The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

December 15, 2007

(Not So) Juicy Reading: The Mitchell Report

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:44 am

If you follow sports at all, by now you’ve probably heard a lot more than you really care to about the Mitchell Report (Note: the link goes to a PDF of the full report.)  Over the course of the last couple of days, many a barrel of pixels has been spilled over the report and its contents, so I’ll leave the analysis of the contents of the report to the professionals.  Instead, I’d like to take a look at the report itself.  Over the course of the past couple of days, I have managed to read through most of the 409 pages of the report (with the exceptions of the appendices and other administrivia) and only fell asleep once while doing so.  Based on that, I think I can pretty much sum up the whole thing here:

  •  Yeah, steroids are bad for you;
  • This isn’t the first time we’ve had druggies playing baseball;
  • Donald Fehr is still a jerk (a fact that most baseball fans figured out 13 years ago);
  • Those BALCO guys juiced up a bunch of ballplayers;
  • Kirk Radomski juiced up even more of ’em but he got busted, so he named names;
  • Apparently people do actually buy stuff from Internet spammers.  Some of them happen to be baseball players;
  • MLB should probably do something about this.

Of course, we already knew most of this stuff before the report came out.  For a document that’s caused as much uproar as the Mitchell Report has, it sure doesn’t read that way.  The overall appearance of the report itself makes the whole thing look something like an overgrown research paper from a High School English class, and at times, the writing can be a bit sloppy (especially toward the end.)  After beginning with some dryly presented background info on the effects of the various supplements discussed, the current situation and some of the earlier drug and steroid issues,  the report moves into a discussion of each of the players implicated in the BALCO investigation, by Kirk Radomski, and those alleged to have purchased performance enhancing drugs over the Internet.  For what is purported to be one of the most damaging exposs in recent memory, it sure doesn’t read like one.  The report plays it straight as it rattles through the laundry list of Kirk Radomski’s clients, outlining the means by which they were put in touch with him, their purchases and (where available) the checks they wrote to make the purchases.  All in all, you begin to suspect that more scandalous prose has been used in describing trips to the grocery store.  For those people who may not be familiar with the steroids involved, ESPN presents this page describing them.  Unfortunately, the descriptions it provides make it seem to give it more  of a “hey kids!  Look at all the fun you can have with Steroids!” tone than anything, almost as if someone cut-and-pasted it off a steroid users’ FAQ or something similar.

Granted, the subject matter doesn’t exactly lend itself to much embellishment, but this type of thing isn’t going to do much of anything to keep people off the juice.  Sure, there’s a bit of background info at the front of the report that tries to make the point that steroids have bad side effects, but you hear virtually nothing of any ill effects to any of the players who used it, aside from a couple of injuries here and there which may or may not be related to steroid use.  You get the feeling that a couple of strategically placed anecdotes of shrunken genitalia or exploding biceps (Video link, somewhat graphic) would have gone a long way to get the message across, but about the worst thing the report manages to find are steroids being mixed up in bathtubs and sinks on drug raids.  Given the relative lack of sources available to Mr. Mitchell this is understandable, but for all the hyperbole in the press about the “devestating” impact of the report, there’s not really a lot besides a few of the names that came from Kirk Radomski that we didn’t already know.  Incidentally, my picks in the Mitchell Report Juicer Fantasy Draft were all pretty much busts.  Maybe I’ll have better luck with the next scandal…

None of this is intended to trivialize the impact of the Mitchell Report, but as a summary of whatever information the MLBPA wasn’t able to keep out of Mr. Mitchell’s hands, the report works reasonably well, even if it is a bit dry and clunky at times. As an exposé of the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, it’s OK, but since much of this is hyperbole generated by the assorted punditry, it probably gets more credit than it deserves.  As a work of literature on which to spend your precious reading time, I’d probably suggest looking elsewhere.

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