Friday, December 14, 2007

Mitchell Report: Slamming the Yanks, Whitewashing the Red Sox

The Mitchell Report is out. It was conducted by George J. Mitchell, former Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Democrat of Maine -- and a member of the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox.

And Mitchell's report slams the Yankees.

In particular, it accuses two key cogs of the 1996 to 2003 Pennant and World Championship era: Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. One guy who was surely bound for the Hall of Fame, another who might have been. Both were surely headed for Monument Park at the new Yankee stadium. (Note the lower-case s in "stadium," but that’s a gripe for another time.)

So how many players on the Mitchell Report list played for the October 2004 to October 2007 Boston Red Sox?

Two. Eric Gagné, whose "contributions" to that team were almost enough to wreck it, including a 7.36 ERA in the 2007 postseason. And Brendan Donnelly, who didn’t even appear in the 2007 postseason for so much as one pitch.

The most prominent Red Sock on the list – current or former, aside from Clemens himself – is Mo Vaughn, who hasn't faced a pitch for them since September 1998. There was also Mike Lansing, who closed his career in Boston in 2000 and '01, but had his best years for the Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies. (Much like Larry Walker -- and while Lansing was a decent player, he was no Larry Walker.)

That's pretty much it for Boston. Wow. What a big honkin' shock.

Why, no less a Boston sports booster than Bob Ryan, who celebrates 40 years with the Boston Globe (and occasionally appears on ESPN's Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption, whose producers are probably kicking themselves for taking the day off), said this in yesterday's Globe:

There will be howling from sea to shining sea if the Mitchell Report names lots of names and none of them is attached to the Red Sox, on whose masthead he has remained during the entire investigation.

And the man who popularized the phrase “The Curse of the Bambino,” the Globe’s Mr. Sox, Dan Shaughnessy, wrote in today’s edition:

It's astounding that a man as smart as Mitchell can so easily shrug off his compromised position. He either has a blind spot or he thinks his audience is stupid. The man is the official 'director' of the Red Sox and he just issued a report that trashes some Yankee gods while leaving the championship Red Sox unscathed (Mo Vaughn played here in the pre-Mitchell era, Eric Gagné was dirty as a Dodger, and who cares about Mike Lansing?). Mitchell's reputation is impeccable, but he had no business holding his Red Sox title while conducting this investigation.


So how can we take this report seriously? It was a slam job on the Yankees all the way, and can we really say that it hit the mark?

No, and here's why:

1. The only two names that really matter as far as the 1996-2003 dynasty is concerned are Clemens and Pettitte -- and Clemens wasn't even in The Bronx until 1999.

2. The claim against Pettitte is that he used something to help rehab from an injury. That's a whole different thing from using it to gain an unfair advantage: That's just getting back to where you were before the injury. Nothing unfair about that.

3. No positive tests. Mainly just the word of 2 guys who have reasons to lie. It's like waterboarding: What makes you think they'll tell the truth if the lies will get the torturers to stop just as easily?

4. The Yankee names were leaked before the report was revealed.

5. No significant 2004-07 Red Sox were accused. Gagné doesn't count, although his record of 84 straight save opportunities converted should get tossed. Donnelly doesn’t count, either.

If Clemens and Pettitte were hauled into court, a jury would have to say that Mitchell and his crew have not proven their case, and the defendants must be found "Not Guilty."

Granted, that's not an exoneration – as O.J. Simpson now knows, and as Barry Bonds may find out. But the two Texans are up to their necks in reasonable doubt.

Therefore, by any rational measure, the Yankee titles of the 1996-2003 seasons stand.

Sorry, Met fans, you lose again. Now, if Luis Sojo or Jose Vizcaino had been on the list...

Come to think of it... Matt Franco is on the list? Uh, Met fans, we'd like that 1999 regular season 9-8 game back.


Speaking of Boston, you know who looks a lot better now that this has come out? Dan Duquette. The general manager who wouldn't re-sign Clemens after 1996, saying the 33-year-old fireballer who had just gone 10-13 was "in the twilight of his career."

He also managed to bring to Boston Pedro (the Punk) Martinez, Jason (the Man in the Chicken-Wire Mask) Varitek, Derek (On the Down) Lowe, Manny (Being Manny) Ramirez and Johnny (We Like Him Much Better Now) Damon.

Duquette sure looked fooled from 1997 through 2005; how ya like him now?

Randy Velarde's name was on the list. This proves that steroids are no guarantee of enhanced ability. It reminds me of what former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton said about amphetamines in Ball Four: "In my case, greenies raised my performance about 5 percent. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough." (He later admitted that he took a greenie just once, and it made him so jumpy he didn't want to take another.)

Two names I expected to see on the list, but weren't there: Brady Anderson (then how do you explain 1996?) and Jay Buhner (come on, people).

Juan Gonzalez is on the list? Not surprised. Luis Gonzalez isn't? A little surprised.

John Rocker's name was on the list. If he was a steroid user, that would explain why he always seemed to be going nuts, and why he got really good really fast, and then his performance collapsed just as fast. And all along, Met fans thought they'd gotten into his head. Ha! (Well, there may have been that, too.)


Yes, we Yankee Fans have to face the accusations associated with cheating. And we have the right to defend against them.

Mitchell should be beyond reproach. But he is not. Not in this case. He was a great Senator and a great diplomat. But he is not a great baseball fan.

Many fans are a fan only of their own team, and not of the game as a whole. Many New York Tri-State Area residents, be they Pinstriped or Blue & Orange, are also guilty of this. I’ve never been accused of it, but there’s plenty of times when I could have been.

But Red Sox fans, who never cease to remind us of how they’re the most knowledgeable fans of all, take the cake and burn down the bakery. As if people aren’t going to figure out that the Impossible Dream really did turn out to be impossible (they won the 1967 Pennant but lost the World Series), and as if we can’t figure out that Carlton Fisk’s 1975 home run won Game 6, not Game 7 – or else why the additional 29 years of Curse? Blaming Bill Buckner for the 1986 disaster absolves multiple Red Sox players and manager John McNamara: Why blame the whole team for losing Game 6 (and, again, there was a Game 7 that they also lost) when you can blame one guy who was soon gone? Sox fans act as if other teams only exist to give them somebody to play when they’re not fighting their New England jihad against the Yankees.

Can George Mitchell, a man of the world who is respected by so many, really be that myopic? Sure he can. It doesn’t make him a bad person, but it sure made him the wrong person to head this investigation.

It’s ironic: Mitchell, who was already out of office during the witch hunt that resulted in the acquittal of President Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial (and don’t forget that: He was found Not Guilty), has become baseball’s Ken Starr, an investigator who was supposed to be impartial but was hopelessly biased. In Mitchell’s case, in two ways: For the Red Sox, and for Selig.

Yankee players have been accused of using steroids. Where’s the positive test, which the federal prosecutors have on Barry Bonds? Where’s the positive test that was found from Rafael Palmeiro? Where’s the proof? Where’s the beef? Until you’ve got a positive test, all you’ve got are accusations, and that won’t hold up in court, and in America, it’s “Innocent Until Proven Guilty.”

I was sure David Ortiz would never show up on the list, because guys that fat generally don’t use steroids. But Mo Vaughn was on the list. He was the original Big Papi: Even his swing was similar to Ortiz'. It’s easy to pick on Mo because he’s long-gone.

But I have my suspicions that other members of the 2003-07 Sox have juiced, and these suspicions have been voiced by others. The suspects include: Jason Varitek, Kevin Millar, Trot Nixon, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, and, of course, Curt Schilling, an even bigger Clemens acolyte than Pettitte. If Pettitte “copied Clemens’ steroid use,” then is it so hard to believe Crybaby Curt didn’t, as well? Test the blood on that sock!

My grandfather grew up in The Bronx, could walk down the street and watch them build Yankee Stadium, saw Ruth play before Gehrig, and at age 74 could still spot a phony and did not fear to say so.

If he were alive today, he’d know who the phonies were, and he’d start with Bud Selig and George Mitchell.

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