Since former Senator George Mitchell launched his investigation into baseball's steroid past 18 months ago, the big questions have been whether the final report would name names, and how many names would be named, and how important the names would be.
Some officials came away from a 30-team Major League Baseball conference call held mid-day Friday with the understanding that the forthcoming Mitchell report would include many names; names which have so far not been disclosed publicly; and the names of well-known players.
According to those familiar with the conference call, Tom Carlucci, a lawyer for MLB, told the team representatives on the conference call that the report is going to be "salacious."
Said one source familiar with what was said on the conference call, "This is going to be enormous ... it's going to be a huge story when these names come out."
Carlucci, part of the San Francisco-based firm of Foley and Lardner, indicated on the call, according to sources, that the report would come down sometime between the conclusion of the World Series and the beginning of the new year.
MLB vice president Rob Manfred downplayed the significance of what was said on the call, saying that Carlucci is not even in a position to know specifically what has been generated by the Mitchell investigation. What Carlucci told the clubs, Manfred said, was that for their planning purposes, they should assume that the number of players who will be named will be "more than a handful."
"No one except Senator Mitchell's people know for sure whether there's going to be names named and how many names are involved and who those names are," Manfred said.
Mitchell issued a statement that did not go into specifics.
"The investigation has not been completed, and no decisions
have been made about any aspect of the report," he said.
There were questions from club officials about whether individual teams would be given an opportunity to review the report for accuracy, according to sources, and the response was that teams will probably not be allowed to respond to the Mitchell report before its release.
Don Fehr, the executive director of the Players Association, said that he had no idea what was said on the conference call, but added, "It is my understanding that no such decisions have been made, of written conclusions, or anything like that... There's only one person who knows the answers to that."
Fehr was referring, of course, to George Mitchell.
There has been great concern among some agents, players and management officials about the implications of guilt that will be attached to any name contained within the report. They also have questions about the standards of proof the Mitchell investigators will apply before a player's name is included in the report.
The consensus among them is that Mitchell and his investigators are in a position to broadly define those standards for themselves.
"If Senator Mitchell has a list of players who were on the mailing list of a pharmaceutical company," said one agent, "I don't know what can stop him from putting that in his report."
Commissioner Bud Selig, meanwhile, said he wasn't worried about Mitchell's findings.
"None of us know what's in that thing," Selig said at the NL
championship series in Phoenix. "There's nothing to be afraid of.
Whatever comes out comes out. I have no concern."
Albany County District Attorney David Soares, whose own investigation aimed to shut down a major supply line of illegal prescription drugs and "was never about cleaning up sports," has met with representatives from the Mitchell Commission.
The New York Times reported last month that the names of 10 more baseball players turned up on a list of clients at the Florida pharmacy at the center of Soares' investigation into illegal steroid sales.
Heather Orth, a spokeswoman for Soares, said Thursday she was not sure exactly what information had been turned over to Major League Baseball but said the DA's office has not given the league a list of players.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.