Here are key questions to be answered by the Mitchell report, as it is released Thursday (and some of the questions are rather self-explanatory):
Will it include the names of superstar players who have not yet been named in connection with steroids?
Some folks on the union side have been hinting that the Mitchell investigators requested the company of big-time stars as they looked into allegations of performance-enhancing drugs. "Landscape-changing names," said one agent. "Names that will change the way we look at the sport."
It is unclear whether these players were merely asked as a formality or if, in fact, the investigators had some evidence that they wanted to present to the players for a response. The reason for the intrigue is not just to satisfy our gossipy curiosity: As we have seen with Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, legacies -- and Hall of Fame candidacies -- can be devastated when a player is tied to the steroids mess. Based on early reports by ESPN, at least Roger Clemens' name will appear in the report.
Who will George Mitchell blame?
It's almost a given, within baseball circles, that within the pages of the report, Mitchell will generally hammer the players who took steroids and the union leadership. What executives and medical personnel and folks on the union side are wondering is: Who else will get knocked around by the words in the report?
Will Mitchell criticize the general managers? The managers? Coaches? The doctors? The team trainers?
If he does, it is all but guaranteed that many will respond anonymously in media reports -- though some may be moved to reply on the record. There is great fear and anger among these folks about what will be in the report, because many felt they were asked to speculate in their interviews with investigators rather than provide hard information.
And will Mitchell criticize the owners and commissioner Bud Selig?
If not, this will lead to much criticism from columnists and TV/radio types, because of the apparent conflict of interest of having someone within baseball -- Mitchell is on the board of directors of the Red Sox -- who is being paid a lot of money render the decision on whether Selig made mistakes.
If Mitchell does blame the commissioner and criticize him directly for action that he didn't take through the '90s, he will effectively lay an ugly and large chunk of blame for the steroids era across the mantle of Selig's legacy. In doing so, Mitchell would be echoing what many inside and outside the game have been saying. Selig has dismissed those critics as "revisionists." Will Selig deem Mitchell a revisionist, too? We shall see.
How many names will be included?
Various news reports have pegged the number at somewhere in the range of 50 to 80 names. To put that in context, there already have been 64 names implicated in the steroid scandal, according to the Web site baseballssteroidera.com. And in the league's 2003 survey testing, a little more than 100 players tested positive. So the generation of 50 to 80 names, after 20 months and tens of millions of dollars spent on the investigation, would be the tip of the iceberg. (And in fairness to the investigators, theirs has been a nearly impossible assignment from the beginning, without subpoena power. But we all knew that in March of 2006.)