CHICAGO -- Commissioner Bud Selig defended his choice of George Mitchell to head baseball's steroid investigation, saying the former Senate Majority Leader has independence.
Selig brushed off criticism that Mitchell is too much of an insider for the job -- Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox and chairman of The Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN -- a national broadcaster of baseball and the network airing Barry Bonds' new reality show.
"It's important for somebody who understands what I call the mores of culture of this sport as well as he does. That helps in the investigation. That doesn't hurt it," Selig said Tuesday after helping hand out World Series rings to the Chicago White Sox.
"He has complete autonomy. He wouldn't have taken this without complete autonomy. I mean the fact that we're friends had nothing to do with it. ... He doesn't come back and talk to me. I don't want to hear from him. And he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. So I don't know how anybody could have more independence than Sen. Mitchell," he said.
The investigation is already under way and has no time limit. It was launched after a book detailing allegations that Bonds, who is approaching Hank Aaron's career home run record, used performance-enhancing drugs for five years starting in 1998. The probe will be limited to events since September 2002, when baseball banned steroids, but Mitchell can expand the investigation if he feels it is necessary.
"What I said to Sen. Mitchell was that, 'Look, we've done now everything we can do.' We have the toughest program in American sports. We've banned amphetamines, which I think a lot of people don't understand the significance of that," Selig said.
"And while the book triggered, as I said last week, some of this because of the specificity of things, I think it's fair -- and I've thought a lot about it since -- that we've taken care of the present, we've taken care of the future and now I think it's important to look at the past," he added. "We'll see what happens. ... There's no sense in me speculating."
Selig emphasized that Mitchell was not looking into just Bonds. He's looking at the entire game.
"For anybody who thinks this is just a singular investigation is just wrong," Selig said. "It's incorrect. I don't know how much clearer I can be."
Selig was saddened by the fans' response to Bonds in San Diego on Monday night, when a syringe was tossed in the direction of the Giants' left fielder.
"I guess none of this is unexpected. I'm saddened by it in the sense that Opening Day was such a good, positive day," Selig said. "Every game was sold out. It was really a great baseball day. But controversy will spawn with that type of activity, whether I like it or not."
Bonds began the season with 708 homers and trails only Babe Ruth (714) and Aaron (755) on the career list. Selig said baseball currently has not made plans for a celebration should Bonds move past Ruth's mark but could do so in coming weeks.