The Blog

The Hypocrisy of Bud Selig

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

There was talk that Alex Rodriquez would get a "lifetime ban" from the game of baseball for taking performance-enhancing drugs. It was never going to happen. Bud Selig, a nerdy looking guy who has never played any sport at any level, was supposed to be showing off his "tough guy" credentials and kick A-Rod out for good.

A-Rod played it smart. He knew Selig would fold and put on the table an obvious motivation: the Yankees want to dumps millions in future salary for a guy who is near the end of his career.

A-Rod's not a particularly likeable guy and after spending most of his career off the beaten path, in places like Seattle and Texas, he was not cut out for the nonstop limelight of being a New York Yankee.

He made it to one World Series, but usually chokes in the playoffs. Since the Yankees booked their World Series tickets a year in advance when Joe Torre was the manager, making one trip to the fall classic was a disappointment for Yankee fans.

A-Rod is not likeable and does not put fans in the stands. There is a ton of evidence that he took performance-enhancing drugs. Does that mean he should be given a life sentence?

Only if you understand what Bud Selig's version of a life sentence is.

At the moment, I can only think of two players who have a lifetime ban from baseball: Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. Shoeless Joe was booted in 1919 for throwing the World Series. Throwing any game, especially the World Series, deserves a lifetime ban, but there has been a lot of evidence over the years that Joe was not really a participant in the scandal that brought his teammates down. Since he batted .388 in the 1919 World Series, there is some argument that if he was throwing the Series, he was doing a lousy job at it.

There is a compelling argument that before Pete Rose is admitted back into baseball, Shoeless Joe should be admitted first. Since the alleged crime was committed 95 years ago and Joe is long gone, there is not much of a constituency clamoring for his banishment and enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That brings us to Pete Rose.

Pete has been out of the game for 24 years and is 72 years old. If he is going to get in the Hall of Fame while he is still alive, they need to get on with it.

Another "super tough guy" former commissioner Fay Vincent popped off in the news this week. At least Selig actually owned a team and stepped in the stadium to count his money and ticket receipts. Fay's only experience was Yale Law School and a gig as a corporate lawyer.

"Charlie Hustle" Pete Rose, the ultimate in blue collar work ethic, probably did not understand Fay and Bud, and I am sure Fay and Bud don't have guys like Pete sipping brandy at their social clubs.

Like A-Rod, Pete Rose was not a guy Bud and Fay wanted to play "their" sport. Even though Rose did more to build the game that any jock sniffing, corporate lawyer could ever do.

Faye made the comment that hanging Rose out to dry has kept other players from gambling. If that is the case, wouldn't Selig banning A-Rod for life send the same message to other players?

Drugs are illegal across the United States where almost every state, expect for one or two like Utah, allow some form of gambling, be they casinos, lotteries or sports betting in Nevada. Thousands more bet on baseball online and offshore.

It seems that drugs should be before gambling when it comes to a lifetime ban. They talk about maintaining the "integrity of the sport" by keeping Pete Rose away from the game, yet they allow casinos and lotteries to advertise during constantly during televised games and with signs inside the ballpark.

How many times have you seen a baseball player do a public service announcement to warn against gambling addiction? I am thinking almost never.

Being truly concerned about gambling means cutting the major league teams off from gambling money. I'll be holding my breath to see when that happens.

Tough Guy Bud thinks he can let baseball take the gamblers money, do nothing to help problem gamblers anywhere and think that banning a star, from a different generation and era, will somehow ward all gamblers away.

I'm 54 years old and grew up in the Cincinnati area. I got to see Pete Rose play at his prime, but few younger than me got that opportunity. I wonder if anyone playing baseball today ever saw him play? If so, how can Pete's lifetime ban be scaring anyone straight?

If beating up on historic figures has some redeeming value, why doesn't Selig take the opportunity to remind us why Shoeless Joe is still banned? Because neither the ban on Rose or Jackson has any use in promoting "the best interests of baseball."

Although my father was a professional gambler and Pete Rose was his friend, I've never been interested in gambling myself. I'm even less interested in taking illegal drugs, but extremely interested in making sure that my children and grandchildren stay off the stuff.

I doubt that anything that A-Rod does has any impact on their lives. Also we believe in treatment, not punishment for drug addicts. I don't see anything in Bud Selig's "tough guy" persona that is saying anything about drug treatment and education.

If you don't count the nonstop ads for Viagra and Cialis, drug dealers don't pump money into major league baseball teams, but there was a time when drugs were extremely important to Bud Selig's bottom line.

During the Steroid era.

In 1994, during Selig's early years as commissioner, a baseball strike crippled baseball to the point where a World Series was not played that year.

Attendance plunged 20 percent the following year. Operating revenue was cut from $1.87 billion in 1993 to $1.2 billion in 1994.

Revenues came back in 1997, as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey, Jr. geared up for a home run chase that eventually allowed McGuire and Sosa to break Babe Ruth and Roger Maris's homerun records.

I was one of those who paid extra money to see McGuire and Sosa. It would "protect the integrity of the game" if Bud and Major League Baseball would refund all the money I spent that year. I was cheated, like millions of others.

In college sports, entire teams have to give up championships and money when they were found to be using an ineligible player. Why is that that the Cardinals and Cubs did not have to refund some of the millions they made when people were packing the stadiums to watch McGuire and Sosa?

I thought I had paid to watch exceptional baseball players, like Ken Griffey actually was. Instead, I was watching two hopped up guys, in McGuire and Sosa, hit home runs that they would not have hit otherwise.

I want my money back. Or at least donated to an anti-drug program.

Right now, baseball is promoting a very strong message: Drugs help you play better.

Performance drugs must work or so many superstars would not be taking them. How do I get my hands on some? It may not be too late for me to realize my major league dream.

Bud Selig was for drugs when he needed them and now that revenues are up, he has decided they are not a good idea. Tossing A-Rod out of the game as an example would make me feel better if they forced the Yankees to take the rest of his salary and donate it to anti-drug programs.

Instead, the Yankees, like the Cardinals and Cubs did with McGuire and Sosa, benefit at the box office, but throw the individual players under the bus when the penalties come down.

It seems like the college sports model is fairer. You cheat, your whole team loses.

A good baseball model would be, if you win a championship with a player using an illegal substance, you forfeit the championship. Your teammates forfeit their money and it all goes into the War against Drugs.
A policy like that would show me that someone is actually interested in the "integrity of baseball." That would actually show me that the drug problem facing our nation is being taken seriously by major league baseball, instead of giving young children role models of how drugs obviously improve performance.

It's easy for Selig to portray banning Rose as a noble cause instead of what it is: a personal vendetta. If Selig was actually serious about stopping gambling, he would allow Rose to come back and talk about how he has sinned.

Selig, like all other baseball commissioners, are hired and fired strictly by the owners. The players and paying fans have no say in whole is selected. Thus, Selig, Fay and many others before them spend their time sucking up to the owners and protecting their bottom lines. (Commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler was an exception in the sucking up department and that immediately got him fired.)

A-Rod understands what is going down. He is being banished so that Selig can help the Yankees make more money. It scores Selig points in the skill that has kept him in his job: doing the owners' bidding.

When I start seeing entire teams being suspended or paying out fines for hiring drug-taking cheaters to bolster their rosters, I will start thinking that the "integrity of the game" is somehow being protected.
In the meantime, I look at A-Rod and Pete Rose as victims of Bud Selig. A man more intent on putting on a show than actually solving baseball's problems.

Don McNay is the bestselling author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery. In the updated edition of the book, McNay talks about his father's gambling relationship with Pete Rose.

Popular in the Community