It shouldn't be 'business as usual' for baseball

My grandson is — years old.

He just got a new bed for his room at home in Baltimore. The sheets are a collection of American League baseball logos. The bed features a Boston Red Sox pillow and the rug is a baseball diamond.

Sometimes, when he gets up in the morning, he runs the bases on his rug.

"I got a big boy's baseball bed, papa," he says.

His name is Liam. His formal name is William Dwyre Gaumont.

His father, Bob Gaumont, is a baseball fan. More specifically, a Red Sox fan. His best Christmas gifts are DVDs of Red Sox history. At 2 in the morning, any morning, he will watch Carlton Fisk gesturing his home run into fair territory. Or Billy Buckner looking through his legs and then into his empty first baseman's mitt.

Gaumont also was one of about a dozen lawyers who gathered the information and wrote the Mitchell Report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball that, last week, turned the sport on its ear.

Months ago, I was told that we no longer would be able to talk baseball, that he was working on the Mitchell Report and there would be no leaks. The implication was that, were anything to show up in the Los Angeles Times, the grandchildren might have an unemployed father.

My choice was easy. Try to get a jump on the story and be prepared to send checks for diapers and car seats.

Gaumont wouldn't leak. Not a wink, not a tidbit. He was the Great Wall of Baltimore. Still, there was my daughter, whom I had clothed and fed and educated. I suggested romantic dinners with lots of wine.

She called a few days later and said that there might be some amazing stuff coming down. I reached for my notebook and was informed that no information would be forthcoming from her, either.

It is conceivable that, with passage of time, her name will return to the will.

So last week, when former Sen. George Mitchell stepped to that podium, nobody knew a lot about what was coming. And when it did, nobody knew exactly how it would play out.

A week later, it is starting to become clear.

Certainly, nobody was naive enough to think this would be the end, that the Mitchell Report chased all the bad guys and that we are back to peanuts and Cracker Jack. The Mitchell Report named 86 players and probably could have named 286.

In America, it isn't cheating unless you get caught. And even if you are caught, you spin and rationalize and, as a last resort, apologize insincerely. Then, even if you are caught, you are enabled by officials who put winning and making money above integrity.

But the speed with which the significance of the report was merely shrugged off is frightening. And it happened right here in our backyard, folks.

Just days after the Mitchell Report named journeyman catcher Gary Bennett as one of the 86, the Dodgers signed him for next season and will pay him $825,000. Never has a team had such a wonderful opportunity to just say no.

Owner Frank McCourt wants to win and sell tickets, not necessarily in that order. General Manager Ned Colletti could have made a statement, and in a sense, he did. He said that it will be business as usual at Dodger Stadium, even if it is a little sleazy.

Which brings me back to Liam.

Even at 3, he has a good arm. With a football, or baseball, the weight moves from back to front perfectly. The ball zips much more than it should for that age. Father and grandfather see that and exchange glances. Could it be?

Maybe he'll run the bases someday in a place lots bigger than his bedroom. And maybe, by the time he is old enough to do that, nobody will even ponder what might be the real reason for his speed and strength.

Right now, the little boy who lives and sleeps baseball is dreaming a fraud.

Mitchell, and in part Liam's dad, have put the cards on the table. They have said that, in 15 years, when the tots with the baseball pillows and plastic bats graduate to spikes and Louisville Sluggers, the game of their dreams had better be clean or it will be dead by the hand of its own moral decay.

It is a crucial time.

The rest of baseball needs to reject the lead of McCourt and Colletti. Those who have signed a Mitchell Report player before the report became public might want to ponder doing their own investigations and, if necessary later for legal escape, using baseball's standard "conduct detrimental" clause.

There is much work ahead to prepare for the future Liams.

The future Liams have work to do too.

Right now, the focus is potty training.

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