Steroid scandal more aptly the Selig scandal

by Ogi Overman

Why is that guy still in office? Where is the outcry, where are the calls for his head? Hasn’t he outlived his usefulness by now? Jeez, it was his cronies who got him the job in the first place, why don’t they get rid of him now that he’s shown his true colors?

Sorry, I’m not talking about the guy you think I am (although there are parallels we’ll get to momentarily). Nope, this time it’s not Bush who needs to take a hike but Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Nothing more than a shill for the owners his entire tenure, if we really want to pull a Bob Seger and turn the page, then there is no better place to start than with him.

Backtracking a bit, Selig’s thoroughly undistinguished tenure should have ended before it began. As acting commissioner he sat idly by as the 1994 World Series was cancelled, the worst October in my lifetime. His excuse was that the owners had severely curtailed his power to act in “the best interests of baseball,” but if he’d had any cojones he’d have fallen on his sword then and there, giving a little believability to his “acting” job. His failure to bring the owners and players together and hammer out a labor contract was enough of a hanging offense to warrant his ouster.

And then it got worse. It took us a couple of years to get over the strike, but the steroid scandal will linger, regardless of his and Mitchell’s “turn the page” plea. As Cal Ripkin single-handedly restored some semblance of credibility to the game, he parlayed the fact that fans were trickling back into the stadia into a permanent job, as if he had anything to do with it. But then the most grievous and obvious act – or non-act, as it were – of his reign coincided with the McGwire/Sosa home-run derby of 1998. It would have been literally impossible for him not to have realized that they’d both gained 30 pounds and that balls were flying out of parks at an unheard-of pace, not approaching Ruth/Maris but shattering them.

The guy turned a blind eye toward the obvious growth-hormone use, did nothing to address the coming problem, and went meekly along with the owners – who were ecstatic over the profits home runs had generated. Profits trumps the integrity of the game eight days a week for the owners, and Selig, being a former owner, was not about to double-cross his well-heeled cronies. (Remind you of anybody, maybe a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers?)

He then let it get completely out of control before even admitting there was a problem. It was like the pink elephant lying in the middle of the living room floor and everybody tiptoeing around it, pretending it’s not there.

So we get to this point, a full decade later, before MLB even attempts to come to grips with that fact that essentially the entire record book is now tainted. The Hall of Fame is going to have to come up with an asterisk wing to denote that the records are not comparable to other eras and some of the people herein (Bonds, Clemens, etc.) had inflated numbers. (By the way, both should make the hall, in that they had the stats to get in without the juice.)

As for turning the page, fuggedaboutit. Now look for the lawsuits to come flying just as the dingers used to. Chances are some innocent schlub got caught up in this scandal – a David Justice perhaps? – and it’s going to take years to sort it out.

As for placing blame, there’s obviously plenty to go around, but I find myself getting a bit more sympathetic to the players. I was amazed, when I perused the list, at how many names I didn’t know. What they says is that most of these guys were trying to get that one fat major league paycheck, as opposed to that series of working class Triple-A paychecks, that would set them up for life. They were rationalizing that, hey, the other guy who’s juiced is going to take my job; ergo, pass the Balco, bro.

Moreover, Mitchell’s evidence is based on a frighteningly small number of sources. Five or six clubhouse attendants are all that he could come up with, meaning the list is anything but complete. Player A made the cut but Player B now has his reputation scarred for life, based solely on which team the whistleblower was employed by at the time.

Meanwhile, Selig issued some mealymouthed response, taking scant responsibility, essentially passing the buck. But to whom?

And the answer is: The next guy. Whoever replaces him is the person who will have the responsibility of cleaning up the mess Selig created.

Again, remind you of anybody?