Oh, the trials and tribulations of leadership. Heavy lies the crown, as they say. That seems to be the case now more than ever, at least when it comes to the commissioners around these parts. The good Mr. Goodell appears to have inherited the major-sports equivalent of Alcatraz, David Stern has a ref with mob hooks in him, and nobody can even find Gary Bettman’s product if they tried. But Bud Selig has a hefty problem of his own (one that seems to be getting bigger as time goes by—at least, if you measure by hat size).
It really is pretty impressive how badly Bud has blown the last few years of the Barry Bonds Situation., but it should not come as a surprise. In fact, we learned all we needed to know about how Bud operates from the All-Star Game tie from a few years ago. That was a weird little spot he was in; in fact, I think he made the right call ending the game when he did. The important part, however, was how he looked making the decision. Instead of some kind of forceful, confident “Sorry, but in the best interests of the health of our players…” statement, we all got to watch Selig looking around, bewildered. He looked lost; unsure of himself. It’s that habit of projecting incompetence, even when he’s actually making a quality decision, which defines Bud as a commissioner.
I happen to think Selig should be there when Barry Bonds hits 756. But that’s really irrelevant here. Bud had two options—simple, straightforward, and tough to screw up. He could have justified either one of them. If he wanted to attend, all he needed to do is remind people that Bonds has in fact never run afoul of any baseball rules, and as such it would be pure speculation for the Commish to pass such judgment. After all, 756 should be a celebration of baseball history, and the sport deserves to have a night to honor its past.
The justification for not attending is just as clear, if perhaps gutsier (so it’s no surprise that Bud decided to go). This would have seen Selig taking a principled stand, pointing out that while everyone involved in baseball for the last twenty years is in part responsible for the steroid problem, and while Bonds may not have been caught, he has clearly done irreparable damage to the history books. I would have disagreed with Bud on this one, but at least I would have been able to respect him for making a straightforward call.
It’s not like I’m expecting Bud (or anyone in leadership) to be some kind of rock-solid bastion of moral certitude. And it’s alright for someone to change his/her mind (don’t get me started on flip-flopping and all of that crap about leaders needing to be completely steadfast at all times), but Bud didn’t do anything at all for far too long. Jayson Stark at ESPN writes that Selig likely made his decision to attend now only because he had run out of time with Hall-of-Fame weekend approaching. He was “boxed in.” And that’s exactly the problem. Bud’s plans should never have been a story at all, just like the ASG shouldn’t have been much of a big deal. But instead of getting out in front of the issue and being forceful, Bud sat back and let the question of his attendance take on a life of its own. It’s looming large now. If he had made his intentions known a month ago, the story would already have died down. But all his indecision did was bring even further negative light upon the record and the game itself.
Every so often we hear about the “best interest of baseball” clause that the commissioner can deploy as he sees fit. Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear that the man currently with his finger on the button doesn’t have the first clue. He was as major a player as any in letting steroids become the problem they are today, he’s put together the ridiculous Mitchell Commission instead of putting the focus on baseball’s excellent new testing program, and he’s let the Bonds issue mushroom out of control. It would be nice to have a leader that would, you know… lead.