December 14, 2007
Baseball's Partial Accounting
The steroid investigation is a good first step only.
You can find all sorts of summaries of the baseball steroid scandal, but one commentary on it is worth commenting on. It is by Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune entitled "Some of us still are here to talk about past."
Morrissey got it basically right. George Mitchell, the head of the investigation, said, "A principal goal of this investigation is to bring to a close this troubling chapter in baseball's history and to use the lessons learned from the past to prevent the future use of some substances. While that requires us to look back, as this report necessarily does, all efforts should now be directed to the future."
Morrissey replies, "Some of us would like to linger awhile at the scene of the crime."
His instincts are good. We cannot fathom who we are today or what we are to become without an understanding of our past. We live in an age that wants to move forward, get on with solutions. But there is no forward without looking back.
But I wonder if Morrissey goes far enough. He finally agrees with Mitchell: "It does no good to punish players now for past sins."
I'm not sure, first, if there are any other types of sins but past sins. And if there are no consequences, well, what's to prevent another scandal in the future?
Second, I not sure we can ever "put this all behind us" without various people actually stepping forward, acknowledging their wrongdoing or negligence, and apologizing. The shorthand term is "repentence," but it's a notion that goes unmentioned in any of the accounts I've read so far.
And while Morrissey is quick to point the finger elsewhere--quoting Mitchell, who said that "commissioners, club officials, the players association, the players" all shared responsibility--nowhere in the column is there a clear indication of the role the sports media played in the cover-up.
Only a full accounting, including a few personal apologies and some substantive consequences, is really going to bring healing and hope to baseball. Mitchell is a bit confused about what an investigation can do. It can bring problems to light. But it is not something that by itself can "bring closure." A partial accounting, without repentance or consequences, will simply leave an open, sore wound for decades to come.
That being said, it is nonetheless a healthy sign that major league baseball has done as much as it has. Better late and partial than never.