Slate writers and editors dissect the Mitchell report.

Conversations in real time.
Dec. 13 2007 8:41 PM

Dope Springs Eternal

Slate writers and editors dissect the Mitchell report.

(Continued from Page 1)

Daniel Engber: OK, so no one thinks there are any serious ramifications for the players named. So, the only point of naming anyone is to associate the problem (cheating) with specific villains (the players), which helps the owners put pressure on the players' association. Maybe the list brings shame to certain players. But how much shame is left to spread around, once you've got 60 or 80 names? It's hard to care that much when so many players are involved. But as a partisan Mets fan, I'm interested in relative numbers of Mets and Braves on the list, or Mets and Yankees. The Mitchell report is great for team rivalries!

Rosen: Sorry, but the net effect of this is a whitewash. A lot of HGH-using All Stars breathing easier today.

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Jack Shafer: Mitchell's comparison of his MLB steroid investigation to his brokering of the N. Ireland peace talks is worth a horse laugh: We should forgive and forget the steroid users for the same reason the Irish are supposed to forgive and forget, to paraphrase him. Equating widespread cheating with a nasty civil war seems bizarre. Does he really think an excess of finger-pointing in baseball circles will restart steroid use the way finger-pointing in N. Ireland will restart the war?

Metcalf: The analogy to peace in Northern Ireland admittedly shows a lack of taste and proportion; but it doesn't deserve The Full Shafer. The point is: Are we going to repair the sport, or squabble and finger-point into eternity?

Rosen: You're right, Steve, but ... seems to me there's a big lie at work here. Selig just waxed all grandiloquent about baseball having to reckon with its past in order to move on. But of course Mitchell has given us a tiny snapshot of a huge epidemic: a ridiculously incomplete picture of the past, based almost entirely on the testimony of a single snitch who kept good records, probably so he'd have a get-out-of-jail-free pass. Which makes me feel kind of bad for the players who've been named in this report. And makes today feel like bullshit ceremony: an occasion for Selig to stand up and say we get it, it's over, and we're officially launching the "post-steroids era." Is there language in the Mitchell Report to this effect—does he cop to telling just a small part of the story?

Bill Smee: On NPR just now, Mitchell was interviewed and admitted that he has no idea what the scope of the problem is/was—that his report documents just what he was able to learn. I completely agree with Jody that this smacks of "let's all turn the page" now that we've drawn up a list of villains.

Shafer: What exactly was the purpose of the Mitchell investigation? It seems like it's the equivalent of hitting the reset button for the players and the leagues—what's past is past, let's play ball.

Wilson: I believe Tony Soprano would call this the omerta. Page 88: "In the course of this investigation, examples of the 'code of silence' were abundant. ... In our interview of him, one former player told of annual players-only meetings during which teammates reminded one another that any personal information they learned during the season needed to be kept in 'the family.' " (The bold is mine.)

Engber: What are these "annual player's-only meetings"?  Are those union meets?

Rosen: No, no, no: annual July Fourth Clambake and Key-Party at the Clemenses.

Andy Bowers: I'm really confused about the legal status of the Mitchell report. So federal prosecutors pressured these guys McNamee and Radomski to name names to an extra-legal investigation whose only result is apparently to forever ruin the reputations of these athletes?

It would be one thing if all the named players were actually charged with crimes, so that they could mount formal defenses. But it seems the result of this will just be to keep Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame without giving him a chance to defend himself (not that I have many doubts about his guilt, but that's not the point).

It seems a bit unfair to give Mitchell the benefit of pressure from federal prosecutors and even a plea bargain without giving the players the benefit of a formal way to clear their names. Could the players sue for libel?

Metcalf: Let Clemens sue; the discovery process would be a valuable addition to the report. The story feels fatigued already. No subpoena power, they luck into a couple of tattlers, the names feel familiar. Headliners are Clemens and Pettite and maybe Lo Duca. Eyebrow-raiser: the union tipping off players or maybe teams about impending tests. How does Clemens respond? He's the poster boy here.

Rosen: Anyone notice the excerpt from Peter Gammons' fawning 2001 article about the Clemens workout regimen? He quotes a Yankees "apprentice trainer" as saying: "He's one of the first players in every morning, runs, does his program with Andy Pettitte, does the team program workout, goes to the weight room, leaves, plays 18 holes of golf and finally meets (trainer) Brian McNamee at 6 ... and a few other players—for another workout. It's incredible how much energy Roger has."

Swansburg: ESPN just reported that Jose Canceco showed up at the Mitchell presser but was denied access by security!

Rosen: Denied access by security!?!? And he didn't pick security, and hurl security, discus-style, into a different ZIP code? Must be off the juice. And Steve's right, it's all about Clemens. As Mike & the Mad Dog just pointed out, it's a total he said-she said: no paper trail on Roger. Will be interesting to see how he reacts. In any case, I think this gives us some insight on that whipping-the-bat-at-Piazza episode in the 2000 World Series. 'Roid rage, much? A Mike & the Mad Dog caller just pointed out how many 2000 World Champion Yanks are on the list: Clemens, Pettitte, Knoblauch, Justice, Stanton. Umm ... asterisk time? Or maybe just give the trophy to the Mets?

Metcalf: Clemens is going to hover his little pumpkin head above a podium and play wounded ("the sport I love," etc.), then make noises about legal this and legal that. But if he actually does file papers, which he won't, then the Yankee guy (McLamee? Whatever, who cares) can file his own in return—i.e., libel charges right back at Clemens. Not to get too meta, but we get so quickly immersed in a he-said, she-said vortex, we forget that events actually happened in time and space, and the firsthand participants know what is true and what is fancy. If nothing else, the takeaway from Marion Jones, Floyd Landis, and Palmeiro is that prideful indignation on the part of the accused has zero probative value, especially from someone whose fallback career was ... what again? And speaking of indignation, my auto-content wizard has already written a piece about Clemens, Bonds, and race.

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