Jan 30, 2013, 3:35 PM EST
George Mitchell, the man behind and namesake of the Mitchell Report, was on Chuck Todd’s show on MSNBC this morning to talk about the latest PED business out of Miami. He said something pretty sensible:
“Every society has laws against robbery and murder, yet everyone knows that robbery and murder are not going to end. It’s managing an ongoing human problem. That’s the case with performance-enhancing drugs. It’s a problem of…keeping pace, reducing the incentives to use and…increasing vigilance, regulation and punishment for those who use.”
Sensible, but unfortunately we don’t treat it like that. Instead, we treat it as a scandal/parlor game in which we care more about the names of users for their own sake than we do about the underlying problem and spend far more mental effort on the former than the latter.
Of course the reason we do that is because of George Mitchell’s report itself. It was the Mitchell Report which set the tone of how we discuss PEDs in baseball. It was the Mitchell Report which decided that the most interesting and important thing about steroids in baseball was who used and who didn’t as opposed to how PEDs get into the game, what they mean for the game, how they damage it and how they damage the users. It did so by having as its climax a woefully incomplete naming of names — and it was the names that got all of the press — as opposed to anything approaching a real understanding of the issue. It was George Mitchell who took Jose Canseco’s lead and turned PEDs into a gotcha game as opposed to using his report as a means of giving us a better understanding of PEDs and their role in baseball.
And that’s not a trivial concern. Because if Mitchell is right about PEDs being a chronic, human problem, it would be a much easier problem to get at if we did not have a culture in which 98% of the energy involved in any PED story was dedicated to naming a name as opposed to understanding the circumstances at play. It would be easier to combat PEDs if we understood any of the following factors (which I’ve identified in the past), none of which the Mitchell Report was at all interested in exploring:
- How often do players use?
- What’s the profile of an average user?
- When do users actually start using? High school? College? In the minors? After making The Show?
- Is drug use a personal thing? Specifically, do guys decide on their own, based on their own personal experiences to use steroids, or is it a peer pressure thing in which certain clubhouses or cliques within them promote a “steroid culture?”
- How do players connect with their dealers? Word of mouth, or do the dealers seek out their customers?
- What dealers — besides the dumb ones named in the Mitchell Report who took personal checks and shipped drugs to ballparks — are the big players, as opposed to which players are the big users?
- Are non-users choir boys who have moral objections, or does the fear of the dangers of steroids and/or a belief that they simply don’t need them inform their decision making?
- What impact do steroids have on actual performance, both actual and perceived?
These are questions which were never answered and never asked by the Mitchell Report. Indeed, the Mitchell Report and everything that has followed has evinced a profound lack of curiosity about such topics. Mitchell gave drug dealers immunity and focused on ratting out those who were in the best position to educate Major League Baseball about the nature of its drug problem.
We study crimes like the ones Mitchell mentions in order to figure out why they happen and how best to combat them. Those studies do much to inform our law enforcement strategies. They go together. But George Mitchell and Major League Baseball — by treating the players like criminals rather than resources at the time of the Mitchell Report — blew their best chance to truly get a handle on the problem of performance enhancing drugs. Baseball has been playing catch-up ever since.
As I mentioned yesterday, baseball has done a pretty good job playing catch-up. It has taken over five years, but it’s getting there. One wonders where we’d be, however, if George Mitchell hadn’t blown it so spectacularly with his famous, should-be infamous report.
Mar 3, 2015, 2:10 PM EST
Baseball has officially started, but opinions on pants vary.
Mar 3, 2015, 1:34 PM EST
Also: there is baseball — honest to goodness baseball — on TV right now.
Mar 3, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
As a man who knows from hanging around in loungewear all day, I can tell you: this is cool.
Mar 3, 2015, 12:06 PM EST
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but whatever.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:32 AM EST
Will he be the same Tanaka this spring?
Mar 3, 2015, 11:03 AM EST
The million a year helped, but Chamberlain’s son provided the definitive push back to Detroit.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:48 AM EST
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was asked about a Dillon Gee trade rumor that made the internet rounds Monday night.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:30 AM EST
Which would be a little ahead of schedule.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:10 AM EST
Dozier is making the minimum salary for this season and would then be under team control via arbitration for 2016-2018.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:00 AM EST
The Daily News is gonna Daily News
Mar 3, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
Against the Nationals, on the road.
Mar 3, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
A nice history lesson from Jack Moore at The Hardball Times.
Mar 3, 2015, 8:30 AM EST
Reds fans may wonder why anyone would WANT to be like Votto, but everyone who doesn’t listen to Marty Brennaman knows that Votto is a pretty swell guy to emulate.
Mar 3, 2015, 7:08 AM EST
Twitter does a pretty bad job of policing threats of violence against women. Curt Schilling does a much, much better job.
Mar 2, 2015, 11:05 PM EST
Gwynn will function as insurance with Jayson Werth and Nate McLouth each rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:01 PM EST
Mueller died at the age of 26 last month while in captivity in Syria.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:58 PM EST
The Mets cut back on defensive shifts with Wheeler on the mound last season because of his concerns.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:45 PM EST
Some key players are making some encouraging strides on the health front.
Mar 2, 2015, 6:29 PM EST
After facing a pitching machine during an intrasquad game today, Alex Rodriguez is ready for his first real-live game action since September of 2013.
Mar 2, 2015, 5:12 PM EST
Seems a bit light as far as these things go.
- Blue Jays sign Dayan Viciedo to a minor league deal 8
- Chris Sale will be sidelined for three weeks with foot fracture 11
- Aramis Ramirez says 2015 will be his last year 32
- Francisco Rodriguez re-signs with the Brewers 9
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended 305
- Pirates open to massive extension for Andrew McCutchen 18
- Report: Josh Hamilton had a relapse this offseason that “involved at least cocaine” 86
- Yankees don’t plan on having to pay A-Rod’s $30 million in home run milestone bonuses 52
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended (305)
- San Francisco — and all of California — will consider a smokeless tobacco ban that includes MLB parks (131)
- Curt Schilling lowers the boom on some men tweeting threats against his daughter (117)
- Brian Sabean says that California taxes are a hindrance to the Giants signing free agents (102)
- Ichiro is happy to be away from Joe Girardi (88)