Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Strike 3, you're outta there!

I'm sorry but doesn't Congress have more important things to do? You know like pass laws and get the budget passed to keep the government running? Why are they screwing around with baseball?

I don't give a rat's ass if the players want to get all juiced up and die younger. Is it against the law? It may be against the rules now so why is Congress involved other than to get themselves in the news and on TV?


Congress's Wild Pitch on Steroids

On Tuesday the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, one of the most powerful investigative bodies in Congress, is to hear testimony from former Senator George Mitchell, the author of the report that linked some 90 players to the possible possession or use of performance enhancing drugs. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Donald Fehr will join Mitchell at the hearing, in which Congress will pressure the executives to implement the report's recommendations, which include a truly independent drug testing program, and more frequent year-round, unannounced tests (Selig has already acted on a few of them; for example, last week he set up a department of investigations to probe allegations of illegal drug use).

Calling Selig and Fehr back does makes some sense. In 2005, in the face of skepticism about its motives, Congress effectively used its bully pulpit to embarrass baseball into strengthening its steroid penalties and testing procedures. Now Congress has a right to seek closure, to again goad baseball into accepting the recommendations. But the suits are just a prelude to the main event, a potential circus which doesn't seem to serve any real purpose.

On February 13, three players named in the report — former New York Yankee teammates Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Chuck Knoblauch — plus two key sources for Mitchell, ex-New York Mets clubhouse employee Kirk Radomski and personal trainer Brian McNamee, are scheduled to testify before the House committee. This round of testimony was originally scheduled for Jan. 16, but the committee pushed it back to give Congress more time to prepare by, among other things, deposing the players under oath (feverish negotiations are already underway between the players' attorneys and Washington to figure out exactly how that will go).

This hearing, which offers more prurient interest and photo opps than the Mitchell/Selig/Fehr testimony, basically pits Clemens against McNamee, his ex-friend and personal trainer. Clemens has angrily denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, while McNamee told Mitchell that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone on at least 16 occasions from 1998 to 2001. Clemens, regarded as perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time, has unleashed a high-profile assault to clear his name — a 60 Minutes interview, a seething press conference, even a defamation suit against McNamee. But to this point, the trainer has stuck by his story. So Congress is mediating a classic he said/she said dispute among old friends (on national television, of course). Many baseball fans wonder, with the anticipation usually reserved for a playoff game, if anyone will crack under oath.

But the right question to ask is, why is Congress playing this game at all? Should a crucial investigative arm of Congress, a body that has done admirable work probing the response to Hurricane Katrina, the actions of controverial security contractor Blackwater U.S.A, and corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, among other important issues, care about Roger Clemens? Doesn't it have better things to do with its time?