14 December 2007

Where's the beef?

From an article by Mike DiMauro, TheDay.com Assistant Sports Editor.
Published on 12/14/2007

IF WE HADN'T ALREADY witnessed the biggest joke in the history of baseball — the snotty left-handed hitter from San Francisco setting the home run record as “flax seed oil” inflated his head to the size of a passenger's side air bag — then we witnessed the biggest joke in the history of baseball all day Thursday.

Senator George Mitchell, when he wasn't congratulating himself for his diplomatic efforts in Belfast, announced to the world that he recommended no disciplinary action against the players named in his 21-month investigation into performance enhancing drugs.

“Unless,” the senator said, “the conduct is so serious as to affect the integrity of the game.”

Curious word choice of integrity.

Because if you actually sat there and read all 409 pages — as I did most of Thursday — you'd have found yourself asking the same question as the old lady once did in the Wendy's commercial: “Where's the beef?

So we understand each other from the beginning: There is one standard of proof for players who take, or took, performance-enhancing drugs: a positive test. And while it is certainly understood that the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is undetectable, there was still no proof — none — that the players in question used any other substances the report alleged.

You may want to take that leap if you'd like. Free country. But your opinion doesn't count. Neither does mine. What counts is the language in baseball's collective bargaining agreement. That document determines the ground rules. The CBA stipulates that the standard of proof is a positive test.

Sen. Mitchell's 21 months of work turned up no proof whatsoever.

Sen. Mitchell's report was nothing more than a rehash of what the San Francisco Chronicle, Albany Times-Union and federal investigators in the BALCO case already reported. His report was nothing more than what we already knew, plus the dubious testimonies of two lackeys named Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee who, either tacitly or overtly, were threatened with jail time if they didn't produce some names.

Worse, the report couldn't even maintain consistency with the way it unearthed the allegedly guilty players. The standard is that there was no standard, all the way to Brian Roberts, the Orioles second baseman, whose name appeared in the report because he lived with Larry Bigbie.

Once again: because he lived with Larry Bigbie.

What's supposed to be perhaps the most important document in baseball history resorts to guilt by association?

In 21 months, Sen. Mitchell's team assembled nothing more than circumstantial evidence.

To me, the following excerpt from the Mitchell Report says it all:

“In considering whether to trade for (Brendan) Donnelly in 2007, Red Sox baseball operations personnel internally discussed concerns that Donnelly was using performance enhancing substances. In an e-mail to vice president of player personnel Ben Charington dated December 13, 2006, Zack Scott of the Red Sox baseball operations staff wrote of Donnelly: 'He was a juice guy but his velocity hasn't changed a lot over the years . . . If he was a juice guy, he could be a breakdown candidate.' Kyle Evans of the baseball operations staff agreed with these concerns, responding in an e-mail that 'I haven't heard many good things about him, with significant steroid rumors.'”

The excerpt shows the rampant irresponsibility of the report. That's how Donnelly's name appeared in it. It's nothing more than hearsay.

[Click here for the full column]

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