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Baseball Insider

Berkman whiffs on extortion claim against Selig

Cardinals star Lance Berkman is a smart man. But he may want to look up the word "extortion." And maybe also take back the bad thing he said about baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Berkman, the ex-Astros player and Houston product, told Scott Miller of CBSSports.com and one other media outlet that Selig used "extortion" to get new Astros owner Jim Crane to move the team to the American League. But in reality, what occurred was a business transaction between Selig and Crane. Selig agreed to lower Crane's price for the Astros by $50 million to get him to move the team out of the National League.

But Berkman told Miller about the whole deal: "I hate it. I feel like basically the commissioner extorted Jim Crane into moving the Astros." Berkman went on to say that if Selig called him, he would use that very word: extortion.

"Yeah, because I think that's exactly what it was: "We're going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agree to the switch,''' Berkman said.

In case Berkman's interested, the definition I like best of "extortion'' is this: the unlawful obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear.''

Well, Berkman went 0 for 3 here. What Selig did wasn't unlawful, it wasn't wrongful and he didn't perform or threaten force, violence or fear. No, Selig actually authorized a $50 million discount for Crane to entice him to move. Berkman is a nice man, and he went to Rice University (so he's no dummy), but the next time he suggests anyone used extortion, he may want to consider whether there was illegality, force, violence or fear involved.

Selig was acting in the interest of the owners and players (though the union) who all wanted an equal 15-15 split of teams in the leagues, and he didn't threaten Crane with any of those terrible things. It's true the deal might not have gotten done had Crane not agreed to move the team for $50 million, but that was Crane's call. And let's not forget Crane got a lowered price. Next time Berkman might also want to consider that a person doing the extorting is traditionally the one extracting the property (or money, in this case), not the one who is handing it over.

At Astros camp, Crane agreed extortion wasn't the right word. He said, "I'd say it was just a business deal that got renegotiated."

That's a long way from extortion, Lance.


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