Bodley: Commish creates camaraderie
GMs glad to exchange ideas with Selig at Owners' Meetings
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Bud Selig didn't invite baseball's general managers to the Arizona desert just so they could escape the bitter cold that's gripping much of the country.
No, the Commissioner is wise enough to know that, yes, team owners sign the checks, but it's the GMs whose decisions affect the health of the game, not to mention the product on the field.
It was that reasoning which prompted Selig for the first time to bring the GMs to this week's quarterly Owners' Meetings at the exotic Sanctuary Resort on the foot of picturesque Camelback Mountain.
The GMs' session Wednesday with the commish lasted four hours, and just for good measure they stayed behind close doors for another hour after he left for an Executive Council meeting.
Mum was the word as far as details were concerned when GMs, owners and other Major League suits hurried off to a lavish dinner. There was no mistaking, though, the camaraderie the day had created.
"It's the first time the Commissioner has ever had a meeting with just the GMs," Selig said on his way to dinner. "It was a very constructive meeting. What was interesting was the sharing of ideas on various things from general managers representing different kinds of clubs. It was fascinating."
The GMs I spoke with said they were elated for the opportunity to have a give-and-take with Selig. And to see first-hand how their bosses conduct these meetings four times a year.
"These are the guys who're on the ground, managing the industry and being able to feed back to him [Selig] directly was very beneficial," said former Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz, now team president. "I don't know what it was that prompted him to do this, but it was a good idea. It was stimulating for the entire industry."
No one would even hint to this, let alone confirm it, but if I'd been a mouse in that room, I'm certain Selig talked about baseball economics. He has a way of making his strong feelings known on this subject. In fact, it might have topped his agenda.
Sure, instant replay might have come up, umpiring, controversial open dates in the postseason, etc., etc., but knowing the Commissioner as well as I do, he'd never bring this group together without talking about money -- and that includes bonuses paid during the First-Year Player Draft.
"I encouraged them to speak candidly, because it was a meeting between them and myself," Selig said. "I want to keep it that way."
My guess is, without being specific, he talked about how player signings affect the entire industry. Some are good, some are foolish and that's probably what he said.
I'll guarantee you he got their attention if he talked about the most important aspect of their positions in this tough economy -- signing players and putting a competitive team on the field.
I asked if he wanted to leave the GMs with a stern message.
"No, I told them this was no different than [sessions] with the owners," Selig said. "The more communication you have and the more they hear each other, the better chance we have to solve problems without a lot of trauma. It's worked for me over the last 18 years well. They were really engaged.
"I'm going to meet with them on a regular basis more than a yearly thing."
Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro, a member of Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters that meets here Thursday, said "the forum for us was tremendous -- the opportunity to communicate on bigger-picture issues and have a great exchange of ideas. To have him consulting with us and soliciting our opinions was uplifting."
Yankees GM Brian Cashman refused to say a session of this type was long overdue, but "you know I've never been invited to Owners' Meetings before, so I cannot say that, but it's just an honor just to have a seat at the table today."
D-backs owner Ken Kendrick feels bringing the GMs in "has to be helpful. The one element we have in any of these meetings to be appropriate is what information that is discussed. We have a competitive environment that we have to be sensitive to and a relationship with the Players Association. There's a level of partnership, but we are competitors. We can only exchange information that is non-competitive."
Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said "to be able to get together with the other GMs in one room and the Commissioner ... we never get to do that. It was a day well-spent. Bud solicited opinions -- it was informative and conversational, kind of a state-of-the-state of our game."
D-backs GM Josh Byrnes said Selig "obviously was there to give us direction, but also to hear our voices. The GMs certainly respect him."
Selig believes bringing the general managers to sessions with owners "is a good format. The GMs should be involved in all this. They ought to hear a lot of things the owners hear."
And that's what they did Wednesday -- straight from the Commissioner's mouth.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.