The Mitchell Report, the Red Sox and Conflicts of Interest:

As a Boston Red Sox fan, I can't help but notice the large number of New York Yankees stars named as steroids or human growth hormone users in today's Mitchell Report on the use of banned substances in major league baseball (see here for a handy list of players named in the report). In addition to Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield - whose likely steroids use had been disclosed previously as a result of the Balco investigation - the Report also accuses Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, and Chuck Knoblauch of using banned substances at a time when they were major contributors to Yankees championship teams. Several lesser but still notable Yankees players are also listed, such as Mike Stanton (a key middle reliever on the 2001 pennant winning team), and David Justice. A few Red Sox players are also listed. But all are fringe players, with the exception of Mo Vaughn, a big star with the Red Sox in the 1990s. And even Vaughn is only mentioned as having used banned substances in 2001, several years after he had left the Sox. Clemens, of course, also played for the Red Sox for many years. But he, like Vaughn, is only accused of having used banned substances after he left the team (in Clemens' case during his stints with the Toronto Blue Jays and Yankees in 1997-2003).

Unfortunately, the prominence of Yankees stars in the Report and the near-absence of Red Sox stars raises the question of whether Senator George Mitchell, the Report's primary author, was compromised by his status as a Boston Red Sox director. Was he deliberately targeting Yankees players and/or purposely overlooking offenses by Red Sox?

Although I may be influenced by my own pro-Red Sox biases, I think it is unlikely that Mitchell was out to get the Yankees or covering up for the Red Sox. Since leaving the Senate, Mitchell has made a career of serving as an elder statesman/conflict mediator from Northern Ireland to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I highly doubt that Mitchell would be willing to risk that reputation - to say nothing of his lucrative consulting business - just to help out the Red Sox or stick it to the Yankees. Even if Mitchell were indeed willing to fall on his sword for the Sox, an experienced politician like the former Senator surely knows that any attempt at an anti-Yankees witch hunt or pro-Red Sox coverup would probably leak to the press. The resulting scandal would be extremely damaging to both Mitchell and the Red Sox. Finally, any witch hunt or coverup would have had to involve numerous staffers and investigators, as well as Mitchell himself. I don't see why these people would be willing to risk their own careers and reputations just to help Mitchell do a good turn for the Red Sox.

That said, it was a mistake for baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to appoint Mitchell to head this inquiry. Even if there wasn't any bias in Mitchell's investigation, there was certainly a conflict of interest - a conflict exacerbated by the longstanding Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and the prominence of Yankees players among those accused of steroids use. Surely Selig could have found some other elder statesman to take on this job, one with no affiliations with any major league team.