Baseball Owner's Poverty Plea

Let's turn to the Sports Desk for the "Wide, Wide, Wide, Wild World of Sports."

Today we take a peek into a part of the sports world the public rarely gets a chance to see: The books. Get some tissues handy, for this is a story of financial hardship that's almost guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. It'll show you the heartbreaking tragedy of multi-millionaire baseball owners who tell us that they can barely afford the upkeep on their mansions and limousines these days, because, alas, their ball teams are not making a profit.

Bud Selig, the commisioner of baseball and himself a team owner, recently has been wailing and moaning like some impoverished wretch out of a Dickens novel. He's been brandishing corporate balance sheets and loudly lamenting to anyone who'll listen that he and his fellow owners lost half-a-billion big ones last year. Despite having an antitrust exemption that lets them operate as monopolies, despite enjoying special federal tax breaks, despite having their stadiums paid for by local taxpayers, despite charging exorbitant ticket prices and $6 for a cup of beer -- still, says Selig, barely choking back a sob, we're broke.

Well ... not exactly. Before you break down and send Bud a personal donation, you might want to take a closer look at baseball's books. Only, you can't, because Selig won't even give congress the full set of financial figures. Left out of his selective accounting, for example, are hundreds of millions of dollars the owners sock away each year in deals with cable TV companies.

Also, if the owners are such sad-sack poverty cases, how are they spending a hundred million or more to attract a player like Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi? And, if it's such a lousy business, why are other supposedly-savvy corporate types lined up to out-bid each other so they can become team owners?

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Spare me the Selig's "spare change" routine. The owners aren't broke ... they're greedheads!


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