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Selig's chance to step up to plate has come and gone

February 15, 2009|Wallace Matthews | Wallace is a columnist for Newsday.

FROM PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. — If Bud Selig wanted to do something "in the best interests of baseball," he would have investigated androstenedione the day it was spotted in Mark McGwire's locker back in 1998, rather than discrediting the reporter who found it and trying to pull his credential.

Or, in 2000, he could have looked into the accusations of Gary Sheffield, who said on HBO's "Real Sports" that "six or seven" members of every major league baseball team were on the juice.

Or he could have reacted to the 2002 allegations made by Ken Caminiti, who not only told Sports Illustrated that he was juicing in 1996 -- the year he won the National League MVP award -- but that fully half the players in the league were.

The point is, Selig has had plenty of chances to do something in the best interests of baseball, a power vested in his office, during the past 11 years.

He chose to do nothing.

Now it's too late for him to do anything but shut up and take his medicine. After all, he did as much as anyone to cause the sickness that continues to plague his game 11 years after it first showed symptoms.

For him even to suggest that he might suspend Alex Rodriguez or restore Hank Aaron's rightful place as baseball's all-time home run king not only makes him a hypocrite of the first order, but an even bigger grandstander than all these politicians who can see no more urgent problem to solve in our country right now than getting Barry Bonds off the streets.

Maybe his whole Jerry Lewis-as-The Nutty Professor thing isn't just a look. Selig may really be nuts. Or a comedian.

What we know for sure is, at $18.5 million a year, he is baseball's very own grossly overpaid, grotesquely underskilled and endlessly greedy CEO, spectacularly incompetent and shamelessly greedy.

His legacy will be that of a "leader" so asleep at the switch that he allowed a former clubhouse boy turned drug dealer named Kirk Radomski to become the most influential figure in baseball on his watch.

But then, what else could you expect of this former Chevy salesman who drove home every night in a Lexus? Honesty? Integrity? Consistency?

Selig, a toady of the owners throughout his tenure as commissioner, is so impotent that he once allowed two managers to talk him into calling off an All-Star Game that was tied because of a lack of pitchers.

He is so disingenuous that he once commissioned "an investigation" into andro that came back, surprise, surprise, with the conclusion that the stuff really didn't work.

When that didn't fly, it still took him nearly five years to quietly ban what everyone using it knew was over-the-counter rocket fuel.

He is so weak that for nearly a decade, the thought of going mano-a-mano with the players association on the issue of steroids sent him scurrying for a change of undershorts.

Now he wants to get tough, threatening to mete out a punishment he has neither the moral nor legal right to even consider.

The fact is, Selig is even more to blame than the union for the steroid mess that threatens to swallow up baseball and render most of the individual accomplishments of its last decade questionable, if not meaningless.

Unlike the MLBPA, whose allegiance is to its membership, the commissioner of baseball ostensibly is responsible for the health and integrity of the game.

And as dumb and helpless as he likes to appear -- the better to disarm his critics and quietly push his own agendas -- even Selig has got to know that he has no chance of making a ban of Rodriguez stick long enough for the ink to dry on the news release.

How can you suspend a guy who a) was told by you he was being tested anonymously, and b) was engaging in behavior that not only was not explicitly banned by the rules of baseball, but quite strongly encouraged, at least tacitly, by the Office of the Commissioner, its 30 little fiefdoms and the MLBPA?

During the past 15 years, the only thing the players and owners seemed to agree on was that baseball needed some kind of jolt to recover from the wounds they inflicted upon themselves with the work stoppage of 1994.

Steroids and HGH were baseball's bailout, and ownership and the players gladly accepted it. Now one side is trying to claim it never wanted any part of it.

There's an appropriate response to that, and although I can't reproduce it here in a family newspaper, I will tell you that the shorthand for it is BS.

As in, Bud Selig.

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