Gotta say, it was hard not to be impressed by George Mitchell during his “detailed statement” that unveiled his report on drug use in baseball. Not just because he refused to name-drop (the report does that), but because it seems his focus is on what baseball can do going forward to eliminate steroid and HGH use from the game, and not focusing so much on what happened in the past.
Obviously, the new names in the report will get the biggest play in the media, but in all reality, that should be a sidebar. For the umpteenth time, no player who dons a uniform should be above some sort of suspicion, even if it’s minute. And it’s not a baseball thing. It’s a professional sports thing.
What was so impressive about Mitchell was that his focus was on the future. It gives baseball a chance to emerge from this storm and have some sunny, suspicion-free days ahead. Not anytime immediately, because it could take a generation to change a cultural ill. That said, perhaps baseball, and this report, will someday be remembered as the first step in making sports clean again.
Major obstacles stand in the way, obviously, not the least of which is how the Players Association reacts. Mitchell urged all of baseball to come together “in a well-planned, well-executed, and sustained effort to bring the era of steroids and human growth hormone to an end and to prevent its recurrence …” and offered some recommendations. Of course, the MLBPA rarely comes together with anybody — if they had, this embarrassment may have been avoided — and my guess is that MLBPA head Donald Fehr’s press conference will set the tone for adversarial banter. That only two players — Jason Giambi and Frank Thomas — were said to have cooperated voluntarily doesn’t bode well, either. Face it, the players are like a class full of students who have been caught cheating and think they can get away with it, no matter what it might mean to future students.
One part of the report that leaves something to be desired, however: It seems, at least through a real quick skimming, that the commissioner’s office didn’t receive a whole lot of blame, but that the rest of baseball did. Then again, the blame game only serves to keep the game stuck in its current mud. To find firm footing again, the focus has to stay on the future. Hopefully, all sides are humbled enough that they realize the same thing.