By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Bud Selig is an amazing man, make no mistake about it. But this time he has gone too far. If there is any hope for the Twins, if there is any hope for Major League Baseball, you have to believe that this time he has gone too far.
As plenty of people have pointed out in recent weeks, even as Twins proponents have scrambled to marshal stall tactics against Selig's contraction plan, there's plenty of blame to go around for the current precarious status of Major League Baseball in the Twin Cities. This is a saga that has not lacked for fascinating, complex, thoroughly reprehensible characters on all sides, many of them still largely unknown to the general public.
There's Jerry Bell, for instance, the Twins' president and quintessential bad lieutenant. If you traced this miserable stadium mess back to its source, you'd find the ghastly Bell lurking in the details. Bell was the guy who hammered out the original escape clause that gave the Twins their initial leverage in threatening to vacate the Metrodome and flee Minnesota if a new stadium weren't built. Bell was working for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission at the time, and he would eventually head up that agency; only much later would he cross lines and go to work for the Twins. Bell is a man who has demonstrated the tenacity--and loyalty--of a Taliban foot soldier. In the Hollywood version of this whole affair, when the fat cats need someone killed, Jerry Bell is the guy who pulls the trigger and throws the bodies off the boat.
You also might want to take a good, hard look at a local attorney by the name of Roger Magnuson, who is representing the Twins and Major League Baseball against all comers here in Minnesota. Magnuson has previously done good work for the Twins, having successfully represented the team in an anti-trust case brought by the state Attorney General in the 1990s. He is also the lawyer who was summoned to Florida to represent the Florida Legislature in the Bush/Gore election recount case. Magnuson is an interesting character, to say the least. He is the founder and dean of the California-based Oak Brook College of Law, an Internet-based institution whose Web site proclaims: "We believe that our nation has strayed from its Biblical moorings....Oak Brook College is committed to training lawyers who understand the Biblical foundations of our legal institutions and who desire to practice law consistent with the Biblical principles of truth, justice, mercy, and reconciliation." In demonstrating just such consistency, one supposes, Magnuson is also the author of a book entitled Are Gay Rights Right? Confused or grieving Twins fans looking for justice, mercy, or reconciliation might consider attending services at Straitgate, the nondenominational Christian church in Minneapolis where Magnuson is the pastor.
Suffice it to say that it's easy enough to point fingers in all directions at this dark and confusing time. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of those fingers have ended up pointed at poor Carl Pohlad, the lovable old banker who once upon a time saved baseball in Minnesota--remember that? Anyone with half a heart should be able to see through all the poisonous rancor and recognize poor Carl for what he truly is in this wretched fiasco: a victim. A victim of baseball's disastrous economic policies, a victim of an obstinate and principled populace, a victim of an unlikely and sprawling conspiracy of leftist class warriors, right-wing anti-tax zealots, and newspaper columnists. For years the man has been under siege from without and within, and now, just as he should be settling into his twilight years and playing poker with his grandchildren, the bastards who own Major League Baseball intend to steal his team from him.
Oh, sure, I've heard the nasty rumor that Selig and his cronies intended to eradicate some other franchise--Florida, perhaps--and that when Carl got wind of the sort of kill fees the owners were bandying about, he barged to the front of the line and begged to get in on the deal. Come on! Carl Pohlad barged to the front of the line? Jesus, people, the man is 86 years old and walks with a cane; Carl Pohlad's barging days are behind him. The best hope for baseball's future in Minnesota is for the citizens of this region to get squarely behind Attorney General Mike Hatch in bringing charges of elder abuse against Major League Baseball. I'm no lawyer, but this looks like a vulnerable-adult case, plain and simple. These vipers are taking advantage of a man in his senescence.
Mark my words: Carl Pohlad is the ultimate victim in all of this. All the poor man ever wanted to do was sell repossessed cars and collect bad debts. He never wanted to own a professional baseball team, but in 1984 somebody had to step up and save Major League Baseball for the struggling, displaced farmers and loan-defaulting deadbeats of the upper Midwest, and Carl, reluctantly, was that man. If you don't believe me, listen to the Pioneer Press, which recently described Pohlad as "a quiet man who shunned the limelight even after he was forced into purchasing the Twins in 1984." Did you get that? Poor Carl was forced into buying the Twins, and now, after shepherding the team through thick and thin, up mountains with breathtaking vistas and down into the dreariest swamps imaginable, this man who has served the great game of baseball with quiet and unswerving dignity is being forced out the door with a big, fat check pinned to his jacket lapel.