Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig has set January 2015 as the date he will step aside from the job he has held for over two decades.
“It remains my great privilege to serve the game I have loved throughout my life,” Selig said, according to mlb.com. “Baseball is the greatest game ever invented, and I look forward to continuing its extraordinary growth and addressing several significant issues during the remainder of my term.”
Selig started out as the acting commissioner in 1992 but had that interim tag removed as he officially became the ninth commissioner in 1998. What were the accomplishments and failures of his tenure?
Labor Peace. After the resolution of the crippling 1994-1995 strike that saw the cancellation of the ’94 World Series, MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association have enjoyed unprecedented cooperation. By the time the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016, MLB will have enjoyed over two decades of labor peace.
Interleague play. Started in 1997, Interleague Play allowed American League and National League teams to play each other during the regular season. Crosstown rivals in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles could now meet on an annual basis. Once concentrated into a few select weeks before the All-Star Game, Interleague Play now occurs throughout the season because, as of 2013, there are an odd number of teams in each league.
Wild Card format. Selig realigned the leagues into three divisions each and added the Wild Card to the playoffs, keeping more cities involved in the pennant races longer into the season. In 2012 he added a second Wild Card team for each league.
Internet and MLB Advanced Media. The commissioner created MLB Advanced Media which encompasses MLB.com. This Internet site has been a wonderful resource for baseball fans.
Careful expansion. During his time at the helm, Selig has overseen the Colorado Rockies, Florida (now Miami) Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Rays) joining MLB.
World Baseball Classic. Selig helped launch and promote this event. Although the U.S. has not fared well in the three competitions held so far and U.S. fan support for the WBC has been lukewarm at best, the event has been very popular internationally.
Stringent drug-testing policy. Baseball now has as tough a drug-testing policy as any major professional sport. In 2013, MLB implemented random off-season blood testing for HGH and set up baseline testosterone levels to more accurately test for synthetic and elevated levels of this male hormone. Of course, MLB’s drug-testing program did not start until 2005, and this will come up under the failures.
Opening of new ballparks. Under Selig’s watch, 20 clubs moved into new stadiums, according to mlb.com. Many of these teams replaced hideous artificial-turf fields with beautiful grass fields. These well-maintained grass fields save wear and tear on ballplayers’ bodies, especially their knees.
Great on diversity and civil rights issues. When the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier was celebrated on April 15, 1997, it was astounding how many African American players were unfamiliar with who Robinson was. Selig recognized that Robinson’s achievement was perhaps the defining moment in baseball’s history, and that so many black and Latin players owe their major league careers to what Robinson was able to successfully endure. Selig started the practice of honoring the legendary Dodgers star each year by having Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 in which all clubs wear number 42, and by having all teams retire the number 42. This was grandfathered in and Mariano Rivera is the last player to wear number 42.
Exponential growth. According to cbssports.com, MLB’s revenues soared from $1.2 billion in 1992 to $7.5 billion in 2013. In addition, baseball has set numerous attendance records over the past decade.
For the failures, shortcomings and the conclusion and overall letter grade, please see “Bud Selig, Great or Lousy Baseball Commissioner? Part Two.”