This column never would have happened if baseball had a salary cap….
In many ways, Selig will be reckoned as one of the great commissioners of baseball. This is because, in the universe of baseball enthusiasts, the commissioner’s office always has been the repository of what Lewis Lapham once referred to as the American “wish for kings.” It was the commissioner’s office that threw out the Black Sox but winked at gamblers in other cities. It was the commissioner’s office that established the color line — thanks, Judge Landis! — and enforced it until Branch Rickey went rogue. It was the commissioner’s office that was the bulwark of the reserve system, defending it right up until the moment an arbitrator kicked it into the Hudson. Even afterward, when successive commissioners attempted to gain back de facto the control they had de jure, the commissioner’s office was central to nearly two decades of labor strife that reached an absurd peak with the collusion strategy of the late 1980s, which ensured another decade of labor strife that culminated in the landmark moment in Selig’s tenure in office — the cancellation of the 1994 World Series….
In all of this, and because my customary baseball agnosticism leaves me incapable of looking at him as anything more than a uniquely empowered career bureaucrat, Bud Selig has been the perfect man for this peculiar job. He is just authoritarian enough to please the people to whom he must truckle in order to keep his job. What the hell. It’s a living. And a nice one, at that.
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