Without question, today, December 13, 2007, is going to mark an eventful day in the history of the sport of baseball, as former Senator George Mitchell is expected to release his investigative report, expected to contain 304 pages, on the prevalence of steroid use in Major League Baseball over the past twenty years.
Already this morning, just hours before the highly-anticipated findings, which Mitchell and his staff have gathered over the past twenty months, become available to the public, information about the report has leaked, alleging that the names of two prominent starting pitchers – future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens and New York Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte – are included in the report, originally reported by ESPN.com. The news about Clemens and Pettitte, buddies who share the same grueling workout regimen during the offseason, breaks the common misconception, perhaps held by the average baseball fan, which holds that hitters were the only players to use performance-enhancing drugs to gain an edge in baseball's economic and offensive boom. Clemens, of course, has defined the odds by pitching at an unprecedented, remarkably high level well into his middle-40s, all while staying in peak physical condition, causing some to suspect Clemens as a possible steroid user for years. But with other pitchers' names looming, too, perhaps some of the typical stereotypes about steroid use will crack today.
A couple of the names released today are certainly going to surprise a lot of people, especially players within the Yankees organization (past and present), a source told the Bergen Record (NJ). "It's going to be a rough day in the Bronx," the paper quoted the source as saying.
I am interested to see who surfaces in Mitchell's findings, but, as several national columnists have pointed out, just being in the report does not necessarily translate into guilt. That being said, however, the inclusion of the names players who fail to meet the typical criteria for those suspected of steroid or HGH (Human Growth Hormone) use – such as a weak-hitting middle infielder or soft left-handed reliever, a la David Eckstein – will scar the reputations of some players permanently, and may open up the eyes of many baseball fans out there.
A press conference is scheduled for 2:00 ET this afternoon in New York City.
There has been speculation of Mitchell having a conflict of interest in regards to what information he uses in his findings. Since Commissioner Bud Selig, accused by many of turning a blind eye to alleged steroid use in Major League Baseball when home run totals and revenues were soaring at the turn of the century, will be footing the bill for this report, will Mitchell be highly critical of his hypothetical boss' role in the steroid era? What about the general managers, owners and even all the way down to low-level staff, including clubhouse attendants (like Kirk Radomski) and trainers? Who is going to fall victim to the blunt of the blame, rightfully so or not, if any one particular party does?
Many people in baseball circles are skeptical about the actual influence this report will have on the sport and feel that its findings should not shock anybody, including Rob Neyer, as discussed within his blog post last night. In a sense, I completely agree with him, as the outing of a reported 60-to-80 players will not bring any closure to the dark cloud that has surfaced over baseball for too long now. Other than potentially tarnishing the legacies of a few household names, will there be real solutions to the prevalence of steroid use in professional baseball, at all levels?
Neyer has had an interesting outlook on this issue for some time now, which speaks to a truth that many other sports journalists, in some cases, fail to see. He was once quoted as saying, "If everyone was juicing, is it really so bad?" Definitely an interesting way to look at it. While steroid use may shock a lot of people, even during my days playing baseball back in high school, several of the athletes at my school (in all different sports, surprisingly not that prevalent in baseball, though) were undoubtedly using steroids, simply just teenagers looking to gain an edge in the college recruiting process. But I realized back then, and still bring up today in discussions about the steroid era in baseball, while steroids allow athletes to recover from injuries faster and increase strength through enabling player' bodies to workout longer, if you don't have any talent to begin with, the effects are surprisingly minimal. This was evidenced clearly by a few of my former classmates who I discovered were using, and at such a depressingly young age, many of whom were marginal varsity high school players in their respective sport, at best.
I am not trying to defend any professional athlete who has used performance-enhancing drugs, but I hope that one of the effects this report has is to allow people to better realize that simply using steroids does not translate into Barry Bonds-level success, as anyone familiar with baseball well knows.
Other Content on the Mitchell Report From Across the Web Today:
According to a source who spoke with the New York Times,the report will actually portray Selig in a highly critical light, conflict of interest or not, as perhaps it should.
As the clock ticks town and we wait in anticipation, today could turn into a career doomsday for players with once-squeaky clean images.
The water cooler discussions over the next work week will be highly entertaining, but Kevin Hench feels the report will fail to show us anything that we didn't know already. (This was an interesting perspective; definitely worth reading)