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"Unless you're leading the Dog, the view never changes." - sign just outside the Yankees spring training clubhouse, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida
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In Minnesota, with Jesse - formerly "the Body" and now "The Mind" - Ventura steering the state's mother ship, the Twins still arenít out of trouble either despite their strong play on the field that has increased support for what they claim is a much needed new ballpark.
Ventura, the wrestler turned governor, has said publicly that no funds for a new ballpark will come from his regime unless state residents vote otherwise. The Twins, who have slashed payroll left and right in recent years, and play in a market where one player on its professional basketball team has a $121 million contract, learned in a poll a few years ago that four out of five voters oppose using taxpayer money to fund a new ballpark. Has the tide changed? Only time will tell.
As for the Expos, there days in Montreal could be numbered as money needed to stabilize the franchise and build a new ballpark has failed to surface admist hospital and school closures in the province of Quebec, which has experienced the lowest income growth in the past decade than in any other major city in the industrialized world.
In fact, an announcement on the Expos future could come at the end of the season. A franchise relocation for MLB would be the first since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers in the early 1970s. The commissioner is no stranger to relocation, since it was Selig himself who bought the Seattle Pilots in 1970 and moved the team to Milwaukee.
But forgot about the Expos relocating. Where would they go? Washington D.C.? Orioles owner Peter Angelos will have none of it. Portland, Oregon? Doubtful. Any other takers? Unlikely.
So the biggest challenge facing Selig isnít simply avoiding another strike or work stoppage, which could come as early this winter, but keeping franchises afloat.
As for the collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners - which expires at seasonís end Ė all may seem fine now but hold on tight kids.
Jerry Colangelo, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks that has lost millions, has been quoted as saying "it will be quick to point out that there is a lot of distrust between players and management." Meanwhile, McGwire, the game's
biggest draw, has long said that another MLB strike would be "devastating" and would cause many fans to "never come back."
Power broker Colangelo wants a salary cap much like the National Football League, which has overtaken MLB as America's most popular sport due to a number of incidents, including Rose's gambling; George Steinbrenner's $40,000 controversial payment to gambler Howard Spira; labor strife; the now infamous Roberto Alomar "spitting" fiasco; subsequent umpire tensions; and the dismantling of the Marlins following their winning the 1997 World Series. For his part, Selig has remained relatively mum on the subject of a salary cap.
But Donald Fehr, representative and chief negotiator for the players association, has said publicly that there will be no salary cap under his watch. And even Colangelo, one of sports biggest power brokers, says baseball's players' union is one of the toughest in existence today. In fact, it was Fehr who wouldn't budge during the fateful negotiations that eventually led to the cancellation of the Fall Classic.
Building bridges between players and owners - not just ballparks Ė may be Selig's biggest challenge if he wishes to create a "renaissance" and leave a lasting legacy having done so.
Selig's famous tirades when the Brew Crew stumbled on the field at County Stadium are said to be etched in the memory of Milwaukee fans. And it is Selig's very passion and drive as commissioner that may continue to determine his success or failure.
We know this much: Rose will not be enshrined in Cooperstown anytime soon. Rose hasn't truly apologized for gambling while managing and playing, a fact which doesn't sit well with Selig, who is from the "old school" and grew up idolizing the then Milwaukee Braves before they bolted for Atlanta.
Many of Selig's contributions already have been beneficial such as the wild card playoff system. But Selig's greatest challenge over the next few years won't be a new resolve with the umpires, Gary Sheffield, or even a possible massive divisional and league realignment project, but rather finding a way to return MLB to the prominent national television spotlight where all 30 teams enjoy the economic fruits of their labor. That task, like boasting about a baseball "renaissance," may be easier said than done.
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Jan 07 2002, 03:36:48
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