For baseball purists, there’s not a whole lot to like about what Bud Selig has done to the national pastime.
More proof of that came Wednesday when Selig said he wasn’t likely to do anything about Melky Cabrera winning the NL batting title while serving a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test. He also said he has no plans to do some things he should have done a long time ago – like take Barry Bonds’ name off the top of the career home run list and restore Roger Maris as the legitimate single-season home run record holder.
“You can’t change records because once you get into that it would never stop,” Selig said in an interview for the YES Network. “It would create more problems than it would solve.”
It wouldn’t, but that’s not the real reason baseball won’t wipe the steroid slate clean. Times are good, teams are flush, and there’s no real incentive for Selig to reopen the drug scandal that once threatened the game’s very integrity. While stripping Cabrera of the title would be easy enough, it would spark yet another debate over whether baseball has really conquered its drug-related demons.
Purists might object, but they should understand that Selig’s main job is not to uphold decades of baseball tradition, but to make baseball owners money. That’s why Seattle and Oakland met in the not-so-traditional season opener in Japan, and it’s why the World Series might not end this year until November.
It’s also why the Dodgers are playing in Yankee Stadium next year in June instead of October, and why the lines between the National League and American League are so blurred by interleague play that they mean nothing.
Give Selig credit for doing his job well. There are new stadiums in almost every city, teams are being sold for astonishing sums, and Major League Baseball is so attractive that ESPN doubled down on it in August with a new contract that pays some $700 million a year.
And even the purists have to be rethinking the one money-making idea that really works – the addition of two new wild-card slots to the playoffs.
Without it, the New York Yankees might be a short losing streak away from not making the postseason at all. With it, the Baltimore Orioles have a good shot at the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
Without it, the St. Louis Cardinals would have no chance of repeating their improbable run to a World Series title. With it, the Oakland A’s are suddenly a threat to the usual big spenders.
The addition of two wild-card teams give fans more reasons to hope in September, and more reasons not to change the channel when football is in full swing.
Like almost every idea hatched by Selig, it was designed to make money – and this one actually works.