Will Mitchell Report Have Any Impact?
ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
It's been just over a week since former Senator George Mitchell released his report that named more than 80 former and current Major League baseball players who allegedly took performance-enhancing drugs. Since then, a handful of players on the list have admitted to taking human growth hormone or HGH. Some thought the Mitchell Report would become sort of a black list for those who are still playing. But earlier this week, the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to sign a player named in the Mitchell Report, a catcher named Gary Bennett.
David Zirin is a columnist for SportsIllustrated.com. He joins me now in the studio.
How are you?
Mr. DAVID ZIRIN (Columnist, SportsIllustrated.com): I'm doing wonderfully. Thank you.
SEABROOK: Great. So who is Gary Bennett and what does the Mitchell Report say about him?
Mr. ZIRIN: Well, I'll tell you this. Even the most die-hard baseball fan would be hard-pressed to tell you who Gary Bennett was before the Mitchell Report came out. Gary Bennett is a catcher. He's somebody who has just signed, as you said, by the Dodgers even though he was named in the Mitchell report.
SEABROOK: If HGH use wasn't banned when Gary Bennett and others took it, why are they named in the Mitchell Report?
Mr. ZIRIN: Well, that's a great question. And to me, it's what I've been writing about consistently since this started - is why is anybody named in the Mitchell Report? You know, I find the whole thing to be incredibly fraudulent. Think about it like this. The period that George Mitchell looks at - he's looking at, basically, 5,000 players who had at least one at bat or threw one pitch in a Major League game. Five thousand players, he names 86. That's roughly 1.87 percent of all players who played in that timeframe.
Mr. ZIRIN: Roughly.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ZIRIN: Nobody thinks that that number of players who may have taken steroids or HGH is 1.87 percent. If it was, it wouldn't be a problem. And Mitchell himself admits that that number is incredibly low. And this is just a sampling. And so if that's the case, why name the 86 at all? I think the point of it is to demonstrate to Congress and to the press that baseball is being proactive and doing something about this.
And if you look at the players chosen, I mean, I almost had to laugh when I saw them because it's like - almost like the United Colors of Benetton steroid users. And that it's this incredible cross-section of players from people you've never heard of to MVPs to future Hall of Famers like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. And it's also players from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. And it's almost like it's PR.
SEABROOK: What about some of the bigger names in baseball then? I mean, isn't the team taking some kind of risk if they were to sign somebody who's in the Mitchell Report, sign him for some huge multimillion dollar salary at the risk that this guys, who's named at the Mitchell Report, might be suspended for having used, you know, steroids.
Mr. ZIRIN: That's a real risk. That's a real risk. And I think if Bud Selig had his way - the commissioner - they would not be making these sidings. I mean he wants there to be this show of unity and discipline. But that's just nothing that exists among the baseball ownership ranks. It's 30 different fiefdoms. It's people who can't stand each other, let alone come up with a unified plan of players they are or not going to sign.
SEABROOK: So David Zirin, what impact, ultimately, will the Mitchell Report have in the future if the teams are so, sort of disparate?
Mr. ZIRIN: The main impact the Mitchell Report is going to have is on the patience of the casual fan. It was designed as a way to stave off Congress from going after baseball, from humiliating them publically, or going after them with anti-trust exemption. But what it's resulting in, actually, is stirring Congress up. But what it's going to mean for the casual fan is, gees, all I want to do is watch the game. And what I'm getting instead is one anabolic life to live. Baseball should be very afraid about what they have opened up with this particular Pandora's box.
SEABROOK: David Zirin is a columnist for SportsIllustrated.com and author of the book "Terrordome." Thanks so much.
Mr. ZIRIN: My privilege. Thank you.
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