Friday, December 14, 2007

The Mitchell Report

The long awaited Mitchell report on the use of performance enhancing drugs was delivered yesterday. It was commissioned several years ago by MLB in an attempt to get some answers on the prevalence of drug use in baseball.

In this report, former Senator and peace maker George Mitchell names almost eighty current and formers players. Notably absent are Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the two credited for bringing baseball back from its almost suicidal strike in 1994. In fact, the home run chase in 98 is why some people think MLB led by Bud Selig overlooked the steroid issue for so long. They desperately needed the excitement of that chase and desperately needed to avoid any questioning of its legitimacy in the years afterward.

The biggest "new" name mentioned in this report is Roger Clemens, eleven-time All-Star and seven-time Cy Young Award winner. Clemens came out with a vehement denial of the accusations, but according to ESPN last night, the rumors of Clemens use of performance enhancing drugs have been around for a long time. As John Kruk pointed out, people in professional sports do not get more dominant with age, but Clemens did ... and Bonds did. There is virtually no question that Bonds used drugs, nor there is there any question that Selig did a great disservice to MLB by not taking action against Bonds.

Now Clemens?

Who's to blame? While Selig bears a large part for his mismanagement, the players have no one to blame but themselves. The MLBPA (players association) has long stood in the way of any meaningful drug testing. They refused to make players available for the Mitchell report investigation, allowing players to testify only if they wished.

Why would not the PA come out strongly in favor of protecting the game that has made them multi-millionaires? Why put the baseball public through this charade of indignant self-righteousness when they knew, just as well as everyone else, that there were significant drug problems in baseball. Why not make your players testify before the Mitchell investigation?

All the secrecy just screams out that they have something to hide.

Except it's not hidden very well.

Here's my solution.

1. Institute weekly drug tests that actually test for HGH as well. (Spend the money and figure out how to test for it.) These tests should take place year round, rather than simply during the season. Give each player a yearly four week hiatus in the off season, to account for vacations and travel away from a testing facility.
2. Give every player until May 1 to get clean.
3. Institute a one strike and you're out policy. If a player gets caught with performance enhancing drugs in his system, his is done for life. No appeals, no second chances.

Why so harsh? Because baseball needs its game back. These players need to know up front what the penalty is. And if enhanced performance makes it worth running the risk of never putting on a uniform again, then take the risk. But don't whine when you get caught. And don't plan on sitting out for fifty games, or a hundred games, and then getting back in the game.

One, and your done.

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