Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has had an extremely long and productive run as the head of America’s pastime presiding over the sport during a period that has seen record revenues and record attendance push the game to new heights.
[BIG LEAGUE STEW: Ryan Braun suspended by MLB for remainder of 2013 season]
However, perhaps nothing in his tenure as both commissioner and as an owner (Selig owned and ran the Brewers from 1970-1992) pleased him more than to see the recent responses from both the MLBPA chief Michael Weiner and the rank and file players who are 100 percent on board with baseball’s drug testing policy and want to see the game cleaned up.
As the Biogenesis scandal continues to dominate the headlines and with Brewers star Ryan Braun the first player to be suspended as a result of his involvement with the company, it is apparent Selig has won the battle to clean up the game as more and more players are demanding that the players who are using PEDs be outed and disciplined.
Former MLB star Dale Murphy has been one of the most outspoken proponents of increasing the penalties for steroid use and he is calling for lifetime bans as a deterrent for players using PEDs.
"I think we're moving toward a step of zero tolerance, where careers will end with a positive test," Murphy told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Right now, it's 50 games. What's that to a guy making millions? You can’t tell me that a guy like Ryan Braun wouldn’t think twice about going to a [drug clinic] in Miami if he thought his 10-year contract would be null and void."
However, when people in and out of the game demand stricter penalties and tougher enforcement, they must realize that the Major League Baseball CBA is a collectively-bargained agreement. Neither side can unilaterally impose rules on the other without both sides agreeing to the changes. The need for collective bargaining is one of the reasons it took so long for testing to be a part of Major League Baseball.
But, since testing began in 2006, the sport has consistently worked with the MLBPA to implement stricter enforcement and increased testing to clean up the game as best they could. However, consider the difference in attitude from former player’s union chief Marvin Miller who told me in a radio interview a few years ago that if he were still running the union, he would never agree to drug testing of any kind.
“I don’t believe that steroids enhance performance at all. It is ridiculous that people want to infringe on the privacy of a player and test him for all sorts of drugs when they have no right to do that,” Miller told me.
Now contrast those thoughts with this quote from current MLBPA head Weiner who said last week in an interview with the New York Daily News, “I can tell you, if we have a case where there really is overwhelming evidence, that a player committed a violation of the program, our fight is going to be that they make a deal,” Weiner said without referring to specific players. “We’re not interested in having players with overwhelming evidence that they violated the (drug) program out there. Most of the players aren’t interested in that. We’d like to have a clean program.”
So what we have is a sport that, 15 years ago, was caught up in an explosion of home runs and steroids and had many around the sport denying that a steroid problem even existed. You had a former union chief who believed that testing should never come to the sport and you had players who didn’t want to acknowledge the problem in the game.
Now, you have a sport with perhaps the toughest testing policy in any of the four major American sports leagues and more importantly, you have the rank and file players demanding that the cheaters who have turned to PEDs be punished severely for their actions.
It sounds to me that while record revenues, record attendance and the growth of the sport are all significant feathers in Selig’s cap, the most important accomplishment may have just occurred when the players in his sport demand stricter testing and tougher punishments so that the sport is clean. While the suspension of Ryan Braun and the other suspensions that are sure to be coming down the road are a black mark on the game, it is obvious that Bud Selig has won the war and his accomplishment in this area will be his lasting legacy.