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Baseball’s Biggest Problem

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Posted on Aug 11, 2013

By Mark Heisler

(Page 2)

Like the cartoon character drawn by the New York Daily News’ Bill Gallo, lampooning Steinbrenner as a portly Prussian general with spiked helmet, smoke was coming out of The Boss’ ears after Fay Vincent, the last in the line of activist commissioners Peter Ueberroth and Bart Giamatti, suspended him—for life—for paying a “part-time gambler” (read: lowlife) named Howard Spira for dirt on Dave Winfield.

(Winfield, a Yankee star, was good, not great, wouldn’t accept a trade and, worst of all, didn’t kowtow to Der Big Guy.)

Of course, “lifetime” turned out to be one year after an owners’ vote of no confidence prompted Vincent to resign with three years left in his term.

Steinbrenner was only hiding out until the heat was off, knowing he could unseat Vincent. The cabal of five owners who led the revolt included key Steinbrenner allies Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox ... and Selig, of the Brewers.


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Having tried the “modern” approach that worked for the NFL with Pete Rozelle and the NBA with David Stern, the owners opted to return to the days before commissioners bossed them around.

So, who better than one of them?

The self-effacing Selig said he was only interim commissioner—which is why they let him pass the operation of the Brewers to his daughter, starting his reign with a massive conflict of interest.

In year 13, they sold the team. Now in year 21, Selig is three behind the longest-serving commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Along the way, Selig may have promised to pass the torch to any owner who expressed an interest in it, as he did with the Texas Rangers’ George W. Bush, who dreamed of being the next Landis.

Vincent says W. told him Selig was grooming him for the job—“and he tells me that he can deliver it.”

Vincent said he thought Selig wanted the job. Replied Bush: “He told me that I’m still his man but that it will take some time to work out.”

Happily or not for Bush, he tired of waiting and became president of the United States. (Although in 2008 when he was about to leave office, a childhood friend insisted to Vanity Fair’s Gail Sheehy that W. still hoped to get that call from Selig.)

If the tentacles stretch into the White House, this wasn’t a minor tacit alliance, but it’s more like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” or “Beverly Hillbillies” than Oliver Stone’s next project.

Compared with A-Rod, cheaters who confessed errors in judgment, etc., like Texas’ Nelson Cruz, look like heroes.

“We’ve got his back and we love him and we’re going to support him as a family,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said of Cruz. “That’s what we do.”

Unlike the Giants who wouldn’t let Melky Cabrera play last postseason, the Rangers will welcome Cruz back this fall.

By accepting this season’s 50-game suspension, Cruz, who left with 27 homers, will be free and clear as a free agent ... or hello, mega-bucks!

In Detroit, everyone said similar things about Jhonny Peralta, even if former pitcher Denny McLain said he should have fought the suspension but was “more concerned with next year, starting clean, rather than helping the club this year.”

Peralta will also be a free agent. McLain, of course, is McLain, tipping his real concern by noting that he lost $45,000 in his three-month suspension in 1970, since he was making only $90,000.

“Today, that’s what they make in a day,” McLain lamented to the Detroit Free Press on his own behalf.

Unfortunately for McLain, the paper ran a picture of him at the ballpark with another former Tiger, Jon Warden, next to slender starter Justin Verlander, who looked like a flagpole with two blimps.

What does this mean, aside from the fact that MLB could pick a fan from the stands who might be able to run the league as well as Selig?

For sure, it means there are fewer heroes than people think there are.

Also fewer competent people in high positions.

Not that the National Pastime won’t always have a place in our hearts, even if it’s like the circus coming to town.

Oh, and judging from the picture of McLain and Warden, playing in the big leagues, as well as being commissioner, or owner, just may be hazardous to your health.

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