Bud Selig's Bad Decision Streak Continues

Steve Zawrotny, MS, CSCSContributor IOctober 31, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 15:  Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig speaks at a press conference before the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images



Two questions: "Will it make us money?" and "Will it increase ticket sales?"

These appear to be the only considerations Bud Selig makes in any situation he presides over as commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB). Has he ever taken a principled stand?

Certainly, the St. Louis Cardinals' recent hiring of Mark McGwire as a hitting coach offered Selig and MLB such an opportunity in regards to its problems with Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). But taking a principled stand rarely results in improving one's bottom line. And it requires some work, too—again, not a popular thing these days.

By blowing this one, Selig keeps his streak intact of doing the wrong thing when it comes to MLB's handling of PEDs. Selig's (and hence, MLB's) acceptance of McGwire back into the Cardinals' organization with open arms sends a curious message. At a minimum, Selig missed a great opportunity to send the right message to the millions of kids who follow pro baseball and aspire to become "big leaguers" someday.

For me, this is the issue, the principle at hand: the impression made on young ballplayers by this and every other situation involving major league baseball's association with PEDs. Selig interprets continuing strong ticket sales as the public's approval of his handling of this issue. Perhaps he is right. But he could not be more wrong in how all of this is perceived by young players. 

This is the bigger issue at hand, which Selig is missing, and which may well impact the future of MLB. Baseball is far from the most popular activity among youngsters these days.

It cannot help MLB if youngsters think they have to take drugs to succeed.

As an aside, I wonder why would anyone think that a "reformed" PED user is an appropriate "role model" to speak out against PEDs? Why doesn't MLB trot out star players who haven't abused PEDs? Surely there are a few. Have them speak to youngsters about the dangers of PEDs and how you can succeed without them. But I digress.

By requiring nothing of McGwire in his return to pro coaching, the message appears to be, "Break some rules, refuse to answer questions, and hide for a few years. When you're ready to return to the game (the game you helped tarnish), all will be forgiven!" Is it a stretch to think young ballplayers would have some questions about this? How about Selig's own MLB players?

So what should Selig have done? At a minimum, the following:

Before taking his new job with St. Louis, he should have required McGwire to fully come clean about his use of PEDs—how he got them, what he used, when he used, and the like.

Require McGwire to honestly answer questions in a one or two-hour presser. Selig reportedly said, "When he comes back, you'll all have a lot of opportunities to talk to him. The fact that he's coming back gives you an opportunity you wouldn't have had."

Right. If Congress couldn't get him to talk, does Selig really think a gaggle of reporters can, at least a few of whom will likely be hostile? Selig must require of McGwire a complete, full account of his PED use as a precondition for his new job with St. Louis, or we'll see the same kind of pitiful obfuscation we've seen previously. 

Personally, I'd like to see some punitive measure applied to McGwire—say a ban from the game for a few years. When you look at how Pete Rose has been dealt with, it's astonishing to me McGwire is getting off completely, with no apparent negative consequences whatsoever. Yes, what Rose did was worse than McGwire's "crime," but not by a huge degree. Betting on games as Rose did does strike at the integrity of the game, and that is a damaging thing. 

Yet who would argue that what McGwire and other PED users did did not impact the integrity of the game? How can breaking records while using illegal, banned substances be helpful or positive? But now, because these artificially acquired, PED-generated records will stay on the books (as I suppose they should, only because we don't know who all the cheaters were), baseball may be even more tarnished by PEDs than anything Rose did.

I'm not a Pete Rose fan or sycophant, but I have to wonder, what is the lasting impact of what he did? Have youngsters been affected more by what Rose did, or what McGwire did?

I don't think it's even close.

If you're not sure about this, spend a few minutes on Tayler Hooton's web site. 

Yet Rose is banned from baseball, while McGwire merrily saunters back in.


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