All that aside, Mitchell has been investigating and has been frustrated by the lack of corporation with some Clubs, and certainly the unionized players, where Mitchell can’t order them to testify. That has set the stage for what many feel will be a toothless report from his investigation, with many speculating that while Commissioner Selig may wish to publicly tout an independent report, a watered down version will placate Congress, and to some extent, the public. “Look we, investigated” would be the public pronouncement without having to have baseball get their hands dirty in the process. Thursday’s comments seem to counter that assessment.
Mitchell came out firing. His prepared opening remarks from the Owners Meeting in Phoenix, sent to the media via press release (full transcript here), had sharp tones, and a message to those that feel that by not testifying to Mitchell, they may be able to get around testifying at all. As Mitchell said:
Nine months ago, in explaining the need for this investigation, the Commissioner said that “[w]hen it comes to the integrity of this game, an impartial, thorough review is called for and Baseball must confront its problems head on.”
In the intervening months it’s become evident to me that not everyone in baseball agreed with the Commissioner’s decision.
Some felt that the best course for baseball was to sit tight, to ride it out, to hope that over time interest would decline and the issue would fade away.
Some may still feel that way. But there must be fewer of them this year than there were last year.
It seems like a statement of a man frustrated and beaten, but reading through the transcript further shows that Mitchell is about to pull his trump card.
Mitchell hardly used veiled threats to try and get those that are, by the investigator’s perspective, stonewalling, to speak. “I believe it will be in your best interests, and the best interests of baseball, if I can report that I have received full cooperation from your organizations, and from others, in conducting this investigation,” Mitchell said. He then pulled out the trump card:
I don’t have subpoena power. Unlike the Congress, or other federal and state authorities, I cannot compel cooperation.
They can, and if they get involved they will.
I’ve served in the Senate and as a federal and a state prosecutor, and I can tell you from personal experience: if they get involved, they almost certainly will use their subpoena power and everyone will be forced to cooperate.
Placing an exclamation point on the matter he said:
But based on a review of recent history, and on many discussions I’ve had over the past several months, I believe that a report that is not credible and thorough will significantly increase the possibility of action by others, especially if it’s the result of a lack of cooperation by the Clubs, or by anyone who is or has been involved with Baseball.
And if that happens, for everyone involved the burdens, the risks, the time involved and the resources required will be much greater than they are now.
The inference is clear… the Report is the stick: do nothing, and when the report lands in Congress’ lap, they’ll come after you with the power of subpoena. Think about it… Mitchell has been a key player in the corridors of power in Washington, DC for decades. He’s dealt with brokering deals Ireland and in the Middle East. He knows how leverage when he has to. If his report becomes a scathing commentary on how both players and Clubs are refusing to cooperate, Congress will jump into action.
The larger question is, are we watching a Witch Hunt? Will ever be enough? Will this, along with the pressures on individuals such as Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, really keep baseball clean, and remove the stigma? In my opinion, it’s doubtful. The wheels are in motion, however. I suspect that regardless of how the Mitchell report turns out, some in Congress may not feel it’s enough, and consider using the power of subpoena. More arm twisting is on the horizon.