Since becoming the acting baseball commissioner following Fay Vincent's resignation in 1992, Bud Selig has been one of the most controversial commissioners the sport has ever had. His decisions over the past 15 seasons have changed the way the game has been played more than any other commissioner in baseball. Whether it has been dealing with labor agreements, creating interleague play, reshaping the playoffs, world series or all-star game, Selig has made many important decisions during his tenure. However, with the steroid cloud now looming over Selig's head, many people in baseball have made Selig out to be a failure and have called for him to resign. In this edition of "the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," Matt Abedi will tell you whether or not Bud Selig should leave the game.
One of the best things Bud Selig has done since he became commissioner came before the 1994 season with the development of divisional play, and the creation of a "wild card" team in the playoffs. Before this creation, each league was divided into two divisions, and the best record from each division would meet in the league championship series to determine who goes to the World Series. However, the system had a huge flaw that needed to be fixed and Selig realized this. In some instances, the 2nd place team in one division would have a better record than the first place team in the other, but was denied a chance at the postseason strictly because of the division they were in.
The creation of the wild card team gave good teams a second chance at the world series. While some opponents of the wild card system think that it reduces the importance of winning the pennant, it has brought renewed fan interest back into the game, resulting in greater revenue. In 2001, the Oakland Athletics had the second best record in baseball with 102 wins. The closest team behind them in the American League was seven games back. Under the old system, the 2001 A's would never have made it to the postseason. Selig also introduced the unbalanced schedule in order to silence some of the critics of the system.The wild card has also allowed division rivals to face off against each other in the American League championship series, which has made for some interesting matchups. Could you imagine what baseball would be like without the Red Sox/Yankees matchups in both 2003 and 2004? If the Wild Card never existed, both of the Marlins world series victories would have never happened, the 2002 seven game series between the Angels and Giants would have featured two different teams, and the Red Sox wouldn't have won it all back in 2004.
Without the wild card, Aaron Boone's walk-off home run in 2003 and the Red Sox's historic comeback in 2004 would have never existed.
Among other positives that Selig has accomplished under his reign is that he gave the all-star game some meaning. After the 2002 All-Star Game ended in a 7-7 tie with both teams running out of players, Selig decided to give the players of each league some incentive by granting the winning league in the game home field advantage. The new move made the games a lot more competitive and also made it so managers weren't playing every player on their roster. While the National League has never held the advantage so far, they've had plenty of chances to come away with victories.
In regards to negotiations among the players union and the owners, Selig has also helped avoid any further lockouts or strikes since the one in 1994. In August of 2002, Selig reached a labor agreement with the players association that avoided a strike and in October of 2006, Selig orchestrated another 5 year extension. According to mlb.com, by the end of the new contract, baseball will have had it's longest period of baseball peace since the inception of the collective bargaining agreement.
Looking at the finances of the sport, Selig has seen his revenue totals more than quadruple during his time in office. In 1992, revenue totals for Major League Baseball were $1.2 billion. In 2006, it was reported that the league made $5.2 billion.
Among the negative things Selig has brought upon us as commissioner is the invention of interleague play. Although interleague play has drawn fan interest and increased the revenue for the sport, it has had a negative impact on the integrity of the game. With teams winning their divisions by as little as one to two games, interleague play has a huge impact on who makes the playoffs and who watches them. The main problem with interleague play is that there aren't an equal number of teams in both the American and National leagues. Another problem is the insistance that teams play their "interleague rivalry" matchup twice a year. Thus, teams from each division don't get paired up with the same competition as their division rivals. Looking back at the 2007 schedule, many teams in faced teams from all three divisions of the opposite league last season. Why is it that some teams get matched up against harder competition than their division rivals? Basically, if a team can distance themselves by playing easier teams in interleague play than their division rivals, they have a much better shot at winning the division.
While Interleague Play creates great story lines, it is ruining the integrity of the game.
Another one of the main problems that Selig hasn't really addressed is the need for a salary cap in baseball. While his revenue sharing idea is good in theory, it has too many flaws. For one, there is no regulation on the owners of small market teams that are receiving this money. Just take a look at the Florida Marlins current situation as evidence. The money they get from revenue sharing just might be greater than their entire payroll this upcoming season. If that's the case, it would be more beneficial to just contract the team or relocate them (which should be laws by baseball in this regard). In addition, as noted by Doug Pappas of Baseball Prospectus, nothing has been done to really define a small market team. Should we reward a team that is gaining little revenue in a big metropolitan area the same compared to a team that is gaining the same amount of revenue in a small market area? As Pappas very well put, " by focusing entirely on the amount of local revenues a team generates, MLB's revenue sharing formula shortchanges popular, well-run teams in smaller cities while rewarding incompetently managed big-market clubs." The system has too many flaws in it and Selig has never addressed them.
Steroids. Steroids. and well.......more steroids. When news of baseball players using steroids first came up in the news 6-7 years ago with the BALCO case, the initial reaction wasn't as big of an outrage as it is today. However, with Jose Canseco's book, the leaked testimonies of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, the embarrassment known as Rafael Palmiero, and the recent findings in the Mitchell Report, fans have begun to realize just how big of an issue this really is. With steroids so prevalent in the sport, how could the commissioner not know about it? In regards to steroids, it seems as if every move the commissioner has made was reactionary to a news event about a player on steroids. Never once was Selig proactive with the matter. Did he even speculate anything when he saw baseball's single season home run record shattered by two players in the same year? How about when it was broken again three seasons later? And if he did speculate it was happening, the fact that he let it continue without taking proactive measures to stop it suggests that he wanted it to happen to gain more revenue for the sport.
Did Selig choose to ignore the drug problems in baseball because of the revenue it created?
It wasn't until Selig was pressed by the media, fans reactions, and Congress that Selig made any sort of attempt to increase the drug testing. And while he did reach an agreement with the players association on the testing, as evidence by the Mitchell report it had way too many flaws in it. The fact that something this big was left untouched this long will haunt Selig's reign as commissioner.
All in all, Bud Selig has done a lot of good things for the game that have benefited the league. In the end, it can be seen that most of his moves were made to generate more revenue in the sport by increasing the fans interest in the game. While fans don't have to worry about another strike because of Selig, they continue to blast him for the steroids issue. Because Selig ignored the steroid problems that the league encountered, his reputation as a great commissioner will forever be tarnished.
When it comes to question of should he resign, I think the answer should be "yes." Selig has done extraordinary things to make the game more interesting, but I really don't see anything else he can truly improve upon any longer while serving as commissioner. The drug problem in baseball is beyond a two year quick fix (he has said he will not be commissioner past 2009), and Selig should let another step in and try to fix it. A new face in the commissioner's office would give the fans hope that the integrity of the game can be restored.
UPDATE: Selig has recently received a contract extension through 2012. Perhaps now he will now have the time to fix the steroid problem in baseball