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.

Manny Machado reportedly traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers

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This has been the worst kept secret all day, but Ken Rosenthal has now reported that, yes, Manny Machado has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The full return is not yet known, but Rosenthal says that outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz — who starred in the Futures Game on Sunday — is part of the package heading back to Baltimore. Rosenthal says that other players, and the amount of money, if any, going from Baltimore to Los Angeles, is not yet known. It would make some sense, however, for the Orioles to do that. First, to secure a better package of prospects in return and second to help the Dodgers stay under the luxury tax threshold.

That this was a done deal well before first pitch tonight is clear. As I noted earlier today, the reporters talking about the deal used far more certain terms than they usually do, keeping themselves just short of announcing that it was official. Before the All-Star Game Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was seen taking a selfie with Machado. During the game, as Kemp was mic’d up while playing the outfield, Fox broadcaster Joe Buck asked him about the possible trade and Kemp, not at all convincingly said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” and offered a chuckle.

Francisco Lindor pinch-hit for Machado in the top of the sixth inning and, at that moment, Rosenthal asked Machado about leaving Baltimore. Machado spoke of the Orioles in the past tense. Just as they went on the air, Rosenthal tweeted out news of the deal being official. It’s obvious that Major League Baseball or the teams involved asked him to embargo news of the trade until Machado was out of the game.

The mechanics of the deal will not be remembered. The significant thing is that the Dodgers just acquired the best available player at the deadline. Machado is hitting .315/.387/.575 with 24 homers and 65 RBI so far this year. While his shortstop defense has been suspect, his bat will play quite well at a position where the Dodgers are currently in trouble due to the season-ending injury to Corey Seager. Machado will slot right into shortstop for the current NL West leaders, and will add serious pop to what has already been a potent lineup all year long. Machado will be a free agent at the end of the season, but he’ll be an excellent rental for the Dodgers for the final two and a half months of the season and into the playoffs, should the Dodgers make it to October.

Diaz homered twice in the Futures Game on Sunday. He’s only 21, but he’s already raking in Double-A ball, hitting .314/.428/.477 with six homers in 59 games at Tulsa. He’s a top-100 prospect in all of baseball and figures to be a star in the majors at some point in the next year or two.

We’ll update when more is known about the package returning to Baltimore, but for now all that matters is that Manny Machado is L.A.-bound.