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Naughty or Nice?

Baseball is eagerly awaiting the Mitchell Report

Posted: Monday December 10, 2007 3:04PM; Updated: Monday December 10, 2007 3:49PM
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Jose Guillen
Jose Guillen's suspension for being linked to HGH purchases may indicate that sanctions are on the way for players named in the Mitchell Report.

George Mitchell's report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball has been hanging over the game for more than a year and a half now. So it's probably not surprising that, as the former U.S. Senator readies to make his findings public -- reportedly later this week, or certainly sometime before Christmas -- the overwhelming emotion around baseball is not one of fear or apprehension, but of impending relief.

"If it's ready," says St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, "yeah, let's get at it."

No matter how much those in baseball may look forward to a game without a daily dose of sordid headlines, though, Mitchell's long-awaited report will not mark an end to baseball's Steroid Era. It won't even start the final chapter. There is too much dirt on the game's performance-enhanced past yet to be unearthed, and too much of its present that is still covered up by those trying to gain an edge or make a buck. If fans have learned anything during perhaps the biggest scandal the game has ever faced, it's that this baby has legs.

The Barry Bonds perjury and obstruction of justice trial, rooted in federal prosecutors' belief that baseball's home run king lied under oath about using performance-enhancers, is still months away. Federal officials in Albany, N.Y., and elsewhere continue to work on finding and bringing to trial those who illegally sell and distribute steroids and other drugs. Those cases always seem to include the names of more players.

Still, the unveiling of the Mitchell Report is a milepost. Mitchell has spent two full seasons interviewing hundreds of witnesses, gathering thousands and thousands of pages of documents and spending millions of dollars of the owners' money in the process.

What will the closely guarded report uncover? What names will be revealed? Who will bear the burden of blame for the Steroid Era? What, if any, suggestions will the report make to rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs? Is this at least the beginning of the end of the Steroid Era? Can we see it from here?

Everyone around baseball is dying to know. And dying to get it all over with.

"You're curious about what's there," new Reds manager Dusty Baker says. "You're curious about the accuracy. You're curious about how it's going to have an effect on the game, how it possibly might have an effect of your team."

Said one general manager during the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., last week: "We're assuming the worst."

Mitchell's report is expected to be, if nothing else, lengthy. It reportedly will contain the names of several players -- including some, perhaps, that have not been previously linked to steroids and other drugs. Mitchell interviewed employees of all 30 major league teams, including executives, managers, coaches and trainers. He also talked extensively with several former employees. "Quite a few of these persons have been extremely helpful," Mitchell told owners last January. "These persons love the game and want to do all they can to remove this cloud."

Mitchell interviewed at least two current players: Jason Giambi, who testified in July under a threat of suspension from commissioner Bud Selig, and another unidentified player that Tom Verducci reported is the only active player to testify without being pushed into it by baseball's front office. In addition, Mitchell has heard from a former clubhouse attendant with the Mets, Kirk Radomski, who reportedly gave Mitchell a list of nearly two dozen players to whom he supplied steroids. Mitchell's staff met with the district attorney's office in Albany to discuss steroid-distribution cases pending there.

Few inside or outside of baseball know exactly what the Mitchell Report contains. But its pre-release fallout already has had an effect on how teams have done business this winter. A couple of GMs told SI.com at the meetings that they take greater pains now in researching players' pasts than they have previously, examining not only possible steroid use but also the chance that players could be named in the Mitchell Report and face a possible suspension.

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