Commentary

Selig can alter legacy

Commissioner has power to set the record straight

(New York) NewsdayAugust 11, 2009 

— The way things stand, the commissionership of Bud Selig will be remembered as a joke and the commissioner himself as a failure, the man who presided over an era in which baseball's only real currency, its hallowed history and its sacred numbers, became as worthless as Confederate money.

But there is a way Bud Selig could turn it all around, could rewrite his legacy and leave behind the memory of a strong, bold leader rather than the image he has now, that of the stereotypical used-car salesman who sells you a Chevy but drives home in a Lexus.

The way he can do it is simple. All Bud Lite has to do is declare that -- under the powers granted the commissioner to act in the best interests of the game -- baseball will once again recognize Roger Maris as the all-time single-season home-run leader and Hank Aaron as baseball's career home-run king.

End of story.

Of course, Selig isn't going away any time soon -- would you for $18.5 million a year? -- and since such a move would require not only a ton of integrity and a boatload of courage, two qualities Selig may be keeping well-hidden, I don't expect it to happen.

But wouldn't it be great if the commissioner of baseball, formerly one of the most powerful figures in professional sports but now reduced to a toady of ownership, showed the guts and gumption to make the right call and say to the MLB Players Association, "If you don't like it, sue me."

We have known for a long time that every important slugger of the past 10 years is tainted and that every single player -- Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds -- to have hit more than Maris' 61 homers or Aaron's 755 was a cheat.

The latest revelations about David Ortiz only reinforce the belief that historians will have to look long and hard to find any player of this era who is devoid of suspicion.

So why bother with hand-wringing over asterisk-or-no-asterisk, syringe-like icons alongside the career records of certain players, or worrying about legal challenges from the players association or any of the tainted individuals.

You're not taking away anyone's numbers, you're just recognizing what we already know: that some are more valid than others.

Just lay it out there: From here on, baseball officially recognizes the accomplishments of Maris and Aaron as the real deal.

For once, public opinion would be on Bud's side.

I can see the news conference now, Selig flanked by Aaron and the sons of the late Maris, making his triumphal announcement.

Selig's great desire, to be remembered as the man who rid baseball of steroids without acknowledging his role in their proliferation, is a pipe dream he will neither achieve nor does he deserve.

But even if he can't change what he allowed to happen, he still can right a wrong. By restoring the dignity and status of Maris and Aaron, Selig might even begin to claim a little for himself.

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