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Savran: Blame Bud chant is way out of tune

Saturday, July 13, 2002

What we have here," said the warden to Cool Hand Luke, "is a failure to communicate. " What we had at the star-crossed All-Star Game was nothing less.

Is it a breath mint or a candy mint?

Great taste or less filling?

An exhibition or a game of consequence?

If your primary objective is to win, playing every player can't be a priority.

If playing every player is at the top of your agenda, winning becomes an afterthought.

Baseball must decide what it wants, then proceed accordingly.

By the time the dilemma landed like a ton of bricks in Commissioner Bud Selig's lap, the decision already had been made by managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly.

That's like giving a guy a dollar and telling him to go buy himself a nice dinner. His choices at that point are limited.

It would seem to me the grand honor is in the selection to the All-Star Game, not necessarily playing in it.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Playing in the game is the ultimate and every reasonable effort should be made to accommodate as many players as possible, especially those representing the host city.

But if baseball officials learned anything from this -- and they say they have -- a directive should be issued to future All-Star managers to steer their respective ships on a course to victory, not one of feel-good player relations.

The players will understand, if not accept, not playing in the game.

Frankly, if they don't, tough. Do you really care?

If there was a failure on Selig's part, it was that he should have made -- and needs to make -- baseball's All-Star Game philosophy clear. Beyond that, this continuous Bud-bashing has become ridiculous.

Those who blame Selig for everything from free agency to Aramis Ramirez's batting average to corporate malfeasance do so because it's easy.

Columnists, talk show hosts and callers blame everything but the jittery stock market on Selig.

It occurs to me that they do so because they are too shallow intellectually to develop insight into baseball's problems so they attack the first and most prominent thing they see -- the commissioner's office.

Maybe that's part of his job -- to walk with a bull's-eye affixed to his back, to be tarred and feathered at the public's behest.

But Selig is only the front man for baseball's owners, as fractured and dysfunctional a group as ever assembled. They don't agree on much, certainly not on anything of critical importance.

Those who argue that the commissioner is supposed to be a facilitator, a mediator in these times of high dispute, are absolutely right. But it only works if the owners want someone like that.

They had someone like that in Fay Vincent, but when he actually disagreed with their bullheadedness and told them so, they fired him.

So how can you vilify a man charged with leading people who don't want to be led?

Selig was ripped from stem to stern for announcing baseball's intent to contract Montreal and Minnesota.

Do you actually believe this was all his idea? Do you think he announced such a plan without the endorsement of the owners?

Isn't it more likely it was their idea and Selig, as the figurehead, was merely responsible for announcing it?

Talk about killing the messenger bringing the bad news!

Insight-challenged media members spat in disdain at Selig for suggesting contraction, as if he was the sole proponent.

Depending on whom you believe, owners voted 30-0, 28-2, or 28-0 with two abstentions in favor.

Do you think the vote was taken before or after Selig's public pronouncement?

Baseball's economic problems had taken root long before Selig was named commissioner. They started while Selig was still hawking Buicks to the good folks of Milwaukee. Those problems were cemented when the owners were being beaten at the bargaining table like Mike Lange's rented mule. Decisively and consistently.

All of this under the "leadership" of different commissioners but with many of the same owners dictating strategy.

I have conversed with Selig on a few occasions and, although he wouldn't distinguish me from any other guy holding a microphone, he strikes me as a decent, industrious and dedicated man, trying to get these issues solved as best he can.

But they are issues from earlier times, inherited because of the stubbornness and incompetence of his employers, past and present.

You can identify Selig as the core problem among the many bedeviling baseball. But if you do, you're acknowledging your own inability to comprehend the complexities of the issues more than his.

Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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