Monday, December 17, 2007

Time for Amnesty?

The Mitchell Report's reverberations are still rippling through baseball. Andy Pettite has 'fessed up (sort of). The Orioles wonder whatever happened to due process. And A-Rod went on "60 Minutes" to deny Jose Canseco's suggestion that baseball's greatest active player was juicing.

Congress is gearing up for hearings. George Mitchell himself admits his Hall of Shame is incomplete. He acknowledges the essential unfairness of naming some names, but obviously not all names. In Mitchell's words, "Anyone who has been named would like to see everyone else named, but that means you never get to the end of it."

Indeed. If baseball doesn't get this right, it risks descending into an athletic equivalent of the Inquisition or the Red Scare. Everybody's a suspect, everyone's a potential snitch. How's that for clubhouse harmony? Is that really what the fans want?

I'm going to go out on the limb here and suggest a way out: amnesty. Look, we all suspect what Mitchell tried to prove (but really didn't do). For a number of years, a lot of these guys were on something. At this point, do we really need a witch hunt?

What we need is closure, not punishment. Let's accept the fact that for a variety of reasons, a variety of people and institutions came up short. Let's end the climate of fear (and its close cousin, the code of silence) by issuing a blanket amnesty.

History can do what it wants with the reputations and statistics from the Steroid Years. For now, baseball needs to find ways to make sure those years end immediately. Toughen up testing and penalties. Tackle the "what goes on here, stays here" mentality of the clubhouse. And cut the Inquisition off at the pass with an amnesty program.

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