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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Feigned Righteous Indignation of Bud Selig

Sometime between the cancellation of the World Series, the home run race of 1998, Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's record, Congressional hearings, and Alex Rodriguez' admission to using steroids, it appears that Commissioner Bud Selig has finally found religion on cheating in baseball.

Suddenly, Commissioner Selig is angry about and he's ready to take drastic action. He is floating the idea of punishing A-Rod for his admission that he used steroids between 2001-2003. Now, far be it for me to defend A-Rod, however this seems like an awfully random and draconian punishment. After all, the rules of baseball at the time, under the direction of Selig, didn't technically outlaw steroids. Furthermore, A-Rod only tested positive in a test that was supposed to be anonymous and used only for surveying purposes.

Furthermore, A-Rod is not the only person to have failed said test and he's not the only player to admit prior cheating. If Selig takes disciplinary action against A-Rod wouldn't he also have to punish other admitted cheaters like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite? Wouldn't he have to also punish the other 103 folks that failed the same test that A-Rod did?

Of course, Selig isn't done floating drastic action. Selig is also considering putting an asterisk next to Barry Bonds' all time home run record. Of course, this raises other questions. If Bonds' record needs an asterisk, doesn't Roger Maris also deserve to have the single season record as well. After all, isn't there just as much evidence against Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as Barry Bonds? A friend of mine had a much more draconian idea. He said that we should put an asterisk next each and every record set during the period beginning in 1998 and ending in 2003. As such, Greg Maddux consecutive record for 15 win seasons would also have an asterisk even though we're all certain he wasn't cheating. That maybe draconian but its fair in its medievel punishment.

Then again, you all have to give Selig some slack. After all, he is a late comer to the righteous indignation at systemic cheating in the game he has presided over for fifteen years plus. He wasn't nearly so outraged when cheating brought records and fans came back to the game as a result. It's only now that the cheating has finally come home to roost, put the game and everyone it it in an untennable position, that Selig has found the religion of being against steroids in baseball.

The whole thing is unseemly. For more than a decade, either Selig knew what was going on and didn't care, or he simply didn't want to know what was going on. While he looked the other way, the cancer spread and caused a black eye that will take decades and generations to heal. Now that the game has suffered irreperable damage from his lack of oversight, Selig finally finds religion. Suddenly, he treats cheating with righteous indignation. The cynicism is overwhelming. If he were really a man of courage, he would shown this sort of indignation in 1998 while it was all festering. He would have won no favors. He likely would have lost his position as commissioner. In fact, it's not even clear if anyone would have ever noticed his courage. His action then might have stopped the momentum before it grew and it's likely no one would have realized how big it might have grown. Had he done it then, that would have been real courage. Instead, he wields righteous indignation now long after the problem has become irreversible.

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