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August 20, 2014

The Lineup Card

Seven Epitaphs for Bud Selig's Reign

by Baseball Prospectus


1. Most of what he did worked. Interleague play? Annoyed the traditionalists, made great bank. Wild cards? Annoyed the traditionalists, made great bank. A bunch of new stadiums? Annoyed the traditionalists, made great bank. The sport is in pretty good shape. Not a bad 20 years. —Russell A. Carleton

2. There was divisional play before Bud Selig showed up, but we never saw the meaning of the championship altered like we have in the last two-plus decades. If you look back on Selig's main innovations that concerned the season, each decision weighed the notion that the best team (or at least a great team) would be crowned champion against financial or other concerns. And each time, the meaningful champion lost.

Selig's tenure saw the expansion to six divisions, which can lead to subpar division winners, the addition of a wild card, the reintroduction of the five-game series, the unbalancing of the schedule and the invention of interleague play with different opponents. These all serve to create randomness and decrease the chances of better teams advancing. (The second wild card has effects in both directions on this.)

It's fine to say that this is fine. That sports are about who can win when it's time to win and if you take the randomness out and play a big sample of 162 with a champion at the end, then you're really just having a GM competition. Like it or not, Selig's reign established where baseball stands on this topic. It stands much closer to every other American sport, where everybody's welcome in the playoffs. That's where the money is. —Zachary Levine

3. Allan Huber “Bud” Selig, acting commissioner 1992-1998, commissioner of baseball 1998-2014. He had a complicated tenure that saw a host of good ideas, a series high-profile disasters and a tied All-Star Game in the middle. Selig will perhaps be most remembered for the Steroid Era and the subsequent prosecution of those users while conveniently ignoring the suppliers. Selig’s final legacy is muddled in opinion as we will define him fairly differently person-to-person. For me, it is a legacy that had its few bright spots dimmed by the specter of his failures. —Mauricio Rubio

4. The shrug that bored. The shrug that was ignored would be better, but it wasn't meant to be. Now, we have an All-Star Game that counts. —Harry Pavlidis

5. Most only ever saw him in a collared shirt. It was for the best. —Jeff Quinton

6. He never quite could say, 'Los Angeles'." —Craig Goldstein

7. Bud Selig ruled a sport of hypermasculine hulks, yet himself looked like Bill Gates after a three-week cleanse. He managed an industry that aspired to break into the youth market, yet was so old he might have once had classmates named Adolf. His primary task was to charm two disparate groups of multimillionaires and multibillionaires, to be the cool cat giving them center, yet himself never came off as anything cool, catlike, or remotely likable. That he accomplished so much and leaves the sport so strong should inspire us all. —Sam Miller

Related Content:  Bud Selig,  Major League Baseball,  MLB

28 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

amazin_mess

Zachary Levine NAILED it. Bravo.

Aug 20, 2014 05:02 AM
rating: 6
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

Thank you. However, I think I was a little bit misinformed as to what an epitaph is. -Z

Aug 20, 2014 07:21 AM
 
Mike W
(830)

8. He thought it was the best professional sport, but tried very hard to make it more like the others. He thought the game was wonderful, but publicly ran it down at every opportunity. He loved the fans, but instructed them not to care unless their team had a chance for the playoffs.

Baseball can be enjoyed just because it's baseball. Bud Selig never understood that. He loved the game, but he was a businessman first, second, and third. For better and for worse.

Aug 20, 2014 05:52 AM
rating: 16
 
randolph3030

In his previous career, he was, quite literally, a used car salesman.

Aug 20, 2014 07:54 AM
rating: 1
 
Old School

9. Always playing catch up......never at the forefront. Very little, if any, leadership exhibited to enhance the game.

Aug 20, 2014 06:36 AM
rating: 12
 
timjrohr

"SevIn." Also, lots of labor peace for 20 years, which has been awesome.

Aug 20, 2014 06:40 AM
rating: 2
 
Bryan Cole

Both of these statements are important points. I'm willing to forgive the All-Star Game goofiness if it means celebrating the best labor relations in North American professional sports.

Aug 20, 2014 07:53 AM
rating: 3
 
SamVan

I feel like if you look at MLB relative to other professional sports leagues over the course of Bud's time as commissioner his reign starts to look pretty disastrous. Obviously Michael Jordan isn't Bud's fault, but at this point the NBA and the NFL are clearly more relevant to young fans in a way that was not true at all when Bud took over. He had the advantage of working in a time when there was an enormous expansion of media, ways to reach fans and revenues-- and he didn't mess it up, and everyone made giant piles of money, but he clearly did not handle it nearly as well as the competition.

Epitaph: "Hey, at least we're not hockey."

Aug 20, 2014 07:41 AM
rating: 2
 
darthbilbo

Old school is correct. He was always playing catchup. However, I can't see any senario where young people today really care more about baseball than they do about football and baseball. If Bonds, Sosa and McGwire couldn't do it no one can. The young don't care about steroids just ask the NFL

Aug 20, 2014 08:10 AM
rating: 2
 
gjhardy

"Must have been great at working behind the scenes, because what we saw publicly wasn't much."

His unwillingness to enforce some basic rules -- the actual strike zone, time taken between pitches -- has led to the biggest problem facing baseball: There is too much time between the actual activities on the field. The younger people who are expected to support the game down the road aren't willing to invest 3+ hours a night all season long.

Aug 20, 2014 08:18 AM
rating: 0
 
Matthew Trueblood

Colluded against players in 1980s, out of greed. Took control of MLB by force in 1992, to ensure opportunity to double down on greed and steal back what was lost when collusion backfired. Played dumb and coy, as though did not want job he very clearly wanted. Extorted communities for billions of dollars. Called to personally intimidate public critics. Created Wild Card system, lessening sport's exceptionalism and dampening competitive integrity. Responsible for cancelation of 1994 World Series. Expanded league twice, by four teams, in cash grabs to appease owners. Anti-marketed the game. Actions ensured loss of Montreal Expos. Oversaw steroid proliferation in baseball, ignored it, demonized users after problem became public.

Won by losing, over and over again. Oversaw massive growth of industry, and tremendous profit growth, through no fault of his own. Made back-room deals with thugs, drug pushers in order to disgrace Hall of Fame player. Added second Wild Card, making farce of playoff race, in fact watering down meaning of word itself. Threw schedule grossly out of balance, in cash grab, making game harder to market nationally, messing with competitive landscape. Made huge rule changes in order to address previously-obvious problems, only after they bit him in backside. Botched installation of replay, creating creaky system and implementing it years too late.

Did some good with revenue-sharing. By most accounts, a nice guy.

Aug 20, 2014 08:34 AM
rating: 16
 
amazin_mess

Excellent take. I despised his dumb and coy act, especially in regards to PEDs.

Aug 20, 2014 11:41 AM
rating: 1
 
GrinnellSteve

Matt nailed it here. This is Bud's legacy.

Most of the bad ownership crises of the past 20 years are direct products of Bud. His hands were all over the Loria and McCourt messes.

Aug 21, 2014 07:58 AM
rating: 2
 
robbtodd

Nice one, Mauricio Rubio.

Aug 20, 2014 08:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mauricio Rubio
BP staff

Thanks man

Aug 21, 2014 18:36 PM
 
mikebuetow

Epitaph: Show me the money!

Aug 20, 2014 08:46 AM
rating: 1
 
kmostern

Guys, guys, guys, there is no "commissioner of baseball." There is a lead negotiator for the owners. If that's your leader, so be it, but it's not mine. Because I'm a labor guy (and for less advantaged portions of the labor movement) I'm happy that he was decent and effective in bringing management together on good enough deals for the workers. On everything else I shrug with Harry Pavlidis.

Aug 20, 2014 09:02 AM
rating: 3
 
bobbygrace

I'm going to be the dumb guy and ask about "Sevin." My guess is it's a movie or TV reference of some sort? Google mostly directs me toward a pesticide.

Aug 20, 2014 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Matthew Trueblood

I don't know at all, but propose that it *should* be a very lateral--oblique, even--reference to this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sevin_Sins

No idea who this is, but Selig and "sins" sure go together well.

Aug 20, 2014 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

I know I should probably fix it, but I'm scared that it means something.

Aug 20, 2014 11:09 AM
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

Fine, it's changed. Maybe I'll change it back later.

Aug 20, 2014 11:10 AM
 
Matthew Trueblood

Se73n Epitaphs for Bud's Zelig Reign

Aug 20, 2014 11:35 AM
rating: 0
 
drawbb

Russell Carleton sounds like a condescending rep for Selig or someone who delights in taking jabs at traditionalists.

I seem to recall some previous articles and/or research on this very same site demonstrating that interleague play and wild cards did not in fact result in the financial windfalls that Selig claimed they did, in what was a sadly typical PR spin emblematic of all his pet projects.

Furthermore, I don't know any traditionalist who was upset by the new stadium movement as a whole. Virtually everyone is glad to be rid of those horrible multi-use facilities--many with Astroturf--that were built in the '60s and '70s in many cities.

People may rightfully object to how they were financed in Selig's high-stakes game of extortion with the various municipalities, but it's flat out deceptive to say traditionalists are against their mere existence. Traditionalists are the ones who most valued baseball-only parks in the first place, remember?

Aug 20, 2014 10:36 AM
rating: 2
 
Johnston

As a traditionalist, I certainly want every baseball stadium to be baseball-only.

Aug 23, 2014 17:25 PM
rating: 1
 
AJ

Craig FTW.

Aug 20, 2014 11:21 AM
rating: 1
 
wthomson

Selig and previous commissioners lost the youth by making it unreasonable (impossible?!!) for kids to watch the championship series of the sport. While I'm a fanatic, none of my three kids developed significant interest because of the above.

Aug 20, 2014 14:30 PM
rating: 1
 
Drungo

I thought the randomness Selig inserted in the game was a fairly good work-around for meaningful revenue sharing. Let the Yanks and Dodgers and Red Sox spend their $billions, half the time it won't be enough to overcome multiple short series.

I used to think the idea of minimizing randomness was noble. Then I came to the realization that meant the Yanks win the Series every other year. Now I love me some randomness.

Aug 21, 2014 07:04 AM
rating: 1
 
Johnston

I don't believe that this year's Yankees could win the World Series if you gave them a bye all the way into it.

Look at the A's vs the Yankees (and/or the Red Sox). Brains trumps money.

Aug 23, 2014 17:28 PM
rating: 0
 
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