The best pitch in baseball? It's probably the fastball, although a good changeup is a close second.
As Commissioner Bud Selig heads toward retirement, with a legacy for creating labor peace and growing a game that had stagnated badly under his predecessors, he has been given a great opportunity to throw a pitch that no one sees coming.
Selig should block the proposed 12-player trade that would allow Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins to dump $160 million of guaranteed contracts less than a year after the opening of Marlins Park, which would not have been built without public financing.
It would seal his legacy as one of baseball's greatest executives.
To dump manager Ozzie Guillen and a cast of high-profile players including Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Heath Bell — along with the five in this agreed-upon deal: Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck — one season into the rebuild that landed the Marlins on the cover of Sports Illustrated is unconscionable.
Loria should be ashamed of himself. He should be sanctioned, if not stripped of his franchise.
But here's the problem: Selig is probably powerless to do much about the Marlins-Blue Jays deal because it is the exact same kind of trade the Red Sox made with the Dodgers in August, moving almost $260 million in guaranteed contracts to Los Angeles.
How do you stop this one when you allowed the other one?
With owners gathered at a Chicago-area hotel for quarterly owners meetings, there was no sign on Wednesday that the deal is in any trouble in terms of MLB approval. Selig said the trade had not been submitted to him yet — it remains pending physicals, according to sources — and deferred comment until Thursday, the conclusion of meetings.
White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was asked about the appropriateness of the trade.
"That's an interesting question,'' he said. "I think I'm going to leave that (response) to the commissioner. As a smart man said, it's above my pay grade.''
Many owners made off-hand, off-the-record comments about the shocking nature of the trade but there did not seem to be any opponents willing to voice their opposition. Yankees President Randy Levine said it met his smell test.
"Both teams thought they improved through this,'' Levine said. "That's what trades are all about.''
Levine sometimes has complained about teams receiving revenue sharing money without trying to improve their on-field product, and the Marlins could operate with a bottom-tier payroll — below $50 million — if they receive only right-hander Henderson Alvarez, shortstop Yunel Escobar and five prospects from the Blue Jays. But he said he believes the deal fits within the rules.
"There's a collective bargaining agreement,'' Levine said. "As far as I understand, everybody is following the rules.''
Loria spent his day declining interviews.
In the lobby of the hotel, he waved away a Tribune reporter.
"Not today,'' he said, raising his hands as he walked away. "Not today.''
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman wrote that Marlins "people'' are pointing to Guillen, the former White Sox manager, as being most responsible for the team deciding to sell off its talent. His pro-Fidel Castro comments in Time magazine and a 69-93 finish on the field contributed to the team finishing 18th in the majors in attendance, with an average crowd of 27,400.
"We finished last,'' Loria told Heyman in the one short interview he did. "Figure it out. … We have to take a new course.''
Selig was not speaking about Loria later when he told reporters he respects "persistence and tenacity.'' I can't believe Selig would have worked so hard alongside Loria if he knew how quickly the New York art dealer was going to cut and run when his plan didn't pay immediate dividends.
The commissioner is being left with a black eye for his troubles on Loria's behalf, and I'm really not sure there's much he can do about it.