Saturday, May 7, 2011

Time for Bud Selig to strike out Barry Bonds' tainted records

Saturday, May 7, 2011

We know what Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is going to do about Barry Bonds' embarrassing home run records. He will do nothing. He will let Bonds' single-season home run record of 73 and career record of 762 sit there and fester until they are broken — which could very well be never now that baseball is doing some pretty serious drug testing.

Selig will continue to say what he has always said, that while it's personally troubling to him, what's done is done and he can't fiddle with the record book because if you open that can of worms, where does it stop?

If only Selig could step outside his warm cocoon of baseball apologists to assess his options, he would see that there is another path for him to take, a course of action that might allow him to salvage his place in sports history. He would see a sports entity even bigger and more wide-reaching than his own, not just one sport on one continent, but the most all-encompassing sports event on earth. He would see that its leaders have done on numerous occasions what he might have to do just once: alter the record book because it's absolutely the right thing to do.

If it's good enough for the Olympics, it should be good enough for Bud Selig.

Fifty or 100 years from now, when students study the Steroids Era, they will look back on how the Olympic world expunged cheaters such as marquee sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones from the record books — took their gold medals, their times, everything. And they will wonder why baseball's leadership didn't do the same thing to Bonds, especially since the newly minted felon admitted using substances we know to be performance-enhancing drugs.

It won't be just steroids, either. They will see how rule-breaking college teams were forced to vacate victories and titles, and then wonder what Selig could possibly have been thinking. (The only good news for Selig is that they will think even less of Don Fehr, the union boss who stonewalled drug testing at every turn.)

But Selig still has a chance to rewrite a bit of his own history. He needs to ignore the people around him who keep telling him what he cannot do, and start acting within his powers in the "best interests of baseball" to immediately reinstate Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king, and give Roger Maris back his single-season title. (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, don't even think about it.)

Someone will come running into Selig's office all out of breath and immediately ask what he's going to do to all the other records, be they career marks or individual season records, held by any number of other cheaters out there. This is when Selig is permitted to ask this rhetorical question: Do they hold the single best-known record in all of sports?

There is a popular worldwide precedent for selectively picking and choosing how to right the wrongs of the past in sports, and Selig should rely on it. At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when Johnson failed a drug test after winning the men's 100 meters, the next three finishers were moved up, allowing Carl Lewis to win the gold medal. But when it came time to strip Jones of her women's 100-meter gold medal from the 2000 Olympics after she admitted cheating years later, the IOC vacated first place, opting not to give anyone else the gold due to serious concerns that there might have been more cheating going on.

Selig certainly has the power to get rid of Bonds' records while continuing to evaluate those of other past, present and future cheaters. To say you can't punish one cheater because you can't punish them all has become a ridiculous baseball credo. Using this reasoning, all bank robbers would be declared innocent because, try as they might, the authorities have never been able to catch every one of them.

The Bonds ordeal has given Selig a great gift: to finally be able to take a huge stand against baseball's Steroids Era. What he does — or doesn't do — will cement his place in history.

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