Why Bud Selig shouldn’t be in the Hall


Fifteen of the 16 members of the Hall of Fame’s Today’s Game Committee voted to induct former commissioner Bud Selig next summer, which means at least one of them had some sense.

There’s a problem with that vote, and it’s not what they’re naming the committee (who picks these names? The same person who designed the Padres’ uniforms in the 80s?  Disney?).

Selig did some good things in his tenure, but he no more belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame than he does the AFL-CIO’s.

Inter-league play and expanded playoffs helped add interest in a digitally addictive age, and the financial state of the game is better than it was a quarter century ago. Give Selig his due. But when you’re the only commissioner to preside over the cancellation of a World Series, that alone should be disqualifying.

Never mind that Selig was either a participant and/or proponent of collusion in the 1980s or that he aped Sergeant Schultz with an “I see nothing, I hear nothing, I know nothing, I do nothing” performance on the PED issue a decade later.

Bragging about those successes and omitting those shortcomings is the equivalent of going 3-for-4 with two homers in a 15-2 win in Game 6 and following up with an 0-for-4, three strikeouts, seven left on in Game 7. The first doesn’t matter as much after the second.

When Selig retired more than one tribute said he might be the best commissioner ever, which is the very definition of damning with faint praise. It’s like picking the best song by the Carpenters. At some point, the best answer is none of the above.

It speaks volumes about the Hall of Fame that Selig, whose main goal was to make and maintain money for the owners, is in and labor activist Marvin Miller, whose main goal was to get as much of that money for the performers who were attracting the fans paying it, is out. And that Selig will be the fifth commissioner of a nondescript group to be inducted.

There’s a reason for Selig’s success with voters that any dictator would easily understand. Six of the 16 voters were from the management side, and according to mlb.nbcsports.com’s Craig Calcaterra, four of them were in Selig’s debt.

No surprise then that as ESPN.com’s Keith Law tweeted: “Bud Selig got a higher percentage of the HoF committee vote than the Uzbek president did in their elections.”

The Today’s Game vote was an election as the old lefty from Cuba, Fidel Castro, held them (for the record, Castro pitched as he rarely ruled: as a righty).

Calcaterra: “… two of those 16 guys became owners — and even more wealthier as a result — due to (Selig’s) affirmatively choosing or approving them to join sports’ most exclusive club. Two others were personally chosen by Selig to assist him over the years, raising their profile and importance in the game and giving them resume pieces that will one day be part of their own Hall of Fame cases.”

The former are the Royals’ David Glass and the Cardinals’ Bill DeWitt Jr.; the latter Phillies president Andy MacPhail and former Blue Jays exec Paul Beeston. It hardly matters. Former manager Bobby Cox was on the committee as a Hall of Famer (even if he shouldn’t be)  and he got to vote on John Schuerholz, his one-time Braves boss.

The appearance of conflict of interest is a phrase for Tomorrow’s Game committee, apparently, and not Today’s.

(I have no qualms with the election of Schuerholz, who won the World Series with the Royals and Braves, though his latter tenure always seemed like a famous author’s unfinished novel. There should have been more).

There’s another injustice to Selig’s election, which the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser was among the first to respond to with a tweet: “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers (Selig and Mark McGwire’s then-manager, Tony La Russa) are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.”

She’s right. McGwire was also on the Today’s Game ballot, but got less than the necessary 12 votes. He didn’t even reach four (final totals weren’t announced), which doesn’t say much for his 583 home runs, or more than all but seven Hall of Famers (and three non-Hall of Famers in Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and the still-active Albert Pujols).

McGwire never got more than 23.7% of the vote (2010), and that wasn’t because the writers didn’t like his personality, about which there didn’t seem much to like. It was because they felt defrauded and misled by the summer of 1998, when McGwire hit a record-breaking 70 home runs, had his feel-good moment with Sammy Sosa, and it all turned out to be the buzz from an illegal high.

The morning after wasn’t as exhilarating and the sport spent the next decade plus trying to rehab its image, most of it while Selig feigned ignorance.

How can Selig have missed the needle in the bat rack?

Then McGwire testified before Congress and said he wasn’t there to talk about the past, even though that’s exactly why he was there. Some of the vote against McGwire was for his faults but some of it was for his insolence at refusing to acknowledge them when the voters wanted him to. Selig had the good sense to cover his misdoings with corporate double speak.

ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant: “Equally important, however, is another message Selig sent throughout his tenure, and again Monday during the announcement of his induction — he is an owner, and the rules of accountability do not apply to the people in power.”

Like Slusser, Bryant is as correct as the voters were wrong. There’s a double standard in the Hall and always has been. Given Selig’s election, it’s not disappearing or being dealt with anytime soon.

 

 

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