Baseball braces for Operación Mitchell

After 20 months of investigation, former US Senator George Mitchell is releasing his report on doping in Major League Baseball. Today at 2:00 Eastern, the report will be made public.

Those in the know are expecting a bombshell list chock full of the sports biggest names. Me, I’m a little more skeptical. Two key reasons have caused me to adopt a wait and see attitude.

First, the Baseball Players Association has strongly urged its membership against cooperation. In their words, there is nothing to gain and a lot to lose. Since Sen. Mitchell does not have any subpoena power or any other method to compel players to cooperate, he has operated with one hand behind his back.

The second is given the massive amounts of money in baseball, the bar set for inclusion in the Operación Mitchell report is high. Just because your name is on a pharmacy list for HGH does not mean you actually took it. The threshold is the same as if Sen Mitchell was bringing a court case. What evidence would be admissible in court.

This last item gives me mixed feelings. I think cycling has erred too much on the other side of hard evidence. With Operación Puerto, the burden of proof required for losing your livelihood is embarrassingly low. Then again, there are no athletes in cycling making $27.5 million/year. The kind of money in Baseball buys a lot of legal services. So in the end, I’ll accept the high burden of proof knowing that instead of innocent athletes getting caught, some guilty ones will go free.

So, I expect the report to come out naming quite a few names and blaming everyone. When everyone shares the blame, no one will take responsibility to change the sport. Also, what will happen to the players? Will they be banned from baseball for four years (2 from any baseball and an additional two from the major leagues?) Probably not. People will suffer embarrassment but not any financial repercussions. Do you really think George Steinbrenner will really fire Andy Pettitte?

The ultimate good news is that professional cycling will not be airing its dirty laundry today. It is time for baseball.

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