The 15-game suspension handed to Jose Guillen could be a precedent for sanctions against players named in the Mitchell Report.
Did any names come from the survey testing of 2003?
The names of those who failed that initial screening were supposed to have been kept secret. That list of failures has been seen by a number of eyes since the samples and roster were subpoenaed in the BALCO case. However, those results were meant only as a survey and likely will not be held against anyone now.
Will there be penalties?
That's up to Selig and his top lieutenants at MLB, but there are likely to be fewer suspensions than names in the report. That's not because Selig lacks of faith in Mitchell's work but because Selig and Co. will abide by the rules in place at the time of the alleged transgressions. Penalties for steroid usage weren't introduced until 2004, and that year it took two transgressions to draw a ban. Since Radomski's business was closed down in 2005, and Selig didn't get the 50-game ban he sought until November 2005, most penalties will follow earlier guidelines, which called for either a 15-game ban for a second offense (that's what Jose Guillen and Jay Gibbons recently got) or a 10- or perhaps 30-game ban for first or second offenses.
The rules changed twice as the steroid problem became better understood and Selig pushed the Players Association for more stringent penalties.
Why did Gibbons and Guillen receive penalties when others who were caught up in reported HGH and steroid purchases were not?
Guillen and Gibbons recently received 15-day MLB-ordered suspensions following reports of steroid and HGH purchases, and while no explanation was given for the length of those suspensions, it is unlikely the 15 days is an arbitrary number. That was the precise length of the penalty in 2005 for a second infraction, so presumably those two players were found to have violated the rule twice. As for other players recently cited in steroid- and HGH-buying reports, either those reports were unproven or represented single incidents during a time when it took two transgressions to garner a penalty.
Why did Selig and his men get advance word of the report?
Clarke, Mitchell's spokesman, explained the lead time in an e-mail, saying, "Commissioner Selig has a legal obligation to keep confidential some information regarding the Major League Baseball drug testing program. In order to make certain that Senator Mitchell does not inadvertently include in the report information in violation of that obligation. His representatives have the right to review the report three business days before it is made public."
So with the report expected Thursday, it is believed that Selig, or at least his top lieutenants, Rob Manfred and Bob DuPuy, both lawyers, may have received a copy as early as Monday, which should also provide MLB ample time to formulate an appropriate response.
Should anyone beyond the players have anything to worry about?
In a word, yes. Ideally, Selig should have detected a problem sooner than he did, and at the very least he should have fought the union harder and sooner for a tougher policy. The union, in its zest to protect the privacy of the players, ultimately hurt the sport by fighting so hard and winning so many delays to a tougher policy.
For years the union claimed that the steroid suspicions were overblown. However, in recent years the union has come to the realization that the problem was more serious than believed and have allowed previously unprecedented alterations to the CBA.
General managers, team trainers and other executives were also scrutinized by Mitchell, and it will be interesting to see what he learned about their roles. Did they encourage the use of steroids? Did they turn a blind eye? Or were they just blithely unaware of what was going on?
Will Mitchell keep getting heat, and does he deserve it?
Mitchell was selected by Selig because he is someone with gravitas whom the commissioner knows and trusts, and also because he is well-respected by members of Congress after a distinguished tenure as a democratic senator. One major reason for Mitchell's selection is that Major League Baseball's greatest goal was to keep its problem in-house and avoid continuing inquiries and pressure from Congress, which took hits for grandstanding in early 2005 but probably got the ball rolling toward stricter penalties -- and this inquiry -- with its memorable inquisition of six current and former players, including admitted steroid user and whistle blower Jose Canseco as well as Rafael Palmeiro, whose finger-wagging display became even more memorable after he became one of 13 players to fail an MLB steroid test.
Some have pointed to Mitchell's ties to the Red Sox as reason for skepticism, and optimally he should have vacated his post as a director with the team before undertaking this assignment. However, Mitchell's reputation is one of great integrity, and it would be difficult to believe that he would risk his reputation to further the cause of his friendship with Selig or his favorite ballclub. But if the list of names includes no Red Sox, that won't prevent critics from crying foul about a potential conflict of interest.