Friday, August 3, 2007

Uncle Bud Getting His Just Comeuppance

Maybe there is a just bit of justice in the universe, because to me, Bud Selig is getting exactly what he deserves. The steroid debacle in Major League Baseball could hardly have been handled any worse, as the scandal taints everything with which it comes into contact. Not even Bud Selig's decision to be in attendance gets away unscathed, but given his role in the scandal, that seems rather appropriate.

For essentially all of the 2007, Bud Selig has straddled the fence and remained non-committal about whether or not he'd attend the game in which Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's all-time homerun record. Basically, this stance mirrored the one he has taken throughout his tenure as commissioner of Major League Baseball.

During his time as commissioner, Selig has put profit ahead of all else. In general, the profitability of baseball and increasing revenue streams for the owners has been at the center of his decisions. Selig's motto may as well be: "Cash is king."

While it is unfair to state that owners tacitly approved of illegal performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) because of the positive impact IPEDs had on their cash registers, it is not a stretch to state that monetary considerations were behind MLB's unwillingness to confront the issue. Clearly, MLB was unwilling to expend a valuable bargaining chip in collective bargaining with the MLBPA on an issue that had no detrimental impact on revenue. In fact, far from being a detriment to the owners, IPED usage may indeed have been a financial boon for the owners.

Given the strength of the MLBPA (who are equally to blame for this scandal, but that is a discussion for another day), the owners chose to use every weapon in their arsenal to increase their financial position. Accordingly, the IPED issue was never pushed to the forefront by the owners, who focused instead on the growing of revenue, rather than protecting the game.

Selig's primary concern about the profitability of baseball results in an ultimate goal of pleasing the consumer. Accordingly, Selig continues to do whatever necessary to avoid rocking the boat. Selig's attendance at the game is largely overblown, as in the future, no one is going to know or care that the commissioner of baseball was in attendance when the record was broken. Accordingly, Selig could have taken a stand against an event that symbolizes much of what is wrong with professional sports, rather than to join in its "celebration." To have taken such a stand would have created little ill-will or negative fallout for the commissioner, but Selig instead chose to avoid rocking the boat.

Instead of making difficult decisions on the basis of either moral considerations or what is in the best interests of the game, Selig instead waits for public opinion to dictate his course of action. When your only consideration is to avoid actions that will reduce the value of MLB franchises, then you are likely to come down on the wrong side of important issues. What kind of leader waits for others to dictate his course of action?

In short, Selig seemingly decided that taking a stand against an achievement attained in large part through cheating would have taken the focus away from the event itself. Accordingly, Selig relented, deciding to be in attendance for the record breaking moment. To do otherwise would have generated additional stories about the illegitimacy of the record and caused additional public relation problems for MLB. Bad press is bad business.

Since that time, Selig has attended 8 straight games Giant games, but Bonds has yet to even tie the record, much less break it. Despite his frustration about his homerun drought, you have to wonder if Barry Bonds is enjoying the thought of Selig following him around game after game. Selig certainly had to humble himself in order to attend the games. Selig's decision once again demonstrates that Major League Baseball is a business above all else, and a business that can even embrace steroids when it's in its own financial interest to do so.

To me at least, it seems some how appropriate that Bud Selig, to his detriment, is trailing behind a steroid fueled record chase. After all, Selig spent years trailing behind the steroid issue in Major League Baseball, much to the detriment of the game. Unfortunately, there may not be enough cosmic justice to prevent Bonds from breaking Henry Aaron's record, but at least there's enough floating around to give Selig his just comeuppance.

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