Thursday, June 14, 2007

Commission This

I’m not sure it’s even necessary to throw another opinion on the pile here, because most of the columns I’ve seen on this issue have been in agreement. But I do think it’s moderately important regardless. I’m sure everyone has heard that the commissioner is looking into suspending Jason Giambi for his sort-of-admittance to steroid use. It appears to be badly-veiled blackmail, with the message “talk to the Mitchell Commission, or else.” This is stupid, for a few reasons.

First of all, and most notably, Giambi has not failed a steroids test. For years now, baseball has said that without a failed test, their hands are tied. They’ve said their hands are tied (which is true); the Players’ Union (unlike their NFL counterparts) has been very active in trying to protect players from this kind of witch-hunt. If you suspend Giambi for what he said, then what do you do with the leaked Barry Bonds grand jury testimony? He admitted using “the cream and the clear” there. Bud Selig says that “any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, however casual, must be taken seriously.” Perhaps, but the Bonds issue has obviously done more harm to baseball’s reputation; it’s impossible to justify going after one and not the other.

Any suspension would get hit with a lightning-quick appeal, of course. That would be interesting, just to finally clear up that foggy “best interests of baseball” clause that we hear so much about. Selig used those words himself when talking about Giambi, and I would enjoy seeing that kind of thing go to arbitration. But I might just be a closet anarchist.

The underlying issue here is the continued existence of the sham that is the Mitchell Commission. Can anyone explain what it still putters along? I suppose it’s to keep Congress satisfied, but all it’s doing is obscuring the process that baseball has made over the past few years. In a funny way, Mark McGwire was right. Talking about the past here probably does no good. Everyone has already made their mind up about what they think happened or did not happen. (I know I have.) And, honestly, I don’t really care. If we are not going to be able to retroactively test (Marty McFly is not returning my calls), all we can do is focus on the now.

Baseball has a good steroids policy. It didn’t ten years ago, but it does now. There’s no perfect system, but the 50 game penalty is appropriately tough, and testing is frequent enough. There is a lot baseball could be doing to proactively promote their new system. But instead, baseball continues to show how behind-the-times it really is. Just like they were slow to act on the steroid issue, they have been slow to move past it. Giambi was actually honest for a moment, and we should be glad. He said the right things: everyone involved should just admit the mistake and move on. That’s all anyone can do. Selig and his commission are just keeping a dead story alive; I hope Giambi stands up them here.

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