But what did the Mitchell Report really accomplish? A glance at the backpage of the NY Daily News or NY Post (which, I admit, scored with its "Ike Beats Tina to Death" headline) might make you believe baseball was festering with witches, and that it was the solemn duty of newspapermen to seek them out and burn them on the page. "I DID IT," one headline screamed, with a picture of Andy Pettitte. "ROID RAGE?" asked a caption of this picture. New York's tabloids aren't exactly held to the strictest of standards -- or standards -- but their response to this three-ring circus is a symptom of a broader neurosis: our secret obsession with iconoclasm, perhaps rooted in our Protestant past. It's not good. It doesn't do our intellect any justice, it doesn't do justice to those unfortunate enough to have known Kirk Radomski, it doesn't do justice to the institution of sport, and it certainly doesn't cast baseball in a conciliatory light. Really, it needs to stop.
On the other hand, are we actually impressed with any of the names that appeared in the report? For a while, a rumor was circulating that Albert Pujols was going to be implicated -- that, as opposed to Mike Stanton, would have been news. But did we really believe Rogers Clemens never took steroids? (Personally, I was more shocked by this.) HGH, as you know, is best known for speeding up the body's recovery time, allowing one to work out longer, harder and more frequently. Read this story about Clemens and tell me his training regimen doesn't resemble the schedule of someone getting an extra boost. Pitchers aren't supposed to work like that, and for good reason: pitching is already an absurdly abnormal art, an act that places undue strain on tendons and ligaments, which means the body needs to rest after pitching, not get thrown back into the grinder.
Also, you'll recall that in July I wrote:
[Clemens] is aware of his legend and steers its manifestation in a creepy, unnatural, Johnny Darko-type way. The media, of course, has lapped this up. They fawn over him like he's a saint, when in fact he's kind of prissy, kind of a prick and, in all likelihood, kind of a steroids user.
He denies it, of course, even though it took him four days to issue a public statement. But would he testify under oath? Would he face a federal agent and risk a Bonds-like perjury conviction? Would he... you know these answers already. "I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way," he said (in the statement). "I only ask that in the meantime, people not rush to judgment." You hear that, Waco kids? NO JUDGING!
You can't really blame Clemens for dodging the fastball, though. What would anyone in his situation have done? This brings me to another of the unintended consequences of this report: professional athletes have engaged in a game of oneupmanship to see who issues the best public statements. PR professionals around the country are having a field day. In just the past week, we've been treated to denials (Brendan Donnelly, David Justice), admittances (Pettitte), half-admittances (Brian Roberts) and what's an admittance? (Paul Lo Duca, Eric Gagne, Miguel Tejada.) Somehow, Jay Gibbons -- Jay freakin' Gibbons! -- has become the beacon of moral rectitude.
And now we're actually giving 15 minutes of airtime to people like Fernando Vina to hear him tell us he used HGH to recover from injuries, that he was injured and had to recover from injuries, that he never wanted to hit home runs but only had to recover from injuries, that he wanted to play longer but had injuries, that he's sorry he did it but he was an everyday player who was in 140-some games the year before and just needed to overcome injuries, that he never wanted to get big and hit home runs, just the injuries. I realize Vina is a Baseball Tonight analyst ("analyst"), but when it's not baseball season and I'm not drunk-ass bored on a Tuesday night, I really would rather not be subjected to Fernando Vina.
And all for what? I was on one of Southwest Airline's Boeing 737's this evening when I came upon this ad in Spirit Magazine: "Choose Life: Grow Young with HGH." The ad says, "This program will make a radical difference in your health, appearance and outlook. In fact we are so confident of the difference GHR can make in your life we offer a 100% refund on unopened containers." We've been obsessing over... an advertorial drug. A Band-aid in pill form. A protein shake with a kick. That's all this amounts to. HGH is a hormone that helps people recover, and here we are, watching some fairly intelligent people slobbering over themselves trying to explain why Mitchell Report Day was akin to the Second Great Rectification.
I'm not saying we should legalize all steroids and HGH, especially not in baseball (though Tom Farrey has a damn good case for legalizing HGH in the NFL, and I'm 100% in favor). But too we need to stop implying, by way of granting it undue attention, that HGH is a miracle drug that will instantly make you harder, better, faster, stronger (apologies to Daft Punk). To that end, athletes: please stop pointing to the fact that you didn't get harder, better, faster, stronger as evidence of your not taking the substance. Don't insult us. Maybe, working together (you hear that, Bud and the MLBPA?), we can all get through this and refocus on the game.
POSTSCRIPT: Tomorrow we'll look at this trade. In the meantime, Lee Warren and Craig Brown have the comprehensive list of Royals in the Mitchell Report (Warrnen; Brown), so do drop by there if you want to read more on this subject.
Also on IDWT: Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes and other problems with this steroids charade