Monday, August 5, 2013

The Complicity of Bud Selig

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However you feel about the Alex Rodriguez debacle, you have to agree that it makes for excellent baseball television. Personally, I'm quite enjoying the circus - schadenfreude has always been one of my strong suits.

When A*Rod takes the field in Chicago, he'll doubtless face a loud chorus of boos and jeers. After talking to a few Yankees fans, I don't think his reception would be much better at home in the Bronx; Rodriguez has a seriously dwindling list of supporters.

But to focus on Alex Rodriguez at the expense of all the other storylines surrounding the suspensions would be a mistake. Sure, A*Rod's return is somehow both arrogant and brave, and certainly makes for great drama - but there's so much more to talk about.

In light of Bud Selig's singleminded prosecution of Rodriguez and his fellow PED users (which, of course, is warranted given their alleged indiscretions), we should not lose sight of the fact that it was Selig and his power structure who let the steroid era go unchecked for so long.

Selig took the reins at MLB in 1998, when the game was still trying to recover from the strike and cancelled World Series in 1994. So when the home runs started flying out of (publicly funded) stadiums and fans started flocking back in, he looked the other way.

In his defense, Selig was dealing with an at-times uncooperative Player's Union, but he didn't manage to get steroid testing into the game for six years. Selig ignored the problem for more than half a decade. Six years of rampant PED use across the game created a culture of steroids in cities everywhere - and people like Alex Rodriguez realized that the benefits outweighed the risk.

The wide use of performance enhancing drugs is a black eye to the game of baseball, but the sport will recover - just like it has recovered from scandals in gambling, amphetamines, and greed. The reputations of Alex Rodriguez and Bud Selig, however, may be beyond recovery.

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