What It Means

With a few days behind us to collectively absorb the “shock” of the Mitchell Report, and as we wait for more of the denials ranging from total outrage to forced attrition to lawyer-issued statements worded just a little too carefully, it’s time to look at another question facing us as fans, as consumers, and as logical human beings:

Not now what, but so what?

Are all 88 named players going to be kicked out of the league? No. Are owners and GM’s across the board going to be stripped of their franchises for supporting such reckless use of steroids and HGH? No. Are the collective members of the Baseball Writers Association of America going to force Chuck Knoblauch, Mo Vaughn and Roger Clemens to give back their hardware? No.

Do these 88 players even represent a large fraction of the entire population of users? Most likely not: keep in mind this was essentially the trail found from only two trainers/suppliers. If two trainers lead to that many players, how many would four lead to? Six trainers? Ten?

The last post on this site talked about how lame this whole report was going to be. Now that the novelty of players being officially outed has worn off, it seems that assertion was correct. Do we undo every time at-bat where Clemens was pitching? What if he was pitching to a juicer? Is baseball going to go back and systematically re-simulate each game involving a known, proven, suspected or alleged user? Does anyone realize how complicated, useless and boring all of that sounds?

To put this in perspective, let’s take a more recent and relevant example. On August 14, 2007, the Sox played the Oakland A’s in what has since been known to readers of this site as the “Shank or Be Shanked” game. Oakland won that night on the backs of two solo shots by Oakland RF Jack Cust, both hit off of former Sox RHP Jon Garland. This same Jack Cust, as you may or may not have seen, was named on page 159 of the Mitchell Report:

At the beginning of the 2003 season, Cust and Larry Bigbie were both playing for Baltimore’s class AAA affiliate in Ottawa. Bigbie’s locker was next to Cust’s. Cust eventually asked Bigbie if he had ever tried steroids. Bigbie acknowledged he had, and Cust said that he, too, had tried steroids. Cust told Bigbie that he had a source who could procure anything he wanted, but Bigbie informed him he already had a friend who could supply him.

In order to provide Cust with information about these allegations and to give him an opportunity to respond, I asked him to meet with me; he declined.

If Cust’s achievements are stricken from the official record, then the final score of that game is actually Sox 3, A’s 2.

Taken by itself, this means nothing. The Sox bullpen still kept them out of contention, the offense was still non-existent, the starters were often times shaky.

But it’s important to remember that literally hundreds, maybe thousands of Jack Cust’s have come and gone through Major League Baseball through this so-called Steroid Era. If there’s no way to measure of undo the impact one player’s juicing may or may not have had on one game, how can anyone possibly say there’s a way to measure what it did to the entire game?