There are few bigger myths in professional sports than the one which states the league commissioner’s job is to protect the best interests of the game and its fans. This is nothing more than a marketing slogan, a gimmick and a lie which has been hoisted upon the fans to have them believe someone is actually looking out for them. This shtick, which is getting old, could not be further from the truth.
As we have seen with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman over and over again, his job is to support the financial interests of the owners, which often run contradictory to the best interests of the sport. Multiple work stoppages by the NHL over the past couple of decades clearly proves that Bettman is on the power play with the owners. The NHLPA is on the penalty killing unit, while the fans who pay the bills are once again being hung out to dry.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is no different than Bettman in that his number one priority is to make sure MLB owners’ financial interests are looked after, often at the expense of fans and taxpayers. For a league commissioner to properly protect the best interests of the game, it requires he be impartial, have outstanding ethics and be beyond reproach. Does Selig have these qualities?
Let us begin by looking at Selig’s impartiality. Selig was owner of the Milwaukee Brewers for twenty-two seasons prior to becoming acting league commissioner in 1992. He transfered ownership of the Brewers to his daughter to avoid any “conflict of interest” (no joke). If the MLB owners wanted someone who was objective and impartial to uphold the best interests of the game, why would they appoint one of their own from their clique? Strike one for Selig with respects to impartiality.
Next on the list is Selig’s ethics. While he was Brewers owner, Selig was one of the participants in the owners’ collusion scheme of 1985-87 by rigging the signing of free agents, resulting in owners having to pay players $280 million in damages. In 2001, along with then Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria, Selig was sued for defrauding the Expos’ minority owners. A three judge arbitration panel from New York (Loria’s hometown) ruled there was no fraud. However, the damage was done, since Montreal would soon lose their baseball team due to the shady and unscrupulous dealings of Selig and Loria.
Selig is also known as the “Steroid Commissioner”, presiding over one of baseball’s darkest eras. He looked the other way for the longest time while players juiced up and set batting records which should all be thrown in the dumpster. Selig has also given New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon continuous votes of confidence, despite Wilpon’s past dealings with convicted felon and scam artist Bernie Madoff, resulting in the financial destruction of the Mets. Yep…birds of a feather flock together. When it comes to ethics, a big swing and a miss for Selig – strike two!
As anyone with a passing knowledge of recent MLB history knows, Selig is nowhere near beyond reproach. This is why in 1992 he led a group of owners who successfully removed previous commissioner Fay Vincent from office. Vincent was obviously trying to clean up the game, however, Selig and his colleagues would have none of it. Strike three for Selig. Unfortunately for the fans, in this game Selig is not out, but remains commissioner and continues to taint the game.
Even in the unlikely event Selig does rule against his collusion buddy Loria and strikes down the contentious Miami Marlins/Toronto Blue Jays trade, the damage has been done. This would not resolve the more pressing concern of South Floridians being sold down the Miami River by Loria, nor would it resolve the problems of having a commissioner who in the past has done anything but, protect the best interests of baseball.
Selig’s real job requirement is to protect the best financial interests of some of the worst characters the sports world has to offer. He would not have stayed on as commissioner for twenty years if this was not the case. Stating that he has the best interests of the game in mind is a complete and utter joke.
One of Selig’s most embarrassing moments as commissioner was the 7-7 tie of the 2002 All-Star game in front of his home town fans in Milwaukee, when both teams ran out of pitchers. The fans threw empty beer bottles and garbage on the field, with chants of “Refund, Refund!” and “Let Them Play, Let Them Play!” filling Miller Park. Selig’s decision to end this game in a tie was rather appropriate, since Selig and his colluding buddies are all fit to be tied…with straitjackets.