The Mitchell Report – Witchhunt, Anyone?

“At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the “facts” reported were simply manufactured.”

Judge Edward C. Voss, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Arizona, in an order to unseal the “Novitsky Affadavit”.

I don’t like Roger Clemens all that much. He’s an amazing athlete with Hall of Fame credentials, and I was glad to have him play for the Astros for a couple seasons, but he can be a jerk at times and he’s never been much of a team player that I can see. But with that said, I don’t jump to conclusions when unsuported allegations are made, even against him. I do not accept the Mitchell Report at face value, and neither should you.

I was surprised when the Mitchell Report came out. Not about what it said, but by the public reaction. I mean really, what did you expect it to say, especially given the way in which the “investigation” was conducted? I hate the gratuitous use of steroids and completely agree they should be banned from professional sports, if for no other reason than the fact that kids copy what they see their heroes do. But at the same time, the presumption of innocence is – or should be – a hallmark of American justice. What happened with the Mitchell Report, is that a variety of people made accusations against other people, without the persons accused being allowed to cross-examine their accusers or even state their side of the story.

The media didn’t help things, either. For example, ESPN gushed with excited anticipation about the report, as a preview of the report said “the big questions have been whether the final report would name names, and how many names would be named, and how important the names would be.” The reader may note that ESPN was not at all concerned with the lack of any proof; the accused would be presumed to be guilty. Investigative journalism ended with the prospect of a juicy scandal.

That’s why I noted Judge Voss’ order. Back in 2006, the LA Times ran a story which accused Roger Clemens of using “performance-enhancing drugs”. The accusation was based solely on the report that Clemens was named in an affadavit to the court made by Jason Grimsley. The Times specifically wrote “Grimsley told investigators
that Clemens used athletic performance-enhancing drugs.” The order by Judge Voss observed that a “review of the disclosed affidavit proves that the Times never saw the unredacted affidavit. Roger Clemens is not named in the affidavit and Grimsley makes no reference to Roger Clemens in any context. At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the “facts” reported were simply manufactured.”

Judge Voss went on in a footnote to show just how far off the Times was in its claims. He wrote “This conclusion is almost inescapable. The Times article lists six players purportedly named in the affidavit. Actually, the affidavit names only two of the six and as to Tejada, the Times quote relates to alleged anabolic steroid use which is incorrect. The reference in the affidavit is to amphetamine use.”

Now I’m no expert on the fine differences between understandable error and deliberate defamation, but this sure seems to cross that line. Again, I have no special appreciation for Mr. Clemens, but the LA Times story certainly shows a climate that can only be called hostile. The Mitchell Report merely reflects that same environment on a much larger scale – the nation wants athletes punished, and all they need is an accusation, never mind the proof. Anyone who wants to get down to the truth of the matter with regard to Major League Baseball and the use of drugs, needs to understand that the Mitchell Report has no real value in that search.

Quote of the Day
Christmas video for the troops