Monday, Grant Brisbee tried to come up with five
hated non-beloved baseball figures ... and couldn't do it. Grant managed only four: Alex Rodriguez, Bud Selig, Jeffrey Loria, and Scott Boras.
I do think Grant nailed it, but I think you could cut his list in half. If Loria were introduced before a game in Seattle, how many people in the stands would know or care enough to boo him? Same thing with Boras, right? How many baseball fans could pick him out of a lineup? Rodriguez and Selig, though ... now there's a couple of villains. Which would have been true even before they came together in this latest contretemps.
Why I Selig so non-beloved? I believe it's because he's got a big blind spot. And perhaps the last, shining example will forever be his ill-advised appearance on 60 Minutes. Arizona Sports' pretty much Doug Franz nailed it:
Michael Weiner knew that PEDs were bad for the game, potentially worse for the user and worst for the non-user who's struggling with the question "to do it" or "not do it." Instead of squelching debate from within the union like Fehr did, Weiner protected potential users from themselves and allowed the staunch anti-PED player to have a loud voice. Bud Selig didn't necessarily have the support of the players, Michael Weiner did. Weiner believed he negotiated a fair deal to rid the game of PEDs.
One of the keys of the deal is confidentiality. An aspect of the deal that Selig's ego just couldn't allow him to follow. The entire sport of baseball is supposed to be the last bastion of class in sports. Instead, Bud Selig acted like Yasiel Puig.
Instead of following the protocol set in the joint drug agreement, Selig sent a baseball representative to make a statement to 60 Minutes. The CBS news show had an extensive interview with Alex Rodriguez's PED provider. MLB crushed A-Rod in front of the arbitrator and won their case but they had to show him up too.
The MLBPA would have been much more supportive of future strong-armed actions by Bud Selig if he would have taken the high road. It's asking a lot of Selig and MLB to do this. A-Rod has cost baseball millions during the investigation and legal fees. He's an embarrassment to the game. MLB is better with A-Rod not a part of the game. The desire to bury Rodrguez had to be overwhelming and powerful. MLB chose not to be above the fray.
Bud Selig has done many things for the good of the game. He has also been a detriment at times. By talking to 60 Minutes, Bud violated the cardinal rule, he put himself above the game. He wanted revenge but the game didn't need revenge.
All Selig had to do was ask, "What would Michael do?"
Sounds so easy, doesn't it? Except it's not. Doing what Michael Weiner would have done just isn't in Commissioner Bud's nature. During most of Selig's tenure, he's been an exceptionally successful consensus-builder, and he's obviously been smart enough to hire people who've been smart enough to open the financial floodgates. All things considered, he's probably been the most successful commissioner in history. It's probably not even a close competition.
For one thing, he's never been a particularly good liar. When he prefaces a statement with the word "frankly" -- and he says "frankly" a lot -- there's something like a 50/50 chance that he's being the opposite of frank. It's most one of the obvious tells in the history of public speaking, and it's insulting.
For another, he's somehow deluded himself into believing that his public presence makes things better. I believe that Selig loves baseball, has truly loved baseball for his whole life. And it seems never to have occurred to Selig that a Commissioner who truly loves baseball might not be the best spokesman for baseball; that sometimes it's best if there's no spokesman at all. So instead you've got Selig celebrating Mark McGwire's 62nd home run in 1998 and Selig trying to sound like he cares about civil rights (which he probably does!) and Selig announcing first-round draft picks on television and Selig going on 60 Minutes for no good reason at all.
Fortunately for Selig's legacy, most of these things will be forgotten. Most of them were slightly embarrassing to Major League Baseball in the moment -- and led to Selig being one of the game's four least-loveable figures -- but didn't have any lasting impact, and won't rate even a mention in the history books. If you take only the significant moments and decisions, the positives will outweigh the negatives and Selig will come out ahead. Maybe way ahead, depending on how much blame he gets for the Steroids Era.
It's possible that we'll miss Commissioner Bud when he's gone. I doubt it, though. It's just his nature.