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Have you heard the one



Published: Sun, February 17, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



If Bud Selig ever decides to give up his job as baseball commissioner, he could make a seamless transition to stand-up comic.

He's been pretty funny in his gigs the last three months or so, telling us (with a straight face) that, essentially, contraction is a good thing and the baseball fans in Minnesota and Montreal really won't miss their teams.

"Good afternoon, ladies and germs. I just flew in from Milwaukee, and boy, are my arms tired ..."

If the elected public officials in Washington, D.C. have been angered and offended by the Enron hearings, they should, for a comic interlude, recall Bud Lite for a "one-day only" return engagement.

At his last appearance before Congress, in mid-January, Selig informed a panel that Washington, D.C., was a "prime candidate" for getting a relocated team.

That was news to at least one senator, Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who said he was told less than a week earlier by other baseball officials that talk of such a move was "a waste of time."

"Take my team ... please."

Expos gone forever: Even if contraction never takes place, Selig guaranteed the demise of the Montreal franchise with his ill-timed attempt to contract the Expos this offseason.

That bumbled attempt, combined with the musical chairs ownership shifts that concluded this week, left Montreal with a lame-duck management group, a lame-duck manager and lame-duck players.

And the Expos attracted less than 700,000 fans for the entire 2001 season.

All this from a commissioner who actually talks about how important it is for him to establish an economic system so that every baseball fan begins the season with a real hope that his or her team will be in the World Series.

"A guy calls his lawyer. He says, 'Can I ask you two questions?' The lawyer says, 'What's the second one?' "

Then there's the labor situation, which, six months from now may be an oxymoron ... after all, to have a situation don't you first have to have labor?

Little hope: The commish is holding out hope that, for the first time in the 30-some years that the baseball players union has been in existence, its members will suddenly decide that wildly escalating salaries and unfettered free agency really aren't good things.

"My doctor told me I was fat. I said I wanted a second opinion. He said, 'OK, you're ugly, too.' "

Selig would like baseball owners to agree to more revenue sharing -- or at least a bigger luxury tax -- before they make a new deal with the players union.

Which is equally as laughable as Selig expecting the players union to give back any of the financial gains they've achieved over the last three decades.

The Yankees' George Steinbrenner, for instance, has proven time and again he's given up just about as much revenue as he's going to.

"Flat revenue sharing" is not a term thrown around the Steinbrenner/Yankee dinner table.

"I met a wonderful doctor here. He gave a guy 6 months to live; he couldn't pay his bill so he gave him another 6 months."

And that's what it may take for Commissioner Bud to get anything settled with the players union.

No deal, unless: There's little doubt a contract will not be settled before the postseason -- unless the threat of a strike or lockout actually jolts the leaders on both sides of the issue into action.

Major League Baseball cannot afford to alienate fans with a 1994-like work stoppage.

Hopefully, even Selig understands this.

If he doesn't, the biggest joke will be on him: as the commissioner of nothing.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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