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For Selig, It’s Time to Lose Interim Label

How interim is interim? In the case of Milwaukee Brewer owner Bud Selig, the acting or interim commissioner, a lifetime. Consider:

Through Selig’s six years as interim boss, there have been four new teams, only 45 active major leaguers are still with the teams they were with when Selig took over; only five managers--Bobby Cox, Felipe Alou, Mike Hargrove, Tom Kelly and Phil Garner--are with the same team and there have been 41 managerial hirings and 10 ownership changes among the 26 teams that existed on Sept. 9, 1992, when Selig stepped up.

It’s time to stop the acting. Selig might lack a degree of charisma, might not fit the public perception, but baseball could do worse.

A consensus builder, Selig has achieved a degree of detente among the often Balkanized owners, has helped produce a measure of labor peace (after taking down the 1994 World Series in response to the players’ strike) and has orchestrated revolutionary changes, including revenue sharing among the clubs, three- division alignment, extended playoffs including a wild card, interleague play and realignment of the leagues.

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It is a fantasy to think baseball could ever have a commissioner with absolute power over owners and players. The commissioner is hired by the owners and answerable to them. He has, as the late Bart Giamatti observed, suasion over only one side. Selig and chief operating officer Paul Beeston, at least, have a line of communication and an improving relationship with the players’ union, the first step toward a partnership that will never be perfect or total but can be workable.

Call for the vote.

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One of the more interesting aspects of Selig’s imminent approval is the position of Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf, who refused an interview request, is expected to oppose it on principle: He doesn’t believe an owner should be commissioner. However, sources say the longtime friendship and alliance between Selig and Reinsdorf isn’t as strong as it once was.

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They are said to have had a falling out over: 1) the labor agreement, which Reinsdorf opposed, and 2) Selig’s displeasure with Reinsdorf’s $55-million signing of Albert Belle at a time when the White Sox owner was lobbying against the proposed agreement because of his belief that it didn’t answer baseball’s economic problems.

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An anticipated highlight of the July 6-7 All-Star festivities at Coors Field is the home run contest. However, both Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds, the most prolific home run hitters of the ‘90s, have asked out.

Griffey has cited the travel crunch, concern about altering his swing and a belief that other players should be given the chance, since he has participated several times. Bonds, who sat out Monday and Tuesday games because of an ailing neck and is battling two bulging disks in his back, said this week that he did not expect to take part because of physical concerns.

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“It’s fun, you’re in the All-Star game, you’re supposed be part of it,” he said. “However, some of us think it’s more important to stay healthy and help our team.”

Mark McGwire still intends to participate but said this week that he plans to reduce and/or withdraw from the batting practice road show that has become a media event with the St. Louis Cardinals. McGwire said it’s “out of control” and creating pressure he doesn’t need.

“Everywhere we go, the media writes that, ‘The show is coming to town.’ It’s ridiculous,” he said. “I’m not doing anything different than I’ve been doing [in batting practice for 11 years as a big leaguer]. People think I just came in from outer space.”


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