Friday, December 14, 2007

All juiced up about the Mitchell Report?

Bee, I know you're real busy with all those appointments and getting ready for the family cruise, so I'll save you some precious time: This one is about sports, OK? But the one beneath is about bubblewrap... and you may find that more to your liking.

I downloaded the Mitchell Report yesterday afternoon.

I can't say as I've read it yet -- it's 409 pages long, including exhibits, and I don't get paid for looking at stuff like that. But I've glanced at it, anyway, and I've listened carefully to a lot of blathering from the talking heads I saw on TV yesterday or heard on the radio this morning.

There are a lot of names named in the report: Roger Clemens, his trusty sidekick Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada.... For the record, Clemens has strongly denied any steroid use and he has never failed a drug test.

So it's the big names in the headlines and all the sanctimonious baseball writers who are publicly vowing never to vote Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or any other actual or suspected steroid user into the Hall of Fame.

That's crazy talk.

Clemens and Bonds -- whatever their human failings -- are the ultimate stars of this era. Keeping them out of Cooperstown would be like keeping out Pete Rose.

Oh, yeah, that's right: Rose isn't in either.

Can we all take a big, deep breath here?

Yes, some big names were named. But mostly there were little names named. This article from the Chicago Tribune summarizing those named in the report who were, at some point in their careers, connected with the Chicago White Sox illustrates the point.

There's Jose Canseco, of course. That's the biggest name named, and probably also the only name connected with both the Sox and the Mitchell Report that the casual fan, not from Chicago, would know. And his involvement is no surprise, given that he's trying to make a living these days talking about his steroid use.

Or do you all claim to remember left handed pitcher Jim Parque? He was pretty good for awhile, then wasn't so good (because of arm trouble), and then he got traded to Tampa Bay and (allegedly) dabbled in HGH after the 2003 season in Tampa trying to hang on. The accusations against Scott Schoenweis are recent, so maybe that name will ring a distant bell. And you probably know Jeremy Giambi's brother -- but maybe not Jeremy.

Unless you're the sort who has gone nearly blind reading the fine print in The Sporting News every week, you almost certainly haven't heard of the other ex-Sox properties named. (For the record: Mike Bell, Randy Velarde, Marvin Bernard, Stephen Randolph. See?)

So: Some big names were named. But mostly little names.

This means one of two things -- and it might mean both of them: First, that the 'juice' is not a magic potion that will turn any marginal player into a superstar, and second, maybe the use of the 'juice' was so widespread that (from a competitive standpoint) there was a level playing field.

If the 'juice' were a magic potion, everyone named in the Mitchell Report would have been a superstar. But it's not so. Thirty years ago, if I started shooting up, I wouldn't have become a major leaguer. Because I had no talent to begin with.

Scott Schoenweis was most recently with the Mets. He went 0-2 last year, with a 5.03 ERA in 70 appearances. He's just not as talented as Roger Clemens, whether they're both 'clean' or they're both 'dirty.'

I have no problem with the calls to clean up the game, and to rigorously enforce anti-doping rules from now on. In fact, for purely personal selfish reasons, I really and truly hope they do clean up the game.

Because long-term steroid usage will mess you up. Big time. It may kill you. It will change you... and not necessarily for the better, even in the short term. And my son (Middle Son) plays college ball. I don't know that he has that mysterious combination of luck and desire and talent that will allow him to progress to the next level. He's a 6'4" lefty pitcher pitching in a Division III school (and he's not a fireballer, which makes Middle Son even more doubtful of his chances to move on -- although Mark Buerhle seems to have done alright without ever attaining high velocities....)

But I won't digress. My point is very simple: I don't want my son thinking he should try any of this junk. I don't want my son feeling any competitive pressure to try this junk. I want my son to make it, or not, and still have a long and healthy life.

I don't think that's too much to ask. But, again, let's not get all sanctimonious about it. Let's be honest, instead: The owners knew this was going on. The sportswriters knew. The fans knew. They all saw skinny kids turn into muscle-bound behemoths virtually overnight. Jose Canseco (among others) called them out on it.

I'm glad it's out now because my son (I hope) won't get caught up in it.

No asterisks. Better drug tests. Turn the page.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

thanks for the warning. how is daughter today?

smiles, bee

katherine. said...

this is great...If you don't mind I'm going to link to your post in mine today...

The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon -

I spent nearly 3 hours reading the PDF file (the Mitchell Report) yesterday.

I am a baseball fan! In fact a Cubs fan.

I believe some of the report, but I don't believe Roger Clemens did steroids.

The Beach Bum

Jeni said...

You make some excellent points there about the use of "the juice" with the health risks it poses. It is not some innocuous little "enhancement" thing - it is a strong drug which can severely alter one's mental concepts. Look at the wrestler who killed his wife and son then himself a few months back. Others who have had mental health issues too I'm sure as a result of taking this stuff. It is just as dangerous as are the other "hard core" drugs we tend to think of with respect to drug use and abuse. I'm with you 200 percent on hoping the youth of today can see their way clear to avoid any of this junk.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

I came over from Katherine's because if she says there is something worthwhile reading, I head over. I also wrote on this today. A HUGE Yankee fan, a son who played ball in college for a year and then moved on. He worked out...he got bigger, but he did not explode, so i know he stayed clean...cause he is still big...and still teaching baseball and playing on a men's team...

You make some excellent points here...Thank you...

Dave said...

I haven't read the report and I caught just a bit of the coverage. That said, two things bother me. None of the media coverage about the report indicates that it deals in any way with the teams' and MLB's knowledge and condonance of drug use. Second, and related to that, the report "outs" players, who wouldn't talk to the investigators on "evidence" that seems a bit suspect. Then, I heard today that a player who cooperated was not named. Baseball seems to be acting like our current Justice Department, but without the checks and balance of an adversary system.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's not something I've heard of here, but sounds very important.

Shelby said...

You're right. If the stuff was so magical then we'd have a league full of super stars. And we don't.

- and what about the names that aren't on the list? Why aren't these guys on the list? Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuir, oh and Raphael Palmero - obvious users.

What kind of list is this Mitchell Report? I'm interested in hearing the questions and answers (especially the ansewrs) next week on Capitol Hill.

Ben and Bennie said...

Excellent stuff, TC.

Ben and Bennie said...

Hey TC, here's more ammo for'll have to cut and paste...