Jeffrey Loria is a worthy villain, no doubt, but the 145 remaining Marlins fans should direct their venom towards Bud Selig. Unfortunately, the media continues to give the commissioner a pass; instead, they laud Selig’s stewardship. George F. Will doing his best Dick Morris, actually wrote this three years ago;
(S)erious baseball fans argue about everything–the best hitter, the best World Series, the best left-handed catcher from northeast South Dakota. But they do not argue about who has been the best commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner–Selig.
Guess he forgot about the canceled World Series, the Steroids Era, the attempted contraction of the Twins at the behest of billionaire Bud-dy Carl Pohlad, Frank McCourt, The Baseball Network (which regionalized playoff coverage), the All-Star tie …
And there’s this: In ’92, when Bud became commissioner — thus setting the stage for George W. Bush’s political career — more than 30 million people watched the World Series. This year, only 12.7 million tuned in to the Fall Classic. Yet Bud boasts of a Golden Age. A supplicant media barely questions the commish’s clueless bravado. Baseball is swimming in cash, they opine, giving Bud the credit even though the sport’s largesse is due largely to the value advertisers now place on live events. Even Atlanta Spirit couldn’t fuck that up.
Fortunately, there a few scribes who refuse to swallow Bud’s tripe — notably Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan. His latest column, on Selig’s culpability in the Marlins fiasco, is a must-read.
Passan’s well-researched piece includes these telling excerpts from a 2002 lawsuit filed by the former owners of the Expos.
Selig, the complaint stated, “had secretly determined that major league baseball in Montreal should be eliminated” and went along with Loria’s plan to stop televising games and broadcasting them on radio in English. [Team president and Loria stooge David) Samson ended complimentary tickets for sponsors. And through a variety of cash calls, on which the minority owners refused to act because they disagreed with the franchise’s direction, Loria nearly quadrupled his stake in the franchise, allowing him to pull off the deal that eventually netted him the Marlins.
MLB bought the Expos for $120 million and gave Loria a $38.5 million interest-free loan. Loria, in turn, purchased the Marlins for $158.5 million. And the Marlins’ owner, John Henry, led a consortium to obtain the Boston Red Sox. It was good-ol’-boys glad-handing at its finest, and the consequences for the Expos were dire.
While Loria inherited a Marlins team that would win the 2003 World Series, MLB was sabotaging the Expos worse than the lawsuit imagined. The league sent the Expos to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for 22 “home” games. Nonetheless, they were tied for the wild-card lead on Aug. 28. MLB then refused to allow the Expos any September call-ups, leaving them wildly short-handed compared to their opponents and exacerbating their fade.
In November 2004, an arbitration panel ruled in favor of Loria, Samson and Selig, saying the plaintiffs’ “sense of betrayal, even if justified, doesn’t amount to fraud.” That, of course, did nothing to allay their greatest fear coming true six weeks earlier.
On the final day of the 2004 season, Selig announced the Expos would move to Washington, D.C.
How, after 13 years of desecrating two franchises, Loria and Samson continue to exist as owners rests squarely on Selig. He is supposed to be the gatekeeper, the protector, the guardian. And instead, he chooses to be the co-conspirator in the biggest fraud baseball knows.
Serious baseball fans argue about everything, but they do not argue about who has been the worst commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner — the aptly monikered Used Car Salesman.