<
>

Selig's non-statement about Bonds says plenty

MILWAUKEE -- As we listened to the commissioner of baseball bob and weave his way around those Barry Bonds questions he loves so much Friday night, it finally hit us.

Don't listen to the words coming out of Bud Selig's mouth. Listen to the words that aren't coming out of his mouth.

We keep waiting for the commissioner to make some kind of definitive statement about his favorite history-maker, right? We wait and we wait and we wait some more.

Hey, earth to the human race: Has it occurred to anybody he has already made that statement -- that he's telling us exactly what he thinks of his man Barry?

It's just that the commish isn't telling us with the stuff he says.

He's telling us with everything he doesn't say.

He told us plenty again Friday evening, when the Traveling Home Run History Show pulled into Bud Selig's hometown -- so the commissioner dropped by Miller Park to "watch the games."

And because it was "a beautiful night."

And because "it's a game that's important in the pennant race."

And because "it seemed like a very logical thing to do."

But hold on. There was a slightly different reason that all of us media luminaries jetted in from every corner of America to pack the Miller Park press box Friday night. It sure wasn't because it was "a beautiful night." Let's put it that way.

If Barry Bonds' home run total was a draw for the commissioner of baseball, though, he hid it well.

In an eight-minute conversation, as ESPN producer Marc Weiner astutely detected, the commish didn't mention Bonds' first name or last name -- not once.

He still refused to commit to attending a single Giants game played in a town other than Milwaukee.

He even said that any celebration of this momentous event was "in the Giants' domain -- and they can handle it."

Sheesh. Ya think he could possibly have worked any harder to keep this magic moment at full Louisville Slugger's length? Doubtful.

So let's all take the hint already.

If Bud Selig wanted us to celebrate Barry Bonds' home-run record, he'd celebrate it. At the very least, he'd say he planned to celebrate it. Or he'd say we should celebrate it. Or something to that effect. Don't you think?

Heck, he'd mention the guy's name every now and then, at the bare minimum.

But the commish never does anything of the kind. He never even hints at anything of the kind.

He never, ever wavers. He says he'll decide whether to attend The Big Homer "at the appropriate time." And he keeps saying it.

He said it again Friday night, even though it was theoretically possible he might already have been attending the game where The Big Homer was going to be hit.

At the appropriate time.

Well, this is the appropriate time. But Bud Selig's non-statement has turned into a statement in and of itself. That's the message. It's about time we all got it.

When he was asked Friday whether his presence at this game made some kind of statement, listen to how he answered:

"I have to let everybody else make those kinds of judgments. I know what I feel. I know what I think. And I think it's the right thing to do."

So he wants everybody else to make those judgments? Great. We're having no trouble making them -- and no trouble reading him -- all of a sudden.

He's letting us know precisely what he feels. He's letting us know precisely what he thinks. Just because he hasn't spoken his feelings or his thoughts into a microphone -- or slapped them across some full-page ad in USA Today -- doesn't mean he isn't communicating. For once, the sounds of Bud Selig's silence have never spoken louder.

He was also asked Friday whether he thought fans disapproved of his refusal to say whether he'll be there when Nos. 755 and 756 come rolling off Bonds' assembly line. Not only did the commish not take that bait, he even patted himself on the posterior for not taking it.

"The more I think of it, I think it's been handled well," he said, with great satisfaction. "I'll do that at the appropriate time. Just like people want to know if I'm coming here. I'm here."

But even by being "here," he was able to draw a line between his presence and his approval. And that line has never looked bigger or thicker.

Asked if he felt Bonds' record -- assuming he hits these three more home runs he needs -- would be a "legitimate" record, Selig could not have been more obvious about declining the opportunity to say yes.

"We won't get into that," the commish said. "We're here to watch to see whether he does it. And whatever else happens, I'm not passing judgment -- nor should I."

We're here to watch to see whether he does it. And whatever else happens, I'm not passing judgment -- nor should I.

-- Bud Selig on Barry Bonds

Consider those words carefully. They're the seven biggest words of the night:

"I'm not passing judgment -- nor should I."

This, friends, was the fattest batting-practice fastball of the night. And Bud Selig pounded it off Bernie Brewer's slide -- without even swinging at it.

There were a million ways to answer that question. A million. He could have talked about the unique majesty of baseball's numbers. He could have talked about how the numbers of every generation have had their own unique context.

He could even have mentioned the name, "Bonds." Or possibly "Barry."

But Bud Selig chose none of those answers, did he? He chose: "I'm not passing judgment."

And by not passing judgment, he passed all the judgment he will ever need to pass. Could he be passing it any more clearly?

He wants as little as possible to do with this man. He wants as little as possible to do with this record. He wants as little as possible to do with any celebration people want to bestow on this record.

You will never hear him say those words, because those are the kinds of words commissioners would look classless to utter at times like this. And granted, there will be those who think that even to imply them would be classless. But if this is what Bud Selig truly thinks -- and clearly, it is -- not saying them is about the highest road he can take.

Friday night, that road led Bud Selig to Miller Park. And for the commish, it was indeed a beautiful night.

The man whose name he wouldn't utter came to the plate five times -- and never trotted around those bases once.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is now available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.