Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Commissioner Selig and the steroid era

The Mitchell report, Major League Baseball's $20 million, "independent investigation" into steroid use, was released last Thursday with 20 recommendations from Mitchell — $1 million a recommendation, $1 million a month.

For more than a decade," former Senator George Mitchell reported, "there has been widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by players in major league baseball ..."

For a Polish with special stadium sauce and a mouse I could have come up with the same conclusions and as many names as Senator Mitchell.

This is last years story recycled as breaking news. As the Times' Murray Chase wrote: the "Mitchell Report revealed little original work."

"Everyone in baseball shares responsibility," Mitchell said at a news conference in New York City.


In other words, the players, the clubhouse guys, the trainers, the team physicians, the GMs, the owners and the union are equally responsible?

If so, why is it that it is only the players who are called out by name?

And why is their union, the strongest in professional sports, being blamed for obstructing the righteous owners and Congress from punishing chemically enhanced athletes when all it did was advise its members of their rights?

The sanctimonious owners and their hand picked Commissioner, Bud Selig, who sanctioned the steroid era with their silence, are given a get out of jail free card.

These billionaire owners spent the steroid era lining their pockets and blackmailing cities to build luxury boxed stadiums designed for bulked up home run hitters on the taxpayers dime. It is hard to take their current outrage seriously.

And you know something is very wrong when US Congressmen, three of whom are in jail while twelve are under criminal investigation for far more serious crimes than taking steroids, begin acting like morality police.

Forgive me if I can't buy this story line.

According to press reports, Bud Selig said, "I respect Sen. Mitchell and the work he has done but I'm going to do what I think is right. I meant what I said. I'm serious about player discipline..."

"I consider this a call to action and I will act," said Selig, who promised a swift response. "

Bud, who do you think you are kidding?

Juicing was rampant by the time you became Acting Commissioner in 1992. Your appointment of Senator Mitchell and his response are little more than a public relations response to Congress' demand for action.

Fay Vincent, your predecessor, had tried to crack down on steroids before you took over. In June 1991, he sent every major league club a memorandum saying all illegal drug use was “strictly prohibited” by law, “cannot be condoned or tolerated” and could result in discipline or expulsion. Vincent specifically highlighted steroids in the memo. This letter was sent 16 years ago!

The next year, you, a former owner who benefited financially from increased attendance generated by steroid enhanced performance, became Acting Commissioner. Through the 1990s, even as newspapers reported that as many as one in five baseball players used steroids, you, the father of then Brewer CEO, Wendy Selig Prieb (1998-2004), played down the issue. “If baseball has a problem, I must say candidly that we were not aware of it,” you said in 1995.

But as early as 1987 newspapers were reporting on the use of steroids by players. In 2000, the New York Times reported steroids were rampant in baseball, but a baseball spokesman said they “have never been much of an issue.”

After the 1994 baseball players strike, fans were leaving in droves. You and the owners turned a blind eye to the chemically induced home run seasons of the late 1990's including the home-run fest between Sammy Sosa and Mark Mcguire that brought the fans back and, more importantly, jacked up its revenues after the 1994 baseball strike.

The blog Saberonmics notes: "..MLB has been doing quite well for itself despite the steroid accusations that have been surrounding the game during this time period. Revenue growth had averaged 12.44% a year since 2002. Attendance has grown an average of 3.23%, with MLB breaking attendance records each of the past four seasons....you know economic times in baseball are good when Bud Selig is admitting it:

“When you look at the final numbers and you see what’s happened, it’s remarkable. There are times, honestly, when I have to pinch myself to make sure all of this is happening. … Growth and revenue, growth and profitability; it’s just been really, really good.”

The record is clear that you, Bud, and the owners who elevated you to Major League Baseball's top post, ignored and denied the problem all the way to the bank.

From er player and manager Billy Martin had it right when he said years before steroid's golden era: "Cheating in baseball is just like hotdogs, French fries and cold cokes." No one cares about it as long as everyone is making money!

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