In the Cheap Seats
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 11, 2005 - Every time a professional sports league engages in a players' strike or ownership lockout, the media whine and moan that the fans are the ones who suffer the most.

Oh, really?

When Major League Baseball's management and players union reached an agreement last season - trumpeted loudly by so-called commissioner Bud Light Selig - that avoided a season shutdown, we ended up with this mess. Is this embarrassment of a season really better than a lockout, which might have reeled the players union back in?

The cases of Kenny Rogers and Rafael Palmeiro are classic examples of how the players union controls the entire league.

Rogers and Palmeiro are passengers of an out-of-control players union that had ran over spineless MLB ownership like a speed bump. Rogers and Palmeiro are the Duke boys and Selig is Boss Hog. While they may get the headlines, it is the players union that is the General Lee - the vehicle that can apparently jump over judges, arbitrators, coaches, managers and even Congress.

In Major League Baseball, suspensions are paid vacations, fines are charitable donations and tax shelters, and being caught using steroids is not cheating, it's simply a mistake.

Selig took to the airwaves on Tuesday when Rogers' suspension for accosting two cameramen was reduced by a week. But, if Bud Light wanted to put some legitimacy into his faux kingdom, he would have stood his ground last year when negotiating a new contract until MLB management wrestled more control from the players union.

If it took a year-long lockout, so be it. It worked in the NHL, where the owners are back in control of the franchises they have invested hundreds of millions in.

As it now stands, Selig isn't king. He's simply a jester at whom the players union points and laughs, and the owners are marionettes controlled by the players.

Do you think the players weren't laughing when Selig took out a full page ad in USA Today congratulating Palmeiro on his 3,000th hit when he knew full well that Palmeiro had tested positive for anabolic steroids two months earlier?

It would be unbelievable except for one thing - it's Bud Selig.

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Of course, Selig will stay as commissioner because the MLB owners are as gutless as he is.

If it were not true, then Rogers and Palmeiro would have both been cut this week by their respective teams.

If the Rangers wanted to restore a hint of dignity to the franchise, then owner Tom Hicks and general manager John Hart would have released Rogers as soon as the arbitrator's ruling was handed down. Instead, Rogers was rushed to the mound in a sickening display of classlessness. But, asking Hicks, Hart and manager Buck Showalter to do the right thing is like asking Moe, Curly and Larry to perform brain surgery.

I once thought Showalter was classier than Hicks and Hart, but now I believe you could throw them all in one pot and none of them would rise to the top.

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