After 25 years of being considered second best, former Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell should finally get the recognition that he deserves. That is, if MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is willing to follow the very path that he helped pave in 2012. This is in reference, of course, to last season’s batting title controversy and the now very contentious 1988 Most Valuable Player Award, which was won by Jose Canseco.
Selig had done a monumental job of avoiding the topic of tainted awards altogether since his appointment in 1992, but his unprecedented Melky Cabrera ruling last year has brought the issue to the forefront once again. Cabrera, if you remember, was leading the National League with a .346 batting average when he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for boosted levels of testosterone. At the time of his suspension, Cabrera had already accrued enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title under MLB rule 10.22(a), and as weeks went by, it became apparent that Cabrera was indeed going to win the award. In an obvious attempt to try to repair his public image, Cabrera publicly asked Selig to rule him ineligible to win the award.
With the blessing of the MLB Players Association, Selig changed rule 10.22(a) so that it would not apply to suspended players. It was the absolute right thing to do. But when Selig’s involved, we’ve come to learn that there’s always a catch. Following the 2012 season, the amended rule was changed back to its original wording. Why? Another curious fact about this rule change was that it addressed only the suspension and made no mention of testosterone, steroids, or any other performance enhancing drugs.
So why the smokescreen? Why not come right out and address the real problem? We all know that this rule change had nothing to do with the “suspension” and everything to do with Cabrera’s use of performance enhancing drugs. If Cabrera’s suspension had been for something unrelated to PEDs, would anyone have asked that he be ruled ineligible? No way! So why can’t Selig do away with all the rhetoric and tell it like it is for once? Perhaps it’s because doing so would open a door to the past—a past that Selig simply refuses to address.
And this brings us right back to Mike Greenwell, the Red Sox left fielder that played the game the right way and was punished for it. In 1988, Greenwell batted .325 with an OPS of .946. He hit 22 home runs, knocked in 119 runs, and led his team to a division title. Greenwell set a record for Game Winning RBI that year (a statistic no longer used), and he finished the season with only 38 strikeouts in 693 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, Oakland Athletics slugger Jose Canseco became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in the same season. Canseco posted a .307 average and had an OPS of .959. He hit 42 home runs and finished the year with 124 RBI. But there’s one more very important fact to add to Canseco’s 1988 résumé. He cheated.
Jose Canseco cheated. You know it. I know it. Mike Greenwell knows it. Bud Selig knows it. Melky Cabrera knows it. Everyone knows it. Canseco has repeatedly and boastfully admitted this very fact. When Cabrera cheated in 2012, he was deemed ineligible to win the batting title. Selig stepped in and made this happen. And now he is obligated to follow suit with the 1988 awards. He has an obligation to MLB, to Greenwell, and to the fans. This isn’t a case of hearsay or speculation. Canseco’s steroid use in 1988 is a fact backed up by Canseco himself. For Selig to ignore this situation is an insult to the intelligence of everyone involved.
Selig’s rule change in 2012 allowed Buster Posey to win the National League batting title even though he finished .010 points lower than Cabrera. Cabrera cheated, and Selig stepped in and protected the game. The 1988 MVP should be handled the exact same way. Now, I’m not calling for anything drastic here. I don’t condone changing the numbers in any way. What happened in 1988 happened. There’s no changing that. But the season-ending awards can certainly be redistributed to meet the basic standard of sportsmanship. Canseco should be deemed ineligible for the ’88 award, and the trophy should immediately be turned over to the player that truly earned it—Mike Greenwell.