Assigning Blame

added 8/6/2005 by Scott Barzilla

Commenting on stories like this makes me angry. I should be talking about the Astros and their amazing run. Roger Clemens is putting up the second best ERA since World War I and the Astros are winning the old-fashioned way: some of the kids are beginning to play to their potential. I’d like to talk about that and I probably should, but I need to get this out of my system before I explode. Bud Selig has to be the worst “commissioner” this sport has ever had.

Yes, Bud didn’t give Palmeiro or Franklin their steroids, but he sure did bumble the situation. Just because you uphold your own suspension of Kenny Rogers doesn’t mean you were stern with him. We’ve heard the phrase, “if you can’t handle the time don’t do the crime.” Well, in baseball that has become “if you’re going to do the crime you get to choose when to do your time.” However, let me address Bud Selig’s ineptitude point by point.

Paper Tiger

All of us remember the good ol’ days. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis basically says the courts can say what they want, you’re suspended for life. There was no playing for five years while we get around to hearing an appeal. You’re done right now. Anyone with knowledge of baseball history knows that Landis wasn’t perfect. He had his fair share of warts (passive-aggressively blocked integration), but when he spoke, the thunder wasn’t far behind.

Yes, I know that “if Bud had his way” we’d have a stronger drug policy. If he had his way we’d have more revenue sharing. If he had his way we’d have either a real luxury tax (dollar for dollar) or a salary cap. Yes, if he had his way suspensions would stand as he issued. This is where the Kenny Rogers and Rafael Palmeiro situations come up to the fore.

We live in America and if we believe in anything it is the right to due process. When Ron Artest attacked fans he appealed and that appeal was heard. He and his teammates did not play while that appeal was being heard and that appeal was heard in a timely manner. What baseball does is allow guilty players to play while their appeal is heard and delay the appeal process indefinitely. Imagine if a murderer appealed a conviction (or sentence) and was allowed to roam free before the appeal was heard. It’s almost enough to make you insane.

Kenny Rogers commits a heinous act (twice I might add as he attacked a cameraman in court at his assault hearing) and he is allowed to pitch in the all-star game. Bud Selig says, “I hope Kenny chooses not to come to game.” You’ve got to be kidding me. You hope? Hey, I’ve got an idea Bud, you’re the frickin’ commissioner, how about making sure he doesn’t come? The assault took place a few weeks before the all-star game. Kenny Rogers pitches every fifth day, so it is easy for you to fly him up to New York and hear a speedy appeal. I’m all for due process, but we all knew he would have a lengthy suspension. That suspension should begin immediately if not sooner.

Now, we get to Palmeiro. Yes, he should be allowed to appeal his positive test. Yes, that information shouldn’t be released until the appeal process is done. We have no argument there. However, there is no good reason why it should take two and a half months for the appeals process to occur. Palmeiro is allowed to continue on his path for 3000 hits even though both he and baseball knew he had tested positive. Fans celebrate a guy that “had never taken steroids. Period.” We celebrated a fraud. No, we can’t blame Bud for allowing due process because it was collectively bargained. Yet, there is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that says that appeal should take half a season.

The All-Star Game

I have long maintained that Bud Selig’s era should be immortalized in Cooperstown with him doing the “All-star shrug”. I can think of no better symbol of his reign. Do you have a problem with home field advantage alternating between leagues? Sure, it didn’t seem fair when the 1987 Twins had home-field advantage after winning only 87 games in the regular season. There’s a simple way to fix this. The team with the best record gets the home-field advantage. Joe Six Pack can figure that one out. The NBA, NHL, and NFL (through the conference championships) have figured that one out. Why not you Bud?

Okay folks, which exhibition spectacle is more popular: home run derby or the slam dunk contest? If you answered home run derby you’d be correct. Why? It’s really pretty simple: the very best participate where the NBA has bench players throwing it down. So, how do you respond? You come up with some kind of malarkey about having a representative from each country. Where was the Ethiopian representative? Let’s bring in a pansy from France. Again, you took something very simple and ruined it. You get the best sluggers from the AL and the best sluggers from the NL and enjoy the show.

A Public Relations Nightmare

When I took journalism 101 the most important thing they taught us was the importance of not overextending ourselves in a story. I’m going to set up for you a series of facts and let you make your own conclusion. For me, I simply conclude that Bud never seems to fully think about how his decisions make baseball look. You might reach a different conclusion.

Fact One: You remember several years ago when the “Blue Ribbon” Economic commission suggested several methods of how MLB could be more profitable? As an aside, anyone that has seen Revenge of the Nerds or served in any kind of large organization knows the true value of a “blue ribbon committee”. One of the things they recommended was for MLB to contract. Bud decided that was the way to go.

Fact Two: The difference between what MLB says about profits and what Forbes Magazine says about profits is drastically different every year. What we do know is that MLB revenues have more than quadrupled in the time that Bud Selig has been commissioner. Despite this fact, Bud Selig arranges a swap of teams that sends Jeff Loria to Florida and John Henry to Boston leaving MLB to run the Expos/Nationals.

Fact Three: The Expos became a clear target for contraction but the second (or second, third, and fourth) teams were not as clear. The proof of MLB’s intention to contract is clear in that the now Washington Nationals still do not have an owner. MLB said on several occasions they would find an owner and a home for the Expos. It took them four times as long as they promised and the clock is still ticking on the ownership. Major League Baseball announced that the Minnesota Twins are the second team pegged for contraction.

Fact Four: Several years before Bud Selig was commissioner, Carl Pohlad (owner of the Twins) extended a business loan to Bud Selig of more than 50 million dollars. Pohlad has wanted out from owning the Twins, but supposedly they commanded less than 200 million on the open market at the time. However, the buy back price set for both franchises was close to 250 million dollars. Carl Pohlad did not oppose contraction.

Now, it’s very important that I stress that I am not saying that Bud Selig offered to contract the Twins for more than they were worth as a personal thank you to Carl Pohlad. However, the fact that some of you might reach that conclusion shows you just how inept Bud Selig is. Everyone that knows Bud personally (including Drayton McLane) say he is an honest and honorable man. I don’t know him personally, so that is perfectly reasonable to accept. If that is true then it is clear that he isn’t a smart guy or at least he doesn’t think about how his decisions and actions will to look to those that love the game.

So, when others wring their hands and beg for a real steroids policy I wring my hands and beg for a real commissioner. Does anyone really think we would have had all of the labor strife we had in 1994 if the commissioner wasn’t also an owner? Does anyone really believe that we’d have the mess with the all-star game, interleague play, insane scheduling, and a stone age public relations effort if we had a commissioner that was a baseball guy and not an owner? I think not.

Player of the Week

He may not have been the best player in the last week, but Orlando Palmeiro needs some props. Before the season, I cursed the Astros when they signed him to another contract. Given the information they had at the time I should have cursed them. That is why they play the games as they say. Palmeiro is sneaking up on a 900 OPS and has been invaluable since Jeff Bagwell forced Lance Berkman to first base. I wouldn’t want OP out there every day, for if you need someone to give you good at bats once or twice a week he’s the guy.

Pitcher of the Week

I have to give my kudos this week to Andy Pettitte. Roger Clemens gritted through a bad back in the opener of the Arizona series, but Pettitte dropped his ERA again to give the Astros three out of the top four pitchers in the NL in terms of ERA. Chris Carpenter is the only non-Astro in the top four (he ranks second) and he leads the NL in wins. Yet, I can’t help but hope one of the big three in Houston wins the Cy Young. If you take Carpenter out of the Cardinal rotation and replace him with an average pitcher they still win the division. If you do the same with any of the big three here and we’d be sellers before July 31st.

Scott Barzilla is the author of “Checks and Imbalances” and “The State of Baseball Management.”