Mitchell Report: Winners & Losers

Less than a week since the Mitchell Report was released one name stands out that is not getting whole coverage is Frank Thomas. I’m a BIG Frank Thomas fan and this HURTs me 🙂 his name is not getting mention on the Mitchell Report. Thomas was the only active baseball player to be interviewed during the preparation of the Mitchell Report and doing so voluntarily.

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Probably a lot of you thinks he took the juice… well he didn’t. He is naturally talented, gifted and played football at Auburn University. So stop hating and give this man the credit he deserves.

One of the few sites mentioning Frank Thomas. Credit to CSWeekly.com

THE WINNERS
Barry Bonds |
Barry Bonds a winner here? Yes, I think so. There were no new revelations about Bonds in the Mitchell Report but what the report does is show that Bonds was hardly alone in his use of steroids and human growth hormone. It doesn’t excuse Bonds but, for at least a little while, it takes him out of the spotlight and makes him into just one of many, which after all, is what he was.

Frankly, I wish that Bonds had as much bravado as people think he has. I’d love him to call a press conference and say something like, “C’mon people, open your eyes. I saw all these guys getting big, I saw all these home runs being hit, and most of all, I saw the way the fans, the media, the owners, and everyone else just doled out the praise. ‘Chicks love the long ball’ wasn’t my slogan, it was MLB’s. You opened up a brothel next door to my house and now everyone’s shocked that I became a regular customer. Who’s kidding who, now?”

Frank Thomas | It is perhaps fitting that an ex-football player comes across as probably the biggest winner from the Mitchell Report. Maybe Frank Thomas’s experience on the gridiron gave him particular insight into the steroid issue. In any case, Thomas and Jason Giambi were the only major leaguers to co-operate with the investigators and, unlike Giambi, all the evidence is that the Big Hurt was clean.

One might say that Thomas didn’t need steroids, but there were plenty of other big guys who took the easy way to maintaining their physique. And by all counts, Thomas could have gotten away with it. If he had come to spring training 20 pounds stronger, who would have even noticed or suspected anything nefarious.

Keep in mind that there were several times in Thomas’s career where he might have been tempted to look for an extra boost. In 1998, while McGwire and Sosa were passing Maris, Thomas his .265. In 1999, he hit 15 home runs. In 2001, he was hurt, and the next year, he came back and hit only .252. Thomas no doubt knew that he had other options but he resisted the temptation, listened to the boos, and stayed clean. Now might be a good time for all the fans who complained of Thomas’s personality and called him a cancer in the clubhouse to offer up a public apology to this future Hall of Famer.

Sammy Sosa | Several former Cubs were named, but not Slammin’ Sammy. Sosa may already be guilty in the court of public opinion, but the evidence against him remains entirely circumstantial. Yes, he got bigger and yes, he hit a lot of home runs and where’s there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. But, for now at least, Sosa has escaped being burned.

The Mitchell Report did mention that steroids were found in the car of Manny Alexander, once considered part of Sosa’s Chicago posse, when Alexander was later with the Boston Red Sox. But the report determined that it was unclear as to whether the steroids were Alexander’s. That makes sense. There’s a lot of stuff in my car that doesn’t belong to me either.

Also reported was a statement by Matt Karchner, who said that two unnamed Cub players injected themselves with steroids in his presence when he was with the Cubs in spring training. But I doubt Sammy Sosa would even let Matt Karchner carry his bags, let alone see his naked butt with a needle in it.

THE NFL | “The Steroid Era,” “The Fans were Robbed,” “The Hall of Shame, “A Great Big Lie.”

These quotes have been used to describe baseball but have never been applied to the NFL even though that sport probably had a bigger steroid problem for a longer period of time. But I’ve never heard anyone say that the NFL in the 1970s and 1980s—before steroids were banned—was a fake. I’ve never heard anyone say that the players or the records or the Super Bowl champions required any asterisks. Football never had its Mitchell report and it’s lucky that it was allowed to sweep its steroid history under the rug.

THE LOSERS
Roger Clemens | How would you like to be known as the “white Barry Bonds?” That’s what Clemens is now after the Mitchell report described his use of steroids dating back to the late 1990s.

Journalistic integrity compels me to note that the accusations from Clemens are entirely the word of a convicted felon, but a convicted felon whose stories seem to have checked out as they relate to other players.

For many, including me, the revelation is hardly surprising and the comparison to Bonds is particularly apt. Both were once thin and sinewy, now they are big and bulky. Both did things past the age of 40 that had never been done before. Both have a me-first attitude; what other player besides Clemens has a stipulation in his contract that he doesn’t have to attend games in which he is not scheduled to play. And, finally, both were great players who by all counts didn’t have to use steroids (as opposed to those players who did have to use them?), but let their ego get in the way of common sense.

Andy Pettitte | While Clemens name might not be a surprise, Pettitte’s probably was. The veteran left-hander has generally been seen as one of the good guys in baseball. He wasn’t an obvious user, given his build and his style of pitching. Only 35, there was no reason to doubt his numbers, until now.

The fact that Pettitte was named – and the same caveat attached to the Clemens’ accusations applies here – shows that users of performance enhancing drugs don’t always look like or act like users. They could be pitchers, even pitchers without blazing fastballs. They could be the proverbial “player next door,” like Andy Pettitte.

Pettitte’s case is interesting for another reason. He admits using HGH, but only to help him recover from an injury at a time when HGH had not yet been outlawed by the league. If so, one could make a case that Pettitte’s actions expose a grey area of drug use, where cortisone shots are acceptable but HGH injections are not. But in the current climate, few are likely to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Player’s Union | There’s a lot of blame to go around here, but the Player’s Union tops the list. True, management didn’t push that hard for drug-testing, and no doubt many in the front office closed their eyes to the problem because attendance and revenues seemed to climb with every monstrous home run and each 100 mile per hour fastball. But the Mitchell Report clearly documents that the Player’s Union hindered any real effort to get performance enhancing drugs out of baseball, even defying the majority of its members (i.e., major league players) who wanted a strong drug testing program. Yes, there are issues of privacy and innocence until proven guilty, but the Union’s victory on drug policies leaves its members open to allegations—most true, some false—without being in a position to credibly defend the individuals involved. There are some things worse then being forced to pee in a paper cup.

Other Named Players | There are big names and little names, guys you knew or always suspected, guys who come as shocks, and plenty of guys you never heard of. But any player whose name is mentioned in the Mitchell Report will be forced to wear the Scarlet S for the rest of his career. It may not ruin many players, as the recent deal for the named Miquel Tejada shows. But Eric Gagne, Wally Joyner, David Justice and Paul Lo Duca, among many others, will now be judged not by the best of their careers but by the worst.

There will also be more investigations, more drug dealers arrested, more crooked doctors exposed, and more players named. Not all these claims will be credible but the cat’s coming out of the bag now, that’s for sure.

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About Anthony Lasala

When i'm not playing sports video games, you might spot me playing Yu Gi Oh 5DS on Xbox Live.

One comment

  1. Ted S./Houston Tx

    I’ve seen a lot of members of the US Senate that have ballooned up sinde they first started in the senate. Now, many terms later they dwarf Bonds, Sosa and Clemens in comparison. Namely Teddy Kennedy? I don’t think it’s all his working out so that he can remain a force in the game at an older age.

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