White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is apparently agitating for MLB to extend the contract of Allan H. "Vlad" Selig.
Reinsdorf has lined up on-again/off-again Honest Man Fay Vincent to exonerate Vlad from blame in the
polonium-210 steroid scandal, and has gotten hapless AP writer Ron Blum to accept the preposterously naive proposition that Vlad somehow occupies a position of neutrality between the opposing poles of ownership and the MLBPA.
(I'm tempted to draw a sharp parallel here with the media in another venue, but my Monkey-sense is tingling, telling me to steer away from CGV-worthy topics.)
From a fiscal standpoint, Selig has certainly earned an extension -- even at or above his reported $14.5M salary (and you thought Kendall was overpaid!). Revenues and franchise appreciation (the latter notably absent from Blum's story) are up hugely over Vlad's tenure, and he has managed to mostly (with the exception of a few mavericks/holdouts/idiots like Magowan and Angelos) keep all of the owners on the same page on every issue. (Of course, that's been much easier to do with the increasingly financially entangled snare of ownership and promotions.) And he serves as a distractingly clumsy, nasty, and aloof frontman while he wields sharp administrative acumen behind the scenes.
(Again, discretion keeps me from drawing an inappropriate parallel.)
So: Selig the businessman (operating, of course, a Congressionally protected monopoly) has been wildly successful.
And while I'd like to mount a screed against the man, I find I don't have it in me any more.
What do we -- the fans, that is -- really want in a commissioner, or want with a commissioner, anyway?
Do we want someone who will "respect the game"? The form and manner of paying respect -- and to which traditions, exactly -- are hotly disputed among fans.
Do we want someone who will mandate and oversee measures designed to ensure even competitiveness across franchises? Well, there's dispute among experts as to what measures would or wouldn't ensure competitiveness, and there's an argument to be made that teams that self-generate their own revenues, or ones that manage their money and rosters smartly, should have their initiative and success rewarded. And managing the league to ensure competitiveness has had mixed success in the NBA and NFL -- and would require even greater concentration of executive power in the Office of the Commissioner than Vlad Selig has accomplished.
Do we want someone who will "clean up baseball" in the wake of the steroid scandal? How, exactly, would that be done? And how would someone less owner-friendly and consensus-oriented than Vlad Selig be able to achieve unity among ownership toward that end? And who could convince the MLBPA of the need for strict measures?
What we want, it seems, those of us who don't care for Vlad Selig's sawdust-engine-filling and odometer-reversing ways, is a figurehead. An ombudsman (who would, of course, ultimately be Bud's man). An affable figurehead to make us feel better about the state of the game while things quietly go on as they have behind closed doors.
(And once again ... you get the picture.)
Honestly, this sort of move might be the smartest thing that MLB could do whenever Vlad relinquishes power: bring in a more PR-friendly backslapper to be the face of the game, while creating a sort of super-deputy commissioner to supplant Selig's hands on the reins.
(The likeliest candidate of 3 or 4 years ago seems now not to be the best choice for such an assignment. Who that might now be, I don't know.)
Not that I and other malcontents would like that setup any better. But it would be a shrewd bit of politics.