Just what is so explosive about the Mitchell report?   

Updated: December 20, 2007, 2:03 PM ET

  • Comment
  • Email
  • Print
  • Share

A week later, it turns out the most important thing missing from the Mitchell report was a large brown paper bag for everyone to breathe into so they could stop hyperventilating.

Off Base
The report contained enough previously reported allegations and usual suspects and so little in the way of actual news that "Game of Shadows" authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams should demand royalties. And yet from the media reaction, you would have thought that WMDs had been found in Iraq. The Associated Press termed the report a bombshell while the BBC -- yes, the BBC -- called it explosive. Congress, meanwhile, plans to hold another round of hearings on steroids and call in ballplayers yet again to testify.

But who is Off-Base to disagree with conventional wisdom or suggest that another round of moral outrage from the media and Congress isn't justified? Apparently, the Mitchell report sheds new light on a devastating scandal of such enormous consequences that the game's revenue has only risen to $6 billion, just five times what it was 15 years ago, with attendance increasing to a mere record of 75 million last year.

In dark times like these, it's comforting to think back to the purity of the good old days of baseball when our heroes never took any illegal performance enhancers, such as steroids or human growth hormone. Instead, they took the amphetamines that the U.S. military got them started on in order to stay alert during World War II.

George Mitchell

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Much of what was detailed in the Mitchell report is a rehash of previous media reports.

And wouldn't it be refreshing if today's players weren't such bad role models for our youth by taking illegal performance enhancers, such as steroids or human growth hormone? Instead, why can't today's bad apples be like our heroes of old, who promoted a healthy lifestyle by endorsing cigarettes?

Speaking of our children, the Mitchell report should be a rallying cry for the nation to warn them about the evils of taking steroids and HGH instead of legal substances such as tobacco and prescription drugs like the antidepressant that required two full pages of fine print warnings in a recent national magazine ad, including: "Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in short-term studies of children and adolescents with major depressive disorder …" Or a certain impotency drug that runs a full-page disclaimer with its ads that warns of possible heart attacks, stroke, death and four-hour erections.

We should also be glad we have a media that has the proper perspective to keep the spotlight on baseball's steroid problem rather than lose sight of the convenient topic of the day. Otherwise fans may get the wrong impression that team sports other than baseball have a problem with PEDs.

Thus, when a scandal this ugly rocks baseball, Off-Base is mostly thankful we still have the virtuous NFL, where of course, no one ever takes steroids or HGH. It's good to have our football heroes set the proper example by showing us all that we, too, could weigh 260 pounds, have a 31-inch waistline, bench-press 450 pounds and run a 4.4 forty just by eating cans of spinach and adding truck-pulls up sand dunes to our daily workout routines.

Tell your statistics to shut up

Not that Off-Base places much credence on even scientific polls, but the results of Tuesday's Page 2 poll were interesting amid the reaction to the Mitchell report. Asked who fans hated more, players who take PEDs, players who don't hustle, coaches who spy on the other team or the Knicks, 42 percent voted for players who don't hustle compared to 12 percent for players who take PEDs. Taking the question to the logical conclusion, does this mean fans would want players to take PEDs if it helped them hustle? …

Speaking of hustle, was anyone else shocked that it took Pete Rose five entire days to use the Mitchell report to pump himself for the Hall of Fame again? Charlie Hustle must be slowing down. And if ever a headline served as its own punchline, it was this one: "Rose Says 'Roid Users Making Mockery of Game." …

Are you worried that performance enhancers have changed baseball irrevocably? Perhaps they haven't as much as you think. Or certainly not as much as football has changed. In researching the 1972 Dolphins' undefeated season, you find that the 2007 Dolphins outweigh their '72 counterparts by about 34 pounds per starter and 70 pounds per starter on the offensive line. Weight differentials such as those would make it extremely challenging for the best NFL team of 1972 to be able to beat the worst NFL team of 2007 if somehow transported into the present day (Bob Griese, Earl Morrall and Larry Csonka were fine players, but who the hell would be able to block for them?). Compare that to the 1972 Athletics of Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman, Rollie Fingers, et al, who would certainly finish ahead of the Devil Rays. …

Now that Alex Rodriguez's contract is finally and officially complete, Off-Base is still trying to figure out how A-Rod and Scott Boras could possibly be viewed as the losers in this deal, or that Boras seriously "misread' the market. Under the contract A-Rod was "embarrassed" into accepting, Rodriguez will receive at least $275 million over the next 10 years, with the possibility of earning as much as $305 million. That deal covers him until he's 42, guarantees him $45 million to $75 million more than the extension the Yankees were supposedly going to offer before the opt-out, and has the potential of paying him more per season as well ($30.5 million compared to $28.75 million). Meanwhile, the Yankees are now obligated to pay Rodriguez a minimum of $27.5 million per season and as much as $30.5 million per season, which is more overall and more per season than the supposed extension. Don't get Off-Base wrong, signing the best player in baseball is a good thing for the Yankees, who can certainly afford it, and it should be celebrated by their fans. The problem is with the media's portrayal of the deal. Please explain how SIGNING FOR MORE MONEY equates to an "embarrassment" for A-Rod while PAYING OUT MORE MONEY is a piece of shrewd negotiating on the Yankees' part. …

And if you're still looking for a Christmas present for the baseball fan in your life, you can't go wrong with Joe Posnanksi's "The Soul of the Game" about Buck O'Neil, which was the most enjoyable baseball book of the year.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue." His new book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans," is on sale now.


Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?