The “Mitchell Report,” representing twenty months of investigation, topped the news yesterday and may again today. No doubt the focus of most journalists and commentators will be on the particular players named, the veracity of the allegations, and the question of whether or how individuals might be punished for their use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Here at The Situationist, those are not our concerns. Instead, we prefer to underscore the report’s ultimate attribution of responsibility. As Mitchell himself put it in a news conference today: “Everybody in baseball – commissioners, club officials, the players’ association, players – shares responsibility. . . . I can’t be any clearer than that.”
And, given that the problem has situational causes, we agree with the Mitchell Report that baseball should focus on situational solutions: “Everyone involved in Major League Baseball should join in a well-planned, well-executed, and sustained effort to bring the era of steroids and human growth hormone to an end and to prevent its recurrence in some other form in the future.”
Our hope is that Mitchell’s situationist conclusions not be fully eclipsed by the dispositionist dramas that are about to unfold. On that front, we are discouraged by MLB.com’s decision to prominently feature a link entitled “List of players mentioned in Report.” It directs to a page that lays out the allegations against each named player, representing each allegation as a fact (much like is done in plaintiffs’ and defendants’ “statement of facts”). Last month, in a Sports Illustrated column, Situationist Michael McCann discussed that phenomenon arising:
Listing names may reveal another motivation: fans and media could be tempted to dwell on the individual failings of the named players rather than on the institutional failings of the league (and players’ association) to prevent a situation where some players were regularly tempted.
We’ll carefully follow whether the dispositionist or situationist story of steroids in baseball wins out.