Some of you might have woken up this morning and seen a purported copy of “The List” filtered into your inbox or at one of your favorite baseball discussion forums, the supposed Who’s Who, leaked in advance of the Mitchell Commission report, of just who did which drugs and when. What was remarkable about this list — which I am not about to provide a link to here — is that it appeared to give voice to everyone’s most vile suspicions about the Steroids Era. It was full of players who were guilty of one of two apparent crimes against baseball’s integrity: either being an all-around asshole (Carl Everett), or simply performing better than anyone had expected him to (Albert Pujols).
Well, finally, the real Mitchell Commission report is out. And the reality does not match the perception, nor the fabrication that was “The List”. Yes, there are some big names in the actual Mitchell Commission report, the ones that you’ll bandied about on SportsCenter over the course of the next week. But for the most part? It’s what would appear to be a random sampling of baseball’s population. It’s guys like Roger Clemens — and Jason Christiansen. It’s Miguel Tejada — and Mike Lansing. It’s Jason Giambi — and Jeremy Giambi. If anything, in fact, the list appears to have a tilt toward marginal players rather than stars, something which might have been predicted based on both the circumstantial statistical evidence, and the underlying incentives behind steroid usage: it’s the guys who are trying to become millionaires — not those who are millionaires already –who have the most reason to cheat.
This is not to diminish the importance of the PED problem in baseball. But, after frankly dreading the release of this report and its prospective impact on the game for several weeks now, I’m glad that we have an apparently well documented and well balanced account of the problem. The real list of players included in the Mitchell Commission report is not ironclad: the evidence is broad in some cases, and thinner in others; some players are mentioned in passing, rather than actually being the subject of any direct evidence of PED use.
But however the names in this list come to be vetted and analyzed and parsed through over the course of the next several weeks, a couple things are certain. Number one, it’s much harder to guess at just who is a steroid user than you might think. And number two, we aren’t doing ourselves any good when we make accusations on the basis of overactive imaginations, rather than the actual evidence.