Thursday, March 30, 2006

What Bud Really Said
By John W. Schmeelk

In a situation like this it's important to read between the lines.

The first important thing the Commissioner did today was put the onus on the MLBPA and off of the owners and himself. Despite the facts that state otherwise, he claimed baseball knew about steroids and tried to address it before 1998, and the Player's Association refused to budge. Now, could this have been done privately and gone unreported? Sure. But Selig did state in front of Congress that baseball had no clue about steroids way back then. Why the different tune? Bud Selig is a smart guy, that's why.

Selig had a couple options today. He could have simply said baseball screwed up by not addressing steroids sooner, it is impossible to change the past and that it was time to move on - and address here and now, rather than the past. But Selig did not do that, rather he stated that the integrity of the game and its history was at stake, and baseball needed to fix what went wrong. That's all well and good. Selig has decided action is better than simply doing nothing, which was his plan before this. It is a smart PR move, as most fans want to simply nail the cheaters to a wall. Easier said than done. We've seen the articles here and everywhere about what baseball could do in response to steroids. That is not what this article is about. Nor is it about the timing of what Selig did today. The point is to figure out what is going to happen now.

I hope Bud realizes that he has now painted himself into an absolute corner. He has taken one of his options off the table. He can no longer do nothing. We all know what he is going to find in this investigation, at least as it pertains to Balco. Who knows what else former Senator George Mitchell is going to find. The bottom line is, he is going to find out that some, if not a substantial number of major league baseball players before and after 2002 used performance enhancing drugs. I know, big shock. And yes, we all knew that already. But baseball has to conduct their own investigation, as stupid as it is, to take any action. And now they have to take action. The option of doing nothing is off the table. It would look absolutely ridiculous for a six month investigation by a guy that brokered peace in the middle east, to find that guys used and are still using illegal substances result in no action by Selig. It would be one of the biggest jokes in the history of baseball. And Bud's legacy would be destroyed.

So, here's what is going to happen. And this goes back to Selig scapegoating the MLPBA early in his speech. Is it true the MLBPA would never have agreed to steroids testing before Canseco's book and the BALCO investigation, certainly. Selig was sure to point that out today. What he didn't mention was the baseball itself likely didn't want harsh testing, especially in 98 when the roid boys saved the sport. But that fact will be unimportant in what Selig has planned. He realizes that even now testing is inadequate and easy to beat. He knows someone like Bonds and other guys are still using HGH. Bud is going to use the additional leverage from this rather superfluous investigation to put the onus on the MLBPA again in terms of two parts of the testing policy.

First, he is going to leverage the MLBPA to allow baseball to keep the current urine samples for future testing. This to me, will provide a deterrent to current and future athletes from using anything that is undetectable. Why? Who knows when in the future that substance will become testable via urine samples. Theoretically Barry Bonds could test positive for HGH 15 years from now, giving MLB proof to take action against him. It would be the same for EVERY other player, so it is fair to everyone around the horn. The second thing Bud could do is go an extra mile and request blood tests, but I doubt even with this extra leverage the MLBPA would agree to that. And if they are able to save the urine samples they wouldn’t need to. Players would have no way of knowing the substances they are taking could be detected some time in the future – which should scare them to death – and prevent a lot of use. Of course Selig will have to determine some sort of punishment for post-use positive testing.

The second thing Selig will do, is use the leverage from the investigation to try and strike down records in one way shape or form. Maybe, if he decides to go to the extreme, ban players from baseball. And don’t think that isn’t possible, Selig made the point in the press conference that even though steroids were not against MLB rules, they were against federal laws, and that more or less that was good enough for him. He said it was an ethics issue, not a rules issue. Of course, whatever Selig tries to do, the MLBPA will fight it to the end. But they will look real bad doing it, and lose a lot of public support. Baseball and Selig looks good in trying to clean up the sport. The players are the goats.

So in the end, here’s what it comes down to. By deciding to launch an investigation, Selig has committed himself to action after its conclusion, whatever it may be (we’ve discussed those possibilities before). To secure his, and baseball’s legacy – I believe his response will be a tough one, whether it is only striking out records and suspending players, only drug testing improvements, or both. He will place the onus on the MLBPA to go along with his decision, or look like jerks in the face of America. It’s all about creating leverage to force the MLBPA’s hand again, and Bud making himself out to look good.

Unless, of course, the investigation determines that the MLB testing program works, and there aren’t any problems now, and the problems then were small and negligible. But even Bud and baseball aren’t dumb enough to try and pull that off… are they?

- Breaking news today - Anna Benson has filed for divorce with Kris Benson. Rumor is it has a lot to do with some infidelity by KRIS. Uh oh. Remember Anna's promise if Kris ever cheated on her? Sleep with all his teammates - I beleive. Now for some tasteless jokes:

- Boy, now Lee Mazilli really regrets getting fired. Anyone know if Leo Mazzone is attached?

- Talk about bringing new meaning to "Action in the Bullpen" and "Pitchers are getting up in the pen."

- Smart money is on rookie Chris Ray to get his first - he is the team's closer after all. No one finishes like the closer.

- Anyone else think this is simply a way for Anna and/or Kris to stick it to the Mets for trading him. If Omar had just waited a few months he wouldn't have Jorge Julio. Oops!

- Im rooting for Anna to marry a current Met for revenge - thus forcing Omar Minaya to trade him. Smart money is on bachelor David Wright. I hear Latroy Hawkins is available.

That's all I got, some jokes courtesy of the WFAN newsroom. Enjoy!


Blogger David Arnott said...

Have you ever tried to throw Jell-o cubes at someone eighty yards away? Do you think your targets would be threatened? That's exactly how threatening this investigation will be. Mitchell (a Red Sox investor, by the way) has ZERO subpoena power and ZERO leverage to compel people to talk. The "investigation" will consist of reading Game of Shadows and combing other media reports, with some medical education thrown in. Selig et al won't actually confirm anything damning unless they get their hands on the grand jury testimony, which was illegally obtained by the Chronicle reporters in the first place, so that's probably out, rendering anything besides a positive drug test pretty much moot. Though hearsay and circumstantial evidence amounts to a solid case that Bonds and others used illegal substances (Conte and Anderson both went to prison!), without a drug test or a public-record confession it's a wild goose chase.

7:31 PM  
Blogger John W. Schmeelk said...

Oh yeah - they are likely going to learn nothing new.

But that's not the point.

It's all about PR!

8:10 PM  

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