Please excuse the informality, but most reports describe you as a down to earth guy, just an ordinary fan who was in the right place at the right time and ended up being the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
I read that you have instituted random HGH testing on Minor League players. Many people are giving you kudos for trying to eradicate – your term – the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
That’s a noble cause, one that the baseball commissioner should embrace even if you’ve come to the party late, so to speak, having been dragged there, kicking and screaming, by members of the press and Congress.
Here’s the thing. Despite your good intentions, imposing HGH testing on minor leaguers isn’t much of an accomplishment. Without the benefit of a union to represent them, minor leaguers have no choice in the matter. In addition, the move is unlikely to accomplish the intended goal.
You see, HGH costs money and last I checked, most minor leaguers were subsisting on an average of $1,000 a month for the five months of the year they play ball. Even when you add the $25 per day in meal money that players receive while on the road, no one purchases HGH on that income.
Anyone in the minors with the financial wherewithal to purchase HGH is on the 40-man roster, meaning they’re represented by the union and are exempt from your edict.
I would have been much more impressed if you had announced an agreement with the MLBPA to institute HGH testing on Major League players. Of course, you need the union’s consent to do that, which won’t be forthcoming any time soon for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is the dearth of scientific evidence that HGH testing is either reliable or effective in discouraging HGH use.
After thousands of documented tests, no athlete – as in none – has ever tested positive for a random HGH test. Sure, English rugby player Terry Newton tested positive for HGH last year but his test wasn’t random. Someone snitched on him and the needle cavalry showed up at just the right time.
The only test for HGH currently available, the one you are going to impose on minor leaguers, is a blood test. The union deems blood testing to be too invasive. They’re right. Unlike urine, blood divulges a variety of diseases, medical symptoms and DNA, meaning we can never be certain what information the testers have access to and might later divulge. Forget the guarantee of confidentiality.
The union bought that argument in agreeing to the 2002 survey test for steroids. How’s that working out for everyone?
Maybe the imposition of HGH testing in the minors was designed as an end run around the union, an attempt to put pressure on them to cave to HGH testing. If the current Minor League players get used to being tested for HGH, perhaps they won’t be so adamantly opposed to it when they get to the Major League level. I wouldn’t count on that, at least not until science improves and the confidentiality issue is satisfactorily addressed.
Some people are criticizing the HGH move as a desperate attempt by you to salvage your legacy prior to your retirement in 2012. I can’t imagine that anyone in your position would ever resort to such a thing, but if that was the motivation for your decision, you should know this: The steroid era is history.
You can never remove the stain that steroids left on your reputation and the game while you sat idly by. But you aren’t solely responsible for that damage. The union and the players share equally – if not more so – in the wreckage.
Fortunately, steroids aren’t the sum total of your body of work. There’s the financial health of the game, robust attendance, the internet arm of MLB, the MLB Network, interleague play, expanded playoffs, revenue sharing, labor peace, and a host of other advances in baseball that took place during your watch.
You don’t need to impose ineffective HGH testing on minor leaguers to salvage your legacy. It’s already cast in stone and reads as follows: Bud Selig is the greatest commissioner in the history of Major League Baseball.