From this point forward, it can't get much worse for Major League Baseball, and that might be the only solace it can glean from the release of former Sen. George Mitchell's report Thursday. Not only is its home run king disgraced, the best pitcher of the last 50 years delighted in other men jamming needles into his derriere, too.
Yes, Roger Clemens allegedly dabbled in the Fountain of Juice, just like 80-plus others identified by Mitchell. Clemens' best friend, Andy Pettitte, preferred human growth hormone, while Miguel Tejada (MVP), Mo Vaughn (MVP), Eric Gagne (Cy Young award) and a menagerie of All-Stars (Brian Roberts and Paul Lo Duca from the active set, Kevin Brown, David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch from the glue factory) also partook in artificial enhancement.
And so baseball has reached its performance-enhancing nadir. Once again, just like that day on Capitol Hill when the House of Representatives flayed the sport, it must scrape itself off the pavement, road kill by allegation, and repair a reputation that, because there still is no solution to this mess, might be irreparable. Mitchell's report, in the grand scheme, provides information but not answers, because nowhere does it include a scientific formula to test for human growth hormone, and thus all of his remedies ring more like a jingle bell than clarion call.
Instead, Major League Baseball bought itself 409 pages of recaps, salacious gossip and half-hearted resolutions for the low, low price of more than $20 million. That's how much the 20-month investigation cost, and without the testimony of Kirk Radomski, the former Mets clubhouse attendant pinched by the FBI and forced to blab to Mitchell, and Brian McNamee, the trainer who turned on Clemens and Pettitte after getting nabbed by law enforcement, the report would have been about as thorough as a book report written off an abstract.
As it stands, and as Mitchell admits, the report is no comprehensive examination of baseball's steroid era, which began in the 1980s and, though MLB would contend otherwise, continues even today. It is more a policy paper, outlining the failures of the past – with the particularly thick belt saved for the MLB players association – and recommending measures to take in the future.
It begins with a bang: "For more than a decade there has been widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball."
Along the way, Mitchell details the exhaustive lengths to which he and his team of investigators went to exhume bodies long ago buried: 115,000 pages of documents, 20,000 electronic documents, 700 interviews (550 among baseball personnel, 68 of whom were former players), 16 chats with those from the commissioner's office, two conversations with current players (Jason Giambi, who admitted use, and Frank Thomas, who by all accounts is clean) and one tête-à-tête with union boss Donald Fehr.
He and his brethren take the brunt of the criticism, even if Mitchell tries to spread it unilaterally. It doesn't look good when union No. 2 Gene Orza declines an invitation to talk with Mitchell, or when the union sends out letters to the players discouraging them from talking, or when Mitchell reminds that it long fought the idea of drug testing until former MVP Ken Caminiti's admission of imbibing began the toboggan ride toward today.
Then again, Selig and his brethren played dumb throughout the '90s, when Jose Canseco already had played pied piper. In 1998, as McNamee divulged to Mitchell, Canseco held a dinner party at which he and Clemens chatted about steroids.
On the menu: Crudites, hors d'oeuvres and Winstrol.
That was Clemens' drug of choice that summer, when he asked McNamee, his strength-and-conditioning coach with the Toronto Blue Jays, to inject him in his SkyDome apartment, according to the report. Later in the summer, Clemens approached McNamee with a bottle of Anadrol-50, a powerful anabolic and androgenic steroid. McNamee told him not to use it, though it was obvious that Clemens had another source of his drugs. Clemens would win his second consecutive Cy Young Award that year.
In 2000, McNamee bought testosterone from Radomski and injected Clemens, then with the New York Yankees. In August 2001, the same. He won his sixth of seven Cy Youngs that season.
The nine pages devoted to Clemens are fascinating in their detail, and according a swift denial issued by his lawyer, completely false. Yet none of it is a surprise. Neither is the inference that Orza warned players of upcoming tests nor the email sent from Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels to owner Tom Hicks warning not to trade for him because of "some steroids concerns with Tejada" nor Mitchell claiming "each of the 30 clubs has had players who have been involved with performance enhancing substances at some time in their careers."
If anything registers as a shock, it's the look on the faces of all the players who used – and use – performance-enhancing drugs and did not show up in Mitchell's report. There are hundreds, certainly, if Mitchell's quoted estimates – 25 percent of players or so – are correct. The list of names, aside from a few big ones, consisted of journeymen looking for that extra boost so they could get that major-league paycheck.
The Howie Clarks and Josias Manzanillos and F.P. Santangelos of the world must wear the big, red S while so many others skate because they happened to choose dealers who weren't stupid enough to get caught by the government.
So it goes. The steroid era isn't fair, not to the players with integrity nor to the game itself. The paradox remains: Baseball owes its current boom to the fervor caused by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa – neither of whom was named in the report, by the way – and yet with every new development, it wants to separate itself, to disown the time.
No, what now must happen is an apology. Stop the haggling over who did what when. End the solutions that purport to have shark's teeth and in reality have those of babies, the kind that when jiggled fall right out.
Selig, Fehr, Clemens, Bonds and all the rest of the faces should step forward and apologize for their roles in this mess, for disrespecting a beautiful game with their words and actions. Be assured, they won't. Even if they did, it would be difficult to move on, because as the years pass, more names will leak out. If the best hitter and pitcher of a generation were guilty, others of similar consequence were too.
Baseball, nonetheless, will survive. It's like a Twinkie. Nuclear winter has erupted, and on it goes, $6 billion in revenue, huge attendance, incredible interest. At MLB's holiday party tonight, the sport will celebrate itself on the day so many of its warts were exposed for the world to see. Again.