Leave the record books alone

February, 12, 2009
In the Village Voice, Allen Barra sticks a knife in the idea that Bud Selig should mess with Alex Rodriguez … then works it around and does some serious internal damage

    How about a drug test for everyone commenting on the A-Rod scandal? Let's start with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who according to USA Today, says that he's " 'just heartsick' about Alex Rodriguez's admission of performance-enhancing drug use and would not rule out punishing him or adjusting baseball's record book."

    This is more of the empty rhetoric and pointless grandstanding from Selig that helped get us to this mess in the first place. Selig knows that he has no such power.

    After years of trying to impose its will on the players union, MLB finally struck a bargain in 2003 for random testing. It isn't possible that Selig is foolish enough to think that he can override that agreement and retroactively impose punishments on what players did before the agreement went into effect in 2004.

    Moreover, is Selig seriously thinking of singling out Rodriguez for such punishment, or are the other 103 players on "the list" going to be outed and punished as well -- in defiance of MLB's own agreement with the union?

    USA Today's Christine Brennan, who ought to know better, thinks we'll all be going to hell in a bullpen cart "Unless … Selig does something about it. Unless he finally gets angry enough to take matters in his own hands and do what commissioners of sports are supposed to do, and, in the 'best interests' of the game suspend Rodriguez … Suspend him for 50 games, suspend him for a week. Just suspend him."

    This is reckless and irresponsible pamphleteering, not worthy of Brennan. From where does an experienced reporter like Brennan think that Bud Selig would derive such power? The so-called "best interests of the game" of the commissioner apply only to the interests of the men who pay his salary, i.e., the major league baseball owners. The only power Selig has over the players are those that have been negotiated and incorporated into the Basic Agreement with the union. Bud Selig doesn't have the power to force Alex Rodriguez or any other player to answer the phone if they don't want to take the call.

You should read the whole thing, as Allen handily dispenses with the notion that Selig has any control over the "record book," not to mention the ridiculous notion that he should do anything if he did. What's amazing to me is that we hashed through these exact same issues with Barry Bonds, and so I naturally assumed that all such arguments were beaten down with the brute force of justice, logic and practicality.

So what should Bud Selig do? I suppose this is far too much to hope for, but my first suggestion to Selig -- and for that matter, Donald Fehr -- would be (in the immortal words of John Lennon): Just gimme some truth. That's the only thing that might set all of them free.



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