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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Bud Selig's Conflict Of Interest And How He Has Profited 

Bud Selig has been quoted time and time again, stating unequivocally that his (oh, my mistake -- his wife's and family's) ownership of the Milwaukee Brewers in no way has influenced his course of action as Major League Baseball's commissioner. Now he's (sorry again -- his wife and family are) looking for a buyer for the club, in order to finally, after all these years, rid the Commissioner's Office of this Texas-sized conflict of interest. Better late than never, I say.

Selig has also gone on the record many times, outlining the vast financial woes of his family's Milwaukee Brewers. One of the biggest problems facing the Brewers (as well as the White Sox) is that their geographical fan base is already partly spoken for by another club, the Chicago Cubs. To their credit, the Brewers club has made every effort to "convert" these Cubs fans living in Wisconsin, albeit to a very limited degree of success.

Selig was presented a golden opportunity to improve the fortunes of the Brewers in 1998, the first year of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The addition of these two new teams presented a difficult dilemma for Major League Baseball. Both the National and American Leagues already had an even number of teams (fourteen each), meaning every team could play on any given day. Adding one team to each league would mean at least one team in each league would be off on every day of the schedule. Furthermore, adding both teams to one league or the other would have the undesirable effect of thinning the overall talent of one league with respect to the other. In an effort to spread the initial dilution of talent to both leagues, it was decided that each league would get one new team, and one existing American League team would move to the National League. Selig selected his Brewers to be that team.

Prior to 1998, the American League Milwaukee Brewers hosted the locally popular National League Chicago Cubs in exactly zero regular-season games each season. In 2004, the Brewers are scheduled to host the Cubs ten times, a direct result of the Brewers' league change, and of the recent "unbalanced schedule," a Selig-backed policy by which a team plays its own divisional opponents more often then their non-divisional foes. These contests with Chicago have resulted in an attendance spike of 12,000 additional fans per game (when compared with attendance figures for games in which Milwaukee hosted other teams), earning Selig's family a gain in ticket revenues of approximately $6.7 million over the last six seasons (1998-2003).

Average price of a Brewers ticket (according to Team Marketing Report, as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):
1998: $10.28
1999: $11.55
2000: $11.72
2001: $18.12 (1st season at Miller Park)
2002: $17.63
2003: $16.86

Average attendance of a Brewers-Cubs game in Milwaukee (all attendance figures derived from USAtoday.com's season attendance figures and daily box scores):
1998: 47,010
1999: 38,290
2000: 29,154
2001: 35,990
2002: 30,126
2003: 32,572

Average attendance of a Brewers home game against all other opponents:
1998: 20,393
1999: 19,181
2000: 18,649
2001: 34,583 (1st season at Miller Park)
2002: 23,491
2003: 19,897

By adding the Cubs to the Brewers' home schedule, Selig has directly and immediately created additional revenue for his ballclub in a way that other owners who don't happen to be Commissioner of Major League Baseball are unable to do. Other teams certainly benefit from the unbalanced schedule (the Yankees and Red Sox immediately come to mind), and I suppose the realignment of the divisions has helped many clubs as well. But Bud Selig is full of crap when he says that his family's ownership of the Brewers never has never been a factor in his decisions.

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