If you wondered whether the Mitchell Report cleaned up steroids in baseball, as long as you see Major League Baseball (MLB) running the World Baseball Classic (WBC), you can safely say that the answer is: No.
As I pointed out in my blog piece on MAJOR BLOGS this earlier this week, MLB has tried every way it can think of to admit its athletes to the Olympics without having to submit to international anti-doping standards. It got baseball kicked out of the Olympics for 2012 in London, and, while MLB is re-applying in 2016, they are in line behind a whole range of other sports vying for the exhibition status slots. Right now, as pissed off as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is with MLB, championship tiddlywinks stands a better chance of making the list than baseball.
In an interview that Chris Hadorn did with Richard Pound, former IOC anti-doping chief right after the Mitchell Report came out, he made clear that MLB was not taking its anti-doping policy seriously enough to be considered for Olympic inclusion.
What does that have to do with the WBC? Plenty. If you can't get into the Games, why not have your own?
The answers in the resounding "NO" category are many.
First and foremost, it stands, along with A-Rod's admission of being dirty, as a continuing indictment of every athlete in MLB, juicing or not. Just as there are many banks that don't have a home loan crisis, but get tarred with the brush of the Citis and the BofAs, every athlete in Major League Baseball is, unfortunately, guilty by association because both the owners and the PA are hiding the cheaters and protecting them. It may be good for business to keep juiced players banging bombs for the new MLB Network, but it is rapidly becoming as much artificial theater as Triple-H taking on Randy Orton. Is there a huge difference between a scripted event and turning an athlete with skills and juice loose on a record that they could never hope to hit without the juice keeping them stronger and less injured?
The WBC is a band-aid on that image. It says we can play in the world community, but only under our terms, which, everyone knows, includes our unwillingness to clean up our steroids act enough to participate fairly.
Beyond that, the damage that the WBC does to the Spring Training schedules is still profound. Scouts and writers have to catch up with players at WBC events. They don't see them in enough proximity to anyone potentially vying for a job, as many WBC players are minor leaguers, so it makes much harder to assess. They don't play with their clubs, or their level of minor league play, so both integrating them with the club and assessing depth charts takes a hit in any year this dog-and-pony show rolls out.
It is not much of a world competition, either. Most of the athletes are either out-of-season overseas, or are barely getting their spring workouts done in the case of MLB/MiLB players.
If MLB really wants to make baseball a world sport, have a real world games. Turn the World Series into, well, a world series. Like the America's Cup, it will take a long time before other nations are taking us down. It would have relevance because our best team, winner of the current World Series, would go on to face the other teams for another week of play. You could argue that is a long season, but by then, most of the other countries would have run a similar schedule of games and be equally beat-up. The MLB season needs a five or ten game haircut anyway, and the pool revenue from the world event would make up for the loss of a few ground games in the dog days of August when clubs like the Marlins and the Brewers pass out endangered species shirts to fans drifting through the swealtering turnstiles.
While an end-of-season WBC is not going to resolve the problems of steroids in baseball, it might lift the whole thing out of the showcase mode. Showcases have not been a positive exercise for MLB's image.
MLB has done some regrettable things with spring "events" to bring in more fans. The first WBC was a mess. The Civil Rights Game is likewise another excercise in bad PR. MLB does a lot now to improve opportunties for kids to enter baseball academies geared towards bringing more African-Americans to the game. Touting a game that pits the different academies against each other would be far better showcase of what MLB does than rounding up every black veteran and the better current players for a made-for-TV mea-culpa for the many years that they have let other sports steal audience share from that segment of the American population.
My shiny two.