BASEBALL’S BLIND SQUIRREL
You’ve heard the old adage. “Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.”
As his legacy is assessed on the way out, baseball commissioner Bud Selig has a lot in common with that squirrel. The blind eye he turned to the home run onslaught of the 90’s, backgrounded by the symphony of the turnstiles, forever sealed, and tarnished, that legacy. His feigned ignorance, more than any act by any player, set the stage for what will always be baseball’s “steroid era”.
Most of the innovations of the Selig era were designed to line the pockets of the owners, most frequently at the expense of fans who did foolish things like buy family tickets for Sunday afternoon, family friendly games, that became late start Sunday night games because Selig turned the power of last minute schedule changes over to his broadcast partners. Those same fans are asked to either miss the ends of the most important games of the season or go to work bleary eyed the next morning. Bad for the fans, good for the pocketbooks of Bud and his robber barons.
But there’s an interesting dynamic at work this morning that gives Bud a victory to claim on his way out the door. Last night at Fenway Park the Angels downed the Red Sox on an off night for the A’s, and the Angels moved into sole possession of first place in the American League West, the A’s a half game back. In New York the Yankees gained a half game in the American League wild card race, getting within three games of the second card while taking the night off. The result at Fenway served as an incentive for the Oakland A’s. The half game gain gave the Yankees some hope for September, particularly with Micheal Pineda already back from the disabled list and all reports positive on the rehab of Masahiro Tanaka, who could now be a major factor down the stretch.
While the original wild card removed some of the incentive to play for a division title, the second wild card, a product of the Selig era, has returned some of it. The A’s would much rather avoid a one game wild card playoff, with the Yankees or anyone else, by winning the division. The Yanks, meanwhile, have the reverse perspective, with their division already all but out of reach, hoping they can get to that one game by winning the second card.
Thanks to that second wild card as many as 20 teams still have legitimate playoff hopes. It has turned out to be a great equalizer and, for all the harm Selig has done to Major League Baseball and the tarnished legacy he leaves behind, it has become his acorn.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.