Selig’s plans often lead nowhere

Considerable segments of the baseball world are up in arms over MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s remarks as part of the fallout from the Alex Rodriguez steroid revelations.

Speaking to USAToday, Selig was asked about the rekindled steroids furor.

“This is breaking my heart, I don’t mind telling you that,” the commissioner said.

Asked if he would consider reinstating Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king and adding an asterisk or some other notation to the statistics of Barry Bonds, Rodriguez and others involved in baseball’s steroid controversy, Selig offered faint hope.

“Once you start tinkering, you can create more problems. But I’m not dismissing it. I’m concerned. I’d like to get some more evidence,” Selig said.

That suggestion caused a furor all over the game as foxholes were dug even deeper over the wide-ranging potential impact of re-writing the record books. Among the reactions was from Aaron himself. Secure in his legacy and always graceful even as there is turmoil all around, Hammerin’ Hank simply said that Bonds can keep his record.

Selig was also asked what he might do about A-Rod.

“It was against the law, so I would have to think about that,” Selig said of possible action against Rodriguez. “It’s very hard. I’ve got to think about all that kind of stuff.”

Of course, there seems no chance A-Rod will be punished any more than any of the other players named in previous steroid cases did. Selig knows any action would be akin to declaring war against the Players Union, something that just isn’t going to happen.

He knows that. We all know that. So why not be open and honest about it?

Instead, the master of the “I’ll have to study this” continues to feed his personal brand of pablum to the hungry masses. I, for one, am not eating it up.

Selig has a long and consistent history in terms of dealing with controversial matters, using time-tested techniques of conflict avoidance.

Step one
: Express deep-felt personal concern.

Step two: Make vague comments suggesting the matter might be resolved.

Step three: Vow to study the issue.

Step four: If at all possible, avoid ever discussing it again.

Step five: If pressed, state progress is being made.

Step six: Repeat steps one through five as necessary.

Step seven: Finally take action only if absolutely forced to do so, preferably by appointing a study committee. Rinse and repeat.

Without going anywhere near the Mitchell Report or any further into other steroids-related subjects, here is a look at some key topics in recent times and Selig’s responses.

May 2006 – Fans nationwide are outraged over complicated and illogical MLB television blackout rules.

“I don’t understand (blackouts) myself,” Selig said at a luncheon with the Baseball Writers Association of America. “I get blacked out from some games.”

“Right now,” he said, “I don’t know what to do about it. We’ll figure it out.”

“I hear more about people who can’t get the game,” Selig said, “and, yes, I’ve already told our people we have to do something about it.”

Almost three years later, despite being “spurred on by thousands of letters from angry fans”, according to Yahoo Sports, the blackout policy has been tabled in multiple ownership meetings over the last several years and is not on track to be resolved for 2009.

Result: No resolution

November 2007 – GMs endorse instant replay by 25-5 vote.

For years an outspoken opponent of instant replay in any form, Selig was seemingly finally outgunned by the clubs when in November 2007, general managers voted 25-5 in favor of exploring the use of instant replay on a limited basis.

Still dragging his feet despite the clear mandate, as recently as a July 15 “Town Hall Meeting” on, Selig was asked directly if he was going to institute instant replay in 2008.

“I am not,” Selig said flatly.

While acknowledging the matter was under study, his comments remained guarded and non-committal.

Selig finally caved after several embarrassing high-profile blown calls on home runs affected game outcomes. On September 3, instant replay was used for the first time in MLB history. Most ironically, the first call was to reaffirm an Alex Rodriguez home run in Tampa.

Result: Stall until being forced into action

July 2008 – 15 inning All-Star Game exposes rosters with too few players – again.

Stung by his embarrassing decision to have to declare the 2002 All-Star Game in his own Miller Park in Milwaukee a tie (remember the unfortunately timed “This time it really counts” marketing slogan?), Selig had a flashback this past summer, as both teams nearly ran out of pitchers during the 15-inning All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

Selig told the AP that he was considering expanding All-Star rosters by two pitchers to ensure that position players wouldn’t have to take the mound if the game again goes well into extra innings.

In a positive, the commissioner did rule out gimmicky alterations of the rules to conclude an extra-inning All-Star game more quickly such as the approach tested at the Beijing Olympics. There, each team’s at-bat starting in the 11th inning began with runners on first and second.

“It’s meant to be played to completion,” Selig said. “I thought we had forever solved the problem, and we had. Everything we did worked, but we may put an additional safeguard in.”

Result: No resolution

August 2008 – Manny Ramirez dogs his way out of Boston so he and agent Scott Boras can hit the free agent market.

The Boston Red Sox held club options at $20 million per season for the services of outfielder Manny Ramirez in both 2009 and 2010. His new agent Scott Boras would not receive commission on those options if exercised. Both agent and player likely saw the opportunity to make more on the open market.

Allegations included Boras telling the Sox that Manny would play hard for the rest of the 2008 season if they would agree to not to pick up the options, a claim Boras of course denied.

When the Sox were forced to trade Manny, a condition of the deal with the Dodgers was to decline the two option years. Ramirez and Boras are reportedly asking for $25 million per season over three years, but as of now, Manny is unsigned.

From the Boston Globe last August:

“…Bud Selig directed Major League Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred to contact all parties for an explanation of how things unfolded around last week’s trading deadline.”

Result: No action

My final example epitomizes the “no-decision” reign of Selig.

January 1973 – Owners vote in the use of the designated hitter in the American League for a three-year trial.

Sort of like Gilligan and the Skipper on their seemingly-endless three-hour cruise, the issue of the designated hitter remains lost at sea after 36 years.

I am not here to debate the merits of or concerns about the DH, though I admit that I do have strong personal opinions. Instead, my point is that an entire generation of fans has grown up with a rule that is inconsistent across the two leagues, something that is clearly unique in sports.

There have been many resulting complications, including artificial interleague and post-season play advantages received as a result of the lack of standardization.

Instead of getting to the bottom of the inequity, in 2005, Selig made the ridiculous suggestion of using AL rules in NL parks during interleague play and vice-versa, as if that would solve anything. Needless to say, that generated little to no support from anyone.

In the same “Town Hall Meeting” this past July noted above, Selig re-affirmed the non-status status of the DH. He doesn’t even call this issue a back-burner one.

“(The DH) Hasn’t been debated for at least 25 to 30 years,” Selig concluded.

“So other than some catalytic event occurring, I think that’s the way it’s going to stay. I think, look, the game has grown like it never has. We’re going to set another attendance record. So I guess I have to say our fans accepted it pretty well.”

Result: No action planned

There you have it. Whether broken or not, the game has been making gobs of money, so that tells Selig and the owners that fans are accepting of pretty much everything.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These issues and many more that have been festering for months and in some cases, years, will soon be pushed back into the headlines as the 2009 season approaches.

For those currently worried that Selig will seriously try to change baseball records or discipline A-Rod. Forget it.

If the pressure gets really strong, expect a committee to nowhere to be assigned. Add in generous amounts of additional time to deal with owners or the Players Union or the umpires association or Congress or whoever else has an opinion.

In the meantime, be prepared for more concerned quotes being generated with precious little results to follow.