Bud Selig's tenure has been one of scandal, deceit and public relations blunders. Jonathan Kirn/Allsport
By Dan George, CNNSI.com
We explained a couple of weeks ago why -- even if the union eventually sets a strike date -- major league players almost certainly will not strike before the end of the season. Or if they do, the walkout will be a short one.
The players simply cannot afford the apocalyptic PR fallout that would result from taking a season already tainted with talk of eliminating teams, allegations of widespread steroid use and an All-Star Game without a winner, and topping it off with a prolonged strike.
And the owners … well, the owners literally cannot afford a strike. More than a few teams are in hock up to their batting helmets, and a work stoppage of any length could well propel them into bankruptcy court.
So, probably no strike. But that hardly means Bud Selig can rest easy. Not when one owner -- a guy who’s supposed to be on Selig’s side -- has mentioned the embattled commissioner in the same breath with … Arthur Andersen.
It’s one thing when the players’ union accuses baseball’s hierarchy of cooking the books. It’s entirely something else when someone like Nelson Doubleday, co-owner of the New York Mets, does it. And that’s what happened last week when Doubleday filed a counter suit in federal court against the Mets’ other owner, Fred Wilpon.
Doubleday and Wilpon became 50-50 owners of the team in 1986 and agreed that if either partner wanted to sell, he would offer his half to the other at a price set by an appraiser. Now Doubleday wants to sell. He figures the Mets are worth at least $500 million, but Wilpon sued last month to force Doubleday to accept a $391 million appraisal placed on the team by Robert Starkey, a former Arthur Andersen partner who was recommended by MLB.
Arthur Andersen, of course, is the company that was found guilty of obstruction of justice for its work for Enron Corp. Starkey's work for Andersen was related to sports teams, not Enron. But from a PR standpoint, that may not matter.
Selig is not a defendant in Doubleday’s suit, but the court documents claim the commissioner's office was "in cahoots" with Wilpon to put an artificially low value on the Mets. On a wider scale, the suit alleges, Selig conspired with Starkey to inflate team losses and reduce franchise values as part of his strategy in labor talks with the players' union.
MLB, of course, has denied the accusations, but the matter is hardly going to end there. Especially since it comes only a month after 14 former limited partners of the Montreal Expos sued Selig under federal racketeering laws, claiming he conspired to dilute their investments to help lead partner Jeffrey Loria buy the Florida Marlins. Add that there are plenty of folks who feel Selig also orchestrated the sale of the Boston Red Sox to former Marlins owner John Henry -- Massachusetts attorney general Tom Reilly flat-out said, "The fix is in" -- and you have a first-class mess.
Is it enough to ultimately end the Bud Selig era? If he continues to lose the backing of owners as well as players, it’s hard to see how he can stay in office.
We’ll see. But remember the post-All-Star Game column in which Bud checked in at No. 31 in the Power Rankings? We’re beginning to think that we may have overrated him.
CNNSI.com's Power Rankings
Atlanta Braves John Smoltz now holds the Braves' single-season record for wins (24 in 1996) and saves (41, this season). He and Dennis Eckersley are the only pitchers in history to post 20-win and 40-save seasons.
New York Yankees What’s the matter with Mike Mussina? He says nothing’s wrong with his arm, but scouts say he’s lost velocity. And he’s 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break, during which time opponents have hit .358 against him.
Arizona Diamondbacks How about this for a strategy? This spring, they held Curt Schilling out against the Giants, Rockies and Padres, the three NL West teams that also train in Arizona. Schilling is 9-0 against the division this season.
Seattle Mariners Mussina isn’t the only one with second-half problems. Freddy Garcia and James Baldwin are a combined 2-6 with a 6.65 ERA since the All-Star break. An ominous sign for the postseason -- if they make it.
Anaheim Angels It’s taken five years, but Jarrod Washburn (15-3, 2.97) has arrived. The lefty hasn’t surrendered more than five runs in any game this season. In his three losses, the Halos have scored three runs total.
Minnesota Twins They had a winning record in April, May, June and July for the first time since 1970. The last time they had a winning record for every month in a season was 1965 -- their first trip to the World Series.
Boston Red Sox His 2-0 victory over the Twins extended Pedro Martinez’s scoreless streak to 31 innings. He needs only 28 more to catch Orel Hershiser, who tossed 59 in a row for the Dodgers in 1988.
Oakland Athletics Terrence Long’s game-ending catch to rob Manny Ramirez of a three-run homer was one thing. The aftermath was something else. "Billy Koch gave me a hug,” said Long. “Somebody kissed me -- I've got to find out who that was."
Los Angeles Dodgers The annual Hollywood Stars celebrity game took a heavy toll. Billy Crystal wrenched his back, Casey Sander (Grace Under Fire) hurt an elbow sliding into home and Tony Danza was hit above the eye by a ball thrown by Esai Morales (NYPD Blue). To everyone’s relief, Danza was still able to sing the national anthem.
San Francisco Giants The day after Robb Nen notched his 300th save, teammates jammed his locker with 300 golf balls, 300 bottles of beer, a $300 gift certificate to a music store and another one to a Japanese restaurant. That’s a lot of sushi.
St. Louis Cardinals When angry reliever Steve Kline began trashing the Cards’ dugout, umpire Bruce Froemming told him to cut it out. Afterward, Kline fumed, "I don't know who he thinks he is -- is he Superman with a cape? ... I'll meet him in a dark alley right now.” Froemming, who turns 63 next month, replied: "Tell him I'm working out on the bag." Now we’re talkin’ baseball.
Cincinnati Reds Only four players have ever hit two home runs in the first inning of a game. One of them is Aaron Boone, who did it Friday against the Padres. Another is his brother Brett, who did it for the Mariners on May 2.
Houston Astros Do these guys ever run out of young starters? Rookie right-hander Kirk Saarloos, 23, is 5-2 with a 6.08 ERA overall -- but 5-0 and 2.87 since the All-Star break.
Montreal Expos Gary Carter bobblehead day -- featuring Gary Carter himself -- drew the team’s fourth-largest crowd of the year on Aug. 4. A whopping 20,027.
New York Mets When Rey Ordonez slid head-first into first base last week, winding up dizzy and nauseated after jamming his nose into the bag, manager Bobby Valentine all but rolled his eyes. Said Valentine: "I'm thinking about putting some signs up right at the 45-foot mark: 'No diving allowed.'"
Baltimore Orioles The Rochester Red Wings are fed up with years of Melvin Moras and Jerry Hairstons. The Class AAA team says it will end its 41-year relationship with the O’s -- the longest in baseball -- and look for a parent club that will provide more genuine prospects.
Chicago White Sox Todd Ritchie’s DL stint threatens his bid to become baseball’s first 20-game loser since Brian Kingman with the A’s in 1980. "He was coming on strong," Kingman said of Ritchie (5-15). "I thought he had a pretty good chance."
Florida Marlins Ryan Dempster may be gone, dealt to the Reds last month, but he’s hardly forgotten. How could he be, with the Marlins still wondering what to do with 15,000 Ryan Dempster bobblehead dolls they’d planned to distribute next month?
Philadelphia Phillies With 29, Pat Burrell is trying to become just the second Phillies player in 15 years to hit 30 homers in a season. Wow, have Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski been gone that long?
Colorado Rockies Who says Coors Field is hard on pitchers? Denny Stark is 6-0 with a 2.30 ERA there this year. Opponents are hitting .268 against him on the road, but just .217 in Denver.
Pittsburgh Pirates Right-hander Josh Fogg (11-7, 4.05), acquired in the Todd Ritchie deal, leads all NL rookies with 144 1/3 innings pitched. He’ll get more than a few votes for Rookie of the Year.
Cleveland Indians Sudden and mysterious wildness almost ended Mark Wohlers’ career at the age of 28. But the former Braves closer seems to be back in control. Wohlers had a 17-inning scoreless streak until Friday night, rattling off four straight saves while filling in for the DL’d Bob Wickman.
Toronto Blue Jays Six-foot-9 reliever Mark Hendrickson last week became the 10th man to play in both the major leagues and the NBA. Unfortunately, he pitched like a basketball player, allowing five of the six batters he faced to reach base and finishing the night with a 135.00 ERA.
Chicago Cubs With Jon Lieber out for the year, they may be eyeing Mike Hampton (6-13, 6.50) . Why would they consider taking on the last six years and $84.5 million of Hampton's contract? He’s 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 10 career starts at Wrigley Field.
Texas Rangers In seven previous major league seasons, Chan Ho Park had never been on the DL. Now, after signing a five-year, $65 million with Texas and going 4-6 with a 7.14 ERA, he’s on it for the second time this year.
San Diego Padres Even though a MLB official in June called Qualcomm Stadium’s lighting "inadequate" for hitters, manager Bruce Bochy persuaded the team not to replace the 20 rim lights that blew out during the 2001 season. Probably just a coincidence that the Padres’ home ERA is 3.64, compared to 5.73 on the road.
Kansas City Royals Pulled off waivers last week, Paul Byrd (14-8) appears to be staying put in Kansas City, at least for the rest of this season. He has 10 more starts to become the first Royals pitcher to win 20 games since Bret Saberhagen in 1989.
Detroit Tigers The Tigers have a chance to do something they've never done in their 101-year history: Finish last in the majors in scoring. Despite having the DH, the Tigers have scored nine fewer runs than the NL’s worst offensive team, the Brewers.
Milwaukee Brewers Shortstop Jose Hernandez (.278, 20, 52 RBIs) might be their best player. But he’ll probably be playing elsewhere next season, in part because the Brewers can’t afford the raise he’ll command. In addition, they feel minor leaguer J. J. Hardy is about ready to step in.