In the first part of this article we looked at Bud Selig’s accomplishments. Now for his shortcomings.
World Series cancelled. Not even World War II had caused the cancellation of the World Series. The Fall Classic started in 1903, and after no World Series in 1904, due to the stubbornness of John McGraw, continued without interruption from 1905. However, during Selig’s watch, a strike by players in August 1994 was not resolved in time to save the ’94 World Series, and the string was broken. Baseball did not recover from the debilitating strike for several years.
Considered contraction. Selig strongly considered dropping two franchises from baseball. At the top of the chopping block list were the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals). Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington are potentially two very strong areas for MLB, and it’s a good thing this contraction did not occur.
Elimination of league presidents. The AL and NL presidents allowed power to be diffuse in baseball. Predating the creation of a commissioner, the league presidents had a traditional role to play and served as intermediaries between the owners and players and the commissioner’s office. Halting those posts concentrated more power and authority with the commissioner.
Late to address PEDs. By the late 1990s, the use of PEDs was quite prevalent in MLB. But as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa waged an assault on the single-season home run record in 1998, baseball conveniently looked the other way. The power game and the big sluggers were aiding baseball in its recovery from the 1994-95 strike, but no one can reasonably believe the owners and league office were unaware of what was going on. It was as if they were not about to bite the hand feeding them and resuscitating the game. Only after Barry Bonds shattered cherished records for season slugging percentage, on-base percentage, homers and walks did baseball’s management finally emerge from its slumber and start to crack down on the users of steroids and other PEDs. It was too little too late as far as the record book is concerned.
No salary cap hurts competitive balance. Because the NBA, NFL and NHL have salary caps, their teams can financially compete with one another. Poor organizations can still be mired in mediocrity, but they at least have similar resources to work with. Although baseball has a luxury tax on high payrolls and a revenue-sharing plan, there is still no salary cap and small-market teams are at a distinct disadvantage. For example, after losing Barry Bonds to free agency in 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates went from 1993 thru 2012 without even once having a winning season. Fans of the Pirates can again embrace a winning team in 2013, but it’s amazing anyone stayed interested in a franchise that went through such a long drought. If there had been a salary cap limiting the spending of the big-market teams, the Pirates probably would have done better over those two lost decades.
All-Star Game winner awarded home-field advantage. In recent years the league that wins the All-Star Game is given the home-field advantage in the World Series. This may give the Midsummer Classic more meaning by having more at stake in the outcome, but it conflicts with the intention of the game as an exhibition where managers try to use as many players as possible.
Dragging feet on instant replay. MLB lags behind other professional sports leagues when it comes to reviewing and reversing erroneous calls. Although baseball fears further delaying an already slow game, many obviously bad calls can be corrected quickly without adding much to the length of game. When technology is readily available but not used to correct such glaring blunders as umpire Jim Joyce ruling a runner safe at first base and costing pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, as happened in 2010, baseball’s integrity is called into question. Baseball’s incremental approach to expanded use of replay has often left it the laughingstock of pro sports.
Grading Commissioner Selig. As he enters his final year as baseball commissioner in 2014, Selig has enhanced the prestige of the office and has had a very distinguished run. Baseball made great progress and reached new heights under his leadership. However, not getting a handle on the steroid era sooner and delaying instant replay undermined the history and integrity of the game. Overall Selig deserves a B+ and a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.