Tipping Pitches: Sports: Selig's departure could spark needed change

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sports: Selig's departure could spark needed change



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It was recently revealed that Bud Selig has declined an option to renew his contract that currently ends in 2012 and will step down as Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Here is where you expect me to rag on Selig for ruining the league, causing the steroid issues, and failing to institute a salary cap.

Eh.

It's easy to hate on Selig. He's a weaselly guy. He has a crooked smile. Drools and spits when he talks. Was in charge when baseball endured the strike of 1994, the Steroid Era and growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

But I don't lay it all on Selig. He truly does care about baseball. But I don't think it would have been any different under just about any other of the league's prior commissioners.

Selig wasn't the cause of this stuff. He was simply in charge when it happened.

Could he have done something about it? Maybe. But he was a weak leader. He was diplomatic and Democratic. He deferred to management and yielded to the Player's Association in an effort to keep everyone happy.

The ability to get two sides to work together is often seen as a sign of a good leader. But it's not the type of leader the game needed during the past 15 years. And it's not the type of leader it needs now.

He was also a progressive Commissioner, being the center of inter-league play and the Wild Card playoff system.

Are those things good for baseball? Debatable. But the league is thriving, more or less, and he deserves some credit.

Baseball now needs a strong leader. One who isn't afraid of ruffling feathers. One who is willing to institute the "Good of the Game" clause that Selig was all too scared to touch.

In many ways, baseball needs its Roger Goodell. The new NFL commissioner jumped in and made immediate changes to the league's image. He is brash. He is confident. He does what he knows is best, regardless of what others think.

Baseball needs a commissioner who is not afraid of the MLBPA. One who is willing to do what is best for the league, no matter what the players and owners think. One who takes the power away from the players and Yankees and returns it to the game.

The steroids issue needs to be put to rest. It can't be until the league is completely transparent about the past and willing to go above and beyond to make sure that performance enhancing drugs stay out. And those who use need to be punished severely.

Selig has been weak here. He played dumb. No matter what the testing system in place, he'd claim it was working. He publicly trusted the players. He didn't want to punish those who broke the rules.

Instead of a public leader, he was a PR head. Cheerleader. Nothing to see here. All is well. Best league in the world.

Test more often. Off-season, preseason, during the season. Keep tests. Allow them to be public. Retest when codes are broken.

Do something about the financial disparity in the game. Get your head out of the sand. We all know that it is a problem. Admit to it. Don't allow the Yankees to guide your decisions.

Is a salary cap the answer? I don't know. But do something. Do more than a tax that does nothing but encourage the have-nots to collect year after year.

I don't fault Selig for the flaws in today's game. I wish he would have been a stronger leader. But he wasn't.

Knowing that his reign is ending gives me hope. It gives baseball hope. It gives fans of small market teams hope.

The next guy may or may not be any better. But new leadership provides hope that things can change. Under Selig, they won't.

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