Since springtime, Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, 54, has been the most beleaguered man in professional sports. Last week, using his "best interests of baseball" powers, he ordered realignment of the National League when it expands next year. The Chicago Cubs promptly sued him. Earlier he had called in three executives of the New York Yankees to discuss their testimony on behalf of Steve Howe, a pitcher expelled for cocaine abuse; suspensions seemed to loom for the executives. The players' union then accused Vincent of possible intimidation. Before that, there were disputes over George Steinbrenner and foreign ownership of the Seattle Mariners. All this even before the All-Star break. In his Park Avenue office last week, Vincent spoke with NEWSWEEK'S David A. Kaplan.
I am told that I'm the first commissioner ever to use the word tsoris.
There's been a little tsoris around here. I think it goes with the territory.
No, to the extent I thought about it. One of the lessons I'm learning-and it's a painful one-is how confrontational and litigious all American life is. I see in my own responsibilities how difficult it is to get decisions accepted without litigation, without some ultimate review.
I'm not sure. Maybe this office could avoid some problems, but not very many. One of the most difficult for me was allocating among club owners the $190 million expansion fee in the National League. I really tried very hard to force the owners to make that decision. They couldn't or wouldn't. It was a decision that cost me relationships with a number of owners.
Of course, although within the baseball history I've read, the intention was to give the commissioner unbridled authority. That's the way it was phrased. The issue isn't so much the power, but the wise use of it. I'm not going to discuss the realignment question because it's in court.
This authority should be used very, very sparingly. It's the sort of issue where the leagues and ownership really want to determine it. No group of owners has chine to me and asked me to change it. I'm not looking for these issues.
I think a commissioner could do it. I would not do it. I don't think it's the kind of issue that really goes to the heart of baseball's interests.
The line I like about power is Edward Bennett Williams's as he was dying. Someone was teasing him about all the power and influence he had in Washington. And he said, "Power? I'm about to meet real power."
He knew who he was going to see.
I certainly could have done a lot better. My procedure could have been more graceful, but my point was legitimate. I have no problem with someone testifying. But we all have to be aware that taking views that are matters of conscience that are in conflict with our employers--might cost us our employment in a rare case.
Because they got the point. Talking to them was a matter of making sure they understood.
I don't know. But it's not unlike a college presidency where there is a limited, finite term of efficiency, and then you should let someone else do the job.
I like Justice [Antonin] Scalia's quote, "What's a smart guy like me doing in a place like this?"
I'll read you a recent entry: 4:30 p.m. Off to Yankee Stadium for a game. I need some baseball to improve my mental health.