The 2017 Hall of Fame induction is over. Cooperstown has some new faces. The parade route has been cleared and the town can go back to attending to the thousands of people who visit every day. I’ve been to the Hall of Fame twice in my life, once for fun and the other while my younger brother played in the Cooperstown Baseball Tournament. The first time I visited was a few days after Ted Williams’ death, so his plaque was on loan to the Red Sox while they mourned his passing, but I still got my picture taken with the replacement hardware. It wasn’t about the photo, or being able to feel the copper, it was about standing in the same spot as Teddy Ballgame and knowing that this spot was where he was the proudest of himself. This spot was the epicenter of success.
I didn’t feel that strongly about the Class of 2017. I mean 2016 was really something, with everyone’s favorite Ken Griffey, Jr. and my childhood hero Mike Piazza both getting their moment. But something didn’t feel right about 2017. Jeff Bagwell earned his induction with his powerful swing, Tim Raines was foundation for the Montreal Expos of the 1980s and Pudge Rodriguez was a dominant force both at the plate and behind it his entire career. Even John Schuerholtz, the GM who built the 1980’s Kansas City Royals and the insanely talented Atlanta Braves had earned his way to the hall.
But there’s one man, who doesn’t have as sterling a record as the others. That man is Bud Selig.
In December of 2016, after the inductees were announced I wrote the following piece, which you can also find here. My feelings haven’t changed in the slightest, but I thought it would be worth another read. In fact, MLB’s official historian John Thorn took a look at it and said:
You are entitled to hold an ignorant view.
— John Thorn (@thorn_john) July 31, 2017
So here it is! Justin Colombo and 3 Up, 3 Down present the piece that made MLB’s Historian call me ignorant:
It’s Time to Put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame
by Justin Colombo
As I was researching some stats and recent history for another piece yesterday, I stumbled upon something interesting; a New York Daily News article that was informative and insightful. The title read, “With Bud Selig voted into Hall of Fame, now Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will get my vote.” I read the title a second time and then, like I usually do with click-bait titles like this, I took a deep breath and dove right in. Long story short, I agree, but I think we can go further. Now that Bud Selig is being inducted into the Hall of Fame, I want Pete Rose to be in as well.
Let’s talk Pete Rose before we get into Selig. We are all familiar with Rose’s accomplishments in the game, but let’s go through them one more time:
· Most career winning games played – 1,972
· Most career games played – 3,562
· Only player to play at least 500 games at five different positions– 1B (939), LF (671), 3B (634), 2B (628), RF (595)
· Most career at bats – 14,053
· Most career singles – 3,215
· Most career hits – 4,256
· Most career outs – 10,328
· Most career runs by a switch hitter– 2,165
· Most career doubles by a switch hitter – 746
· Most career walks by a switch hitter – 1,566
· Most career total bases by a switch hitter – 5,752
· Tied for Most seasons with 200+ hits – 10
· Most consecutive seasons of 100 or more hits – 23
· Tied for Most consecutive seasons with 600 or more at bats – 13 ( from 1968 to 1980)
· Most seasons with 600 at bats – 17
· Most seasons with 150 or more games played – 17
· Most seasons with 100 or more games played – 23
Pete Rose is the most decorated baseball player of all time. With a career spanning 24 years, it’s not surprising that the man nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” would be the most hard-nosed ballplayer to ever step on a diamond. There are only eight players who have more Wins Against Replacement than Rose, 2 of whom are still playing, that are not in the Hall of Fame. A lot of those guys are well on their way to becoming enshrined at Cooperstown, but Pete Rose will never get there.
On August 24th, Commissioner Bart Giamatti gave a press conference announcing the lifetime ban of Pete Rose for Betting on Baseball.”The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is the sad end of a sorry episode. One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts… Mr. Rose has accepted baseball’s ultimate sanction, lifetime ineligibility.”
In recent years, Rose has finally come out and admitted what we all knew; he often bet on the Cincinnati Reds both as a player and coach. However, Rose’s favor with the public has grown. He was elected to the All Century Team and is now an Analyst for Fox Sports. He’s very entertaining and has one of the clearest and sharpest baseball minds. Pete Rose understood baseball at an atomic level. He sees this game like a scientist, meticulously examining every aspect, getting insight from the slightest tell on a pitcher’s face, taking note of the extra millisecond he takes when throwing a curveball. Pete Rose was baseball and was now banned for life.
Giamatti did go on to say one more interesting things in that press conference. To end his statement Giamatti said:
“I say this so that there may be no doubt about where I stand or why I stand there. I believe baseball is a beautiful and exciting game, loved by millions – I among them – and I believe baseball is an important, enduring American institution. It must assert and aspire to the highest principles – of integrity, of professionalism of performance, of fair play within its rules. It will come as no surprise that like any institution composed of human beings, this institution will not always fulfill its highest aspirations. I know of no earthly institution that does. But this one, because it is so much a part of our history as a people and because it has such a purchase on our national soul, has an obligation to the people for whom it is played – to its fans and well-wishers – to strive for excellence in all things and to promote the highest ideals. I will be told that I am an idealist. I hope so. I will continue to locate ideals I hold for myself and for my country in the national game as well as in other of our national institutions. And while there will be debate and dissent about this or that or another occurrence on or off the field, and while the game’s nobler parts will always be enmeshed in the human frailties of those who, whatever their role, have stewardship of this game, let there be no doubt or dissent about our goals for baseball or our dedication to it. Nor about our vigilance and vigor – and patience – in protecting the game from blemish or stain or disgrace. The matter of Mr. Rose is now closed. It will be debated and discussed. Let no one think that it did not hurt baseball. That hurt will pass, however, as the great glory of the game asserts itself and a resilient institution goes forward.”
It’s one of the more beautiful things ever said about the game. Giamatti has such a passion for the game, which makes it even more of a shame that he died 8 days after this press conference. Fay Vincent would replace Giamatti, in an attempt to take his full 5-year term, but never finished. On his exit, Fay Vincent stated, “To do the job without angering an owner is impossible. I can’t make all twenty-eight of my bosses happy. People have told me I’m the last commissioner. If so, it’s a sad thing. I hope they [the owners] learn this lesson before too much damage is done.” The next Commissioner of Major League Baseball was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, Bud Selig.
Buckle up everyone, because we’re about to go on a wild rollercoaster ride that is Bud Selig’s Hall of Fame career as Commissioner. Before we start, scroll up and take a look at Pete Rose’s accomplishments… ready? LET’S GO.
One of the more forgotten moments in baseball history is the incidents of collusion by the owners during the 1980s, when Selig owned the Brewers. What is collusion? Well, let’s put it like this. Imagine if Mike Trout became a Free Agent this year and no one offered him a contract. YEP. No one offers Mike Trout a contract, except for the team he played for, at either the same pay or less. THAT’S WHAT WAS HAPPENING. In order to assuage players from moving around from team to team in free agency, the owners took it upon themselves to not offer any player a contract unless their old team gave the go ahead. This continued for multiple years until the Player’s Union settled with the Owners to the tune of $280 Million dollars. Fay Vincent had this to say on Collusion, “The Union basically doesn’t trust the Ownership because collusion was a $280 million theft by Selig and Reinsdorf [Chicago White Sox owner] of that money from the players. I mean, they rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that’s polluted labor relations in baseball ever since it happened. I think it’s the reason Fehr [MLB Players Association Executive Director] has no trust in Selig.”
1994 Strike and World Series Cancellation
Bud Selig’s first test as Commissioner came as soon as he assumed office in 1992. Due to the collusion settlement, as well as worsening attendance and lack of ticket sales, the MLB owners were losing money left and right and needed a solution. Commissioner Vincent had just resigned due to the collusion between the owners and the lack of faith in the labor unions. Selig was named acting Commissioner and things only got worse. In an attempt to fit their payrolls into more manageable amounts the Owners came up with the Salary Cap, a maximum payroll amount that no team could exceed. The Owners proposed their Salary Cap plan in June of 1994, and after two months of negotiations getting no where, the last games were played on August 11th, 1994. The 1994 World Series was cancelled, making it the first time in almost a century that there was no Championship to be played.
The 1994 strike will forever be a blemish on the game of baseball. It was the final straw that broke the fans hearts and brought the ugly side of baseball into the light. What was the most reprehensible was that the Owners painted the players in the worst light imaginable. The blame game went back and forth, but were it not for the collusion in the 80’s, the strike never happens. Bud Selig both caused the strike and let it happen.
Contraction of Minnesota and Montreal
Now this, I didn’t know about. I am slowly working my way through “Up, Up and Away” the Montreal Expos book, and haven’t reached the Jeff Loria section yet. Why does that name sound familiar? Because Jeff Loria owns the Florida Marlins, the team he was given after folding the Montreal Expos. YEAH. THAT’S HOW THE EXPOS DIED. THE EXPOS WERE TRADE FOR THE MARLINS. Jeff Loria bought a 24 percent stake in the Expos in 1999 for $12 million dollars. In 2000, he took a majority stake in the club and vowed to institute a winning attitude by adding winning players. Instead, Loria sold the Expos back to Selig and the MLB for a $158 million dollars, which Loria used to purchase the Florida Marlins. When waves of this reached the minority partners of the Expos they sued Loria, the League and Selig for racketeering and deliberately defrauding them. If the case had gone in the favor of the minority owners, Selig and Loria would owe them $500 million dollars, but it was too late to save the Franchise. Loria took the teams scouting reports, computers and anything of value to Florida
HOWEVER, at the same time, Selig was also trying to get the Minnesota Twins to fold. Minnesota was only ten years removed from their World Series win, and having been threatened with contraction in 2001 by Selig, the club fought back. The Minnesota Twins would go on to win the AL Central Division in ’02, ’03, ’04, ’06, ’09 and ’10. This franchise was going to be closed down by Bud Selig just one year earlier. There’s lot of speculation as to why this was pushed by Selig, but the one that sticks out is the Milwaukee Brewers northern market share. Without the Minnesota Twins, the Brewers become the primary baseball team of the Northern Midwest. Minnesota now had a baseball team, a hockey team and a football team, whereas Milwaukee had the Brewers and a flailing basketball franchise, the Milwaukee Bucks. Selig could make his city the crown jewel of the North for 6 months out of the year, and he tried.
Welcome to the main event. This, above all else, is the most disgraceful part of Bud Selig’s tenure as Commissioner. When Jose Canseco retied in 2003, he told the press that 85% of players were using steroids, but it wasn’t until Tom Verducci’s Sports Illustrated piece on steroids came out that people really took notice of the widespread use. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that Bud Selig put the first drug program into place in 2001. HOWEVER, he did it in the minor leagues, where the Players Association couldn’t get their hands on it. When Selig talks about the program now, he uses this 2001 date as the “start of the program.” He’s technically right, but he’s also wrong. The majors wouldn’t see any policy until 2005, nearly 4 years after the minor league program began. Let’s also consider that ’01-’05 hold five of the Top 10 spots for most homers hit in a year.
Now this isn’t all Selig’s fault, since the Players’ Union didn’t want their players to be tested unless the league had probable cause, but what stopped this from happening was Selig’s inability to make change happen. Selig referred to the program as an issue of collective bargaining, and that it wasn’t something he could do unilaterally as commissioner. These are Selig’s words, “What took so long [for the program to be put in place]? Some long and difficult negotiations.”
ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND, BUD?! This is what kill s me about Selig is that he is unable to admit any fault whatsoever without sprinkling a little bit of shit on someone else. “This is the Golden Age of Baseball” Selig said in 2009, two years after Barry Bonds broke the most sacred of records and Selig stood with his hands in his pockets refusing to applaud as Bonds breaks his friend Hank Aaron’s Career home run record. Is it possible to have a golden age and calamity at the same time?
No, it is not. Bud Selig watched as steroids brought Baseball back into the forefront of the American sports landscape. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were revered as saviors of the game during the 1998 Home Run Chase. Years later we would find out that most of our heroes were using PEDs. These guys who now face the worst shame of all, sitting on the Hall of Fame Ballot, waiting for the tide to turn in their favor or away from their favor. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are now in their 5th year on the Ballot and have no real sign of getting in or not, even though they have the stats, talent and careers to be easy first ballot guys.
Bud Selig is now a first ballot Hall of Famer and that’s absolute bullshit. When Mark McGwire belted Home Run #62 over the wall at Busch Stadium, Selig was quoted saying, “I think what Mark McGwire has accomplished is so remarkable, and he has handled it all so beautifully, we want to do everything we can to enjoy a great moment in baseball history.” 7 years later, in front of a Congressional Oversight Committee, Selig said this, “Major League Baseball has always recognized the influence that our stars can have on the youth of America. As such, we are concerned that recent revelations and allegations of steroid use have been sending a terrible message to young people.”
Bud Selig’s tenure as Commissioner of Baseball has been all about the owners and the bottom line and not about the game, the player or the fans. Selig has never looked out for anyone other than the owners and the executives. Selig was in charge of the game during its most staining and tainting moments and did nothing to stop it. Instead, he waited for it to boil over and then threw up his hands and feigned shock. The first drug program Selig introduced in 2005 was the weakest in the history of professional sports, but the players were the ones to blame.
I recently had a conversation with my older brother about the Hall of Fame and the Steroid Era. When looking at players on the ballot who played in that era, you have a choice to make about their careers. You can assume positive intent and say they never touched drugs, or you have to blanket every player with the assumption that they took steroids. There is no in between. Mike Piazza, the best offensive catcher of all time, was a second ballot hall of fame inductee. Why? Because there was unfounded speculation that he might have used steroids SOLELY BECAUSE HE PLAYED IN THE PERIOD OF TIME WHEN STEROIDS WERE BEING USED.
This whole piece was supposed to be about Pete Rose, but it’s not. Pete Rose should be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Period. The rules have changed. Pete Rose’s actions did not have an effect on the game on a massive scale the way Selig’s legacy has. Bud Selig has forever left stains on the history of the game. To elect him to Cooperstown is what breaks the dam wide open. If Selig can get in, then McGwire deserves a spot, Sosa deserves a Spot, Pete Rose deserves a plaque. If you choose to honor the black and the white areas of baseball, the gray should be in there as well. Baseball has been waiting for a way to heal the wounds left by the Selig Commissioner Era and the aftermath of this induction might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Let’s finish with some words from Bart Giamatti. This is from the same passage we looked at in the beginning of this whole mess. “The matter… is now closed. It will be debated and discussed. Let no one think that it did not hurt baseball. That hurt will pass, however, as the great glory of the game asserts itself and a resilient institution goes forward.”
Who hurt baseball more?
That man is in the Hall of Fame.