Maybe I should play the role of Oliver Hardy and say, “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into,” to former Senator George Mitchell, Commissioner Selig, and the whole sordid affair in the wake of the Mitchell Report. And while I could prattle on about the soap opera with Clemens on 60 Minutes, how Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella and IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky have turned pathetic "Trophy Hunters" by wasting taxpayer dollars, I’m wondering how in the world Bud Selig became Marvin Miller.
Yes, you heard me right. The man often called “Bud Lite” has turned the tables on the MLBPA and done the unthinkable: built consensus with a group of owners that for the majority of their history had been, at best, considered fractious. At the same time, the players, by way of the MLBPA, have become fragmented and ineffective, with ownership painting the players into the corner at every turn. That is why Selig, the master communicator and consensus builder, now plays the part that Marvin Miller once held.
Look around, and the signs that the players are running in a thousand directions are everywhere. Of course, there is the aforementioned situation with Roger Clemens, but you could point to Andy Pettitte, or Jay Gibbons, or the fact that MLB has decided to further investigate 14 players listed in the report that have been accused by sources in the of using PEDs after MLB instituted mandatory testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing substances in 2004, but that would just be the fallout from the Mitchell Report that impacts individual players. No, it goes much deeper.
In just over a week, Selig, Donald Fehr, and Mitchell will take the trip up to Capitol Hill, where Rep. Henry Waxman and other members of Congress will mug for the cameras, waste more taxpayer dollars, and stick Fehr in the hot seat, yet again. This time, as in 2005, Fehr will undoubtedly be asked about whether the CBA should be re-opened to “further strengthen” the drug testing policy within MLB, what ever that means (it shifts from year to year as to what is acceptable).
My suggestion? Tell them to stick it. Let Selig do what he can do without collectively bargaining. This time around, the players have to make a stand, and by that, I mean doing what is right in terms of a drug policy on their terms.
I have to ask why the players aren’t championing the cause? Where is the proactivity? Why is this about counterpunches that lack any kick? It’s time for the players to ditch the milquetoast and reclaim some of the lost power they once had.
The PA can’t lose any more than they already have by ineffectively standing by nothing more than privacy concerns without getting up there and saying that those that are playing by the rules have rights to, and so, we’re going to look inward to clean up this fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. The players shouldn’t have members of Congress push themselves into a corner any more than the Commissioner’s Office should. The MLBPA should lead the charge, get the players fired up, and scare the living daylights out of the owners (again), because, at this stage, the owners are the ones holding the power (again), and you can’t help but see it. Whether it’s slotting systems for draft picks, hints of doing the same with free agents (read, rumors of collusion), or the matter with the drug testing policy, the players are back on their heels for the first time since the 1970's. How can the owners not be relishing the moment?
In the meantime, let this not be some call for a strike when 2010 roles around, the date on the calendar when the current CBA expires. While the PA needs to act, it’s not time to go knee jerk either. What’s that saying? Don’t bite the hand that feeds. At the end of the day, all the ballyhoo over the Mitchell Report isn’t going amount to a hill of beans in terms of fan attendance or television viewership. Fans, and members of Congress, will cry out for you to do more, but at the end of the day, those same folks are still going to games. A strike or lockout would create quite a different reaction.
So, Messrs. Fehr, Orza, and Weiner, please tread light, but get back to carrying the stick. The players need that consensus that is now missing back again, but in a positive manner. The right of privacy is a very real and serious matter, but when the majority of your constituency is playing the game without using PEDs, then you have to champion those players, and not the other way around. It’s time for the PA to be the PA again, and not have Bud Selig playing the part of Marvin Miller. It’s just too awkward a thought to think.