The Hall of Fame has a problem on its hands. In electing Bud Selig to the Hall of Fame yet the BBWAA writers consistently denying players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, it is setting a double standard in regards to the steroid question in Major League Baseball.
Selig was MLB’s 9th commissioner, which in of itself is somewhat remarkable considering the commissioner has been a position since 1920. He is the 5th commissioner to be elected to the Hall of Fame, joining baseballs first commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Bowie Kuhn, Ford Frick, and Happy Chandler.
Congratulations. Bud Selig did do a lot of great things for baseball. He expanded the playoffs, “saved’ baseball from the aftermath of the srike, and led not only expansion into new cities but also helped spearhead new stadiums that saved baseball in many more. Baseball is in a better spot financially and from a popularity standpoint due in large part to his tenure as commissioner.
Yet, he also presided over the dirtiest drug era in MLB history and saw Willie Mays drop from third all time in home runs to 5th with two cheaters above him. He saw the 500 home run club swell from 15 to 27, but of the 12 new members that have surpassed that plateau in the last twenty years only 4 (by my count, that we know of) aren’t members of the HGH Club.
That Roger Maris home run record set in 1961? Eclipsed 6 times under Selig’s rule, 3 times by Sammy Sosa, twice by Mark McGwire, and once by 36 year old Barry Bonds in 2001.
Giving Selig credit for helping to fix the PED problem in baseball is like giving thanks to a kid who you see working hard fixing a broken window. Except then you find out the kid fixing the window is the same kid who was in charge of watching his younger siblings. The same younger siblings that broke the window. THEN you find out that same kid had a chance to say something when he could tell something wasn’t right, and didn’t say a thing to stop the rock throwing. Then he acted shocked when the window got broken and rushed to glue the pieces that broke. On top of it all he got PAID to baby-sit those siblings! So basically he got paid to let the people he was watching break the window, then got praised for helping to fix it!
Selig for his part has this to say in an interview with USA Today about the steroid era:
“It was painful, with a lot of ups and downs,” Selig said. “But the fact of that matter is that we did what a social institution should do. We solved our problem and now have the toughest testing program in American sports. For a sport that never had a drug testing program, we came a long ways.”
This is true. Selig did essentially admit to everyone in the game (including himself) that they had willfully ignored what they saw happening in front of their eyes. 5’10” second baseman Bret Boone slugging 37 home runs in 2001 at the age of 32. Barry Bond’s head size getting bigger and bigger. Players hit more home runs than ever before at the age of 37. Conditioning alone couldn’t be the only reason for this, yet owners, other players, (most) reporters, and the commissioner stayed silent.
When a reporter did their job and reported about the bottle of andro in Mark McGwire’s locker, the reporter was shunned for “breaking the trust” of what they should be reporting. That’d be like getting mad at Russia for hacking and releasing files of actual documents but instead of focusing on what was in the documents you focused on the audacity of Russia. Bad example, but the point is, EVERYONE was motivated for the financial and commercial success of the game to keep quiet.
My biggest problem with this is the double standard that Hall voters are holding other players to. Jeff Bagwell has never been named in a failed drug test, wasn’t in the Mitchell Report, and yet has been basically been deemed by HOF voters as “close enough” to cheating that he hasn’t been elected yet. Barry Bonds – major league baseball’s all time home run king – hasn’t been elected because of links to steroids but has never failed a test. His US Department of Justice perjury conviction was overturned, but he is long convicted in the court of public opinion. Roger Clemens is in the same boat.
How can they be kept out when Selig gets to go in?
We can all admit that the Steroid Era sullied many of the all time great numbers in MLB. Yet at some point all eras have had their advantages and disadvantages. Higher mound, dead ball, amphetamines. While steroids tilted the scale more dramatically than other performance enhancers, I do think we will see some of the hard liners soften up as time goes on. Perhaps the enshrinement of Bud Selig in a weird way will be the start of that line softening up for players suspected but not found guilty of steroids in the end.