How about some kudos for Bud Selig?
I know it seems like an odd thing for a lot of people to do — after all, is there anyone fans love to hate more than Selig? Well, at least before NBA Commissioner David Stern implemented a dress code for his league, the answer was a resounding "no." But still, Selig takes a lot of heat in his position as the leader of America's pastime.
But Selig definitely deserves some praise for Major League Baseball's new and improved steroid policy, one that increases punishments to a 50-game suspension for the first offense, a 100-game leave for a second offense and a possible lifetime ban for a third positive test, which was unanimously approved by baseball owners Thursday.
"I'm glad we had this opportunity today. It was a very easy ratification," Selig said in an Associated Press interview. "Every vote was unanimous today, and that one was about as easy as it gets. As it should have been."
His last sentence sums it up — "As it should have been." Baseball's commissioner has been fighting for these strong measures with an iron will since the first discussions of an anti-steroid policy, even when many around him felt that the punishments were too harsh. Well, a dozen culprits later — including Rafael Palmeiro — it's clear that Selig was right and that stronger punishments are needed as a real deterrent for players.
Some might say that Selig's will wasn't that strong. After all, he did compromise his beliefs to allow much looser regulations to take effect last season.
But let's be honest, had he refused to back down from his stance for the stronger penalties last year, baseball might not have instituted a policy at all, and who knows what kind of effect that could've had on this past season.
But Selig deserves even more credit for seeing past the steroid issue and trying to stay a step ahead of the curve by adding severe punishments for testing positive for the use of amphetamines. The previous policy offered no punishment for players testing positive for amphetamine use while the new policy mandates additional testing following a first offense, a second offense garners a 25-game suspension, and a third offense will get players an 80-game vacation.
Sure, there are a few obstacles still in the way of this policy going into effect, namely the players' union decision whether to send the issue directly to the players for a vote or to just accept the board's approval, but that's really a moot point at this juncture.
The new policy will be approved; the players can't possibly fail to ratify it now, not after last season. The players got away with a timid policy last season only because there was a lack of evidence that steroids were a problem in MLB. In the eyes of many, the players deserved the benefit of the doubt. Everyone had their theories, but without more proof, the stronger policy wasn't going to be ratified and the players' association knew it could get away without ratifying it.
This year, the same isn't true. Players have been caught, the benefit of the doubt is gone and the proof has been brought to light. Not to mention, Congress is not going away, and if the policy isn't ratified players could face much more severe regulations from federal legislation.
The creation of a policy this strong has been a long time coming, definitely too long, and hopefully now baseball can go back to being about the game and not about whether the records being set are aided by the "juice" or not. It would be naive to believe the new policy will stop the use of these illegal substances; as long as an advantage exists, individuals will try to exploit it — legal or not. But it's definitely a marked improvement over the previous policy, and by far the toughest policy in professional sports.
I don't claim to speak for everyone, but when I watch sports I like to believe I'm watching the amazing feats the human body can naturally reach — "naturally" being the key word. If I wanted to watch something unrealistic and improbable I'd watch the WWE.
So here's to sports the way they should be — honest, fair and within the natural realm of a human being. And here's to Selig, for doing more than any other professional commissioner in trying to keep sports that way. Kudos, Bud.