- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

At one point during yesterday's Capitol Hill hearing on a proposed bill to repeal Major Bankrupt Baseball's antitrust exemption, if there had been a turnbuckle nearby, Cadillac Bud Selig's face would have been smashed into it.

As Cadillac Bud went through yet one more explanation of the poorhouse he and his fellow owners have built for themselves claiming more than $230 million in operating losses just this year Jesse "the Body" Ventura grew exasperated.

"I have a hard time believing it, Mr. Selig, that they're losing that kind of money and still paying the salaries they're paying," the Minnesota governor said to Cadillac Bud, the two of them sitting side by side at the witness table in front of members of the House Judiciary Committee. "That's asinine. These people did not get the wealth that they have by being stupid."

In professional wrestling, a chair would have smashed over someone's head right about then. None did, but there were more blows to come for the commissioner of Major Bankrupt Baseball.

One Minnesota congressman accused him of contracting the Minnesota Twins for his own personal gain, pointing out that the Twins play in the 13th largest television market in the country and their nearest television competitor the Milwaukee Brewers, Cadillac Bud's team, (now being run by his daughter) is the 33rd television market in the country.

"Don't you think you have a conflict of interest?" Rep. Gil Gutknecht asked.

He wasn't done either. Gutknecht talked about not only trying to repeal baseball's antitrust exemption but taking a look at some of the tax breaks owners get for operating their teams if Cadillac Bud goes through with his plan to contract two teams, believed to be the Twins and the Montreal Expos.

"We know how this game works," Gutknecht said. "Pretty soon we'll bite back. You go ahead with this, but there will be a huge price to pay."

And Rep. Maxine Waters of California nearly accused Cadillac Bud of perjury when she couldn't get a straight answer from him about the financial information the owners have refused to release. "Let me remind you, you are under oath," Waters said twice to Cadillac Bud.

The commissioner of Major Bankrupt Baseball, though, said he thought the hearing went pretty well. "I don't think there were a lot of hostile questions," Cadillac Bud said.

What hearing was he attending?

This was a Battle Royal, with nearly everyone ganging up on Cadillac Bud. No one is going to repeal the antitrust exemption, because the one thing baseball did right is to enlist minor league teams to urge members not to repeal the protection for fear it would hurt them. Nearly every member of Congress has a minor league ballclub in or near his district.

But that was the only thing they did right. Otherwise, they managed to give the players union those high-priced millionaires that everyone loves to hate the upper hand by threatening to sue the union if they release certain financial data it had obtained through labor negotiations. Union boss Don Fehr didn't even bother to show up yesterday, sending his brother instead while he met with the players in Dallas, but he didn't have to lift a finger to win the battle.

Here Cadillac Bud had this massive book detailing baseball's dire financial state to distribute to anyone who wanted a copy, and all the committee members wanted to talk about was what the owners were keeping the union from revealing. It infuriated Cadillac Bud, who wanted everyone to focus on baseball's "audited financial statements."

Some good came out of yesterday's hearing, though. Cadillac Bud's feet were held to the fire about any secret deal with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos to keep a team out of the Washington area. Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois asked Cadillac Bud flat out if there was a "rule" to keep a team out of the Washington area, and Bud said there wasn't, under oath, and he made the same promise to Virginia Rep. Robert Scott. So it's there on the record if and when the lawsuits ever need to be filed.

And while Cadillac Bud made no firm commitment to bringing baseball to the Washington area, he did say that relocation was also part of his plan to cure the game's economic woes, and, when pressed on when relocation would take place, Cadillac Bud said, "sooner than later."

Granted, we don't know exactly what that means, but I suspect it means that whenever they get a new labor deal made with the union, relocation will be the next step.

Until then, the closest we can get to baseball in Washington is watching Cadillac Bud taking one beanball after another at Capitol Hill.

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