Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On Selig extorting Jim Crane

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of yesterday's trade (but more important on a national-interest level) was Lance Berkman eviscerating Bud Selig over realignment, and moving the Astros to the American League.

I feel basically like the commissioner extorted Jim Crane into moving the Astros.

Well, a few of our media favorites let mean old Lance have it for giving it to Mr. Selig.

Troll-in-residence Jon Heyman:
We all love berkman, but how can it be "extortion" w/ MLB reducing #astros cost $50M to get them to go? That's a deal, not extortion.

He continued to refer to the realignment as a business deal, and even provided a definition, straight outta Merriam-Webster:
extortion: "unlawful obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear''

Our lovable Chicago-based writer, Phil Rogers, even came to Selig's defense:
...There would have been nothing wrong with (Berkman's) position if he had said that Selig “pressured" the Astros into moving. That’s exactly what Selig did.

He did it because he was getting pressure from the players association, of which Berkman is, of course, a member, to address the lack of fairness in having 16 teams in one league and 14 in the other. This was much more of an issue with the union than Major League Baseball.

In fact, it’s possible that the union would not have agreed to increase the number of playoff teams from eight to 10 if MLB hadn’t found a way to change the math. And Selig’s hands are largely tied on matters of realignment.

So here we have four plot lines:

1. Berkman doesn't know what "Extortion" means.
2. Realignment was a business decision.
3. Berkman hates Bud Selig, and wore him out in the media.
4. Selig couldn't really do anything and if Berkman didn't like it, he could have bucked the MLBPA and said so.

To #1: No, Jim Crane was not extorted, because his property was not taken from him unlawfully. Crane didn't have to pay Selig $50m to keep unflattering pictures off of Deadspin. There's a fine line between extortion and blackmail. Crane received a partial refund for giving in.

What Berkman probably meant to say was that Selig coerced Crane into accepting the move to the American League, as one definition of Coercion is:
The intimidation of a victim to compel the individual to do some act against his or her will by the use of psychological pressure, physical force, or threats.

If we're talking about a will (as in, the death kind), if someone is "forced to make provisions in his or her will that he or she otherwise would not make if permitted to act according to free choice. It is an element of both duress and Undue Influence."

Should this take place, the will can be declared nullified.Whether or not this applies in this situation, I guess, depends on whether or not you're a Letter of the Law or a Spirit of the Law type of person.

Regardless, it was pretty clear that Jim Crane had two choices:
1) Accept the move, and get approved as owner by the other owners.
2) Don't accept the move, and the sale gets rejected.

Hey, I took the LSAT. I didn't do anything with it, but I still took it. And that sounds to me more like coercion than extortion. In the original piece, Crane said:

"I think it was a good deal for baseball. I think it was a good deal for our owners. Would we have preferred to stay in the National League? Probably, yeah. But that wasn't the deal that was presented to us."

So a scenario in which the Astros stayed in the NL was never on the table, apparently. And, under Crane's own admission, he would have kept the Astros in the National League. The rules changed during the process, and Crane ultimately agreed.

To Point #2: We can argue all day about Crane's role in this. And before y'all start thinking about Heyman's definition of a business deal, let's not give him too much creative thinking credit, because Crane said as much yesterday. Crane is perfectly willing to admit that Lance's language was a bit strong, that it was the cost of doing business. If Crane doesn't want to pursue any additional action, or concessions, then that's his business. He wanted a baseball team, and he got one, albeit not the one he thought he was getting - a National League one. But why wouldn't he say it was a business deal? Owners who got on Selig's bad side (cough, Frank McCourt, cough) don't typically have things turn out all sunshine and rainbows.

To Point #3: Yeah, I don't think Berkman likes Bud Selig. During the Hurricane Ike fiasco, Berkman said:
"Major League Baseball has always valued the dollar more than they do the individual, the players and their families."

To Point #4: We just don't know enough about the process to make an evaluation of Who Screwed The Astros: Selig, or the MLBPA? What's clear is that MLB took the path of least resistance in balancing the leagues. It's mentioned that the Diamondbacks could have switched to the AL, and the Astros to the NL West, which would have resulted in west coast trips to LA, San Francisco, and Colorado. MLB chose to piss off one fan base instead of two. We just happen to be the fanbase.

So to sum up: Yes, this sucks; No, there's not a whole lot we can do about it. Would you rather have Drayton/Ed in the NL, or Crane/Luhnow in the AL?


Anonymous said...

I really don't think Berkman's use of the word extortion was as out of line with the definition of extortion as Jon Heyman tried to portary it. One of the definitions of extortion is obtaining something by the abuse of one's office or authority.

Selig abused his power as commish to force Crane to give Selig what he wants: The Astros in the AL. Obviously, Crane did not want to move the team. Its clear he's being careful with his words when he talks about it. He was absolutely forced to accept the deal. The "discount" is not relevant. Its only purpose is to give the "deal" the impression it was a business transaction. Everyone knows, Selig got what he wanted by forcing Crane to accept something he did not want. Simply because Crane was compensated does not mean Crane wasn't forced to take both: the move and the "compensation."

Anonymous said...

Also, let's not forget the character BS put forth by MLB. You know, the stuff that magically disappeared after Crane agreed to move. Of course, that is "leverage" rather than "extortion," but it still leads credence to the idea that Selig is worthless scum.

Anonymous said...

Selig was going to delay or block the change of ownership unless the new owner agreed to moving. That meets the definition of extortion. Anything that happened after that threat is irrelevant. And btw, Berkman has a better education than any of the three people trying to correct him.

Reuben said...

Whether or not Selig extorted Crane himself, he certainly committed fraud and other crimes against Astros fans.

Warren said...

There is still no evidence that Crane was told he would have to agree to move or he would not be approved. Not one of the parties involved on either side has stated that this is how it was verbally put to Crane. What if he said he was backing out of the purchase and meant it? Would the owners still have said go ahead? Who else was actively pursuing a purchase with such an offer? How many other credible offers to buy the team were there after McClane put the team up for sale? None. The deal is done. But that does not mean we have to like or respect Crane as some poor fool who just had no choice. What else will Selig and the league ask for now that they know Crane is weak?