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Fehr and Selig in D.C.

What will happen when Bud and Don face Congress?

Posted: Monday January 14, 2008 12:39PM; Updated: Tuesday January 15, 2008 10:48AM
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In the opener of Congress' baseball/steroids doubleheader, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, union head Donald Fehr and former Senate majority leader George Mitchell are to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Tuesday. SI.com's Michael McCann answers the key questions.

1) What can we expect at Tuesday's hearing?

Bud Selig and Donald Fehr
Expect Bud Selig (left) and Donald Fehr to be on the same side when they go before Congress on Tuesday.
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Mitchell, Selig and Fehr will offer testimony under oath about themes raised by the Mitchell Report and the merits of potential policies that would curb the use of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) in baseball.

2) Why is this committee holding the hearing?

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and has jurisdiction to investigate any matter that implicates federal policy.

3) What sort of questions will be asked?

The members will ask questions that will likely scrutinize the scope of Mitchell's investigation, his methods to assess the quality of the evidence, the reliability and uncertain intentions of those who cooperated with Mitchell, the lack of participation by players in Mitchell's investigation, and, perhaps most important, the likelihood of the league and players' association agreeing to strategies that would restore the game's credibility.

Though Tuesday's hearing will lack some of the anticipated drama when Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, and Kirk Radomski supposedly testify on Feb. 13, it may ultimately prove more meaningful. Members of Congress may encourage Selig and Fehr to consider certain proposals contained in the Mitchell Report or elsewhere and will admonish them if they don't. Both men should expect as much, since they have already agreed to discuss recommendations proposed by the Mitchell Report, and thus seem amenable to reopening their parties' collective bargaining agreement for that purpose.

With that in mind, members might explicitly endorse some of the report's recommendations, such as a "best practices" drug-testing program that would change as better drug-testing technology becomes available. Members may have privacy concerns about other recommendations, however, such as the league's pledge to create a Department of Investigations that would investigate players who have not failed a drug test but are the subject of drug-related suspicions.

4) Will there be a lot of finger pointing by Selig and Fehr?

I don't think so. If there was ever a time for the owners and players to appear united, it's now. If, instead, Selig blames the players for poor judgment or the players' association for refusing stricter testing, or if Fehr blames the owners for promoting a situation where players were regularly tempted, or for exaggerating the steroids and HGH problem, neither side would seem like it learned much from the Mitchell Report. Plus, an adversarial attitude would irk members of Congress, who would then doubt that the owners and players can collaboratively resolve their own problems. Even worse for Selig and Fehr, those members would probably become more supportive of legislative proposals that would enhance government oversight over baseball and possibly other pro sports leagues.

To avoid that outcome Selig and Fehr should readily accept individual blame and also emphasize the need for collective and shared responsibility. They could borrow a notable line from Mitchell's press conference on Dec. 13, when he remarked, "Everybody in baseball -- commissioners, club officials, the players' association, players -- shares responsibility." In that same vein Selig and Fehr could agree that while the details of any solutions still need to be worked out, they are genuinely committed to finding plans that would end the use of steroids and HGH in baseball.

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