Bud Selig's term as commissioner ends after the 2012 season and he continues to say that he will retire. He knows that not many people believe him, including his wife, Sue.
"It's something I've thought a lot about, and we'll continue to talk about it," Selig said. "I know it's a year from Dec. 31, and there are some people on both sides of the room, starting with my wife, (who) are somewhat skeptical."
Selig is one step closer to being able to walk away, however. He crossed off one of the biggest items on his to-do list when he negotiated a settlement with Frank McCourt to sell the Dodgers, a move Selig believes will put one of his "crown jewel" franchises on solid footing again.
Peter O'Malley, whose sale of the team to Rupert Murdoch in 1998 began the downward spiral that left the Dodgers broke and in many ways in shambles, could be part of a new ownership group. Ditto Mark Cuban, former Dodger legends Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser, and long-time baseball good guy Dennis Gilbert, who once was Jose Canseco's agent and more recently has been an assistant to White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Selig is confident the team will be in new hands by spring training. That means the new ownership group will have a chance to address the decay of Dodger Stadium and begin an attempt to reclaim a Los Angeles fan base that has gravitated toward Angel Stadium in recent years.
Selig is being hailed for his work in getting the team through ugliness of the McCourt divorce. Some blame him for approving McCourt's purchase in the first place but how was he supposed to know how badly McCourt would lose his bearings once he had gained control of the team and seen it advance to the NLCS in 2007 and '08, his third and fourth years of ownership?
Bill Dwyre, the longtime sports editor and now columnist for the Los Angeles Times, in a column Thursday praised Selig as "the toast of the town" for his work in finessing -- and at times strong-arming -- his way through the maze McCourt's insolvency and bull-headedness created.
Dwyre recounted how Selig almost had to interrupt a Tuesday evening speaking appearance to put the finishing details on the agreement with McCourt.
"He was sitting in a banquet room at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, there to make the keynote address at a function sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America, Los Angeles Council," Dwyre wrote. "It was called the Good Character Gala, and Selig's topic was "Character, Leadership and Values." . . . Could it have been more fitting?"
Dwyre speculated Selig forced the settlement by threatening to invoke his "best interest of baseball" powers to force a sale, even though that could have had Major League Baseball in the courts for year.
MLB decided to risk litigation, according to Tribune sources, because it didn't believe McCourt had enough remaining resources to pay for a protracted legal challenge.
"There comes a time in your life as commissioner, when you have to do things, even when there is no great percentage in the certain result," Selig told Dwyre. "I did what had to be done. It was a gamble I had to take. The Dodgers are a legendary franchise."
With the Dodgers no longer an ongoing crisis, Selig can move on to the next items on his list:
Deciding whether to approve Jim Crane as owner of the Astros, or helping Drayton McLane put together a new ownership group if he thinks there is too big of a chance Crane will become the new McCourt, given his controversial history.
Helping the Mets regain their financial footing after Bernie Madoff ripped through Fred Wilpon's holdings.
Finding ways to get the Athletics and Rays the new stadiums they need to survive.
There's plenty there to keep him busy through 2012, and probably for years to come.
Ready and willing: On the third day after Tony La Russa announced his retirement, Chicago talk-radio host Marc Silverman asked him how he was doing.
"Out of work, so getting a little nervous," said La Russa, who had just finished celebrating the Cardinals' World Series upset.
He didn't exactly sound like a man enjoying his newfound freedom. La Russa has talked for years about wanting to stay involved in baseball after he stopped managing, but not in a general manager's role. Yet during the interview on WMVP-AM 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show," he sounded like a guy who wouldn't mind being a decision-maker, if not a GM.
"Retired means you make some ceremonial visits here and there, and you have some kind of title that doesn't mean anything, (a job) where you just show up once and a while," La Russa said. "I like responsibility. I like to wake up in the morning with something to do. I (hope) there's some fit there where hopefully you get an opportunity, then you prove you really are willing to work and you have something to contribute, so you get more of an opportunity. I'm not looking for any favors, just a chance."
White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said he would "love to" hire La Russa in some capacity. But La Russa apparently doesn't see a fit working alongside GM Ken Williams and assistant GM Rick Hahn.
"They're really set up," La Russa said. "That's the problem. ... You don't want to go someplace where they have it already figured out. They have it figured."
Really? A team that has spent $660 million to win one playoff game the last six years has it figured out? A team that has invested heavily in Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy while letting its farm system become the worst in baseball, according to Baseball America?
Still reeling: The Orioles are taking it on the chin because so few highly regarded executives want to be squeezed between owner Peter Angelos and powerful manager Buck Showalter. They thought they had their man in Tony LaCava but the Blue Jays' assistant GM turned down a chance to become general manager, apparently because Angelos didn't want to make some changes he suggested.
Angelos and Showalter are hoping to wrap up an embarrassing process that so far has seen Andrew Friedman, Jerry DiPoto, Rick Hahn and DeJon Watson decline to be interviewed or pulled their names out of consideration. The remaining candidates are Red Sox assistant Allard Baird, Phillies assistant Scott Proefrock, Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette and former Andy MacPhail assistant John Stockstill.
Oppenheimer or Baird would be great choices, but you would think they would come only if they were assured they will have autonomy to do their jobs. The Orioles made strides in improving their farm system under MacPhail but competing against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays contributes greatly toward making this an unattractive proposition.
The last word: "There will be naysayers, but they have been there my whole career." -- 48-year-old Jamie Moyer, who is attempting a comeback after elbow surgery.
The Whispers: Are Cardinals treating Oquendo shabbily?
How can the Cardinals be conducting a manager search when they previously have denied third base coach Jose Oquendo the chance to interview for manager's jobs. You would think Oquendo would be an obvious choice but he's not. Terry Francona is positioned perfectly to get this job as owner Bill DeWitt knows he's going to need star power, especially if Pujols leaves. ... As for thoughts of a Francona-Theo Epstein reunion, that is very unlikely. Francona and Epstein are saying nice things about each other publicly, but that's probably because they are friends, not because they want to continue their relationship. According to some who know Epstein well, the Cubs' president/baseball operations hopes Francona lands on his feet, not in the manager's office at Wrigley Field. ... The White Sox twice played with fire without Paul Konerko burning them, but they long could regret allowing Mark Buehrle to reach free agency. Agent Jeff Berry says Buehrle is open-minded about leaving the White Sox, and his stock is rising with CC Sabathia off the market and C.J. Wilson getting knocked around in the playoffs. ESPN's Keith Law ranks Buehrle sixth in this free-agent class, behind only Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Yu Darvish, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins. The Nationals are among many teams exploring a run at Buehrle. ... Derek Lowe, a release candidate with the Braves before being traded to the Indians, has made 32-plus starts in each of the last 10 seasons. He adds depth to a staff needing it. ... Voting by the Hall of Fame's 16-man Golden Era committee next month will be agonizing, as it's loaded with great candidates. I would vote for Minnie Minoso (whom historian Adrian Burgos Jr. calls the "Latin American Jackie Robinson"), Ron Santo and Gil Hodges, and you can make cases for Luis Tiant, Jim Kaat and Tony Olivo. ... The Cubs' Junior Lake continues to impress in the Arizona Fall League. He doesn't look like the prototypical shortstop -- think Wilson Betemit -- but has played there primarily in the minors. He has a cannon arm, some pop in his bat (12 homers in 116 games between Daytona and Tennessee in 2011) and has become a major base-stealing threat (38 in 44 tries during the regular season, and 16 in 21 Fall League games entering the weekend). Says Baseball America's Jim Callis: "He might have the best infield arm in the entire minors, he has above-average raw power and he's suddenly running wild on the bases this year. He probably winds up moving to third base in the long run because he's so big (6 foot 3, 215 pounds), but he has the tools to profile as an everyday guy there." ... Jamie Moyer, who turns 49 on Nov. 18, has recovered from elbow surgery and wants to pitch somewhere in 2012. Reports on him from a recent tryout were excellent. ... Barring new revelations, look for Jim Crane's purchase of the Astros to be approved at an owners meeting Nov. 17 in Milwaukee.