Thursday, December 20, 2007

Justice shows sympathy for Selig
I suppose there is a case that Bud Selig isn't as awful for baseball as I believe he is, and has been.

And I suppose that -- despite the fact that I'm less than half as old as Selig -- that I have an antiquated view of baseball.

So when Richard Justice talks about all the good that Selig has brought to the game, it is difficult for me to see things that way.
I don't like interleague play, since I thought two leagues that didn' play was the one thing that set the sport apart from all the others. Part of the reason the All-Star Game and World Series were so special is because we had little frame of reference. How would two teams match up in October? We didn't know. They hadn't played.

I take a dim view of the Wild Card. Baseball teams play 162 times. It seemed to me that the reason the season was so long was so that we could determine the two best teams in the league. Now, I team can hang out around .500, make a trade because it has deep pockets, and contend come September.

Don't get me started on the designated hitter.

Of course, all of this is small compared to the issue of drug use in baseball. In the mid-1990s, I was sitting in my dentist's chair, talking about the sport.

I told the doctor that Brady Anderson's power surge had surprised me, and I couldn't figure out how it was happening.

The dentist didn't even hesitate.

"Baseball has a steroid problem," he said. "And they have no idea how to deal with it."

I was about 16 during this conversation. It was two years before Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased Roger Maris out of the record book.

But the conversation stuck with me, and was in the back of my mind in 1998. The idea that baseball owners, general managers and most importantly, the commissioner himself had no suspicion this was going on is ridiculous.

Selig either had to know, or he made it so he couldn't know. Justice wants to give credit to Selig, but the truth his, the issue had become so clear that the commissioner had to act by 2002.

And that first steroid policy was paper thin. If Selig really cared about the issue, he could have gone to the press, or gone to congress, and asked for help.

But he didn't. And now baseball is 19 years in (at least) to the steroid era.

Of course, I'm on the outside. I don't know what baseball knew and when it knew it.

But I think the record of Selig is much worse. Baseball may be rich right now, but it has sold its soul to get there.



At 8:59 AM , Anonymous Erik said...

While the wild card can let some mediocre teams slip into the posteason, and provide a nice parachute for the Red Sox and Yankees in off years, it can also let some very deserving teams into the posteason who otherwise would be shut out.

To me, it would be a travesty to play 162 games, have a great season and not make the playoffs because another team was slightly better. I point to the often-used example of the 1993 Giants, who won 103 games and went home on the last day of the season because the Braves won 104.

Also, in years in which most of the divsion races are bascially over by mid-September (like this past year), the wild card offers some drama as four or five teams make a mad dash for the last playoff spot.

Since the wild card was instituted, the Marlins, Angels and Red Sox all won the World Series as wild cards. The Tigers and Rockies also made the World Series as wild cards. So these aren't lukewarm teams getting free passes to round out the playoff brackets.

If anything, the wild card probably lets the hottest late-season teams into the playoffs, this year's Rockies case in point. Yes, the Rockies were swept once they reached the Series, but I don't see that as an argument against the wild card.

Baseball fans can argue until blue in the face over whether change is good for the game. But 14 years after the wild card was introduced, I'd have to think the even the staunchest traditionalist would have to admit that it has been a positive addition.


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