Commish doesn't want steroids blame

Updated: February 17, 2009, 4:49 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

In the volatile wake of Alex Rodriguez's admission that he used performance-enhancing substances earlier this decade, Bud Selig remains bothered by the suggestion that he is to blame for Major League Baseball's steroids era.

"I don't want to hear the commissioner turned a blind eye to this or he didn't care about it," Selig told Newsday in a Monday phone interview. "That annoys the you-know-what out of me. You bet I'm sensitive to the criticism.

"The reason I'm so frustrated is, if you look at our whole body of work, I think we've come farther than anyone ever dreamed possible," he said, adding, "I honestly don't know how anyone could have done more than we've already done."

Rodriguez's admission, which came last week in an interview with ESPN, has been an overwhelming undercurrent to the start of spring training. Three days after the New York Yankees' star third baseman said he was "sorry and deeply regretful," Selig said Rodriguez shamed the game and "will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation."

Selig told Newsday he would watch Rodriguez's news conference Tuesday -- A-Rod's Yankees teammates and hundreds of media members will attend -- with interest.

"Let's just say I'm going to monitor that situation closely,'' Selig told Newsday.

Following baseball's work stoppage in 1994 that forced cancellation of the World Series, the home run chase of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was considered the point that completed the sport's recovery.

But the mid-to-late 1990s also is looked at as the launching point of players bulking up, and steroids and other PEDs had much to do with that. Rodriguez admitted using banned substances from 2001 to 2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers.

"I'm not sure I would have done anything differently" at that point in time, Selig told Newsday. "A lot of people say we should have done this or that, and I understand that. They ask me, 'How could you not know?' and I guess in the retrospect of history, that's not an unfair question. But we learned and we've done something about it. When I look back at where we were in '98 and where we are today, I'm proud of the progress we've made."

When labor negotiations between owners and the players' association commenced in 2002, Selig said he got behind a tougher drug policy but, fearing the lack of an agreement with the union would force another work stoppage, settled for a less rigid policy.

"Starting in 1995, I tried to institute a steroid policy," Selig told Newsday. "Needless to say, it was met with strong resistance. We were fought by the union every step of the way."

Players and owners did not agree to a joint drug program until August 2002, and testing with punishment didn't start until 2004.

"It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity," Selig said last week. "Under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or amphetamines, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has tested positive for steroids has been suspended for as much as 50 games."

Selig also said he consulted with several team officials he trusted -- Bob Melvin, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks who at the time was a coach with the Milwaukee Brewers; Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz; and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman -- to get their take on how deep a problem the sport was facing.

"They all told me none of them ever saw it in the clubhouses and that their players never spoke about it," Selig told Newsday. "[Padres CEO] Sandy Alderson, as good a baseball man as you'll find, was convinced it was the bat. Others were convinced it was the ball. So a lot of people didn't know."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.