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Disliking Bud (Again)

Mike SteffanosFriday, June 15, 2007
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.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (6)

I have to disagree about interleague play, and the All-Star game. I have a lot to say on the topic, but to address some of the things you mentioned about the separation of the leagues...

It's not interleague play that has eliminated that special feeling of the World Series, or the All-Star game, but free agency. The separation of the leagues was an illusion. So many players switch back and forth between leagues, that even without interleague play, there would be plenty of batter-pitcher match-ups that we've already seen. The huge thrill of seeing the other league's stars are gone, because those stars were often in the other league and seen by everyone.

The value of players has drastically went up, so now it's in the best interest of both the player and the team that these guys don't play hard in the All-Star game and risk getting hurt. Everyone's on such a fine regiment that they don't want to risk messing it up for the sake of entertaining a couple of people in the All-Star game. The more baseball and the players treat baseball like a business, the more the All-Star game is to them just like working overtime is for us. There reduced enthusiasm leads to us being less enthused about watching them.

It's hard for us younger fans (I'm 25) to remember a time when the leagues were truly separate. But even without interleague play, it's no longer two baseball leagues competing in the World Series to see which is best, but the conclusion of a round of playoffs between two parts of the same (major) league. To truly understand and appreciate what the World Series must have been like, I feel we should think about how it would be to play the Japan team at the end of the season. We'd be able to watch these players who we hadn't paid attention to all year, but are still talented athletes, players we'd never seen before and don't know how they will play against our own.

I understand what you're saying, but I couldn't disagree with you more. Even after the advent of free agency in the 70s and 80s there was still a special feeling to the ASG and WS. Remember, in this market where Mets, Red Sox and Yankees games have been televised forever we were able to watch plenty of games involving the other league. It was still special back then, because that was the only time the two leagues played.

That it feels like the same league now is due to way too much interleague play. Maybe it wouldn't be exactly the same as it was way back, but it was still pretty cool into the 1990s when they cheapened it.

Nice piece Mike. If you're going to have interleague play, and I would argue strongly that you shouldn't, make it special - one series per season, two absolutely tops. The All-Star game home field advantage is an absolute joke, as is the Home Run Derby.

As for Selig and his hypocracy, I find myself hoping that his self-serving efforts to attach the steroids era to one or two guys backfires badly, and that everything comes out publicly. The only way for baseball to get beyond this is sunlight, lots of sunlight, and if that means the destruction of a guy like Selig who turned a blind eye, and who now feigns indignance, well, Karma's a bitch, isn't it?

Those are fair points, given any power, I'd probably do away with Interleague play too, but I do enjoy some of it also.

One thing I'll say, I've never really cared for the All-Star game much, but last year I had the opportunity to attend. I really had a blast being there in person. It made it see more real, more exciting. The Home Run Derby too. Wandering around the stadium, being surrounded by baseball fans from all over. We stood near a couple of Cubs fans during it, discussing baseball, discussing the hitters. I managed to find a fan of every single team(except the Rockies for some reason) during the two days I was there. There was an energy and excitement too it. I'm actually disappointed I didn't win the ticket lottery to get tickets to this years game. I have no idea why that doesn't translate into tv though. Maybe it's because I was completely immersed in baseball, not channel-surfing, checking my email or doing anything else.

I wonder if cutting Interleague to 3-6 games instead of 15-18 would make any difference. I don't know that just having the subway series would be the answer either. I feel like there has to be a happy medium of some sort, but I don't see it.

When I think of baseball before interleague, I keep going back to whan it was a shorter season of , what was it 154 games? and more daylight games and Sunday double headers. More kids were into it then and the sport grew. Today the youth is into every other sport with baseball on the bottom of their list. I see more kids playing soccer then I ever did before. In my old Brooklyn days we didn't even know what soccer was. I think baseball has to get the young fan back into the game and familys also. AA and AAA does a great job with that.The All Star game was special to me then, because that was the only time I got to see the stars from other teams and leagues. Now you see them every week in some t.v. game of the week or interleague play. I do think they improved the game with the playoffs so I don't concider myself a purest but somethings I would like to see go back to a more family schedule and cost with family in mind.

ajsmith - I don't even think Selig needed to be destroyed. Instead of trying to hang the whole era on a handful of players like Bonds and Giambi, they should concentrate their efforts on the present and the future. I don't know about you, but I'm not convinced that the game is clean now, I just think the cheaters are more sophisticated.
Ceetar - Sounds like a great weekend. You don't get that "immersed in baseball" feeling on tv, though, just endless hype and hoopla.
Al - I do think that baseball hurts themselves by having almost all the playoff games and all of the world series games starting so late and not sucking the kids in when they are young.

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