Look, let’s get it out of the way—no one likes Bud Selig. The former MLB commissioner and Hall of Famer (sic) always struck me as a squirrelly type, lacking the vision and the backbone to address baseball’s most pressing issues and help move the sport forward.
Still, I would never describe my antipathy for him as more than mild irritation. His decision to tie the All-Star Game to home-field advantage in the World Series is still baffling, and his oversight during the steroid era left a lot to be desired, but at least he didn’t try to bastardize the sport like a certain commissioner is trying to do now.
Selig could have gone into the wild blue yonder as nothing more than an annoying memory. But then, he had to write a book.
Well, co-write. Okay, he probably didn’t compose a single word—that duty was left to Phil Rogers, who’s also credited on the cover. Swinishly titled For the Good of the Game, Selig’s new memoir looks back on his time as commissioner, with the idea of clearing up some misconceptions about his tenure. Primarily, that he was in any way responsible for the steroid era.
You might have already seen headlines like this one describing how Selig “rips Barry Bonds,” and it’s true. The book opens up with a long woe-is-me retelling of Selig’s time following Bonds’ quest to break Hank Aaron’s home run record. (You can find an excerpt here.) Now, I can certainly empathize with his situation—given the controversy surrounding Bonds, it could not have been easy to celebrate his success, especially given Selig’s own personal friendship with Aaron.
But it seems like Selig was self-conscious that he might come across as a cry baby, so he leads off the book by dismissively comparing his experience to a horrific war crime.
I am not joking.
This wasn’t the Bataan Death March. Nobody was going to die or be forced into hard labor.
But the summer of 2007 was unpleasant for me, and when I look back, that’s putting it mildly. It was one of the few times in my life I wasn’t excited about going to ballparks, and if you know me that’s all you need to know.
That opening reminds me of the terrible, terrible story submissions I would read back when I worked on a literary magazine—the kind of amateur inclination to try to catch a reader’s attention through shock value.
This level of tone deafness permeates the entire book. He glosses over his part in celebrating the historic achievement of one of baseball’s most notorious steroid users, Mark McGwire. He credits himself for the “economic overhaul” of MLB, but isn’t willing to acknowledge the role of steroids in putting baseball back on the map. He praises Aaron for being one of the first African American players in the league, but conveniently ignores how Bonds’ race might have been a factor in how he and others viewed him. He calls Bonds “self-absorbed,” which is deeply ironic to write in a memoir about yourself.
But more than that, the book tells such a bald-faced lie, it’s incomprehensible that Selig believes he can get away with it. He describes how he was caught “off guard” by the steroid scandal that accompanied the historic 1998 home run chase, but as this article explains in great detail, it is nigh impossible that Selig didn’t know what was going on. Whatever you think of PED use, the fact is that baseball was reaping the rewards, financial and otherwise, of big men hitting ball far—and through his indifferent leadership, Selig was essentially riding the coattails of McGwire, Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, and others on his way to a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Selig wanted to show how his time as commissioner made baseball better than ever. Instead, he’s just revealed what a blight he was to the game we love.