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And what about Tejada?

Selig could also punish teams in steroids scandal

Posted: Tuesday January 15, 2008 10:51PM; Updated: Tuesday January 15, 2008 10:52PM
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Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, union head Donald Fehr and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell testified about baseball's steroids issue before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Tuesday. SI.com's Michael McCann answers the key questions.

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1) What lessons should we take from Congressman Waxman's questions about Brian Sabean and Peter Magowan?

The main lesson to take is that the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recognizes that failures of omission or of passivity on the part of team management may have deeply exacerbated the steroids scandal. In that same vein, while it is easy, intuitive and in many ways correct to blame the players for using steroids, a more objective analysis would also blame the less obvious behaviors -- be they by team management, coaches, or even close friends -- that made the players more likely to use. Put differently, the wrong choice of a player to use steroids should not foreclose the possibility that other persons' wrong choices made the player more likely to get his choice wrong. On some level, those persons should also bear blame.

2) Should Sabean, Magowan and the Giants be punished by Major League Baseball?

Commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged that someone from the San Francisco Giants should have alerted the commissioner's office about Barry Bonds and his relationship to Greg Anderson. Selig also remarked that he is reviewing the role Giants management may have played in enabling Bonds to allegedly obtain and use steroids. With such comments, Selig may be intimating forthcoming punishments of the Giants and their management.

The Giants' situation brings to mind other portions of the Mitchell Report that detailed awareness by team officials of players' alleged steroids use. As mentioned above, the actions and omissions of those officials likely compounded the steroids problem.

To be fair, however, those officials may have felt uncomfortable to raise their concerns, perhaps out of fear of being labeled a whistleblower or tattletale, or perhaps out of fear of retribution. Along those lines, the apparent absence of opportunity for collective action by concerned team officials, which could have shielded informants and made speaking up much less risky, may ultimately reveal itself as a driving force behind the steroids scandal.

3) After today's testimony, do you think both players and management will be punished by Selig?

I believe he will punish both players and management, and possibly even his own office of the commissioner. There are at least three good reasons why.

First, it would likely be viewed favorably by members of this Congressional committee, especially by those who view the steroids problem as a complex problem resulting from both individual and institutional mistakes. Plus, actions that impress this committee would make its members, and other members of Congress, less likely to pursue new federal legislation that would regulate baseball and other pro sports leagues.

Second, placing blame far and wide, rather than exclusively on players, might make the Players' Association more amendable to adopting recommendations contained in the Mitchell Report. Particularly based on his comments today, MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr appears willing to bargain on a number of those recommendations, and Selig would be wise to avoid alienating Fehr right before their bargaining begins.

Third, shared responsibility and blame would fit the spirit of former Senator George Mitchell's report and his public comments describing it, which, taken together, unmistakably described the steroids problem as a pervasive, ingrained challenge.

4) Has Miguel Tejada become the new face of the steroids scandal?

No, I don't think he has. Though a former MVP with a long, distinguished career, he clearly lacks the star and record-setting power of the two most prominent players associated with the scandal: Bonds and Roger Clemens.

On the other hand, Tejada may become the face of a new kind of scandal: the big league players who allegedly lied to Congress scandal. It would be a far more serious scandal, since instead of stricken records or tarnished legacies, Tejada and potentially other players would face the prospect of a taxing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and possible felony charges for lying to government officials. Along those lines, while Tejada had no obligation to meet with former Senator George Mitchell, he would enjoy no such freedom of choice if the federal government decided to vigorously pursue him.

5) Might Congress have other motivations in going after Tejada?

Yes. Namely, doing so warns every other person who spoke with the Committee, either under oath or otherwise, that any lies will be taken seriously and have consequences. For that same reason, going after Tejada should admonish Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, and Kirk Radomski that they better tell the truth at their hearing on Feb. 13 and in any other conversations they have with the Committee.

Michael McCann is a law professor at Mississippi College School of Law and Chair of the Association of American Law Schools' Section on Sports and the Law.