Marge Schott can walk her dog around the ballpark. She can slide behind her desk in the Cincinnati Reds owner's office. She can head down to her front-row seat to watch the game and sign autographs.
The deal Schott cut with major-league baseball Wednesday gives her much more freedom than her last suspension, but much less power - at least, in theory.Schott agreed to let someone else become the team's chief executive officer through the 1998 season, relinquishing all day-to-day decisions. Her authority consists of approving the budget and being consulted about negotiations for a new stadium.
"She will not have any day-to-day operational control of the Reds," acting commissioner Bud Selig said.
Schott's suspension in 1993 for using racial slurs was more confining on the surface. Schott was not allowed to go into the Reds' offices - her door was locked the entire season - nor go onto the field. She couldn't sit in the stands for the first month.
The agreement Wednesday allows her complete freedom of movement. She can even take Schottzie 02 on the field, one of her favorite things about being an owner.
"That's a serious question," Selig said, when asked about the dog on the field. "I'm not sure anyone has really contemplated it. . . . She does have access to those areas."
Instead, the latest punishment is intended to cut into her management authority.
Schott's right-hand man, controller John Allen, will run the team for up to 60 days while another CEO is sought. Allen is not likely to do anything different that Schott would.
"I've heard he's an extension of Marge Schott," shortstop Barry Larkin said.
The questions will begin when Allen's successor is chosen by mutual agreement:
- How much authority will the CEO have?
"We can guarantee that this person is going to be a CEO," Selig said. "This is a situation that (National League president) Len Coleman will monitor very, very closely."
There could be problems. Schott still gets to approve the budget, so what happens if she doesn't like what the new CEO is doing? Will her mere presence in the administrative offices undercut her successor?
And if she's on the field, in the office and in the stands speaking her mind, won't she still be running the show?
"Being able to go to baseball games and having an office, while an accommodation, is a long way from being CEO of anything, let alone a baseball team," Selig said.
- What does this mean for the team's finances?
Schott ordered general manager Jim Bowden to start cutting the payroll this season. More payroll cuts were expected next year.
The uncertainty over what happens now has some of the players on edge.
"There's a lot of speculation on what may happen," Larkin said. "We heard (speculation) that everybody's going to get traded, they were going to just cut payroll. We've heard all kind of things. We just have to wait and see what happens."
- What role will Schott play in building a baseball stadium?
Hamilton County voters approved a sales-tax hike in March to build a baseball-only stadium. The county has been negotiating with the Reds, primarily through Allen.
The agreement gives Schott only an advisory role.
"She can be consulted in those negotiations, on the construction and location of the stadium, but that's it," Selig said.
County officials have not received any financial commitment from Schott - a necessary component before construction begins. There's not even an agreement on where the stadium should be built or what it should look like.
"I don't see this representing any change for the immediate future," county commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said. "I see John Allen still being there. I think we need to get a handle on what kind of authority John Allen has and what his replacement has. And we'll work through this."
- What if Schott doesn't live up to the agreement?
She violated terms of her 1993 suspension at least twice, by putting a message to fans on the video board on opening day and by passing a note to manager Davey Johnson during a game.
On both occasions, the National League decided only to remind her of the terms of her suspension.
Policing this agreement, which gives her much wider latitude, could be much harder. What happens if she publicly second-guesses the CEO? What if the outspoken owner tries to influence employees - some of whom are loyal to her - to do things her way?
"That's hypothetical," Selig said, adding that baseball will monitor the situation.
- Will the turmoil that has followed the team finally disappear?
Major league baseball thinks so.
"What we've done today we believe is in the best interests of that franchise and all the people involved," Selig said. "Hopefully, this action will now allow people to move on with their lives and not have this cloud hanging over their heads."
Others aren't so sure.
"I don't know if there ever will be a finality to the black eyes that this organization continues to produce," Larkin said.