In a time when too many journalists pull their punches, it was great to see Bob Costas (Syracuse University Newhouse guy!) challenge Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig again and again during the MLB Network's Studio 42 show. But Selig stuck to his guns, making their chat fascinating and compelling television.
Costas hit Selig hard for welcoming Mark McGwire back into baseball with open arms, but Selig stood firm on Big Mac's right to return to the game. Selig can't really criticize McGwire because he owes him a debt of gratitude for helping to resuscitate the sport after the 1994-95 strike. But Selig's support for McGwire is incredibly disappointing, considering the stain he has put on the game.
Selig tried to argue that the "sport is cleaned up," citing the fact that out of 3,700 tests this year, only two came back positive for steroids. But Costas pointed out that there is no test for human growth hormone, which Andy Pettitte has admitted to taking, to which Selig said MLB is spending millions to develop a test. As much as I love Andy Pettitte, I think the proper punishment for players found to have used steroids or HGH is to ban them from the Hall of Fame for life.
Selig also said Barry Bonds is the record holder for home runs, despite evidence of his steroid use, and he will leave it up to the writers to determine if he should be in the Hall of Fame. I personally would like to see the records of players like Bonds wiped out, in addition to a lifetime ban, but I don't think it will happen.
Both Selig and Costas agreed that it is a "tragedy" that clean players like Derek Jeter have to constantly defend themselves against the cloud cast over the game by the "steroid era."
Judging from Selig's response, the chances of instant replay being used in the playoffs are slim to none, despite the terrible umpiring in the postseason this year. Selig expressed concern about the pace of the game and the impact on pitchers. But Costas made the point that the calls have gotten so bad and the umpires themselves wouldn't mind the help. He also rightly noted that fans would be willing to sit through a few minutes of delay to make sure the calls are correct.
Although Selig expressed worry about baseball being played in November, he didn't seem to have a solution to the problem. He rightly noted that baseball owners will not agree to shortening the schedule and that this year's late World Series was due to the World Baseball Classic, which going forward will only be played every four years instead of three. He seems determined to keep the WBC, which is a good marketing tool for the sport on the international level. He also seems content to keep the division series at five games rather than expanding it to seven, which Costas argued would lower the risk of a "fluke outcome."
MLB Network is planning to rerun the interview several times in the next 24 hours. Check it out. It's definitely must-see TV for baseball fans.
Thanks to Major League Baseball via Wikipedia for the photo.