Sociologists and political scientists sometimes refer to the Military Industrial Complex as an 'iron triangle'. It refers to a cozy relationship
among the private sector weapons builders, the Pentagon bureaucrats and the Congress because each actor in this opera can move toward achieving goals
important to them by associating with the other two actors. Don't worry; this will not morph into some polarized political blog about defense policy
or anything like that. I merely bring this up because there is an 'iron triangle' that has been created by MLB.
Political commentators often say that politics makes for strange bedfellows. That line is appropriate here because the lynchpin in baseball's iron
triangle is a longtime and highly successful politician, former Senator George Mitchell. When Bud Selig named Mitchell to head up the investigation
into the baseball steroid mess, Selig forged the baseball iron triangle. Did he realize what he was doing at the time? I have no idea. But make no
mistake, the iron triangle is there; that means that any information that comes from any of the iron triangle's vertices needs to be viewed in
Here are the actors:
George Mitchell: He is clearly a man who left the political realm with his honor and integrity in a good state of repair. (Joe McCarthy, Dan
Rostenkowski and Tom DeLay should have been so lucky.) He is charged by the Commissioner of Baseball to conduct an unfettered and wide-ranging
investigation into the use of banned and illegal substances by the players since 2002. Mitchell is in a position to champion an agenda that is
favorable to a majority of baseball fans - the purity and the integrity of the records of the national pastime. (Cue Battle Hymn of the Republic in
the background, please.) Mitchell is also in a position to cast baseball in an unfavorable light if evidence is uncovered that would do so.
Barry Bonds: Make no mistake about it, George Mitchell's unfettered and wide-ranging investigation better not get too far off the track of trying to
determine what Barry Bonds has been doing chemically to his body. I'm not even hinting that there is any agenda anywhere to protect other players,
but even if the committee can produce video tapes of Joe Flabeetz jabbing himself in the butt with a syringe full of stuff clearly labeled as one of
the banned substances, that is not the sole focus of the investigators. Barry Bonds is under the microscope here; he'd probably like to say he's in
the crosshairs, but I think that's excessive. Simultaneously with being the focus of George Mitchell's investigation, Barry Bonds is providing weekly
programming to ESPN - presumably for a fee. In any event, ESPN is providing Bonds a forum to present himself to the public however he may want to do
that. And of course, ESPN has that contract with MLB to televise lots of their games...
The Walt Disney Company: I'm sure you know that Disney owns ESPN and so there is a connection right there, but it does not seem to come back on
itself and form a triangle - - until you realize that George Mitchell is the Chairman of the Board for The Walt Disney Company and has been so since
I'll leave the precise definition of 'fiduciary duty' to someone who has passed a bar exam. I'll just say that George Mitchell is not in a position
to do anything that will do damage to The Walt Disney Company. And for those who believe that all of these corporate ethical matters are nothing but
window dressing, let me refer you to The Walt Disney Company Notice of the 2006 Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement Page 43.
According to that document, George Mitchell owns or has voting authority over 25,423 shares of Disney stock and he has an additional 34,794 shares
of Disney stock coming to him via deferred compensation plans. At current prices, the totality of those shares represents an asset worth more than
$1.6M to George Mitchell. Indeed, he has a legal/ethical responsibility to The Walt Disney Company; and he also has an enlightened self-interest in
assuring that no financial harm comes to The Walt Disney Company.
So, how does he assure that his investigation does not damage major league baseball as a 'product' that ESPN (Disney) has paid for while
simultaneously conducting a wide-ranging and unfettered investigation?
So, how does he investigate Barry Bonds very specifically while Barry Bonds represents bought and paid for programming on ESPN (Disney) and while
Barry Bonds is a major figure and attraction within major league baseball which ESPN (Disney) telecasts?
Might it not be just slightly in Barry Bonds personal interest to go thorough an elaborate Kabuki theater performance with Mitchell to give the
appearance of openness and cooperation that both of them so desperately need?
As a long time politician, George Mitchell has become adept at such Kabuki performances. It will be interesting to see if Barry Bonds - and the
jamokes at ESPN covering baseball - can learn this art form quickly and on the fly (no play on words intended).
When I was a sophomore in college and was taking a required American literature course, Dr. Weales once told me that I had a particularly cynical view
of some character's behavior in some book or play; the details are lost in memory. I responded that I was not a cynic but a realist. Dr. Weales told
me to think about Mark Twain's observation that the only difference between a cynic and a realist is whether or not you agree with him. I may not
remember which character did what to spark that exchange, but I do remember Dr. Weales' exhortation. So, if you agree with me on this matter, I'm a
realist; if not, I'm a cynic. I really have no preference here.
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...