Sunday, December 16, 2007

More thoughts on the Mitchell Report

By Rick Morris

^ It was pretty funny to see George W. Bush accepting the Mitchell Report pretty much without reservation -- not because of Dubya's former ownership of the Texas Rangers -- but because George Mitchell more than any other one man pretty much ran George H.W. Bush out of office. An insanely committed partisan, Mitchell constantly ran rings around the naive first President Bush, who was bipartisan to an extreme fault. Mitchell convinced Bush Senior to break the "no new taxes" pledge during budget negotiations, then used the capitulation as a battering ram to send the old man back to Maine in November of '92. So there was a lot of history between Mitchell and the Bush family that went unnoticed this week.

^ The idea of a "Rogues' Wing" at the Baseball Hall of Fame appears to be an idea whose time has come. Excluding Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and many others for their misdeeds seems a bit over the top inasmuch as we are likely to eventually find that a great many players transgressed against the game at one time or another. Put the players in a separate "shamed" part of the Hall of Fame and retroactively move Ty Cobb (for the scores of his antisocial acts), Cap Anson (for bearing such great responsibility for enforcing the "color line" in baseball), Gaylord Perry (proud admitted cheater) and other jerks and miscreants to this area. Problem solved.

^ The notion that the period from about 1994-2001 (give or take a bit on either end) is unique in the history of baseball -- with these numbers sticking out like a sore thumb in terms of the all-time record -- is historically illiterate. This period of time is much like the 1930s, the days of Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and the Phabulous Philadelphia As in terms of the offensive explosion. The game has also gone through periods of extreme pitching dominance. The superlative 1968 season for Bob Gibson and for pitchers as a whole helped to bring about the lowering of the pitchers' mound for the 1969 season and a period in baseball with more balance between pitching and offense. In short, something like "500 home runs" has never meant exactly the same thing in every era. Now, this is not to minimize the effects of PED cheating, merely to point out that the damage done to the game in this respect is not irreversible. We must simply view the numbers of this era through a different prism than for previous times in terms of ascertaining how players fit into the all-time history of the game.

^ Whatever else can be said about the failings of the Mitchell Report and Major League Baseball's handling of it (reliance on informants working for the federal government, acceptance of information with differing standards of accuracy), Major League Baseball is to be commended on a huge scale for embracing the need to thoroughly cover the story on their own website. We saw the opposite end of the spectrum recently, when we felt it necessary to chastise the NBA for initially squelching all mention on their website of the civil verdict against Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks, and so our appreciation for's coverage (including a blog completely devoted to all aspects of the story) is sincere.

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