Personally speaking, I have a lot of issues with the entire process, and it goes much deeper than the report or the players named within it. I had a major problem knowing that members of my beloved Yankees, both current and former, were named in the report. Albeit most of them used the chemicals prior to wearing the pinstripes, those that dislike the team found grounds to accuse the entire franchise of cheating due to their involvement. Get a grip people; it's not the franchises that deserve the slamming and the accusations --- it's the individual. Was the entire franchise on the juice when they were winning championships? I think not.
A bigger issue that I had with the process was that of the man that was behind the investigations and ultimately the report itself, namely Senator George Mitchell. It is no secret that he has affiliations with the Boston Red Sox franchise at least from a consultant's and a board of director's standpoint. Believe me, there are enough conspiracy theorists coming out of the woodwork on this issue alone. It is most likely pure coincidence that there were fewer current and former Red Sox named than Yankees on the list that aired nationally. My bone of contention with this part of the issue lies within the fact that a person who was too close to crossing the conflict of interest parameters was the driving force behind the entire investigation. A person with ties to any one of the 30 MLB teams like Senator Mitchell has should have never been given that role.
But on the top of my list is the fact that Bud Selig should be held personally responsible for the steroids issue festering like an infected boil on the skin of Major League Baseball. The responsibility to have this corrected long before it came down to federal involvement in the sport rests solely on Selig's shoulders and no one else's. It is no secret to anyone who has followed the sport closely that Selig has a track record when it comes to issues such as accountability of the office he holds as well as bad decision making. But let's not jump the gun yet. Let's look at the man's past history first.
Selig was a minority owner of the Braves franchise when they were based in Milwaukee. When the issue of relocating the team to a larger television market arose, Selig actually formed an organization called Teams, Inc. in an attempt to prevent the franchise relocating. But his actions met with legal challenges and the movement was a dismal failure. Selig then approached the issue of not having a team in his city from a different angle.
Selig pulled some strings and arranged for pre-season games to be played in the former Braves' ballpark, Milwaukee County Stadium. The first was between the Twins and the White Sox and it drew more than 51,000 fans proving that the town would still support a ball club. As a result of the success of the pre-season experiment, the stadium hosted a total of 20 regular season White Sox games during the 1968 and 1969 seasons. Selig then sought to purchase the White Sox with the sole purpose of moving them to Milwaukee, but the American League vetoed the sale and his devious little plan went up in smoke.
But he didn't let that stifle his efforts at bringing baseball back to Milwaukee. When the expansion Seattle Pilots went bankrupt after their inaugural season of 1969, Selig jumped on the opportunity and purchased the team in 1970, moving them to Milwaukee and renaming them the Brewers. During the 1985-87 seasons, Selig was in the midst of the owner's collusion issue and was legally demanded along with other team owners to pay $280 million in damages to the ballplayers.
When Fay Vincent resigned as a result of the aforementioned collusion case, Selig took on the role of acting commissioner in 1992 and was well known as a vocal opponent to the Vincent regime. So as not to have any conflicts of interest, he handed over the ownership of the Brewers to his daughter Wendy. But poor management practices resulted in the team being sold to Mark Attanasio of Los Angeles, despite the mass suspicions of Selig remaining behind the scenes and being heavily involved in Brewers' operations. As a result of six years of fruitless searching for a new commissioner, the owners voted to make Selig's title permanent and he was named commissioner during the 1998 season.
Despite the few positives that have resulted under Selig's tenure in office (expanded playoff structure, interleague play, and enforcement of the "60/40 rule" or asset/debt ratio) the negatives of his stay in office have far outweighed these issues. For me, the steroids issue and his irresponsible handling of the problem proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. But there were several prior issues that have brought me to the point of washing my hands of the man as commissioner.
Less than 48 hours after the end of the 2001 World Series, Selig found himself under scrutiny and heavy criticism for trying to hold contraction hearings for the Minnesota Twins, the Montreal Expos, the Oakland Athletics, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Selig and Expos former owner Jeffrey Loria were charged with racketeering and conspiring to defraud the Expos minority owners calling for a $300 million settlement should they be found guilty of the accusations. Since the judge had ruled that relocation of the Expos to Washington D.C. could not occur until the case was settled, the case went to arbitration and was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Less than a year later, Selig found himself in hot water again with fans and media alike for stopping the All Star Game in the 11th inning when it was tied 7-7, the decision having left over 50,000 fans wondering what had happened. Selig based his decision on the lack of substitute pitchers and position players on either bench due to the length of the game. Despite his efforts to instill lost interest in the Midsummer Classic, viewership for the ensuing 2003 game showed no increase, and in 2004 the numbers fell below the prior years ratings.
This resulted in another unpopular decision on Selig's behalf when he single-handedly cavaliered the decision to award the winning league's team the home field advantage in the ensuing World Series, thus altering the way it had been done since its inception in 1903. Selig came under criticism yet again for his mishandling of Kenny Rogers' punishment after the pitcher had a confrontation with a TV cameraman in the 2005 season. Selig suspended Rogers for 20 games and fined him $50,000 for his actions and then later on, at the appeal hearing, didn't relent in his decision for the pitcher's punishment. Much to the chagrin of the commissioner, an independent arbitrator stepped into the fray and reduced the suspension to 13 games stating that Selig had exceeded his authority and punished Rogers excessively.
Now we turn to early 2006 and Selig was finally forced to deal with the steroids issue. When the Federal Government held their hearings in early 2005, it was a definitive sign that publicly unwanted government intervention was right around the corner. In March of 2006, Selig in an effort to be viewed as a proactive commissioner, enlisted former Senator and then Boston Red Sox board consultant George Mitchell to lead an investigation into the prevalence of steroid use during past baseball seasons.
Many fans of the game, myself included, felt that his attempt at saving face actually stemmed from his suspicion of Barry Bonds using steroids as well as his lack of respect for Bonds' pursuit of the all-time home run record. For me personally, I saw it as nothing but a legalized witch hunt to defame a ballplayer's character and strip him of his records. Despite the Grand Jury accusing Bonds of four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice, the issue here is not whether or not Bonds is guilty of steroid use. Rather it is tainted by the aroma of a personal vendetta at the hands of a commissioner who is acting purely out of prejudice, and the weight of public opinion, rather than proven fact.
Here is something to chew on. In September of 1988, a Washington Post reporter named Tom Boswell in an interview with Charlie Rose (a well known interviewer from CBS' "60 Minutes"), proclaimed that Jose Canseco was the most blatant example of a ballplayer that had achieved greatness through the use of steroids. Also during 1988, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act set forth criminal penalties for anyone found guilty of trafficking steroids for anything other than a prescription that was written by a doctor for treatment of disease.
Congress felt that this act was not stern enough and immediately replaced it with the current Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990. Shortly after the U.S. Congress raised the penalties for steroid possession and use, Fay Vincent composed a seven page document banning steroids along with other substances. The document lacked any type of testing program, because it had to be approved by the MLBPA, but penalties for infractions and treatment recommendations were lined out in the contents of the memo to the major league owners.
The reason I've retraced the steroid trail and all relative issues serves only one purpose where this article is concerned --- Bud Selig has failed miserably while performing the duties and responsibilities of his position as commissioner of Major League Baseball. The rampant abuse and prevalence of steroids in professional baseball would never have become the issue that it is today and there would not have been the need for the Mitchell investigation had Selig done his job properly.
Now he has made the decision to appear as a proactive commissioner by agreeing with Mitchell's recommendations which call for employing various steroid awareness programs, much stricter testing guidelines, and swift punishment of players named in the report. Ironically, Senator Mitchell urged that punishment of the players named in his report be avoided and action be taken from this point forward and only against the more severe offenders.
The only evidence to support the guilt of the ballplayers named in the report has been an assortment of canceled checks and money orders received by two suppliers (McNamee and Radomski) and whose testimonies have been revered as clear cut evidence of guilt on behalf of the named ballplayers.
Unfortunately, since both men conducted the majority of their business in the New York City area, this gave the report the appearance of a heavier concentration of both current and former New York Yankees ballplayers versus those from other teams. As I mentioned earlier, Mitchell's involvement with the Red Sox franchise coupled with only a small number of current and former Red Sox ballplayers is grounds for suspicion in my eyes.
What worries me the most is the fact that we as fans will have to tolerate Selig being the commissioner until he retires in 2009 when in fact the fans, the ballplayers, and the MLBPA should demand his immediate resignation. Allowing Selig free reign over how these ballplayers are handled or possibly punished would prove to be a greater injustice than his neglect at taking action on the issue. If anyone deserves being punished or reprimanded, it is Bud Selig, not the ballplayers. Additionally, I am hopeful that both McNamee and Radomski are banned from baseball as well as being blackballed as athletic trainers in all pro sports.