Thursday, March 30, 2006

Joni Mitchell To Head MLB Steroid Investigation

Reports surfaced Wednesday that Major League Baseball will conduct an investigation into past steroid use by players. Initial word indicated that George Mitchell, former majority leader of the U.S. Senate, would oversee this effort. However, those reports turned out to be erroneous. In fact, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell will head the investigation.

Mitchell’s appointment surprised most observers, who had assumed that someone from the legal or political community would be chosen. However, commissioner Bud Selig made his selection in response to calls for someone truly independent of Major League Baseball. Joni Mitchell has never played or served in the front office for a major league team. Her ties to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – the starting infield for the 1973 Texas Rangers – do not appear to present a conflict of interest.

San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams set the process in motion with their new book “Game of Shadows.” The authors allege that San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds used numerous performance-enhancing drugs during a five-year period beginning in 1998. The revelations further increased public skepticism about the legitimacy of home run records set by Mark McGwire in 1998 and Bonds in 2001. Bonds continued to deny the allegations against him, citing the outlandishness of the authors’ previous book, “The Bambino Code.” In that work, Fainuru-Wada and Williams claimed that Babe Ruth’s Hall of Fame plaque contains clues to secret societies and 2000 year-old conspiracies.

Bonds has never tested positive for performance-enhancing substances. However, the time period referenced in the book took place before Major League Baseball instituted a drug-testing policy. With public pressure mounting, Selig determined that an investigation into the years prior to 2003 was necessary. It will be difficult for the league to penalize anyone found to have used steroids prior to the institution of the policy. However, sources close to the commissioner indicated that any offenders would be rebuked with a stern “Dude, that’s uncool.”

Selig made a strong statement by selecting a prominent singer-songwriter from the 1960s and 70s to head the effort. Members of that group are known to be particularly harsh on illegal drug use. The commissioner apparently considered Bob Dylan, but due to the large media interaction involved, he opted for someone who can speak English. Mitchell is reportedly looking forward to the press conferences. After she answers questions from reporters, she will pull out her guitar and take song requests.

Ironically, sources claim that Bonds is a huge fan of Mitchell and privately cited her as a major influence on his steroid use. In “A Case of You,” Mitchell sings, “Oh but you are in my blood…You’re my holy wine…You’re so bitter, bitter and so sweet.” According to a former Giants teammate, Bonds recited these lyrics in the locker room while gazing lovingly at pharmaceutical bottles. The player added that Mitchell’s song title “Both Sides Now” was Barry’s response when asked which buttock in which he preferred to be injected.

Mitchell is sure to be outspoken, having recently referred to today’s music industry as a “cesspool.” That word could also be applied to the current environment around Barry Bonds. Not the steroid allegations - the National League West.