Tuesday in Minneapolis, I attended FanFest. I’d been there Monday (and had a grand time, as usual), but I went back Tuesday for Bud Selig’s "town hall" … which basically means he answers a bunch of questions lobbed via the magical Internet tubes.
Selig was late arriving and I had things to do, so I stuck around for just a couple of the questions. Figured I wouldn’t miss much, and that evening at the All-Star Game the writers were actually provided with transcripts of the session. Which allowed me to catch up on all the scintillating news. It also reminded me that, not so terribly long ago, the Commissioner seemed quite serious about killing the Minnesota Twins.
This is from another "town hall" in March, 2002:
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I know how they feel in areas that have been mentioned as contraction sites, but the economic problems are so serious that some of the solutions are going to be very, very painful. Contraction is something that came from the owners and there has never been an owner or a club that has been negative about contraction in any way. Contraction is certainly on the table as a possible solution.
I understand the feeling of the fans in Minneapolis, unfortunately everyone wants the problem solved and they want someone else to solve them, and they can’t be solved without pain.
It was never quite clear whose pain he was talking about. Was it the pain of the local taxpayers? The pain of the fans who loved their teams in Minnesota and Montreal? Because he certainly wasn’t suggesting that any owners or players suffer any pain. Or any real pain; I’m sure he would have been okay with lower salaries, but that wasn’t going to happen.
Selig called me at home once, and it was because I wrote some insulting things, and I wrote insulting things because I found it utterly reprehensible that he and his employers would dangle "contraction" in such a public way. This was done, quite blatantly, to convince voters — in the case of the Twins, anyway — to pressure their elected officials to hand hundreds of millions of public dollars to one of the richest families in America. Which is an ugly thing. Or at least I thought so a dozen years ago.
But of course it worked. The Minnesotans caved, and everybody seems pretty happy there now. I don’t know, maybe sometimes you just have to break a few oeufs.