Bud Selig Speaks

As has become custom, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig spoke with the media this afternoon ahead of tonight’s All-Star Game. He was joined by Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre to discuss an entire range of issues from interleague play to instant replay.

Perhaps the most surprising comments from Selig were with regard to the recent not guilty verdict in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, which led to him expressing his thoughts on the Mitchell Report.

I’m as proud today of the Mitchell Report today as I was then. I took a lot of criticism at the time internally as I was externally. No other sport had an outside person come in before … we knew from the start it was impossible to get everything. They not only examined and found a lot of things. They made 19 or 20 suggestions, which we adopted and cleaned up clubhouses. The only objective was to make it cleaner. The Mitchell Report will stand when history judges it as another step in a process that cleaned up a sport quickly.

It’s true that after the Mitchell Report came out in December of 2007, baseball moved quickly to dramatically change its drug testing policies, and while an emphasis on Human Growth Hormone is rather laughable, overall stricter measures surrounding banned substances is a good thing. However, it’s naive to think that MLB didn’t want to implement these changes long before the report was released, and if we think about it critically, we probably come to the conclusion that it was used more as a justification for action rather than a revelation that caused a response.

There also remain a ton of questions regarding Senator George Mitchell authoring a report on steroids in baseball while he held a position as director of the Boston Red Sox. His spearheading the report didn’t merely create a conflict of interest, it also makes Mr. Selig’s comments today that an outside person came in to look at drugs in sports appear rather disingenuous. Senator Mitchell himself admitted to the L.A. Times that his “tight relationship with Major League Baseball left him open to criticism,” but maintained that no one would “find any evidence of bias, of special treatment of the Red Sox.”

Mr. Selig’s wishy washy stance on instant replay is also somewhat maddening. The commissioner claims that replay will be expanded, but only when the technology becomes available. Newsflash: the technology is available, and has been available for a long time. I’m not being at all facetious when I ask, “What are the drawbacks of enhanced instant replay being used for fair/foul balls and safe/out calls?”

According to Mr. Selig:

Nobody is anxious to expand replay anymore. That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to review it. Baseball is a game of pace, you can’t compare it to anything else. We have to be careful how we proceed.

It would appear as though Mr. Selig and I have very different Twitter feeds.

According to Mr. Torre:

First of all you want umpires to call what they see. In the case of fair or foul, the smartest thing is to call it fair. Because if it’s called foul and ruled fair, where do we put the runners? That’s why, through education, I’m not so quick [to accept more replay]. We’ve had all the suggestions, the extra umpire, someone sitting at [MLB Adavance Media]. The game is imperfect, for all of us who want everything to be right all the time, it’s not going to happen. I don’t know why we want everything to be perfect. It’s an imperfect game. Life isn’t perfect and this is a game of life.

Well, the thing about life is, it will never be perfect. We will all never be able to attain every single thing that we want. So, in the thinking of the Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, there’s no point in striving to move closer to perfection. Why bother attempting to attain the things that we want?

I don’t see how the issue is nearly as complex as Mr. Selig makes it out to be. However, I also don’t understand why the owners, whom the commissioner represents, wouldn’t want to include technological advancements as a means of improving accuracy. The cost can’t possibly be that much more significant. And even if it was, Mr. Torre announced that the league is already planning placing a significant amount of additional cameras in every stadium in baseball.

It wasn’t all bad news though, as Mr. Selig admitted that the league was considering something that I’ve long championed as a great idea for spicing up interleague play: using American League rules in National League stadiums, and National League rules in American League stadiums so that the designated hitter would bat in NL ballparks while the pitcher would bat in AL ballparks. Sure, it’s kind of gimmicky, but it gives fans attending games something to see that they normally wouldn’t.

Of course, you could argue that you can’t please all the fans all the time, so why bother trying at all. Perhaps the league could commission a report on it.