On Thursday, baseball’s owners signed a resolution that gave
Commissioner Bud Selig significant power to make unilateral decisions to
restore competitive balance. While Selig did not immediately go Robin Hood
on the likes of George Steinbrenner, this decision has many ramifications
for the game, both on and off the field.

Joe Sheehan: It’s an ownership end-run around themselves. Bud Selig
now has all the power, meaning the upcoming labor brawl is going to be
between him and Don Fehr directly. The potential outcomes alluded
to–dictatorial revenue reallocation, mostly–are extreme solutions that
are never going to get past MLBPA challenges.

But this was basically a move that appointed Selig head of the owners’
negotiating team. There’s no reason to listen to anyone else at this point.

Chris Kahrl: I’d go back to what I said in the Brewers essay in
Baseball Prospectus 1999: we’re just getting started. The fun thing
about life under Czar Bud is that while he rules with the iron fist of
consensus, he’s also more likely to wield the commissioner’s power
effectively and directly. Yes, he’s going to pull his share of boners,
drawing on years of the reactionary thoughtlessness that come with being an
owner. (The "can’t please anybody at any time" decision to have
John Rocker "tested," for instance.) But, in Sandy
Alderson and Paul Beeston he’s got a pair of popular henchmen who will help
smooth things over.

As far as labor negotiations, I think we’re better off with Selig being in
a position of direct responsibility. Once and for all, the union loses the
maneuvering room to pussyfoot around and not take a lockout threat
seriously because some idiot like Fay Vincent thinks he’s empowered to hose
his employers. Meanwhile, the owners don’t have the comfort zone of
operating through their usual fall guys: the lame lawyers or Dick Ravitches
or other flunkies, all of whom get discarded once the union reminds the
owners they don’t have much use for this sort of organizational shell game.
Face-to-face, mano y mano labor negotiations from beginning to end are
finally here, and it’s about time.

I am concerned about Selig’s willingness to erase trades. There’s very
little doubt that he wanted to in 1998 during the Marlins’ purge. Depending
on the point at which he might have done that, he could have created a huge
scandal by putting a major wallop on Wayne Huizenga’s checkbook before the
trash man finally bailed out. The only thing the game would have gotten out
of it was another couple of black eyes and a fistful of lawsuits from the
aggrieved Huizenga.

Under an economic system with real revenue sharing, there might be more
reason for the commissioner’s office to prevent salary dumps. Owner
rhetoric aside, enhanced revenue sharing should guarantee profitability, as
much as you can guarantee such things. At that point, the commissioner’s
office might deserve to have a big stick to guarantee that teams are doing
their level best to put a solid team on the field. The alternative is that
you could end up with Cal Griffith/Bob Short/Charlie Finley profit-driven
management, owners who settle for that guaranteed profitability without
spending anything on player development or acquisition.

Jeff Bower: A point that you’ve already reached, to a degree, with
the Pohlad Twins and the pre-Loria Expos. There’s no doubt that those teams
have been profitable the last few seasons, and they aren’t plowing the
revenue-sharing monies back into player development and acquisition.
Draft-pick signability is as much an issue as talent come June.

CK: The Twins are spending more money nowadays as far as player
development. They aren’t where they were five years ago, and they’ve
started up a Dominican academy, as well as a concerted effort in Australia.

Dave Pease: The "small-market" mentality that Selig
frequently exhibits could have some ugly ramifications if he can’t control
his veto hand. Luckily, Selig doesn’t seem all that inclined to do the
"popular" thing, as the Rocker situation so elegantly
underscores. I’d much rather have a powerful commissioner who operates on
his own essentially random gyros–however slipped they might be–than one
who is blown in the direction of popular opinion like a politician.

Just think of all the people that thought the Randy Johnson Astros deal was
intolerable and a something-for-nothing dump last year. Yeesh.

Jeff Hildebrand: Exactly the trade I had in mind. Popular opinion
doesn’t seem to recognize the legitimate "trade a good player for
prospects" trades, so if those sorts of trades get vetoed, then some
smarter teams are actually going to get screwed over in a big way. Another
interesting example is the White Sox "white flag" trade of 1997,
which I suspect would have been vetoed. Although maybe not, since it was
Selig’s buddy Jerry Reinsdorf.

I’m not sure what this means for the upcoming labor negotiations. It looks
like they’ve finally conceded that revenue sharing is independent of a
salary cap or any such structure. Somehow, I doubt that will stop them from
trying to impose one, but they’ll have to use a different argument.

I think the big key is whether Selig is looking for a fight and a chance–a
damn slim one, in my opinion–to break the union, or whether he’s decided
to take an incremental gains approach, getting small givebacks here and
there. If he takes the latter approach I suspect we may be looking at a
short lockout or strike, but not much more. If he wants a fight, this could
be worse than 1994.

Keith Law: My take on the trade-vetoing power is that there’s
significant moral hazard involved. In any fair trade, 28 owners will oppose
it, and in some, 29 will. I mean, that’s the point. So why even open the
door a crack to de facto leaguewide voting on trades?

CK: Worse yet, what if MLB decides to circumvent this moral hazard
by electing some collection of official bozos to review deals to decide
whether or not a team is getting value in a deal? It’s already been made
plain that they’ve used arbitrators who didn’t know squat about baseball,
and they’ve already made the mistake of letting Elias dictate compensation
for free agents. I would hate to see the same sort of "expert"
silliness intrude into whether or not a trade can be made.

What’s been interesting about media response to Selig’s new power is that
every story I’ve seen harkens back to when Bowie Kuhn decided to drive
Charlie Finley out of business, as if that was somehow a high point in the
history of the commissioner’s office. I think the critical element here is
that this power was granted to Czar Bud, and not to the commissioner’s
office. Once Czar Bud is gone, if the new guy doesn’t walk into the office
with the same reputation for slow, secretive consensus-building, the owners
will simply change the rules back to prevent another Fay "Mad
Dog" Vincent scenario.

JH:Just to throw another topic out there, I think that the
coronation of Bud as the King (as touted for years by Anheuser-Busch
Brewing Co.) pretty much guarantees that the DH is dead, probably as part
of the next contract negotiation. The American and National Leagues exist
as nothing more than names on paper, Selig wants more interleague play and
a 25th man is a lot cheaper than a starting DH. All those add up to kill
what started with Ron Blomberg over 25 years ago.

CK: I don’t have a serious problem with dumping the DH. While I
think offense is good, there are enough teams doing dumb things with their
DH situations over the years that I’d rather just dump it. On a certain
level, I’d hope that dumping the DH would create competitive pressures on
bad first basemen. When is enough Paul Sorrento or Rico Brogna or David
too much? The GMs who commit to those guys would be hurting even more
than they already are when their betters can pick up better options, and I
see that as a good thing.

KL: I have a feeling Fehr and Gene Orza won’t give that up so
easily. If it goes, it’s as a bargaining chip to extract several pounds of
OwnerFlesh(tm) in the next negotiations. You know, like forcing them to add
six more teams ("up next on FX: the World Champion New York Yankees
take on the Tulsa Dust.").

CK: Is it just me, or is Czar Bud’s idea of all Internet monies
going to "small-market" teams about as handy as saying the
commissioner’s office will insist on sending free staplers to the 10 least
profitable franchises?

DP: Hey, come on…that’s just like giving the small-market teams a
stake in a kewl dot-com IPO. Think of it: in 10 years, with a bit of luck,
the CyberRoyals could acquire the Yankees in an all-stock deal!

CK: I think we’ve finally hit on the formula that will make Herk
Robinson Time‘s Man of the Year.