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Bud Selig's battle to sell the Rangers

Jul 19, 2010, 9:41 AM EDT

The daily blow-by-blow of the legal battle involving the sale of the Texas Rangers has gotten so technical and boring that it’s understandable if you’ve tuned out by now.  But the big picture is still a fascinating one.  Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of it all is that, at its heart, the Rangers sale is all about Major League Baseball insisting and expecting that it be allowed to act differently than just about any other business in America.

As the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson report in a nice 10,000-foot view article today, baseball doesn’t expect its owners to sell to the high bidder and it doesn’t expect to have to explain why the lower bidder should win.  Except now it’s in federal court, and federal judges are decidedly hostile to anyone who expects them to uphold and apply self-interested and economically illogical policies like that.

I blame Oliver Wendell Holmes. He’s the guy who gave baseball its antitrust exemption all those years ago, thereby infusing its leaders with the belief that the laws really don’t apply to them, even beyond the relatively narrow — and increasingly narrowing — confines of Holmes’ original exemption. It’s what led to the owners treating the players like cattle long after labor enlightenment came to the rest of the workforce. It’s what has helped foster the clubby and insular environment in which owners operate even until today.

Sad really. And though I think it’s asking too much for the Rangers’ bankruptcy to blow baseball’s antiquated and anti-competitive system to bits, I think it will serve as an important step in that direction.

  1. Joker34 - Jul 19, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    If all this ownership drama is fueling the Rangers and helping them to win right now, then I say let it continue. GO RANGERS!

  2. Simon DelMonte - Jul 19, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    I agree that we continue to see Baseball act in a wrongheaded manner. But even assuming that the courts dismiss this effort, would that affect the need to gain the approval of the other owners before a new owner can join the sport?

  3. Old Gator - Jul 19, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Craig, somewhere around here is my old, tattered Modern Library edition of Max Lerner’s The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes. I’m really tempted to paraphrase Walter Matthau’s assessment of Abraham Lincoln in The Fortune Cookie (“Great president, lousy lawyer”) and say something inane like “Great poet, lousy judge.” Yeah, yeah, I know they weren’t the same guy but still….recalling some of the writings of Holmes in that old book, a few of which have stuck in my mind since the early years of Macondo High School, I can imagine that Holmes and Whitman were approaching baseball with the hearts of poets instead of the up-the-oligarchy way a bunch of corporatist slugs like Uncle Thomas, Big Tony, Geechie Joe or Bob Roberts might. Holmes was often too much of a metaphysician at heart for his own good. That’s what you get for having a poet as a daddy and spending your youth looking for novel ways to rebel. Tough duty.

  4. APBA Guy - Jul 19, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    Gator, to which Big Tony do you refer? Justice Anthony Kennedy has voted with the majority in 10 of the last 12 opinions.

  5. Old Gator - Jul 19, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    But is he big? Stand them next to each other and they look like George and Lenny.

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