Back to the Hill? (cont.)
Posted: Friday February 9, 2007 12:45PM; Updated: Friday February 9, 2007 12:45PM
"They can't have this end with the players and the union saying 'We're not going to tell the truth,'" said Vincent, who had many bitter run-ins with the union during his term as commissioner (1989-92). "I can't imagine that Mitchell would put up with a tie score. I don't think Selig wants that either. And I don't think the public does, or the Congress."
The union's view is that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do: protect the rights of its membership. Though players don't have to tell Mitchell anything, officials at the Major League Baseball Players Association and members of Mitchell's team have been trying to lay the groundwork for interviews of active players for months. Talks are continuing.
Mitchell and a member of the investigating team spent close to two hours interviewing Vincent on the phone several months ago about his knowledge of steroids while he was commissioner. Vincent acknowledged that he heard rumors back then -- about Jose Canseco, specifically -- but, at the time, Vincent said, the game was much more concerned with the use of cocaine.
Vincent told Mitchell, an old friend who at one time wanted to be baseball commissioner, about his attempts at trying to curb the use of illegal drugs in the game. In 1992, Vincent permanently suspended Yankees pitcher Steve Howe for repeated violations of the game's drug policy, only to have the union appeal and have the appeal upheld. "I reminded him how difficult it was for me to deal with the union," Vincent said. "I have a feeling that the union is continuing to be very difficult for him."
Mitchell, according to Vincent, also asked the former commissioner for advice in running his investigation. Vincent was deputy commissioner to Bart Giamatti during the gambling investigation of Pete Rose, though the two hardly compare. The steroids investigation that Mitchell is conducting already has taken almost twice as long as John Dowd's probe into Rose's affairs, and it will cost many millions of dollars more. Vincent said the steroids investigation may well be months away, perhaps another year, from being completed.
"I told him, I think you have a very important assignment in two respects. One is you have to get baseball back on the moral high ground. This is all cheating. You have to tell us how bad it was," Vincent said. "The second big problem you have is you have to investigate the guy who appointed you [Selig]. You have to investigate whether central Baseball did anything in the past 10 years that amounted to turning a blind eye. I think you're the first one ever to investigate the person to appoint you. He acknowledged that."
For his part, Vincent said he believes that Selig -- whom he often butted heads with when Vincent was commissioner and Selig owned the Brewers -- is probably blameless in the spread of steroids in the game, other than perhaps exhibiting a lack of vigilance. And if Mitchell's investigation ends up back in Washington, Vincent said, it wouldn't be a terrible blow to the current commissioner.
"I think he probably would be willing for Mitchell to go to Congress. He's worried about his legacy now, and getting this cleaned up properly is very important to that," Vincent said. "He will want there to be a very crisp and clean ending to this."
Whether Selig, or anyone else, gets that relatively happy ending is still a huge question. It may be a question that only baseball's friends on the Hill will be able to answer.