I wouldn’t deign pretend to know who is right between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee. The endless examination of what was said, and certainly what was not said, is ultimately inconclusive, an entertaining parlor game, nothing more. I don’t know who is right, but I do know who is wrong: Selig and his **** Mitchell Report. By sensationalizing instead of producing a meaningful report on the use of PEDs during the last couple of decades, ultimately pointless scenarios like the Clemens debacle were inevitable and divert from the real issue.
Whether Clemens did or did not use steroids is really not the question. The real question is: what would it mean if he did? Think about this: what would your opinion of Clemens be if he did, indeed, use PEDs, but in an era when every other player was juicing? 95% of players? 80%? Brian McNamee, someone who would have been in a position to know, estimated fifty percent were using. Personally I find it difficult to assign much blame if usage was that prevalent. No one would accuse me of being a Clemens fan, but even I wouldn’t be too terribly critical if he made that bad decision knowing half the players around him were gaining a competitive advantage through chemistry.
Was it that high? We don’t know, and therein lies the utter failure of the Mitchell Report. The Mitchell Report, instead of naming names, should have provided us with context to evaluate the impact of steroids on the baseball of the era. It should have told us what percentage of hitters were juicing, what percentage of pitchers, and roughly during what years. Don’t tell me they couldn’t come up with such assessments. If archaeologists can ascertain the diets of men who lived 40,000 years ago from seeds found in their excrement, a diligent study could project with some reliability the percentage of players who were juicing during the last two decades. Of course that would necessitate a completely different approach to the steroid era than Selig has taken. It would require providing an environment in which players, trainers, coaches, GMs, owners—everyone in MLB—feels free to talk openly to investigators about what happened, in complete anonymity, without recrimination, without fear their name and/or the names of those they provide will be splashed as tabloid fodder. Did McNamee know that by testifying about Clemens that his hero’s name would appear in the report? Or did he think it would simply be tallied, maybe lead to further investigations—in other words, be part of a responsible, legitimate study of the phenomena?
The general consensus regarding the audiotape played at Clemens press conference is it revealed nothing. Wrong. It revealed two people in a lot of pain. McNamee’s suffering was palpable, Clemens’ maybe a little less so, but he also noted the strain on his wife and family. And for what? What, exactly, are we going to know if we know for a fact Clemens performance was chemically enhanced? Nothing. Not without knowing how many hitters he faced were juiced. Not without some objective method of evaluating the extent to which PEDs affect a pitcher’s effectiveness. Not without some concept of how many Cy Young contenders were abusing in the years Clemens won his Cy Youngs.
In other words, without knowing precisely the kinds of information the Mitchell Report should have provided.
Giambi may have pumped his rump full of steroids, but Selig and Major League Baseball are pumping everyone’s rump. Another convenient leak. Bonds fails an amphetamine test. It is leaked. Giambi talks, and his drug tests are leaked. Now his threatened punishment for not cooperating with Selig’s failed witch hunt is leaked. Coincidence? Stretches the credulity as much as two players shattering a thirty seven year old record in the same year, naturally. Let’s party like it’s 1998. This Bud’s for you. Rump bump an ump, you chumps.
I’m not alone in my analysis:
If Bud Selig isn’t careful — and at this point, it feels safe to say he sure isn’t — he is going to accomplish a thing previously thought implausible: get people swinging back over to Barry Bonds‘ side of the whole deal.
Selig’s unofficial, rumored future prosecution of Jason Giambi (It was leaked! The threatened punishment was leaked!) is the latest turn in Major League Baseball’s bipolar approach to a problem it never showed a sincere interest in solving when it was at its height. And the unintended side effect is that, with each new catfight, it is Selig himself who looks smaller amid the hissing.
Frankly, that’s the bad news. Whatever you make of Selig, the diminution of the commissioner’s office is ultimately defeating to everyone, even the long-suffering ticket buyers. The sport is not served. The search for the real killers — whoops, that’s the drive to rid the sport of cheaters — goes nowhere.
Giambi? He couldn’t be less urgent in this story, which is what makes Selig’s determination to force him to speak with former Sen. George Mitchell so baffling. It’s completely unnecessary at this point, first of all; Giambi already has said enough for the public record to indicate that, yes, he buffed up a few years back with the aid of steroids and that, yes, he was by no means alone.
So…unless you talk to the people we control so that we might spin the truth to obfuscate our complicity, you, Mr. Player, face suspension. But please, we want you to be forthcoming! We want the truth to come out!
“Any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, no matter how casual, must be taken seriously,” Selig said at the beginning of the month. “It is in the best interests of baseball for everyone, including players, to cooperate with Senator Mitchell in his investigation.
“Discipline for wrongdoing is important, but it is also important to create an environment so players can feel free to honestly and completely cooperate with this important investigation.”
Although God knows I’ve been more critical of Selig than anyone, I also understand he did what he understood he had to do. To date I have blamed him no more than I blame Robert E. Lee. History will judge whether Selig has the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln in granting amnesty, or whether he really is mealy-mouthed, unable to give up having it both ways. In that case, he fully deserves the approbation that history will certainly give:.
The other day, Selig sort of urged Giambi to talk to Mitchell and his investigators: “It is in the best interests of baseball for everyone, including players, to cooperate with Senator Mitchell … Discipline for wrongdoing is important, but it is also important to create an environment so players can feel free to honestly and completely cooperate with this important investigation.”
See what I mean by sort of?
Typical Selig. He wants it both ways. The problem is, it’s 2007 and he can’t have it both ways anymore. He needs to decide which is more important, discipline or honesty, retribution or integrity?
As noted recently in the New York Times, home run figures from 1995 though 2003 are a statistical anomaly. When meaningful testing began in 2003, they returned to normal levels. Now, unless Selig is willing to wash out eight seasons, the numbers will remain in the books. Punishing Giambi now won’t restore the integrity of the game, nor will it gentle the commissioner’s legacy. But the truth just might.
Still, as any investigator knows, you have to give to get. If the Justice Department can give a pass to Sammy Gravano for 19 dead bodies, then Selig can find it within himself to grant Giambi et al. amnesty for steroid use, a lot of which took place in the last century. No player will talk to Mitchell if it exposes him to a penalty from the commissioner’s office.
There’s an ethical argument, as well. Selig’s office was at least tacitly complicit in the problem. Baseball has no business punishing guys for something it didn’t even test for. What’s more, amnesty would remove some of the stigma of going before Mitchell. It would serve as a long-needed acknowledgment that — to paraphrase Giambi — everyone screwed up royally.
Commissioner Bud Selig should do everything in his considerable power to protect Jason Giambi and ensure that his story of steroid abuse is heard without fear of reprisal.
It would be squarely in the best interests of baseball.
In theory, Bud Selig wants an honest accounting. Toward this end he has enlisted the services of George Mitchell and vowed to support the former Senate majority leader wherever his investigation led. The commissioner wanted to accumulate “as much knowledge as is humanly possible” about events of the past decade or so.
But in fact the baseball establishment has never been very keen on the truth. Nine years ago, while baseball’s counterfeit prophets were memorializing the glorious Summer of ’98, AP reporter Steve Wilstein found a jar of Andro, a testosterone-booster, in Mark McGwire’s locker. For his trouble, Wilstein became an object of ridicule and almost had his press credentials revoked by Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa. Then came Ken Caminiti’s confession in Sports Illustrated. The former MVP was written off as a drug addict. Jose Canseco, who came out with his best-selling tell-all in 2005, was dismissed as a flake. Now comes Giambi’s modest proposal.
So what does Selig do?
He launches an investigation of Giambi, of course.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I agree with Mark Kriegel on FOXSports.com: Bud Selig was charged with the responsibility of protecting the integrity of the game. He, the owners, and the players nearly destroyed the game with their endless labor disputes. Baseball history taught them home runs can rescue the game, as it did after the Black Sox scandal. If that meant turning a blind eye to an obvious problem, well…
The fans bought the former car salesman’s lemon, and now their mouths are puckering.
If you find the commissioner’s public agonizing a bit much, you aren’t alone. The former car salesman makes a disingenuous Hamlet. After all, the steroid stigma is in large measure a problem of his making. For years, he ignored it. Then, along with the owners he represented, he profited from it. Now he congratulates himself. Baseball’s official website cites the drug-testing program enacted in 2005 — “as strong as any in professional sports” — as evidence of “Selig’s long-term effort to try to rid the game of illegal steroids and performance-enhancing substances.”
The measure was too little, and way too late. Of course, the players’ association deserves a share of the blame, too. No one can accuse the union of being overly concerned about the long-term health consequences for its members. Still, there’s a difference between the union, charged with protecting players’ rights, and the commissioner, who’s obligated to protect the integrity of the game. The fact is, by the time the Selig regime got anything done, the home run tallies were hopelessly tainted. All the commissioner could do was hope like **** that Bonds would get indicted for tax evasion or perjury before he got too close to Hank Aaron’s record.