Today’s the day of the long-awaited Mitchell Report: the definitive study on the Steroids Era in baseball. The news delivered as promised – some pretty big-named players have been named including Roger Clements, Andy Pettitte, and of course Barry Bonds. George Mitchell concluded that there’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m just glad to see that not any big-named Rockies (with the exception of Dante Bichette) weren’t on that list.
So the big question – now what? Now we know that steroids were prevalent since the mid-90’s to only a few years ago, where does baseball go from here? Many of the players named in the report are still active, so how do we treat those? I’ve heard many advocate for leniency against the players, as there technically wasn’t a rule that they broke by taking steroids – since steroids weren’t banned until 2004. However, I think Mitchell himself best states the players’ crime:
They violated federal law and baseball policy, and they distorted the fairness of competition by trying to gain an unfair advantage over the majority of players who followed the law and the rules. The players who follow the law and the rules — are faced with the painful choice of either being placed at a competitive disadvantage or becoming illegal users themselves. No one should have to make that choice.
They broke the law and used illegal substances. I don’t know how much content from this report can be leveraged in a court of law, but one thing is clear: baseball needs to do something to deal with this ugly mark on their sport. There should be consequences to this debacle, and I think the following should happen:
Don’t suspend or ban the current players – while there’s not necessarily a statute of limitations against this in baseball, it’s questionable to punish players for what they did many years ago when management shares as much blame for looking the other way. Fans will choose whether or not they want to come out and see the tainted players – don’t take that choice away from them by suspending them.
However, I do think that that if there is evidence that players perjured themselves when they testified in front of Congress or the Grand Jury, then they should be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law (that includes McGwire and Bonds).
Burn the league individual record books from the steroids era – Any individual records attained by players found to have used Performance Enhancing drugs during the steroids era should be stricken from the record books – this includes any MVPs and namely the Home Run records attained by McGwire and Bonds. I also think Bonds should be stripped of the HR crown as well. Any records attained by players that are not found on the report should be kept, but “written in pencil” and able to be removed if performance-enhancing news about that particular player were to surface. Team records could still be maintained on a team-by-team basis, which would essentially create two sets of records (team-wide and league-wide), serving as a consequence of this era.
Granted, that’s pretty harsh, and I don’t really expect baseball to strike their records, but I do think it’s not unreasonable to expect an asterisk next to records of implicated players in the Steroids Era.
Bottom line – baseball is a great sport that is managed poorly and continues to give fans less and less reasons to want to be passionate about this sport. Today is a sad day for baseball and sports.