(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
When I hear the word ‘commissioner’ I think of strong-willed individuals who are in charge and as James Brown would say, “don’t take no mess”. People like Commissioner David Stern of the NBA, the late Pete Rozelle of the NFL, and Commissioner James W. Gordon of Gotham City.
Of course, every commissioner has a foil. Stern has Billy Hunter of the Player’s Union and Ron Artest, Rozelle had Al Davis and Gordon has the inmates of Arkham Asylum.
These aforementioned men command respect and are (and were) relatively unquestioned in their decisions. In fact, the definition of commissioner is a person selected to regulate and control.
Bud Selig is a mule of a different color. Sure, he carries the title of Commissioner, but has there ever been a more toothless leader? Even Julius Caesar was given some illusion of power.
A few weeks ago, Selig suspended Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers 20 games and fined him $50,000 for assaulting two cameramen during practice.
Because of the appeal process, Rogers actually got to pitch in a couple of games (including the All-Star game) while Selig’s decision was being finalized.
He finally began his punishment and was 13 games into the suspension before an arbitrator ruled Tuesday that Selig had went too far. The arbitrator decided that Rogers had spent enough time in trouble and told him to get his mitt and go back to the playing field.
Of course, Selig was incensed and limply railed against the suspended suspension saying, “In my opinion, the decision is seriously ill-conceived”. Whoa, hold up Mr. Selig, those words are a little harsh, you need to control yourself.
I have a feeling that if Stern made a decision that was overturned like that, the arbitrator would wake up with a horse head in his bed or receive a sleeping fish in the mail.
Sure, the player’s union is behind all this, but Selig gives them way too much leverage in any little gripe they have. This offense by Rogers deserves the punishment that was originally doled out by Bud.
Rogers attacked two cameramen who were just trying to do their jobs. They didn’t provoke him; they just wanted to get some shots of the ugly mug who is supposedly the Rangers’ ace.
Rogers was probably upset and frustrated over a few subpar performances, but it wasn’t the media’s fault. Without constant coverage and scrutiny that affords him the life of a millionaire and a job playing a game, chances are Rogers would just be some dude who shared Kenny Rogers’ name.
Rogers was so repentant after the assaults that he mouthed off to some cameramen during his court date.
Now he’s the recipient of a ruling that pretty much says it’s ok to beat up more media guys. The arbitrator even ruled that if Rogers misses some of the incentive clauses in his contract, that the suspension could be taken into account. And that the $50,000 fine will be converted to a charitable contribution.
How about earmarking some for one of the cameramen’s hospital bills? Larry Rodriguez of KDFW-TV hasn’t been able to return to work yet, while Rogers gets to go play more baseball for tons of cash.
In 1988, Bart Giamatti (a real commissioner who laid down the law, and I won’t make the obvious mafia joke) suspended Pete Rose 30-days for shoving an ump. Rogers assaults a cameraman – the lifeblood of the sport charged with keeping the public’s interest up in a rapidly declining sport – and doesn’t even miss two weeks.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is Selig, in the words of Don Corleone, needs to “act like a man”. Only I wish I could be the one to slap him with that accompanying quote.
His jellyfish backbone and ‘I look like I’m about to breakdown and sob’ countenance is not the kind of leadership that MLB needs in this most crucial time.
Baseball is on shaky ground, and it needs a leader to direct it to more solid footing.
Where’s Jim Gordon when you need him?