With the results of Sen. George Mitchell's investigation into steroids-in-baseball set to be made public in a little less than an hour (2 pm Eastern), what better to do than speculate without factual basis? (On that subject, check out this great column from ESPN's ombudsman, Leanne Schreiber.)
First of all, I have to confess that I'm pretty curious, in a train-wreck/Lindsay Lohan/Brittany Spears/Rich Ankiel sort of way. Who is guilty? Who is the biggest surprise? Who, in hindsight, makes sense?
And that's where I start to get irritated, because if that was the end of the story, if the Mitchell report consisted of a set of tablets from Heaven, with a full and complete list of every player who absolutely used steroids (and if you weren't named on the list, you were completely innocent), then great.
However, I'm afraid that this is going to more like a Michael Moore film: mostly correct on the big stuff, and on the right track, but the opposition will focus on process errors and "producer bias" such that the credibility of the entire message is seriously damaged. For example, it's bad to say, but there really needs to be a decent-caliber Red Sox player on the list or else everyone will accuse Mitchell of favortism (he's in the ownership group of the Sox). More seriously, some interviewees are saying that they felt pressured to "guess" about a player's steroid use - who knows if that's a legit concern or if they're just covering their butt after squealing on a teammate/client.
In the end, I blame Bud Selig. Maybe that's too easy to do, and he's a popular whipping boy, but the fact is that had MLB actually wanted to find out what happened, they would have supported the Mitchell investigation and given Mitchell the support he needed to actually get people to testify. Instead they help him at arm's length. The result is perhaps what MLB brass wanted; confusion and uncertainty instead of clear demonstration of guilt. This is, of course, not good for baseball, but that hasn't stopped them in the past, so why start now?