Dear Bud, I hope you'll take the time
to look in the mirror today and admit
that you've made some mistakes in
Dear Commissioner Selig,
I’m sure that these past few days have been trying for you and the league. Just when you thought you might be getting past the whole Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds mess, here comes the best and brightest in Alex Rodriguez admitting that he used steroids from 2001-2003. Along with this news, allegations, once again, surfaced that Gene Orza had been tipping players when they were scheduled to be tested, and the fact that Rodriguez’s name was leaked as part of the 2003 survey test results that the MLBPA was supposed to destroy.
Trying times, Bud. Trying times.
But, Thursday there was word that you might consider attempting to discipline Rodriguez, and then released a statement saying you were “saddened by the revelations concerning” his use of steroids, adding, “While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances and those who use them have shamed the game.
“What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation.”
Well, Mr. Commissioner, that’s when I thought of “those in glass houses…”
Clearly, Rodriguez was not the brightest in going on 60 Minutes and saying that he never used steroids, but I don’t ever recall you coming forward and “living with the damage you have done to your name and reputation” in the past.
You probably don’t read internet media, but I know that those in the Commissioner’s Office swing by and read what I have to say daily. If you ask them they’ll tell you that, for the most part, I have applauded what you have done for the sport in recent years. But, if you’re willing to grill – and possibly attempt to discipline Rodriguez, about using a substance that was not banned by the league at the time – then it’s only fitting to bring up some of your actions in the past that have been inappropriate, and yet, you have not been willing to admit were wrong.
To start with, you and 25 other owners in MLB followed then Commissioner Peter Ueberroth down the road of collusion to keep player salaries down in the mid-‘80s. Not once, not twice, but three times arbitrators ruled in favor of the players. It further sowed the seeds of distrust with the players union that lead to the disastrous 1994 strike, and cost the owners $280 million in settlement monies. The pat answer from the hawks in the league has always been that the owners never worked together in concert, a direct violation of the CBA, but the truth is Mr. Selig, you did, as did many of your close allies at the time.
Then there’s the matter of accepting a $3 million loan in 1995 from Twins owner Carl Pohlad while you were acting commissioner. Accepting the loan from a Pohlad-owned bank for the Brewers certainly smacked of conflict of interest, and broke MLB’s own rules. But, in paying the loan back – I mean, the Brewers paying the loan back within 90 days – it was deemed an “arms length” deal; a rationalization in the extreme.
There’s also the league's attempt to dissolve not only the Montreal Expos but the Minnesota Twins via contraction starting in 2002. Yes, the same Carl Pohlad who had loaned you the $3 million for the Brewers, was looking to make a tidy profit by shutting down the Twins after years of failed attempts at a new stadium. Good thing there was a mountain of lawsuits ready and waiting to make sure that relocation, as opposed to contraction, occurred for the Expos. As for the Twins, they finally got the public to kick in for a new stadium for your friend Carl, who was the richest owner in all of MLB.
Maybe we can talk about the promises broken while working to gain public financing for Miller Park, which former Wisconsin governor Tommy G. Thompson said was chock-full of “misleadings and mischaracterizations.” Like many other ballparks finagled by you and the other multi-millionaire owners in a private-sector industry, it was funded almost entirely by the public while you enjoyed the benefits.
The initial cost of the stadium was targeted at $250 million, with the Brewers kicking in $90 million. The club was given all the revenues earned at the ballpark, including those for non-game-day events.
The problem was (at least for the taxpayers in Wisconsin), the state's Legislative Audit Bureau reported that as of the end of 2001 Miller Park's total cost rose to nearly $425 million, while the Brewers' share stayed at $90 million. But, that’s really not correct, now is it, Mr. Selig? After all, Miller Brewing pitched in $41.4 million as part of their 20-year naming rights deal, which lowered the amount owed by the Brewers. The club borrowed the balance, and in the end $36 million of the associated team debt was canceled by the quasipublic Stadium District in September 2002.
At the time, you said that in order to compete, the Brewers needed the stadium, and yet during the time your family owned the club after the stadium was completed, the opening-day payroll was reduced from $52.7 million in 2002 to $40.6 million in 2003, and in 2004 it sunk to an abysmal $27.5 million opening-day payroll. Thank goodness you sold the club to Mark Attanasio.
Finally, Mr. Selig, we have to come back to the matter of performance-enhancing substances in baseball.
You have to admit, Mr. Commissioner, that no matter how upstanding he is as a former Senator; no matter how “independent” you tried to paint him, hiring George Mitchell – a member of the Red Sox board – to look into PED use in MLB would give you the best opportunity to walk away from the published report unscathed. Come to think of it, the only management member that was mentioned extensively in the report was Peter Magowan of the Giants. Interesting that he “retired” shortly thereafter. The Mitchell Report, which you so gallantly hang your hat on, fails to lay any significant blame on you or the owners for the steroid culture that pervades the historic record to this day. You know what they say Mr. Commissioner… the best leaders always stand by the saying, “The buck stops here.” Well, maybe it does for you, but it’s only in terms of your sizable salary.
In closing, Mr. Selig, if you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit disturbed at how you have taken on this crusade of ridding baseball of its scourge without being able to be the least bit contrite, honest, and forthright by saying, “We saw that something was wrong. We failed to act. We used the stonewalling of the union as an excuse. I was on watch. As the man running the sport, I, along with the Players Association, bear a large responsibility for how we got into this mess.”
Instead, you have the gall to place the matter solely at the players’ feet. Yes, they are responsible, but admit it… for all the work you are doing now to remove these substances from the game, you enabled it to happen in the first place.
Mr. Selig, to use your quote, I’m “saddened by these revelations.” For all the good you have done for baseball, I offer up this one suggestion: next time, try the less-is-more approach. Don’t get holier than thou. Be saddened, but do so knowing that you helped create the monster. Hypocrisy is not supposed to be the mantle of a Lord, although it seems to sadly be fitting you well recently. Remember, Mr. Selig, the hallmark of honesty is admitting your mistakes.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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