Fans should raise a glass to Selig

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

So when is the parade go­ing to take place for Bud Selig down Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue cel­e­brat­ing his elec­tion to the Base­ball Hall of Fame? When is Bud Selig Day sched­uled at Na­tion­als Park?

Has the statue of Selig been com­mis­sioned yet to put along­side Frank Howard, Wal­ter John­son and Josh Gib­son out­side Na­tion­als Park?

How many bus­loads of Na­tion­als fans are go­ing to be head­ing to Coop­er­stown in July to cel­e­brate the for­mer base­ball com­mis­sioner’s in­duc­tion?

Wash­ing­ton base­ball fans should be cel­e­brat­ing the elec­tion of Selig to the Hall by their To­day’s Game Era com­mit­tee, be­cause if there was ever a cir­cum­stance for the sin­gle is­sue voter, this would be it.

There were five com­mis­sion­ers dur­ing the time that the na­tion’s cap­i­tal was with­out ma­jor league base­ball.

One brought base­ball back to Wash­ing­ton.

It wasn’t Bowie Kuhn, a Takoma Park, Mary­land, na­tive who watched as the Sen­a­tors left for Ar­ling­ton, Texas, af­ter the 1971 sea­son. Nei­ther Peter Ue­ber­roth nor Fay Vin­cent lifted a finger to help dur­ing the var­i­ous cam­paigns to bring base­ball back to Wash­ing­ton.

It’s re­ally pretty sim­ple. If Bud Selig de­cides he doesn’t need the has­sle of the fight that came with bring­ing base­ball back to Wash­ing­ton, there is no Na­tion­als Park on South Capi­tol Street, and there are no NL East division ti­tles in three of the last five years for a Wash­ing­ton base­ball team.

There is no Wash­ing­ton base­ball team. There would still, only, be Peter An­ge­los and the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles.

If you are a Wash­ing­ton base­ball fan, you need to wake up and take note of this — this man was your sav­ior. I don’t care if he was Pablo Es­co­bar’s right hand man (and we’ll get to this so-called tar­nished steroid le­gacy later) — Selig fought the fight for base­ball in Wash­ing­ton when no one else had suc­cess­fully done so be­fore or cared to do so.

It was a fight, and you can see the dam­age still be­ing in­flicted with the dis­pute over the MASN deal be­tween the Ori­oles and the Na­tion­als. The price for An­ge­los’ ac­cep­tance — the Ori­oles had owned the mar­ket rights to Wash­ing­ton since the Sen­a­tors left for Texas — was to give him con­trol over the Wash­ing­ton tele­vi­sion rights un­der the guise of this new re­gional sports net­work.

That deal was lousy, and it still stinks. I’m sure by the time base­ball ex­pected to get to this point — open­ing up the MASN deal for rene­go­ti­a­tion as per the con­tract — they wouldn’t be deal­ing with Peter An­ge­los, though no one will say that.

But you can’t smell the stench when you are sit­ting in Na­tion­als Park on a July evening en­joy­ing Max Scherzer ring­ing up strike­outs.

Putting a base­ball team in Wash­ing­ton wasn’t an act of benev­o­lence. Own­ers have prof­ited greatly, from the time they sold the re­lo­cated Mon­treal Ex­pos to the Lerner family for $450 mil­lion to the years that have fol­lowed of Wash­ing­ton base­ball success, both on the field and at the cash reg­is­ter.

No mat­ter. If you are a Wash­ing­ton base­ball fan, the how or why you have a team here in the Dis­trict shouldn’t mat­ter. It didn’t mat­ter to the peo­ple of Min­neapo­lis in 1960 or Ar­ling­ton, Texas, in 1971.

Selig’s le­gacy is a con­tro­ver­sial one. He presided early in his role as in­terim com­mis­sioner over the shut­down of the post­sea­son in 1994 and is roundly crit­i­cized for that, yet it was the play­ers and the union who were on strike and shut down the play­offs and World Se­ries.

He has been blamed for the steroid era, yet drug test­ing is a col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing is­sue, and the play­ers union balked at ev­ery at­tempt Selig made for stricter test­ing un­til its play­ers were tired of be­ing em­bar­rassed in Capi­tol Hill hear­ings about per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drugs.

Here’s what one of Selig’s one-time strong­est crit­ics, Travis Ty­gart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told the Wash­ing­ton Post two years ago, “I think you see a cul­ture that has dra­mat­i­cally changed. Where Com­mis­sioner Selig is con­cerned, I think he de­serves all the credit in the world for re­spond­ing the way a leader should when he finds him­self in a cri­sis. Base­ball’s pro­gram is bet­ter than any other sport in the U.S., for sure.”

If you are a Wash­ing­ton base­ball fan, though, all that is clut­ter, back­ground noise.

All that should mat­ter is that come Satur­day and Sun­day, there will be a win­ter base­ball festival here in Wash­ing­ton. There will be Wash­ing­ton base­ball play­ers sign­ing au­to­graphs for Wash­ing­ton base­ball fans two weeks be­fore Christ­mas.

And Bud Selig was Santa Claus.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer com­mis­sioner Bud Selig, who was voted into the Hall of Fame on Mon­day, fought to bring base­ball back to the Dis­trict when the Ex­pos re­lo­cated from Mon­treal.

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