George Mitchell will unveil his much anticipated report today about steroids in baseball. Though seriously flawed because he had no ability to force testimony or cooperation it will be a bombshell. Perhaps 60-80 players will be identified as using illegal drugs to enhance their performances. Who is to blame for this debacle the owners or players? Both, plus the fans.
Coming off a disastrous strike which cost the sport much of its fan base the home run frenzies of Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and others brought them back to the ballparks. Greedy owners happily looked the other way while cashing in at the turnstiles. Greedy players looked only to the fame and fortune to be gained by violating federal law and shooting up. All the while gullible fans fell for the hoax and lined up to watch.
I'm an avid baseball fan and enjoy attending games so even I, as I write this, am responsible. We're all at fault. The greatest onus falls on the owners however, in my opinion. They had the responsibility to protect these players from themselves and honor the integrity of the game. They failed. The players union was adamantly opposed to any testing and continue obstructing such action. The use of steroids is a felony. There never was a reason for baseball to enact rules prohibiting an act which was already against federal law. If they have to do that the rule book would be a copy of the nation's criminal statutes and the size of several encyclopedias. Ridiculous.
What will the impact be of the Mitchell report? This is the question facing baseball today. We all knew, or had a good idea, which players were shooting up. You could sit in the stands and observe your heroes morphing into body builder types before your eyes. I recall the 1993 Phillies, a team chocked full of steroid users and we all understood that. The inevitable injuries caused by steroid use were another clear sign of the times and that team had its share of them the following year.
We, as fans, turned a blind eye too. We all knew McGuire and the others were cheating. We could have voted our disgust with our wallets but we didn't. We're all at fault in this mess and it's going to take all of us to clean it up.
Update: Seven time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, once bound for Cooperstown, was unveiled as a junkie in the Mitchell Report along with many others. I was surprised more by the small list of players named since it was obvious from watching the sport that many, many more used these illegal drugs.
No player named in the report should be eligible for the Hall of Fame. That's the best message baseball can send about cheating. As for criminal prosecution Sen. Mitchell said no. He explains this position by saying users aren't normally prosecuted. That's funny because junkies are routinely arrested for possession of illegal drugs, be it crack, pot, cocaine or heroin. Steroids are just as illegal. A junkie is a junkie regardless of their clothing. Nothing separates a Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens from someone living in a crack house, legally. So much, again, for equal justice under law.
Update II: Roger Clemens is denying he took steroids. I find this disingenuous since he had ample opportunity to meet with George Mitchell before the report was finished and refused. If he wanted to clear his name why did he fail to do so properly, as part of the investigation? Instead he obstructed it by refusing to cooperate.