of next season.
Baseball is not the only sport that has cheaters, every sport has its own issues. Baseball has unfairly received a lot of scrutiny because we as a nation hold this sport to some higher standard. We take Baseball for granted, and maybe even Baseball has taken us the fans for granted. When it costs a family of four the same to go to a game as it does to buy a nice flat screen HD TV, something is wrong. Baseball doesn’t need to change the game, it needs to change its image.