Posted: Friday January 5, 2007 11:47AM; Updated: Friday January 5, 2007 11:47AM
Working with George Mitchell's investigation, Bud Selig has spent a lot of time and money trying to clean up baseball's steroid mess.
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Selig declined to discuss the other sports. But there's no doubt that baseball is held to a much higher standard. The NFL can have scores of 330-pound lineman running sub five-second 40s (not to mention the involvement with steroids of a half-dozen Super Bowl participants), and no one says a word about it. And the league can have a player fail a steroid test, then be almost universally seen as a worthy candidate for defensive player of the year honors.
Baseball's lone controversy involves the steroid mess that's now been answered with a stringent drug policy, thanks to Selig pushing a previously resistant players' union to accept frequent, unannounced testing and tough penalties. It's easy to point a finger at Selig and say he should have pushed sooner, but the sport had already survived one disruption and he wasn't about to abide by another one in 2002, so he accepted a thin new steroid policy survey that at least put users on notice and got things going. Now baseball has professional sports' toughest drug policy. If it's too late to save the whole record book, it's still a major coup.
"I spend a significant amount of time in introspection, and there isn't anything I would do differently,'' Selig said. "I'm proud of where we are with our steroid policy today. We banned amphetamines. We're funding a program for HGH, and we're trying desperately to find a test for it. People can criticize, but I'm proud of where we are.''
Selig also expressed no regrets about how the Mitchell investigation, which is now in its ninth month, has seemed hampered by privacy laws and the lack of subpoena power, and has cost baseball tens of millions of dollars, an expense that's drawn behind-the-scenes criticism from some of the owners. But Selig thinks the league was right to look back and expects worthwhile findings. "I do,'' he said. "I have a lot of faith in George Mitchell, whose reputation is impeccable. I felt I wanted to do as much as we can to examine the past.''
The history buff in Selig has always wondered how he'll look in hindsight. Now when folks examine Selig's past, it'll look a lot better than anyone ever realized.
Around the Majors
The Yankees probably had no alternative but to send Randy Johnson to Arizona as he wanted to play closer to home, has a no-trade provision and isn't know for his flexibility. But beyond that, the Yankees liked the Diamondbacks' pitching prospects better than what the prospect-poor Padres could offer. Scott Linebrink was about the best they could come up with.
With Johnson gone, the Yankees emerge as the clear favorite to land Roger Clemens, no matter what's coming out of Clemens' camp now.
Nationals GM Jim Bowden has the job because he ingratiated himself with the Lerner family, not because he was club president Stan Kasten's first choice. Even so, word is Bowden worked at least the first several months after his appointment without a contract, and it's believed that's still the case. In the long run, it may not be so easy for him to keep the job.
The Nats were outbid by double for Alfonso Soriano ($136 million to $70 million) after Bowden determined it would be better not trade Soriano because they'd try to keep him instead. The Nats' big deals this winter were 21 six-year minor-league free agents. How bad is their plight? "We have one pitcher. One starting pitcher,'' noted one Nationals person.
Some White Sox execs thought Brandon McCarthy had only average stuff (but admittedly very good control). And they also thought he complained too much about having to pitch out of the bullpen last year. That makes it ironic that they trade him to Texas just as he's ready to join the rotation.
The best trade of the winter may have been made by Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd, who plucked the same trio from Houston (pitchers Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz, and outfielder Willy Taveras) for Jason Jennings that the White Sox were about to get for Jon Garland. Good non-trade by the White Sox to pull back, too. Garland's worth a lot more than Jennings.
Royals fans came out of the woodwork to kill me for omitting the Royals from my list of 12 improved teams, and I have to admit it was probably the result of an allergic reaction to the Meche signing. They probably should have been there. But the team I regret omitting most is the Blue Jays, who should benefit not only from the signing of Frank Thomas, but also the return to health of A.J. Burnett, one fellow known as The Big Hurt and another who could be (based on his past pains).
Fingers fingered: My official opinion on word that Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers owes the state of Wisconsin $1.4 million in back taxes for decades is this: It's been 20 years, how about asking him to pay it back?