- - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

So when is the parade going to take place for Bud Selig down Pennsylvania Avenue celebrating his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

When is Bud Selig Day scheduled at Nationals Park?

Has the statue of Selig been commissioned yet to put alongside Frank Howard, Walter Johnson and Josh Gibson outside Nationals Park?

How many busloads of Nationals fans are going to be heading to Cooperstown in July to celebrate the former baseball commissioner’s induction?

Washington baseball fans should be celebrating the election of Selig to the Hall by their Today’s Game Era committee, because if there was ever a circumstance for the single issue voter, this would be it.

There were five commissioners during the time that the nation’s capital was without major league baseball.

One brought baseball back to Washington.

It wasn’t Bowie Kuhn,a Takoma Park, Md., native who watched as the Senators left for Arlington, Texas, after the 1971 season. Neither Peter Ueberroth nor Fay Vincent lifted a finger to help during the various campaigns to bring baseball back to Washington.

It’s really pretty simple. If Bud Selig decides he doesn’t need the hassle of the fight that came with bringing baseball back to Washington, there is no Nationals Park on South Capitol Street, and there are no NL East division titles in three of the last five years for a Washington baseball team.

There is no Washington baseball team. There would still, only, be Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles.

If you are a Washington baseball fan, you need to wake up and take note of this — this man was your savior. I don’t care if he was Pablo Escobar’s right hand man (and we’ll get to this so-called tarnished steroid legacy later) — Bud Selig fought the fight for baseball in Washington when no one else had successfully done so before or cared to do so.

It was a fight, and you can see the damage still being inflicted with the dispute over the MASN deal between the Orioles and the Nationals. The price for Angelos’ acceptance — the Orioles had owned the market rights to Washington since the Senators left for Texas — was to give him control over the Washington television rights under the guise of this new regional sports network.

That deal was lousy, and it still stinks. I’m sure by the time baseball expected to get to this point — opening up the MASN deal for renegotiation as per the contract — they wouldn’t be dealing with Peter Angelos, though no one will say that.

But you can’t smell the stench when you are sitting in Nationals Park on a July evening enjoying Max Scherzer ringing up strikeouts.

Putting a baseball team in Washington wasn’t an act of benevolence. Owners have profited greatly, from the time they sold the relocated Montreal Expos to the Lerner family for $450 million to the years that have followed of Washington baseball success, both on the field and at the cash register.

No matter. If you are a Washington baseball fan, the how or why you have a team here in the District shouldn’t matter. It didn’t matter to the people of Minneapolis in 1960 or Arlington, Texas, in 1971.

Selig’s legacy is a controversial one. He presided early in his role as interim commissioner over the shutdown of the postseason in 1994 and is roundly criticized for that, yet it was the players and the union who were on strike and shut down the playoffs and World Series.

He has been blamed for the steroid era, yet drug testing is a collective bargaining issue, and the players union balked at every attempt Selig made for stricter testing until its players were tired of being embarrassed in Capitol Hill hearings about performance-enhancing drugs.

Here’s what one of Selig’s one-time strongest critics, Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told the Washington Post two years ago, “I think you see a culture that has dramatically changed. Where Commissioner Selig is concerned, I think he deserves all the credit in the world for responding the way a leader should when he finds himself in a crisis. Baseball’s program is better than any other sport in the U.S., for sure.”

If you are a Washington baseball fan, though, all that is clutter, background noise.

All that should matter is that come Saturday and Sunday, there will be a winter baseball festival here in Washington. There will be Washington baseball players signing autographs for Washington baseball fans two weeks before Christmas.

And Bud Selig was Santa Claus.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.


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