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Is Bud Selig really prepared to act so decisively?

Jun 5, 2013, 6:06 PM EDT

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York Reuters

I’ll end my portion of the day with a Deep Thought of sorts. More of a pondering without a huge point. Just an observation and a musing. That musing: is Bud Selig really prepared to pull the trigger and suspend scores of players, some of them among the biggest names in the game?

This is not a musing borne of sharp skepticism, really. I certainly have my opinions — strong ones — about what Major League Baseball should or shouldn’t do. But I don’t have a strong view on what they will do. There’s just to much unknown right now to determine whether they act or they don’t, whether any suspensions they offer will take or they won’t.  We just don’t know.

But I have been watching Bud Selig for my entire adult life, and one thing that sort of puzzles me right now is how Bud Selig — late period Bud Selig — could act so decisively in an arena where he is bound to get a fight from the union.

If anything has characterized the latter years of Bud Selig’s reign it is his mastery of consensus. You may disagree with some things he has done as Commissioner, but tell me: what was the last thing he actually did where he had to engage in a public fight to do it? Dating back to the 1994-95 strike, I can’t think of one. He is a consensus-builder. He is a planner. He has not had an owners revolt of any kind in years. When someone wants into the club, he gets in. When Bud wants someone out, he’s kicked out. When new initiatives are launched they are launched with unanimous or near-unanimous consent of the owners and the suits in the league office and, increasingly in recent years, the union.  It may be tough going behind the scenes — I imagine Selig has twisted arms and called in favors like nobody’s business over the years — but when something finally gets done, it’s decided and it’s not controversial among the people who could make his life miserable over it (fans don’t always count, naturally).

So I look at the potential for Selig to suspend a zillion players, and the near-certainty that it will lead to a serious, hard core fight from the union, and it doesn’t add up.  Yes, Selig may want to protect his legacy as Major League Baseball’s Commissioner. But Selig’s legacy is not of a drug-free game. Far from it. It’s from operating the gears of the business like a well-oiled machine and never, ever, getting truly thrown into the mud.  Selig is a man who doesn’t like to look feckless or ridiculous. The last time he looked that way was that tied All-Star Game. He made damn sure THAT wasn’t going to happen again. And he did so by getting a silly rule passed about the All-Star Game counting. With very little opposition. That’s how he rolls.

We learned today that the suspensions are not nearly as imminent as ESPN’s report last night made them out to be. There is a timeline — all of June, really — during which baseball is going to assess its evidence and see what it has. And then, maybe, they’ll go after the players.  I can’t help but think that the ESPN report revealed an internal debate among baseball officials about how to act. On the one side some folks who would like to fire a missile at Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez and on the other some of the more Selig-like folk who, to quote a line about the Russians from “The Hunt For Red October” don’t take a dump without a plan.  And given how compromised Anthony Bosch is and how big the fight back from the players would be if suspensions were issued based on his word, suspending 20 or more guys at once is not much of a plan.

Maybe the pro-suspension forces are losing the debate and they got mad and leaked the discussions to ESPN? Maybe baseball really doesn’t know what to do and decided to float this out there to see how it is received? I really have no idea. But I am going to have to have someone explain to me why, after all of these years and after every minefield Bud Selig has successfully navigated, he would choose now to court such potential ugliness and uncertainty.

Bud Selig doesn’t fire before he aims. He fires after the condemned prisoner is standing six inches from him, bound at the wrists and well-aware of how sealed his fate truly is. We don’t have that situation with the Biogenesis stuff right now. And the fact that Selig may be willing to fire anyway is fascinating to me.

  1. yankeepunk3000 - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    I loved your gun metaphor…but the rest is crap. Let them all get suspended and I hope they do it quickly. Oh noooo millionaires losing millions. the out rage.

    • Jeremy Fox - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      Um, why is Craig’s speculation on what Selig will do “crap”? Seems like pretty reasonable speculation to me. It’s widely acknowledged that Selig is in fact a consensus-builder, for reasons Craig laid out. Which means that it is in fact surprising to think that he would actually go ahead and suspend a bunch of players who haven’t tested positive.

      Are your feelings about what Selig *should* do really so strong that you can’t even comment coherently on a post on what he *will* do?

      • jeffbbf - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        Looking from a different perspective…it may be wrong to assume that Bud hasn’t already built a concensus. This is not a new story and MLB has had several months to plan a course of action and build a concensus. The message in these posts seems to suggest that Bud and MLB are flying by the seat of their pants on the decision making process here. Maybe they are, but the well-documented history in this post suggests otherwise.

      • yankeepunk3000 - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:08 PM

        YES. I do strongly believe what they “will” do is suspend all these players or at least most. I read what Craig has written on this the past few posts and it seems him and Mathew are trying to defend the players. The dealer will get whats coming to him by the law. MLB can only punish the players who CHOSE to do this and Rightly so. Enough of defending these players, those who are cheating should be suspended. A-rod and etc.

      • Jeremy Fox - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:48 PM

        In other words “I decided to comment on this post on stuff I think Craig and other bloggers said in other posts about what should happen, even though in this post Craig went out of his way to emphasize that he wasn’t talking about what should happen.”

  2. heyblueyoustink - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Judging simply from that picture, I’m going with “he’s got the smoking gun” , or, Jim from Taxi.

    Could be either.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:27 PM

      Really? That says “competence” to you? Huh.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:35 PM

        ” Uhhhhhhh !”

    • Old Gator - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      I don’t know about a smoking gun, but what we ought to be worrying about is that perhaps, along with the Vitamin V and the fright wig, Bud Light has also contracted a dangerous case of Giamatti envy.

  3. cur68 - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Seen Bud lately? I was just watching him being interviewed by Hazael May on Sportsnet. He’s making one HELL of an effort to appear younger.

    Know what I think? Bud Selig: Decisive Young Guy.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:28 PM

      new girlfriend? vitamin v?

      • cur68 - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:31 PM

        Fair questions. I have no idea. But since innuendo, aspersions, and scant evidence gets players condemned, I say turnabout is fair play. So that’s a resounding “YES” to both questions.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        New guy friend, some shady looking cat from Florida.

      • chacochicken - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:50 PM

        He is enjoying the anti-aging bounty he’s recently secured. The Curious Case of Allan Selig.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:22 PM

        Well, gentlemen, you make it sound as if Selig is turning on Bosch after the two had a falling out — the thin line between love and hate and all that.

      • cur68 - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:47 PM

        Lets have him checked for backne and then tried in the press, shall we?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:18 PM


        /throws Phil Garner Playgirls

      • madhatternalice - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:21 AM

        Lazarus Pit. He’s never retiring.

      • Old Gator - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:25 AM

        Watch out Bud. See what happened to Michael Douglas?

  4. icanspeel - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Thing that bothers me most about this is that it seems like all the players keep getting grouped together. Seems like it’d be better to do it on a case by case basis.

  5. Walk - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    If they keep going down this road with releasing information prior to any trial or judgement they are risking a grievance from the union. It was my understanding that they were not supposed to release any information without first the player admitting it or a failed case at arbitration. This is to keep players from being tried in the media and any potential arbitrator from unfairly judging him before the case has even begun. This was bargained for and is in the agreement. Unfortunately it seems to be mlb policy to release names prior to a case to force a player into a corner. It certainly makes the players next contract a team friendly one if they can get one at all.

    • 4d3fect - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      Union busting via trial by media.

    • Cris E - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      ” It was my understanding that they were not supposed to release any information without first the player admitting it or a failed case at arbitration…. Unfortunately it seems to be mlb policy to release names prior to a case to force a player into a corner. ”

      That might be true, but let’s try to keep it simple: rather than leaping all the way to “MLB Pollicy” I think it’s far more likely that someone in the media got through to one of the dozens of people who could have been tangentially involved with this and ran with it. There’s not a lot of detail, there’s a great deal of Whoo! Scooooop! and it involves reporters who have been on this beat and know who to talk to and where to dig.

      But that doesn’t detract from your final point much. The end result is damaged goods that can still play, which is a fine outcome for owners. I just think that this leak is more likely than them betting there wouldn’t be a next leak that would expose the collusion.

  6. jayscarpa - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    ‘”Among the biggest names in the game”? ARod is an admitted PED abuser and almost universally disliked; right or wrong many people believe Braun got off on a technicality; 3 more users; and a bunch of guys who range from good players to ‘who?;

    There are 750+ MLB players and 20 under suspicion. Lets not get hysterical.

    • dan1111 - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:19 AM

      A-Rod and Braun are certainly among the biggest names in the game. Their popularity and previous connections to steroids are not relevant to how the union would react–all that would matter is whether the current suspension is justified under the rules.

      Also, given that there have only been 13 suspensions (of 11 players) in the last 5 years combined, 20 players being suspended at once would be a very big deal.

  7. dowhatifeellike - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    If the evidence is sound, send a message and sit their asses down for the rest of the year. It’s time to show that having crafty manufacturers who can beat a drug test doesn’t make it ok to cheat.

    The reason that the minor league players get caught more often is that 1) there’s more of them ,but also 2) they can’t afford the good stuff.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:01 PM

      Never mind that there are thousands more of them so of course more are getting caught. They also get tested for things that MLB players don’t. But yeah, it’s a money issue…

    • jrbdmb - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      I don’t see how MLB can just assign a random penalty (100 games for a first offense, or the rest of the year as you say) and ignore the negotiated contract with the players. And when did the union give MLB the power to suspend players without a failed drug test?

      Though I would like to see more punishments handed out, I really don’t see how this is going to end well for Selig and the MLB.

  8. randygnyc - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Craig- great intuition here. I can’t imagine Bud diving into this pool without knowing there’s no chance of drowning. And yes I agree, ultimately he may decide that its not possible. Bud in my view isn’t a gambling man. He’ll only bet when it’s a sure thing, if there is such a thing.

    If MLB can be successful here, I’m hoping they do so. Every other deterrent has failed. Money, shame and suspension isn’t working. Outside of draconian punishments, perhaps an epic banning might be a catalyst to dissuade players from engaging with PEDS. Again, no sure thing. But as much as the majority of fans want steroids to be left in the past, we are tired of seeing entitled millionaires cheat playing the game we love.

    Perhaps the next CBA will have to have a guillotine clause. Zero tolerance in exchange for something the players want. Maybe it’ll come down to money.

    • Tim OShenko - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:11 PM

      “I can’t imagine Bud diving into this pool without knowing there’s no chance of drowning.”

      Are you suggesting Bud dive into an empty pool? Because I find that a darkly amusing mental image.

    • Cris E - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      Agreed. As annoying as I find most of Craig’s posts on the PED topic, this one was on the money (until the end when he started pontificating again.) This is not a fight Selig takes on until he knows it’s what the preponderance of owners want and that he can win or settle with the union once they get into it. As buffoonish as he’s appeared at times, he does move cautiously when dealing with the Big Topics.

      If they’re going to have drug testing at all they have to rely on more than just testing. The labs are ahead of the cops in that regard and are likely to stay there. Like the War On Other Drugs you get a lot more bang for the buck blowing up the supply chain and hammering at the integrity of the suppliers rather than only hoping for possession or other red-handed busts. In this case you break open a supplier for the top money guys and now players have no idea who can be trusted. Make them worry about more than just testing and you’ll see even more guys step back.

      I don’t want to see a lot of players suspended. I want fewer players to use PEDs and to believe that most guys are playing by the spirit of the rules. You’re always going to have desperate guys doing stupid things, but I think ten years ago we were at a point where normal guys were doing things that probably wouldn’t get them caught and we’re really backing away from that. This is progress, and if a little sabre rattling raises the bar for the next ten years then it’ll be OK. (But a first offense guillotine clause or a large scale Stalinesque 50 Game Reeducation Program is not a good thing. it just isn’t.)

  9. randygnyc - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    Walk- players associated with Bosch wasn’t leaked by MLB, but rather from biogenesis directly to a Florida newspaper, months ago.

    • Walk - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:32 PM

      The names did come out in the story you mentioned, however the fact that mlb was reportedly seeking 100 game bans is something that should not have been released along with player names until the actual penalties are levied. There are players linked in the biogenesis story such as gio gonzalez and supposedly he bought no performance enhancing drugs. There should be no leaks whatsoever from mlb, but this is not the case, just like with braun’s conviction which was leaked early and then rescinded. That story was put out by espn and mlb denied it this morning so I have no idea what is going on right now. It is a sad and complicated story randy, but it opens the business side of baseball up some and I do enjoy the chance to see some internal politics play out in the media.

  10. sdemp - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Just because you purchase something, that doesn’t mean you used it. . . could have been purchased for someone else, a gift, used to sell for profit, who knows!?

    Without a positive test I don’t see how suspending players based off of circumstantial evidence is good for the game.

    I hope this backfires on MLB as it should.

    • grumpyoleman - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      Honest officer I just thought she was a friendly frisky female and the money was a loan.

    • perryt200 - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:07 PM

      so you would have us believe that when a player says something to the effect, “Ya I bought a performance enhancing drug that can’t be spotted on a drug test, but gave it to my buddy as a birthday present”

      we just take that as gospel?

    • dan1111 - Jun 6, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      Here is Wikipedia’s description of the MLB steroid policy:

      “all players are prohibited from using, possessing, selling, facilitating the sale of, distributing, or facilitating the distribution of any Drug of Abuse and/or Steroid.”

      I hope that helps.

  11. stevem7 - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    My true pleasure will be watching Selig and the rest of that worthless corporate entity known as MLB getting buried under the convoy of dump trucks sliding tons and tons of restraining orders off at the front door. It Selig is stupid enough to attempt to go forward based on the word of Bosch and nothing more, his great great great grandchildren will still be answering subpoenas and making responses long after that fool is dead and buried.

  12. cmdrsmooth - Jun 5, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    Horrible commish.

  13. albanyjints - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Bud — you’ll be my hero if you suspend ARod for the next four years.

  14. joerymi - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    If MLB is successful in these suspensions, and it is based solely on testimony, then the player union ought to be disbanded because it would be shown on be ineffectual.

  15. hartkirch - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    interesting of 20 names on most lists i’ve seen on this thing are Latinos!?

    • Old Gator - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:22 AM

      Bienvenidos a Macondo, compadre.

  16. peaceknuckle - Jun 6, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    The international signing period and limitations, as well as the slot limitations on draft picks were far from consensus rule changes. They only really seemed to help a small handful of teams, and I still read quotes from front office guys who hate the new rules and limits.

  17. HFS Richard - Jun 6, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    I agree with you in that the idea that Bud would suspend players off of only Anthony Bosch giving him verbal testimony of whom did or did not take steroids is ridiculous to me.
    I think you are more likely to see this as step 2 in the evidence collection. First they started to gain documents aka the ones that someone (Cough maybe ARod maybe not) that named some names, now you get the guy who sold them the stuff next you talk to the players themselves. If they have enough evidence at the end of all of this to suspend players then do so.

    To be honest I’ve seen a lot of people today complaining about this all happening during the season, Bud Selig did not choose to leak this (I dont believe so anyway) this distraction is on two sets of people 1)The Leakers whomever they may be and 2)ESPN they ran with a half baked story from an anonymous source that it turns out is still in its infancy.
    Holy crap…..I’m defending Bud Selig right now……holy cow….

  18. louhudson23 - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:20 AM

    Maybe they could just stop using the shit….

  19. bcirej - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    As much as I detest any athlete who uses PED’s to gain an edge over his peers, MLB will show it’s true ineffectivness if it suspends any player for being on a list. It is ridiculous! The way to do this is with surprise testing, which has been allowed by the MLBPA for a few years. The testing should be expanded and if any player representative objects, maybe he should be scrutinized even more. Players should want complete, thorough testing because that other team with a bunch of PED users is beating their team. How is MLB going to catch all the players who used a different supplier? It has to be with testing, not looking at some list.

  20. gmsingh - Jun 6, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    I’m pretty sure the only time Selig acts decisively is when bowel movements are involved. He’s the worst thing that ever happened to baseball, with Lou Gehrig getting ALS a close runner up.

  21. ctony1216 - Jun 6, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    Can someone explain how MLB can “indemnify” Bosch against lawsuits from MLB players? If a player sues Bosch for either releasing his private medical records or for defamation, will MLB pay to defend the lawsuit and then pay the award if MLB loses? That’s possibly 20 cases. It’s like a Rogers Clemens vs. McNamee trial x 20 and MLB is paying the bill for each trial?

    It seems like baseball is just winging it. They wanted Bosch’s records, and made a deal with the devil to get them. But now what? Once the Miami news story came out, MLB was shamed into doing something to show that the league’s drug-testing policies weren’t a joke. So, instead of improving its drug-testing or drug-prevention efforts, MLB called its lawyers. I don’t see this ending well for MLB or effectively dealing with PED use in the league.

  22. w2lucky - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Selig is arguably the worst MLB Commissioner in history. I haven’t been to a game in over ten years after all the muscle boys (Bonds, Sosa, McGuire) ruined the game for me, got no punishment, and still one of my favorite players (Pete Rose) is banned from the game by this idiot. Even if Selig allowed Rose to return, he is now too old (like me) to be a factor in bringing people back to the ballpark. The fact that ARod or Braun are PED-commandos no longer phases me. Thank you Mr. Selig. Any chance you will ever move out of the way and let someone smarter take the helm?

  23. w2lucky - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Just out of curiosity: What do you readers think hurt baseball more? Pete Rose betting on his own team, or Selig’s failure to control the steroid era in baseball?

    While most hitting records are now tainted forever, Rose’s 4000 hits at least remains clean.

  24. timpaz - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Bud Selig will do as he always does follow the owners orders, bottom line.

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