The Mitchell Report: Absolving the Owners


12-14-07, 9:32 am

Ever had someone spit in your face and tell you it's raining? That's how it felt watching former Sen. George Mitchell's press conference on steroid use in Major League Baseball. The former Senate Majority Leader unleashed his 'investigative findings' speaking with the somber, deliberate tones of an exhausted undertaker. Mitchell strained to convey scorn upon both baseball owners and the union for being 'slow to act.' Yet beneath the surface, his report is ugly sanctimonious fraud, meant to absolve those at the top and pin blame on a motley crew of retired players, trainers, and clubhouse attendants. This is truly the old saw of the magical fishing net that captures minnows but lets the whales swim free.

3 - Same old narrative. Mitchell paid lip service in his press conference to 'slow acting' owners – calling it 'a collective failure.' At one point, Mitchell said – without explanation – that baseball execs were slow due to 'economic motives.' Yet the overarching narrative is that the owners and general managers were merely ignorant or obtuse, with a complete absence of malice. The real fault lied with players and independent acting clubhouse attendants, like the soon to be famous Mets worker Kirk Radomski, who says he secured the juice for players and named names. Radomski was described by former Mets GM Steve Phillips as 'the guy who would pick up the towels or pick up a player's girlfriend from the airport.' Yes, Kirk Radomski, a regular Pablo Escobar.

Mitchell went on to say that players have actively and on their own made great efforts to foil the owners poorly organized efforts to clean up the game. This is the same kind of political cover – as Naomi Klein has written so brilliantly – that the mainstream press gives the Bush administration on Iraq. Errors made are ones of people with good intentions who made terrible choices. Those who suffered from these choices are blamed for their barbarism and self-interest. When Baghdad was looted and destroyed, Iraqis were pilloried for their greed. Rumsfeld, Bush, and Cheney were blamed for being 'overly optimistic' and 'trusting them too much.'

This is poppycock, whether we're talking about the Bush cabal, or Major League Owners. Performance enhancing drugs were funneled into the game along with smaller stadiums, harder bats, and incredible shrinking strike zones to boost power numbers and ratings after the 1994 strike. (Read Howard Bryant's excellent Juicing the Game for the full break down.)

The idea that owners and GMs facilitated these measures while leaving the very conditioning of players to themselves simply strains belief: this is George HW Bush saying he was 'out of the loop' on Iran-Contra. This is Dubya saying, 'I never read' the National Intelligence Estimate before claiming World War III is on the horizon. In other words, this is the way people in power stay in power during times of crisis: take some heat, blame the underlings, cry some tears, and call it a day.

--Dave Zirin is the author of the new book 'Welcome to the Terrordome:' with an intro by Chuck D (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to Contact him at