Bud Selig has spoken. Baseball will investigate the use of performance-enhancing substances at the major league level.
The George Mitchell Needles & Haystacks Tour will commence forthwith.
And good luck with that.
Peter Graves, as Jim Phelps, never turned down an assignment on the old "Mission: Impossible" TV series, even though he was given that option every week by the voice on the tape recorder. What Selig is asking of Mitchell, the former U.S. Senate majority leader from Maine, is unfathomable. That Mitchell would agree to head this investigation must speak to his passion for lost causes. Maybe he had Mets season tickets in 1962.
Selig's motivation is pretty clear from here, but let's play this thing straight up for the moment. He's heeding the call for an investigation on the heels of two books, released this spring, that provide motivation for and substantiation of Barry Bonds' use of steroids and human growth hormone. Selig is interested in learning the full range of hard truths regarding Bonds — assuming they're not all accounted for at this point — and other performance-enhancing enthusiasts.
He wants Mitchell to oversee an independent effort. He wants names. He wants dates. He wants details. This must speak to his innocent belief in miracles. Maybe he had Mets season tickets in 1969.
Except that no matter what parameters he hands Mitchell and his merry men, it's an undoable deed. This isn't John Dowd charged with the finely focused investigation of one man (Pete Rose) over an abbreviated time frame. Steroid use in baseball predates 1990. And yet investigating it that far back would be a waste of time.
How about a complete accounting of the use of performance-enhancing substances between 1990-2002, when home runs became epidemic, when baseball players turned into football players, and when decades-old records came under assault? That would be another fool's errand.
Baseball, you see, didn't ban steroids until after the 2002 season. Oh, former Commissioner Fay Vincent distributed a memorandum in 1991 warning players against steroid use. But Vincent was a short-timer then; no one was listening to him. His memorandum was taken as seriously as the ones that caution players against fraternizing with opponents and wearing their hats backward.
As for the period from 2002 to the present, baseball has had a policy and testing procedure in place. So any funny business Mitchell unearths from that time frame only illustrates what a hapless program baseball has in place. It's difficult to believe Selig wants that.
Guess what, everybody — based on our review, the Pittsburgh Pirates win the 1999 World Series!
Then again, none of the above is the point here. The point here is that Selig is being roasted over an open flame by the national media and — cold, hard cash alert! — speed-dialed by concerned MLB sponsors because Bonds, the most arrogant and accomplished juicer ever, is bearing down on Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron. Nobody wants to see those standards surpassed — not now, knowing what we know.
Thing is, any comprehensive investigation — incomplete and bogus as it might be — will take time. More than enough time for Bonds to overtake Ruth. Most likely more than enough time for Bonds to either overtake Aaron, or discover he isn't physically up to the challenge.
So best of luck, Sen. Mitchell. As usual, should you or any of your force be captured or killed, the commissioner will disavow all knowledge of your actions. From what we can tell, denial is what he does best.
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