Brewers fully support Mitchell Report
Eleven with Milwaukee ties named in drug use investigation
MILWAUKEE -- On Monday, the Brewers put free agent reliever Eric Gagne through a meticulous physical examination and finalized a one-year contract that guarantees Gagne $10 million in 2008 and could pay $1 million more in performance bonuses.
About 72 hours later, Gagne was among 11 current and former players with big league ties to the Brewers named in former Sen. George Mitchell's report investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. The document was released at 1 p.m. CT on Thursday.
Both in an afternoon interview with MLB.com and in a statement released by the team, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he was "disappointed" to see Gagne's name in the report. According to the report, during Gagne's time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the right-hander purchased two shipments of human growth hormone from a former Mets clubhouse employee, at least one of which was delivered to Gagne at Dodger Stadium in August 2004.
"We told ourselves that there is a chance [that] any player we sign or any player we trade for could be on the report," Melvin said. "With the timing of the report coming out now, we just had to move forward, the same as other clubs did with the signing of players.
MLB.com left a telephone message for Gagne seeking comment.
Derrick Turnbow was the only other current Brewers player named in the report, but only in relation to Turnbow's prior and well-publicized positive test for a performance-enhancing substance during a tryout with the U.S. Olympic baseball team in October 2003.
The nine former Brewers named in the report included right-hander Ricky Bones, Milwaukee's 1994 club MVP and 1995 and 1996 Opening Day starter, and popular infielder Fernando Vina, who played five of his 12 Major League seasons with Milwaukee from 1995-1999. Also mentioned for ties to performance-enhancers were pitchers Darren Holmes, Josias Manzanillo, Ron Villone and Steve Woodard, infielders David Bell and Gary Sheffield and catcher Gary Bennett.
The report included some extensive details relating to drug use in baseball, but in none of the cases spelled out by Mitchell did a player allegedly acquire or test positive for a performance-enhancing substance while with the Brewers.
"The Milwaukee Brewers support the process that has led to the issuance of this report and thank Senator Mitchell for leading the effort," Melvin added. "The Brewers fully support any and all efforts to eliminate the use of performance-enhancing substances from all professional sports as we believe it is critical to the success of the industry."
In some cases, including those of Bones and Vina, the events detailed by Mitchell happened several years after the end of the players' tenure in Milwaukee. In the cases of Holmes and Sheffield, more than a decade had passed. Former Brewers, Tigers and Astros manager Phil Garner did tell Mitchell's investigators that he knew of one player who used steroids while playing for him, but Garner declined to name the player because it was more than five years prior. Garner managed in Milwaukee from 1992-1999 and in Detroit from 2000-2002.
Sen. Mitchell urged Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to forgo discipline for players named in the report for past offenses, but Selig called the report "a call to action," and promised, "I will act."
"I will deal with the active players identified by Senator Mitchell as users of performance-enhancing substances," Selig said. "Discipline of players and others identified in the report will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If warranted, those decisions will be made swiftly and I, of course, will give thorough consideration to Senator Mitchell's views on the subject."
The Brewers will be understandably interested to hear Selig's decision as it relates to Gagne, who is expected to begin the season as Milwaukee's closer. Gagne will join starter Ben Sheets as the only players in club history to earn an eight-figure single-season salary (another pitcher, Jeff Suppan, will join that group beginning in 2009 under the teams of a four-year deal he inked last winter).
The Brewers will move forward and do not plan to investigate Gagne further, Melvin said. The club will not impose any discipline of its own.
"We'll leave that up to the Commissioner," Melvin said. "That's [Selig's] call. He will look at each one individually, and whatever he decides upon, we would support."
Attempts to reach Turnbow on Thursday were not successful. Messages also were left with Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano and infielder Craig Counsell, both prominent members of the MLB Players Association.
According to the Mitchell report, using former Dodgers teammate Paul Lo Duca as an intermediary, Gagne received two shipments of human growth hormone between 1999 and 2004 from former New York Mets clubhouse employee Kirk Radomski, who pleaded guilty in April to federal charges of distributing steroids and money laundering.
"Although he is not sure when, Radomski recalled that Lo Duca called Radomski and told Radomski that Gagne was with him and wanted to buy human growth hormone," the report stated. "Gagne then came onto the phone and asked Radomski a question about how to get air out of a syringe. This is the only time Radomski spoke to Gagne. Radomski said that Lo Duca thereafter placed orders on Gagne's behalf.
"Radomski said that he mailed two shipments to Gagne, each consisting of two kits of human growth hormone. One was sent to Gagne's home in Florida; the other was sent to Dodger Stadium."
A copy of a US Postal Service shipping receipt was included in the appendix of Mitchell's report, addressed to Gagne, care of the Dodgers clubhouse, with "K. Radomski" as the sender.
Gagne, like almost all of the current players contacted by Mitchell, declined to be interviewed as part of his investigation. As recently as February 2007, Gagne denied using steroids, and said he resented hearing his name amid rumors.
"It surprised me [to hear that]," Gagne told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. "I guess everybody is a target now. It's a shame that it came down to that."
Gagne went 11-14 as a Dodgers starter from 1999-2001 before emerging as the game's best closer from 2002-2004, converting 152 of 158 save opportunities, including a record stretch of 84 straight. He made three All-Star teams and won the 2003 National League Cy Young Award. But since the end of 2004, he has been dogged by elbow and back injuries and has undergone three surgeries.
The Mitchell Report also stated that the Boston Red Sox wondered about Gagne's training habits in November 2006, when the team was considering signing Gagne as a free agent. Via e-mail, the report states, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein asked scout Marc DelPiano, "Have you done any digging on Gagne? I know the Dodgers think he was a steroid guy. Maybe so. What do you hear on his medical?"
According to the report, DelPiano responded that he had done "some digging on Gagne and steroids IS the issue. Has had a checkered medical past throughout career including minor leagues. Lacks the poise and commitment to stay healthy, maintain body and reinvent self. What made him a tenacious closer was the max effort plus stuff. ... Mentality without the plus weapons and without steroid help probably creates a large risk in bounce back durability and ability to throw average while allowing the changeup to play as it once did. ... Personally, durability [or lack of] will follow Gagne."
A year and a half later, in July 2007, Epstein and the Red Sox did acquire Gagne in a trade with the Rangers. The Brewers were the runner-up in those trade talks, Melvin said at the time.
Users of human growth hormone risk cancer, harm to their reproductive health, cardiac and thyroid problems, and overgrowth of bone and connective tissue, the Mitchell Report said. HGH was not added to the list of banned substances under the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program until January 2005, at least five months after the alleged shipment to Gagne for which Radomski produced a receipt. But Mitchell writes that, "Beginning in 1971 and continuing today, Major League Baseball's drug policy has prohibited the use of any prescription medication without a valid prescription."
Not mentioned in the Mitchell Report was Brewers reliever Guillermo Mota, who was suspended 50 games at the start of the 2007 season for violating MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006. Mota, who was with the Mets at the time, took responsibility for the incident, apologized and served his suspension. The Brewers acquired him in a trade with the Mets last month for catcher Johnny Estrada.
Also missing was former Brewers outfielder Alex Sanchez, who played parts of three seasons with Milwaukee from 2001-2003 and later became the first Major Leaguer suspended under the newly strengthened program in April 2005. By that time, Sanchez was with Tampa Bay.
Two Brewers Minor Leaguers -- pitcher Nik Slack and catcher Angel Salome -- have been suspended in recent seasons after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Salome's 50-game suspension will stretch into the 2008 season.
Several high-profile, superstar-caliber players were among those named in the Mitchell Report, the product of a 21-month, multimillion dollar investigation that could shape decisions, prompt punitive actions against active players and usher in the next era of the sport.
Free agent Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, Miguel Tejada of the Houston Astros and Lo Duca of the Washington Nationals were among the most prominent former and current All-Stars to be mentioned in the lengthy report, which spans 311 pages, plus multiple exhibits, including evidence of signed checks, handwritten notes and shipping receipts.
While the report detailed drug use in baseball by naming those accused, the report also contained 20 separate recommendations for the sport to move forward from this point, proceeding after a culture of steroids and performance enhancement grew exponentially in the late 1990s.
Mitchell's report named both Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association in assigning blame, charging leadership -- from the Commissioner to club owners and general managers -- for allowing the issue to proliferate.
Melvin agreed that the report was necessary.
"It was needed, obviously," Melvin said. "We're committed to eliminating the use of enhancing substances from baseball. I think all sports are. We support Mitchell's report. ... Senator Mitchell said his intent was not to look into names, the intent was to put in recommendations for a system that works so baseball doesn't go through this again. That's what it's about. All 30 teams had players on that list -- every team in baseball."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.