The Mitchell Report – Opinion
The following is my obligatory opinion on the Mitchell Report and the general use of drugs in baseball
Taking steroids is not going to make a player be able to hit a curveball who can’t. Taking steroids is not going to make a centre fielder be able to track a flyball better. Taking steroids is not going to allow a pitcher to locate his fast ball better. They are not going to allow a runner to time a pitchers delivery better. Many of these fundamental skills of baseball are not going to make a difference if a player uses or does not use steroids.I do agree that recovery time and bat speed, arm strength etc will be affected by anabolic steroid use. However, these have to be met with considerable skill and practise to be worthwhile gains. Baseball is not a game of brute strength it is a game of finesse and specifically honed skills.Baseball is a special game and it has a special meaning to generations of boys and men. If I could do anything with my life I wish to be a major league ball player. Like most, I lack the skill, determination, work ethic and the opportunity to have made it. I argue that players who have taken performance enhancing drugs have done it for the love of the game. Jose Canseco says he probably would never have made it to the majors had he not taken steroids. Did Canseco lack the neccessary skills, work ethic etc? Probably not, the steroids gave him an edge which is I beleive to be true. Steroid use like any drug is a deal with the devil. If you had the opportunity, on the brink of becoming a major leaguer would you take a drug that would most likley ravage your body and mind with regular use, threaten your personal integrity and that of your profession, find yourself in legal trouble all the while making millions of dollars, breaking records, becoming famous and living out your childhood dream? Is it worth it? It might be. By sticking a needle in ones backside does not make them a great ballplayer.Baseball players are merely that, baseball players, it is their profession that determines a the code of conduct and that should be left to them to figure out. The Mitchell Report, politicians, fans and media alike villify players for using PED’s however, to place yourself as a fringe major leager (FP Santangelo) who just can’t keep up, he takes PED’s but still can’t, put yourself in his shoes, he has made it this far and he just isn’t good enough and PED’s just don’t help. Or even a great player (Barry Bonds) who grew up with baseball and has never known a life without baseball and is slowing down and by taking PED’s he can establish himself as arguably the greatest ever. There is a code of professional conduct in baseball, “Thou shalt not gamble on baseball” is one of those unbreakable codes. Immorality should not be questioned in this case, in judging these players, they are not in public service, they look for personal gain through their own skills and what they are willing to do to their bodies, their boss pays them for what they can do and their teammates keep their mouths shut and hope to benefit in glory at the end of October. Steroid use, although illegal has been accepted in baseball for 20 years as a legitimate behavior. The Mitchell Report changes this code.The legacy of what has long been called the “Juiced Era” will be whether or not it has interupted the continuity of baseball. In the past baseball has changed batting leaders due to statistical errors discovered years later. However, baseball is a team sport where one person’s actions on the field are corelated to others. In track and field, cross country skiing and other amatuer sports there are many, many examples of athletes being stripped of their records and awards. These are embarrassing episodes for the sport and in my opinion very blase for the silver medalist who is award gold weeks or even years after the fact. Everyone saw Ben Johnson finish ahead of Carl Lewis in the 1988 Olympics, Carl Lewis will always remember seeing Ben Johnson finish ahead of him. I am sure he can take some solace as doing it clean but he probably wished that, and, he probably was physically able to beat Johnson that day and any other day even with Johnson on steroids. In amatuer sport it is not acceptable to take PED’s, it goes against their code of conduct.If baseball is to eliminate PED users from the record book they may as well give the 1919 World Series to the White Sox as the Reds didn’t deserve it as it was fixed. In 1998 Roger Clemens was the unanimous Cy Young Award winner, to strip him of this prize is to strip him of his 20 wins, the Blue Jays of 20 wins, to rearrange the standings.Cheating, immorality and taking unfair advantage is not an glaring problem in baseball, it is rather seen as a punishable offense but something that players are almost expected to do. Throwing at each other, using corked bats, fighting, throwing spitballs, hidden ball tricks, changing air conditioning inning to inning in domes, being rude to the media, arguing with umpires and even heightening fences with the road team up have been tried. All are against the rules or considered immoral and are usually punished in some way, ie) suspensions, fines, or even simple corrections. Use of PED’s has garnered similar corrective action so far. Players who test positive are suspended for some games and then come back and continue playing. Sammy Sosa uses a corked bat, sits out his suspension and continues playing. The home runs he hit with a corked bat still count. If Troy Glaus were to sit out for a 30-game suspension would the baseball world be satisfied? Or would it take the reversal of the 2002 World Series in which Glaus won MVP honours, but then reverse it back because the Giants can’t win because Bonds was on that team and also had a stellar series. With the consequences issued use of PED’s is as serious as bumping and umpire, using a corked bat, and nowhere near as serious as gambling. Again, this relates to baseball’s view of this as its own professional instituion.Baseball cannot punish its players for something that wasn’t agaisnt its code of conduct. Perhaps baseball was naive to think that because it is illegal noone would take PED’s. It is also illegal to drive drunk, order hits on Venezuelan farm workers, buy and use cocaine, beat up your wife etc etc etc and low and behold baseball players have run the gamut of illegal behaviors with little fall out from the baseball instituion. Baseball has changed it code of conduct in the past. In the early days of baseball, players were expected to gamble on the games they were involved in, they gambled against each other and spectators on a pitch to pitch basis. Now gambling is the worst crime against baseball and all pro sports now have series apprehensions into gambling. Someone who is addicted to gambling (for the most part a legal activity) will be banished for life while someone who is addicted to crack (illegal activity) will go through a rehab stint and be welcomed back as one who has overcome great adversity.To me and many others feel that baseball’s continuity make it special. Someone can go back in time 100 years and play the same game that is played now. And any difference becomes another baseball favourite *asterisk*. Made famous when Ford Frick deemed Roger Maris’ 61 homers to beat Babe Ruth questionable as he had more games to do it in. The * has since been removed. It is not fair to limit people due to things out of their control or what is deemed as part of the code of conduct. The * is not as blatant as it is implied in baseball now. All good ball fans should know that the record for most hits in a season is held by Tip O’Neil in 1887 when he had 275 hits. However, his record is precluded with “Tip O’Neil holds the record for most hits in a season when bases on balls were counted as hits and at bats.” It is adjusted to the norm today, but it was a record. Tip O’Neil finished that season thinking he had 275 hits, today long forgotten, the rules have changed and the statistics have been updated. Other such indicators have entered the lexicon of baseball “before the DH”, “he pitched from a 50′ mound”, “deadball player”, “Negro Leaguer”. I am sure it will be said Barry Bonds won 7 MVP’s, held the single season and career home run marks and was a first ballot Hall of Famer but he was juiced. The “juiced” stigma will last with the players and records of the past 20 years. Again, similarly Cy Young was a great pitcher but he pitched in the Deadball Era (the implied * to lessen his accomplishments). So don’t worry Barry, your legacy will be as solid as Denton True’s.If steroid use had been agaisnt the professional code of conduct for 20 years in the Majors not one player, coach, manager, general manager or owner had spoken out against what is an illegal activity. Why didn’t any Oakland A from the late 1980’s immediately report rampant steroid use? Why, because noone was concerned about breaking a code of conduct, whether he used or not. Steroid use was accepted by the players on up and therefore should be accepted as legitimate for the profession. With the Mitchell Report this changes. The code of conduct in professional baseball no longer accepts use of PED’s as legitimate and like many other changes in baseball history this will become part of baseball’s lore. Any further use of steroids should not be allowed, just like throwing a spitball is no longer allowed.Rules, acceptable behavior all change. It was once acceptable to gamble, it was once unacceptable to play on Sundays, it was once unacceptable to allow African Americans to play, it was once acceptable to spit on the ball, slide into second with spikes up. Rule changes also change and change dynamics, batting championships have been renounced, ask any Blue Jay in 1985 what they think about the ALCS going to a best of 7 format. Ask anyone on the 1962 Dodgers what they think about the 162 game sched (they were well ahead of Giants after 154 games). Ask Tip O’Neil how many hits he had in 1887. Ask Roger Maris about an *. I am not worried about the continuity of the game as there are qualitative and quantitave means of placing juiced players on a comparable ground with deadball players because it is all the same game.In conclusion I am not convinced that steroid use has changed the way baseball is played.