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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #16: Bud Selig gets elected to the Hall of Fame

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

This is the most recent entry on our list, and it’s the sort of “a thing that happens every year” story that doesn’t necessarily make for big news. But Bud Selig being inducted into the Hall of Fame, as he was in early December, may have some repercussions that are bigger than the event itself.

As for the facts: there was no surprise whatsoever that the new version of the Veterans Committee — The Today’s Game Committee — elected Selig. Selig sat on the Hall of Fame board for years and the Hall of Fame has a vested interest in keeping Major League Baseball happy. It was certainly going to elect Selig in as soon as possible and it did just that.

It did that despite the fact that Selig was an accomplice to a literal criminal conspiracy that harmed people’s livelihoods and, in turn, compromised the product on the field. Despite the fact that he launched a disastrous, cynical and greed-inspired labor war that cost us the 1994 season and World Series. Despite the fact that willfully turned a blind eye to steroid and performance enhancing drug use in the game and then turned around and vilified and scapegoated the players who used those drugs in a comically grandstanding and self-serving manner. He may have been baseball’s best commissioner ever, but that doesn’t mean he’s entitled to make the Hall of Fame. The guy did a lot of harm to the institution he was tasked with leading. That baseball’s revenues helped make people forget about it all doesn’t change what he did.

But, as I said: repercussions. At the moment it appears that two figures who have long been shunned in Hall of Fame voting — Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — are seeing a big uptick in their support among BBWAA voters, who will cast their ballots by the end of week. The reason many are stating for changing their votes in Bonds’ and Clemens’ favor: Selig’s election. If the man whose negligence and turning a blind eye to PED use in baseball until it became a PR problem for him is in Cooperstown, why should we bar the door to PED users themselves?

Seeing Bud Selig get inducted to the Hall next Cooperstown is going to bug me a bit. But if that makes it possible for two of the best players in baseball history to get their overdue inductions sometime down the road, it’s worth it.

Astros take their third bite at the apple in response to Assistant GM Brandon Taubman’s comments

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Last night Sports Illustrated reported that, following the Houston Astros’ Game 6 victory over the Yankees on Saturday night, Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman shouted at a group of three female reporters, “Thank god we got [Roberto] Osuna! I’m so [expletive] glad we got Osuna!” Taubman reportedly repeated the phrase half a dozen times. The Sports Illustrated report was later corroborated by no less than four reporters apart from the Sports Illustrated reporter who were in the clubhouse and witnessed the incident.

The comments and their context strongly suggested that Taubman was, at best, making light of the criticism the Astros received for trading for Osuna following his domestic violence suspension resulting from very serious domestic violence charges lodged against him in 2018. To some it smacked of Taubman taking something of a victory lap over the Astros’ controversial — and poorly handled — acquisition of Osuna and came off as extraordinarily insensitive and abjectly tone deaf.

The Astros originally declined comment before the report was published. Late last night, after the story went live and once it became apparent that it cast Taubman in a bad light, they issued an angry and defensive statement, calling the Sports Illustrated article “misleading and completely irresponsible.” Again, despite the fact that the report was corroborated by multiple eyewitnesses. The team’s statement was itself then subjected to intense criticism today.

The Astros are now taking their third bite at the apple, releasing the following statements:

It’s worth noting that nowhere here do the Astros apologize or even reference last night’s statement which, in essence, called Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein a liar. A statement which they no doubt would’ve let be the last word if it hadn’t been met with such pushback. Which suggests that the above statements — of the “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” non-apology apology variety — are more about damage control than sincerity.

It’s also worth noting that Taubman’s comment takes the oh-so-common tack of referencing the fact that he is a “husband and a father,” which is irrelevant given that at issue were his acts and words, not his identity. We are not what we believe ourselves to be in our heart of hearts. We are what we do. We are how we treat one another. That’s all that matters. Attempts to deflect from that basic fact of humanity are, just that, deflections. And patronizing ones at that. Taubman’s statement would’ve been way better if it had stopped after the second sentence.

As for owner Jim Crane’s statement, it continues the Astros’ tack of wanting to have it both ways. There is no rule that says they could not have traded for Roberto Osuna. What made the whole episode unseemly, however, is how they claimed to have a “zero tolerance” policy against domestic violence and claimed not to be breaking it when they clearly did so because, hey, Osuna was cheaply had. Which means that they actually have a “some tolerance” policy — as do a lot of teams — but they wanted to act like they were better than that and deflect criticism from those who took issue. Here again, Crane wants it both ways by using what should be a straight apology for one of his top employees’ boorish behavior as an opportunity to once again claim that they are better than they truly are when it comes to domestic violence.

If you don’t have to care about an issue and you, in fact, don’t care, well, fine. You may catch hell from people for that stance, but you can do what you want. If, however, you want credit for being on top of an issue, do the work to earn it. If you fall short of your or society’s expectations, apologize and try to do better. What you cannot do is fail and then try to use your failure as a means of turning the tables on those who criticize you while claiming that, actually, you’re really really good on the topic.

Major League Baseball has also weighed in:

“Domestic violence is extraordinarily serious and everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior — whether intentional or not — that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence.  We became aware of this incident through the Sports Illustrated article.  The Astros have disputed Sports Illustrated’s characterization of the incident.  MLB will interview those involved before commenting further.”

The comment came out at almost the exact same time the Astros’ comments were released, which suggests to me that they were coordinated. Which, hey, they’re all trying to end the conversation about this before the first pitch of tonight’s Game 1. I will not hold my breath for anything to come of MLB’s “interviews” of those involved.

As for the Astros, here is some free advice: “I. Am. Sorry. I. Was. Wrong. I. Should. Not. Have. Done/Said. That.”

Apologies are easy. We’re taught how to do them when we’re two years-old. Only when we start thinking we’re better than everyone do we start qualifying them to the skies to the point where they lose all meaning