Sitting behind the big desk at MLB headquarters in NYC is the ninth commissioner, Allan Huber Selig. The position of commissioner dates back to 1920 when baseball ownership decided it needed an independent party to handle the threat of gambling and the Black Sox scandal of 1919. The first Commissioner was a former Federal Judge, Kenesaw Mountain Landis who only accepted the position if he was given the absolute authority to act in the best interests of baseball and without means of appeal. Ownership accepted the conditions and established the parameters of the Office of the Commissioner. Landis served 25 years and was replaced by a formerUSSenator. Others to fill the position included a retired Air Force General and the President of Yale University. Each of these men while not perfect served until death or until they choose to step down. That is until Fay Vincent who was ousted by ownership in 1992 by a group that included Selig.
Selig became the acting Commissioner and that became permanent in 1998. It was also the end of the criteria of an independent commissioner acting in the best interests of baseball, ownership now owned the Commissioner.
This week, Sept. 12-19, 2012 Bob Nightingale writing in Sports Weekly on the issue of PED’s and their impact on post season awards and achievements.
Last year during the post season Ryan Braun tested positive for testosterone, Braun appealed the finding and has a result of the sample having not been handle by the protocol won his appeal and did not start this season with a 50 game suspension.
The handling of Braun’s sample did not affect the validity of the test, but created a loop hole that Braun slithered through. Braun who won the NL MVP last year and is in a position to possibly win it again is quoted by Nightingale as “having been exonerated”. Having a guilty verdict overthrown by a technicality is not exoneration.
This brings us to the steroid era and the criteria of the Office of the Commissioner as established by Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
Selig has served as Commissioner for what is commonly known as the “Steroid Era”. A time during which the single season home run record was surpassed by Mark McGwire twice, Sosa three times, and by Barry Bonds who is sitting in first with his 73 illegitimate home runs. Roger Maris and the 61 home runs he hit in 1961 now stand seventh.
Bonds also passed Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs with his 762.
Selig has been obsessed with his legacy and the infrastructure of baseball will give him straight A’s. Owners have made fortunes and so has alphabet city; ESPN, MLB, Fox, and TBS. The players are signing ever larger and longer contract which in turn makes the agents and the Players Association happy. When the home team is winning the casual fans fill the seats. But Selig fails on a much bigger front. The invested fans have seen the game bastardized. Interleague play is a Selig creation and this year every team will play more interleague games that they will against any team in their division. They will also play three times more interleague games than they will against any non division team in their league. How old does your son have to be to watch a game starting at 8 PM on a school night? But Selig’s biggest failure is not having the strength of character to say to those who cheated the game that made them wealthy, cheated their peers who played the game without breaking laws and cheated the legacy of Roger Maris, Hank Aaron, Matt Kemp who should have been last years MVP in the NL. The names Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Sheffield, Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Ortiz, Manny,Colon, Melky Cabrera and every other player who has perverted the game should have their names and records removed from the chronicles of baseball.
Landis who accepted the position as the first Commissioner of Baseball did so only with the absolute authority to act in the best interests of baseball would have cleansed baseball of cheats and did so with the Black Sox. He passed those criteria on to Happy Chandler and on to each of the subsequent Commissioners until Selig overthrew the Office of the Commissioner and took the job for himself. The greatest game ever created ended up in the hands of a gutless weak failure, the damage is done. There will never be another man who will serve as Commissioner who is independent and has the strength and morale fiber to fix what Selig has ruined.