King Kaufman's Sports Daily

On deck: The Mitchell report. The senator will name names about drug use in baseball, but will he mention management's role?


King Kaufman
December 10, 2007 4:00PM (UTC)

Now that Barry Bonds has pleaded not guilty in his perjury case, which he did Friday, the next shoe to drop will be that of former Sen. George Mitchell, who's expected to issue the report resulting from his 20-month investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

The report is expected as soon as this week. Bet you can't wait.

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Yes, it'll be shocking to hear that some of our baseball heroes may have been doing bad things with illegal substances. In the past few days we've seen Bonds in court and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons admitting that he used human growth hormone, and that roughly covers the spectrum of playing ability in the big leagues. Gibbons got a 15-day suspension.

If Bonds is a doper and Gibbons is a doper, it's safe to say there are a whole lot of dopers, because there are a lot of guys in between those two.

But of course you knew that. We all did.

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What we're all waiting for is to see whether Mitchell's going to be a straight shooter, pardon the choice of words. The story of the juicing era in baseball can't be told without talking about the complicity of the clubs, the willingness of the owners to at least look the other way when it came to steroids and the like because bulked-up ballplayers seemed to hit more home runs, and everybody, not just chicks, digs the long ball.

The best telling of that story, by the way, is "Juicing the Game" by Howard Bryant.

Mitchell is a management guy, a member of the Boston Red Sox board of directors. If his report says nothing about the enabling role management played in the juicing of America's pastime, we'll know his charge wasn't to get to the bottom of the performance-enhancing story, but to lay the blame on the players and their union, to name names, point fingers and win public-relations points.

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The union played something of an enabling role too by fighting drug testing. One need only read Allen Barra's 2002 Salon interview with longtime union chief Marvin Miller to know why the union fought that testing, but without union opposition a testing program would have been instituted and some users would have been pinched years ago, not that that would have done much to solve the drug problem.

Miller -- outrageously denied his rightful spot in the Hall of Fame last week -- told Barra that management and the players association had worked out a drug-testing program in the mid-'80s through collective bargaining, though the target drugs at the time were so-called recreational drugs, since this was in the wake of the cocaine scandals of the period.

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The system revolved around a neutral panel of doctors who could order testing based on suspicion of wrongdoing. "Things were to be handled pretty much in the way that legal matters regarding drugs were handled in the outside world," he said. "In the outside world, if police have reason to suspect lawbreaking, they go before a judge and ask for a right to search."

But, Miller said, commissioner Peter Ueberroth went "on television during a national telecast and announced that he was voiding the existing drug program because it didn't have mandatory testing ... Ueberroth was so arrogant he didn't seem to understand that he was undermining any possibility of instigating a drug program by tossing out the window what we had achieved through collective bargaining."

A decade and a half later, when steroids moved into the national consciousness and suddenly became an issue that everyone from the president on down cared about very much, even though we hadn't said much of anything when scores of ballplayers bulked up like east German women swimmers, the union took heat for valuing the players' precious little privacy above the integrity of the game.

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To the union, though, it was just Year 15, 16 and so on of management trying to impose its random testing program, one that presumed guilt, that essentially said to the players, "Forget everything that's happened over the last century and trust us now," in place of the one that the two sides had agreed upon.

"I'm amazed at how willing some columnists are to simply waive a player's civil rights because he happens to be a professional athlete," Miller told Barra. Exactly. Fans too.

Eventually, pressure from Congress and the customers forced the union to agree to testing, which hasn't revealed much. Bonds has never failed a steroids test that we know about. Neither has Gibbons. Mitchell's best source has reportedly been Kirk Radomski, the former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who named names as part of his guilty plea in a drug distribution case.

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We should all prepare to be shocked at the names that are about to be named in Mitchell's report. It wouldn't be shocking if names like Selig and Reinsdorf and Angelos and, well, there was this guy named Bush once, get named. But it would be a pleasant surprise, a sign that whatever the old senator was charged with doing, he decided to try to tell the whole story.

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The old bait and switch [PERMALINK]

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"Reggie Bush and the Saints march into Atlanta, looking to keep their wild-card hopes alive against the Falcons."

That's what ESPN's ads for "Monday Night Football" were saying on into Monday morning. News that Bush would miss Monday night's game with a knee injury hit the wires on Saturday. Plenty of time to change the copy on those ads.

Maybe ESPN just forgot?

Here's how it should have sounded: "Aaron Stecker and the Saints march into Atlanta, hoping to avoid a loss that would knock them out of the wild-card race against the reeling Falcons." - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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  • King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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