Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Midwest Has a Grip on Baseball's Hierarchy"--1/23/94, Chass

(Jan. 23, 1994, Chass, NY Times): "Spring training doesn't begin for several more weeks, but major league baseball's well-entrenched power structure was in midseason form last week. With club owners meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., only a few miles from the Yankees' spring training site, the power structure reinforced its firm grip on its control of the game.

Some of the rookies -- the newer owners -- are upset and frustrated that they have been blocked in their attempts to make the team. While the rookies remained on the bench, the veterans executed a series of maneuvers:

  • *They ended the phantom search for a new commissioner and extended indefinitely the nonterm of Bud Selig, the Dr. Feelgood of major league owners.

One owner called it the Great Lakes Gang, the people who run baseball. With Selig of Milwaukee and Reinsdorf of Chicago considered the men at the top of the structure, the designation is apt.

  • There are the supporting members of the structure, too: Two other Chicago residents, Stanton Cook, chairman of the Cubs, and William Bartholomay, chairman of the Atlanta Braves, and others in relative geographical proximity, Carl Pohlad of Minnesota and Douglas Danforth of Pittsburgh, and by extension to the other end of Pennsylvania, Giles, in Philadelphia....

"Bud operates with an executive council that's a flat laydown," said one owner, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

  • "He wants people on that council who feel the same way. When you put two new people on the council, you get Giles and Reinsdorf. Do you get McLane, Huizenga, Ilitch? No way. The new owners are upset with the process."

Referring to the rapid return of Giles and Reinsdorf to the council, the owner said, "This is a shifting mass of consensus that keeps going all the time."....

But Selig, as the de facto commissioner, is a man who lives for consensus. That is why most of the owners like him in that position; they know he won't do anything precipitously, and he makes them feel good.

  • The low-revenue clubs had threatened to block the election of a commissioner if they did not get a new revenue-sharing plan. They got the plan, but even before the 28-0 vote, they planned to preclude a vote on a commissioner by letting the search committee know they would not vote for anyone.....

Another owner said: "It's interesting that names of the candidates (for commissioner) were confidential and I wasn't furnished with any background of the choices of the search committee. Yet 11 clubs were convinced they weren't capable of leading baseball."...

  • With Selig remaining in charge instead of a new commissioner, the hard-line owners -- Reinsdorf, Cook, Pohlad, Danforth, among others -- know he won't undermine a hard-line approach to the union in labor negotiations.

One member of management said a segment of high-revenue clubs would rather skip the revenue sharing and the salary cap that Richard Ravitch, the owners' chief labor executive, will seek from the union, preferring an extension of the labor contract that expired on Dec. 31.

From NY Times article by Murray Chass, "Midwest Has a Grip on Game's Hierarchy," 1/23/94

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