Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Naming Names

I’ve wanted to post extended thoughts on the Mitchell Report fallout for a few days, and I have enough to say that I thought it would make sense to break it down into a few smaller posts. Let’s start with the debate on whether or not the report should have named names.

In my opinion, they had to refer to players by name – the report has no credibility otherwise. What were the alternatives? Had they just told each player’s story anecdotally, it would have had no weight whatsoever, and nobody would have believed any of it. How many ways are there to say “one player purchased HGH from Radomsky in 2003… another player purchased Winstrol from Radomski in 1999”? Plus, many of these names, like those in the BALCO case, are already public knowledge – it would be silly not to print those names, but how can you do that and not name the others?

Had they referred to each player tangentially, as columnists refer to their sources (for example, instead of using Clemens’ name, they could have said “a prominent starting pitcher from the American League East”), then you’d have people everywhere trying to figure out to whom the report was really referring. In the late 90’s/early 2000’s, that kind of reference could mean any of the following: David Wells, David Cone, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield, Mike Mussina, Sidney Ponson, Scott Erickson, Pat Hentgen, or Roy Halladay. What good could it possibly serve to cast doubt on all of them when you’re only referring to one? Clemens isn’t the best example, since he’s the one that had a close personal relationship to McNamee, but you get the point.

Calling out players by name was the only way to give the report credibility. I do agree that it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t get more sources to speak on the record, and as a result certain teams (the Yankees and Mets, especially) have been implicated more than others. But I don’t think for a second that any fan with half a brain who read the report thinks that the steroid problem is limited to a handful of franchises (Mitchell says as much), and I don’t think you can fault Mitchell for using only the information that he was able to get.

There was a lot of talk before the report was released that trainers and team staffs were asked to speculate on who they thought might have done steroids, but I don’t see any names named in the report based on speculation. Everyone named was either through a federal investigation, a direct source of PED’s, or a teammate, and they all had facts to back up their assertions. They didn’t all have tangible proof, which has led to many apologists to scream “hearsay!” (including a choked-up Peter Gammons in defense of Brian Roberts, but we’ll get to him later), but it’s all Mitchell could get due to the union stonewall. Plus, he gave every player named a chance to speak to him about the allegations, but they all declined. Now we’re supposed to feel sorry for them because their names have suddenly and unfairly been thrust into the public eye?

They all could have refuted the claims in the actual report, but they chose not to, probably because they didn’t want a public record of their fraudulent denials. If Andy Pettitte, for example, told Mitchell “I only used HGH on two different days to help me recover from an injury” and then was later proven to be lying, his lie is out there, in print, for everyone to see for the rest of time. I’m not saying that he’s actually lying, but I think that’s the greater problem here: nobody wants to tell the whole truth, so we’re left with Mitchell telling as much of the truth as he can figure out, and that includes the names.


Ross said...

I have questions about how hard Mitchell tried to get the players to talk with him.

Did he say "These are the allegations against you, they will be going into my report. Do you want to comment?" I don't think he did that.

David Justice says he spoke with him, and then after that it was that McNamee talked with Mitchell.

Mitchell says in the report that he tried to talk with Justice again but Justice did not.

David Justice claims that he never got another phone call from Mitchell. He claims he would have talked with him again. Justice does say his phone number changed. Obviously he would not have been that hard to get in contact with as he works for the YES Network. How much did Mitchell try to did he just call a phone number he previously had and left it at that.

Did he ever mention to them they were going to be in his report? I think that would have made many more players speak.

Sully said...

That's a legitimate point, and I really don't know who to believe. Of course, the players have bent the truth in the past, so I tend to believe Mitchell. The truth is probably somewhere in between, though.