Baseball On My Brain


Request for an opine
December 18, 2007, 5:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My uncle e-mailed me last night and asked me to opine on the Mitchell Report. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with it – this is my reply to him.

I equate the day-of-release experience to that of going to a national monument. You travel there, wait in line, get to the ticket booth, pay a fair amount of money, wait in more lines with people you don’t really care to be around, and when you finally get to the front of the line, the emotion is “hmm — so this is it? Really? This is it? OK. I’ll be at the snack bar.”

The report is interesting – but as many have pointed out, there are flaws to it. A lot of it is hearsay and a lot of people who should have cooperated didn’t. That’s not to dismiss it – but it’s certainly not gospel.

It’s not accurate to say “I’m not surprised” by the report — I think that’s a catchphrase used by people when they can’t formulate an opinion on something. A lot of it was already known — Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, et al. Certainly the Clemens and Pettitte part of it was a bit surprising. There were some guys I had some respect for that I was disappointed to learn were in the report – such as Paul Lo Duca and Brian Roberts – but overall it was a fairly big letdown – mainly because I don’t think anyone knew how they would process their emotions once the report came out. Who would have been meaningful enough to the baseball community to elicit a collective gasp? Rickey Henderson? Tony Gwynn? Cal Ripken, Jr.? Instead we got F.P. Santangelo and Marvin Benard. Want anything from the snack bar?

I found more interest in the how of the report than the who — paying clubbies and bullpen catchers to take padlocked duffle bags of marijuana on planes, overnighting steroids to team hotels, sneaking vials of the juice around in Oakley sunglasses bags, and my favorite, the guy knocking a towel off some bench and having a whole bunch of syringes scatter about the clubhouse and no one saying anything.

This leaves me to be resolved to say that while I want to assume every player on the field is innocent and above reproach, I also know that with billions of dollars floating around, every baseball player (and pro athlete, for that matter) will have some cloud of question hanging around them. Even if a player isn’t doing steroids, HGH, or other substance, they’re still benefiting from the other guys doing it — let’s say I’m an outfielder who is in the upper 30% of the talent pool. Another outfielder is on the juice, and is in the upper 30% as well. When his contract comes up after this season and he gets some big free agent deal, it helps me get a fat deal when my contract comes up next year. So all of a sudden – I’m benefiting from the juice without taking the juice. What desire do I have to speak out against that?

I don’t think we’ll ever really know who did what — it’ll be like trying to track who gave you a cold. There’s just too many moving parts and the links aren’t always clear. So the baseball fan community will have to resolve it in their own heads and hearts as to how they view the 80s, 90s, and the first decade of 2000. Steroids, HGH, and PEDs were an environmental influence that had an effect on the game – and will have to be remembered in the same way gambling, the deadball era, the slap hitting ’70s and ’80s and other time periods were. Baseball will weather this storm – but it will certainly not be the last one.

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