Despite Years of Incompetence, Bud Selig's Contract is Extended

Stew Winkel@stew_winkelSenior Analyst IFebruary 20, 2008

There was an episode during the third season of The Office where Dunder Mifflin (for those who don’t watch, Dunder Mifflin is the fictional paper company in the show) unknowingly sold to clients paper that had an obscene water mark on it. The company learned of the problem, corrected the problem, and apologized to its customers.

 

But it didn’t end there—instead of moving on, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) decided to call a press conference to announce to the world (or at least to all of Scranton) the problem with the obscene water mark. This act of Michael was done to be funny, to show the absolutely ridiculous response of a person managing an office who is completely inept at his job. 

Why am I writing about The Office? Because when I think about Bud Selig initiating the Mitchell Report, I think about Michael Scott initiating a press conference to announce the problems with his office. Of course Michael Scott is terrible at his job, and it is a television show. 

 

Bud Selig is actually the commissioner of baseball. While no one would ever in reality give an extension to a person as incompetent as Michel Scott, that is exactly what major league baseball did a month ago when it extended Selig’s contract for three years. 

I am sure Selig is a good man. It appears he has a passion for baseball, and genuinely wants to do the right thing to help the sport.  But there is a problem—he is gutless. 

For years he ignored steroids in baseball while the problem grew out of control.  Despite many fans knowing certain players were on steroids, even going back to the 1980s (for an example, a 1988 Fenway Park crowd chanted “Ster-oids” at Jose Canseco), Selig in February of 2005 said, with a straight face, “I never heard about it.  I ran a team and nobody was closer to their players and I never heard any comment from them.  It wasn’t until 1998 or ’99 that I heard the discussion...I don’t know if there were allegations in the early 90s.  I never heard them.” 

Wow.  I read those comments and think either this man is absolutely lying, or he is completely incompetent and oblivious.  Maybe it is a little of both, but either way, this man should not be allowed to run major league baseball.  Further, even if taken at face value, if Selig knew about steroids in 1998 or ’99, why did it take him until 2005 to take any action, and only after Congress forced him into it.  

I know the players’ union fought him on the issue, but steroid testing never appeared to the public to be a priority issue for this commissioner. Like so many others involved in the game, he saw the growing crowds and the rising home run numbers, and instead of connecting the dots to steroids, he chose to bury his head in the sand.  Sure, there were other heads in there with him, from owners to managers to clean players to the baseball media, but he was the commissioner. This was his sport, and he, as much as anyone else, allowed it to happen.

So obviously, he received an extension. 

Supporters of Selig will point to the good he has done as commissioner—instituting inter-league play, the wild-card, and in recent years, some semblance of balance has returned to the sport.

 

I say, so what? 

Inter-league play and the wild card are nice accomplishments. They don’t even begin to compare to the disaster that is the steroids era.  I also don’t drink the everything is great kool-aid that MLB is serving and the baseball writers are drinking about there being fiscal balance in baseball. 

 

Revenue sharing is a start, but there is still the environment in baseball where the best pitcher in the game is available, and only three teams are interested because the other teams decide they can’t afford him.  There is still the situation where the best hitter in the game coming off an MVP season is a free agent, but only one team is ever really in the process because of the price tag. 

 

The Yankees and Red Sox, and a few other teams, can make mistake after mistake with player personnel decisions, overpay for free agents, and then get bailed out by their deep pockets.  A screw-up like the Carl Pavano deal would cripple most teams.  For small market teams, everything has to go right for them to have a chance.  (It should also be pointed out that there is a problem with small market teams who don’t even try to spend money). 

And we haven’t even mentioned that Bud Selig cancelled the World Series. That is a drastic step, and if it was taken, you better drastically fix the game, get what you want.  So what changed after the World Series was cancelled—nothing really.  Financial unbalance got even more out of control. 

Getting back to the steroid issue—after years of ignoring the problem, when baseball finally realized they had to act (or were forced to act), baseball did.  They instituted testing policies, with strict penalties.  Instead, however, of moving on, Bud Selig chose to look back with the Mitchell Investigation. 

Personally, I think he instituted this investigation because he wanted to suspend Barry Bonds before Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record.  Selig on his own didn’t have the courage to act alone, so he wanted cover from the Mitchell Report.  However, he couldn’t say so explicitly, and what happened—the Mitchell Report spun out of control for nearly two years. 

 

In the end, what did we really learn from the Mitchell Report?  We know some names we didn’t, but the report isn’t even close to being a complete history of the steroid era.  It doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.  In terms of facing the steroid problem, is baseball in a better place now that it has the report than it was in March ’06—I would say absolutely not. 

If Selig had stood up, taken his share of responsibility for the steroid era, vowed to do everything he can as commissioner to ensure MLB has the toughest testing policy and strictest penalties, would anyone have said we need a report telling us about only a small part of the past?  People would have accepted Selig’s position and moved on with baseball. 

 

And right now, with the season coming up, instead of every baseball story being about steroids, we could be talking about baseball.  As much as I enjoy Roger Clemens being exposed, it isn’t good for the game. 

Not only did Selig screw up with the Mitchell report in my opinion, but another example of his incompetence is why would he choose someone to conduct the report who had ties to one of the teams.  I don’t question Senator Mitchell’s integrity, but appearances matter.  Selig could have selected anyone he wanted, and I have to believe there was someone else equally as qualified as Senator Mitchell who didn’t have connections to a baseball team.

When I think of Bud Selig, the image that comes to mind is from the 2002 All-Star game, when it became apparent the game was going to end in a tie.  There is a picture of Selig throwing his hands up in the air, signifying, “I have no idea how to handle this.” 

 

Maybe I am overanalyzing this, but can you ever picture David Stern reacting in such a fashion to any situation the NBA might face.  Also, from this All-Star game came one of Selig’s dumbest ideas, determining home field for something as important as the World Series from the winner of something as unimportant as the All-Star game. 

In the end, Selig has to share a great deal of responsibility for allowing baseball to chug along in the 1990s and into the twenty-first century while acting as if steroids weren’t a part of the game.  He also is the only commissioner to cancel a world series.  These type of monumental failures should have cost him his job, not resulted in an extension. 

If you are being compared to Michael Scott in your job performance, it is never a good thing. Remember, Michael Scott is the one who unknowingly wore a women’s suit to work.