Effect of Mitchell Report hard to forecast

Mitchell Report effect hard to forecast

NEW YORK -- It has been almost 20 months since Commissioner Bud Selig named former Sen. George Mitchell to head a full-scale investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. The fruits of that investigation will be revealed on Thursday.

At a 2 p.m. ET news conference called by Mitchell and his committee, the man who was once Senate Majority Leader during President Clinton's administration will release his findings in the form of a much-anticipated report. The Associated Press reported that Major League Baseball reviewed a draft of the report on Tuesday at DLA Piper, the law firm chaired by Mitchell, in New York.

Whether the latest revelations have a profound effect on the game remains to be seen.

"I can't forecast it," Cal Ripken Jr., the Orioles great and a member of the 2007 Hall of Fame induction class, said last week. "In many ways the cloud of steroids has been hanging for years over baseball, which has forced action and testing programs to maintain the integrity of the game. Things are moving in the right direction in many ways. I guess the whole story is not told. It's going to keep coming out. To me, it is what it is."

Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox and was chairman of The Walt Disney Co., the parent of ESPN, at the time of his appointment by Selig. Since he was charged by Selig on March 30, 2006, with leaving "no stone unturned" in his quest for information about baseball's so-called steroid era, events have had a way of enveloping Mitchell's investigation.

The Bonds factor

Barry Bonds, MLB's all-time home-run leader, was indicted last month and pleaded not guilty this past Friday in a San Francisco federal court on four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice relating to testimony he gave four years ago before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Co-Operative Laboratory for money laundering and illegally selling performance-enhancing drugs without prescriptions.

Bonds, 43, is a free agent who wants to play his 23rd season in 2008. But a signing is not imminent and may not happen until after Jan. 1, if at all.

Selig appointed Mitchell after he read the book "Game of Shadows," which documented the BALCO investigation, and in which Bonds, Jason Giambi of the Yankees and Gary Sheffield, now of the Tigers, were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury under grants of immunity. Portions of that testimony were leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and indicated that Giambi admitted using steroids and Bonds may have been administered a balm on his legs known then as "the cream" and now as the performance-enhancing drug THG.

In Bonds' indictment unsealed on Nov. 15, the federal prosecutor cited 19 different times in his 2003 grand jury testimony when Bonds denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

"I have asked Sen. Mitchell to attempt to determine, as a factual matter, whether any Major League players associated with BALCO or otherwise used steroids or other illegal performance-enhancing substances at any point after the substances were banned by the 2002-2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement," Selig said during the announcement of Mitchell's inquiry 20 months ago. "It may be that conduct before the effective date of the 2002 Basic Agreement will be helpful in reaching the necessary factual determinations. If the Senator so concludes, he will investigate such earlier conduct as well."

The free-agent factor

An investigation by an Albany, N.Y, district attorney unearthed the names of nine former or current players involved with procuring performance-enhancing drugs, either through southern U.S. clinics or pharmacies doing business via the Internet. Seven of them -- Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals, Gary Matthews Jr. of the Angels, Jerry Hairston Jr. of the Rangers, Jay Gibbons of the Orioles, Paul Byrd of the Indians, Troy Glaus of the Blue Jays, Scott Schoeneweis of the Mets and Jose Guillen, who just signed as a free agent with the Royals, were interviewed by the Commissioner's Office.

Drug Policy in Baseball

Gibbons and Guillen were suspended for 15 days at the start of next season for procuring the drugs after 2003, when the Players Association and management agreed to begin testing for various performance-enhancing drugs at the Major League level. The union has filed a grievance against Guillen's suspension, and it will be heard by arbitrator Shyam Das early next year.

According to reports, the 15-day suspensions for Gibbons and Guillen were derived from penalties under the 2004 program. In 2004, a first offense placed a player into a clinical track and his name remained anonymous, while a second offense netted a 15-day suspension. Under the current plan, a first offense is 50 games and a second is 100.

Due to insufficient evidence, no disciplinary action was taken against Ankiel, Matthews Jr., Glaus and Schoeneweis, while results of the Byrd and Hairston reviews have not yet been made public.

None of this, including the pending release of the Mitchell Report, seems to have inhibited the free-agent market.

The anticipated decision by the Commissioner's Office didn't stop Kansas City from signing Guillen, who is joining his seventh team in the past six seasons and was once banned by the Angels for openly feuding with manager Mike Scioscia, to a three-year, $36 million contract.

"We signed Jose knowing that [the suspension] was a possibility," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said after it happened. "While my initial reaction is one of disappointment, I am thoroughly convinced that Jose will put this behind him."

Likewise, the Padres are considering re-signing free agent Mike Cameron despite the center fielder having tested positive for banned stimulants twice last season. He is suspended for the first 25 games of 2008.

Kevin Towers, the Padres' longtime general manager, said each case has to be taken on an individual basis.

"I think when you go into it, you have to know the character of the individual," he said last week. "You hope they're not going to be a repeat offender. Missing 25 games or losing someone for 50 is big. There's some risk involved in it. But you're trying to put a competitive club on the field and if you can't do it through trade, you have to go to the free-agent market. There's just very little inventory out there."

The Giambi factor

On May 18, Giambi made a statement to USA Today in which he referred to his grand jury testimony and vaguely talked about his own steroid use, saying he shouldn't have used that "stuff." He also chastised MLB by saying: "What we should have done a long time ago was stand up -- players, ownership, everybody -- and said: 'We made a mistake.' We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward."

Giambi was ultimately called in for a hearing with attorneys for the Commissioner's Office and was directed by Selig -- under the threat of suspension -- to appear in front of Mitchell's committee. Under strict agreement among his own attorneys and lawyers for both MLB and the union, Giambi appeared, but only had to speak about his personal use of the drugs.

Selig eventually said he was satisfied with the way the matter was handled and didn't suspend him.

"He was forthright with Sen. Mitchell -- at least that was Sen. Mitchell's conclusion," Selig said back in August.

Giambi is the only known current player to have appeared in front of Mitchell, who also interviewed Selig this past July.

The Radomski factor

On April 27, it was reported that Kirk Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse attendant, agreed to cooperate with the Mitchell Committee as part of his plea-bargain with the feds in the BALCO case.

Radomski, a batboy, equipment manager and clubhouse attendant for the Mets from 1985-95, admitted to supplying a variety of drugs to players throughout the league and laundering the proceeds of those sales.

It was a big break for Mitchell, whose committee didn't have the legal standing to compel anyone to testify or produce records. Prior to that time, he had received little cooperation from the players and even had to demand help earlier this year from the owners, who had been reluctant to turn over club medical records.

Radomski acted in an undercover capacity for the federal government before he was turned over to the last grand jury investigating Bonds and BALCO. That grand jury's session is scheduled to end in January.

Subsequently, attorneys for MLB and the Mitchell Committee made contact with the Albany, N.Y., district attorney's office in order to cooperate and seek evidence from them in that case.

The report presented this week will be an amalgam of all this and more.

"I told you a year ago March [when the Mitchell Committee was formed] that I never wanted anybody to say we were trying to hide anything," Selig said during the World Series. "I don't have anything to hide. None of us do. I want it to be said at some point that we dealt with everything forthrightly."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. The Associated Press contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.