June 1994 - My Dream Job Is A Nightmare

Being prone to flights of fancy, I often wonder what I would do for a living if I wasn't doing what I'm doing now. Until recently, my ultimate fantasy career goal was to be named the Commissioner of Baseball. I told my friends that it was the only thing that would ever get me to move to New York City, but in truth, I would have done it for the presidency of either league.

The perks are great -- the best seats in every ballpark and a built-in excuse, if not requirement to take full advantage of it. No problem getting playoff or World Series tickets. I love the idea of having to watch the Fall Classic as part of my job, and getting paid for it, to boot. Fat chance I ever have to worry about being on the short list, but I'm not so sure I still hear the calling.

In September of 1991, when Fay Vincent still reigned as baseball's Grand Poobah, I had a batting cage chat with him at Yankee Stadium. I earnestly asked if he had any sage advice for somebody who wanted his job in twenty years. He chuckled, then said "First, I'd have to know if you had any idea what you'd be getting into." What seemed like a good-natured retort at the time, in retrospect appears to be profound. It's certainly a good question for anyone considering pursuing the office now.

From my seat, the commissioner's role should be to serve the players, the owners and the fans, and not necessarily in that order. Synergistically, baseball is still bigger than the sum of those individual interests. Where strong leadership is requisite to balance the disparate elements, it is now sorely lacking, "acting commissioner" Bud Selig notwithstanding.

It's clear to me that the owners, who hire the Commissioner as their overseer, are completely out of touch with that once-sacred tenet: The Best Interests of the Game. They actually had the gall to strip that momentous responsibility from the commissioner's job description. That fun bunch, in their infinite wisdom, has so emasculated the role that it's really not the job it used to be. As a result, if they ever do get around to hiring someone, that person will be little more than a figurehead.

Could that be part of the reason the Park Avenue office has now been vacant for over a year and a half? Could it be that every high-profile executive with the necessary qualifications -- leadership and political skills, administrative acumen, marketing savvy, and negotiating finesse -- is just too smart to take the job? Could it be the owners want to set up their questionable expansion plans, horrible network TV arrangements, lame divisional formats, ad nauseam to serve their own narrow needs, then bring in a puppet dictator to protect the status quo?

The owners are taking full advantage of this opportunity to throw spitballs and paper airplanes while the teacher's left the room. They're doing everything they can to better line their own pockets, with little regard to the traditions that make Major League Baseball the grand game that it is. We are constantly reminded that MLB is a business, and there's no denying that. But it's also our National Pastime. Baseball has a unique aura and tradition that, without clearheaded leadership, is getting mucked up. Baseball owners are shooting themselves in their collective feet, but it's the fans who ultimately suffer.

While I'm always open to persuasion, my cravings for the job have abated (although I'm stopping short of officially withdrawing my name!) I'll certainly be suspicious of anyone who signs up for this gig now, and I might even suggest that the head examiners be called in, posthaste. Like Fay Vincent, I'll wonder if they've got any idea what they're getting into.

©1994 - 2007 Douglas T. Dinsmoor


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