Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

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08/23/2004: Apropos of an earlier post....

I was lamenting the recent decision of MLB owners to give Allen H. "Bud" Selig a contract extension to 2009. Yesterday, Brian Gunn over at Redbird Nation directed our attention to the comments of Dayn Perry over at FOXSports.com: Selig's continued reign bad for baseball

It's a joke that's not funny anymore.

In a move that defies logic, a vision for the future and good taste, baseball owners voted unanimously to extend the contract of commissioner Bud Selig through 2009. As a baseball fan, this makes me want to lower the blinds, wear black and listen to my old Smiths CDs all day. As a baseball fan, it also makes me fear for the game I love.

In some quarters, you'll see Selig praised as being the best commissioner in the annals of the game. Granted, this is damning with faint praise a bit like being the most well-behaved inmate on cellblock No. 9 but it's also not true. Selig has presided over one of baseball's darkest periods, and that darkness is of his own making. In point of fact, he's been the worst commissioner in baseball history.

So come with me, won't you, as we cavort through the dappled meadows of memory and recall what Selig has done to America's pastime.


[in the commissioner's office], he led the effort to craft the most noxious collective bargaining agreement in the history of the sport.

It's one that redistributed income from the richer teams to those who did the best job of appearing to be poor without any sense of accountability. Teams were free to pocket those monies and weren't behooved in the slightest to reinvest them in their organizations. If Selig has a legacy, it's that under his watch owners, by and large, began treating their teams like fungible assets, tax shelters and income-generators rather than baseball clubs. We're left with a sport that's now a cartel trafficking in threats and extortion.

Then, of course, Selig insisted that the players foot the bill for this ill-conceived revenue-sharing schema. It was that very hard-line stance that led to the players' strike of 1994 the most searing labor stoppage in recent sports history. While vox populi likes to place the blame on the players and the MLBPA for that dark turn of events, it was Selig's foolish and self-serving brinkmanship that forced the issue.

The most notable outgrowth of this philosophical sea-change has been the stadium boom. Baseball teams aren't publicly traded commodities; therefore, they're more than free to lie through their teeth about their finances (Selig arguably perjured himself before Congress on the financial state of the game). Back in the early '90s, owners formed a queue and began going hat in hand to their various counties and municipalities and demanding that the taxpayers of America buy them new stadiums.

In essence, it's a multi-billion dollar industry that leveraged its laughable claims of financial ruin to force the public to build them places of business. The stadium boom wrenches more than $2 billion a year from public coffers. Whether you're of conservative, moderate or liberal inclination, this should tick you off. It's not the public's responsibility to build sports stadiums that, despite owner claims to contrary, confer negligible economic benefit to their communities. When stadium bills fail, as they usually do in public referenda, Selig does an end run around the democratic process to get the thing built anyway. During his interminable tenure, that sort of malfeasance has become standard operating procedure.

Then there was the contraction fiasco. When the good people of Minnesota refused to buy Carl Pohlad, one of sport's richest owners, a new stadium, Selig threatened to snuff out their team. It wasn't widely reported at the time, but Selig once received an undisclosed third-party loan from Pohlad, something that's expressly banned by MLB rules. Quid pro quo, anyone?

The contraction gambit was of course a public-relations meltdown, and it was never really meant to happen anyway. Selig only wanted to lean on Minnesota taxpayers and use the issue as a false bargaining chip against the players.

And how about the farce that is the Montreal Expos? Under erstwhile owner/saboteur Jeffrey Loria, the Expos regularly disemboweled their team of its best players, failed to negotiate a TV contract or provide an English-language radio broadcast and allowed a lease on downtown land for a new stadium to expire (and this is only a partial listing of Loria's misdeeds). Then Selig rewards Loria's thoroughly negligent leadership by allowing him to purchase a new franchise and even loaning him money to do it. You see, under Selig it matters not whether owners are competent; it matters only whether they're on board with the whole pretend-to-be-destitute-so-you-can-pilfer-tax-dollars modus operandi.

Once the Expos became wards of the state (a horribly conflicted arrangement if ever there were one), Selig privately insisted that, as a condition for relocation, the franchise must not put up a single cent toward a new stadium. It looks like Selig will get his wish thanks to the pliant city leaders of Washington, D.C.

Then Selig crafts an economic system designed to reign in the Yankees and ends up with one that puts the screws on everyone
but the Yankees. It's probably no coincidence that his Milwaukee Brewers have raked in the most revenue-sharing dollars since the last collective bargaining agreement went into effect.

I still haven't forgiven Selig for the expansion of the playoffs and the introduction of the wild card, which have robbed baseball's regular season of much of its meaning. The vaunted pennant race is now a memory. And he's rumbling about further swelling the playoffs, which would render baseball's regular season as boring and inconsequential as that of the NBA and NHL. This probably scares me more than anything.
Expansion of the playoffs bothers me the most. I still can't figure out why hockey fans actually take that farce seriously; unless things have changed in the NHL (I don't pay attention to the sport, other than to curse it whenever NHL playoff games pre-empt early season MLB games), the only way for an NHL team not to make the playoffs is to finish dead last in its division!!! WTF????? What's the point of having a regular season, then?

Len on 08.23.04 @ 07:28 AM CST

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August 2004

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