Innocent Till Proven Guilty – What a Concept!

mlblogoIt seems new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred believes in the model of the US justice system. In a recent interview with ESPN, Manfred gave his “advice” to Hall of Fame voters in an attempt to stop the holier-than-thou crusades that many of the baseball writers have undertaken. Good for him!

“The only piece of advice that I’m comfortable giving is that I think that everyone should keep in mind the difference between players who tested positive and were disciplined on the one hand, and players where somebody has surmised that they did something on the other. And I think, based on what you read in the media, sometimes those lines get blurred. And I think it gets really important to keep that distinction in mind,” Manfred said.

“I think it’s unfair,” he continued, “for people to surmise that Player A did X, Y or Z, absent a positive test, or proof that we produced in an investigation, or whatever. I just think it runs contrary to a very fundamental notion in our society, that you’re innocent until somebody proves you’re guilty.”

Perfect. Well… almost.

“I think you get to the point, on any individual player — I’m talking about just as a general proposition, not necessarily talking about Barry Bonds,” the commissioner said. “You get to a point where there’s a quantum of credible evidence out there that you can make a judgment that he did something.”

Manfred further clouded his first comments when he referenced the Mitchell report commissioned by Bud Selig. “I think the Mitchell report produced evidence of use,” Manfred said.

Whoa. The Mitchell report did no such thing. It was the equivalent of a witch hunt/McCarthy hearing. Granted, there was pretty solid evidence that some of the players mentioned did use PEDs. However, for others it was a case of “he said, he said,” with no hard evidence to prove anything. If, indeed, Mr. Manfred wants voters to use the innocent-until-proven-guilty philosophy when voting for the Hall, that would include some of the players on the Mitchell Report.

We know guys like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and Alex Rodriguez used PEDs. It is likely Barry Bonds did as well. Hell, he was convicted of perjuring himself on the subject. I am not certain Gary Sheffield did. One FedEx receipt does not a guilty man make. Roger Clemens has spent millions of dollars defending his reputation and has been successful. Granted, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence, but many a legal trial has found defendants not guilty because of a lack of hard evidence.

Hell, in this day of Internet character assassination, people would condemn Mother Teresa because she didn’t quite do enough to help the poor, Abraham Lincoln because he let the Civil War go on too long, and George Washington for losing too many battles during the Revolutionary War.  In my opinion, many of the Hall of Fame voters have joined in this kind of mob mentality when condemning players without the evidence to back it up.

While I applaud the concept of the commissioners comments, the longer the interview went on, the more he confused things. I think he should have stopped and changed the subject when he said, “I just think it runs contrary to a very fundamental notion in our society, that you’re innocent until somebody proves you’re guilty.”

Amen.