Baseball Wiseguys

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

This Bud's (Not) For You

The Washington Post had a very illuminating one, two, three part series on the business side of baseball which has only fueled my hatred for that rat bastard Bud Selig.

Part 1 discusses the snowjob Selig and the Brewers did on the taxpayers of Wisconsin, ultimately getting Miller Park built with absolutely no capital expenditures from the team or its owners, and subsequently using the increased revenues to service old debt rather than build the team up.

Tucked into the legislation was an unusual side deal Thompson had proposed to Selig. The governor had arranged to have a quasi-public agency, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), lend the Brewers $50 million. The team would use the money as part of its $90 million contribution to the stadium. The $90 million was key: Lawmakers wanted to know Selig, too, was chipping in.

The WHEDA loan was a political solution to a hard reality: The Brewers didn't have the money. The team came up with the remaining $40 million by selling the ballpark's name to the Miller Brewing Co., then using the 20-year, $41.5 million contract as collateral to obtain more debt. In other words, the Brewers' only financial contribution would come from selling the name of a ballpark for which Wisconsin taxpayers had paid.

As much as Selig is to blame for ramming this stadium deal through, I have to put some blame on the people of Milwaukee and their elected reps for not having the balls to demand full disclosure of the Brewer's financial status before allowing the park to be built.

Part 2 talks about Selig's near universal powers he holds over the game, and the subsequent dragging out of the Expos relocation process. The power he holds allowed him to swap franchises among favored friends like they were nothing more than trading cards.

A quick synopsis: Jeffrey Loria owned the Expos around the time contraction was brought up. He knew his team stunk, but he wanted to stay in baseball. So he feigned outrage at contraction, thereby upping his buyout price, which allowed him to sell the Expos to MLB at a grossly higher value than they were worth. This enabled him to buy the Marlins from...

John Wayne Henry, who wanted out of Miami after he realized that buying a World Series team that had been stripped for parts isn't the brightest way to do business, especially with a fickle fan base that has a wealth of other entertainment options at their fingertips. Selig stepped in and played matchmaker, lining Henry, Lucchino, and Tom Werner up to buy the Red Sox, at a price that some say was not the highest offer, but was pushed through due to their special relationship with the old car salesman himself.

Apparently there were other swaps discussed, all of which involved Selig's cronies.

Selig was asked where Washington fit in to baseball's baffling jigsaw puzzle. Would the nation's capital finally get a team?

Perhaps Selig's mood got the better of him. "I'd have to say that given the demographics of the area and all the people who want it, they are the prime candidate," he said.

Relocation, Selig said on Jan. 17, 2002, was coming "in the near future."

Part 3 sheds some light on how Selig manipulates people and franchises to the benefit of himself, his buddies, and the Milwaukee Brewers.

One Major League Baseball official who has worked closely with Selig described him as "an expert in behavioral modification."

"Some of his preferred tools are off-the-record character assassination made to the media and other owners, and minimizing [owners'] participation in high-profile committees," the official said. "Remember that the majority of the owners are egocentric and want to be respected and admired by their peers. Most have paid a significant price to become a member of this exclusive club and hate the thought of being publicly or privately shunned or minimized by other members."

Selig's most successful project has been Angelos. "If Peter was backstabbing Bud and screwing the industry, we'd have a team in D.C. right now," said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. In fact, Selig and Angelos are "almost linked at the hip," the official said.

To this day, neither Selig nor his top aides have officially discussed the Expos-in-DC proposal with Peter Angelos for fear of pissing him off. We are currently two years into the Expos wandering in the desert, with an apparent All Star Break deadline to announce their plans, and they have not even started to talk about the bribe it would take to put the Expos near Angelos' franchise?

But we wouldn't want to piss off a filthy rich lawyer who has run his team into the ground, content to let Camden Yards be the attraction rather than the players on the field. Slick Pete has practically been building a case against DC by shooting himself in the foot.

The more I read this stuff, the more pissed off I get.

Can't wait to watch the Portland Expos next year.

I'm out.


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