Selig doing exactly what the commissioner should do

Originally Published: July 24, 2007
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

The commissioner of baseball made his point. And now that he's made it, he can do the right thing -- by making his pilgrimage to the scene of history.

Is Bud Selig heading for San Francisco to salute Barry Bonds? Heheheheheh.

If you think that's why he's going, you can't possibly have been tuning in these last few months, while Selig has been doing enough waltzing in the opposite direction from Barry to qualify for "Dancing with the Stars."

There is a big, big difference between paying your respects to history and paying your respects to the man who is about to make that history. And the commish clearly intends to spend the next few days -- or however long he has to spend hanging out at the Traveling Home Run History Show -- demonstrating exactly how big that difference is.

Bud Selig
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma Many scoffed at Bud Selig's idea that homefield advantage in the World Series result from the All-Star game winner, but perhaps the NHL should follow suit.
It turns out now, according to Selig's friends, that he always understood he had to be there when the most storied record in his sport was tied and broken. But he felt that if he'd announced that decision any earlier, it might have been construed as his personal salute to the record breaker, as opposed to the record itself.

So he waited. And he waited. And he waited some more. Waited for the "appropriate" time to let the world in on his travel plans.

He might have uttered that word, "appropriate," in fact, more times than Barry Bonds has rounded the bases. But finally, when Tuesday of Hall of Fame week rolled around, Selig realized his long-awaited moment of, um, appropriation had arrived.

His original plan, it appears, was to delay as long as possible -- maybe even until Bonds hit No. 755 -- to start touring with Barry and the Giants. But with Hall of Fame weekend approaching, the commish clearly felt he was boxed in.

Suppose he'd stayed away all this week. Suppose he then had jetted off to Cooperstown for Sunday's induction ceremonies. Now imagine the mess he'd have been in if he'd been sitting on the podium in Cooperstown when this monumental record came tumbling down.

If he'd alibied afterward, "Darn, I was always planning to be there," who would have believed him? Mrs. Selig, possibly. That might have been about it.

So if he was going to go, this was the time. If this painful history chase drags on long enough, he may have to leave, drop by Cooperstown and then head back to California next week. But apparently, he now is willing to do that, too.

That is exactly what he should do, too.

This is too important an event in the history of his sport for the commissioner of baseball to cover his ears and blindfold his eyes and pretend it isn't happening.

Had he dodged it, never gone, never acknowledged it, that would have been selfish, shortsighted and disrespectful to all the history that has led this sport to this moment in time.

So now that he's going, it should be highly entertaining to watch him try to weave his way around that guy whose name he refused to mention just a few days ago in Milwaukee.

The commish was asked Friday in Milwaukee if he felt that this record should be regarded as "legitimate." His carefully worded response still rattles around the brains of all who heard it.

"We won't get into that," Bud Selig said. "We're here to watch to see whether he does it. And whatever else happens, I'm not passing judgment -- nor should I."

So now, here we are, only four days later, and the commissioner says he's going to be there, if possible, to watch history unfold.

Can he pull this off and still not pass judgment? Can he pull this off and still maintain his strategically measured distance from the man breaking the record? It won't be easy.

But re-examine Bud Selig's explanation of why he headed for San Francisco:

"Out of respect for the tradition of this game …"

And "the magnitude of the record …"

And "the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty."

Make no mistake about it. That's not the sound of the commish popping a champagne cork and handing it to his new Home Run King.

That's the sound of a man trying to preserve the integrity of his sport and his office while not trampling on the still-noble concepts of justice and the American way.

So Bud Selig will be there, as he should. But we bet that when he heads back to Milwaukee, he won't have left behind one indelible photo, sound bite or video clip of himself alongside his new king of swing, smiling or extolling or handing him a trophy.

Nope. All the commish has committed to is that he'll "make an additional statement when the record is tied."

There will be those who say that isn't enough. But it's cool with us.

We've always said Bud Selig needed to be in the park when Barry Bonds breaks this record. But does he need to do anything beyond that -- yuk it up, high-five the man, toss around some ticker tape or invite Barry to dinner?

Why? After all these months of giving the impending Home Run King his iciest shoulder, celebrating him now would feel more hypocritical than if the commissioner of baseball had never left the comfort of Milwaukee.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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