Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Off Field Battles: Owners vs Commissioner

Bud Selig is the latest MLB Commissioner to earn the wrath of an owner. LA Dodger owner Frank McCourt, who is also in the midst of a helluva fight with his ex-wife, is blaming his need to file for bankruptcy on Selig's 3-year delay in approving McCourt's $3 billion deal with Fox that he claims would have made the team one of the strongest capitalized teams in sports.

Apparently McCourt has siphoned off more than $100 million of the team's money to pay for twin homes in Malibu, private jet travel, and his-and-hers house calls from hairdressers. Manny Ramirez and Vince Scully are among the long list of people and companies that have not been paid by the Dodgers.

It kind of makes you think back to Harry Frazee selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance his pet show, No, No, Nanette.

One of the most famous annulments of an owner's decision came in 1976 when eccentric A's owner Charlie Finley tried to sell Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, and Vida Blue to the Yankees before they could declare free agency. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn expressed concern about the A's remaining competitive and vetoed it.

Generally owners have wanted commissioners too weak to boss them around, which may explain their choice of Bowie Kuhn, William Eckert and others.

A notable exception was Kenesaw Mountain Landis, appointed to clean up the game after game-fixing scandals, the most notable of which was the 1919 World Series. He was a federal judge named by Teddy Roosevelt and was famous for his land-breaking rulings. Most of them as it turns out however were overturned at appeal. He may have been more interested in making a name for himself when he banned Joe Jackson and the other Black Sox for life and he was at least partly responsible for baseball's lengthy delay (until after his death) of the integration of baseball.


Rick Blechta said...

Professional sports team ownership has always been a rich man's game. That's changed in recent years as the cost of buying one has gone up. It's now more of a corporate game.

Still, the ground rules remain the same: rich people don't like being told what to do – even if it's for their own good.

Enter baseball's commissioners. Landis' appointment was seen by owners as the best way and quickest way to get back their clubs' credibility. It did do that, but then Landis jumped the rails on them, becoming his own man. Owners quickly discovered they no longer were running the "club" of which they were members.

And the battles began...

tomstarr said...

The 1976 deal that Kuhn vetoed would have had Fingers and Rudi going to the Red Sox, not the Yankees. Blue would have gone to the Yankees.