Selig needs to understand that tapping into psychological deterrents rather than only players’ wallets will help him clean up his sport — and his figurehead reputation — much faster.
Chris Davis, who says he believes Maris should be the real record holder, has tied the record for the most home runs by an American League player before the all-star break, 37. If Davis had played 25 years ago, he would be a bigger story than Yasiel Puig this summer. But because he plays with people who still put needles in their buttocks and align themselves with sketchy health gurus, he has been subject to suspicions that are both totally unfair and completely understandable.
It’s perception, of course, but chasing Maris sounds and feels a lot more wholesome than chasing Bonds. It feels like the record still matters, that seeing is still believing when it comes to major league sluggers.
Some say record books don’t have space for morality, that numbers are numbers and McGwire’s swings did clear the fence 70 times in 1998 and Bonds muscled many of the 73 balls into McCovey Cove in 2001. But this isn’t morality; these are known facts. McGwire has admitted to his usage, Bonds tested positive in 2003 and there is a treasure trove of data out there to convict him more than any Biogenesis client.
Selig needs to make the marks matter again. Otherwise, it will feel like everything else to curb usage and clean up the sport the past 15 years — including a testing program that is stringent compared to the other major revenue sports — was done more for politically expedient reasons to keep the turnstiles spinning than for the good of the game.
Selig is so concerned with cleaning up his game that he has chosen to suspend players connected with Biogenesis after the All-Star Game, even though three under suspicion were introduced as all-stars Tuesday night, a game in which home-field advantage is decided for the World Series, in which Melky Cabrera was named the MVP a year ago and a month later was suspended for 50 games because his urine sample came up dirty.
Baseball and PEDs in a nutshell: This is the second straight year in which the actions of a juiced player in the middle of July could benefit a pennant-winning team in October, when said player would not even be around to thank.
This is why Bud Selig needs to reinstate Maris and Aaron as the real record holders. By restoring their names, he will begin restoring integrity to the marks and a sport he purports to care so deeply about.
For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.