NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — As Bill reported last night, Former commissioner Bud Selig and Braves executive Jon Schuerholz were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game committee, formerly the Veterans Committee.
As I wrote in my breakdowns of their candidacies last week, Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he is on of the top executives of the past half century and his success speaks for itself. As I also wrote last week, Bud Selig is arguably the greatest commissioner in the history of the game. I also wrote that, for several reasons, I do not think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, though it was clear he would elected anyway. The results of the voting are not at all surprising.
But that does not mean that they are not disappointing. Disappointing in that they clearly illustrate the complete lack of responsibility baseball leadership has taken for the Steroid Era and the complete lack of accountability it will ever be asked to assume. A responsibility that even George Mitchell, the man Selig picked to investigate performance enhancing drug use in baseball a decade ago, clearly stated belonged to the Hall of Fame’s newest member:
“Everyone involved in baseball shares responsibility,” Mitchell said during the news conference in which his report was released, “Commissioners, club officials, the Players Association and players. I can’t be any clearer than that.”
The Mitchell Report itself — a document that engages in a lot of whitewashing and which only scratched the surface of drug use in baseball — talks of team officials openly discussing players’ drug use, even going to far as to say that maybe they should steer away from players who may have ceased using drugs. It goes further, however, obliquely but unmistakably holding Bud Selig responsible as well:
“Obviously, the players who illegally used performance enhancing substances are responsible for their actions. But they did not act in a vacuum . . . [t]here was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread.”
Bud Selig has been credited with and has eagerly taken responsibility for every positive development in baseball under his watch. But he has never taken an ounce of responsibility for the “environment which developed” with respect to PEDs in baseball. Indeed, he has actively shirked it. Remember what he said in 2009, after Alex Rodriguez admitted he used PEDs?
“I don’t want to hear the commissioner turned a blind eye to this or he didn’t care about it. That annoys the you-know-what out of me. You bet I’m sensitive to the criticism. The reason I’m so frustrated is, if you look at our whole body of work, I think we’ve come farther than anyone ever dreamed possible. I honestly don’t know how anyone could have done more than we’ve already done . . . A lot of people say we should have done this or that, and I understand that. They ask me, ‘How could you not know?’ and I guess in the retrospect of history, that’s not an unfair question. But we learned and we’ve done something about it. When I look back at where we were in ’98 and where we are today, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made . . . It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity.”
Beyond that he has only talked of baseball’s efforts to combat drug use from the mid-2000s on. Never once explaining why it took Jose Canseco’s tell-all book and not baseball’s obvious knowledge of PED use by players to act. Never once explaining why its initial response was so weak and why it was only ratcheted up in direct proportion to how much bad publicity baseball received in terms of players and PED use. Bud Selig did nothing for years and then only did the bare minimum he was required to do until it became untenable to do so. After that he used the Mitchell Report to change the subject from baseball’s drug problem as a whole to a decade-long parlor game in which naming names and scapegoating individual players for drug use became the order of the day, turning scrutiny away from MLB’s Park Avenue offices and shining the spotlight on players and players alone.
It has been a wildly successful strategy. Today only the players have paid the price in terms of their legacy and reputation. Only players associated with performance enhancing drugs — or even baselessly accused of performance enhancing drug use — have had the doors to the Hall of Fame barred to them despite their other accomplishments. Barred by the very language on the ballot which asks voters to weigh in on their character. A clause which the Hall of Fame, on whose board Selig sits, has made no effort to clarify or explain vis-a-vis PED use. As such, the Hall endorses the BBWAA’s continued holding of players responsible for the Steroid Era.
Yet Bud Selig, a man who held more unilateral power in baseball than anyone since Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis died, has ben allowed to get away with pleading ignorance and innocence when it comes to baseball’s greatest black mark since the game was integrated in 1947. He is allowed to accept baseball’s highest honor this week and again in July when he is inducted in Cooperstown. The loud and clear message this week and next July will send is that the buck only stops with the Commissioner of Baseball when the buck makes the Commissioner of Baseball look good.
It’s a bad look for baseball. It’s a disgrace that so many deserving players are denied induction because of mistakes they made while Bud Selig, a man who presided over the Steroid Era and is thus due the ultimate responsibility for its existence — not to mention his involvment in a criminal collusion conspiracy and his responsibility for the cancellation of the 1994 World Series — is gong to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.