Saturday, September 25, 2004
BUD SELIG'S FINAL TASK OF THE SEASON
By Diane M. Grassi
The final week of the 2004 Major League Baseball regular season is upon us and many questions will not be answered until its very end. The National League West, National League Wild Card and the American League West titles are still up for grabs. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are battling it out for the division title and the Cubs or the Giants still battle for the National League Wild Card with Houston still not out of it. The American League West favors the Oakland A's, with the Anaheim Angels and Texas Rangers holding on by a thread.
MLB has lived up to its billing in many ways this season. From its individual feats to team rivalries renewed and as contentious as ever, fans hope for the last minute suspense. It's just a part of baseball. From the 1st inning in April to the last inning of the last game of the 162, there will be some clubs this week that will continue to hope.
Baseball is meant to be played until the last out, and it is always never too late to get back in the game. However, procrastination is not supposed to be the motto for the Commissioner's office, which Bud Selig's office has given new meaning. In fact the Commissioner's Office usually gets involved with weighty issues, most of which require expediency.
In the case of the Montreal Expos' relocation, Commissioner Bud Selig is not expected to announce any decision, which has been percolating for over two years now, until the last day of the season. He was to have done it a year ago. And now it has come down to the last hour of the last day of the season once again.
More upsetting about the Commissioner's anticipated announcement is that it most likely will land the Expos in Washington, D.C.'s RFK stadium, which is what was proposed last year as the most likely spot, but then put off. But what has held up the decision was not necessarily finding the best location in the best interests of the Expos, but the negotiations between MLB and Baltimore Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, who has opposed the Washington, D.C. move ever since it came up over two years ago.
It took little imagination to come up with RFK stadium, which would only be used as a temporary home for the Expos anyway until a new stadium is built. There was a team called the Washington Senators which played there in the 60's but never took off. And if RFK is only to be used temporarily then why not do so and then permanently move the club to Northern Virginia where it would be farther from Baltimore and cater to a quickly growing population to fill a stadium? Northern Virginia is the only other locale still on the list for consideration.
But we are not talking logic, here. What this whole debacle, in the way it has been handled by MLB, has come down to is what is best for the Commissioner and his friend Peter Angelos. The fact that the Expos are collectively owned by the 29 other clubs and MLB is bad enough, but to placate Peter Angelos and keep players and the future of their organization in limbo for over two years is inexcusable.
MLB is supposed to be concerned about the integrity of the game. But making side deals with particular owners and compensating the Orioles' owner for the trouble the Expos would cause his club in terms of revenue comes close to impropriety. And if there is such a problem with drawing enough fans so that it will entail millions of dollars in compensation to an owner who himself is on the Relocation Committee, it is a proposal meant to fail. How about compensating the Expos in order for them to put a winning team on the field so people will show up?
The Montreal Expos were never to have been owned by MLB for over two years. The club has not been able to make any decisions concerning money matters since that time. And according to Gene Orza of the Players' Association this too infringes upon the integrity of baseball.
But because the Commissioner’s Office has once again dragged its heels, it has forced the Expos' players to play a third of their home games the past two seasons in Puerto Rico. They have lost all of their veteran players because no free agents are willing to play for a team without direction, let alone without a stadium or revenues to compensate them. And additionally, the remaining players cannot even purchase their own permanent homes, not knowing where they will live.
In sum, since the Montreal Expos have waited so long for a decent chance in getting back to be a contending ball club, putting them in a vulnerable position to begin with is only setting them up for failure once again. Additionally, Selig during this whole time has yet to take bids on ownership of the club. So what the Montreal Expos will ultimately wind up with on October 3rd, provided that date is met, is playing in a provisional stadium in a crowded market without ownership and a fledgling 2005 roster.
If someone can articulate that this is good executive decision making and leadership on behalf of the Commissioner's office, then state your case.
posted by Diane M. Grassi 4:23 PM