Friday, December 21, 2007

The Mitchell Report: Major League Baseball’s dark cloud

Shoeless Joe Jackson must be smiling somewhere. Along with his fellow Chicago White Sox players, Jackson is finally off the hook, the 1921 Black Sox scandal is no longer the worst disgrace in baseball history.

There are far more opinions about the Mitchell Report than there are actual findings issued by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Almost everyone has an opinion, including me.

Let me say this right now. I’m old school. Baseball is a game to be played on green grass, on warm afternoons under the bluest of skies. The game itself doesn’t have to be played by saints. Hank Aaron was darn near perfect while Mantle and Ruth were far from it. What made them all special is that they played the game with a level of integrity baseball needs to remain America’s favorite past time.

But the list of names in the Mitchell report is staggering and stunning.

The numbers: 409 pages. 86 names. 30 teams.

We expected to hear about Barry Bonds, but Roger Clemens? Clemens was known for his seven Cy Young Awards, but now people will only think about his 82 mentions in this report. Ouch.

Let’s begin where the stink starts: Bud Selig and Donald Fehr. Selig, by any measure, is the weakest commissioner in the history of baseball. Fehr, heads the Major League Baseball Players Association, the players’ union, is equally complicit. They’ve always known and they’ve done nothing. I would hate to look under the rugs in their offices.

Both should step down immediately. Of course, they won’t. Selig will hide behind record attendance and revenue numbers. Same goes for Fehr, the only thing we have to fear is Fehr himself.

It doesn’t help matters that Sen. Mitchell is on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox. Which makes him an insider. He does, however, have a well earned reputation as a respected and honest man. So while his report has no legal weight behind it, it is a damning indictment that the past 20 years of baseball will forever be known as the Steroid Era.

Numerous records, awards and even World Series titles are tainted forever.

Congress, of course, will call hearings; they love to do these sorts of things. It gives them plenty of face-time for the folks back home. Unfortunately, while Congress loves to hear, it seldom listens and they will do nothing. It’s what these appointed officials do best.

But when every single team in Major League Baseball is named, teams that play in stadiums financed by you and me, action needs to be taken. Selig says the “report is a call to action” and that “[he] will act.” We’ll see.

So, will Roger Clemens be locked out, instead of a lock for the Hall of Fame? That will be decided by voters who are all a part of this sorry mess.

To be fair, everyone named in the report deserves a chance to defend themselves. It is indeed likely that some of the players named did nothing wrong at all. Major League Baseball commissioned the report and now must deal with the consequences. 

There is simply too much dirt hidden under the rug to hide anymore.

Here is my solution, simply step up or step aside. All the members of Congress, should have hearings, bring in league officials, owners and players, and meet in private if they have to. (There will be less showboating that way.) The best way to handle this is to listen, then act and give us a plan.

Make testing for steroids and other human growth drugs mandatory. Testing would be random and conducted by an outside independent agency. If a player tests positive, they’re off the team for good. One strike and you’re out. What possibly could the players’ union have against that? What honest player wants to play against a cheater?

 We’re going to hold every member accountable which you will see at voting and ticket booths. Some fresh leadership is in order.

The report is out, what’s done is done. I agree with Sen. Mitchell, to a point. Let’s not hang the players out to dry. The people in charge weren’t doing their jobs. In fact, they failed miserably. Let’s hold Selig and Fehr accountable instead. Moving forward, everyone knows what the rules are. Life and business are all about rules.

There are rules for fans. If I throw a bottle on to the field or chase after an umpire, your tossed out, arrested or both. No second strike. Fans have a clear choice: behave yourself and  enjoy the game, but if you do something stupid, you’ll be tossed out.

Players should follow the same rules. Behave yourself and enjoy the game.  Do something stupid, like take performance-enhancing drugs and you’ll be the one tossed out.

I’m just one fan who hopes the game can save itself, from itself. I’m not an optimist.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me at


John W. Scherer