Infield dust finally is settling on perhaps the most controversial play at the plate in baseball history, which, as you know, roughly parallels the grand story of America itself.
Fortunately, the Mitchell Report comes with a scorecard:
--Winner: Jose Canseco. Boy, were those biceps impressive when Canseco appeared at The Joe along with his fellow Tampa Bay Devil Rays for a 1998 exhibition game against the Charleston RiverDogs. And in one tell-all book the Clown Prince of Baseball did a better 'roid revelation job than George Mitchell, who essentially produced a really spiffy Google-heavy term paper for Mr. Selig's Drugs in Sports 101 class.
--Loser: Roger Clemens. The one newsy exception to Mitchell's compilation of data, The Rocket probably will not go down quietly. Prediction: Clemens spends many of his millions suing various people for slander. As a public figure, he almost certainly will lose in real court but declare victory in the court of public opinion, which might be enough to preserve his Hall of Fame reputation among fans and the friendly baseball media.
--Home run: "Game of Shadows," the Barry Bonds steroids investigation book by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams.
--Error: Commissioner Bud Selig and Don Fehr, head of the players association, for not immediately issuing a statement pledging the toughest, most comprehensive year-round, outsourced, no-advance-notice testing program in pro sports.
--Save: Andy Pettitte. The first player zapped in the Mitchell Report to come with the "OK, I admit I experimented with bad stuff once or twice but wasn't trying to gain an unfair advantage" response. He saved some face and triggered a trend, which eventually included former South Carolina Gamecocks shortstop Brian Roberts.
Hall of Shame
--Hit By Pitch: Cooperstown. The National Baseball Hall of Fame might have to settle for a museum that doesn't honor players who lead the sport in hits (Pete Rose), home runs (Barry Bonds) and Cy Young awards (Clemens). Ouch.
--Game Winning RBI: The Federal prosecutors who got former strength coach Brian McNamee and former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski to name names.
--Assist: Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt was perhaps the only active player to voluntarily speak with Mitchell. Whether or not Frank was frank is unknown.
--Base On Balls: The Atlanta Braves. They received a free pass, with no current organization members named. But think of the Mitchell Report as a highway patrolman. Not every speeder on I-26 gets stopped, just the ones who
zoom by active radar guns. Braves fans should be glad baseball's radar gun was pointed at the New York Mets clubhouse and not the one at 755 Hank Aaron Drive.
--Passed Ball: The baseball media. Even now, veteran baseball reporters run from the steroids issue, rationalizing and defending all the way to the next
ESPN commercial break. Bonds-Clemens analysis, for instance. The popular theory says the difference is the load of evidence against Bonds documented in "Game of Shadows." Uh, yeah, and how would Clemens like a pair of veteran San Francisco Chronicle non-sports reporters on his tail for a year?
Back to Babe
--Grounded Into Double Play: The Kansas City Royals. Not only does baseball's poorest-run team sign outfielder Jose Guillen, they give him $36 million for three years knowing he will serve a steroid suspension.
--Sacrifice: Mitchell. Poor guy. He has been a U.S. Senator, Senate Majority Leader and helped broker peace in Northern Ireland. Yet he agreed to be best known for his ties to a sports steroids probe too slimy to grip.
--Blown Save: Selig and everyone else in charge of baseball during the 1990s. Mitchell's research clearly shows there was lots of cause for steroids concern long before the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run derby. Selig insisted for years he was not aware of problems before that 1998 season, which began with Canseco flexing in Charleston.
--Left On Base: Children. Baseball can cook the fan interest books all it wants, celebrating another major league attendance increase in 2007 and pretending not to be worried about the 3.6 TV rating for Game 1 of the Rockies-Diamondbacks National League Championship Series (last year's Georgia-Virginia Tech Chick-fil-A Bowl got a 4.8). But young fans are tuning out and getting cynical about baseball like no generation born since Babe Ruth invented the game.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.