Monday, December 05, 2016

This Bud's For You, Boston

At first, I thought Shank was just being his occasionally parochial self when he writes somewhat convincingly about Bud Selig doing the Red Sox fans a huge favor:
If you are a Red Sox fan, Bud Selig was your friend.

The predictable howling started across baseball America when Selig was elected to the Hall of Fame Sunday, but Sox fans should be sending him thank you notes for a lot of the good things that have happened to the Boston franchise in this century.

Maligning Selig is a popular parlor game on sports talk radio and across the ever-expanding band of social media. Bud gets blamed for steroids, the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, the All-Star tie in Milwaukee, late-night World Series games, four-hour games, ticket costs, and David Price’s inability to win a playoff start. Swell.
Shank spends a little time on sports talk radio from time to time, and nearly all of that time is spent bashing an athlete, some sports team or some combination of the two. I wonder what Selig bashing might be in those archives?
But the totality of his 23 years as commissioner amounts to far more positive than negative, and here in Boston, Selig gets an assist for the championships won in 2004, 2007, and 2013.

It’s simple, really. When the Red Sox were for sale in 2001, it was Selig who assembled John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino and maneuvered the sale in the direction of the Henry group.

“I had nothing to do with any of that,’’ Bud once told me, before adding, “But someday you’ll thank me for it.’’

Selig had a lot to do with it. It was Selig who connected Lucchino with Henry when Henry was dealing with ballpark and ownership issues with the Florida Marlins. Henry was working on selling the Marlins and buying the Angels in 2001. Lucchino, who knew Werner from San Diego, put Henry together with Werner, who was then trying to buy the Red Sox with underfinanced partner Les Otten.

At the urging of Selig, Yawkey Trust boss John Harrington agreed to accept the bid of the Henry group. When MLB owners voted to the approve the sale, Bud Selig made sure the vote was unanimous. Henry, Werner, and Lucchino were Bud’s guys.
That makes complete sense. I was checking on one of the bidders for the Red sox that year to look up Frank McCourt, who I knew Shank has slammed good in hard in the past. There were also two other bidders:
Folks in Boston knew McCourt would be a disaster for Major League Baseball. He was a smooth-talking, nicely-dressed, well-mannered guy with parking lots and delusions of grandeur. He fancied himself as a serious bidder for the Red Sox in 2001 when the Yawkey Trust put the team up for sale, but nobody in Boston took McCourt seriously because he didn't have enough of his own money.

The "sale" of the Red Sox turned out to be a bag-job of the highest order. Cable czar Charles Dolan submitted the highest bid, while Boston businessman Joe O'Donnell was viewed as the local favorite to get the team.

Tire-kicker McCourt was never in the running. In December 2001, Selig announced that John Henry's bid was the winner. Selig was beholden to Henry (former owner of the Marlins) and put him together with Tom Werner (former owner of the Padres) and Larry Lucchino (former Orioles and Padres boss).

Bag job, indeed! No reason it can't be both a bag job (the bidding process) and a rousing success. I was also wondering about how adequate Joe O'Donnell's bid was. A few people bring up that point in the comments, so I went to research it. Boy, did Shank really, REALLY HATE this deal when it went down!
The Red Sox are a public trust. They are the heart and soul of New England. They are as important as any local institution. And last night they changed hands for the first time in 68 years.

Michigan-born, Yale grad Tom Yawkey rescued the franchise in 1933, and now we have unknown men named Henry and Werner taking charge of this most-cherished local team.

I wish I felt good about this and I hope I’m wrong. I wish I could get on the bandwagon and believe good things will come of this. Maybe John Henry and Tom Werner will be the best Boston sports owners since Walter Brown. Maybe they will build a new jewel of a ballpark in South Boston and reward us with a string of championship teams in the next decade.

But forgive me if I don’t trust these guys. Any of them ever been to Durgin Park? Any of ‘em know that the L Street Brownies swim in the ocean on New Year’s Day? Any of them know the meaning of Curt Gowdy and “Hi, neighbor, have a ‘Gansett?” Any of them know who hit Tony Conigliaro with that spitball in 1967? And that the pitch was thrown Aug. 18, a Friday night?

Shame on John Harrington. The cowardly little accountant had a chance to do something great and important here. This is the man who befriended Mrs. Yawkey all those years ago and - on that relationship alone - became CEO of the Red Sox and a Big Player in Major League Baseball. The record will show that when it came time to step up, Harrington caved to commissioner Bud Selig and the Lords of the Sport. He chose to serve the Boys in the Club rather than loyal, long-suffering, top-dollar-paying citizens of Red Sox Nation.
So now we have this band of carpetbaggers, taking charge of our most cherished institution.
This was a bag job from start to finish. Bud got his man. The Trust got its money. John Harrington secured his fraudulent place in the Men’s Club of Major League Baseball. And the Red Sox were turned over to people who don’t know Fenway Park from Jellystone Park.
Looks like we have our answer on the 'maligning Selig' parlor game question!

So, has Shank mellowed with age, or is this another convenient lapse of memory? You make the call!

UPDATE AT 8:36 PM - Added the 'carpetbaggers' and 'Jellystone Park' bits from the last link. Reading all the way through that old column was priceless for tidbits like that...

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