Jan 30, 2013, 3:35 PM EDT
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.
Oct 21, 2014, 9:29 AM EDT
If anyone tells you they know what’s going to happen in the next week they’re lying to you. But let’s try to break this thing down all the same.
Oct 21, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT
For the third time in five years, the Giants are in the World Series. For the third time in five years, someone tries to claim they’re there because they are some sort of anti-stats organization. Which is baloney.
Oct 21, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
To be fair, a Colossal Dog probably tastes pretty good.
Oct 21, 2014, 6:42 AM EDT
After four days without baseball, the World Series finally kicks off. Wait, not, it begins. “Kicks off” is a football term and dumb football is the whole reason we had to wait four days for the World Series to start.
Oct 20, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
The Cardinals expect that Wainwright will benefit from normal rest during the offseason.
Oct 20, 2014, 9:46 PM EDT
Molitor has been considered the favorite for the job and now he’s having another meeting with GM Terry Ryan.
Oct 20, 2014, 8:31 PM EDT
Choate posted a 4.50 ERA over 61 appearances this season, but he held left-handed batters to an .093/.205/.147 batting line.
Oct 20, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT
Bogar served as former manager Ron Washington’s bench coach and then went 14-8 as interim manager for a team that had been horrible until that point.
Oct 20, 2014, 7:16 PM EDT
The Yankees aren’t hiring Dave Magadan as hitting coach, but he could be the favorite for the A’s job after Chili Davis left for the Red Sox.
Oct 20, 2014, 6:23 PM EDT
Royals manager Ned Yost chose Jason Vargas over James Shields to start Game 4 of the ALCS and now we know one factor that played into the decision: Shields was busy passing a kidney stone.
Oct 20, 2014, 6:13 PM EDT
Following in the footsteps of fellow MLB players Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia, and his teammate and countryman Rusney Castillo, Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will now be represented by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports.
Oct 20, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Hudson revealed during today’s media session that the Royals actually made him a “very good offer.”
Oct 20, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT
Wanna buy the Royals’ recyclables?
Oct 20, 2014, 4:48 PM EDT
He was determined to leave the A’s either way.
Oct 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EDT
Someone asked Sergio Romo what country he’s from at media day today. Last I checked, California was still part of the United States.
Oct 20, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Morse has yet to start a game in the playoffs, but he hit .279 with 16 homers and an .811 OPS in 131 games during the regular season to rank second on the team in OPS behind only Buster Posey.
Oct 20, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
Jay played through the injury since July, yet he hit .325 in August and September before going 14-for-29 (.483) in the postseason.
Oct 20, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Because it is unheard of for Yankees players to have outside interests.
Oct 20, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
Keller spent 16 total seasons coaching in the Yankees organization, the last six of which have been on the MLB staff.
Oct 20, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
“Taijuan is completely healthy and was very impressive in his two outings, but made a personal decision that he needed to return home at this time.”
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