Thursday, January 17, 2008

(Richard) Justice for Selig
So Bud Selig gets an extension, and Richard Justice is calling the old, old, commissioner the best baseball has ever had.

I am of the belief that Selig is the worst commissioner ever, and should not even be allowed to run baseball anymore. That would be like the people who ran Enron being left in charge after its fallout.

But let's look at some of Justice's points:

Thanks to him, baseball has labor peace. This isn't a big deal to people of a certain age because they don't remember that for about 20 years baseball's players and owners tried to kill the game every four or five years.

Yeah. Back then, we'd have 20-day lockouts and seasons that finished with the World Series. Thanks to Selig and Donald Fehr, an entire postseason was wiped out -- something that hadn't happened despite two world wars, The Great Depression and other labor problems.

He led the charge for interleague play and an additional round of the playoffs.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I hate interleague play. Baseball was the only sport where two leagues never played except in the World Series and the All-Star Game. That made those things special.This season, we had two teams play in the Fall Classic who had actually met in the regular season.

The All-Star game has become so pointless that they have added World Series homefield advantage to try to add intrigue. That is, in itself, stupid on dozens of levels.

All the additional round of playoffs have done is make the regular season's first half entirely meaningless. A team can sit at around .500, make a few quick deals and get into the playoffs with a little more than 80 wins. Then you have a team like 2006's Cardinals win the World Series. What's the point of such a long season if so many mediocre teams can have a shot at the postseason?

Selig also pushed for the revenue sharing that has given more teams the chance to be competitive. Fifteen of baseball's 30 teams have played at least one post-season series the last two seasons. That's parity by any definition.

And the Yankees and Red Sox can still buy themselves into the postseason every year. The Yankees spent over $20 million to bring in (alleged) steroid user Roger Clemens for half the season. That lone transaction speaks to so many of the game's problems.

And there's steroids. Baseball wasn't hurt in any financial sense by steroids, but baseball was embarrassed. It took far too long to recognize the problem. The Mitchell Report hangs over the game like a mushroom cloud. Baseball's two biggest stars--Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds--have been accused of being cheats.

The fact that this part of the column is six paragraphs is mind-boggling, since it is THE Selig legacy.

Selig and union chief Don Fehr were the men in charge so they should be held accountable. On the other hand, Selig has worked furiously to rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs.

Fifteen to 20 years too late. The entire culture, the entire integrity of the game has been destroyed. Selig was leading baseball through most of that. If he knew about the scope of the problem and hid the truth, that's almost criminal. If Selig didn't know, then he was out of touch.

Bottom line, he should have been leading the sport, and shouldn't be leading it now.

Selig deserves to be on the job for as long as he wants to be. He's a man of decency and honor, and baseball has been lucky to have him.

Decency and honor? He's not John McCain or even George Mitchell. He's a commissioner who presided over an illigal drug-filled era, denied there was a problem (see Andro) and then acted late.

And what was the price of this labor peace? That treatment-first drug testing program?

I enjoy Justice and admire him as a writer. But I disagree with his assessment of Selig. Baseball sent a clear message today by extending the commissioner: everything is just fine.

But it's not, and everyone should realize that.

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