Thursday, June 18, 2009

Baseball will never clean up its act under Bud Selig

In what had to be a foregone conclusion, it was recently revealed that Sammy Sosa had tested positive for steroids in 2003. Feigned shock and surprise soon followed.

There's the question of due process, which clearly went by the wayside when the results of the "survey" of players taken in 2003 were initially leaked to the press, then there's my opinion, which triumphs over all other considerations. But first, the details:

A saying exists in baseball that the smartest person in any clubhouse is the guy with either the highest batting average or the most consecutive zeroes on his paycheck.

In other words, the superstars -- smart or dumb; black, white, Latino or Asian; old or young -- run the show. They control clubhouse thought through the intimidation of their talent. Everyone without their ability either falls in line or risks the kind of peer-pressurized alienation most of us escaped moments after graduating from high school.

Keep that in mind as you consider the New York Times report that Sammy Sosa is one of the 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in baseball's 2003 survey testing because the news should not be met with an indifferent yawn, as if Sosa is just another in a long line of Hall of Fame-caliber talent biting the dust: Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and now Sosa, all in the first half of the 2009 season alone. Instead, this news should be greeted with the kind of outrage reserved for the worst breaches of trust because you, Mr. and Mrs. Fan, have been taken for a very special kind of ride.

Nobody has been taken for a ride--steroids in baseball happened because of the fact that baseball has no functioning commissioner. Bud Selig is not the "commissioner" of baseball. He is the corporate enabler. If it benefits the ownership, Selig is for it. If it is something that ensures fairness, stays true to the spirit of the game, makes the fans happy, and only costs the owners another nickel, Selig will likely come down on the side of keeping that nickel in the hands of the owners, and then come up with something to get them another nickel they don't have coming to them. Until the once-adversarial relationship between the commission of baseball and the baseball ownership is restored, there will never be actual governance of the conduct of anyone affiliated with Major League Baseball.

In my world, which is that of a conservative Republican who has made more money than God, Selig is himself a God. A colossus bestride the prostrate body of a ravaged institution. You know that cartoon where the big guy shakes the little guy upside down until all of the coins fly out of the little guy's pockets? That's Bud Selig doing the shaking. You? You with the dirty shirt and the finger in your mouth? You're the little guy.

I am very much a pro-business type individual. There's a part of me that says that hoi polloi can stuff it--since the owners assume the risk, the owners deserve to reap the rewards. I do draw the line through baseball because I am a fan, and I want fairness, and it bothers me a great deal that someone cheated to win without first telling me about it. Due to the fact that I wasn't in on this from the beginning, I feel like an outsider.

Now, being an outsider who has given my money to baseball to watch people cheat through the years makes me cranky, and my expression of this crankiness is to say that baseball had it coming. Baseball deserves bad press right now. And baseball has no functioning commissioner who can address the problems. I'm certain that Selig has a plan to make the owners more money, but I doubt very seriously that Selig has a plan to do what is right. Expect more cheating.

In the case of Sammy Sosa, he's in trouble:

A congressional committee will look into former baseball slugger Sammy Sosa's denial that he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs in light of a report that he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003.

"The Oversight and Government Reform Committee always takes seriously suggestions that a witness misled the committee while testifying under oath," Rep. Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a statement. "Investigators will begin a review of this matter and, upon learning the results, I will determine appropriate next steps."

In 2005, Sosa told Congress that he had never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Sosa tested positive two years before his appearance at a House hearing.

Greg Bouris, director of communications for the MLBPA, said the union had no comment on the matter.

For years, the discussion about performance-enhancing drugs has existed within a structure that always has benefited the players. In the late 1990s, there was the argument that steroids did not exist in large measure, that players were the victims of a "witch hunt." Then, as high-profile players began to get caught using steroids and a league-administered drug policy was implemented, the new paradigm was that Player X could not be suspected because he had never failed a drug test.

Lying to Congress is really not a big deal. Oil company executives, generals, and politically connected cronies do it with great ease. Ethically, there's nothing wrong with lying to Congress because Congress is the home of the liar, the preserve of the cheat, and the playground of the despoilers of democracy. It isn't about getting to the truth. It's about getting someone in the crosshairs and destroying them with trumped-up evidence when it becomes politically expedient to do so.

The solution is simple. Strike the numbers.

Strike the victories of Roger Clemens, strike the batting statistics of the batters like Sosa and Rodriguez, and strike the record held by Barry Bonds, should he be convicted. The process should be very simple--once someone is found to have cheated, their numbers disappear. If Alabama can be compelled to vacate victories for cheating, then baseball must find a way to use the nuclear option of severing the players from their essential statistics.

If you subtract five or six years worth of numbers from some of these players, they will still be eligible for the Hall of Fame, except for the fact that by virtue of being deducted statistics, they rendered themselves ineligible for life.

Trust me, none of this will ever happen. It will cost the owners that nickel. It will cost them bobblehead day promotions and the extra money from TV revenue from running the cheesy half hour pieces on this pay-cable networks that do a lousy job of spotlighting past players and their glory.

You should always bet on the owners with Selig at the helm.

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