Monday, August 06, 2007

Barry Bonds hits 755 – the sheer gall of Bud Selig

Barry Bonds hit the 755th homerun of his career Saturday night at San Diego’s Petco Park tying Bonds with Hank Aaron for the Major League Baseball career home run record. Bonds sat out the Giants game Sunday afternoon, but is expected back in the lineup tonight when the Giants meet the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park to open a seven-game homestand.

Barry received some great news Sunday evening. After his “America’s Least Funny, but most inane, inept and incompetent moment” Saturday night, but won’t bother attending the first three games of the Giants homestand against the Nationals. After Bud’s behavior Saturday night – Bud’s decision of not bothering to show up for the next three games, puts Bud in the same company as another terrible baseball commissioner, the late Bowie Kuhn who didn’t think his presence was required on that momentous April night in Atlanta.

The sheer gall of Bud Selig’s behavior Saturday night before, during and after Barry Bonds hit home run number 755 once again proves Bud Selig is unfit to lead Major League Baseball.

Bud choose to keep his hands in his pocket when Barry rounded the bases. Clearly the commissioner wasn’t going to applaud the moment, but his actions sent a strong message to the industry – as far as Bud Selig is concerned Barry Bonds date with destiny means nothing whatsoever to Bud Selig.

"Congratulations to Barry Bonds as he ties Major League Baseball's home run record. No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds' achievement is noteworthy and remarkable.

"As I said previously, out of respect for the tradition of the game, the magnitude of the record and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty, either I or a representative of my office will attend the next few games and make every attempt to observe the breaking of the all-time home run record."

ESPN approached Bud about appearing on air after Barry hit number 755, Bud refused. His statement after the game “guilty until proven innocent” BARRY BONDS HASN’T BEEN CHARGED WITH ANY CRIME” Maybe (all right we all know) in Bud’s mind Barry has been charged, but why even make that warped analogy when the man has yet to be CHARGED with anything. Whatever Barry Bonds did or didn’t do, the “optics” of the commissioner of any sport suggesting anyone is innocent until proven guilty implies that person: either has been charged or might be guilty.

And if Bud doesn’t want to be there, his inane “will he or won’t he” debate, Bud if you don’t want to be there stay home, but don’t embarrass yourself and the commissioners office. And if Selig feels Barry “owes” Selig for in essence embarrassing Barry that’s preposterous – your actions were irresponsible and not befitting the office of the commissioner.

The true test of a leader is to guide during the toughest of times, not to make yourself part of the story. This has nothing whatsoever to do with whether “Barry did or didn’t do” but where Bud Selig was on Saturday, how he arrived there, his actions and his belief that Barry now owes Bud – Bud do baseball a favor and don’t head to San Francisco Monday night, you’ve become a hindrance, a sideshow.

Members of the media, baseball fans – everyone except those who directly work for MLB have the right to say whatever they want about Barry Bonds. Few if any baseball writers are prepared to recognize what Barry Bonds has accomplished and sadly most of the writers and broadcasters who are at least prepared to offer Barry Bonds any kind of acknowledgment for what he has achieved are African-American. That said – there is no excuse whatsoever for how Bud Selig behaved on Saturday night.

CBS SportsLine.com National Columnist’s Gregg Doyel said as much in a nationally published column Sunday: “When Barry Bonds hit his 755th career home run to tie Hank Aaron's record Saturday night, television cameras panning Petco Park caught Selig looking unimpressed, as if he had just watched a ground ball to short.

“Later, cameras caught him speaking animatedly to San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer, probably ripping Bonds -- although Selig could have been going on and on about his model airplane collection or his favorite episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

“Late in the game, Selig issued to the media the least appropriate statement possible. Most of the time, when someone in Selig's shoes releases a statement, you assume an underling wrote it for him. But in this case, the statement was so poorly done that it had to have been composed by Selig himself.”

Doyel ripped apart Selig’s nonsensical statement to the media, finishing his column summing up Bud’s 15 year odyssey as baseball commissioner “He is guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, of being the most overmatched, incompetent commissioner in American sports history.”

And in what has to be one of the more laughable pieces of journalism The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt suggested in his weekly baseball column over the weekend that “By dragging out his chase of Hank Aaron's home run record, Barry Bonds certainly hasn't made life easy for Commissioner Bud Selig.

“Dutifully trying to be on hand for the historic moment, Selig has spent way more time on the West Coast over the past couple weeks than he preferred. But count on Selig returning the favor sometime in the near future to San Francisco's controversial slugger.

“At some point, Selig is certain to request that Bonds cooperate with Sen. George Mitchell in his investigation into steroid use in the major leagues. There's no way Mitchell will conclude that probe without attempting to speak to Bonds.”

If Haudricourt wasn’t serious in making his inane comments it wouldn’t be worth noting, but Haudricourt’s comments show how out of touch the media is with Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds has no intention of ever speaking with Sen. Mitchell and there isn’t anything Selig can do about it, but Haudricourt’s comments only serve to add more fuel to the fire.
The media aside with Barry set to become baseball’s home run king, just what is the “Great Barry Bonds debate” really all about. Fueled largely by the media, while various polling groups suggest the public’s reaction to Bonds is along racial lines, it’s difficult to fully appreciate that rationale given that the two men who now share the career home run mark (Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds) are both African American.

ESPN and ABC released the results of a poll in early May that suggested more than half of baseball fans don’t want to see Barry Bonds set a new career home run mark. According to the survey (and the results indicate there is ‘some’ support for Bonds) 52 percent of fans hope Bonds doesn't break the record, while 37 percent of fans want him to surpass Aaron's mark, set in 1974.

In addition, 73 percent of fans think Bonds used steroids, despite Bonds' repeated denials. Bonds has never tested positive for steroids. And that remains the fundamental flaw in how baseball fans and the baseball media feel about Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds may indeed have a great many bad characteristics, his behavior may have been questionable at best, but until there is conclusive proof that Barry Bonds used performance enhancing drugs there is nothing whatsoever that those who don’t like Barry Bonds can do (short of booing Bonds if they’re fortunate enough to be at a game Bonds is playing in).

"When people see someone who looks and acts like them having success, regardless of what the accusations may be they put those aside because they feel it's important that someone with a similar ethnic background is having success," said Peter Roby, athletic director at Northeastern University in Boston.

"It's not really about Barry Bonds. It's about black America. Right or wrong, that's the reality."

Two other polls released in July - one by AP-Ipsos, another by CBS and The New York Times - had similar results.

Some question whether the home run chase is even worthy of being debated as a racial issue. It's not health care, poverty or education. It's a sport, not life and death.

"Yes, it's only a sport, but there's a sports page in every paper, and there's sports on TV all the time," said Charles Jones, director of athletics at Central Connecticut State. "Unfortunately, there's no education page in every paper, or pages devoted to other more important issues.

"Is a home run chase worthy of being a racial issue? I don't think so, but it's been made into one. The issue is: Did someone do something to help him get where he is? The celebration of Jackie Robinson's accomplishment should be more of an issue - the African Americans, the black athletes, who diversified a sport."

"Sports has always been a canvas on which the racial scenery of America has been painted, whether it's Cap Anson running blacks out of baseball in the 19th century, or Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947, or Roberto Clemente breaking the unspoken color line for Latino players in the mid-'50s," said University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, a baseball historian.

"It doesn't surprise me that the Bonds situation has become racially charged."

Selig’s actions Saturday night only added fuel to the debate. Little lost Bud who has a strong connection to Hank Aaron, seems to have forgotten his responsibility as baseball commissioner. Selig can say whatever he likes but all one has to do is look at the timelines regarding baseball’s steroid era and either Bud was deaf, dumb, blind and ……, or he choose to ignore what was happening all around him.

Jun. 7, 1991 – Commissioner Fay Vincent Issues Memo Regarding Steroid Use
After the U.S. Congress raises penalties for steroid possession, Commissioner Fay Vincent sends a memo to each team indicating that steroids would be added to Major League Baseball’s banned list. The memo stated: "The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited ... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs ... including steroids." The seven-page document didn't include a testing plan -- that had to be bargained with the union -- but it did outline treatment and penalties.

May 7, 1992 - The FBI Steroid Sting - Operation Equine
Curtis Wenzlaff was arrested May 7, 1992 for steroid distribution charges. The FBI found steroid regiments related to Mark McGwire. Years later, Wenzlaff admitted publicly to helping Canseco go from a novice user to steroid guru but refuses to discuss McGwire.

Oct. 25, 1994 – Supplements Industry Deregulated by U.S. Government
Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act passes, deregulates supplements industry.

Jul. 1995 – Randy Smith, Tony Gwynn and Jason Giambi Discuss Steroids with LA Times. Padres GM Randy Smith tells LA Times, "We all know there's steroid use, and it is definitely becoming more prevalent." In the same article, Expos GM Kevin Malone calls steroids “the secret we’re not supposed to talk about,” and Tony Gwynn estimates 30% of players using. Giambi says he’s heavier, stronger, and able to stay that way, then praises McGwire for his influence.

Aug. 22, 1998 – Mark McGwire and Androstenedione
A jar of androstenedione is discovered in the locker of St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire, who is neck and neck with Sammy Sosa in the great chase for Roger Maris' all-time record of 61 homers hit during the 1961 season. McGwire admits he uses the steroids precursor and goes on to hit a then record 70 homers. Using steroids, precursors or performance-enhancing drugs is not illegal at that point in Major League Baseball.

April 3, 2000 - 'Gen XXL' Implies Steroid Use in Early 1990s
In one of the first major media analyses of steroid use in baseball, Jeff Bradely described an encounter his brother, Scott, had with a former player who said that if he were still playing he would be using steroids. The article for ESPN Magazine said Scott never used steroids and was out of baseball within a couple of years.

Jun. 30, 2000 - Manny Alexander and Carlos Cowart
Carlos Cowart is pulled over driving Manny Alexander’s Mercedes. Cowart is taken into custody due to a previous warrant and the car is impounded and then searched. Police found vials of steroids and syringes in the glove compartment. A decision was made not to pursue the steroid charges against Cowart, a clear indication the police believed they were not his. Instead they pursued only the items from the previous warrant, driving without a license and failing to stop.

Apr. 2001 – MLB Implements Minor League Testing
MLB unilaterally implements its first random drug-testing program in the Minor Leagues. All players outside the 40-man roster of each Major League club are subject to random testing for steroid-based, performance enhancing drugs, plus drugs of abuse (marijuana, cocaine). The penalties are 15 games for a first positive test, 30 games for a second, 60 games for a third, and one year for a fourth. A fifth offense earns a ban from professional baseball for life.

Jun. 18, 2002 – U.S. Senate Tells Selig, Fehr to Negotiate Testing
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John McCain (R-Ariz) tell Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB Players Association executive director Don Fehr that a strict drug testing program at the Major League level must be negotiated during collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement, which is about to expire. Up to this point, no MLB player can be tested for drug use without probable cause. Fehr tells the committee that the Congress should enact laws to ban over-the-counter sales of performance-enhancing substances.

May 28, 2002 -- Ken Caminiti Admitted Using: Steroids (Non-specific). What he said: In an interview with Tom Verducci for Sports Illustrated Magazine, Caminiti admitted to using steroids, beginning in 1996 while he was recovering from a shoulder injury. Caminiti was the first star player to admit to using steroids. Caminiti estimated that 50% of players were using performance-enhancing drugs. Caminiti's admission was published in a May 28, 2002 article entitled Caminiti Comes Clean. On October 10, 2004, Caminiti dies from a drug overdose in a Bronx drug house.

Aug. 30, 2002 - MLB Unveils ‘Survey’ Testing For 2003
MLB and the union unveil Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as an addendum to the new Basic Agreement, which is bargained at the 11th hour just as the players are about to go out on strike. The new policy calls for "Survey Testing" in 2003 to gauge the use of steroids among players on the 40-man rosters of each club. The tests will be anonymous and no one will be punished.

Feb. 17, 2003 – Steve Bechler, 23, Dies from Heat Exhaustion
Steve Bechler, a Baltimore Orioles pitcher, collapses on the field in Florida during a Spring Training workout and dies from heat exhaustion. He is 23 years old. An autopsy showed that the over-the-counter, performance-enhancing drug, Ephedra, was found in his system and was considered by the medical examiner as the primary cause of Bechler's death. Subsequently, MLB places Ephedra on the list of banned drugs at the Minor League level and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans it from over-the-counter sales

Mar. 1, 2003 – MLB Survey Testing Begins
Drug testing begins in Major League Spring Training camps. Some teams, including the Chicago White Sox, consider balking at taking the tests to skew the results. A refusal to participate in the "Survey" phase is considered a positive test. That first year, all MLB players on the 40-man rosters are subject to be randomly tested once. In addition, MLB had the right to retest up to 240 players a second time by the end of the season. All players ultimately complied and took the tests.

Oct. 29, 2003 – FDA Bans THG, MLB Follows Suit
The FDA bans THG. The next day MLB places the designer drug on its testing list for the 2004 season, but is barred by its own agreement from retroactively re-testing the 2003 urine samples for THG traces.

Nov. 13, 2003 – MLB Announces 5 to 7 Percent of Players Fail Survey Testing
MLB announced that 5-to-7 percent of 1,438 tests were positive during the 2003 season, well above the threshold, setting in motion mandatory testing for performance-enhancing drugs with punishments for the first time in Major League history. The first positive test put a player on a medical track that includes treatment and further testing. Otherwise, there's no punitive for a first positive test.

Dec. 2003 – Ten MLB Players to Testify before BALCO Grand Jury
Ten Major League players, including Barry Bonds of the Giants, and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield of the Yankees, are to testify in front of a San Francisco grand jury investigating the machinations of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), owned and operated by Victor Conte. None of the players are charged with using performance-enhancing drugs, although four men, including Conte and Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer and childhood friend, are indicted for tax evasion and selling steroids without prescriptions.

Mar. 10, 2004 – Senate Commerce Committee has Hearing, Begins Legislative Process
The Senate Commerce Committee holds another hearing. Selig and Fehr again appear to testify. They are told in no uncertain terms that MLB's current drug policy is not strong enough. McCain says: "Your failure to commit to addressing this issue straight on and immediately will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies," thus setting the legislative process in motion.

Apr. 8, 2004 – BALCO Grand Jury Subpoena’s Major League Baseball’s Anonymous Test Results. The grand jury presiding over the BALCO case issues a subpoena to obtain the results of all the drug tests collected from Major League players during the 2003 season. After negotiations by the union, which argues that the subpoena is violating privacy rights afforded to the players in the Joint Drug Agreement, the drug tests are turned over.

May 11, 2004 – MLB Moves Testing and Samples to World Anti-Doping Agency
MLB and the Players Association agree to move all of the collection of urine samples and drug testing for both the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) facilities in Montreal and Los Angeles.

Jun. 2004 – MLB Begins Steroid Testing, Counseling, Anonymity, for 1st Offense
MLB begins drug testing Major League players under the punitive phase of the Joint Drug Agreement. The program includes anonymity and counseling as punishment for a first offence.

Oct. 22, 2004 – The Anabolic Steroid Control Act. President Bush signs into law the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 that the U.S. Congress passed earlier in the month. The bill added hundreds of steroid-based drugs and precursors such as androstenedione to the list of anabolic steroids that are classified as Schedule III controlled substances, which are banned from over-the-counter sales without a prescription. By virtue of MLB's own agreement with the union, all of the drugs banned by Congress are now on baseball's own banned list.

Nov. 2004 – The BALCO Transcripts are leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle
The San Francisco Chronicle prints portions of leaked grand jury testimony given the previous year by Bonds and Giambi. Giambi reportedly admits injecting himself with steroids and Bonds reportedly says he unwittingly may have allowed his former trainer, Anderson, to rub cream that had a steroid base on his legs.

Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets employee, pleaded guilty in April to distributing steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs to "dozens" of players through December 2005. The important note most seemed to ignore in relationship to the Radomski story – names weren’t offered, dozens were suggested but Bonds wasn’t one of the names even suggested that might be linked to Radomski in anyway.

Before 2004 it was legal to use steroids in America. It was however illegal to distribute and sell steroids. It has been illegal to use steroids since 2004. The 1991 Drug Act permitted the use of steroids by prescription (schedule III drug), not otherwise. However, the 2004 Act reclassified steroids into a tougher classification and explicitly bans possession.

Baseball didn’t begin a comprehensive drug testing program until 2004. However it is worthwhile remembering then commissioner Fay Vincent issued a memo in 1991 stating: “The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players and personnel is strictly prohibited ... [and those players involved] are subject to discipline by the Commissioner and risk permanent expulsion from the game.... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids…”

Selig became interim baseball commissioner on September 7, 1992 (after Fay Vincent who tried to stem the tide of performance enhancing drugs in baseball was fired). On July 9, 1998, Selig officially became the commissioner – and has served as the baseball’s leader during MLB’s steroid era. Bud can say Barry is “innocent until proven guilty” but should Bud Selig and the Lords of the Diamond not be judged by the same innuendoes Selig’s suggests Barry is guilty of in his comments and actions Saturday night? Shame on you Bud Selig for not standing up and being a man, for not taking responsibility for your actions – if Barry’s going to pay the price so should Bud Selig.

For SportsBusinessNews this is Howard Bloom. Sources used in this Insider Report: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, SportsLine.com and MLB.com

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