I remember going to a Branford Marsalis concert in Miami one evening when he was in his hip-hop period. The band’s sound check morphed into a riff then turned into a full out improv when the rapper for the band burst onto the stage and cried out, “You know I gotta get in on this!” then proceeded to put words to the music.

Bud Selig has hired George Mitchell to look into steroid use in baseball just as Barry Bonds is set to break Babe Ruth’s career home run total and everyone is up in arms. African-Americans consider the timing to be racist, old-time baseball people consider it scape-goating and others are afraid the investigation won’t go far enough.

Is the timing of the Mitchell investigation racist? No doubt.

And you know I gotta get in on this. I talked about Bonds’ troubles before but it’s too complex and fascinating to leave alone.

Is the timing of the Mitchell investigation racist? No doubt. Babe Ruth is a larger than life icon and usually the favorite answer to the question: “Who is the most beloved baseball player of all time?” It’s bad enough that Bonds is a jerk but he’s also an outspoken black man and we don’t like that. We’d much rather idolize Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods who’ve never said a controversial thing in their lives.

But, as is often the case, there is more to it. Bonds already has the record for home runs in a season, it’s too late to do anything about that. But what if Selig lets Bonds break Ruth’s career home run record knowing that he probably used steroids?

The deeper problem is the fallout from the long-term collusion between players, management and baseball officials. If you stick your head in the sand for too long, when you finally do take action, you seldom penalize the appropriate culprits. Selig is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If Selig punishes Bonds and not Giambi or McGwire, he’s being racist. If he doesn’t punish Bonds, that’s the defining moment in his career. He didn’t take action when he should have.

If Major League Baseball really wants to move on and handle the future in a much better manner than it handled the past, it should replace Selig. As long as he keeps his job, baseball will do the same thing it’s been doing for his entire eighteen-year reign, wait the problem out and try to wish it away until forced to take action.

It’s too late to penalize McGwire and it’s probably too late to penalize Bonds. Give him a thirty game suspension for lying to a grand jury then watch as the players’ union contests the suspension and a mediator reduces it to twenty games. Bonds will break Ruth’s record and retire at the end of the season.

Hopefully, Selig will go with him.

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