An ESPN program Sunday looked at baseball commissioner Bud Selig, specifically, his legacy if, for the second time in his tenure, a work stoppage resulted in the cancellation of the World Series.
Selig's reputation among the fans is probably at an all-time low, and Frank Deford, a Sports Illustrated columnist, suggested on the show that Selig has little support or respect in Congress, where he was grilled earlier this year after announcing his plan to contract two teams before the 2002 season.
You've heard of having someone having the Midas touch? Selig is the anti-Midas; everything he touches seems to turn to rust.
The All-Star Game, played in his hometown and hosted by the team he once owned, was a disaster when it was declared a tie.
Last fall, following the disastrous events of Sept. 11, Major League Baseball played an important role in helping a grieving country recover.
Then, two days after an exciting World Series that ended in the final at-bat of Game 7, Selig announced his contraction plans.
Two teams in trouble
Last month, Selig announced that at least two major league teams were having severe financial problems and in danger of not meeting their payroll.
The following day, one of Selig's assistants announced everything was fine and the players would be paid.
So it comes as little surprise that any reaction to what comes out of the commissioner's office is like the old joke: "How do you know Bud Selig is lying? His lips are moving."
The facts are this:
Baseball is in serious danger of another, imminent work stoppage. The owners who are solidly behind Selig, like Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox, are adamant that they get an agreement from the players' union to a luxury tax that would force the teams with the highest payrolls to pay out to the teams with the lowest.
On the other side is the union, whose stance since making major gains in bargaining in the 1970s, is to keep the status quo.
Picture this: the owners, seated at one end of the bargaining table, present any number of proposals that they believe will fix the financial woes that currently plague the game.
At the other end sits the players and their chief, Donald Fehr, with their arms folded. Each proposal forwarded by the owners with either flat-out refusal or a "no" answer.
And who can blame the players? In every negotiation since they first gained free agency some quarter-century ago, the owners have eventually caved on every issue.
What players believe
The players believe in keeping the status quo that salaries will continue to rise and so will teams' revenues.
And that's probably true. To paraphrase one player on ESPN Sunday morning, for every owner who throws up his hands and walks away from the game, there's someone out there stupid enough to sink his money into a team.
But it's obvious the major league baseball cannot continue on its present course.
The difference between the large-market teams and the small-market teams is growing every year. In fact, the difference between the big-market teams and those considered mid-level, like the Chicago teams, is also growing.
The fact is, the Yankees' George Steinbrenner can sign any free agent he wants, simply because he can.
Not much competition
There are less than a half-dozen teams that can even hope to compete financially with Steinbrenner for the top players.
The number of those teams continues to dwindle each off-season. Soon, Steinbrenner may have no competition. And despite what the players may think now, that kind of monopoly will drive salaries down.
This isn't to suggest that the players should agree to a luxury tax or revenue sharing. But both sides in this issue must find a common ground.
Nothing less than the future of the game is at stake.
XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.