We are less than 15 hours away from baseball’s Armageddon or 15 hours away from a furious sounding that ultimately means nothing. At 2.00pm on Thursday December 13th, 2007 George Mitchell will release his long awaited report on the use of steroids in Major League baseball. The inquiry (or witch hunt depending on what side you’re on) has taken 20 months. Mitchell and his band of merry investigators have conducted countless interviews often meeting a less than shocking lack of cooperation from players.
What information is going to be released tomorrow? Reports on ESPN.com state that Mitchell places blame on the owners and the players association. They also state that he is going to recommend several changes including adopting state of the art testing procedures and educating players on performance-enhancing drugs.
Nobody cares about that information. Everyone wants to hear the names!
The common fan already knows that owners turned a blind eye towards the growing problem in the late 80’s and 90’s. They continued to sign the big checks as the players transformed themselves into linebackers. Could the players association have stopped it early on? Of course they could have, but why should they? There were no penalties and the free agent contracts kept growing at a staggering rate.
That’s all in the past and like Mark McGwire we’re not here to talk about the past. Let the rest of the media gnash their teeth and lament the loss of innocence in America’s Pastime. Will anything about the game change?
Ultimately no. The names will be released and there will be outrage in the media and sheepish excuses issued by the players. Some will say it’s a misunderstanding and others will issue carefully worded apologies through their agents. Then slowly it will fade to the background. Baseball won’t banish anyone and no one will stand up and admit, “Yes I took steroids, HGH, performance enhancing drugs, etc. so that I would be a better player and make more money”.
Will we be shocked by the names on the list? Only if Jason Tyner Ben Zorbist are on there. In this day in age should any professional athlete be above suspicion? No. Every GM should be losing sleep tonight thinking about how to spin the news if their top players are named. Imagine Andrew Freidman having to step up to the podium to answer questions about Rocco Baldelli receiving shipments of HGH and Stanozolol while he was rehabbing his various injuries over the past two seasons. Admit it, it’s not that hard to picture.
That wasn’t meant to drag Rocco through the mud. The popular outfielder fits the profile of players who’ve already been named. Rick Ankeil, Jason Grimsley and Jay Gibbons were all players who allegedly purchased the substances to help recover from major injuries. The point is that this is a very real case scenario that at least one team will be going through tomorrow. It’s going to be a public relations nightmare.
The release of the names will make good copy for a few days, especially now during a slow sports period. Experts will appear on your TV and scream about the sanctity of the game and the tarnishing of records. Then playoff football will roll around and baseball will take a back burner. The College Bowl Season, Super Bowl and College Basketball will draw more attention away and by spring training the Mitchell Report will be nothing more than a footnote. After all aren’t we still supposed to be outraged at Michael Vick and Don Imus?
So far this off-season it doesn’t appear that teams are shying away from players that have been linked with illicit drugs. Jose Guillen signed a 3 year $36 Million contract on the same day Major League Baseball announced he was going to be suspended for receiving $20,000 worth of steroids and HGH in 2003-05. On Wednesday The Houston Astros traded their entire AAA roster for Miguel Tejada whose name has been associated with steroids more than once. (ed note – the trade was for Luke Scott and 4 prospects).
There are also reports that Major League Baseball won’t punish any of the players named in the report. So the athletes can mumble their explanations about tainted vitamins or doctors’ prescriptions and talk about moving forward while they line up their next multimillion dollar contract.
In the end, batting averages and ERA’s will replace horse tranquilizers and estrogen injections on the front page. The airwaves will be filled with complaints about the Rays bullpen instead of cries to purge the records of the steroid abusers.
The demise of baseball has been predicted before. As always baseball will survive this. Just like it has survived the Dead Ball era, gambling scandals, drug scandals, work stoppages and Dane Cook promos. Like Terrance Mann said, “This field, this game: it’s a part of our past…It reminds us of all that was once good and it could be again.”