January 4, 2011
January 2, 2011
January 3, 2011
December 31, 2010
December 27, 2010
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's version of Vatican II takes place in early January when his hand picked blue ribbon panel of baseball executives, coaches and even a well known political commentator will meet to discuss ways in which the sport can be improved. Issues expected to be on the agenda include instant replay, playoff scheduling - which is perhaps the most pressing topic as the rhythm of the postseason has been destroyed - and the pace of games.
While Selig may have the best of intentions, I have about as much faith in this committee to affect change in our former national pastime as I do in the enforcement of long overdue regulation on Wall Street. Just think back to earlier this year when that broken and irresponsible financial sector was supposed to fan a populist blaze which never transpired. Baseball is yet another American institution that is in disrepair and considering the lack of not-so-benign neglect and inaction on Selig's part for the better part of his tenure, there's little evidence to think that actions will speak louder than words in this case.
Of course, I want to be proven wrong by Selig and his task force. By all accounts the commissioner is a decent and charitable man with a passionate love for the game. And perhaps something will emerge from the gathering to give us all who are patiently waiting out another long winter some hope to cling to for the start of next season.
And to be sure, this conclave has some heavyweight names with weighty credentials and even stronger opinions. Among them are two with unimpeachable character when it comes to old school baseball integrity - Anaheim Angels manager Mike Sciosia and Hall of Fame player and former coach and executive Frank Robinson (ironically these two nearly came to blows on the field in Anaheim several years ago as opposing managers). The other members include: Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland, George Will, John Scheurholz, Andy MacPhail and a few lesser known team executives.
But just from the initial reading of this list, I sense a failed mission already, for there is a glaring and egregious omission - make that omissions - from this group. Namely, there is not a single current player or umpire part of this powwow. It is the essence of ludicrousness not to have the actual people who are on the field as part of this confab. Why Selig chose to go about it in this manner is beyond me (now, perhaps he did invite umpires and players and they chose not to attend in which case I retract my criticism and the shame is on me and them).
If a university wants to redefine its mission, students have to be consulted; if a city tries to rein in crime, often gangs are brought to the table; the IRA was eventually invited to talk and peace came to Northern Ireland. You get the idea - for there to be effective modification and transformation within any institution, all angles have to be explored and all sides heard. And with the mutual animus and distrust that exists with the union and management brass, any coming together of the minds would be appreciated.
It's truly nonsensical to organize this cabal without players since if reforms and policies are put forth for implementation, most of these decisions have to be approved by the union anyway. And since the union is just as responsible - actually more so - than Selig and MLB management for the steroid disaster and other matters, this would have been a perfect time to prove to Bud's doubters - and I am firmly in that camp - that indeed the man is utterly serious in his commitment to bolster his legacy and return some common sense and historical respect to the sport.
And with the umpires, it's inane to discuss instant replay without those on-field guardians of baseball rules present so they get a fair hearing. After all they're the ones in the battle, not the executives. What did Teddy Roosevelt say --- "The credit belong to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause." OK, maybe that's a bit of a reach, but point made.
In nearly every creative or industrial endeavor there is that constant tug between art and commerce. Sports are no different as there is the bottom line of the business side and then there's the matter of the structure of the sport - its rules and how the games are played.
If one examines Selig's record, it's crystal clear his successes have been in the name of commerce. When discussing his record, Selig often points to the stellar attendance throughout the league and lucrative merchandising and network deals that he's been able to negotiate. And there's no question that he has succeeded on that front.
But the more powerful future remembrances of Selig's stint at the top will likely be the twin demons of steroids and scheduling. His utter lack of will regarding these issues has defined - fairly or unfairly - his term(s) as commissioner.
We need a pendulum shift in priorities, back to where moral judgments rule, not moneyed interests. We need Bud to channel the spirit of Bart Giamatti. Whether one loved him or not, there's no questioning that Giamatti governed the sport with a tangible moral imperative. We need that now.
Selig and this committee have a chance to do good. But only if they bring in the players and umpires. I hope they prove me wrong and actually do something good.