I long ago abandoned the notion that MLB.com was Pravda or something, which is what I first thought it would be when it started up. The reporting there is very good, and sometimes great. Many of the MLB.com beat writers are much better than the newspaper guys who cover the same beat. Many of the columnists are aces. If they made videos instantly and freely embeddable I’d probably make the place my home page, but let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
But once in a while something shows up over there that makes me scratch my head. A year or two ago there was a five-part “analysis” of some of the labor issues facing baseball. After two parts were published, each of which basically left out the players’ side of the story and seemed to be pretty credulous of the owners’ claims, it abruptly ended. I’ve always wondered if the reporter who wrote that — a good reporter, by the way — was getting boned by heavy-handed editors and simply said that he couldn’t go on with it. And while it was a rare incident, I have kept it in mind when I read things over there. You just gotta keep your guard up whenever an institution is reporting on itself, as is the case with all of the league websites.
My sensors went off again today with Hal Bodley’s latest column. It reflects on Bud Selig’s legacy in light of the creation of that Commissioner’s Archive I mentioned yesterday which bears his name, and it’s a surprisingly non-critical look at Selig as well as the other Commissioners whose work will be documented there.
According to Bodley, Selig “had to endure the 1994-95 players strike,” when in fact he and like-minded owners fomented it. He talks about Selig’s early struggles to gain acceptance as Commissioner without acknowledging that, for whatever good things Selig has done since then, he basically took over in a palace coup, which makes his transition problems pretty darn understandable.
Bodley likewise positively spins the work of other Commissioners like Uberroth (he slayed the cocaine dragon!), Kuhn (he and Charlie Finley were nutty!) and Landis (he restored order after the Black Sox Scandal!) without noting that each of them — especially Landis — were just as responsible for baseball’s problems during their reign than they were for advancing the game. Commissioners are active players with their own agendas and they always have been. They’re not independent, Solomonic leaders.
Do I expect Bodley to viciously rip the Commissioners in an MLB.com piece? No. But A tongue bath is just as inappropriate in my view.