December 13, 2007

Mitchell Report: Like the Starr Report, but for Baseball

In September of 1998, a lengthy investigative report from Ken Starr into the Clinton administration offered hundreds of pages of he said, she said salacious rumors that had very little to do with the president's job in office. The day it was released, I pored through it as if it were a work of scripture, and came away less than impressed, writing a friend that night on e-mail, "I also read the entire Starr report. It is pretty juicy, but I don't believe that there are any grounds for impeachment. It just looks like Starr is complaining that Clinton did not help investigate himself..."

Today, baseball had its "Starr Report" moment, as we eagerly awaited the much-anticipated release from George Mitchell's inquiry into the world of steroids and baseball. At 11 o'clock Pacific, a colleague and I called a meeting in a conference room and awaited the press conference. Minutes into Mitchell's speech, we had downloaded the 6.5 Megabyte PDF file from and were quickly searching for team names and players we know, excitedly hoping to see players we didn't like, and alternately, fearing we would see some of our favorites smeared with allegations they had cheated.

While several dozen players were named in the report, only one current Oakland A, journeyman slugger Jack Cust, was said to have dabbled in steroids, and the report was second-hand hearsay from a former minor league teammate. I'll admit my gut wants to root for him anyway, in an illogical reaction that goes against how I reacted to many other names indicted on similar, scanty, evidence.

As with the Starr Report, the Mitchell report came up short in a lot of ways. It didn't fully name as many big stars as guilty as we had expected it would. It didn't step much further beyond the already released news reports we've seen on the matter in recent years. While it did snag some big names, like Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, most of the players are those already on the downsides of their careers, and ones where we'd already had suspicion. Earlier, unfounded, rumored lists of players made popular around the Web proved to be untrue altogether.

Like I did with the Starr Report, I expect I'll be reading the 300+ pages of the Mitchell report cover to cover. But it looks like after all the investigation is done, it tells us what we already knew, especially for those of us who read the well-reported Game of Shadows. Baseball has a huge problem, one that was happening right in front of us, as the players grew tremendously big and records fell faster than ever. The question is, can they find a way to eliminate the use of drugs like HGH and make the game one we really believe again?

Download the full Mitchell report here (6.5 MB)