SI.com: What are your initial impressions from the Bud Selig news conference on Thursday?
Tom Verducci: My first impression is that the investigation will be further-reaching than I thought it was going to be. I originally suspected that they were interested in looking at Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, and I think that's where they'll begin. But to take them at their word, expect them to go much further than that. The trail of evidence doesn't stop at those three.
SI.com: So you are confident that this investigation isn't just a p.r. move by MLB?
Verducci: It has to be more than just a p.r. venture, because I can't see someone like Sen. George Mitchell putting his reputation on the line for something like that. The findings are going to be made public. If this is a sham of an investigation, it's not just Selig here who takes a hit, it's George Mitchell.
SI.com: Was Mitchell an inspired choice by Selig?
Verducci: He was a good choice. It wasn't the best choice, because he's not entirely impartial -- he is a part owner of the Red Sox. But his reputation is such that a conflict of interest is diminished by the respect he commands.
SI.com: Do you expect them to bring players in for interrogation-style interviews?
Verducci: That's a great question. At some point they are going to have to do face-to-face interviews with Giambi, Sheffield and Bonds. I can't see Bonds beings totally honest, because that would put him at risk of perjury charges. He's not going to admit to Mitchell that he did steroids when he didn't admit it to a federal grand jury. With the possible exception of Giambi, the principals of this case aren't going to be the best choices. I have a feeling Mitchell is going to spend a lot of time with Game of Shadows authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams.
SI.com: Why was Selig so careful not to mention Bonds' name specifically during the news conference?
Verducci: He's trying to be as careful as he can because, after all, he's the judge in this case. Ultimately this will wind up on his desk, and he will have to make the decision. As the judge he should be uncomfortable being specific about the principals in the case. We all know who he's talking about, but he's doing the right thing in trying to be impartial.
SI.com: Selig mentioned his "best interests of the game" clause but also hedged by saying he might not have much authority to hand out punishments. At the end of the day, will he be able to drop the hammer on somebody?
Verducci: One clue that he dropped was when he mentioned the 2002 basic agreement. At that point steroids became prohibited in the game. That delineation will decide any punitive measures he comes up with. If he finds that any of these guys or anybody else used steroids after the agreement was put in place, then I think he'll suspend people. In the international testing community, like with track and field, you can be barred for two years even without a positive test if there is evidence you have used performance-enhancing drugs. If you're talking about establishing usage prior to 2002, then he's probably pushing it to lay down suspensions, but what he could do is announce publicly that these guys did use steroids before they were prohibited in the basic agreement, and at that point what you have is an official condemnation from the commissioner of baseball. That in itself is punishment. The commissioner will be on record as saying that these guys were cheaters. That's part of the hammer that he has here. It doesn't have to be a fine or a suspension.