Mitchell Report Reaction

Earlier, I posted — pretty much verbatim — what I thought were some of the more relevant sections of the Mitchell Report (the full list of names can be found here). Here are the links again:

As I was posting these excerpts and reading the document in full, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to analyze what I was reading. Having stepped away for a few hours, though, I think I’ve been able to let everything sink in and likely have more clarity now than I would’ve had I gone ahead and posted pithy reactionary thoughts along with the initial excerpts.

One of the first things I noticed — and I think it’s pretty significant — relates to the “dirt” on Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts.

Obviously, the purpose of the Mitchell Report was to expose the apparent undercurrent of steroid abuse in Major League Baseball. In a fairly transparent attempt to generate attention for what turned out to be a highly thorough and at times excruciatingly dry document, the names of the athletes who were found to have been dopers were disclosed. When it was revealed that the names of several high-profile ballplayers would be found in the document, it was to be expected that the media would engage in rampant speculation regarding those big names.

Early this afternoon, reports began to surface that Roberts was one of the players implicated for steroid use, along with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada, among others. When the document was released to the public around 1:45 ET, Roberts’ name did, in fact, appear as someone who had used steroids in the past.

However, in sharp contrast to those other players, Roberts’ history of performance-enhancing drug use as detailed in the document is extremely limited. In fact, the only evidence provided of Roberts’ alleged steroid usage is an admission to a former teammate (Larry Bigbie, also implicated in the document) that he had “injected himself once or twice with steroids in 2003.”

In the aftermath of the document’s release, many pundits began to throw around the word “hearsay” in reference to much of its content. And while that is clearly the defense that many of the disgraced athletes are likely to take in a desperate attempt to save face, Roberts probably has the best case of them all in terms of clearing his name. And even if he did use steroids “once or twice” as suggested, at the risk of sounding like an apologist for the second baseman’s behavior, it seems unlikely that one or two injections would have a profound and lasting effect on a ballplayer’s performance.

The bottom line is that if the public is to take the document at face value, Roberts — one of the bigger names “exposed” by the investigation — should not be lumped with guys like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada, whose steroid use is detailed as long-standing and calculated. He remains guilty, but, in my opinion, not nearly as guilty as most of the other players with whom his name is listed.

Though the Roberts thing was my main gripe with how the story is being handled by the media in general, I also noticed a seeming lack of attention that was paid to some of the front office memos that were featured in some of the subsections — particularly those involving former Los Angeles Dodgers players Kevin Brown, Paul Lo Duca and Eric Gagne. Memos from October 2003 reveal speculation and/or flat-out admissions by Dodgers front office members that the players had histories of steroid use. Furthermore, Gagne’s entry reveals that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein balked at acquiring him in Winter 2006 because of PED-related concerns.

Yes, we all knew that front office types were probably aware that they had players on their teams that were using steroids going in, so one could argue that it’s not a huge story. Of course, the same argument could be made with regards to Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte being on steroids — did this shock anybody? Granted, I have a journalism degree and also own a computer and a television, so I knew what the bigger story was going to be. Still, I feel there should be some more attention paid to this aspect of Mitchell’s findings.

Aside from those two gripes, and David Justice apparently acting as a snitch (“Justice denied using performance enhancing substances himself, but he provided the names of many players who, he suspected, had used steroids.”), I don’t have much of an opinion on the Mitchell Report findings. I wasn’t heartbroken by any of the names, or any of the details (though the Yankees hiring Clemens’ drug dealer to act as a strength trainer was an eye-opener), though that could probably be attributed to equal parts prior suspicion of the athletes listed and acceptance that ballplayers will always try to find a way to cheat.

Nothing groundbreaking.


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