Spoiler: probably not. In an article running today in the LA Times and various outlets, Bill Shaikin explores the role of the commissioner's office in the McCourt divorce. Selig is reportedly "dismayed at the public spectacle surrounding the divorce and concerned about the potential for lasting damage to the league and its flagship West Coast franchise." Well, yeah. You're certainly not alone there, Commish.
Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and [a special committee].That, of course, is not Bud Selig on the Dodgers' ownership situation. That was the Commissioner on the expansion of replay in baseball following the Galarraga/Joyce catastrophe in June. Just over a month later, Selig announced he was "comfortable" with the current system and would not hasten to make any sweeping changes. This is what Commissioner Selig does, especially on this long eve of retirement. He commissions studies. He taps committee thinking. He deliberates.
Proactive intervention has never been Selig's strength, and this has largely been to the game's benefit. To insert himself in the Dodgers' ownership situation would open a can of worms he can't hope to close by the end of his tenure in 2012. Yes, he could lean on Frank to settle or sell, wielding those intangible powers most often discussed when it comes to All Star Game venue selection. But I'm not sure we've ever seen that work. The Kansas City Royals will host the 2012 All Star Game, and--while this looks like a thing of the past--the Royals have been arguably the worst organization in the game during Selig's time in office.
So what else could Selig do? Maybe he invokes that bizarre "best interests of baseball" clause found in the MLB Constitution. Yes, that'd be a pretty effective way to force the McCourts out of the Dodgers. But, as Fay Vincent notes in Shaikin's article, "Nobody will want to buy into baseball if the commissioner can get upset and move to take away" a franchise. And there are other risks, too: you can bet that Frank McCourt, nothing if not comfortable with litigation, would sue the bejesus out of Major League Baseball the second Selig meddled.
And, of course, there's a bigger matter for another day: that delicious exemption from the nation's antitrust laws baseball enjoys despite a complete incongruity with the rest of the system. While it's pretty far-fetched to suggest that forcing Frank McCourt out of the Dodgers would lead to the revocation of Baseball's exemption, is it even worth taking the risk? Yes, the McCourt situation is ugly. And yes, this could go on for a long time. And yes, it'll probably get worse before it gets better.
But all of those things are equally true in the case of MLB intervention. The fallout would be hideous. It would take forever. And it would probably hurt the game and the Dodgers in the short term. So my guess is that Commissioner Selig will do what he's always done: sit back and let the situation play out. In some ways, that tactic has made him the most successful commissioner in the sport's history; the game exploded under his watch. Of course, so did home run totals, and that's going to be a big part of Selig's legacy, as well. Deliberately letting things play out is, for better or worse, Selig's M.O., and there's little reason to expect that to change now.