Selig’s Statement

Lost in yesterday’s let’s-strike-Barry-from-the-record-book silliness is the fact that Bud Selig did make an official statement on Alex Rodriguez yesterday:

On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am saddened by the revelations concerning Alex Rodriguez’s use of performance-
enhancing substances,” Commissioner Selig said. “While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances and those who use them have shamed the game.

“What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation. His actions are also a reminder to everyone in baseball — under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or amphetamines, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has tested positive for steroids has been suspended for as much as 50 games. Eradicating performance-enhancing substances from the game of baseball has been my first priority over the past decade and it is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity.”

He seems to have walked things back from those off-the-cuff comments to USA Today, which is a good thing. I guess the lesson here is never let Bud just riff, because he’s going to say something stupid if he does.

This statement, in contrast, is not stupid. He (a) reminds those calling for blood that this related to the pre-suspension era, implying that the critics’ hopes for suspensions or what have you are misplaced; and (b) notes something which all of the reasonable pundits — myself included — have neglected to acknowledge, which is that Rodriguez was wrong to use steroids. Whatever you say about the testing and the union and the blowback and the implications for the future and history and everything else, I think we can all agree that, in an ideal world, no one would be using steroids to enhance performance. No we don’t live in an ideal world, but unless you’re just a hopeless cynic, I don’t think you simply abandon efforts to attempt to attain the ideal. That should be the Commissioner’s job, anyway, at least as long as he’s somewhat thoughtful and realistic about it. Maybe that’s asking too much of Bud himself, but there are a lot of smart people in Major League Baseball who probably spend a lot of time reigning him in.

There’s no perfect way to wrap up this saga, and there’s certainly nothing that Bud Selig can say that will put an instant end to a long-term problem. But he can remind people that this was a past transgression and that there has been what most people understand to be a reasonable testing regime in place for several years now. History, as messy as it can be, will eventually sort itself out. To the extent there is further discussion about steroids in baseball, it should focus on things like making the testing better, adapting to changes in the doping world and in the legal supplement world, and tackling the big picture philosophical issue of what does and what doesn’t constitute illegitimate performance enhancement, because advancements in technology are only going to make this issue thornier.

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  1. ericinboston said...

    craig, no commentary on the idea that mlb turned a blind eye during the mcgwuire/sosa fairy tale and thus perpetuated the idea that steroids should adapt the army’s “dont ask dont tell” policy?

    maybe its fodder for a separate post unless you disagree.

  2. johonny said...

    When I think of the damage Selig and the other owners have done to the game in an effort to destroy the baseball union I wonder how this man with a straight face can condemn anyone else for “hurting” the game.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Eric:  I file that under “Whatever you say about the testing and the union and the blowback and the implications for the future and history and everything else.”  I agree that MLB was complicit in the culture, but if we’re ever going to move forward, we have to look forward. While we can’t ignore history, I’d like it if we all spent more time thinking about how the world is now:  there is a testing program, the league is serious about it, the players say they are too and seem to want to limit the influence of PEDs, and everything else stems from there.

  4. Aaron Moreno said...

    Good call, Craig. While I think the extent to which PED’s actually help baseball players is still open to question, and a great debate topic, many sabermetric folks forget that taking them is a bad thing, and ideally, you shouldn’t do it.

  5. ericinboston said...

    CC – i whole heartedly agree with your point. i guess what i have a hard time with is hearing these words come out of selig’s mouth.

    a-rod will pay a certain price for his transgressions.. certainly higher than his peers who are guilty of the same thing.

    but what price will selig pay? i find it disingenuous to even do a minor bit of grandstanding from his position given the history.

  6. TC said...

    Uh… why is wrong to take steroids?  I cannot agree on this point fundamentally.  It seems to me that the only thing steroids DEFINITELY do is help people heal faster.  I don’t see what’s wrong with that, at all.  Are there any studies to indicate that steroids do in fact cause disease and premature death?  If there aren’t, why should taking a wonder pill be wrong?  If steroids only hurt you when taken in excess, why not let players take them, but monitor their intakes? 

    It seems to me that steroids are only wrong because they’re against the rules, but I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation as to why that rule exists in the first place.  THINK OF THE CHILDREN, my ass.

  7. Craig Calcaterra said...

    TC: I didn’t mean to make some broad moral statement about steroids. It was wrong for A-Rod to do it because it was against the rules, he knew it, and he did it anyway.  This doesn’t make him a villain or some unethical sleaze, but it does make him a rulebreaker in the most literal sense, and that’s a problem.

    That said, I’d be more than prepared to see people have a wide-open informed debate about the pros and cons of steroids.  If it turned out that the rule made no sense in light of what we knew about them, by all means, change the rule.

  8. pete said...

    Unfortunately, I think yesterday’s statement was a much bigger mistake than most people realize, because it gave the stamp of legitimacy, from the Commissioner’s office, to the ideas of the most hysterical and irrational portion of the media and fan base.

    The proclamation itself was worthless from the start: ARod was never going to be punished and his records were never going to be touched. But, from here on out, every nut out there who wants to burn Arod and the rest at the stake is going to be using those quotes—“Hey, even the Commissioner was thinking about erasing their numbers!”

  9. Pete Toms said...

    I’m with TC, I got no problem with the juice.  As has been widely discussed, not every juicer was a jacked up Incredible Hulk type – see the list of players in the MR, particularly pitchers.  A lot of the benefits are as TC says, recovering more quickly and staying on the field.  When A Rod talked to Gammons he alluded to this, the comments about playing in 100 degree heat in Texas.

    @ Craig – did A Rod break rules? hmmm…not sure about that.  We know that MLB wasn’t testing (save for the survey testing) during that period…although it was illegal to take steroids.  But what if he tested positive from garbage purchased legally at GNC?  He mentioned GNC a handful of times to Gammons and as we all know, it’s a crapshoot what is in “supplements”.

    I think fans are gonna buy Bud’s BS.  It’s in the past….positive tests are down…if he whacks Bonds’ pee pee and gets another deal with the PA sans labor interruption he retires a hero.

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