Sep 26, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
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.
Dec 12, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
The Montreal Gazette is reporting that one of Canada’s great cities could once again be a home for a Major League Baseball team as long as a new stadium is built in the downtown area. A study was performed by Ernst and Young and the law firm BCF, which found that it would cost Montreal…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:20 PM EST
Troy Renck of the Denver Post is reporting that the Rockies are close to signing left-handed reliever Boone Logan on a deal believed to be three years in length and around $15 million. The deal will not be finalized until Logan passes a physical. Logan, 29, is an eight-year veteran having spent time with the…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:15 PM EST
MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli confirmed a report that the Orioles have put a multi-year contract offer on the table with free agent closer Grant Balfour. Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports that a team has offered him a third-year vesting option, but it’s not the Orioles. He also adds that the right-hander has a two-year…
Dec 12, 2013, 8:25 PM EST
Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail is reporting that the Royals and Blue Jays have discussed a trade involving first baseman-slash-DH Billy Butler. He clarifies that there has been no movement on a deal beyond the initial discussions, and adds that the Jays would receive prospects along with Butler in such a deal. It’s…
Dec 12, 2013, 7:30 PM EST
Another potential suitor has joined the Omar Infante sweepstakes: the Cincinnati Reds. But, as Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports, they would need to move current second baseman Brandon Phillips first. Recently, the Yankees — sans Robinson Cano — and the Royals have had the strongest links to Infante. As for Phillips, the Reds offered…
Dec 12, 2013, 6:41 PM EST
The Mariners just held a news conference where they introduced new second baseman Robinson Cano after he officially signed his ten-year, $240 million contract. It was your standard presser involving a star player, but Cano and GM Jack Zduriencik both raised some eyebrows with some comments. Via Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune: “I…
Dec 12, 2013, 5:55 PM EST
The Mariners just posted this Vine, showing Robinson Cano adding his signature to his ten-year, $240 million contract with recently-embattled GM Jack Zduriencik to his right and agent Jay-Z behind him. As beard aficionado Aaron Gleeman pointed out earlier, Cano is sporting a nice new beard which would have violated the Yankees’ personal grooming rules.
Dec 12, 2013, 2:50 PM EST
Robinson Cano‘s official introductory press conference in Seattle is today and the Mariners just put out this picture of him wearing No. 22 … and sporting a beard, which was of course banned by the Yankees. Robinson will wear #22 #HelloCano pic.twitter.com/JJ9qKhf3Ct — Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) December 12, 2013 As a locally recognized beard-haver myself,…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:34 PM EST
Remember Kevin Kouzmanoff? He hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, but the Rangers just announced that they’ve signed him to a minor-league contract. Texas also did the same with utility infielders Josh Wilson and Brent Lillibridge, adding some bench options (or Triple-A depth). Kouzmanoff put up some nice power numbers with the Padres early…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:40 PM EST
Free agent right-hander Joba Chamberlain is leaving the Yankees to sign with the Tigers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Buster Olney of ESPN.com says it’s a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski is always looking to add high-velocity arms and despite his struggles Chamberlain averaged 94.7 miles per hour on his…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:10 PM EST
Jay Z lured Robinson Cano away from Scott Boras and then got him a $240 million contract with the Mariners, so naturally Boras took a couple shots at Beyonce’s husband yesterday: It’s very different to be the creator of the umbrella versus those who stand under it. … When you’re bringing the prettiest girl to…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:46 PM EST
Now that the Nationals are out of the left-handed reliever market after finally finding their southpaw yesterday some of the other dominoes can start falling, with Troy Renck of the Denver Post reporting that the Rockies are deep in talks with J.P. Howell. Howell is a soft-tosser, averaging just 87.4 miles per hour with his…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:12 PM EST
Clint Barmes has had back-to-back terrible seasons for the Pirates, hitting a combined .221 with a .579 OPS in 252 games, but Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that Pittsburgh has re-signed the 35-year-old shortstop for $2 million. Obviously the Pirates like Barmes for his defense, which has always been strong, although at age 35 that’s…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:32 AM EST
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is not a fan of the new rule banning home plate collisions. Indeed he’s so incensed that he decided to mock the idea of protecting athletes whose health and career are put at risk as a result of them: One of the game’s biggest stars — Buster Posey —…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:03 AM EST
The Rule 5 draft took place this morning. It’s traditionally the last thing that happens at the Winter Meetings, so there’s a bittersweet element to it I suppose. We all have to go home today. We all get to go home today. It’s like any vacation story I suppose. It’s not a terribly interesting event…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the Marlins have traded outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Cubs for outfielder Brian Bogusevic. Ruggiano was pushed into extended action for the Marlins this year and struggled, hitting just .222 with a .694 OPS in 128 games, but if limited to a part-time role he’s capable of…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Philadelphia has signed right-hander Roberto Hernandez to a one-year contract, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Hernandez–formerly Fausto Carmona before being busted for identity fraud–posted an ugly 4.89 ERA in 151 innings for the Rays this year while being bumped from the rotation. On one hand the Rays not being able to fix a pitcher…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:45 AM EST
Looking to get his career back on track following a terrible season split between two teams, Michael Morse has agreed to a one-year deal with the Giants. Morse got off to a great start this year, but then hit just .201 with five homers and a .584 OPS in 64 games after May 1 while…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:27 AM EST
Both the New York Post and the New York Daily News decided that the best way to announce the Bartolo Colon signing on their back covers was to make fat jokes: Pretty pathetic, guys.
Dec 12, 2013, 9:08 AM EST
Not the biggest surprise in the world given that the M’s added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison yesterday, but: The #Mariners are letting teams know that Jesus Montero, as well as Justin Smoak, are available in trades. — Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 12, 2013 Both would seem to be prime candidates for a change of…
- Robinson Cano agrees to $240 million deal with Mariners (260)
- Not everyone is happy about home plate collisions being taken away (131)
- Report: Yankees have agreed to a three-year deal with Carlos Beltran (125)
- Brett Gardner is drawing “significant” trade interest (113)
- Managers, GMs to meet today to discuss the abolition of home plate collisions (113)