By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
According to the Minnesota State Bar Association Web site (www.mnbar.org), "Regardless of whether an individual lives at home or in a facility, a person is considered vulnerable if he or she is: unable or unlikely to report maltreatment of him or herself because of: a physical or mental infirmity or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunction that impairs a person's ability to provide adequately for his or her own care without assistance." In this particular case, the state might reasonably invoke the "emotional dysfunction" portion of that description, and it would be hard for anyone to argue with a characterization of doddering Carl as physically infirm. Regarding the nature of the abuse as it pertains to The State of Minnesota v. Major League Baseball, the bar association's language is clear enough: "A vulnerable adult is a victim of maltreatment when he or she is subjected to abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation." Further, financial exploitation against a vulnerable adult occurs when someone "either 1) uses or withholds property of a vulnerable adult; 2) acquires a vulnerable adult's funds or property through undue influence, harassment, duress, deception, or fraud; or 3) forces, compels, coerces, or entices the vulnerable adult against his or her will to perform services for the advantage of another."
There can be absolutely no doubt that baseball's contraction plan as it involves Carl Pohlad meets a number of those criteria. Certainly Major League Baseball intends to acquire Carl's property through "undue influence" and "duress"; no doubt a check for $150 million to $200 million constitutes any reasonable definition of "enticement"; and there can be no question that the contraction of the Twins would represent "services for the advantage of another." As for the will of a broken 86-year-old billionaire and the extent to which he was a lucid and cooperative participant in this scheme, I will leave that for the courts to decide.
As Donald Fehr and the Major League Baseball Players Association long ago discovered, if you have to have an antagonistic relationship with the guys who sign the checks, you couldn't get a better group of patsies than Major League Baseball's owners. Selig's timing in making the contraction announcement couldn't have been more perfectly and characteristically wrongheaded. A tremendous World Series between two of the teams most representative of baseball's screwed economics went a long way toward masking--at least for a time--the huge laundry list of problems obscuring the game's future. Selig and his cronies chose not to take advantage of that smokescreen of good feeling and made their grim declaration 48 hours after the Arizona Diamondbacks had received their World Series trophy. That exhilarating, disorienting, and ultimately distressing 48-hour swing demonstrated once again that baseball is a wonderful game and a dirty business. Pie-in-the-sky nostalgia aside, that's been the case forever; while the game retains its ability to enthrall on a consistent basis, off the field it's a demolition derby, plain and simple, with the owners seemingly intent on destroying each other and everything in their paths.
The news of baseball's proposed contraction, as well as the widespread speculation that the Twins would be one of the two teams eliminated, set off the expected (and on the part of baseball's owners, surely desired) panic among Twins fans and the usual sprawling cast of Power Rubes that springs into full, ineffectual task-force mode every time there is a perceived threat to the Twin Cities' status as a "major league" market. The media erupted in hysteria of the sort that is usually reserved for Vikings losses. Hubert Humphrey's line about the Twin Cities becoming a "cold Omaha" without professional sports was trotted out for the millionth time. There was much wringing of hands and--unlike the previous five or six Twins crises--throwing up of hands. There was, and there remains, a general feeling of disbelief and, from many quarters, resignation. The Twins saga, and the endless, fruitless battle to get a new stadium built, has become Minnesota's version of Bleak House, the gargantuan Dickens novel that chronicled the interminable legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. After years of threats and grandstanding and jinxed stadium bills and failed referendums and countless dead-end proposals and widespread hoodwinking and boardroom maneuvering and umpteen task forces and a general and wholesale failure of public and political will...My God, people are wondering, could this really be the end?
Selig, of course, was being transparently coy when he refused to name names on November 6. Funny, wasn't it, that somehow Minnesota and Montreal were instantly leaked to the press as the likely candidates? The delay in nailing down contraction's victims, of course, was designed to inspire exactly the kind of civic frenzy seen here over the past several weeks. Selig and the cabal of venal leisure barons that make up baseball's owners have bluffed so often in their attempts to wrangle a new stadium for the Twins that it's hard to see this latest move as anything more than one last, ruthless attempt to get Minnesota on board baseball's kamikaze gravy train.
What exactly might be the end result of all the latest acrimony and speculation is anybody's guess at this point, but absent a last-ditch conciliatory solution in Minnesota (unlikely) or a change of heart from Major League Baseball (even more unlikely), the ridiculous mess is sure to end up in some sort of litigious tangle that is likely to linger until spring training, if not longer, ensuring that Minnesotans can look forward to--at the least--one more lame-duck season of baseball at the Metrodome. That's a small consolation, of course, and regardless of whether Selig's contraction notice was a bluff, it still seems clear that--barring significant changes in the disastrous economic structure of the game--the only chance Minnesota has to retain a franchise in the long term is to work out some kind of a stadium package that all sides can live with. And given the contentious stadium brouhahas of the past five years, it seems unlikely that Minnesota will give in to such blackmail at this late date.