Urban: No need for punishment

When facing a major decision, there’s a very simple question you should always ask:

Who benefits?

If the answer is “me and me alone,” whatever you’re considering is a bad idea.

With that in mind, let’s apply it to Congress, Major League Baseball and the San Francisco Giants.

This we know: Giants general manager Brian Sabean and Face of Ownership Peter Magowan screwed up by not telling commissioner Bud Selig what they knew of Barry Bonds’ one-stop shop of a chemistry lab/trainer, aka Greg Anderson.

Yet we also know, either by virtue of direct evidence presented in the Mitchell Report or by virtue of simply having functioning brains, that Sabean and Magowan were not alone in going the ostrich route in regards to steroid use.

Former Senator George himself, remember, has made the previous point quite clear, most recently Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Appearing with Selig and Major League Baseball Players Association front man Donald Fehr before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by Rep. Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, Mitchell essentially repeated what he said after unveiling his exhaustive report that told us performance-enhancing drugs have been a big problem for quite some time.

Next up for Mitchell, by the way, is a similarly revealing report that promises to prove, once and for all, that water is, indeed, quite wet.After that, “Fire Is Hot.”

Said Mitchell: “Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades — commissioners, club officials, the players’ association and players — shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era. There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on.”

The point: A systemwide moral and ethical breakdown had occurred.

Waxman, however, is missing the point. This is his party, he wants someone bounced from it and he’s starting by pressuring Selig to punish the Giants.

Clearly, he hasn’t asked himself the question: Who benefits?

If he had, he’d realize that the answer is not “America’s youth,” or, “the game as a whole.” If it were, any and all punishment would be just. But America’s youth and the game itself wouldn’t benefit a damn from the Giants being slapped with a huge fine, or from Sabean or Magowan being suspended or cast off.

Only Waxman would benefit. He’d be able to say, “See what I did?”

Punishment exists to serve as a deterrent. Does Waxman really think that the many people whose reputations have been besmirched by the Mitchell Report haven’t been effectively deterred? Does he really think that the Giants, if presented with evidence that there’s a dealer in their clubhouse next season, wouldn’t blow the whistle?

Sadly, and at the expense of taxpayers, he probably doesn’t. This is the same man who basically blamed Sabean and Magowan for the BALCO scandal.

Does he not know that Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery never played for the orange-and-black?

Were Sabean and Magowan wrong? Absolutely. But so were a ton of other people. You punish one of them, you have to punish them all. And that’s just not going to happen.

Nor should it.

Nobody would benefit.

Mychael Urban writesfor MLB.com and hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).

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