January 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Jerry Green

Suspension of Alex Rodriguez might define Bud Selig's legacy

Alex Rodriguez mocked the commissioner — and all of Major League Baseball — by refusing to accept the suspension and playing for the Yankees over the final two months of the season. (Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

The winner never hit a home run, never threw a curveball and never picked up a grounder in the infield. But when he leaves baseball later this year he’ll go out with a legacy that matches those of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Greg Maddux. In his years in the game, he tinkered with its tradition and purity and caused the cancellation of a World Series. He was a laggard who allowed precious records to be shattered due to his slow reaction to baseball’s drug culture. Among the abominations that he gave us are the wild card and interleague games — plus an All-Star Game that had to be declared a tie due to lack of players.

His main thrust was that Major League Baseball was thriving as it never had before; that the owners were reaping more profits; and that the ballplayers were making millions.

Bud Selig was regarded by many who love baseball as an atrocious commissioner.

It turns out that he’ll leave the sport with the aura of Kenesaw Mountain Landis — or pro football’s Pete Rozelle. The aura, if not the dignity.

Bud Selig served baseball as a commissioner who was easy to trash. I, for sure, was one of the trash artists.

But I trash him no more.

He was the winner — declared so by the arbitrator who Saturday banned Alex Rodriguez for the entire 2014 baseball season. Rodriguez, A-Rod — suspended for each and every one of the 162 games the Yankees are scheduled to play this year. Plus any they might qualify for in the postseason playoffs and World Series.

At last, Selig possesses the image of a muscled champion.

On further review, call stands

He came across as obsessed in his mission to banish Rodriguez for a lengthy stretch. Rodriguez claimed it was a vendetta. Selig struck out the formidable A-Rod.

This was not the 50-game slaps on the wrists that he gave 14 players — including the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta — last August in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal. This was stronger than gaining his revenge on Ryan Braun via a confession of violations and a 65-game ban.

This was bringing down A-Rod, who had vowed to strangle the commissioner by fighting last summer’s original edict of a 211-game suspension.

In essence Rodriguez mocked the commissioner — and all of Major League Baseball — by refusing to accept the suspension and playing for the Yankees over the final two months of the season.

In actuality, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz knocked 49 games off Rodriguez’ original suspension with the decision on Saturday.

But the spirit of the original suspension was to keep Rodriguez from playing through an entire season. Major League Baseball — Selig — has accomplished that.

And thus Buddy’s legacy has been burnished in the year of his promised retirement as baseball commissioner.

Objections

It has been a very tough week for baseball’s premier offenders. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro again were dramatically rebuffed by the journalistic electorate in the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

All of them had been accused of achieving/cheating while Selig and MLB dawdled in outlawing steroids and other performance enhancing drugs from the sport. They are considered outcasts by those moralists among the majority of BBWAA voters.

This upcoming season the smoke from the A-Rod affair is not likely to disappear.

“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise as the deck has been stacked against me from Day 1,” Rodriguez said in a Saturday statement published by the Associated Press. “This is one man’s decision that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement (MLB with the Players Association) and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable.”

Selig’s office responded to that mouthful of legalese with this statement:

“. . . we respect the decision of the panel etc. etc. etc.”

And the Players Association said it strongly disagrees with the decision.

Rodriguez has vowed to fight on, in federal court.

But right now, the decision has been rendered at last. And Selig’s arm has been raised in triumph — the vindictive victor — as he enters his final season as baseball commissioner. That is if he actually keeps his promise to retire without any more bright ideas. This time!

Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sportswriter. Read his web-exclusive column on Sunday’s at detroitnews.com.