If only Bud Selig had walked his nerdy ass into some of those locker rooms and looked those men in the eyes, stomped his loafer, pointed his knobby finger, and told them, No more.
If only he’d spoken up, over the cries of players’ union leaders that its members end this cheating of the game and their fellow players, spoken up over the objections of the players themselves, over the protests of his paying public, over the headlines in the local newspapers, over the caterwauling of the owners.
If only he had said the word. Stop. Then no player would have dared stuck a needle in his own thigh. No player would have dared test the consequences of performance-enhancing drug use. No player would have defied Bud Selig. And how could they have known it was wrong otherwise?
They were waiting on the commissioner the whole time, turns out. Except that Bud Selig was enabling them by being unaware or blissfully unaware or intentionally unaware or whatever the story is today, now that Bud is going into the Hall of Fame, now that he’s in everybody’s in, because he was in charge of what was going on in the bathroom stalls and in the gym parking lots and in the souls of men who didn’t think they were good enough and didn’t think they’d get caught and didn’t think they were making quite enough money.
Fortunately, there’s Bud to blame. Otherwise we’d be asking grown men to be accountable for their decisions. Their actions. Then they’d have to explain those choices to the insurance brokers and personal trainers and lawyers and plumbers who thought they might have a nice baseball career but didn’t because they wanted nothing to do with the Winstrol or the HGH or the Adderall. Then they’d have to explain themselves to their sons and daughters, about how daddy put one over on everybody, ha-ha, never got caught, never tested dirty, never was so dumb to write a check or use a real name.
No, we’re not so big on accountability anymore, so it’s a good thing Bud was around, standing as he did between the owners making all that money and the players making all that money, nobody wanting to admit there was a problem, at least not until everybody else knew there was a problem and there was no more denying it. And it’s an especially good thing Bud is being inducted into the Hall of Fame now, because that clears up that bit of ickiness, because if Bud’s in everybody’s in, because Bud drove the damned bus, straight over the bloated bodies of all those men who couldn’t possibly have known any better.
Bud’s big mistake? Well, a big mistake? He thought exposing a man as a cheater would be good enough. The shame of it would deter the man from entering that world, and if not certainly would deter the next man. Nobody could stand that. Turns out, nobody could stand that more than, you know, two or three times. Four, tops. So, yeah, such a softy, Bud, believing that other people might believe in something like fairness or pure competition or honesty. What a sap.
What’s important, then, now that 15 people on a 16-person committee hardly anyone ever heard of before two weeks ago decided Bud was Cooperstown worthy, is to make fair, fair. If Bud, who at his worst did not wrest syringes from the hands of offenders, must be recognized for his career, then those whose hands were not freed of those syringes must also be recognized.
Surely you see the logic. The commissioner of baseball, administrator to 30 owners, captive to a collectively bargained labor agreement, gets a lifetime achievement award because the game was fun in his tenure and every franchise became ridiculously more valuable and his employers got richer as a result, was slow to regulate performance-enhancing drugs, which everyone took to be bad for the game. Therefore, the men who took advantage of the commissioner’s dilemma, and sure for the sake of argument let’s say negligence, are absolved of their seamy, cowardly, lazy, selfish acts of … aw, hell, good for them.
Makes total sense.
The important thing is we still have a villain. It’s not the guy whose jersey anybody wears. It’s not the home run champ or the 300-game winner, thank god. It’s not the little guys who chased the shortcuts, or the big guys whose chased an extra million dollars, or the ‘tweeners who had three kids to support, or even the knuckleheads who fell face-first into a pile of greenies. Accidentally. The system practically begged them to shoot up. It’s the system’s fault. We see that now.
So open the doors. Let ’em in. Because, you know, they were enabled by a guy who should have known better and could have taken a stand. As opposed to, you know, now, which is way different.