A lot of people are talking about ethics in baseball these days. Most of them are presidents and senators and commissioners and television reporters and newspaper writers.
None of them do much real work. They have never thrown a pitch in the big leagues or dislocated a finger sliding into second base or fouled a ball off their foot or played the outfield for weeks without a day off. And they have never had everything they’ve worked for threatened because their arm hurts.
The people who do the work and live with the pain are coming under fire from people who have never done much of anything.
George Mitchell and Bud Selig and George Bush and Mike Lupica and Henry Waxman can try to sell their phony ethics all they want. But people aren’t buying it around here.
Making your arm or your back or your shoulder stop hurting so you can keep doing your job is more about survival than ethics.
And that’s where Mitchell’s investigation on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball should have started: With survival.
Mitchell had the resources to produce a report that could have remade the game for generations. He could have changed the way baseball operates from how it scouts talent and signs and develops players to how it interacts with young athletes in local communities.
Mitchell’s recommendations – which should have been the focus of this report – are all about crime and punishment. They involve investigations and violations and cooperation with law enforcement agencies and anonymous tip lines and tracking clubhouse packages and independent testing programs.
Dreaming up better ways to catch and punish people has never solved anything.
Mitchell’s job should have been to come up with solutions to these problems and not just slap a worthless 409-page bandage on them.
He should have started with the kids who play baseball on the streets in places like Santo Domingo and Caracas and he should have followed them through the system of academies that feed Major League Baseball with cheap labor.
He should have gone to baseball fields in the Crenshaw District and South Chicago and North Philadelphia and the Bronx.
He should have looked at NCAA college baseball programs were players are abused because schools have no financial stake in the kids and will kick them to the curb in four years anyway.
He should have gotten to know the struggles of journeyman and minor league players who hold onto the game with everything they’ve got because it’s the only chance they’ve got.
Struggling for survival in these systems is the root of drug problems in the game. Major League Baseball has profited off this for years and they owe something to the kids they pluck and the ones they cast aside, too.
Mitchell should have looked at the “whys” and the “hows to fix” instead of just making a list of crimes and punishments.
He should have questioned the length of Major League Baseball’s 162-game schedule and recommend that it be trimmed – to 154 games or maybe even 144 – to reduce the brutal physical and mental pounding that men take.
Baseball players do whatever they can to survive in systems they have little or no control over. They are not perfect, but they are tough and courageous and all of them do their best.
Mitchell let them down because he didn’t have the courage to ask the tough questions of $6.075-billion industry.
He felt it was better to cut into lives than the profits.
Hang your phony ethics on that.