I posted a link on my Facebook page back in January about how baseball’s owners were going to vote to renew the contract of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. I accompanied the link with a one-word comment – “Boo.” From that one word came a cascade of other comments, which eventually culminated with someone adding the following words – “Selig should burn in hell.”
Quite a jump from “Boo.” In a way, though, this comment sort of summed up (in much cruder terms) what I’ve thought of Selig for years – that he is the worst MLB commissioner I can remember in my lifetime and is possibly the worst current commissioner of any of the three major professional sports (although David Stern is giving him a serious run for his money these days). I could run down a litany of facts to prove my case, but I’ll simply leave it at this: Any man whose most enduring image is one of him looking clueless while shrugging his shoulders is probably not one you would want in charge of a multi-million dollar sport.
It is ironic that Selig’s current headache is emanating from a team he has been so closely associated with – the Milwaukee (which, as Alice Cooper reminded us, is Algonquin for “the good land”) Brewers. Even after divesting his ownership interest in the team to his daughter (Slick. I’m sure no eyebrows were raised there…) after he became commissioner, the perception still exists even to this day that Selig is still somehow fiddling around with the Brewers. And, in a manner of speaking, he is.
Selig’s latest debacle involving the Milwaukee Brewers concerns the present state of 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun. MLB was going to suspend Braun for 50 games to start the upcoming season because he had tested positive for elevated testosterone levels in October of last year. Last week, however, baseball arbitrator Shyam Das overturned that suspension, on the grounds that Braun’s test sample (It’s amazing how eloquently we’ve all managed to frame what is, essentially, a vial of pee.) had been improperly handled.
If Selig has proven anything during his tenure as baseball’s top dog, he has shown an uncanny ability to get himself into predicaments he has no hope of escaping from unscathed. This particular instance is no exception. As bleak as things currently look for Selig, however, they don’t appear much rosier for Braun. Finding a winner in this particular instance is more difficult than tracking down an Albert Pujols jersey in St. Louis right now.
For Selig, he was faced with two equally devastating outcomes. Had the arbitrator upheld the suspension, MLB would still have to admit it had awarded an MVP award to someone who had used some type of performance enhancer. Baseball’s iron-clad testing policy would have been shown to be so porous that someone could put up elite numbers for an entire season without getting caught and then actually be rewarded for doing so. With the arbitrator’s decision to overturn the suspension, however, the testing policy looks equally as weak, as the accused player didn’t even have to prove he was clean in order to get off. Henry Fonda would be proud.
And even though he was “vindicated,” Braun doesn’t come out looking much better here. His only defense in the matter was that the sample was mishandled. He has never indicated what might have caused the test to come back positive. Reports have surfaced that whatever caused Braun’s testosterone levels to come back so high may have been some type of medication and not a performance-enhancer at all. Even if the mismanagement of the test was purely to blame, Braun has never seemed to lean on that defense publicly as heavily as he did before the arbitrator. If I were getting paid millions of dollars a year and my employment were threatened, I’d be letting everyone know every little thing that went into my body, if I was convinced I was truly innocent. Braun hasn’t even come close to that, and therefor the feeling still exists that he simply slipped by on a technicality.
So who wins here? Essentially, no one. Selig’s drug policy has been forever diminished, and Braun will likely be viewed as a cheater who worked the system, whether he was innocent or not. As frustrating as it may be, a shoulder shrug may be the only appropriate response left here.