The Final Countdown

(Blair Bunting/Getty Images)
Tick, tick, tick … the clock is ticking down to tomorrow's bombshell report on performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. And the drumbeat of the narrative keeps getting louder, day by day.

Tick … Last week's report of baseball suspending Baltimore Oriole Jay Gibbons and Kansas City Royal Jose Guillen.

Tick … Barry Bonds pleads not guilty to perjury and obstruction charges in a federal investigation of performance-enhancing drugs.

Tick … American Olympic track and field star Marion Jones is stripped of her 5 medals from the 2000 Olympics.

Tick .. Today's New York Times reports that over fifty baseball players are going to get fingered by the report:

What it contains will be officially revealed Thursday, when [report author George] Mitchell holds a 2 p.m. news conference in Manhattan. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig will hold a separate news conference across town at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the report's findings. But two people who are familiar with Mitchell's investigation, and his findings, said that the report would contain the names of more than 50 active and former major league players who are linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
With the report's authors playing it cool on the details, we're left to speculate just how jaw-dropping the report will be. How many of the 50 players are going to be news to us? Say, if the study points out known offenders like Jose Conseco or David Segui or Jason Giambi – who has elliptically implied his past steroid use – there won't be a whole lot of new information there.

And will it address the concern of some fans, that baseball management merely looked the other way, as Salon's King Kaufman wondered the other day?

What we're all waiting for is to see whether Mitchell's going to be a straight shooter, pardon the choice of words. The story of the juicing era in baseball can't be told without talking about the complicity of the clubs, the willingness of the owners to at least look the other way when it came to steroids and the like because bulked-up ballplayers seemed to hit more home runs, and everybody, not just chicks, digs the long ball.
While it may be just pre-release posturing, the preliminary reports coming out of New York suggest that the report won't take it easy on the powers that be.
The report, to be issued Thursday, will be sharply critical of both Major League Baseball and the players' union for tolerating the use of performance-enhancing drugs over an extended time.
So will it be a blockbuster end to a yearlong story? Or underwhelming, overhyped "not much news here" report? Will it get to the point where steroids should be considered -- as shorthand for America's shortcuts to success, a cultural reference point from Enron to YouTube celebrity-chasing, if nothing else -- for Time's Person of the Year?

Time will tell. Tick, tick, tick …