By Mike Steffanos
I've read quite a few things over the years that tell me that Bud Selig has been a lot better as the commissioner of MLB than he has been given credit for. Not being a hard-ass by nature, I'm willing from time to time to question my loathing for the used car salesman who would be king. It never lasts very long, however, as Bud invariably does something every couple of months that confirms my antipathy.
With the Mets heading into the Bronx this evening, there is a lot of excitement in the area. To me, it's all wearing a little thin. This is from John Delcos' LoHud Mets blog:
I'm sorry, but I take no joy in the Subway Series. It's the two worst series of the year as far as I am concerned because they represent the interleague gimmick that I believe has tarnished the sport.
The thinking used to be how exciting it would be if the Mets and Yankees played in the World Series. Well, that happened, so now it is anti-climatic. Despite lip service you might hear and read the next few days, most players, coaches and managers are traditionalists and don't like interleague play.
Interleague play damages the integrity of the regular season in that not everybody runs the same race. It's like one runner racing 100 yards and the other 105. It's not fair.
Things were fine for 100 years until Bud Selig fooled around with tradition of the regular season schedule and by extension the World Series like a man who keeps poking with the coals at a barbeque. He didn't know when to leave well enough alone.
I'm with John on this one. One rivalry series a year should be all of the interleague play there is besides the All Star Game and World Series. That would be a fun interlude in the season, and then we could get back to real baseball with teams we are competing for playoff spots against. But in typical used car salesman fashion, Bud found a gimmick that worked and had to run it into the ground. Almost all interleague seems contrived and old hat now. While we get to see teams like Detroit and Minnesota every few years, we lose the old rivalries we had with teams like the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates.
Baseball's All Star Game used to be truly an event, and didn't need the game show type hype of things like the home run derby. What truly made it special was that baseball, unlike every other sport, maintained the tradition of separate leagues. Now baseball needs to resort to the pathetic gimmick of playing for home field advantage in the Series to get anyone to tune into the All Star Game. Sadly, this cheap publicity stunt has not done much to revive interest in the former midsummer classic. But that's Bud -- chase a few extra bucks and worry about the consequences later.
I know that people like myself are viewed as traditionalists that are resistant to change. More than any other game, though, baseball's traditions still resonate with importance. Whenever Selig has tampered with tradition, the long-term effects have been negative, particularly the cheapening of both the All Star Game and the Series.
What turns me off to Selig even more than the above is his duplicity in regards to the damage that steroids have done to baseball. Despite his desperate efforts to spin the past and remove the tarnish from his personal legacy, Bud Selig embraced the cartoonish era of steroid-injected home run ball when the exploits of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing the home run record helped baseball recover from the 1994 strike that almost killed the game. Don't believe his silly protestations that baseball didn't know full well what was going on. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.
Now he seeks to repair his legacy by refusing to be there when Bonds sets the career record and indulging in a transparent persecution of Jason Giambi in an effort to come across as the man who is trying to shine light on the era his tacit approval helped create. This is from Buster Olney's ESPN blog:
The finish line for a seeming public relations victory is in sight for commissioner Bud Selig. He is putting the squeeze on Jason Giambi, and no matter what happens before next Wednesday -- his deadline for Giambi to decide whether to cooperate with the Mitchell investigators or face the repercussions -- he could conceivably declare a measure of victory.
If the negotiations for Giambi's testimony continue to progress and Giambi meets with the Mitchell people -- a management official on Thursday placed the odds of that happening at 50-50 -- the union's wall of silence will be breached, Giambi's steroid use may be confirmed for the record and the final report delivered by Mitchell will have additional credibility.
And if Giambi refuses to talk to the Mitchell people and Selig suspends Giambi, and that suspension is eventually overturned by an arbitrator, Selig will at least be able to say to baseball's fan base, and more importantly, to Congress: Hey, we tried. Within the constraints of our labor agreement, we did the absolute best we could, and if Henry Waxman and John McCain want more answers, then they can call Don Fehr and ask him.
That's the theory. But some folks, angry with the fact that the Mitchell investigation was even started, and even more angry with how it has proceeded, believe there will be unexpected consequences for Major League Baseball if Selig pursues the suspension. They believe the victory now seen by MLB will turn out to be a mirage that fades because of unintended consequences.
"There will be some serious questions asked, on the record, before the arbitrator," said one official who disagrees with the Giambi squeeze play. "And some of the answers may not be things that anybody in baseball wants out in public."
It would be just like Selig if his grandstand play to wipe the tarnish off his own image served to hurt the sport more than help it heal the damage caused by the steroid era. The chance for Bud to make a difference by being tough has come and gone. What is needed now are real solutions to attempt to restore the integrity of the game. Trying to make Jason Giambi take the heat for the moral failure of an entire sport and its commissioner is wrong. Bud Selig needs to stop acting like a devious salesman and become a real leader. Sadly, I suspect that is beyond him.