December 13, 2010

Happy Anniversary Mitchell Report

It’s been three long years since the Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball become public and engrained itself within our collective conscience as the “Mitchell Report”.

The report was the result of former senator George Mitchell’s nearly two-year investigation into the use of steroids and human growth hormones in Major League Baseball.

89 players were named in the 409-page report and this year’s Hall of Fame class, while not the first to have suspected steroid users, features a handful of the report’s biggest names.

Everyone already knows the plight of Mark McGwire and his inability to get any where near the 75% that he needs to get enshrined in Cooperstown.

First on the ballot in 2007, McGwire has hovered between 21.9 and 23.7% in the four tries on the Hall of Fame ballot. Arguments can and have been made as to whether or not the former slugger and his 583 home runs are Hall-worthy with or without the steroid allegations.

But now that he has admitted that he, in fact, did use performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career…will we see a drop in support?

This year, there are four first-time nominees on the ballot that also appear in the “Mitchell Report”…six-time All-Star Kevin Brown, two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez, former Rookie of the Year Benito Sanitago and, of course, the guy who will most surely test the Hall of Fame voters the most.

Rafael Palmeiro.

Palmeiro has the most Cooperstown-worthy numbers (he’s one of only four players with more than 3000 hits and 500 home runs) of anyone that’s been on the ballot in recent years, but, it will be his suspension in 2005 that will basically put a fork in his chances at enshrinement.

But according to the “Mitchell Report”…Palmeiro didn’t knowingly do anything wrong.

On August 1, 2005, Major League Baseball announced that Baltimore Orioles first baseman and designated hitter Rafael Palmeiro had violated the league's joint drug program and would be suspended for 10 games. Palmeiro subsequently acknowledged that he had tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol, the generic name for Winstrol, but he repeatedly denied that he had ever "intentionally taken steroids."

Unfortunately, the suspension will overshadow the numbers. The big question isn’t if he did or didn’t…it’s how will the voters treat him.

Palmeiro’s former teammate Texas Rangers Juan Gonzalez wasn’t named directly in the Mitchell Report, but the two-time MVP was linked to some suspicious luggage found while he played in Cleveland.

On the evening of October 4, 2001, Canadian Border Service officers working at Toronto's international airport discovered steroids, syringes, and clenbuterol in an unmarked duffel bag during an airport search of luggage that had been unloaded from the Cleveland Indians flight from Kansas City.

Oh, and baseball’s most famous steroid user Jose Canseco implicated “Igor” in his 2005 best-seller “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big”…saying he introduced the former outfielder to the culture.

Yikes.

Arguably baseball’s highest profile (alledged) steroid user is Barry Bonds. And while the seven-time MVP won’t be up for Hall of Fame consideration for a few more years, one of his (seemingly) partners in crime is on the ballot this year.

Benito Santiago was one of several players implicated in the BALCO investigation and the book "Game of Shadows" and according to the Mitchell Report, he was just as guilty as his former San Francisco Giants teammate.

At the end of the 2003 season, Mike Murphy, a Giants clubhouse attendant, was cleaning out Santiago's locker when he found a sealed package of syringes. Murphy brought the syringes to the training room, handed them to (Victor) Conte, and told Conte that he had found them in Santiago's locker. Conte responded that he "would take care of it".

Lastly, Kevin Brown.

According to the report, Brown called former Mets clubhouse employee-turned-Mitchell Report snitch Kirk Radomski after he got injured and asked for human growth hormones.

Radomski sent HGH to Brown and in return received a package containing $8,000 in cash. According to Radomski, over the next two or three years he sold performance enhancing substances to Brown five or six times. Radomski recalled that Brown usually purchased multiple kits of HGH, paying with cash. At one point, Brown asked Radomski for Deca-Durabolin to help with an ailing elbow, and Radomski sold it to him.

Any other year, Brown’s stellar winning percentage and reputation as a staff ace might get him a few more votes. This year, the fact that he was implicated will probably cost him a second year on the ballot.

Since the December 13, 2007, only five players not named Mark McGwire have appeared on both the Hall of Fame ballot and the “Mitchell Report”.

In 2008, David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch each appeared on one of the 543 ballots that were cast.

A year later, Mo Vaughn and Matt Williams faired much better, getting a combined 13 votes…a far cry from the 405 votes needed to get inducted.

And last year, admitted steroid user David Segui did as well as Justice and Knoblauch…equaling their one vote.

It’s hard to say if any of the vote totals in the last three elections were directly influenced by the “Mitchell Report” as none of the five really stood any chance of getting in to Cooperstown, but this year, guys like Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez actually could have a shot…if it wasn’t for that pesky George Mitchell and his Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball


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