Jump in the “way back machine” and rewind us to 1997. If you would’ve told me Major League Baseball was releasing a formal report alleging widespread drug use and cheating (albeit in the form of enhanced performance), I’d say it’s a Top-3 story.
However, it’s 2007 ….. and we really knew everything the Mitchell Report told us, right? Major League Baseball is dealing with an epidemic ….. just don’t tell them about it. Bud Selig doesn’t wanna hear it. Don Fehr doesn’t wanna hear it. And, the players definitely don’t wanna hear it.
George Mitchell and his legal lackeys distributed a few hundred pages of information we already knew or suspected. For many of us, the only thing the Mitchell Report substantiated was that Barry Bonds has plenty of company, amongst his peers. Did we really think he was on an island …..
The release of the Mitchell Report is the “7th Biggest Story Of 2007.” Am I being generous in giving it this much relevance? For me, the Mitchell Report accomplished one significant thing ….. it reaffirmed virtually everything Jose Canseco alleged in his book “Juiced.”
It was nearly 3 years ago when Canseco “outed” his brethren in Major League Baseball. In it’s substance, I think it was improper and a grand display of backstabbing. I’d never throw my friends under the bus, like Canseco did. It wasn’t his duty. And, let’s face it ….. he did it for ONE SELFISH reason.
The sobering truth is Major League Baseball should’ve been policing itself. Instead, a couple former players (Caminiti, as well) make allegations that were eventually substantiated. These allegations were followed up by federal investigations, and we all become familiar with the word “BALCO.”
After the Canseco/Caminiti “soul cleansing” ….. the BALCO investigation ….. the “Dog & Pony” Show in front of Congress ….. “Game Of Shadows” ….. and other significant events, Major League Baseball finally decided to do an assessment of itself. Bud Selig appointed a “stakeholder” to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the game and it’s sordid secrets.
Meanwhile, coveted records have fallen and the most undeserving of players have secured contracts that weren’t rightfully earned. Do you think Jay Gibbons ever feels the least bit guilty when he balances his checkbook? This game has been permanently damaged by the presence of steroids and HGH. It’s something that simply can’t be undone.
This era in baseball is important and it’s historical. Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Jay Gibbons, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Ken Caminiti and many others deserve to be in Cooperstown ….. and in the very own wing. They’ve been part of a collective contingent that have basically poisoned and forever tainted the integrity of Major League Baseball. Give ‘em their due.
The sad, but sobering truth is the Mitchell Report is about 5 years “late” on arrival. Then again, it should’ve never reached this point, right? There are established reports that allegations of performance enhancing drug use were brought to the attention of Bud Selig. And, he did nothing.
I don’t care if you’re the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the parent of a teenager ….. if you do NOTHING when alerted to the suggested use of drugs by members of your family ….. then, you are an ENABLER. Bud Selig fostered and permitted widespread drug use to perpetuate. He’s as guilty as anyone who used these substances. He deserves a place in that “Cooperstown Wing,” as well.
In the end, the Mitchell Report accomplished very little. Has Major League Baseball taken the rightful steps to begin policing itself? Are consequences for offenders severe enough? Are urine specimens being safely stored and archived in anticipation of the day a test for HGH is developed? Is the Players Association being stiff-armed into concessions on issues regarding cooperation?
For me, the relationship between Major League Baseball and the Players Association makes it virtually impossible to stop a crisis like this from occurring again. It’s imperative that officials secure the leverage of forcing the cooperation of players in any administrative investigation.
The mere fact that players do not have to cooperate with league investigators is the single most relevant factor of the Mitchell Report. Imagine YOUR employer wants to talk with you in regard to a workplace investigation, and you refuse to oblige them. What happens?
Look, I’ve worked in conditions where a union or bargaining unit possessed respective strengths. That said, they couldn’t prevent our employer from insisting on assistance in investigations and administrative procedures. Major League Baseball MUST bargain leverage in this area ….. or things will never improve.
Until this happens ….. Jose Canseco and George Mitchell will both hold the same influence and authority over the game.