Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feb. 10: The Truly Guilty - Selig, Fehr, Orza, Owners

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Forget about the 103 so-far anonymous baseball players who flunked tests for banned substances in 2003. The truly guilty in Major League Baseball's steroids mess amount to three men and a group that includes several dozen men and one woman.

Their names: Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Gene Orza, the association's chief operating officer. All the others are or were owners of baseball teams. (The woman was the late Marge Schott, who owned the Cincinnati Reds.)

They are all complicit in not doing what was required to stop the flow of steroids in baseball. Perhaps the first source of blame rests with those who owned teams in 1993, when they deposed Commissioner Fay Vincent and installed Selig, who proceeded to spend the next decade ignoring the growing steroid problem until Congress started breathing down his neck.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Selig, probably the worst baseball commissioner in the sport's history - maybe the worst commissioner ever in any American professional sport - earns $17.5 million a year. For what?

Then there are Fehr and Orza, who have been the Abbott and Costello of the players' union for more than 25 years and ruined the hard work Marvin Miller did to give the organization credibility. They have been obstructionists at every turn, fighting every effort at testing and possibly covering up for players as well.

That's not counting the dozens of front office employees and managers who have allowed many of baseball's superstars privileges, including opening the clubhouse doors to unsavory lackeys who supplied these supposed gods with steroids, HGH and other banned substances.

Baseball has been as leaky during the Steroid Era as America was with liquor during the days of Prohibition.

The only way the game is truly going to shed this mess is with new leadership on all ends - a new, reform-minded commissioner and a players' union chief who has at least some knowledge of the real world.

After the Black Sox scandal of 1919, baseball owners of the time understood a clean sweep was needed. It came in Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis; for Landis' major flaw of racism, he did clean up baseball of its problems with gambling.

A boost may be needed from the outside - perhaps the U.S. Department of Justice. As soon as Attorney General Eric Holder gets a moment on his calendar, he might want to launch an investigation into Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The game needs cleaning up. Its leaders need to be tossed out.

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