Selig must like taste of move to NL

On Baseball

November 02, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Bud Selig is about to realize a dream. He was there when the Braves pulled out of Milwaukee. He was the guy who brought the baseball back to beertown. Now, he's about to turn it into a National League city.

The Brewers weren't Major League Baseball's first choice to jump leagues to facilitate realignment, but it might turn out to be for the best. The Kansas City Royals have the first option to go to the National League Central, but they reportedly are leaning away from the move.

Selig, in his role as interim commissioner, needed to get a realignment deal done, so he persuaded his alter ego, the owner of the Brewers, to be the alternate in the league-switching plan. It wouldn't be a shock to find out that he wanted it to be that way all along.

"There is no doubt that some of the fondest memories for this city and myself were of the time when the Braves came to Milwaukee," Selig said Friday. "And yet, it has been a remarkable years in the American League, too. Obviously, I believe in realignment, and whatever happens, I assume it will be for the best."

One of the reasons he was so much in favor of interleague play a year ago was the potential rivalry with the Chicago Cubs, who play just 70 miles away at Wrigley Field. The prospect of three games a year with the Cubs was a major selling point for Selig, so imagine how happy he is going to be to play the Cubs at least 12 times every year.

Selig, the owner, says he has mixed feelings. Selig, the interim commissioner, says that he's trying to keep his personal feelings out of it until the matter is resolved, but the league switch clearly would benefit the Brewers.

The Brewers would derive a short-term competitive benefit from the move, since they would leave behind an AL Central dominated by the Cleveland Indians for a division that doesn't have an elite team. The Houston Astros are the class of the NL Central, but they were taken to the limit last year by a club (Pittsburgh) with far smaller payroll than even the small-market Brewers.

The club also could derive a short-term attendance boost from the novelty of the league change, which could help build a bridge to the economic renaissance that is expected when the club moves into its new stadium three years from now. Manager Phil Garner certainly shouldn't mind. He likes to employ a National League style of play and does not have a premier designated hitter to lose in the shuffle.

The Brewers should be improved next year. They'll have power-hitting first baseman John Jaha back from an injury and former Orioles right-hander Ben McDonald back from arm surgery. If they adjust to the league change quickly, they could be an instant contender.

Fine isn't fine

When Orioles manager Davey Johnson ordered second baseman Roberto Alomar to designate money to a charity that employed Johnson's wife, he may not have broken a specific league rule, but he clearly overstepped his authority as an officer of the club.

Fine money is the property of the team, so owner Peter Angelos should have been consulted before it was designated anywhere other than the club's bank account.

That's why Angelos was so upset about the issue. The amount of the fine -- $10,500 -- represented only about one-third of TC Alomar's per-game salary, but the contribution clearly represented that Johnson was acting in his own interest, even if that interest is in enhancing a pet charity.

Johnson only aggravated the situation when his attorney faxed an ultimatum to Angelos, asking for a contract extension or a buyout. Johnson and Angelos talked by telephone on Thursday, but the situation still has not been resolved.

Molitor: player-manager?

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash said recently that he still is considering the possibility of hiring future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to be a player-manager. If so, there is speculation that broadcaster and former major-league catcher Buck Martinez would join the Blue Jays' coaching staff to assist Molitor in the dugout.

It's an intriguing possibility, but also a risky one. Neither Molitor nor Martinez has any managerial experience, and the Blue Jays do not appear to be a team that can afford to make a mistake with this managerial opening.

Ash must know that he would be gambling with the club's future, and his own. Maybe that's why he has made it clear that he will contact Davey Johnson if the Orioles decide not to retain him for the 1998 season.

More posturing

Don't believe everything you read about outfielder Brady Anderson's supposed discussions with the New York Yankees. The New York papers have been reporting that the pinstriped pariahs are trying to lure Anderson, but it looks from here like an attempt to show center fielder Bernie Williams that he can be replaced for a lot less than $11 million per year.

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