Friday, December 14, 2007

hey! bud!

One of the grand mistakes to affect MLB was the 1992 appointment of Bud Selig as acting commissioner. The follow-on act of confirming him as commissioner in 1998 – after a six-year search (where the hell were they looking?) – was simply pouring gas on the fire. Selig brought baseball back to Milwaukee 1970 when he purchased the Seattle Pilots and rebranded them as the Brewers and for that he’s considered a baseball hero in that city. The great problem in the appointment of a club owner as commissioner is the inability to separate the business of owning from the business of the game. An owner’s only concern is making money,and making money and on-the-field product go hand-in-hand. At some point during his time as acting commissioner, though it might actually have been at the time he become the permanent commissioner, he ceded control of the Brewers to his daughter in order to deflect any conflict of interest issues. The point here is that I wouldn’t want any owner or former team owner as a commissioner; I wouldn’t want any former player or union representative as commissioner. This type of responsibility requires someone independent of both parties, whose salary is paid by both, and whose decisions are final. There is nothing that Selig has done during his tenure that merits any measure of awe. The two events that seem to draw applause are the wild card playoff teams and interleague play. I’m pretty sure the wildcard would have come to fruition with or without Selig sitting in the office. From a purely marketing model baseball needed the wildcard. As for interleague play? Well, you’ll find only a smidgen of fans who don’t hate interleague play – if anything it’s become something of a joke. How about the bad stuff? The league that wins the All-Star game get home field advantage in the World Series may be the worst idea ever. That’s like having a free throw contest to determine home court advantage in the NBA Finals? He oversaw the players’ strike and cancellation of the World Series in 1994. He banned Marge Schott – wow! That’s impressive. He reinstated George Steinbrenner – does anyone care?

His greatest failure, and it rests on him alone, was his oversight of the drug scandal in baseball. You’d think that after the strike and World Series debacle of 1994 baseball would be in a better state 13 years later. The fact is that baseball is in a worse state now than it was in those dark days. MLB can quote all the profits it wants – that’s what Selig desires – but the game is hollow and lost. Selig knew full well what was going on over the last ten years but he was too weak, mindless, and scared to attack the problem due to the risk of losing money. At least Fay Vincent, as commissioner before Selig, admitted that the owner’s were guilty of collusion and that there were major problems. Peter Ueberroth would have beat this down with a stick. Bart Giamatti would have been handing down dictates from on high and started a ‘suspended player’ queue outside his office. You often hear that the games (baseball, football, basketball, etc.) are greater than the players, and it’s true, but when the game itself is being run by incompetents it can and will be horribly damaged.

Those players named as cheaters will eventually fade from memory because the game is greater than each and every one of them. Baseball will never move forward from this decade of deceit until the ringleader of the circus is removed. It is impossible for me to even think of Selig meting out punishment and pontificating from on high after release of the Mitchell report. If the commissioner had any inclination to exhibit his love for the game then he’d step down and walk away from ashes he’s created. Of course, we’ve never known him to carry that sort of gumption. Selig will never admit nor apologize for his errors.

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