This part of the baseball calendar is always a potential boring and a dry time as far as writing goes. I had originally intended to write a piece on how the MLB could make All-Star week more exciting (like adding a skills challenge of sorts). Alas, it didn't happen, and for two reasons: One, I couldn't think of enough decent and tangible ideas, and two, I came across some more of Bud Selig's rambling nonsense.
Although he has a contract that expires after 2014 and there are rumors that he'll step down at that time as the commissioner of baseball, there has been no real effort on his part to identify a replacement. While we allow our country's president to act in 4-year terms, the man responsible for overseeing our national pastime is allowed to operate indefinitely in a position he's held, effectively, since 1992. He's done some good things for the sport (like adding a wild card), and he's done some bad things as well (like the whole PED era or not fixing the error that should have been Armando Galarraga's perfect game).
This week, the big headline as it related to Selig was his statement that baseball is somehow cleaner than it's ever been, which is ironic in that the big news in baseball all year has been the looming potential for the biggest sweeping PED scandal to result in so many major suspensions since Major League Baseball adopted its various testing programs.
The kicker, however, if you ask me, is Selig now showing concern over the attendance issues that plague the Tampa Bay Rays.
It is beyond disappointing. You can not ask a franchise to continue, when they have been so competitive and really, really done a marvelous job, in a situation that is economically not tolerable.
What isn't tolerable is the fact that Selig is either ignorant, or he's just facetious in his attempts to deflect from the real problem with baseball in Florida: The Miami Marlins.
For all the concern surrounding attendance for the Rays, it baffles me how the man who is supposed to have the best interest of baseball continually ignores what is effectively the worst situation I can remember plaguing professional sports. It's the Marlins, not the Rays, that are dead last in baseball in average attendance. Part of the issue with the Rays is that Tropicana Field isn't ideally located, and attempts to secure a new stadium have, thus far, failed. In Miami, that excuse doesn't exist. The Marlins were able to swindle taxpayers into paying for a shiny new stadium, and the promise to compeat was all Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria had to give in exchange. It was a promise, as it turns out, the proved to last only long enough to get the stadium open.
For years, Loria has been scheming and profiting from a situation Selig handed to him. It was Selig that helped Loria get the Expos out of Montreal, forcing the team to play "home" games in Puerto Rico in an effort to dodge a stadium agreement that hinged on attendance. If that wasn't bad enough, the Expos were disallowed September call-ups in 2003, crippling them competitively. During that time, MLB bought the Expos from Loria for $120 million in 2002, which he turned around and used (plus an interest free loan from MLB of $38.5 million) to purchase the Marlins.
The Marlins "accidentally" won the World Series in 2003, setting off a chain of events that has yet to offend Selig enough to force him to take action. He allowed Loria to sell off any players with significant contracts, and the vicious cycle began. The problem was, Selig and Loria knew that there had to be what looked like an effort to win with a new stadium on the horizon. Loria signed some big names to big contracts, hired the most controversial mangaer in baseball, and things were off as Marlins Park opened in 2012. By the trade deadline, Loria was already selling off pieces, and if it wasn't before, it was plainly obvious once the offseason hit that the Marlins have no intention of competing. He shipped off Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio for some warm bodies.
The one "star" that the Marlins do have, Giancarlo Stanton, doesn't have enough service time to make the big bucks yet, so he's forced to sit and wait for his turn to walk out of the revolving door in Miami. After opening the season with a $101.6 million payroll in 2012, they opened this season with a figure much less than that, at about $36 million.
But yeah, Selig's attention is still in Tampa, where he'll surely try to work some under-the-table deals to rectify a situation he shouldn't have control over. All the while, a situation he should have control over continues to get worse about 265 miles to the southeast continues to deteriorate, as Loria and the Marlins pocket revenue-sharing dollars that were meant to help poor teams pay for talent. Instead, the Marlins claim they're losing money, pocket money from richer teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, and leave taxpayers with the $2.4 billion bill (a stadium deal which is currently the subject of an SEC investigation) for a stadium the team never deserved in the first place.
Like many, I'm counting down the days until Selig finally realizes that this sport doesn't need him anymore. We have the Marlins problems, the issue of instant replay, and none of this even mentions how he's managed to keep the Oakland A's -- a team that actually competes -- from earning a new stadium themselves. Despite all of that, it's more important to Selig to claim that his game is "clean" and worry about the attendance of one franchise without addressing the very fixable attendance issues of two others. I knew this happened in life, but in baseball, the good-old-boy system is in full effect. The Law of Selig can't be touched, modified, or tampered with. The only hope is if the end of 2014 finds baseball with a new commissioner.