MLB Winter Meetings: Bud Selig and the Hall of Fame

It’s quite the curious case, isn’t it? The Today’s Game Committee, formerly the Veteran’s Committee, selected John Schuerholz of the Atlanta Braves (and Kansas City Royals) acclaim and Bud Selig in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Nothing is surprising about Schuerholz. He twice was the mastermind behind World Champions. He built the 1985 Kansas City Royals team and then again the 1995 Atlanta Braves team, although some would argue that those teams fell a bit short by ONLY winning one World Championship. Anyway you look at it, Schuerholz is more than deserving.

Selig? You can argue that he is hands down the single greatest commissioner in MLB history. You can also argue, he was involved in the most detrimental era in the sport… twice.

Only Kennesaw Mountain Landis served close to the term that Selig did and there was a reason for that. Selig came to power as part of the group that revolted against then-commissioner Faye Vincent. Vincent, of course, had so much contempt from the owners, that baseball could have very well crumbled had Selig not come to power.

The former Milwaukee Brewers owner was only “Acting” Commissioner from 1992 to 1998 before officially becoming the commissioner from 1998 to 2015. He expanded baseball both on the field and off of it. There were more teams and league realignment which eventually led to interleague play. These things have been met with both positive and negative feedback over the years.

He also made the owners rich. He made some very rich actually, while allowing the rich to get richer, while throwing some money towards the “small market” teams in doing so as a penalty… or should I say “luxury tax”. In turn, some will tell you this made some other organizations teeter on extinction, and that blame should fall on Selig as well.

He was in charge for two of baseball’s worst instances of recent history, canceling the World Series in 1994 (which may have inevitably been his fault) and figuring out what to do after the September 11th attacks. Everything he did, in the long run, was seen as a success (except maybe that All Star Game rule).

But the 1994 work stoppage… perhaps that’s where Selig’s legacy has to take a turn. We all know the story. Baseball was down after the the World Series was cancelled, a move he may or may not have been responsible for. It essentially killed the Montreal Expos who were amid their greatest run in history and would have to part with much of their young talent over the next few seasons. Much like in any sport, when athletes who are paid way more than the fans — who pay for their salaries by the way — stop working, it takes some time to win them back. It took baseball a little bit longer.

Enter Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Most people credit their chase for Roger Maris‘ magical 61 (I’ll never put an asterisk) as what saved baseball. The power surge (let’s not forget how many people blasted more than 40 home runs that season, Barry Bonds wasn’t even one of them) would eventually lead to one of the worst eras in sports. Labeled the Steroid Era, the players of that time frame are still paying the price on Hall of Fame ballots everywhere.

But Selig didn’t. And he allowed it. It’s well documented that he very well may have turned a blind eye to what was going on simply because he had one job: to save baseball and make the owners rich, and folks, business was boomin’. Jose Canseco‘s book opened a can of worms and eventually it became a federal issue. (side note: Tom Verducci and Joe Torre‘s The Yankee Years has perhaps the best chapter on what was going on that I have read). Several pitchers were rumored to have gone before Selig and MLB imploring to level the playing field. But nothing was done until it had to be and baseball “looked bad”.  The Mitchell Report was released, and in it, it blamed everyone involved, including the Commissioner.

The Minnesota Twins are probably thankful he is in the Hall of Fame (remember that time they were almost contracted?). And there are probably not too many owners that are going to object to seeing the man who made baseball a booming business and made them rich along the way.

The issue is that the doors of Cooperstown now have to be open to all, players and managers alike, who were part of the Steroid Era. I have shared my Hall of Fame ballot the past few seasons and I have made no secret that I think Barry Bonds and a few others should be in the Hall of Fame. It was part of the game that everyone knew existed. In one form of the other, it has always been part of the game. I mean, seriously, use the term “greenies” in any other sentence other than, “every baseball player in the ’70s took greenies.”

So I am torn. If baseball was seen as a poisoned sport for much of Selig’s term, and a federal case seem to prove that the problem was rampant from the very top to the very bottom, why is the head of it all allowed in, yet the players that “cheated” the game not? This is the man that vehemently denied Pete Rose entry year after year, but when his turn came up, there seemingly wasn’t a question.

So, I’m curious what the readers think. Was this the right move for baseball or does it further blemish the wrongs of the Steroid Era?

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