Fail to the Chief (01/25/01)
He came into the room amidst an army of black armored stormtroopers wielding tonfas and tazers. By the time he made it to the dais, 3 statisticians, 2 economists, 6 noted historians and a Pete Rose booster lay dazed and bleeding on the ballroom floor. The old timer who had been speaking about his days playing in the big leagues alongside the likes of Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, was now suspended from the ceiling, handcuffed to a chair with both of his orthopedic socks stuffed in his mouth.
"I would like to announce," articulated Commissioner Bud Selig, with his right pinkie held firmly next to the corner of his mouth, "that I'm holding the integrity of baseball for the small ransom of one mil... er, one hundred billion dollars. MWAHAHAHAHA. Mwahahaha. ehew. ok, moving on." Then, after ordering one of his henchmen to kick a disabled child out of the way, he hopped into an egg-shaped escape pod that was lifted into his his Big Boy spaceship, blasting off to parts unknown.
Actually, that's not how it happened at SABR 31. Bud Selig did speak at a luncheon in the hotel ballroom. However, he came in rather unassuming, working his way to the front of the ballroom where he sat down to wait for his introduction. He gave a short speech on the market inequities in the game, then fielded a few questions. Almost all of his answers included his pledge to protect the integrity of the game, whether it was about the wildcards and playoff races, All-Star voting or the lifetime ban of Pete Rose.
Many SABRites came away impressed with the commish, liking his down-to-earth, folksy demeanor. Unfortunately, this pledge came from a man who was a leading proponent of using replacement players as an equivalent product in 1995; an outspoken advocate of getting just about every team a new stadium, whether they need it or not; a leader in the movement to buy out certain owners for hundreds of millions of dollars rather than allow them to relocate to more profitable markets; and a man who has sworn to implement "meaningful revenue sharing", even though the only sharing he has gotten clubs to agree to in the last 5 years is their practically non-existent Internet profits. Local television contracts and gate receipts still disproportionately favor the home teams. He made the All-Star game more of a parade than it already is by stopping the game between the middle innings to make a speech and to hand out two recently contrived awards. And he's presided over the adoption of interleague play, which has undermined the integrity of the playoff race, as the wildcard can be determined by who had the easier "exhibition" schedule.
Some see Bud Selig as the Doctor Evil of baseball: a sort of bumbling super-villian with grand baroque schemes to extort money from the general public. The fact is that Selig is just a used car dealer. Literally.
Before he was a baseball owner, Bud Selig sold used cars. Any idea how many used cars you gotta sell before you have enough money to by a major league franchise? True, baseball teams cost a lot more now than they did in 1969, but then again, so do used cars. You have to be one great salesman to sell that many cars in a town the size of Milwaukee to build up enough capital to buy a baseball team. And as everyone knows, a great salesman tells you exactly what you want to hear.
So to the owners, he says he's gonna get them new stadium deals and a salary cap. To the fans, he says I'm gonna keep holy the integrity of the game and make sure that your hometown team doesn't leave for some other town. And to the players, he says he'll get the owners to solve their own problems by implementing meaningful revenue sharing.
So far, he's kept few of his promises and those few that he's kept have been fairly underwhelming. But that's just what you'd expect from a used car salesman.
© 2001, All Rights Reserved