Bud Selig probably won't have a lot of options when it finally comes down to punishing those involved in the Steroid Era. Heck, by the time the commissioner finds out what has gone on in the past 15 or 20 years -- if he ever finds out -- Barry Bonds and many of those accused in this performance-enhanced soap opera may be long, long gone from the game.
Remember this: When former commissioner Bart Giamatti asked John Dowd to probe the gambling allegations surrounding Pete Rose in the late 1980s, the investigation lasted six months. Baseball's just-launched inquiry into the Steroid Era threatens to make that look like a pop quiz.
"This is 10 times, maybe 50 times more difficult," Fay Vincent, Giamatti's deputy during the Rose investigation, said from his Connecticut home on Tuesday. "I would guess it would take at least a year."
Maybe, he said, as long as two years.
Still, if Selig follows Vincent's lead, if baseball's investigation produces anything of note, Selig eventually will do something. He'll have to do something.
At least he's finally pointing in the right direction.
"I think baseball is definitely doing the right thing. They might have been slow in getting there, but they got there," said Vincent, who succeeded Giamatti and served as commissioner from 1989 to '92. "I think baseball has to get back on the moral high ground."
Vincent is in a unique position in all this. It was his June 7, 1991, memo that first put steroids on baseball's list of banned substances. (The memo was, for all practical purposes, meaningless. It didn't pertain to players because the union didn't agree to it. Still, it was baseball's first known official acknowledgment that steroids were dangerous.) So not only was Vincent on watch when the Steroid Era was in its infancy, he also has remained a studied observer of the game since then.
He's been a longtime critic of Selig, the former owner with whom he often butted heads, and of what has happened to the game under Selig's leadership. But Vincent knows, better than most, the problems Selig faces. The ex-commish went through plenty of tough times in his brief tenure, though nothing as potentially damaging to the game. He has a pretty good idea of what Selig can and can't do with the steroids scandal.