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.