Baseball Is Back. But Is It Better Than Ever?

So baseball is back, albeit embroiled in yet another public relations disaster. But we’re not surprised. Baseball has the worst public image in sports and probably the worst public image in business except for ImClone, Tyco, and Enron, and those folks who make Starburst. (OK, that last one is personal — I’m still upset about the discontinuation of the lime flavor.)

Here we are on the brink (or cusp if you prefer) of Opening Day, and what story is dominating the sports pages and sports blogs like this one? Not which team is most improved, which team is going to win it all, which division is the toughest, or even which side is to blame in the Kris Benson/Anna Benson divorce. No, everyone’s talking steroids. Again.

What’s worse than this “new” investigation is the fact that yet again commissioner Bud Selig seems to be taking action not because he’s passionate about baseball or about cleaning up the game but because he’s being publicly shamed into it. And by another book. Last year it was Jose Canseco’s, this year it’s Game of Shadows, the new tell-all by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters that details BALCO’s infiltration into America’s Pastime.

Selig reminds me of the married guy who, after being caught cheating, is dragged on the Dr. Phil show by his wife in a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage. The embarrassed guy sulks, avoids eye contact, and generally accepts his verbal beating by Dr. Phil and his blood-hungry, largely-female audience. Inevitably, Phil M.D. says to the guy, “You’re not sorry you cheated. You’re sorry you got caught.” Selig isn’t sorry he’s spent years avoiding the issue of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. He’s just sorry he got caught.

For the good of baseball, Selig needs to resign. That would be much better for the game than anything this latest investigation could uncover.

I’ll be back on Monday with my fearless predictions for both the 2006 MLB season and the men’s championship game. But for now — look for George Mason — yes, George Mason — and UCLA to win Saturday night.

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