Mitchell Investigation Post-Mortem’s Post-Mortem

Not to get political, but I am an opponent of the death penalty. I am not opposed to it because I think that the state shouldn’t sponsor murder or that an eye for an eye leaves us all blind, but because if one person is proven innocent after the fact it is irreversible. If exculpatory evidence is found after someone has been hung, it is too late. I am beginning to hold that same feeling about the Mitchell report.

The evidence about some of the players implicated in this report is so thin that, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com notes, it “would never hold up in court. Not even in a civil case.” The case against Brian Roberts is that he, allegedly, admitted to roommate Larry Bigbie that he, “injected himself once or twice with steroids in 2003.” That’s it. No inculpating evidence, just one man accusing another.  There are other accounts just as flimsy as this one–Jayson Stark does a fine job reporting them.

Was this a good idea?  Was it smart to sacrifice the reputations of dozens of players with flimsy evidence?  Will this help baseball’s reputation or tarnish it further.  To me, it exacerbates their problems.

Baseball knowingly turned a blind eye for years while profiting from their acquiescence.  Fans turned out in droves to watch chemically enhanced behemoths hit 500 foot home runs to their amazement.  According to Mitchell, everyone in baseball, top to bottom, was complicit in this fraud.  Now, in an attempt to quell the anger among baseball purists and fans alike, they have trampled on the integrity of several players, rendering all their career accomplishments tainted in the court of public opinion.  You can say you never took steroids forever, but to prove that something never happened that possibly could have is impossible.  I can tell you that I’ve never had blood sausage in my life, but I can not provide evidence to prove that point.  You’d have to have evidence that I had eaten it in a democracy.  You can’t prove a negative.

The names in the Mitchell report are not proven guilty, they have been accused.  But they will never have their day in court to clear their names. They have been branded permanently.  And if one of the branded players has been falsely accused, no one should have been named.  And considering it is Senator Mitchell’s prerogative that no players be punished after the fact, what was the point of naming anyone?  Was it just to provide some red meat to those who have wanted the blood of those who soiled their cherished pasttime?  Sometimes it is impossible to please everyone.

Once someone is accused of something grievous their reputation seldom heals completely.  For every person who believes that a man is innocent until proven guilty, there is someone else who believes the opposite.  Acquitted murderers are still viewed as being more dangerous than those never charged, acquitted thieves will still make some guard their possessions more closely in their presence.  The same can be said of those players’ named in the Mitchell report.  The more thoughtful of us will know that accusations do not equal guilt, but others will be quick to judge.  They will never be able to produce evidence to prove their innocence.  They will never be able to acquit themselves in the court of public opinion.

Baseball has really outdone itself here.  When they had a problem to deal with they did nothing.  Then, when they finally tried to tackle the problem they went well beyond where they could reasonably go.  They have gone from aloof governors, who heard no problems and saw no problems to irresponsible, reckless disciplinarians whom, while aiming to repair baseball’s integrity, may have finally destroyed it.

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