Conflicted Over the Mitchell Report

An editorial on one man's feelings over baseball's recent investigation into player use of performance-enhancing substances.

Since the release of the Mitchell Report, I have been asked why we have been silent on the subject. Personally, I wanted to take enough time to read the document and to try to understand it rather than commenting based on others' interpretations.

Now that I have had a weekend to digest the report, like many pragmatists, I feel conflicted about it. Just the fact that it has to exist is distasteful enough. I am saddened over the names called out, but in another way, I am glad they were.

One would have to be incredibly naïve to assume this investigation was all-encompassing. It isn't much of an exaggeration to wonder that if the investigators hadn't gotten Kirk Radomski, the former Mets clubhouse attendant and drug supplier to speak, if they would have any case at all.

How many other Radomskis are/were out there, though? If Dave McKay, former Oakland strength and conditioning coach and current Cardinals first base coach is anywhere near correct in his estimation that 30% of the players were using at one time, there surely had to be more sources for players to acquire PEDs. And if those additional suppliers had been found, there certainly could have been many more names outed.

That is one major reason why I did not join the many Cardinals fans who seemed relieved that primarily marginal major leaguers with ties to the organization like Cody McKay, Gary Bennett and Larry Bigbie were the ones named.

In one way, it is a shame that only the players tied to Radomski were called out, but short of naming names, would all those in positions of authority involved have been shaken into action? I am talking about the Owners, Players Association and even the press, all of whom share some responsibility for the state of the game today.

It is one thing to name names with proof, as did Mitchell. It is another to engage in wild speculation in print and on the air. I am disappointed over the actions of the media, both mainstream and internet-based, in posting and passing inaccurate and therefore damaging lists of names before the Mitchell Report was released. I was amazed at the weak rationalizations offered by some, likening it to reporting on trade rumors.

Won't we learn? We are talking about people's reputations here.

Mainstream media sources, including several owned and operated by NBC as well as local St. Louis television station KVTI Channel 2, were among those who improperly fanned the flames. But they weren't alone in the disgusting ambulance chasing. It was also not a particularly good time for the internet community, either.

Until the spread of the inaccurate lists last week, the website Deadspin may have done more damage to Albert Pujols' reputation than any single source. Last year, Deadspin incorrectly fingered Pujols' personal trainer as having been involved in the Jason Grimsley steroids case. The article containing the accusations, with a photo of Pujols plastered at the top, not that of the trainer, received extensive mainstream media coverage worldwide.

Not surprisingly, the red-faced apology from Deadspin that came along later didn't receive the same kind of attention. That seemed to be about the time that Pujols began to be booed when coming to the plate in opposing ballparks. I don't think it is a coincidence.

But, Deadspin was far from alone in publicizing last week's tainted lists. We received a number of emails and calls on Thursday asking for comment on the Pujols "news", some with links from Cardinals-oriented websites offered as corroboration. Instead, we chose to stay out of it.

The Cardinals slugger had every right to be upset at again being linked to a story for which there has been no shred of proof offered as to his involvement. And he was angry. Yet some folks still wonder why Pujols is surly with the press.

It was bad enough that Albert's name was included in the false reports, but to see the name of a man who suffered a tragic and untimely death, Darryl Kile, dragged through the mud seems so completely inappropriate I don't even know how to properly put it into words.

The leadership of Major League Baseball continues to generally dodge responsibility for the problems which literally grew right under their noses, fostering a culture that enabled players to take immoral and illegal risks with their bodies while undermining the integrity of the game. Under whose ultimate leadership did this all occur? Listening to Bud Selig, one can hardly tell he was in charge through all this.

The Players Association did their part, too, helping their members present a united stand against the Mitchell investigation, with current MLB players by and large refusing to cooperate.

In a way, didn't each of today's players who would not comment pull their own Mark McGwire imitation in the process, refusing to talk about the past?

Perhaps the inclusion of another former sure-fire future Hall-of-Famer, Roger Clemens, in the circle of suspicion gives McGwire some company in baseball's purgatory. But, who feels good about that?

When all the puffery about asterisks and taking away records finally plays out, the reality will be that nothing can be done. There is simply no way to identify and draw an indisputable line between tainted and untainted performance. Baseball is going to have to figure out how to deal with the wounds they allowed to fester.

And why did the Mitchell investigation focus on the players instead of also looking into members of team management who were quoted numerous times in the report with suspicions about player steroid use that were apparently not brought forward to authorities?

Likely management would blame the Players Association and the existing testing policies negotiated between the parties for keeping them from taking action. And so the blame is passed back and forth, landing nowhere other than with a lowly former clubhouse attendant, a dirty trainer and a handful of mostly marginal ex-players.

I doubt anyone is satisfied with the Mitchell Report, but whose fault is that? It is everyone's and therefore, no one's.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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