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Several things


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And so it is now clear this foul steroid business will smear baseball indefinitely. The media, having a field day, isn’t about to let it go. Congress, having nothing better to do, will be pleased to chew on it until the elections come and go. Every righteous gasbag in the culture will get his or her cuts before it’s over. It’s the stuff that keeps the high priests of ragtime, from Jay Leno to Dr. Phil, frolicking in tall cotton.

It will get worse in about a month when Jose Canseco, reveling in his role as the craven informer, starts peddling his next book. In the drumroll, Canseco is slipping sly hints that he has real bombs to drop this time. “He will name names and they will be huge,” his agent tells us. In New York, Alex Rodriguez -- believed to be one of his prime targets -- is already on high alert.

Amazingly, everyone in the business knows Canseco and his “literary” works are highly dubious. The fly-by-night publisher who gave us his first book backed away from the forthcoming work on the grounds that Jose’s facts were -- to put it mildly -- questionable. His intended ghost writer, a respected former Sports Illustrated staffer, also dropped out because he couldn’t swallow Jose’s story, didn’t believe his alleged proof, wouldn’t accept his proposed documentation, and chose not to further disgrace himself by associating with the project.

But if you worm your way far enough down the food chain you will eventually find someone willing to write anything for a buck and someone willing to publish it gleefully as long as sufficient publicity is guaranteed to sell many tens of thousands of books, no matter their veracity. The new writer is one of the star scribes of the National Inquirer; the same chap who ghosted that loathsome tale concocted by O.J. Simpson entitled, ‘‘If I did it.” Hey, I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up.

Around opening day, Canseco’s bombshell will explode and we in this business will happily run with its casual smears and flimsy allegations thus guaranteeing that the charlatans involved in this wretched business will have a huge payday. Meanwhile, more reputations will be ruined; some rightly, some wrongly. We will not care which.

It is a rotten business. So much about it has been alternately odious and bizarre. What could have compelled the ex-Jays’ and Yanks’ trainer McNamee to hang on to all that drug paraphernalia including used needles and syringes and dirty swatches of gauze? What ulterior motives did he harbor when he packed the stuff away in his treasure trove eight years ago? It doesn’t take too feverish an imagination to conjure fairly despicable possibilities. McNamee may have a case, but when he dragged the wives of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte into the dispute, he went too far. Have you no shame, sir?

Then there is his buddy, the ex-Mets’ trainer Radomski, who seems to have been the Doctor Strangelove of this fiasco. He was like Typhoid Mary spreading this disease around, yet the Feds -- in their wisdom -- let him walk on mere probation and shoot his mouth off all over the Republic, which he’s already begun to do. It’s more than a bit disgusting.

In this cast of lowlife, George Mitchell -- the ex-Senator, ex-majority leader, ex-judge, ex-ambassador, and quintessential VIP -- would not logically seem to have a place. But one remains terribly disappointed with his role in the mess because he, of all people, should have known better. His performance has tainted the process and compromised all of its conclusions and verdicts.

The question of why he and his law firm were granted the multi-million dollar deal to spearhead baseball’s investigation of the performance enhancement drug scandal just won’t go away. From the start, his critics -- and they include only the more able and enlightened baseball pundits -- have railed against his obvious conflicts of interest.

To wit: George Mitchell is a well-paid officer of the Red Sox. His law firm has a relationship with the Cubs. He’s done big-bucks service for the Disney Empire, owner of ESPN and a big-time player in the world of fun and games. He’s a good buddy of Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig who should be a defendant in the scandal, not the man directing its investigation and prosecution.

Now along comes Ken Davidoff, superb baseball columnist of Newsday, the respected Long Island daily. Davidoff, who really knows his stuff, offers yet another Mitchell conflict. Davidoff writes:

“Mitchell has financial ties to Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (and the committee handling the Congressional inquiry). The political action committees of both Disney and Mitchell’s law firm, DLA Piper, have contributed to Waxman’s tills. (Check out the Web site www.fec.gov for confirmation.) Now to be fair, in this instance Mitchell is doing the giving rather than the taking. Nevertheless, when you consider the glory and the money that Mitchell received for taking on this assignment, and that Waxman’s committee endorsed Selig’s selection of Mitchell, it’s all one big, dirty pool.”

It doesn’t look very good, does it? As the judge himself has often noted in these proceedings, “appearances” are at the heart of the matter; appearances having to do with fair play, ethics and honor, examples for the youth of America, etc., ad nauseam. Sorry, George, but you fail the “appearances” test. We had a right to expect more from a man with your stunning resume let alone one who was once so high on the short list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees and who probably would have landed there had fate given Bill Clinton one more choice.

Well, at least now we know why Waxman and his “colleagues” didn’t haul Mitchell before them to defend his highly controversial process and his widely disputed methods and the flawed result that flowed inevitably. May I suggest the Mitchell Report will eventually be deemed ‘‘infamous’’ if and when all the facts make it to the table and the entire melodrama is played out.

But then that, of course, is a mighty big ‘‘If.’’ Selig, Mitchell and Congress have their scapegoats, led by the luckless lug from Texas. They can close the books and easily convince themselves they’ve done their duty. And it may be mighty convenient for them to do so.

It’s now clear that the aforementioned “luckless lug” -- a.k.a. Roger Clemens -- gravely compounded his own miserable plight with his pig-headed stubbornness. It’s hard to conceive how he could have mangled his case more egregiously. His cowboy barrister from Amarillo hardly qualifies to sit on that cowtown’s zoning board given the clumsy way he’s led his client through this sorry mess. Together they’ve botched his chances for forgiveness, squandered the goodwill he might have commanded for being the victim of random justice, and condemned him to an eternity of baseball exile right alongside Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Is it not proper to feel a little bad for Clemens? Some of the more sanctimonious colleagues in my business say “no way.” They also happen to be the same blowhards who looked the other way for 20 years when these dudes were pumping up on the juice and beginning to look like Popeye the Sailor Man while smashing the record book madly. The vast majority of said “colleagues” were having too much fun to pause and ask the obvious question, “Hey, what’s going on here?”

Sorry, but from where I come from you must have a little sympathy for a poor fool who has fouled his own nest as the Rocket has. Moreover, it’s the mere luck of the draw that’s ruined him. There are about 900 other guys in the game who could be sitting in the same hot seat. Only, their trainers weren’t fingered by the Feds and handed over to Judge Mitchell on the proverbial silver platter. As usual, it’s all about luck.

What a helluva price Clemens is paying for having had the wrong trainer and for acts of vanity that were fairly commonplace in his business combined with acts of stupidity that were beyond his meager ability to control. Pride goeth before the fall. Once again! So, what else is new?

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