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December 14, 2007 at 9:09 AM

The missing names

Some of the more disturbing fallout from the Mitchell Report, at least for me, isn’t what I’ve been hearing or reading from fauning media types still trying to “protect” the game of baseball. No, for me, some of the reactions of Mariners fans to the names contained in the report shows that its 409 pages fall woefully short.
I’m going to have to laugh if I hear one more time about how the Mariners were “robbed” in playoff series against the New York Yankees in 2000 and 2001. By the way, I covered both those series and the only one the Mariners had a remote chance in was in 2000. Yes, they lost that series because of the pivotal eight-inning, one-hitter tossed Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the ALCS at Safeco Field. Still my favorite pitching performance of all-time.
Yes, the validity of anything Clemens did, especially in 2000, has now been thrown into doubt. At least in my book. And it is true that there was a very Yankee-centric presence on the Mitchell Report’s name list, especially from the core of that 2000 team. But do Mariners fans really have a beef? Should they be jumping on to a moral high horse simply because the 12 Seattle-linked players in yesterday’s report were a bunch of no-name, no-game types?
If you believe that, then you probably also believe that the Mitchell Report was a conclusive document and that less than 2 percent of baseball players had any sort of involvement in performance enhancing drugs the past 15 years.
If not, if you really are a little less pie-in-the-sky, then listen up.
The Mitchell Report did not, in any way “exonerate” the Mariners, or any other team, from involvement in steroids.
Why then, were there so many Yankees on the list? Hmm, let’s see. Well, perhaps it’s the fact that the bulk of this report appears to have been generated by the sworn declarations of two people — Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee. Radomski was a clubhouse attendant for the New York Mets, while McNamee was a strength trainer with the Yankees. Want to talk about East Coast bias? Is it any mystery why New York players are seeing their names pop up so often in this report?
Start striking plea bargain deals with trainers, or suppliers, with Pacific Northwest backgrounds and you might come up with some different names. Jose Canseco, who, sorry to say, is looking more and more credible with each passing year, said yesterday that he was stunned not to see Alex Rodriguez mentioned in the report. Yes, that would be the same Rodriguez from that 2000 Mariners’ squad “robbed” by those needle-happy Yankees. Same guy Clemens sent face-planting in the dirt in the first inning of Game 4.
I’ll let Canseco and Rodriguez duke it out from here. Not my job to point fingers at people I have seen no evidence against. But I will also not go out of my way to proclaim the innocence of anybody based on what I read in the Mitchell Report.
Yes, there were many teams and players breathing huge sighs of relief yesterday. But that, I suspect, has little to do with innocence and plenty to do with the reality of not being caught.
The telling point, for me, about how this report amounts to little more than surface scratching, comes from the Latin American component. Talk to anyone in the game who knows anything about its drug problem and you will be pointed south of the border. It has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the reality that illegal steroids and other performance enhancers, like injectable testosterone, can be bought legally and over-the-counter in pharmacies and pet stores. I know this because I’ve gone down there and done it for reporting purposes. I’ve sent 17-year-old minors out to do it, again for reporting purposes.
Much easier to buy the drugs down there than up here. A little cheaper, too. Actually, a lot cheaper. The Mitchell Report touches on the Latin American aspect of steroids only fleetingly. It talks about the interception of a package containing the Winstrol steroid destined for Arizona Diamondbacks player Alex Cabrera and how a subsequent MLB investigation revealed that: “players with the El Paso Diablos, a minor league affiliate of the Diamondbacks, regularly crossed the border into Mexico to purchase steroids.”
It talked about Angel (Nao) Presinal, a trainer-to-the-major-league stars in the Dominican Republic and how he was questioned by Canadian customs agents in Toronto in 2001 after a bag on a Cleveland Indians charter flight was found to contain steroids and needles. Presinal claimed the bag belonged to slugger Juan Gonzalez, who in turn, pointed a finger a Presinal — his personal trainer. No charges were ever laid but Presinal was subsequently banned from major league clubhouses. He still regularly trains major leaguers in the Dominican Republic and the U.S. — including Jose Guillen, who nearly brought him up to Seattle with him before cancelling those plans at the last minute because of negative press fallout.
The report touched on how Miguel Tejada imported shots of vitamin B-12 from his native Dominican Republic. Rafael Palmeiro claimed that his positive steroids test came as the result of a spiked B-12 shot from a vial provided by Tejada.
The report also talked about a Montreal bullpen catcher, Luis Perez, who also worked for the Florida Marlins at one point and told investigators that he acquired steroids for eight different major leaguers. Perez also mentioned that major leaguers would routinely cross the border into Mexico to obtain steroids when they played in San Diego.
There is mention of Operation Raw Deal, a 2005 DEA initiative that intercepted steroids manufactured in Mexico.
Again, that’s all fine and good, but the report still just scratches the surface. While Mexico is an easy crossover point to buy anything illegal for U.S. residents, it isn’t supplying the vast numbers of pro ballplayers that the Dominican Republic and Venezuela do. I doubt that Mitchell stood in a Santo Domingo parking lot, as I did in 2005, and talked to a steroid supplier to U.S. minor leaguers whose cousin happened to be — and still is — a major league relief pitcher. Talk about a hot drug connection, for both the players and the dealer!
No, you won’t find stuff like this covered too extensively in the Mitchell Report. And that’s why I find laughable proclamations like the one where Bud Selig says the game needs to move forward. Forward? This report barely touches on the game’s past. The work of primarily two witnesses has fingered, to varying degrees, up to 90 players. How many players would be named by, let’s say, a dozen co-operative witnesses?
Just as importantly, as I’ve mentioned, the “supply line” of performance enhancing drugs through multiple countries is barely mentioned.
Hey, the report is better than nothing. It’s gone further than any other printed document at providing names and some historical context to what went on in baseball throughout the 1990s and up to the present.
But get this straight: it hasn’t given Mariners fans the right to be smug. Or even relieved.
If anything, it almost begs folks with a little more initiative, time and resources — be they the media, law enforcement or the federal government — to want to dig deeper.

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