Sep 26, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT
We’ve been hearing that Bud Selig would retire after 2014 for some time. But given how many times he’s backed off on retirement promises, it’s never been the smart bet to believe it. Now that it’s official, however, I think we can finally say that we’re done with Bud Selig after next year.
So: how did the old man do for the past 20 years or so?
The snap judgments will be pretty black or white, I figure. Quotes from people in and around the game about how Selig was the best commissioner of all time and the most wonderful thing since sliced bread. Columns and blog posts (and especially comments to blog posts) from people who think Selig was the antichrist. All of these will contain a kernel of truth to support their thesis and all will ignore the things which don’t.
And that’s the thing about Selig: he defies such decisive characterization. He was an amazing credit to the game at times and a gigantic source of consternation at others. Which is something you might expect for a guy who held any tough job for a couple of decades during which serial challenges came his way.
Bud Selig’s failures have been exceedingly high-profile and photo-worthy. He came onto the scene in what was more or less a coup against then-Commissioner Fay Vincent and quickly found himself embroiled in labor strife which led to the 1994-95 strike. Indeed, his ascent as commissioner was in part because he was head of the hawkish faction of owners who wanted to take a hard line with players over pocketbook issues. Later he presided over moves which rankled the purists: interleague play. Realignment. All manner of shenanigans with the All-Star Game. And, in his final years, the introduction — albeit the painfully protracted introduction — of instant reply.
Most notable among his mistakes in the game — and they remain mistakes no matter how much he attempts to wish them away via his pleading of ignorance — is the explosion of performance-enhancing drug use during his tenure. Whatever the reasons for their introduction to baseball, the league and the clubs were blind to PED use, often willfully so, for years and years. A big reason for this: baseball had other priorities such as its ultimately failed efforts to impose a salary cap or otherwise bust the union. And even if it tried to address PED use the league’s collusion against free agents in the 1980s destroyed any trust that existed between the players and the league. Collusion that was, in large part, orchestrated by Selig and like-minded owners. So no, Selig did not make any player take PEDs, but he did much to keep the league from addressing the problem.
But there’s a funny thing about all of Selig’s controversies and failures: he learned from them. Basically all of them. And from them he enacted measures which made things better than they were before.
While he was co-author of the labor apocalypse of the mid 90s, he has presided over labor peace since 1995. People forget that we came a day or two away from another strike in 2002 but it was ultimately averted. In large part because Selig lived the previous strike, learned from it and decided to pull back from the brink. Since 2002 it has been totally smooth sailing.
The same goes for PEDs. He and Major League Baseball were late to the party, sure, but once it became impossible to hide or ignore the problem Selig, with the help of a finally-amenable union, enacted drug testing. Drug testing which, despite its imperfections, stands as the most stringent in American team sports. While at times there has been amnesia and, in the view of some, grandstanding on the issue from the Commissioner’s office — most recently in the Biogenesis scandal — it cannot be denied that Selig presided over a sea change in baseball’s view of performance-enhancing drugs. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Bud Selig could forge a peace with the union and work to rid the game of PEDs.
Finally, one cannot ignore the fact that Selig did the one job he was tasked to do above all others: make money for the owners and build the game of baseball.
Baseball has grown tremendously under his watch, both from a business perspective and, in my view, in terms of the product on the field. The money flowing into the game via media rights deals are insane. While we fret about attendance around the margins, the fact remains that the days when teams near the bottom of the league averaged four-figure crowds a night — days which weren’t too terribly long ago — are but a memory. While we can quibble with the method of funding for all of those new ballparks, all of those new ballparks fundamentally changed the nature of the game-going experience. Going out to a ballgame is no longer the province of men who smell like beer and cigars and some larger family crowds on the weekend. Ballparks are filled all week with both hardcore fans and casual fans, all of whom pump tons of money into Major League Baseball’s coffers.
Maybe that bugs you, but never forget: baseball is a business, not a public trust. And Bud Selig is a CEO, basically, not a public official tasked with making you happy. He has done the job he was hired to do quite well, thank you.
Selig is far from perfect. And his blackest mark as Commissioner — the 1994-95 strike — may be a sin for which he does not deserve ultimate absolution. But one need only look at what’s going on in other sports or to imagine an alternate history in which some of baseball’s other owners took control in the early 90s like Selig did, to see how much worse things could have gone.
Bud Selig’s legacy is complicated, as anyone’s who has held his job for as long as he has would be. But on the whole he has been a good commissioner with some bad marks, not a bad commissioner with some good points. And when he goes into the Hall of Fame next year or whenever that happens, it will be well-deserved. For even if you don’t like Bud Selig, you cannot deny the mark he has made on the game of baseball.
Sep 17, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Brewers intend to exercise their half of a $14 million mutual option on Aramis Ramirez for the 2015 season. But will the veteran third baseman exercise his half?
Sep 17, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT
His worst career slump remains 0-for-32 in 2004.
Sep 17, 2014, 8:23 PM EDT
Carlos Beltran has been excused from the Yankees to deal with a private family matter, according to MLB.com beat reporter Bryan Hoch, with manager Joe Girardi saying Wednesday afternoon that the veteran will be given “as much time as he needs.”
Sep 17, 2014, 7:49 PM EDT
Sep 17, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT
Watch as Matt Duffy smacks this pinch-hit two-run single in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday at Arizona’s Chase Field to put the Giants ahead of the Diamondbacks for good …
Sep 17, 2014, 7:19 PM EDT
Raburn parlayed a very productive season in a part-time role with the Indians last year into a two-year deal, but he hit just .200 with four homers and a .547 OPS in 74 games.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:50 PM EDT
After playing fewer than 100 games in each of the previous four years Navarro has had a solid season as Toronto’s primary catcher, hitting .282 with 12 homers and a .734 OPS in 131 games at age 30.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT
As first reported by Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM, the Cardinals have cleared right-hander Michael Wacha to return to the starting rotation this Saturday evening against the visiting Reds.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT
Perkins had a 2.44 ERA with just two homers allowed and a 64/9 K/BB ratio in his first 55 innings, but in his last eight appearances he’s given up 10 runs–including five homers–in 6.1 innings for a 14.21 ERA and .429 opponents’ batting average.
Sep 17, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Stanton, who hit .288 with a league-leading 37 homers and a league-leading .950 OPS before the injury, will end up missing the final 17 games of the season.
Sep 17, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
Forget it, Jake. It’s Colorado.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:51 PM EDT
After a solid first half Teixeira has batted .179 with 43 strikeouts in 42 games since the All-Star break.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Still not as bad as his golf swing.
Sep 17, 2014, 3:53 PM EDT
Good to see MLB make the smart call and suspend Stroman for headhunting.
Sep 17, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
The Nationals starters are getting a breather today.
Sep 17, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Altuve is on pace for the most hits in a season since …
Sep 17, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Pedants of the World Unite!
Sep 17, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
This year he hit .264 with nine homers and a .767 OPS in 99 games, including 47 starts at catcher.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
He’ll mash lefties (hopefully) and play some first base.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Despite playing for five different teams and in general not being particularly valuable Delmon Young is headed to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
- Michael Wacha cleared to return Saturday vs. Reds 0
- Marlins officially shut down Giancarlo Stanton for the season 4
- Umpire Joe West suspended for one game for his part in the Jonathan Papelbon incident 53
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 83
- Jose Altuve breaks Craig Biggio’s franchise record, tallying his 211th hit of the season 12
- Orioles beat Blue Jays to clinch AL East title 38
- Tanner Roark dominates as Nationals clinch NL East 22
- Masahiro Tanaka to pitch on Sunday 11
- Chris Davis suspended 25 games for amphetamine use (92)
- Giancarlo Stanton diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and dental damage (91)
- Bud Selig can’t remember the last domestic violence incident in Major League Baseball (88)
- A couple of initial thoughts on the Chris Davis suspension (83)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (83)