|Oh, what might have been ...|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
News item: In Fay Vincent's newly published book, "The Last Commissioner," he briefly describes how George W. Bush really, really wanted to replace him as commissioner in 1992, but it didn't happen because Bud Selig wanted the job for himself.
History hinges on such events ...
Commish calls for regime change in New York
"The time to act is now, before he adds another player capable of mass destruction," Bush told the owners. "We've been monitoring 'Baseball Tonight,' 'Rumblings and Grumblings' and The Sporting News and we're hearing a lot of chatter that they are ready to trade for Miguel Tejada."
Support for Bush's proposal has broad bi-partisan support from small- and large-market owners. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos said he not only would vote in favor of the plan, "I'll go to New York and personally clean out that jackass' desk."
Steinbrenner, however, defiantly said he will not step down, but repeated that he would be willing to allow owners to inspect Don Zimmer's locker.
Still no end in All-Star dispute
At last count, New York's Derek Jeter held a 317-vote lead over Alex Rodriguez for the American League starting shortstop spot, but the latter's agent is contesting the vote, saying Tampa Bay officials miscounted some ballots, never counted others and prevented Rangers fans from voting at games.
"This is a travesty," agent Scott Boros said. "Alex clearly is the best shortstop in the league, he is having by far the best season by a shortstop and, more importantly, he gets a $75,000 contract incentive for being the AL starting shortstop."
Jeter responded by saying Rodriguez should accept a reserve role on the All-Star team rather than subject the fans to a lengthy controversy.
With the starting shortstop in dispute, Bush said he had no choice but to postpone the game. When it was suggested that it might be more prudent to cancel the game rather than indefinitely postpone it, Bush replied, "No, the game must be played. It is the midsummer classic and the country needs it. We will play the game if we have to watch it in snow on Thanksgiving and the game is tied 5-5 and heading into the 15th inning. Because this is baseball and baseball is important."
Attendance at all-time high
TV ratings are at all-time highs as well and the broadcast rights are expected to triple for the next contract.
The game's popularity has soared ever since George W. Bush took over as commissioner and began passionately stressing the game's virtues instead of repeatedly bashing the players' salaries as previous commissioners had. With historic popularity ratings, Bush was able to quickly resolve the latest basic agreement between owners and players months ahead of the deadline, create an ingenious revenue-sharing plan that has every team except Milwaukee and Detroit with a winning record and within five games of first place, break up the Yankees, shorten the average length of games to 2 hours and 31 minutes, eliminate steroids, get weekend Word Series games played during the day and return stirrup socks to uniforms.
Bush also has been given credit for keeping Kevin Costner from making another baseball movie.
"It is extremely gratifying to see so many fans again enjoying the greatest game there is," Bush said. "As wonderful as it is to see the fans filling the stands every night, I think it's even more inspiring to see the MLB logo flying from so many car antennas and on so many bumper stickers. And it is emotionally overwhelming to hear students and citizens singing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' during school assemblies and state fairs."
In related news, Bush said he favors a round-robin playoff in case the AL East ends the regular season in its current five-game tie.
Bush welcomes the 'other' senators to baseball
"Your bi-partisan work in approving this welcome tax cut is an inspiration for National League and American League owners to work together and agree on a designated hitter rule," Bush told the politicians.
Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) gave the commissioner an honorary dark suit with a Congressional I.D. badge that read "No. 1 Constituent."
"It was fun," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said of meeting the commissioner. "He's a real big fan of politics. He knows everyone's names and the bills we're working on. He joked about how my campaign finance reforms were going."
The son of the former president, Bush has regularly saluted politicians at his office since taking over as commissioner and frequently spends his vacations attending congressional subcommittee hearings. He also began a very popular program by having Young Republicans and Junior League members hold mock filibusters on the lawn in front of the Major League Baseball office.
Clemens banned for life
Clemens is the 26th player banned by Ashcroft this month.
And meanwhile ...
Selig vows to contract Minnesota
"This is the second consecutive year that the state is facing substantial budget deficits," the president said from the White House. "I am profoundly saddened by this necessary move, but because of a myriad of reasons stemming from its small state status, Minnesota simply cannot be financially competitive in today's world market economy."
Selig said his plan calls for Minnesota to be incorporated into surrounding states, though it was not immediately clear whether the territory would be called "East Dakota" or "North Iowa." The president is said to favor "West Wisconsin."
In related news, Selig maintained he still plans to move the city of Montreal to Washington, D.C., despite Canadian protests.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.