Commentary

Mitchell report includes a few recently signed, traded players

Originally Published: December 13, 2007
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

Of the 86 major leaguers mentioned in the Mitchell report Thursday, several have been in the headlines lately for reasons other than their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Miguel Tejada just changed clubs Wednesday in a big trade from Baltimore to Houston. Andy Pettitte reached agreement on a one-year, $16 million contract with the New York Yankees. And second baseman Brian Roberts, Tejada's former Orioles teammate, has been mentioned in speculation as a potential trade target of the Chicago Cubs.

Those three players have something else in common: Their names appear prominently, in boldface, somewhere in Sen. George Mitchell's voluminous document.

Miguel Tejada
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesOne day after getting dealt by the Orioles, Miguel Tejada was named in the Mitchell report.
• Tejada first shows up on Page 105, allegedly injecting himself with Vitamin B-12 in the Orioles' clubhouse restroom.

• According to former Baltimore outfielder Larry Bigbie, Roberts admitted to injecting himself with steroids "once or twice" in 2003.

• Pettitte, like fellow Yankee Roger Clemens, is implicated by former New York strength and conditioning coach Brian McNamee, who claims to have injected both pitchers with human growth hormone.

Although big league teams are accustomed to taking risks in making trades or signing high-profile free agents, the process is more fraught with uncertainty this winter. One day you're welcoming a player to the fold. The next day, his name is being splashed all over ESPN as part of a 20-month investigation into steroid use in the game.

In light of these new revelations, are teams rethinking their recent acquisitions? Houston general manager Ed Wade declined comment on his team's trade for Tejada, and Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin couldn't be reached for comment on pitcher Eric Gagne, who signed a $10 million contract with the Brewers on Monday.

Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd, similarly, could not be reached for comment about the team's decision to sign reliever Matt Herges to a new $2.5 million deal. Herges allegedly bought HGH from former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski between 2004 and 2005, and the Mitchell report includes a copy of a $3,240 check from Herges to Radomski.

The general reticence among clubs to speak publicly is understandable given the potential legal fallout from the Mitchell investigation. At the moment, clubs seem more than willing to take a step back and let commissioner Bud Selig run interference for them.

Despite Mitchell's recommendation that Major League Baseball refrain from doling out punishment, Selig said he'll consider disciplining players on a "case-by-case" basis.

"It looks as if teams are going to sit back and wait for Selig to do something, and then they'll react accordingly,'' said Howard Wasserman, a visiting associate professor at St. Louis University School of Law. "I think he's looking to punish people, because he thinks he'd be subject to a lot of criticism if he didn't.''

Will Selig try to wield his "best interests of baseball" powers as a hammer? And beyond that, could clubs try to terminate deals under the "personal conduct" clause in the standard player contract?

Regardless of what happens, the players' association seems to believe that some players have been tarnished by their mere inclusion in the report.

"Many players are named,'' said union leader Donald Fehr. "Their reputations are adversely affected -- perhaps forever.''

The union quickly served notice that it will defend the rights of any player who is disciplined in the aftermath of the Mitchell report. Once grievances are filed, the cases will have to be resolved through arbitration.

"Senator Mitchell's suggestion that players should not be disciplined is certainly welcome,'' Fehr said. "Our job is to make certain that should any player be disciplined, he'll have a right to a hearing and the full panoply of due process protections that our agreements contemplate.''

Brian Roberts

Roberts

For the moment, teams still have to conduct business -- and it won't happen in a vacuum. At the very least, the contents of the Mitchell report will make clubs step gingerly. One National League executive, who requested anonymity, said that Roberts' brief mention in the report doesn't necessarily preclude the Orioles from trading him. But it will prompt the parties involved to exercise extra caution.

"Is Brian Roberts going to get traded tomorrow? No,'' the official said. "Would a team with interest in him go ahead without checking on this? No. But you also have to see what Baltimore's position is on the whole thing. Everything is up for review right now.''

Meanwhile, some players on the free-agent market also have to deal with the consequences of the report. The Mitchell investigation claims that Ron Villone, a left-handed reliever, allegedly spent $9,600 in cash for three shipments of human growth hormone from Kirk Radomski in 2004-05. Now Villone, 37, is looking for a job. Could his association with the Mitchell report hurt his chances of finding work? That's anybody's guess.

"Would this be something a club could use from a negotiating standpoint to hang over his head to try and suppress his value? Maybe,'' said an agent who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But if he goes out next season and appears in 70 games with an ERA in the low-2.00s, he'll still be looking at a massive three- or four-year deal.''

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer