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Baseball Commissioner Crazy Like A Fox

[November 5th] -- The same day that Mayor Anthony Williams exclaimed, "Baseball is back in Washington!," baseball commissioner Bud Selig told the Washington Post that he hoped to have an owner in place before the end of spring training. During spring training, he said he "hoped" to have the ownership question finalized by the all-star break. During the all-star break, Selig indicated that "certainly" by the end of the season, the Nationals would have an owner in place. Then, White Sox owner Jerry Reisendorf, head of the "new ownership" committee, said he wouldn't have "time" to look at the ownership issue until after his team finished its playoff run. Now, major league baseball says it will name an owner before the end of the winter meetings in Milwaukee the middle of this month.

Not even the folks at Major League Baseball are this inept.

By not having the team's new ownership in place this late in the off season, the Nationals are beginning to feel the sting of uncertainty. General manager Jim Bowden has told the coaching staff to "look elsewhere" for employment and has sent letters of recommendation to the other clubs along with their contact information. Several coaches that Bowden and team president Tony Taveres were looking to add to the Nats' staff, like former Royals manager Tony Pena, are being scooped up by other teams able to make commitments now. The free-agent signing period begins this Thursday, and Jim Bowden has nothing to offer. Prospective signees won't know who the Nationals' owner, team president, general manager, or manager will be for weeks to come. More than likely, the Nationals will sign a player or two that no one else had any real interest in, players that won't make a real difference next season, players like Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla. And without any great depth to trade at the major league level, and with no stockpile of prospects in the minors, the Nationals will probably go into spring training with what they have on the roster today.

If the Nationals had an owner in place, the new coaches, manager, general manager and players the team signed would have come from the other major league teams. This would have bettered the Nationals at the cost of the rest of major league baseball. Remember, those other teams own the Nationals. Now, someone is going to pay $450 million for the Nats regardless of who the players are or how much better they'll be next season. Why would the other owners allow their teams to be "raided" when it doesn't enhance the value of the Washington franchise? They wouldn't.

And therein lies the problem.

I believe that Bud Selig and the owners of the other teams have lied to the fans of Washington since last year. From their perspective, it made no sense to have new ownership in place until the other teams had their pick of the best coaches, general managers and players. Two weeks into the free agent signing period, Selig will announce the team's new owner. It will likely take another two weeks to a month from that point before the team can begin to make decisions based on the input of the new ownership. By then, the only free agents left will be the ones that no one else wanted. What player in their right mind would hold off signing with the Yankees or Angels to see what the Nationals might offer. And what of the Nationals free agents? Will Esteban Loiaza and Hector Carrasco wait to see what happens inside the beltway or go for the riches in St. Louis or Chicago or Seattle? I wouldn't blame them for bolting.

I haven't trusted the leadership of major league baseball since former commissioner Faye Vincent's forced abdication nearly a decade ago. In a bloodless coup, the owners took back the game from the commissioner's office, an office created by the White Sox scandal of 1919.

What baseball has done to the Nationals is every bit as scandalous as the Black Sox affair, but when the commissioner is in "cahoots" with the owners, there is nothing that can be done. We just have to wait until Jerry Reisendorf and Bud Selig have picked clean the Thanksgiving turkey, leaving the entrails for us.

Baseball, I hardly knew ye.

It's not hard to figure out. When MLB owned the team it was to their advantage to win games bringing in more revenue. Now that an owner is about to be named it is to their advantage to delay the decision because any additions to the Nats roster could hurt the chances of the other owners teams.
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