Columnist George Will writes a letter to the editor at Forbes, defending Bud Selig against claims that he was asleep at the switch as far as PEDs were concerned and that he has, overall, been a poor commissioner. Money quote:
Steve, serious baseball fans argue about everything–the best hitter, the best World Series, the best left-handed catcher from northeast South Dakota. But they do not argue about who has been the best commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner–Selig.
It’s a long letter touching on many topics, so you should click through to read it.
For my part, I think Will is generally right in lauding the fact that MLB’s financial house has been put in order under Selig, even if it would be innaccurate to give sole credit to His Budship. It happened on his watch, he did many smart things, and he got the hell out of the way when it was wise to so, and that’s better than many executives can say.
Will is off base, however, in claiming that Selig would have put down PED use in baseball if that big bad union hadn’t stopped him. The truth of the matter is that both the union and ownership showed a profound lack of desire to tackle PED use in the Major Leagues prior to Jose Canseco’s book and the subsequent hoopla. While it is true that Selig put drug testing on the table in the 1994 CBA negotiations, it was, by most accounts, a throwaway proposal designed to give the union something to reject so that Selig could more effectively demand other things. The clear priority of the first decade of Selig’s tenure was to break or at the very least weaken the union and to do whatever he could to allow the smaller market teams to gain the financial upper hand over the Steinbrenners of the ownership group. If he had used a quarter of his energy and political capital to attack steroids that he used to achieve his financial goals, there is a good chance that something could have been done about PED much sooner, union opposition or no.