pitcher alive, the alltime home run champion (Bonds), the closer with the
greatest streak without a blown save (Gagné)...all disconnected. From 1995
through 2004 as many MVP awards (10) were won by players connected by the
Mitchell Report to drug use as not. What will we make of this island of
The rest of it is
easier to figure out. Congress, in front of whom Selig and Fehr will appear
next month, will make sure that the drug-testing program takes a leap forward.
HGH, detectable only by a blood test (which the union steadfastly has refused
to permit), remains a problem either until a reliable urine-based test is
developed or the union shifts its stance. Neither of those options appear
relationship between the commissioner's office and union has been harmed, but
that's the cost of moving forward. That cost can be minimized if Selig can
admit some culpability and if Fehr can crib from the reaction of named players
such as F.P. Santangelo, Gary Bennett, Chad Allen and Adam Piatt and admit
cheating happened, and move on.
officials will have to be increasingly vigilant and vocal about hiring
practices, clubhouse access and the integrity of the game.
More scandals may
still break; Mitchell made reference in his report to an ongoing "law
enforcement investigation" involving a performance-enhancing drug supplier.
MLB is cooperating.
But the legacies
of the players? Damaged severely, though only time can reveal how permanent is
the harm. Selig will never apply asterisks because he knows they are too
problematic and because he knows that we, the public, already have done so with
our own unofficial stigmas. The Hall of Fame awkwardly has evolved into a kind
of imprimatur of legitimacy, not just greatness, and the likes of Mark McGwire,
Bonds and Clemens will need the prevailing winds to change if they hope ever to
be welcomed there.
Baseball can be
better for Mitchell's looking through that keyhole, better anyway than if it
had kept turning away. In a particularly important passage of clarity, Mitchell
wrote, "The minority of players who used such substances were wrong. They
violated federal law and baseball policy, and they distorted the fairness of
competition by trying to gain an unfair advantage over the majority of players
who followed the law and the rules." That such a truth needed to be said at
all defines the darkness of the times.