Reporting From New York — A handful of media types had gathered on the 31st floor of Major League Baseball’s headquarters on Park Avenue Thursday for a news conference to announce an agreement between the league and the players association that would increase pension and health benefits to players who played between 1948 and 1980 but didn’t meet the minimum service time.
As Commissioner Bud Selig said: “It was the right thing to do.”
When the stage was turned over to 90-year-old Eddie Robinson, who played in the 1940s and has been an advocate for these rights, he directed his opening comment to Selig.
“Bud, I’d like you to put my name in for a job with the Dodgers,” Robinson said.
Selig then dropped his head to the table in mock exasperation.
Such is life at MLB headquarters just one day after the league took control of the Dodgers.
It was all the talk, even if Selig wasn’t talking about it.
“As for the Dodgers, I said all I’m going to say on that subject in my press release,” Selig said to a group of sports editors, who were here for a series of meetings with the commissioners of the major leagues. “I don’t really have any more to say on that and won’t.”
According to a league executive who was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter, Selig’s major concern was expected litigation from Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.
Selig acknowledged that anyone who buys a team must sign an agreement not to sue baseball. But that doesn’t protect the commissioner, just the sport.
Selig’s statement Wednesday said, in part, that he would appoint a representative to take over business and day-to-day operations of the Dodgers.
Selig did let slip a few details about how he got to this point with the Dodgers.
“I thought a lot about it,” he said. “I went back and looked at a lot of things, including some things that happened in my career. I said a couple weeks ago that people said this Texas thing [when the league facilitated the sale of the Rangers] was awful, and I said at the time that we’ll work our way through. And I believe we’ll work our way through this thing. That’s life.”
In the case of the Rangers, the league was able to find a new owner for $600 million and the team made it to the World Series.
“As an owner told me this morning, that’s why you’re there,” Selig said. “I guess that’s true.”
Selig also made a point that the Dodgers’ situation is very different from that of the New York Mets, an organization that is heavily debt-ridden after its connection to a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
“There are a lot of differences between the Mets’ and Dodgers’ situations,” Selig said. “I keep reading they are similar, but they are not similar. . . . Comparing the Mets and the Dodgers is just not true, it’s inaccurate.”
Selig declined to elaborate, as he did with most any question dealing with the Dodgers. But, between the lines, there were some messages that were clear.
He said that an owner’s debt at the time of buying a team was not a concern of his.
“Sometimes, what they did afterward is a concern. A lot of things can happen to an owner over time.”
Selig also talked about security and the incident at Dodger Stadium in which a Giants fan was severely beaten.
“Security is critical,” he said. “Your fans can never have a scintilla of thought where they feel they aren’t safe. [What happened at Dodger Stadium was] tragic, horrible, a horrible situation. But in fairness to all the clubs who spend a lot of time, energy and money on security, you can’t do too much.”
Selig also hinted at how quickly the Dodgers situation evolved.
“I spent a lot of time a week, week-and-a-half ago on [expanded playoffs scheduling], but got diverted to another subject.”
And with that, he smiled.