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Today's quiz:
Who are Judge, Happy, Ford, Spike, Bowie, Peter, Doc, Fay and Buddy?

a) The Nine Dwarfs
b) What you sometimes call your favorite body part
c) Commissioners of major league baseball
d) All of the above

If you answered d), you're a little closer to understanding the problem with our national pastime. Baseball hasn't had a commissioner whose name, much less his performance, is worthy of respect since the first, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis -- and he was a capricious tyrant who wanted nothing to do with integration.

A.B. Chandler was a former Kentucky governor and senator who was as hapless as he was happy, although he did have something to do with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.

Ford Frick was a former sportswriter, for land's sake, who continued to ghost for the Babe right through 1961.

General William "Spike" Eckert had a shorter shelf life than Timo Perez.

Bowie Kuhn was a tall, patrician lawyer who ended up hiding out from bankruptcy in Florida.

Olympic maestro Peter Ueberroth was the architect of collusion, a rather costly defeat for the owners.

Had he lived long enough, A.B. Giamatti -- two commishes named A.B. is a little like having two major league pitchers named Jeff D'Amico -- might have been as strong as David Stern, and just as insufferable.

Francis T. Vincent, famous for greenlighting Ishtar, was fair and good, so fair and so good that he sparked an insurrection led by the Milwaukee Brewers owner, man by the name of Allan H. "Bud" Selig.

You may have noticed that none of the first eight commissioners had more than a peripheral background in baseball. Bud, who took over after a little are-you-sure-you-want-me dance, got his start selling cars, but at least had the advantage of a working knowledge of the game.

What's he done with it? I mean, besides presiding over the disastrous work stoppage in 1994. Well, he oversaw the expansion of MLB by four teams to the 30 he now wants to reduce by two. He was behind the home run boom that revived baseball -- or was that Mac, Sammy and Barry? And Bud got a new ballpark built in Milwaukee.

I know what you're thinking: conflict of interest. Hey, just because the commissioner works out of Milwaukee, and his daughter runs the Brewers, doesn't mean he can't have the best interests of the game at heart. On a personal level, I actually like the man, and respect his intelligence and sense of decency.

But that doesn't mean I think he has the vision or stature necessary to be commissioner of baseball. If he did, he wouldn't be risking another work stoppage, or throwing one of the original American League franchises overboard to save the Tampa Bay Deviled Eggs.

Yet we now have him as commish for five more years, thanks to the three years (at No. 2-starter wages) that the owners unanimously tacked onto his current contract.

At his coronation, Bud told us about the sorry state of the game. Contraction is a fait accompli, he said. Teams lost a total of $500 million this year, he said. Ask our creditors, he said.

Just for the sake of argument, let's believe Bud. Now let's ask the owners this: if the head of your monopoly over-expanded, ran up a $500 million debt that necessitated 7% layoffs and ticked off the U.S. Congress, would you ...

a) Dress him up as Bernie Brewer and push him down the slide?
b) Hire an executive search firm to look for another
CEO -- preferably someone whose first name is neither Dopey nor Long John?
c) See if there was a way you could get those incriminating pictures back?
d) None of the above

Whoops. The owners already answered d).

Steve Wulf is executive editor of ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at steve.wulf@espnmag.com.



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