12/13/2007 11:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Scattered Preliminary Observations on the Mitchell Steroids Report

Well, the long awaited Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball is out, two years and $20 million dollars after it began. Lack of a broad sample of outside sources or players willing to talk means that the most interesting questions (how widespread was cheating? was it mainly stars or mainly guys hanging on to their jobs? or was it everyone?) remain unanswered. Some initial impressions after a quick read:

* For my money, the most hilarious line of the entire report, given that this was drafted by an army of lawyers:

"In August 2002, the Giants were visiting Atlanta for a series with the Braves. At the time, [Barry Bonds' trainer Greg] Anderson was traveling with the Giants. [BALCO labs head Victor] Conte recalls that during this series a Giants player asked Conte about anabolic steroids. Conte refused to identify the player to us, citing athletic trainer privilege." (Page 124)

Athletic trainer privilege?!? Oh LOL upon LOL. I guess it would have been equally comical for Conte to claim he was a physician (although in fairness, Conte says he warned said player off for health reasons).

* Also amazing: After speaking extensively about steroid use from some point in 2001 onwards, Giambi refuses to speak about earlier events because he is concerned that he might be prosecuted for what he would say:

"On the advice of his lawyer, Giambi declined to answer any questions about performance enhancing substances for the period before 2001, invoking the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination." (Page 132, footnote 346.)

Amazing. The statute of limitations on pretty much all applicable federal crimes is five years. Putting 2001 well beyond reach. What could this be about? My first thought was that he was concerned about undisclosed prior use voiding his $120 million Yankees contract, signed in December 2001, but there are statements in the report about his using drugs through the 2001 season; presumably those statements could be used against him should the team try to recover its money? (Not that the Yankees seem interested in that.) He did testify before a grand jury in 2003; any perjury in that testimony would still be within the limitations period. Count this as a looming mystery.

* Randy Velarde gets props for cooperating by giving a statement through his lawyer, but come on: Page 137: "According to his lawyer, if interviewed, Velarde would have told us he received the "cream" and the "clear" from Anderson in a transaction that occurred in a parking lot during spring training in 2003. Velarde was playing for the Oakland Athletics at the time, was near the end of his career and was attempting to play for another year to support his family." Through 2002, Velarde had earned $14,701,500 playing baseball.

* The report is full of many droll moments:

"As with Jose Canseco, Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Lenny Dykstra was the subject of several articles speculating about his possible use of steroids. The first appeared at the start of the 1990 season, when Dykstra credited "real good vitamins" for adding 30 pounds of muscle to his frame during the off-season." (Page 66.)

"During baseball's winter meetings in Nashville in December 1998, baseball executives and team physicians heard a presentation from [head MLB Doctor] Millman and Dr. Solomon on baseball's drug policy. One attendee, Dr. William Wilder, was then the team doctor for the Cleveland Indians. In a memorandum to then Indians general manager John Hart that he wrote after the meeting, Dr. Wilder reported that the presentation focused on the benefits that could be obtained from testosterone. He was disturbed by the presentation, observing in the memorandum that whether or not testosterone increased muscle strength and endurance 'begs the question of whether it should be used in athletics.'" (Page 80.)

* I'm not surprised that Clemens is named. Later in his career, he developed the classic fat-face bad-complexion look of a steroid user. He made a comeback from what looked like a slow fadeout to his career in his early 30s, when most power pitchers start to lose their stuff historically. And he is smart enough to be able to manage his own doping program - a requisite in a world where the legitimate experts (doctors) won't help you or lack the necessary firsthand expertise - and where bringing in any outside help increases the risk of getting caught.

I am also not surprised his dealer was once a New York city cop. (Page 170.) The NYPD conducts steroid tests for a reason. And, as with baseball, a wide-ranging probe is underway.

* Mention of Chuck Knoblauch, who had such terrible problems making routine throws to first base while with the Yankees, makes me think various behavioral problems might be attributable to or exacerbated by these drugs. I guess that might finally explain Clemens' bat-throwing incident in the 2000 World Series! It also seems to be correlated with playing golf, a subject for future research (page 171).

* At the end, Mitchell advocates amnesty but with exceptions for really egregious cases (Page 307: "except... where... the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game."). As a general matter, unless you're talking about crimes against humanity as the exceptions, it's probably a bad policy decision to not have such an amnesty be broad-ranging. Prominent figures and those with lots of names to name (e.g. players who dealt the stuff) will likely be hesitant to come forward under a loophole filled deal, and it is already clear several hours after release that the Commissioner would use any such loophole liberally. Seems like a formula for doing nothing. Again, count me not surprised.

--December 13, 2007