February 18, 2004

An Ex-Fan's Open Letter to Bud Selig

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Dear Commissioner Selig:

I am writing to you to offer my resignation as a baseball fan. I’ve had it. I think I’ve given the game a good 21 years, and now it’s time for me to bow out. That is, unless you’re willing to do it first.

See, Commissioner, baseball isn’t what it used to be. It’s not the national pastime anymore. It’s not respected and loved by millions as it once was and still should be. Few fans have the ability to enter the season with a realistic hope that their team will make the postseason.

Scoring is up, television ratings are down, and games are getting longer and less interesting. The designated hitter is here to stay, as is interleague play. And the richest team in baseball just added the game’s best player. I blame you.

Do you realize that you not only presided over the first canceled World Series in 90 years, but that exponentially escalating salaries, interleague play, discussions of radical realignment — the latter two of which have helped to effectively destroy the game’s sense of history — have all occurred on your watch. Oh — and your team, the Milwaukee Brewers, has not had a winning season since since the Bush administration. The first Bush administration. (Incidentally, Fay Vincent was still commissioner then. Hmm.)

The payrolls of the so-called big-market teams continue to rise, star players continue to systematically leave the poorer teams the second they become free agents, while those poorer teams continually make weaker and weaker efforts to contend.

Texas’ trade of Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees was the last straw. As if it wasn’t enough that the Yankees were already the all big-money team, they had to go out and get one of the top three players in the game. But, as much as I hate the Yankees, I don’t blame them. They’re playing completely within the rules. The team produces the revenue to be able to do so. The problem is the rules.

And that’s where you come in, Mr. Commissioner. You have been unwilling or unable to stand up to the Players Association, making it one of the most intimidating and power-wielding unions in the world. You had the best of intentions during the last round of collective bargaining. You really did. But what did you accomplish? No salary cap, minimal luxury tax legislation, no mechanism to force owners to invest in their on-field products (ahem, Milwaukee Brewers), no drug or steroid testing, and the designated hitter and interleague play remain in effect.

So the cycle continues. The Yankees continue to go out and get the best available players, completely dominating the market. Teams on the opposite end of the spectrum make almost no effort.

Is this fair? Of course not.

But you’re not doing anything about it. Nothing at all. Meanwhile you swindled a brand new multi-million dollar ballpark out of the Milwaukee and Wisconsin taxpayers (I’ll ignore the fact that it’s a tremendous conflict of interest for the Commissioner of Baseball to have even a “blind trust” in one of the teams). You promised them a competitive product on the field. And did you follow through with that promise? No, you continue to sell off your best players and “rebuild.” Are you serious?

How is it that the NFL is able to achieve meaningful competitive balance, meaningful on-the-field competitiveness without the anti-trust exemption that baseball has enjoyed for so long? The NFL is managed well and baseball is not.

So while it’s been fun, I really don’t think I can go on as a fan if baseball remains in the state it’s in. Change starts at the top, Mr. Commissioner. That change has to be you. Or else there will be plenty of more people like me who have just had enough.

Sincerely yours,

Owen Bochner

Archived article by Owen Bochner