Friday, December 01, 2006

Hit the Road, Bud (Why Wait until 2009)

Bud Selig recently announced that he is considering stepping down from his role as MLB Commisioner when his contract ends in 2009. In preparation for this event a short three years from now, he is already desperately trying to spin his own legacy in the press. We wish him no luck in this absurd endeavor.

Consider the points that he cites (on his own behalf) to ESPN in this article:

  • he has “changed the economic landscape” as revenues have grown for the sport;
  • he has ushered in a new labor deal;
  • he has introduced the world to the new World Baseball Classic;
  • he will have served for the second-longest tenure of any commissioner.

  • Selig is nothing short of the lamest commissioner in MLB's history. It is ridiculous how early he wants to start his spin campaign, but we feel the need to balance this against some of the myriad issues that he has chosen to avoid:

  • television ratings have hit a new all-time low;
  • the steroid abuse issue is nowhere close to resolution (and Selig’s steps toward addressing this have either been smokescreens (a la George Mitchell’s involvement) or complete avoidance (as in not addressing Barry Bonds’ tainted ascent toward 755 HRs);
  • baseball is at further risk of losing its relevancy, if not just its position as the “national pastime.”

  • Remember, when Selig was hired as an interim commissioner back in 1992, he was still the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, a conflict that he only resolved after removing the word “interim” from his own title six years later—when he “sold” the team to his daughter Wendy. It is without surprise, then, that players distrusted Selig from the start as being a shill of the owners’ consortium--a distrust which boiled over when manifesting itself in 1994 when Selig presided over the baseball strike which ultimately canceled the World Series for the first time since 1904.

    Selig has seen some attendance gains and revenue gains, but this is as much due to gimmicks like the introduction of interleague play (an interesting concept which has arguably outlived its stay or deserves to be ratcheted to less frequent status), a well as luck in creating favorable postseason matchups (Yankees/Mets in 2000; Red Sox and White Sox winning titles in 2004 and 2005). The “parity” that baseball claims to have now is driven by the introduction of another Selig gimmick, the Wild Card, which admittedly is a great element to be added to baseball from an excitement-generating perspective, but dilutes the value of the regular season by giving wild card teams just as easy a path to the title as another division winner. Let’s face it, the Royals still have no chance to win the World Series in 2007, just as they had no chance in 1992.

    Selig’s inability to meaningfully address the key controversies surrounding baseball exemplify his poor decision-making capacity, demonstrating his lack of leadership. This is consistent with his famous “shrug” during the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, which “ended” in a 7-7 tie when Selig could not make a decision to resolve the game in a way consistent with hundred-year-old baseball traditions.

    Baseball, with all of its pageantry and history and inherent excitement and tension with every pitch, is a wonderful sport that will continue to have resonance in America for years to come. But it has thrived in the last 14 years in spite of Selig, and not because of him.

    Selig may be trying on his own to re-spin his legacy as baseball commissioner, but make no mistake that he will be remembered for his conflict of interest, issue avoidance, and poor leadership. Hopefully, in his retirement, he can return to what he did before baseball, a job more fitting for a man with his character attributes—running used car dealerships.


    Orel said...

    Heh heh, you said "tainted ascent."