George Mitchell

George Mitchell speaks. And in doing so, illuminates how useless The Mitchell Report really was.

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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.

Zack Greinke named the Dbacks’ Opening Day starter

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Pitcher Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks poses for a portrait during photo day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Not a surprise, but a news item on a slow news day is a news item on a slow news day: Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has named Zack Greinke as the club’s Opening Day starter.

Greinke’s first season with the Diamondbacks is not exactly what the club hoped for when he signed a six-year, $206.5 million deal in December of 2015. He dealt with oblique and shoulder issues while struggling to a 4.37 ERA over 26 starts. Greinke hasn’t pitched yet this spring, but will make his spring debut on Friday. He and the club are obviously hoping for a quiet March and a strong beginning to the season.

Either for its own sake or to increase the trade value of a player who was acquired by the previous front office regime.

“La Vida Baseball,” celebrating Latino baseball, launches

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A new website has launched. It’s called “La Vida Baseball,” and it’s all about celebrating the past, present and future of Latino baseball from a Latino perspective.

The site, produced in partnership with the Hall of Fame, has four general areas of focus:

  • Who’s Now: Focusing on current Latino players;
  • Who’s Next: Focusing on top prospects here, in the Caribbean and in Central and South America;
  • Our Life: Off-the-Field stuff, including player’s lives, lifestyles and hobbies; and
  • Our Legends: Focusing on Latino baseball history, Hall of Famers and overlooked players.

As the site has just launched there aren’t yet a ton of stories up there, but there is one about Roberto Clemente, another about Felix Hernandez and some other stuff.

The site is much-needed. Baseball reporters for American outlets are overwhelmingly white, non-Spanish speakers. Reporters, who, generally, gravitate to the players who are the most like they are. Which is understandable on some level. When you’re writing stories about people you need to be able to communicate with them and relate to them on more than a mere perfunctory level. As such, no matter how good the intentions of baseball media, we tend to see the clubhouse and the culture of baseball from a distinctly American perspective. And we tend to paint Latino players with a broad, broad brush.

La Vida Baseball will, hopefully, remedy all of that and will, hopefully, give us a fresh and insightful depiction Latino players and their culture.