George Mitchell was selling his report again yesterday. He talked to reporters and posed for pictures on the 27th floor of his Manhattan law firm, DLA Piper. There he could comfortably look down on people the same way he’s always looked down on people: With arrogant disdain.
Arrogance carried Mitchell a long way. He parlayed stints as a United States Attorney and a Federal Judge and a United States Senator into corporate positions that made him millions.
But arrogance isn’t going to carry him through what he did in this report about steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Not even “The Great and Honorable George Mitchell” can sell 409 pages of gossip, hearsay, innuendo, book passages and newspaper articles as any kind of meaningful investigation.
Not even he can explain away blacklisting men with little or no evidence.
But there he was playing the cheap-salesman role yesterday and reporters ate it up with a spoon in DLA Piper’s conference room.
Not everyone is that easy.
You can only sell 409 pages of nothing for so long.
Sooner or later people are going to want to know why Brian Roberts was named here. Then maybe people will ask why this great investigator was unable to locate David Justice – who spent all summer on television broadcasting Yankee games – for a second interview.
And then people will look at the interviews that fell in Mitchell’s lap courtesy of criminal investigations. Everyone can then consider exactly how credible a man facing a jail sentence is if giving the “right answers” gets him less time.
And then people will start to get outraged that 86 men were blacklisted by the arrogance of one.
Mitchell did prove a few things here: He is lazy and sloppy and irresponsible and maybe incompetent.
He also assured that there will be one criminal coming out of this investigation. His name is on the cover of the report: George J. Mitchell.
He may be shielded by Major League Baseball which is in turn shielded by an anti-trust exemption.
But history judges everyone and it’s not kind to people who have done the things that Mitchell has.