Saturday, December 15, 2007

Selig's Reaction To Mitchell Report Likely More Important Than Its Contents

Often times, sports commissioners don't define the games over which they preside -- it's the other way around. Baseball, more so than any other sport, proves this theorem.

Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis's legacy is his swift and severe rulings when it came to the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Few folks, save the most obsessed historians, can tell you much about Landis's term as baseball commissioner -- and it was a long one -- but they know that the Judge banished the White Sox players who were involved in fixing the World Series that year.

Ford Frick would be nothing more than a footnote if it wasn't for his ill-advised addition of an asterisk to Roger Maris's record of 61 home runs in 1961. Maybe that's where they get the term "fricking" -- as in, "I can't believe there's a fricking asterisk next to Maris's name."

Bowie Kuhn almost bucked this trend, for he sometimes imposed his will in a proactive manner, i.e. when it came to dealing with matters that he felt weren't "in the best interests" of baseball. But most of what happened during Kuhn's administration defined him, not the other way around. Under Bowie's watch, we saw the lowering of the mound in 1969, the introduction of the DH in 1973, and most importantly, the dawn of free agency. None of these things did he initiate -- but how he responded to them and how he shepherded the game through them solidified his place as one of the game's greatest commishes.

Who knows much about Bart Giamatti -- besides the fact that he's the father of actor Paul Giamatti -- other than he was the one who put the scarlett letter on Pete Rose's lapel?

Now Bud Selig, no threat to the legacies of Landis, Kuhn, et al, has himself an opportunity.

How will Selig commandeer the ship thru the rough waters created by the wake of the George Mitchell steroid report?

How swiftly will Bud react? How significant will be the ramifications -- if any? What changes will he make to ensure that this -- or anything remotely like it -- doesn't happen again?

Selig has already fumbled many handoffs.

There was the All-Star game tie/debacle several years ago. Then the decree that the winner of the midsummer classic would have home field advantage in the World Series, rendering the regular season meaningless in that regard. His strange silence and ambiguity as Barry Bonds approached Hank Aaron's HR record was the latest.

But yet there is hope for Selig.

The way he responds to the Mitchell report, which cited some of the game's biggest stars as users of performance-enhancing substances, will (in my mind anyway) go a long way toward defining Selig's legacy as a commissioner. So he could still pull this one out of the fire.

If you have some skepticism, you are more than excused.

Can Bud do it? Can he put a stamp on the game that has, so far, branded him as an incompetent and mealy?

The odds are long. Oops -- no betting in baseball. My bad.


Post a Comment

<< Home