Expertise's Politics and Sports Blog

Thursday, March 10, 2005
Congress subpoenas baseball stars.

If you haven't heard, The House Committee on Government Reform is ready to issue subpoenas on several baseball stars and MLB personnel to appear at a hearing on steroid use in baseball on March 17.

The Committee claims the new policies that Major League Baseball has put in effect this season may not be enough, and has called these guys to appear:

- Mark McGwire
- Jason Giambi
- Curt Schilling
- Jose Canseco
- Rafael Palmeiro
- Sammy Sosa
- Frank Thomas

and also Donald Fehr, the head of the MLB Players Association, MLB Executive VPs Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson, and San Diego Padres General Manager Kevin Towers.

Just looking at this whole scene on the face of it alone shows that this is a waste of time.  Congress has no legitimate justification for meddling in the affairs of Major League Baseball to begin with. 

They claim their aim, as Reps. Tom Davis and Henry Waxman said in a statement released Wednesday, is to "better understand the steps MLB is taking to get a handle on the steroid issue, and whether news of those steps -- and the public health danger posed by steroid use -- is reaching America's youth.''

And Rep. Cliff Sterns said this:

``We're trying to get to the bottom of the steroid problem...Are they being used in high school? Are they being used in college? Are they being used in professional sports? And what are we doing do stop this, because it is a felony? What is the baseball commissioner doing?''

The problem is, there's no evidence that this is a widespread problem, or there's any major trafficking in any of these areas.  Congress is going off of hearsay; lot of which hasn't been verified as fact.  On top of that, there's already a federal grand jury investigation that has had several players testify already, so not only is Congress spinning wheels, but they could be obstructing the investigation.  And they already know what the baseball commissioner is doing.  Why didn't they simply subpoena Bud Selig if that's what they wanted to know?

Of course, none of that really matters because Congress's default explanation for having any kind of hearing is because they're Congress and they can do what they want.  MLB can fight those subpoenas  - and they should - but those players will be forced to come to Washington "in the public's interest".

Congress knows none of the players they subpoenaed probably wouldn't be able to point to a group or an individual that supplies a considerable number of athletes, whether they're professional, college, or in high school.  Even if they could, they won't because they'd immediately plead the fifth, as that information could be used against them in, say, that federal grand jury investigation. 

Dan Patrick even interviewed former Democratic Presidential Candidate (yea right) Dennis Kucinich Wednesday, who said it's necessary that the hearings don't turn into a witch hunt.  But it's almost guaranteed to turn into one, as they will try to press these guys on what they know about steroid use in their locker rooms and whether they've been approached by anyone.  That sure sounds like a witch hunt to me.  They definitely didn't subpoena Jose Canseco to get his expert opinion of the new steroid policies.

Some of these guys, like Curt Schilling and Frank Thomas, have not been accused of steroid use and have been calling for MLB's cleanup for years.  What's the purpose of sending them to Washington?  Does Congress expect them to give testimony as to who was doing what and even what they overheard?  Do they actually believe Schilling and Thomas will rat out their teammates?  Give me a break.

To show this hearing is definitely a fraud is the fact that they didn't subpoena Barry Bonds, who is probably the highest profiled athlete connected to the steroid scandal.  They didn't want Bonds because they know he doesn't mind telling the politicians on that committee what he thinks of them.  If you think he was pissed off at the media at the press conference on March 1st, imagine how he'd feel if Congress forced him to fly cross-country to testify in some sham hearings.  It would be a circus, and that if his lawyer didn't force him to plead the fifth in every other breath.

Instead of wasting time on baseball's steroid issue, why don't Waxman, Davis, and the rest of the committee live true to it's name and reform government?  I'm sure the American people would appreciate that a little more than their elected representatives wasting time and taxpayers money dwelling on an issue that they can't solve and have no business getting into in the first place.

Never mind.  As the old folks would say, that would be too much like right.

Posted at 04:28 am by Expertise



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