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If he comes, you will build it


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001

Ex-tor-tion: The crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one's office or authority.

- Source: Random House dictionary

* * *

What precisely is Bud Selig's job as baseball commissioner? Judging by the 1994 World Series (or lack thereof) it is not as a labor negotiator. Judging by the payroll disparity issue and the lack of a serious revenue-sharing plan, it is not as a builder of consensus among owners. Judging by his refusal to come to the phone to comment on the Rays ownership issue, it is not as a strong, calming presence as a leader in the sport. What Selig has done well as commissioner is get stadiums built. Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Arizona and Milwaukee have opened new ballparks in the past five years and several other franchises have new stadiums in the works. Selig has been as successful (or shameless) as any commissioner before him in his ability to threaten communities with the possibility of losing their franchise. Here is a partial greatest hits list of Selig's stadium ultimatums:

ON THE ISSUE IN GENERAL IN 1995: "There are some teams that will not survive in this economic environment without new stadiums."

ON THE MARLINS IN 2001: "We recognize that relocation and contraction are very significant actions. Should the Marlins fail to secure legislation necessary to implement the funding plan, however, we believe such steps will be warranted. Bluntly, the Marlins cannot and will not survive in south Florida without a new stadium."

ON THE TWINS IN 1999: "I know people don't want to hear this, but that team can't compete in Minnesota without a new stadium."

ON THE BREWERS IN 1995: "We could take our team and go elsewhere."

ON THE RED SOX IN 1999: "One can spend a lot of time talking about baseball economics, but the only way for this team to generate the revenues that they have to do to be successful is with a new ballpark."

ON THE EXPOS IN 2000: "I don't believe I have either the legal or moral authority to consign a team to bankruptcy."

- Compiled by John Romano.

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