Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday, 8/18/07's main point: Sympathizing with Selig


Some things in life are easy.

Sleeping, eating and reading the sports section top the list for me. Another thing that's been easy to do the past few years is criticize Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

He ignored the evidence of steroids during the 1998 Home Run Chase and while Barry Bonds was at his peak. He took too long to implement a stringent policy regarding 'roids. Dissing the commissioner doesn't take a high school diploma.

This season has been perhaps the toughest for Selig. He had to constantly answer questions regarding whether he'd be on hand to witness Barry Bonds' record-breaking home runs. And just this week he was faced with the issue of whether to punish Jason Giambi, who essentially admitted to using steroids in an interview with "USA Today" earlier this season, saying, "I was wrong for doing that stuff."

While Selig has taken a lot of heat for not disciplining Giambi — who happened to hit two home runs against the Tigers Friday night — he made the right (if not popular decision).

Well, maybe I should amend that statement. There was no "right" choice, rather there was a choice that would be best for the future of baseball. Selig went in that direction.

By letting Giambi continue to play after his cooperation with George Mitchell's investigation (in addition, Selig made sure to add, to his charitable efforts), Selig sent the message to previous steroids users that if they come cleans about their past misgivings and become positive spokesmen for the league, they won't be punished.

Maybe — just maybe — this result will be enough to convince others to follow Giambi's lead. No, I don't expect Bonds to admit to any wrongdoings during this lifetime (we'll see 2-year-olds injecting before that happens), but nobody is less contrite than the new home run leader. There are other players who might realize the opportunity Selig is presenting them through this example.

Think, for a second, what the reaction among players would have been had Selig sharply disciplined Giambi. A high-profile player comes out, pretty much admits his steroids use, decries his actions (not to mention, does a plethora of charity work), and gets a... punishment? No player with any common sense would even think about discussing the "S" word after that type of ruling.

But now, thanks to Selig's decision, there is a chance that the fight against steroids will gain some more high-profile players who no longer are on the juice and admit they were mistaken for taking it in the first place.

And in no way does Selig's action weaken the current steroid policy. Current players who are caught doping will still face the same stiff penalties as before. There's no changing that.

Just like there's no altering the past. Look, we know that the late 1990s and early part of this decade were tainted by sluggers (and probably some big-name pitchers) doping. Any educated baseball guy is aware of this. But there's nothing we can do to change this (we can't make Bonds' head smaller).

All Selig & Company can do is focus on cleaning up the game now. And there's no doubt that getting players such as Giambi to speak out against steroids is a positive in this difficult battle.


Tyler Hampton said...

Steroids in baseball are talked about more than the war in Iraq. I think that everyone knows a lot of players in the MLB have at one time taken steroids. Players don't get singled out until they start doing something great because it just goes under the radar if the player isn't that great. It's important to penalize those who have been caught using steroids, but to maintain the entertainment of the game at the same time. Take care of this out of the public eye. It gets a little boring.

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