Bud Selig: The name either inspires anger or approval. There is no gray area for this black and white subject. You either approve or you think he is the worst sports (Any Sport) boss of all time. No vacillating allowed in this conversation.
And we can all discuss the role the baseball commissioner’s office, like why can’t we have an independent office instead of one the shill’s for the owners is one example. But no, we’ll save that for another time. This conversation is about the last 2 decades of Major League Baseball.
A lot has changed during Selig’s tenure: Labor Issues, Finances, The All-Star Game, Interleague Play, Playoffs, Luxury Tax, Revenue Sharing, PED Use, Instant Replay, Realignment, and the dedication of Jackie Robinson Day. There were more things, of course, like contraction, moving the Montreal team to Washington, DC., his role in the Los Angeles Dodger’s ownership case relating to the divorce of the owners, and in during his time, the creation of two new teams, the Diamondbacks and the Rays.
And all along the way, Selig has been a student of the issues, as well as the commissioner. I say that because he learns from his mistakes. And isn’t that a good quality for all of us to have?
I have quibbles here and there about some decisions he’s made, like the All-Star game’s outcome determining the home field advantage in the World Series. But, by and large, I respect this man for doing an overall great job during his time as commissioner. And yes, I consider myself a purist but recognize the need for the sport to evolve in order to prosper. I should also state I miss the late Bart Giamatti and wonder what his tenure would have been like.
And prosper it has. The media revenues are astronomical. With revenue sharing, small market teams are now competitive, which engenders generations of support among youth, which will make the sport’s longevity last infinitely. Add to that the additional playoff teams and you can’t help but notice the prescription for success. Of course, the labor issue in the mid-nineties was very troublesome, but he learned from that and avoided another meltdown in 2002. He learned from his first labor stance what the ramifications of another stoppage would mean for the sport.
During his time 20 new stadiums have been erected, and most are fabulous venues which welcomes families and loyal fans alike to enjoy the game. And the crowds have responded with their own loyalty, as attendance the last 10 years have been the highest in history. The attendance has been inspired by interleague play, as well as the parity the sport now enjoys.
The PED issue is huge. The Mitchell Report, commissioned by Selig, stated that blame is to be shared by all: Commissioner’s office, the union, and the player’s. Certainly, baseball was late in adopting policies against their use, and I understand that this is a very polarizing subject. Even though late, baseball now has the most stringent rules regarding PED use in all of sports. The concern is that the two major cases involving PED’s, BALCO and Biogenesis, were uncovered by the media, not by drug testing. This leaves many to believe that baseball’s policy is toothless. What we have to keep in mind, though, is that Selig is not a dictator, and thus just can’t impose his will on the union and the players. The testing, in my opinion, should be more frequent and the penalties more harsh. And perhaps this will come to pass. But we can’t blame Selig, who, again, learned from his mistakes and is now catching up to address the problem.
Instant replay will be expanded for the 2014 season. I say that’s wonderful, because it’s important to get the calls right. But it remains to be seen if it will endanger the game by turning an already time sensitive situation into an even longer, drawn out affair. In addition, will managers abuse the challenges they will have to give their team an advantage? Certainly, these issues will be monitored and I’m sure the rules will be tweaked until baseball gets it right.
The changes to the game over the last two decades are proof that Selig will enjoy a positive legacy, even though he has many detractors. He will most assuredly enter the Hall of Fame soon. He has left the game in much better shape. It should be said that he sailed through some pretty tough waters, making the game more enjoyable in the process.