- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

This isn't funny anymore.

We've come to expect a certain level of chicanery and incompetence from baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig. Sometimes it's even amusing.

But it's not funny now. Cadillac Bud is in danger of dragging the game into the grave.

It was a commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who pulled the game out of the mire after the 1919 Black Sox gambling scandal. Now it is a commissioner who threatens to bury the game in scandal and ugliness.

Nelson Doubleday, a co-owner of the New York Mets, accused Cadillac Bud of cooking the team's books to create "phantom" losses in an effort to devalue the franchise during the ongoing negotiations with co-owner Fred Wilpon. Wilpon is trying to buy out Doubleday.

Selig isn't a defendant in the suit filed by Doubleday, but he is accused of attempting to inflate team losses as a strategy in his labor talks with the players union. Selig is accused of conspiring with a former Arthur Andersen accountant to cook the Mets' books.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, told the Associated Press that the charges are "nonsense and a complete fabrication."

But this is not union rhetoric or a gadfly's accusations. This is a major league owner accusing the commissioner of baseball of conspiring to commit fraud. After Cadillac Bud's appearance before Congress last year, when he testified under oath about the operating losses of major league baseball teams, it would seem that a congressional investigation is in order.

That shows how fouled up baseball is. Investigations of WorldCom and Enron resulted from those companies inflating profits. This one would result from a business inflating losses.

There is a disturbing pattern emerging here. This lawsuit comes on the heels of another in which Cadillac Bud and his sales crew were accused of racketeering by the former owners of the Montreal Expos. That suit, in which Cadillac Bud is named as a defendant, was filed under the RICO Act a statute usually reserved for mob figures.

That suit charges that he, along with DuPuy and former Expos owners Jeffrey Loria and David Samson (now owners of the Florida Marlins), conspired to commit fraud with "the object of eliminating major league baseball in Montreal and removing plaintiffs from standing in the way of that objective."

And let's not forget the accusations that were flying around during the purchase of the Boston Red Sox. The attorney general of Massachusetts accused baseball of fixing the sale of the franchise in favor of Cadillac Bud's bidders, former Marlins owner John Henry and company, and passing over higher offers from other bidders.

Thomas Reilly dropped the probe when Henry's group agreed to come up with more money for the Jean R. Yawkey Trust. But in light of the accusations in the Expos' RICO lawsuit, it would seem that the entire bizarre deal involving the Expos, Marlins and Red Sox is worthy of a congressional probe as well.

It's clear that there is no way that Cadillac Bud can continue to operate as commissioner of baseball with any credibility not that he had much to begin with when his partners are accusing him of committing fraud. How can he effectively lead the labor negotiations with the players union in light of accusations such as these from an owner?

"Major League Baseball was engaged in a systematic effort to undervalue baseball franchises as part of its labor-relations strategy," according to court documents filed by Doubleday's attorneys. "In short, MLB, in a desperate attempt to reverse decades of losses to MLB's player's association, determined to manufacture phantom operating losses and depress franchise values."

This is as serious as it gets. The only thing worse would be if Doubleday was accusing Cadillac Bud of betting on games.

Which brings us to Michael Franzese and the mob.

Last month, Franzese, the former mobster turned model citizen, told Home Box Office's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" that members of the New York Yankees in the 1970s had "gambling issues." He indicated that some players were into the mob for money, and it was suggested that they could tank games in order to meet their debts.

The Yankees howled when this came out. "Absolutely beyond belief. He is a discredited former hoodlum," a team spokesman said.

But major league baseball doesn't think Franzese has a credibility problem. Check this out: The union and major league baseball operate a rookie career development program every January. One of the invited speakers is none other than Michael Franzese, who warns the players about the influence of gambling and organized crime.

Based on baseball's confidence in Franzese as a guiding force for young players, it would seem that Franzese's claims are worth investigating. But not by Cadillac Bud. He is the one without credibility.

If he loves the game as much as his press agents claim, Cadillac Bud needs to resign.

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