Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spam, meet fan

The Mitchell Report is available in a handy pdf. Be advised, it checks in at 409 pages (including appendices), and is not exactly light reading. After I've had a chance to read, highlight, and process, I will be commenting at length, while trying desperately to avoid the current "be first" commentary pouring out of the various media orifices.

One thing that jumps right off the page - specifically, SR-7 (it's pg 15 overall) - I will quote in its entirety. (Please don't hurt me, Bud Selig):

The Players Association was largely uncooperative.
(1) It rejected totally my requests for relevant documents.
(2) It permitted one interview with its executive director, Donald Fehr; my request for an interview with its chief operating officer, Gene Orza, was refused.
(3) It refused my request to interview the director of the Montreal laboratory that analyzes drug tests under baseball’s drug program but permitted her to provide me with a letter addressing a limited number of issues.
(4) I sent a memorandum to every active player in Major League Baseball encouraging each player to contact me or my staff if he had any relevant information. The Players Association sent out a companion memorandum that effectively discouraged players from cooperating. Not one player contacted me in response to my memorandum.
(5) I received allegations of the illegal possession or use of performance enhancing substances by a number of current players. Through their representative, the Players Association, I asked each of them to meet with me so that I could provide them with information about the allegations and give them a chance to respond. Almost without exception they declined to meet or talk with me.

Let's see... this strategy was
(1) shortsighted & selfish
(2) probably cost some guys lots of money
(3) harmful to players' reputations in the short AND long-term
(4) obstructive
(5) discouraged players as a whole from getting out their side of the story first.

Great job representing the players' interests, MLBPA!

OH - and, thumbing through it, I see Paul Lo Duca prominently mentioned (pgs 208-211 in the main body), closing with the sentence "In order to provide Lo Duca with information about these allegations and to give him an opportunity to respond, I asked him to meet with me; he declined."

Think he's happy that he signed that $5 million deal with the Nationals two days before this came out?

updated, 12/14 - oh, and Mr. Fehr is now in the news trying to discredit the results of the investigation he helped to impede, because it's just allegations, there's no proof, he didn't get the players' side of it. Whose fault was that, exactly, sir? Was it the guys writing the report, who repeatedly asked for player input? The guys who told every accused player of the allegations against them and asked for them to respond? Or, maybe, the guy who encouraged them to clam the f'k up, for f'k's sake? Or the players who listened to him - which would be all of the players named in the report?

Another thing that people have been saying (John Kruk, for one.. er, for two) is that many of these people haven't actually failed a drug test. Ah, but in the report, it comes out that
(1) 5% of tested players DID, in fact, flunk anonymous drug tests in 2002, one of the reasons such tests became mandatory (pg. 18)
(2) that about 79% of players favored the testing, and some players wanted to refuse the test in order to INTENTIONALLY fail it, forcing it to be mandatory (pg. 15)
(3) 7% of tested players then flunked the 2003 rounds of testing (96 out of 1369) (pg. 55)
(4) some of the players used a mix of testosterone and epitestosterone ("the cream") in order to keep their T/E ratios normal - thus helping them fool the drug tests (pg. 113)

In other words, it seems that the players' representatives decided to ignore the majority will of the players in order to shield wrongdoers, and that the relative paucity of positive test results is not evidence that the sport was clean; to the contrary, it looks rather like a whole lot of people knew how dirty the sport was.

even more update - a reasonable dissent from our friend Mr. Bingley at the Swilling; though even then, I observe that in order to counter allegations, it's generally more effective to tell one's side of things. When in the history of anything has stonewalling prevented the truth from getting out? Or stopped you from looking twelve times worse when it finally DOES get out? The net effect of the MLBPA strategy is that anyone named in this report who was clean hasn't a prayer of convincing fans that he wasn't a cheat.

And from the names on the list, it looks like a number of people who, like LoDuca, had one or two good-to-great years, and then dropped off a shelf (Mo Vaughn, Eric Gagne, and Brian Roberts among them) or guys who, having begun to drop, suddenly found the Syringe of Youth (ahem, Roger Clemens).

Now, when Jose Canseco published his book, it was easy to laugh at him for it - he came clean when it cost him absolutely nothing. He needed the money, he had dirt, and his own drug-fueled career had already ground to an ignominious end. Mark Fainaru-Wada & Lance Williams risked their reporting careers and their liberty in writing Game of Shadows (they were briefly jailed for reporting grand jury testimony until the actual leak came forward). The Mitchell Report is somewhere between these extremes. Appendix A details all the links between George Mitchell and his law firm with interested parties in baseball, including his relationship with the Boston Red Sox; but his firm was going to be paid regardless of whether the report came back favorable or critical of Major League Baseball.

In any case, there's one commonality. Finaru-Wada and Williams, Canseco, Mitchell, and many others who have investigated and reported over the years have all found a lot of evidence of steroids, hgh, testosterone, and other drug enhancement in baseball. The motives may have ranged from altruistic to calculating, but they all uncovered a lot of the same things. For years we've known something was up, even your humble narrator. The Mitchell Report is not the last word on it, but it shouldn't just be tossed aside, nor dumbed down to the named names. The list doesn't start until pg. 149; from there, the Report follows a chain from player to player over the years, tracing how the drugs spread through the clubhouses, with former NY Met employe Kirk Radomski acting as a major funnel of the substances to the players.

Prior to that is a literal ream of information, extensively footnoted: tracing the health risks, the various stages of testing programs, the variety of other drugs in baseball history, other investigations in print or from specially-appointed panels and arbitrators. There's more to this than simply smearing poor, innocent utility infielders and middle relievers; though statistically, those are the bulk of the names, which makes sense. A guy like Josias Manzanillo is going to need the help more than a guy like Randy Johnson.

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