Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A disturbing buried sentence

Tom Verducci of SI recently wrote an article about what he termed the "Class of 68," basically big name sluggers like Bagwell, Piazza, Thomas, and Sosa, all of whom were born in 1968, the "Year of the Pitcher," spent their careers in the "Era of Offense" and now are taking cut-rate contracts as the game has passed their stellar careers by.

Not much to report about the article itself, which reads more like its just something to write about, but what really concerned me was the sentence about Sammy Sosa buried in the middle of the article (and I mean nothing bad by the term "buried"--it isn't important to the article even if it is important to Nats fans).

Verducci suggests that Sosa may sign a deal (and I assume he does not mean a minor-league deal, but he doesn't say) "with the MLB-owned Washington Nationals largely because commissioner Bud Selig has had a strong relationship with Sosa and wants to get this erstwhile ambassador of the sport off the street, hat in hand. "

Now, I don't know if Verducci has any sources citing that as the reason, but if true, that is remarkably disturbing and opens the door to every conspiracy theory one can come up with regarding Nats signings and failures to sign. That essentially the Nats aren't operating anywhere near a "real team" that happens to have a check on pursestrings because of MLB ownership, but in essence acts as a pawn of MLB.

What Verducci's statement means is that 29 "real" owners thought Sosa wasn't worth a sniff, but MLB figures they can send a worthless player to its holding company, the Washington Nationals, to be an "ambassador" to the sport. What's next? Dumping huge contracts on the new owner because some "real team" calls Bud Selig and says "I no longer feel like paying this guy?" Making trades where we spread the Nationals' next five years of draft picks among the other 29 teams in exchange for the rights to Doug Flynn in case he comes out of retirement?

Maybe Verducci was just talking for talking's sake, but if he's right, it makes me think that there are a lot of things we will never know about how much MLB was/is pulling some very crooked strings that could take the new owner years to correct.


At 2:12 PM, Blogger Sam said...

You raise some good questions -- you should email Verducci and ask what the basis for that comment was.

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Buddy Bups said...

Hey, anybody who doesn't think Selig is running this team to advantage his butt buddy, Peter Angelos, is naive. Whether it be picking the human wrecking ball, Bowden, as GM, or the signing of washed up Sosa or the Nationals pathetic TV arrangement, Selig is behind it all and you can bet it isn't to the benefit of DC baseball.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger traderkirk said...

I am surprised that the "contract dump" on the Nationals hasn't been brought up before. It seems like an easy way to essentailly bump up the actual price the new owner of the Nationals will have to pay MLB. Say Selig needs a vote and he buys it by allowing that owner to dump a future obligation on the Nationals just before the new owner takes over. Why couldn't this happen? In fact, why wouldn't MLB do it? Is the new owner going to complain? Is he going to say, we'll I'm cuting my offer because of this deal?

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Gadi said...

Ooooh, Doug Flynn. He used to play for the *Reds*, didn't he? And you can't have too many second basemen on a team.

At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before we get too conspiracy-crazed about the downside risk of this kind of thing, let's remember that 29 owners are still panting for their slice of $450 million. While one or two deals that look/smell like this could be done (and remember Sosa apparently will get a peanuts contract), the other greedy owners can't afford to let the team get to be TOO damaged before it makes some potential owners wave off and depresses the price. Let's not kid ourselves, there's prestige value and maybe even a little profit in owning a Washington baseball team, but it's not a license to print money. There's a limit to how much shenanigans could be swallowed by a new owner, without the sales price going down.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger dexys_midnight said...

Oh, I disagree with that. I think the vast majority of sports team owners are kids in a candy shop in that they are thrilled that they have enough money to own the ultimate toy. This is why a team that no one expected could be worth $450 million just a few years ago is now asking that price--because people will pay it.

You would have to have a LOT of MLB publicly screwing with the team for any of the potential owners to think "it's not worth it," even if they knew that what MLB was doing was setting them back a year or two from the ability to build a playoff team.

So, while I agree with you that there is a "limit" to what a new owner will take in shenanigans, that limit is extraordinarily high. The bids are already in--no way is the winner going to pull that bid becuase of a couple of Sammy Sosa-like deals.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Daedalus said...

Sieg Heil to Commissioner Selig, worse thing to happen to baseball since the designated hitter.


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