So Bud Selig goes to Washington after all to face the Congressional inquiry and testify at Thursday's hearing on steroid use in baseball. How magnanimous of him. Consider what had been his first choice of action for the past week: Thumb your nose at the nation's lawmakers while thinking a mouthy lawyer could make them go away, give every appearance of an institutional coverup, and leave yourself open to criticism for either chronic lying or a massive dereliction of duty as the premier caretaker of the game. Just me here, but saying nothing and getting Jesse Ventura-ized in Washington again strikes me as the better alternative, no?
This is how wrong Selig has been on steroids: He is speaking the same rhetoric as Barry Bonds, only without the raving madness and the Sanford and Son references. And their platform goes something like this: "Leave us alone. Let the new testing program do its thing. Whatever happened in the past -- guys shooting up 'roids in an unfettered free-for-all, mocking fair competition, United States law, the trust of our fans and the baseball record book -- doesn't matter. We can't go back and change it, right? So just drop it."
Right. And somewhere Pete Rose is saying, "Where was this all-forgiving, laissez-faire leadership when I was run out of the game?'' And what about those ballplayers exposed and punished as coke hounds in the 1980s? Think they would have preferred a no-looking-back commissioner? Enron would have begged for the government to send in Selig to look into its books.
I understand Selig is in a box. He doesn't want these hearings because it embarrasses the game and potentially destroys the integrity of individual careers. And, specifically, he's terrified that Congress wants the test results of individual players, which would damage whatever trust there is between the union and the owners if anybody's anonymity is lost.
But this is what comes with the nuclear fallout from The Steroid Era, which the owners allowed not, as popularly espoused, by an active conspiracy to keep the money rolling in, but a passive one, because to take a stand took more conviction than anyone in leadership had.
It's like asking me to feel sorry for Jason Giambi because he's "a nice guy" who told the truth in federal court. Sorry. He's no victim. He's a cheater. His bind is of his own making.
One high-ranking baseball official told me that it is fair to criticize the owners for being "late to the party" on steroids, though once they found religion in 2002 they understood the need to act firmly.
Selig keeps telling this fuzzy story about first getting hip to steroids in 1998 in a conversation with his pharmacist after the Mark McGwire-andro story broke. Was Selig deaf when fans in Boston were yelling "ster-roids!" at Jose Canseco 10 years earlier? Was he not aware of the frequent quotes throughout the 1990s, some of them his very own, referring to steroids in baseball? The revisionism boggles the mind.
Selig still doesn't get it. He has a full-blown scandal on his hands, as historically important as the gambling problem almost a century ago and the cocaine problem in the 1980s, except in this case we are learning about the scandal after the fact.