By Josh Bogorad
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday Jan. 16, 2002
The upcoming Major League Baseball season will mark the 10th anniversary of Bud Selig's tenure as the commissioner of baseball. That is, if there is a season at all.
Selig and the Major League Baseball Players' Association are still at opposite ends of the new labor agreements with less than three months left before opening day.
In 1992, former commissioner Fay Vincent stepped down from office, and Selig, the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, took his place as interim commissioner. There were many question marks about handing the reins of the entire league to an owner of one team. Could this man put aside his personal interests and support the best interests of the league? Time after time, Selig proved he couldn't, and 10 years later the question marks have been replaced by regret.
It was only two years into his stay as commissioner when Selig's refusal to come to terms with the players' union, ending the 1994 season prematurely. The season ended because of a lockout halfway through the year and cost baseball the World Series and half its fans. Seven and a half years later, baseball is staring down the same dark road.
After the last strike, it took two individual milestones - Cal Ripken Jr.'s consecutive game streak and Mark McGwire's record-setting 70 home runs - for baseball to regain its popularity. Who knows what it would take this time around? The average fan's patience for another strike is thinner than Ally McBeal.
Simply put, another strike will kill baseball.
America's pastime has already endured its share of humiliation in the past decade under Selig. He was responsible for the lockout of '94. He saw the '95 season begin only after a court-mandated decision. He's expanded into cities like Tampa Bay where there are more players on the field than there are fans in the seats. Now, he wants to follow his expansion project with retraction. He has failed to institute a salary cap that would level the playing field. He sat back and watched the Marlins, Yankees and Diamondbacks all buy World Series championship teams and make baseball the laughingstock of the sports world.
He has replaced the majesty and purity of baseball with embarrassment and shame. This is a critical time for the sport, and a major setback like a another strike could cause the game irreparable damage. At a time like this, the commissioner should be focused on doing everything he can to save baseball and avoid a strike. However, it is impossible for Selig to give this matter his full attention because he is busy answering questions about another scandal in which he was involved.
Last week, it was discovered that in 1995, while still the owner of the Brewers, Selig received a $3 million loan from Carl Pohlad, the owner of the Minnesota Twins. This is a clear-cut violation of the owners' agreement that forbids loaning money to each other. This would be a big deal even if Selig had only broken an unpublicized rule. But it goes far deeper than that.
Selig wholeheartedly supported the proposal for contraction in this off-season. One of the teams facing that contraction is Minnesota. Pohlad stands to make a much greater profit getting bought out by MLB than he would by selling his defunct team at its estimated value. I guess it pays to have friends in high places. As appalling as all of this is, it goes even further.
Why would the commissioner expand only four years ago if he was going to contract this offseason? The expansion in '98 paved the way for Selig's realignment plan. It also allowed the Brewers, who to this day is still owned by his daughter, to move to the National League, where they publicly stated they had wanted to play for years. Yet Selig insists that this was all done in the best interest of baseball.
Pardon me if I seem a little unconvinced of Selig's sincerity.
Selig's run as commissioner has seen more foul play than an X-rated movie starring Donald Duck. This upcoming season could be a great one with so many questions waiting to be answered. Can Barry Bonds repeat last year's performance and prove he is worth his new $90 million contract? How will the five-year-old D-Backs handle themselves as defenders of the title, rather than contenders? How will the Mets fare after an offseason facelift that would make Joan Rivers jealous? How many homers can Giambi blast in Yankee Stadium, where you can bunt one over the right-field wall? All of these questions we won't get to see answered unless Selig can get his act together. If history is any indicator, baseball fans, don't hold your breath.
Throughout the last 10 years, Bud Selig has been the center of many questions, so I'll throw one more out there. By the time he does step down and goes back to Milwaukee, will it be too late to save baseball?
With each passing day that he remains the commissioner, the answer gets closer to yes.