Obviously Bud Selig is lying to Congress.
December 7, 2001 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Obviously Bud Selig is lying to Congress. There's no way anyone believes that MLB lost $232 million last year despite attendance being up and quality being high. But the question is, what is the punishment for a man like Selig blatantly perjuring himself to our representatives? Can he go to jail?
posted by tsarfan (26 comments total)
No, send him back to Milwaukee. That's worse than jail. (Sorry about that dig, cheeseheads) At least in Milwaukee he can only affect one team, not 30. Let Sandy Alderson or Rudy Guiliani be commish.
posted by msacheson at 11:25 AM on December 7, 2001

I think NFL-style revenue sharing might save the Twins and the Expos. However, George Steinbrenner would have apoplexy if you suggested it within earshot of him.
posted by alumshubby at 11:30 AM on December 7, 2001

msacheson, remembering Summerfest and some of those great little bars around UWM on the East Side, I could go for twenty to life in Milwaukee myself.
posted by alumshubby at 11:31 AM on December 7, 2001

I'm guessing he's not exactly "lying" to Congress per se, just using a little creative accounting to say that MLB lost so much money. The major problem here is that MLB has opened up their books for scrutiny by Congress.. but when the MLBPA offered up their own conclusions based on MLB's numbers, they were threatened with a lawsuit. Hmm...
posted by zempf at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2001

Never believe what a man tells you about money if he follows up with "... and no, we're NOT going to show you the books." Congress is the wrong group to show those numbers to (they're bought) - the IRS would be better, and they sure haven't seen them, so far as I know. The Cardinals want a new stadium, and they are dead set against showing off the "losses" they so tearfully claim. Hell, they handed 4% of the team over to the publisher of the local paper to try and forestall bad press. Gotta be worth something other than red ink.

Selig is simply trying to: avoid drawing attention to their desire to gouge the public in the matter of new stadiums; justify increasing ticket prices; protect MLB's anti-trust license; and maintain the secrecy of the internal financial transactions.

If you believe that dozens of otherwise savvy businessmen throughout the country bend over backwards to invest millions in companies (sorry: "teams") that historically lose buckets of money because they love the sport - if that doesn't give you a nice solid giggle - then I have some waterfront property you might be interested in.
posted by UncleFes at 12:02 PM on December 7, 2001

have the CEOs of the tobacco companies been jailed yet for swearing that they didn't believe nicotine is addictive?
posted by Ty Webb at 12:10 PM on December 7, 2001

i've seen it suggested that clubs which report low profits or perhaps losses may lie regarding the money made through television revenues. for example, the cubs are owned by the tribune company, which owns their flagship television station WGN. maybe the cubs didn't make much from those revenues, because the license fees paid to them were nominal, but the tribune company on the other hand...
posted by moz at 12:17 PM on December 7, 2001

Here's a novel idea. If you're really losing money, stop paying outrageous salaries. Hard to get my sympathy when these practices are happening.

And Selig should NEVER have been made Commissioner. The position was set up originally to find a person who wasn't part of the cartel. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a U.S. District Court judge who became the first commissioner of baseball in light of the "Black Sox" scandal. Of course the guy was an egomaniac, and made the wrong decision regarding some of the players involved, but he was given absolute power so as not to look like a puppet to the owners. Selig is one of them. He has no objectivity.
posted by terrapin at 12:24 PM on December 7, 2001

Correct punishment would to remove the anti-trust exemption for MLB. After, Bud himself said they were just doing what any other business would do by eliminating 2 teams. Let's see how MLB operates as truly "any other business."
While I'm on it, why must we, the taxpayers continue to subsidize these teams with new stadiums and such? Steinbrenner and Kenneth Lay do not need my help!
posted by nofundy at 12:35 PM on December 7, 2001

Here is something I have been mulling about.

The big issue with baseball is that there are small-market teams and there are big-market teams (and then there are the Yankees :-) ). Could one expand the market for a team by getting them to play in two cities? For example, one could think of the Seattle-Portland Mariners or the San Diego-Tijuana Padres. The market gets expanded, more money flows in etc. etc.

Of course, one flaw is that one would need two stadiums. For the purpose of this argument, assume that the teams would play in existing stadiums and no new stadiums would be demanded- well, right away, at least.

posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 12:58 PM on December 7, 2001

Correct punishment would to remove the anti-trust exemption for MLB.

I think that's pretty much right on. I mean, I can't think of a single business that can sustain itself after loosing $0.5 billion (that's including interest on the loans and such), then afterward have the commissioner receive 5-year, $10 million dollar extension on his contract.

I just don't understand what's so hard to believe about the loss figures, or why the original poster would suggest that Selig would be lying about them. What does he have to gain by telling congress that the MLB business plan sucks *that* bad?

Oh, and w/r/t this little comment:

No, send him back to Milwaukee. That's worse than jail. (Sorry about that dig, cheeseheads)

msacheson, aside from the fact that I'm from Milwaukee, and take personal offense to your commentary, I should really hope that such moronic statements might not show up here. Finding them really makes reading MetaFilter hard.
posted by ipsedixit at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2001

Sure, it's out of print but this book might answer a lot of the questions anyone might be having regarding how baseball finances got the way they are.

Good airplane read.
posted by Dagobert at 1:47 PM on December 7, 2001

The Toronto Star had a very undetailed breakdown of the Blue Jay's finances. It listed an operating expense of close to $50 Million for the year. That didn't include player salaries. $50 Million (cdn)! They must be really overpaying those ushers at the stadium. Oh wait, they get minimum wage. Hmmmm...lets see. Opening and closing the roof of the dome...yeah that's it...
posted by srboisvert at 2:04 PM on December 7, 2001

Sandeep -- ESPN Magazine laid out a proposal somewhat like that, and it sounded amusing (fuse the two Florida teams okay, but Seattle/Denver?). Aside from fact that MLB simply would never do it in 250,000 years, there also the problem that the people in one city would only see 41 games a year, as opposed to 82 -- kind of tough to build up a head of steam for ticket sales that way.
posted by argybarg at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2001


Claiming financial hardship is a favorite ploy of the owners because they can:
1) coerce local municipalities into buying stadiums for them rather than buying them for themselves;
2) coerce Congress into letting them keep their antitrust exemption (which applies to no other sport);
3) and, ultimately, enforce a salary cap. Which sounds nice, except ticket prices won't stop going up and guess who will get increasingly large portions of that spiralling income?
posted by argybarg at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2001

I listened to Selig's comments earlier, and was struck by several things. If MLB is losing so much money then why are they still in business, why haven't team owners closed up? The stock answer to that question is that the value of the team itself appreciates, but that assumes you can find a "greater fool" to buy it. How can they afford the outrageous salaries if they are losing money? Are we honestly to beleive that if they didn't hire star players that they would lose even more money to reduced attendance? Is it really reasonable to build bigger better stadiums?

On a completely different tangent, has anybody asked Dubya about this, since he actually owned (owns?) a stake in the Texas Rangers ball team? Has Congress not figured out that they can subpoena corporate tax returns of the teams? And most importantly of all, doesn't Congress have more important things to worry about?
posted by ilsa at 2:20 PM on December 7, 2001

Selig: "Baseball is goin' broke! I swear!"

Steinbrenner: "Yo, Jason! $124 million is a nice round number, yes?"

Giants: "Barry, we said at least $100 mil. Now tell your agent that yes, our refrigerator is running!"

Rangers: "A-Rod's salary is so December 2000."

Mike Hampton: "Hi! My ERA last season was 5.41, opponents batted .296, and I only won one more game than I lost in 32 starts. Do you see now why I have to make more than Kevin Brown?"

Griffey, Jr.: "Remember me? My bank does."
posted by KLAX at 2:21 PM on December 7, 2001

An idea I read somewhere for revenue-sharing was to just allow teams to forfeit, which is apparently currently not allowed by MLB rules. When a richer team plays a poorer team, the poorer team threatens to forfeit unless they receive X% of revenue from the game. The richer team, in other words, can't get a win unless the poorer team is willing to play them. This would be negotiated on a game-by-game basis directly between the teams involved and would level the playing field pretty quickly, I think.
posted by kindall at 2:26 PM on December 7, 2001

It's obvious none of the revenues went toward fixing his hair.
posted by catatonic at 2:33 PM on December 7, 2001

Appropriate penalty for Bud Selig?

How about forcing him to stare into a mirror 24/7? Gorgons are cuter than he is.

To administer the coup de grace, force him to listen to an endless tape loop of his testimony before Congress. Fingernails on chalkboard pale in comparison.
posted by MAYORBOB at 3:20 PM on December 7, 2001

I think Bud's punishment for being a Fauxmissioner should be to read the next post and fear the wrath.
posted by billder at 3:29 PM on December 7, 2001


Interesting that you should bring that up. I find myself in a perpetual state of bafflement at the behavior of Major League Baseball, as well as the general public's acceptance of whatever they decide to do. (Like for example: the Brewer's just got a new stadium, in spite of the fact that they haven't had a winning season link nearly 10 years). So it makes me wonder: sure, the coercion you note probably does play a factor, but how much of the current state of things is the result of our never-ending tolerance, borne out of some sort of nostalgia for the game? And is MLB trying to play off that softspot the public has, in hopes that they are able to maintain a way of doing business that simply wouldn't work anywhere else?
posted by ipsedixit at 3:42 PM on December 7, 2001

Kindall-> Um, if the poorer team forfeits, that would count for a win for the richer team. Plus, could you imagine the twin and yanks haggling over each game? If you thought current contract negotions sucked (most notably hockey w/ all that damn arbitration), imagine how much worse it'de be for teams. I'de be like MS having to haggle w/ every computer company how much they'll sell a copy of XP for. Just wouldn't work.
posted by jmd82 at 3:49 PM on December 7, 2001

have the CEOs of the tobacco companies been jailed yet for swearing that they didn't believe nicotine is addictive?

No, because they said they "didn't believe", not that they "didn't know". Whether or not they were ignorant to scientific findings, if you say "I believe", it is a alot different from "I know".

Hair splitting, yes. But I don't want The Thought Police bursting into my house because they "believe" I am, somehow, a national threat.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:27 PM on December 7, 2001

Um, if the poorer team forfeits, that would count for a win for the richer team.

Well, part of the plan was to have it not count as a win.

Plus, could you imagine the twin and yanks haggling over each game?

Hell, that would be almost as entertaining as the games themselves, wouldn't it? Don't worry, pretty soon all the teams would decide it was in their best interests to work out the payout at the beginning of the season. Fans wouldn't abide too much lollygagging.
posted by kindall at 4:55 PM on December 7, 2001

have the CEOs of the tobacco companies been jailed yet for swearing that they didn't believe nicotine is addictive?

When did the government parlay out millions and millions of dollars to build the tobacco industry huge super-structures with no roofs?

Yes. I am still bitter to have to pay for stadiums for the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals. Damn it, if only they could just win.
posted by benjh at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2001

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