King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Baseball drug cop Mitchell lets the truth slip: There's no beating the cheaters. Plus: An ally in the war on sideline reporters.

By Salon Staff

Published June 22, 2007 4:00PM (EDT)

New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi has agreed to meet with baseball's chief drug investigator, former Sen. George Mitchell, saying that he'll only talk about himself.

In a statement, Giambi said, "I will address my own personal history regarding steroids. I will not discuss in any fashion any other individual." That innocuous-sounding comment is significant because Giambi actually used the word "steroids."

Thunder on, baseball's war on drugs! Victory is assured!

Meanwhile, Mitchell let slip the truth about his endeavor to Bloomberg News.

"You don't ever reach a stage where you say, that's it, it's over," he told the news service in an interview. "There is a constant process of development of new substances, and there is a constant catch-up effort to be able to devise methods to detect those new substances."

In other words, I'm running on a treadmill here, and you can stop paying me when I reach the finish line.

In 16 months so far, the good senator and his investigators, despite the best intentions, have accomplished nothing in the effort to combat baseball's drug problem. But they've accomplished plenty in the effort to stay employed. That's the war on drugs in a nutshell. It doesn't do much about drugs, but it's a gold mine for the cops -- and, in real life outside of baseball, the jailers.

Mitchell told Bloomberg reporters Danielle Sessa and Jerry Azar that use of human growth hormone is increasing in baseball because there's no urine test for it, though Major League Baseball is helping fund research into developing one.

"The one thing you can be sure of is that when that test is developed, those who are engaged in this type of inappropriate activity will be finding some new substance that itself will not be detectable," he said. "There will have to be an effort to get onto that."

And so on and so forth. Say what you will about Sisyphus. He always had work.

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A more important war: On sideline reporters [PERMALINK]

Welcome aboard, Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Narducci has jumped on this column's anti-sideline-reporter bandwagon.

"Sideline reporters are really nothing more than window dressing," he wrote last week. "Too many have rehearsed information that also could be given by the announcers. Networks want to give the impression that they are covering every angle, but what they are doing is boring viewers. That time could be better spent hearing what an analyst has to say."

Oh, yeah, tell it. Narducci gives props to a few sideline reporters, such as ESPN's Peter Gammons on baseball and NBC's Pierre McGuire on hockey, both of whom eschew the "I talked to his mom this week" stuff and provide solid analysis and insight on the game itself or surrounding issues.

The rise of sideline reporters was a product of the TV networks' constant efforts to offer up new things for viewers to keep the product fresh, which is fine as long as those new things are valuable and not just window dressing.

K-Zone: Good. Switching to a camera directly under the basket on fast breaks so viewers get an artistic shot but can't see the result of the play: Bad. That freeze-frame replay thing where you can zoom around and see the play from different angles? Good. Scooter the talking baseball: Bad.

What I'd love to have is much more informative and intelligent analysis, especially from the ex-players who populate so many booths. These guys accumulate a lifetime of know-how and wisdom -- the kind of stuff that makes them "savvy veterans" at the ends of their careers -- and then they get into the booth and spout banalities about wanting it more and staying consistent.

We get that stuff already. We've heard it.

But why can't we get more stuff like <a href="


I've been watching and listening to baseball on TV and radio since about 1970, and I've never heard this truism.

Can we get more of that kind of thing, please? Al Leiter was able to bring similar insight to the booth when he did a postseason stint on Fox a few years ago. I haven't heard him enough on Yankees broadcasts since his retirement to know if he has kept that up. You'll tell me in the letters section, I'm sure.

Jeff Van Gundy does a good job of it on TNT's NBA broadcasts, talking about how to attack certain defensive schemes or pointing out a center's improper footwork.

But it's rare stuff, way too rare, and it's one of two areas where TV outlets could vastly improve their broadcasts. The other is sound, the last great frontier in televised sports.

What are all those conversations between the runner and the first baseman about? Or between the offensive and defensive lines? How does the on-ice chatter sound in the NHL? With today's sophisticated sound equipment and a little quick editing, the sports we watch -- which are essentially silent affairs, with commentary and crowd noise on top -- could come to life in sound.

Plenty of time and money to work on that once all those sideline reporters are fired.

Previous column: Ya gotta believe

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