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January 16, 2012

Bizball

Bud Selig's To-Do List

by Maury Brown

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Late last week, Bud Selig, that consensus builder of The Lodge and players union, was voted by the league’s owners to receive an extension through the 2014 season. The league’s Executive Council placed the two-year extension in nomination after requesting of Selig that he remain in the position past the expiration of his contract on December 31, 2012. In other words, his employers (read, the owners) love him, and there’s really no one out there at the moment that they seems in a hurry to put in his place (see “Why Selig Isn’t Retiring”).

Selig has been at the head of the league since September 9, 1992, first as interim commissioner and then as the ninth commissioner in the history of Major League Baseball, a position to which he was elected on July 9, 1998.  This marks the fourth extension for Selig, who agreed to new three-year contracts in 2001, 2004 and 2008.  Only the first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis—who served from January 12, 1921 until his passing on November 25, 1944—accumulated more experience as the leader of the sport than Selig. Since taking over in 1992, the league’s gross revenues have grown from $1.2 billion to over $7 billion in 2010.

Yes, Selig has done a lot. He can say that 20 new ballparks have been built on his watch (or will be once the Marlins new stadium opens in April). That’s a whole bunch of taxpayer greenbacks for baseball’s owners. Congrats on that, I guess.

The league boasts that due to economic reforms in the league, nine of the last 11 World Series Champions have been different clubs. Only the Red Sox (2004, 2007) and the Cardinals (2006, 2011) have won more than once during that span. Nineteen clubs have made the postseason over the last five years, and 24 clubs have made the postseason over the last 10 years. All of this is to say that MLB really has had the best parity of all the “big four” sports over that period, and that’s not hyperbole… it’s fact.

And, you’d be remiss if you didn’t say that under Selig’s watch, MLBAM and MLB Network were created—both cash cows. Both are centralized, which means all clubs benefit equally from it.

Despite his successes, I hope it’s not too early in Selig’s acceptance party to throw out some items that still need tending to. Some will benefit the present, while others will heal old wounds:

“Glacial” is One Thing, But it’s Time to Address the A’s to San JoseSelig, you’re on this, I know. Or, at least that’s what you’ve said. "It's really on the front burner," came across your lips when you asked about the relocation of the Athletics to San Jose. Well, it’s about time. After all, you created your special committee to look into the matter in 2009. Still, this time, something needs to happen, and it should. Make it a priority to get consensus for the May owners meetings to get it completed. After all, Walter Hass gave up Santa Clara Co. to Bob Lurie when the Giants were trying not once, but twice to get a referendum passed to build a ballpark for the Giants in the South Bay. Larry Baer, who has taken over as the control person of the Giants after Bill Neukom’s ouster needs to be reminded of that.

Collusion in the '80sSelig has denied it, as many of the old guard continues to do, but it’s time to admit that the owners really did collude to hold down player salaries in the 80s. Selig should do this if for no other reason that, with the handful of owners and execs still holding onto denial, history has clearly said as much. Few, if any, say it never happened (read Collusion I, II, III… A Hard Lesson Learned (PDF)). Now that Don Fehr has left to tend to the NHL and Gene Orza is gone, maybe you could apply some salve and kick the painful collusion denial story to the curb… for good.

Make Fixing the Blackout Policy a PriorityMaybe this should be listed first. It’s great that we’re about to have HGH testing in baseball, but there are consumers out there every year that have forked over more than $100 to watch MLB games via MLB Extra Innings, MLB.TV, or through mobile technology like At Bat who are subjected to a ridiculous blackout policy. Bud, name one other industry that limits a product to consumers? At the very least, direct Tim Brosnan to not accept expanded exclusivity with FOX, ESPN, and TBS when contracts are renewed. It’s surprising the FCC hasn’t been brought to bear at this stage. Going further might be poking a bear in the eye (see MLB’s broadcast territory map).

Take Some Kind of Responsibility on the Issue of SteroidsSelig has said repeatedly that he never knew about steroids permeating that game. Fine. Others will say you had to know, but if you say you didn’t, fine. That doesn’t absolve you or Don Fehr from being held accountable on some level, though. At the very least, when you saw 50 home run seasons become almost commonplace and players suddenly looking like Mr. Potato Head, you had to think, “Hmmm… something’s not right.” If you didn’t, well, then one has to say there’s incompetency at play. At the end of an incredible career, place yourself head and shoulders above the fray and say, “I should have known more. I should have seen it.” Admitting “something” removes the tinge that you’re either lying or non-observant.

Admit Contraction Was Never Going to FlyI sense that the issue of contraction was something Selig’s bosses (read: owners) put him up to. Anyone with their finger on the pulse of baseball knew it was never going to fly with the Expos and Twins. Maybe this is one for the memoire, but admitting contraction was a failed concept would be refreshing.

Be Bold: Address the DHIf you really mean it this time (we’re not holding our breath), and plan on bowing out in 2014, do something about the DH. In 2013, interleague begins runs all season long. It’s time. I’m not saying get rid of it or make it part of the NL; I’m saying it’s time for the league to quit straddling the fence. It’d be a great way to exit.

Be Hands-On in Finding a SuccessorAt some point, a new commissioner is going to happen. Bud’s a pretty powerful guy, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to live as long as the game. Make it a high priority to groom the replacement or, at the very least, articulate what has made you “work” so well for the owners. Help guide the search committee, or better yet, sit in on it. I know there’s a whole heck of a lot of people out there that think Selig is a boob, that he’s horrible. Well, there’s never been a commissioner out there that didn’t have that stuff said about them. It’s a difficult position to be in, since doing everything in the best interest of fans can run counter to what your bosses have in mind. Looking back on the likes of Happy Chandler or Bowie Kuhn, Selig looks like a cross between Einstein and Gandhi. Believe it or not, Selig isn’t easy to replace.

Do a Book, But Don’t Do HardballThe reference is to Bowie Kuhn’s book, a piece of puffery that had little insight and loads of narcissism. But Selig, do a book. Readers (or, at least ones that have a sense of reality) can’t expect you to do Lords of the Realm or some scorch-MLB tell-all, but something with insight, something the reveals matters that baseball historians have not heard, is needed. Others will write of you (yes, I think you hear me knocking), but marry up with someone good out there if you can’t pen it yourself so that you can do better than what’s been published prior which, sadly, isn’t much.

Selig is, in many ways, the least likely of success stories. In the here and now, many fail to recognize that. No one expected him to last. For that matter, no one really expected him at the time to be commissioner. He’s fascinating. Think about this: the guy that shrugged at an All-Star Game tie, who has fumbled his way through more press conferences than I can count, has been at the head of the league nearly as long as Landis. For those that know the history of the commissionership, many of his predecessors lasted as long as the ink for their name on the door took to dry.

But, Bud, you’ve still got some work to do. Yes, getting the Mets and Dodgers in order is important, but hopefully a couple of items here can be tended to as well. After all, some of them are simple and cost neither time nor money. In return, you get something worth a heck of a lot more than that $22 million paycheck you get each year. You get some added integrity as you head out the door.

Maury Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Maury's other articles. You can contact Maury by clicking here

Related Content:  Bud Selig,  The Who

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

BP Comment Quick Links

kcshankd

Selig has been great - for the owners. Yippie, billionaires have more money. He has been a consistent disaster for fans.

1) Cancelled season
2) Tie All-Star game
3) Contraction, killing one franchise and threatening another
4) Dithering with PEDs
5) Most importantly, losing 'America's game' title to football on his watch.

He can't go soon enough.

Jan 16, 2012 05:47 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Maury Brown
BP staff

I understand your sediment sans #5. Not a doggone thing MLB could do about it. It's the design of the game and changes to society that have the NFL as king in terms of popularity.

Jan 16, 2012 05:59 AM
 
Pluthero

I have a feeling that #1 through #4 have a whole lot to do with #5. Selig is an egomaniacal disaster of a commissioner; and I won't believe that "the players wanted it" until one of them tells me so.

Jan 16, 2012 06:39 AM
rating: 0
 
mattcollins

I disagree.

#1 certainly may have, but the NFL just went through a relatively brutal labor fight, and no one seemed to care at the end of it. Sure, a season wasn't cancelled, but as much as people complained about millionaires fighting billionaires, the NFL chugged right along once it was over.

#2 certainly didn't matter at all. Does anyone even watch the Pro Bowl?

#3 Again, this didn't matter much either. Fans in two cities may have been annoyed, but Minnesota still loves the twins, and Montreal -- well, I don't think that threatening to contract Montreal did anything to help the rise of football. If anything, putting a team in DC, that may someday be successful, will help baseball fight off football.

#4 Look at football players and say, with an honest face, that American sports fans left baseball for football because they were upset at PED usage.

#5 on that list is certainly a black mark on Selig's resume, but it's not that baseball has lost popularity. It's that football has gained popularity more quickly than baseball. And with the exception of the first item on that list, it's because football is an easier game to market.

Jan 16, 2012 14:38 PM
rating: 4
 
WaldoInSC

You need to dig deeper to find any "sediment."

Jan 16, 2012 14:07 PM
rating: 5
 
Tarakas

You make some good points. Especially the blackout policy. I will have nothing to do with any of baseball's video products until this is fixed. I will not pay a large some of money to be able to view a wide variety of games, except for the ones I am most interested in.

They have to fix this.

Jan 16, 2012 06:09 AM
rating: 4
 
CRP13

Put the Astros back in the NL. Nobody wants this move, not even the AL.

Jan 16, 2012 06:23 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Maury Brown
BP staff

The players wanted it to allow for a balanced schedule.

Jan 16, 2012 06:31 AM
 
CRP13

They don't count. The fans pay their salary.

Jan 16, 2012 14:05 PM
rating: -1
 
orlandoca7

Milwaukee to the AL. Ha!

Jan 16, 2012 14:12 PM
rating: 4
 
rso544

I was first intrigued then disappointed at your point on the DH, since we didn't get the benefit of your viewpoint. I abandoned the Lastros after 20 years once they were sold to Crane because I will not be moved out of the NL by some backroom business deal. If I have to start over with new teams and matchups, I'll choose my team myself. And I simply hate the DH. I don't care how many levels of baseball it exists in, it's one of the core tenants of being a NL fan.

I think the full-time acceptance of the DH is something the commissioner, owners and players are all stupid enough to come together on. It would be a scandal for NL fans. So I'd like to know more on what you think should be done and will be done.

I'd like to know your take instead of hearing that the commissioner should simply "be bold".

Jan 16, 2012 08:01 AM
rating: 2
 
Randy Brown
(189)

I like the fact that the NL and AL have different rules on the DH. I like the variety, and hope that MLB never chooses one or the other for both leagues.

Jan 16, 2012 10:17 AM
rating: 12
 
Pat Folz

+infinity

Please, Bud, and future commissioners, do not ever change this. Having an actual difference between the Leagues is something that's beautiful and unique and makes baseball much better than the other major sports.

Jan 16, 2012 10:34 AM
rating: 7
 
WaldoInSC

Right, so instead of "fixing" the perfect DH compromise, how about this:

Use executive privilege to put Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame and apologize to him for taking so long.

Jan 16, 2012 14:12 PM
rating: 2
 
ddufourlogger

I guess I just don't see the DH being abolished, as much as I prefer NL ball. Offense sells tickets, and there's just TOO many good bats that cannot play defense. They have to have a place for those guys to play.
Now that there will be a more balanced schedule, and interleague all the time, I foresee a few more DH's being hired by NL teams at lower salaries (See Jim Thome, for example) that will be pinch-hitters most of the time, and provide a legit bat for AL park visits.

Jan 16, 2012 12:00 PM
rating: 0
 
kmanter

The MLB.TV blackout policy seems like an easy fix. Run the commercials between innings (instead of blanking them out with an in-house MLB ad or a "We'll be right back!" screen), keep track of viewership, provide that info to the associated cable/OTA station and they include those viewer numbers in their sales pitches to advertisers. Everybody should be happy.

fwiw, "Address the DH" seems like a solution in search of a problem. There's only one way that it might go (it ain't going away), but don't see any real reason why it can't stay the way it is.

Jan 16, 2012 09:34 AM
rating: 1
 
kcboomer

The things Selig gets blamed for at times are simply laughable.

1) He did not cancel a season and/or series. The owners were dead set on a confrontation and the Union was deadset on punishing as many people as possible. Once the Union walked Jesus Christ couldn't have saved the season.
2) The tied all-star game was a direct result of mismanagement by by the two managers.
3) Get over the contraction thing. It was just a ploy to put some pressure on the Union.
4)Dithered on PED's?? Pray tell how? The Union leadership wasn't going to permit any changes in the system. It was a strike issue to them. They didn't cave until Congress put the heat on them.

It's like some of you think the Commissioner has god-like powers and can do whatever he wants. He doesn't. We need to be grateful that Selig has kept the 30 loons who own ball clubs from wanting to fire up the "lock out express" for 17+ years.

Half of the author's stuff is things that should be done (A's stadium, killing blackouts, and training a successor. The rest is just the desire to say "I knew you were lying!". Why should Bud saying anything about PED's while Fehr gets a free pass.

And don't write a book. Any body who has done any serious study of history knows that the worst histories are of the autobiographical nature. They are not objective.

Jan 16, 2012 10:14 AM
rating: 3
 
hitmannls

Re: A's to San Jose.

It often gets said that the A's "gave" Santa Clara county to the Giants...and of course thats true. But its equally important to point out that the current Giant's ownership group paid for it. The previous owner was the recipient of the gift.

Jan 16, 2012 10:18 AM
rating: 3
 
seabass77

It's pretty incredible how history has forgotten that the two managers are to blame for the tied all star game.

Jan 16, 2012 10:52 AM
rating: 1
 
Drungo

Each of the 77 substitutions used in that game had a perfectly legitimate baseball strategy reason behind it.

Jan 18, 2012 09:25 AM
rating: 2
 
UtahDave

I liked your article. I think it is too easy to call Bud a putz just because his social skills are not his best asset. He lacks polish. But he has really weathered a lot of storms and he has helped grow baseball. To me the whole All-Star tie thing is stupid. It was an All-Star game for heaven's sake. You're going to hang a man with this many years for that? Nobody is going to last that long in that high profile of a job and have everyone say everything he did was right.

I do find it very unlikely that he didn't really know more about the PED's though. Two words - Brady Anderson. MLB still has to come to terms with the whole thing. We are a year away from Bonds not being elected to the Hall. Ditto Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro, McGwire,... How do we just turn a blind eye to that and move on like nothing ever happened? Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Jan 16, 2012 11:11 AM
rating: 1
 
rcrary

so, one fluke season is your obvious proof that steroids were a problem? single years that stick out should be evidence against steroid use

Jan 17, 2012 06:14 AM
rating: 2
 
canada

The blackout policy is mind-boggling. If I'm watching the game on my laptop (up here in Rogers-zone at least I can now watch the Jays live through their OND site) or my phone, it means I don't have access to a TV to watch my local team. It's not like I am delibately avoiding going to the game in person or watching it on the proper TV channel, it means I cannot. Drives me up the wall, yet I continue to subscribe to MLBTV purely for its awesomeness otherwise.

Jan 16, 2012 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
orlandoca7

A few other items:

Trash the half-witted rule that awards WS home field advantage to the winner of the All Star exhibition. It may be the most inane rule in pro sports.

Use influence to make sure the game recognizes the scouts in Cooperstown.

Abandon idea of 1-game play offs. Force a shorter season, or sprinkle a few doubleheaders into the schedule to fit another round of playoffs (at least 3 games).

Jan 16, 2012 14:10 PM
rating: 2
 
mattcollins

If I were to ask Selig to do one thing, it would be to work with amateur baseball (HS and NCAA) to popularize it more. I think the popularity of "amateur" football and basketball has heightened the interest in the professional levels of the sports. Baseball would be served long-term by forming meaningful relationships with the NCAA and high school amateur showcases that go beyond putting a couple of them on MLB network.

Jan 16, 2012 14:42 PM
rating: 11
 
R.A.Wagman

A million times yes. I see the same thing in hockey, with Bettman's forced expansions to the Sunbelt over the last decade-plus. In the areas that it has succeeded (relatively) there was some attention paid to giving the game a youthful face. If you want adults to pay for your brand of entertainment, help get their kids to love the brand, too.

Jan 16, 2012 20:45 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

"Major League Baseball is a national institution and we take our responsibilities seriously when it comes to how the game affects the lives of American youth."

Bud Selig, announcing the Anti-Steroid Campaign in 2006
http://www.daikynguyen.com/eet/print_archive/united_states/new_york/2006/03-Mar/23/a8_cmyk.pdf

I do think that's taking responsibility.

Jan 16, 2012 17:28 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Maury Brown
BP staff

See if you can find comments about whether Selig felt he knew about steroids when they engulfed the sport. The answer will be no. What I'm saying is, "How did everybody miss this? Why wasn't it headed off at the pass?"

The steroid issue by the league is either, A) reactive; B) Late in getting serious on the matter because the feeling was the PA would heel dig on the matter, or; C) All of the above.

I'm opting for "C", with a side of, "Selig, please say you saw it transpiring, and wished you had done more at the time." That's all.

Jan 16, 2012 19:03 PM
 
rcrary

see, I don't care that Selig was either reactive or late on the PEDs front (primarily because I don't care about them), but I do care that in not admitting complicity, the players are seen as the only culpable parties

Jan 17, 2012 06:18 AM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

I blame the media in part for turning a blind eye while getting paid writing about the 1998 home run chase and all the people breaking the 500 home run mark. I think a good indicator is how there wasn't an outcry from the media (or from MLB for that matter) after the "Chicks Dig the Long Ball" commercial.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ltD21rYWVw

Jan 17, 2012 10:06 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Selig was horrendous. He's also a bad liar when it comes to knowledge of PEDs.

Jan 16, 2012 20:40 PM
rating: 3
 
amazin_mess

Just my take - for the majority of baseball fans, you can never convince them that Bud Selig was anything more than a bumbling egotist who presided over a strike, a world series cancellation, a PED scandal and a tied all star game. All the while the NFL passed MLB in popularity.

I am in that group.

Jan 17, 2012 07:06 AM
rating: 3
 
beerchaser42

Fix the idiotic blackout rules and bring MLB to North Carolina, the most populous state in the US without a baseball team.

Jan 17, 2012 09:57 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Florida is a heavily populated state and they can't pay people to go to games there.

Jan 17, 2012 16:20 PM
rating: 1
 
beerchaser42

Mismanagement of the franchises, in the early years for the Rays at least, has a lot to do with that.

Besides, most of the people in Florida are probably transplanted Yankee fans anyway.

Jan 18, 2012 08:40 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

3 Things:
- A's to San Jose
- New well-heeled owner for Dodgers
- New well-heeled owner for Mets

everything else is window dressing

Jan 17, 2012 22:06 PM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Hoo-Rah on a new Owner for the Mess.!!

Jan 18, 2012 10:30 AM
rating: 1
 
Michael
(736)

The adjective "glacial" applies more aptly to Selig's handling of Pete Rose than the Oakland / San Jose Athletics.

In 1989, Rose signed an agreement that suspended him but gave him the right to apply for reinstatment after a year. He also agreed that he couldn't sue to enforce the agreement.

Rose applied for reinstatement in 1992 when Fay Vincent was commissioner, but no action was taken. He applied in 1997 but again no action has been taken yet. Bud Selig can do whatever he likes with the application -- go ahead and deny it and give Rose little hope that you'd ever change your mind, if you think that's appropriate -- but not taking action on it seems unfair to me.

Jan 18, 2012 09:04 AM
rating: -1
 
FrankL

Ask Shoeless Joe Jackson about glacial and then consider that though there is evidence against Jackson, there is much more proof and evidence of betting against Rose. Then consider that baseball's policy re: betting was much more clear in Rose's days. Then think about Jackson's moniker "Shoeless" coming in large part from what could politely be described as a very limited IQ. Fay Vincent left in place a lifetime ban on Rose placed by Bart Giamatti, a Commissioner whose span was cut all too short; Vincent wasn't groomed or prepared for succession to the role.

"Charlie Hustle" hustled in more ways than effectively ending the career of Ray Fosse. To my knowledge, the Giamatti files have never been released, but even if Rose never bet against the Reds there are so many ways a manager can hurt his own team. Burn the SP. Choose the wrong RP. Look at splits and use tem - backwards, etc. And believing that Rose never bet against his own team is taking him at his word; sometimes inferential actions - the company one keeps, the other actions one takes - must be considered.

A lifetime can be a lifetime. Or longer. Ask Shoeless Joe. Acknowledge Rose's record, but never allow induction into the HOF or return to the game.

Jan 19, 2012 12:04 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I would find it ironic if Rose got in while he was alive and Santo didn't.

Jan 19, 2012 12:29 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

There probably are better solutions than blackouts to whatever problems the blackout rules are meant to solve, but for what it's worth: "Bud, name one other industry that limits a product to consumers?" -- pay TV and movies seem quite similar. Between release windows and having shows/movies available by some methods but not others (HBO on your iPad but not Netflix; your favorite movie on DVD but not on-demand), there are clear limits on the product to consumers willing to pay. (These limits might be quite rational, I should note. Netflix could surely offer some price to HBO that would be satisfactory, but they haven't yet, so HBO declines to undercut its cable subscriptions. Putting movies on demand at the same time that they're out in the theater, despite the massively superior audiovisual experience on the big screen, would probably cut theater-going by enormous percentages.)

This analogy probably only works insofar as we're talking about people who can't watch local teams on MLB.tv but could watch them by subscribing to cable and thus getting an RSN. The Iowa Situation, for instance, doesn't really fit because there it's not just a limit, but an outright ban on viewing certain teams.

Jan 21, 2012 01:19 AM
 
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