- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 2, 2004

At an owners meeting in January, baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig finished his briefing with reporters about the session, including the same old, same old about baseball coming to Washington. He walked by and said, “You know, I’m not as bad a guy as you make me out to be.”

Perhaps he isn’t that bad a guy. But it wasn’t personal. Like Michael Corleone, it was just business.

Absolution is in order, it seems. Pulling off the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington is a slate-cleaning act. It is like the long-time crook suddenly rushing into a burning building and saving a family.

Well, not quite like that. But it certainly does make it easier to forget that Cadillac Bud engaged in a labor war 10 years ago that shut down the World Series. Heck, what do we care? D.C. didn’t even have a team then, right?

And it makes it easier to forget the 2002 All-Star Game debacle at Miller Field. (By the way, let’s keep the commissioner away from the Washington ballpark plans. No one needs Miller Field II, a legacy of lawsuits, accidents and various stages of disrepair.)

But the nickname Cadillac Bud? Sorry, that’s not going anywhere. He should be proud to be linked to the name Cadillac. He is the Cadillac of baseball commissioners. That’s a compliment a car dealer like himself should appreciate.

“No one will argue about who baseball’s greatest commissioner is,” George Will once wrote. “It is the ninth commissioner, Bud Selig.”

This, of course, is like being the greatest mayor in the history of Homer Simpson’s Springfield. It’s not exactly a proud and illustrious field. (See Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis maintaining the color line or Peter Ueberroth’s troubles with collusion.)

Through either leadership or just dumb luck, baseball has done well of late under Cadillac Bud. Attendance is up and wild-card races have generated interest in cities that would have forgotten about baseball a few months back. He gets credit for (finally) not letting the business of the game get in the way of the game.

But it has been a painful process, from the World Series cancellation to initiating plans one day after the 2001 World Series to contract two teams, and it probably didn’t have to be that way. He miscalculated so many times — such as his plan to use replacement players during the strike 10 years ago — it is difficult to believe it was all some part of a grand plan.

It seemed nearly impossible that Cadillac Bud would ever get Peter Angelos to play ball and go along with bringing baseball to Washington (and he hasn’t quite yet, though there is every indication he will sign off on the move). But it seemed just as unlikely a salesman like Cadillac Bud would offer Angelos a deal that would include guaranteed revenue. It’ll be curious to see how that plays if and when baseball deals with the Oakland Athletics’ possible move to Santa Clara — Giants territory in the mind of San Francisco owner Peter Magowan. The same is true of the push to put a team in northern New Jersey, since the entire reason for doing so would be to reduce the New York Yankees’ revenue.

But those are not the deals on the table now. The one Cadillac Bud has closed to bring baseball back to Washington after 33 years wipes the slate clean. A deal like that can turn a gray sky blue. It can turn back the hands of time. In this case, Cadillac Bud doesn’t turn out as bad as he was made out to be.

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