The Mitchell Report: Absolving the Owners By Dave Zirin

(Illustrations by Steve Brodner)

DZ is quick with his ish….
Thanks DZ.

Ever had someone spit in your face and tell you it’s raining? That’show it felt watching former Sen. George Mitchell’s press conference onsteroid use in Major League Baseball. The former Senate MajorityLeader unleashed his “investigative findings” speaking with the somber, deliberate tones of an exhausted undertaker. Mitchell strained to convey scorn upon both baseball owners and the union for being “slow to act.” Yet beneath the surface, his report is ugly sanctimonious fraud, meant to absolve those at the top and pin blame on a motley crew of retired players, trainers, and clubhouse attendants. This is truly the old saw of the magical fishing net that captures minnows but lets the whales swim free.

Sanctioned by Commissioner Bud Selig’s office, the Mitchell Report was seen by some as an unprecedented act in sports: a 20 million dollar internal investigation aimed at rooting out “performance enhancing drugs and human growth hormones” in the game.

The Mitchell Report certainly contains a great deal of sexy sizzle. First and foremost, it names names: including MVPs Mo Vaughn, Miguel Tejada and Barry Bonds as well as former all stars like Eric Gagne and Lenny Dykstra. It also names a man being called the Moby Dick to Mitchell’s Ahab: seven time Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens. For some time, people in the game have whispered about Clemens being on the juice. And for some time, the 45-year-old Clemens denied all charges, as a compliant media lapped it up. As Yahoo Sports Dan Wetzel wrote, “Year after year he peddled the same garbage, Roger Clemens was so dominant for so long because he simply outworked everyone. It played to the nation’s Puritan roots, made Clemens out to be this everyman maximizing his skills through singular focus, dedication and a commitment to drinking carrot juice, or something. It’s all gone now, the legend of Rocket Roger dead on arrival of the Mitchell
Report; one of the greatest pitchers of all time, his seven Cy Young’s and 354 career victories lost to history under a pile of lies and syringes.”

The Mitchell Report confirms not only suspicions about Clemens, but also the existence of an outrageous media bias and double standard. While seven time MVP Barry Bonds was raked over the conjecture-coals for years, Clemens got a pass. Two players, both dominant into their 40s, one black and one white, with two entirely different ways of being treated. It doesn’t take Al Sharpton to do the cultural calculus.

And yet, flaying Clemens shouldn’t excuse the gross whitewash at work.

There are three fundamental problems with the Mitchell report:

1 – Mitchell himself. George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority leader best known before today for helping negotiate the peace deal in Northern Ireland, has had a massive conflict of interest when it comes to baseball. The man is on the boards of both the Boston Red Sox and also the Walt Disney Company. The Disney Company owns ESPN, baseball’s number one broadcast partner. Joe Morgan has spoken out about how in the 1990s, ESPN execs encouraged him not to state his suspicions about steroid use on-air. As Morgan said, “I would be broadcasting a game and there would be players hitting balls in a way that they had no business hitting them.”

2 – No testimony from players. The only active player to speak to Mitchell was New York Yankee Jason Giambi, and he spoke under threat of suspension. Mitchell says he invited the accused to come clear their names, but no one took him up on this generous offer. Yet if you are a MLB player, why would you come forward to legitimize a process in which you wouldn’t even have the opportunity to face your accuser? This is a process where Mitchell was judge, jury, and executioner: Gitmo meets Skoal. Reputations have been ruined – and the essential “truth” of the report is still based on hearsay.

3 – Same old narrative. Mitchell paid lip service in his press conference to “slow acting” owners — calling it “a collective failure.” At one point, Mitchell said — without explanation — that baseball execs were slow due to “economic motives.” Yet the overarching narrative is that the owners and general managers were merely ignorant or obtuse, with a complete absence of malice. The real fault lied with players and independent acting clubhouse attendants, like the soon to be famous Mets worker Kirk Radomski, who says he secured the juice for players and named names. Radomski was described by former Mets GM Steve Phillips as “the guy who would pick up the towels or pick up a player’s girlfriend from the airport.” Yes, Kirk Radomski, a regular Pablo Escobar.

Mitchell went on to say that players have actively and on their own made great efforts to foil the owners poorly organized efforts to clean up the game. This is the same kind of political cover – as Naomi Klein has written so brilliantly – that the mainstream press gives the Bush administration on Iraq. Errors made are ones of people with good intentions who made terrible choices. Those who suffered from these choices are blamed for their barbarism and self-interest. When Baghdad was looted and destroyed, Iraqis were pilloried for their greed. Rumsfeld, Bush, and Cheney were blamed for being “overly optimistic” and “trusting them too much.”

This is poppycock, whether we’re talking about the Bush cabal, or Major League Owners. Performance enhancing drugs were funneled into the game along with smaller stadiums, harder bats, and incredible shrinking strike zones to boost power numbers and ratings after the 1994 strike. (Read Howard Bryant’s excellent Juicing the Game for the
full break down.)

The idea that owners and GMs facilitated these measures while leaving the very conditioning of players to themselves simply strains belief: this is George HW Bush saying he was “out of the loop” on Iran-Contra. This is Dubya saying, “I never read” the National Intelligence Estimate before claiming World War III is on the horizon. In other words, this is the way people in power stay in power during times of crisis: take some heat, blame the underlings, cry some tears, and call it a day.

Dave Zirin is the author of the new book “Welcome to the Terrordome:” with an intro by Chuck D (Haymarket). Click here to receive his column Edge Of Sports.


19 Responses to “The Mitchell Report: Absolving the Owners By Dave Zirin”

  1. Dave Zirin you nailed it once again man.

    Great piece as always.

  2. eric daniels Says:

    It must be hip- hop’s fault that Roger Clemons and Gagne were doing steroids lolol. Great article as usual DZ.

  3. Another crap article for a crappy liberal nutjob. Why can’t you just stick to baseball or the topic at hand instead of trying to poorly draw parallels to the current administration or to conservatives.

    The Mitchell report was a waste of 20 million dollars. Correct.
    Iran-Contra undere Bush 1? Nope.

  4. Great piece DZ. As we all remember, Jason Grimsley outed Clemens, Pettite, and Tejada last year:

  5. Interesting that Big Mac and Sosa were not named.

  6. The sad thing is with the consolidation of media there are very few places which will have independent criticism of the incestuous report. That said, I lived in N. Ireland for four years and Mitchell and Clinton are appreciated for helping bring peace to that troubled land after so much strife. But the fix has been in on this report for a long time. What a joke. And Clemens-talk about the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. I’ve mentioned this in groups and you’d have thought I accused the Pope of being Muslim, as well as people took it.

  7. The Times has Mac and Palmiero listed in their piece on the report.

    Anyone watch PTL today? 🙂

  8. TC,
    exactly – which is why sites like this one are so important.

  9. DM calls an article by DZ crap. Oh the irony.

    Great work, as usual, Mr. Zirin.

  10. Dave, good reading. But nothing will change, the MSM will continue to be reactive in nature. MSM watched the steroid develop into full blown, before they got on the band wagon. MSM watch Bonds get vilified, by other media members and the public at large, all the while knowing that their shining star was a major abuser.

    Then the racist pigs (costas, rome, et al) decided to make bonds the face of the controversy by challenging his stats in the latter stages of his career. And never once publicly challenging clements stats as he racked up cy youngs after cy youngs. But this is america, we should know better than to expect different.

    My personal opinion on steriods, I don’t care. What a grown person put in their body, I could careless. Slap a warning label on the steroids like you do alcohol and tobacco, and let the user get whatever benefit or consequence to be derived. If he drops dead, fine. If he hits 1000 hr, fine. I’m kool either way. What a waste of $20 Mill and congressional time

  11. Yeah DavidMac, what kind of lunatic connects baseball to politics? Seriously, that’s some political bullshit. Phukkkin’ libruhls make me sick. It’s not like the President owned a baseball team. It’s not like the leaders of baseball ever petitioned Congress for an anti-trust exception or even like baseball is a multi-billion dollar sport that dictates, let alone impacts construction in cities all over the nation. It’s not like there new stadiums were built for teams — and it’s not like politicians had anything to do with that. It’s a shame that some people like Zirin are so manipulative. This has nothing to do with Bush or any of the Texas Rangers who are alleged to have used steroids. This has nothing to do with anything except what happens between the lines. You called it.

  12. Damn T3…….and I thought Mayweather gave a beatdown Sat night….

  13. Now is the time for the media folks like Jemele Hill and others who love to talk about Black folks’ ethics (or lack thereof) to get really, really vocal about how a former New York City police officer could allege that he stuck a needle of illegal drugs into the ass of a seven-time Cy Young Award Winner. I cannot phukking wait.

    Lucy, you have some ‘splaining to do.

    Of course Disney-bitch (my new name for ESPN) continues to refer to “The Cop” as “the trainer.” He’s not really “the trainer.” He had no training of consequence to be a trainer – but he did have plenty of training to be a cop. I’m gonna call him the Dirty Cop – like Rumsfeld – like Mitchell…Goyim Gone Wild.

  14. How is your boy Peter Gammons sitting up there talking about anything other than his own personal failure to handle this shit for more than a decade? Does anyone really give a shit what new interview Gammons will score or what new perspective he will unveil? Peter – just come clean and clarify why you rode bitch for more than ten years. What was it like looking in the mirror for more than 3,650 days and stealing money every time you went to “work”?

  15. ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!……you did not say “Disney-bitch”……..LOLOL

  16. GrandNubian Says:


    Excellent article as usual. Asante (thanks) for your thoughts.


    I pretty much share the same sentiment as you.


    Good work bruh. I couldn’t have said it better!

  17. T3 Good ish bruh….LMAO

  18. Temple is roasting cats. He sounds angry, for rea..

  19. Mitchell is a sell-out and a corporate white-washing punk. This news is the death of baseball. I refuse to take my kids to any MLB games, or even watch them on TV, because I refuse to celebrate the culture of the drug-addled sports hero, actor, president, etc…

    Soccer will take over as our new national sport. They are real men who do not need fake skills to achieve greatness. With the millions of new hispanics allowed into the country, they will change the demographic landscape ushering in this change.

    Viva la revolucion!!!

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