First thoughts on the Mitchell Report

A few minutes ago, former Senator George Mitchell released his report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball. The full report is already available for download on MLB.com. Virtually none of the conclusions were surprising. Both MLB and the MLBPA bear responsibility, along with pretty much anyone else involved with baseball in the last quarter-century.

Some of the names listed in the report were more surprising (Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Mo Vaughn, Paul Lo Duca) than others (Clemens, Bonds – though with no new evidence on Bonds).  Mitchell seems to have done a good job downplaying his “list,” though. The list gives baseball fans like myself something to talk about. It puts faces to a group of people we knew existed, and it allows us to point fingers at and speak from our soapboxes until there’s no one left to listen.

There are almost certainly more names to be found, and I’m sure there will always be people looking for them. A large number of players in this report were ratted out through the connections of Kirk Radomski (Mets clubhouse attendant) and Brian McNamee (Yankees trainer), so it’s possible that Mitchell’s list is only a small fraction of the whole.

None of that is important, though, now. Mitchell basically came out and said so during his press conference. What’s important is curbing the use of harmful and illegal drugs by influential Major League Baseball players. A stronger testing program is necessary in baseball (and all other pro sports) for the purpose of eliminating players’ incentives to use drugs, if only so that we can finally have some closure on the steroid era.

Even if the MLB and MLBPA continue to flounder, look the other way, and deny the problem (or its implications) in the face of this report, people will still watch baseball. I will still watch baseball. There’s no going back to change the past, so what’s important now is allowing the focus to return to the game itself. Even when it’s played and run by imperfect people, it’s still a beautiful game.

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5 thoughts on “First thoughts on the Mitchell Report

  1. That’s a positive spin on it.

    It’s good to look ahead but what does this do to the record book? Doesn’t this mean that every record set by a player on “the list” is now suspect?

  2. Unfortunately, it does call the records into question, but there’s not really anything we can do about it.

    We don’t have evidence to say: “Barry Bonds’ record should be 632 home runs after the adjustment for steroid use.” It’s not clear what the next step is, and that is probably what makes everyone (including myself) a little uncomfortable.

    For now, I think the best step is to leave the record books alone, as disappointing as that may be.

  3. You’re absolutely right that we leave the record books alone.

    All of the preposterous after-the-fact asterisks and adjustments that people want to apply are subjective, and the reason why statistics exist in the first place is to avoid that kind of subjectivity.

    It is a cold, hard fact that Barry Bonds hit the ball over the fence between the foul poles 762 times in Major League Baseball games. That’s true regardless of anything he might have done that was against the rules. Nobody else has done that 762 times, so Bonds is the all-time leader, no matter what. People are free to form their own opinions from there, but the fact that he did, in fact, hit more home runs than anybody else ever is indisputable.

    Besides, if someone wants to make any sort of official alterations to the records, then we would have to be thorough. For the Bonds example, the Giants would forfeit every game since, say, 2001 in which Bonds hit a home run. This means they don’t win the 2002 wild card, so they also don’t win the pennant in 2002. Therefore Benito Santiago must surrender his NLCS MVP award from that year, and all seven games of the 2002 World Series are null and void, with the Angels instead being declared champions by forfeit. Also, we have to recalculate the ERAs of every pitcher that allowed a homer to Bonds, and we should adjust his teammates’ career batting statistics downward to reflect that they should’ve gotten slightly fewer plate appearances.

    Obviously that would be ridiculous.

  4. It’s also a cold, hard fact that Kent Mercker pitched in a combined no-hitter in 1991 and complete game no-hitter in 1994 … ostensibly with the aid of performance-enhancing supplements

    The fact that he somehow has two more no-hitters than Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddux combined is amusingly indisputable.

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