- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2002

In 1994, the undersigned, a former New York newsman and sports chronicler, proclaimed that there was "no hope for baseball with Selig wielding the club … uh, bat."

At that time Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and baseball's acting "caretaker" commissioner and his snake oil counterpart Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox, in a shameful act, were instrumental in forcing Commissioner Fay Vincent to resign two years previously. Selig was faced with a player's strike that threatened the entire season and loss of the World Series.

Then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich decried the strike, the players and owners and said baseball had become a symbol of national greed. Reich was, of course, wrong. It is and was not greed but power. Unbridled power one that corrupts. Selig symbolized this and was instrumental in devising and directing management's labor strategy in the dubious role of acting commissioner (with a net million-dollar salary and as owner of the Brewers). As he is doing today crying "doomsday" with crocodile tears for the poor owners, he convinced the 27 owners at that time that a financial apocalypse loomed for baseball.

The owners love Selig, the perfect cat's paw. He'll continue doing their bidding as he has for the past decade. They see nothing wrong with the 1995 $3 million bridge loan Selig consummated with the Minnesota Twins, the very team he wants expunged from the rolls of Major League Baseball. Following a one-day congressional meeting, Rep. John Conyers cited the loan, a loan not approved by other team owners and contrary to Major League Baseball law. He added Selig's "unwillingness" to disclose financial information regarding the proposed elimination of the Montreal and Minnesota clubs and called for Selig's resignation. Infinitely more damning was Conyers' caveat: The elimination of the two teams would "likely raise the [TV] revenue of your own Brewers…" Selig, of course denied any impropriety and told Conyers so. The latter, however, suggested to Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner to schedule a follow-up hearing on baseball's precious anti-trust exemption.

In 1993, the power-ridden owners devised the three-division league format and farcical balanced schedule for the 1994 season. Not unlike the hapless National Hockey League, it arranged a playoff format where teams with the worst records get a shot at the World Series. In 1994, the Kansas City Royals, with 13 games over .500, did not qualify for the playoffs. However, the 50-50 Texas Rangers did. The Yankees, with the American League's best record, were rewarded by having to prove themselves first by meeting Cleveland again, a team they beat nine times.

Selig and Reinsdorf believed that former Commissioners Vincent and Peter Ueberroth were wholly responsible for the agreements fashioned after the 1985 and 1990 lockouts favoring the players. The two wanted to restore the power they felt they had. The ruse was the salary cap, the max a player can earn under certain monetary provisions setup by the owners.

As it was then, it is so now. Owners give away all kinds of money, paying millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses to .220 hitters and 3-17 pitchers. They had too many teams then and, yet, wanted to expand the leagues even more. It didn't matter that such expansions would dilute the available talent. No, it meant the cash registers would be humming.

They should have pared both leagues then. But no, it would have cut the revenue for the rest of the league. Minnesota has been a treasure to Major League Baseball for 41 years. Montreal gave Canadian fans a long-awaited taste of America's pastime.

Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota has been especially critical of Selig's contraction plan. Although the loan agreement between Selig and Carl Pohlad, Minnesota's owner, was considered "unprecedented" and "a clear violation," most of the owners now state with the exception of two, that it was "honorable and ethical." Some anonymous voices loudly proclaim that this move by Selig to remove Minnesota, with Montreal tossed into the pot, is nothing but hefty, hefty payback for a favor.

The owners that want no investigation in the loan matter seem to back Selig with his proposal to raise to 50 percent from 20 percent the portion of the club's local revenue they will share. Selig also wants a 50 percent tax on the portions of payrolls over $98 million. (The last time a luxury tax was in effect, the tax rate was 34 percent, in 1999.)

Where does John Q. fan fit in? Or does he? Each year the fan is faced with the mounting costs of seeing a game and buying a hot dog and soda for his kids. He is denied the pleasure of actually being at the ballpark and seeing a game, a game that used to be a pleasure to watch and enjoy without threatening the household exchequer. Today, even asking a .211 hitter for an autograph will cost you $10 or more.

But the owners, Selig and high-priced power-players seem to forget the loyal fans and the little guys, who sell the hot dogs and buy the tickets. They don't amount to a hill of beans to the pragmatic Selig and his wealthy supporters. He should step down. He seems to have forgotten his history lesson as to what happens to all that lust for power especially those who lack the talent to lead. Rudy Giuliani should be equal to the task … strong…incorruptible … and a leader who loves baseball.


Joe Duome, a former New York newsman, has covered sports extensively.

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