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Selig will leave baseball admired because he refuses to leave baseball

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

Selig has plenty of critics, but he seems intent on hanging around long enough to outlast them all. (Getty Images)  
Selig has plenty of critics, but he seems intent on hanging around long enough to outlast them all. (Getty Images)  

You knew Bud Selig would never stop being commissioner of baseball. Your friends knew. Your friends' pets knew. Ammonia-breathing micro-organisms on the Saturnian moon Enceladus knew.

Bud Selig is never going to stop being commissioner of baseball. Ever. Now that he has stayed in the job enough to no longer be the most risible member of the Justice For Billionaires League of America, he's going to stay for all eternity ... with both middle fingers pointed at the Mayans while he does.

That's the beauty of Bud. He has gone through sheer dogged cussedness and refusal to leave to become one of the game's more admired (or if you must, less detestable) commissioners.

Now, we're not going to make the "he enriched everyone in the game" argument, or the "he weathered the PED storm" argument or the "he is just more statesmanlike" argument. Those are all nonsense anyway.

He simply outlasted everyone's will to mock him. His good traits -- the fact that he is not as eiderdown-stuffed a shirt as his contemporaries, the fact that he actually seems to like the game he is pretending to adjudicate, the fact that the media people he does talk to don't find him to be an insufferable bore -- are impressive enough, but mostly what he did to win the day was not go away.

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You know who else did that? Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who was a complete retrograde social thinker but lasted 68 years in the job. You know who else did that? Queen Elizabeth II, who at one point was savaged as the embodiment of a tradition gone dead only to last long enough to be played by Helen Mirren.

And as Bud one day hopes to find out, nothing ennobles a person quite like being portrayed by Helen Mirren.

I guess we're supposed to be impressed by Selig's willingness to stick out an eight-figure-per-year gig, but by getting this extension, he broke the record for number of retirements that weren't held by Sugar Ray Leonard, Nature Boy Ric Flair and Chuck Norris.

So the logical question, since both he and we all knew that every retirement is as bogus as a six-franc Macedonian coin with Jon Huntsman's face on it, is why he bothers with those retirement thingies at all.

He needs this job the way college football coaches need theirs -- it is Pavlovian. Sure, it's the money; commissioners get paid quite a good chunk of change for obeying their betters. But this is also Selig's raison d'etre. He is commissioner, therefore he is.

And it's OK for him to admit it, even though the fact that he keeps turning up to rescind retirement announcements pretty much is the admission itself.

Better if he just took the podium, pulled his shirt off to reveal a skin-tight leotard and howl, "I Am Bud, I Commish Things, And I Will Never Leave, Never, Ever, Aaaahahahahahahahaha!!!!"

And why would he not retire? Why would he not finally lift his head from that pile of money he has made and ease into a life of leisure watching the sun rise above a placid lake as he and his bride sip coffee?

Because this is his legacy. As the guest who never left.

Selig has had a lot of legacies assigned to him over the years, and many of them are fairly uncomplimentary. He'll never shake the steroid mess, no matter how many times he claims he stood on the side of the angels because ... well, because he didn't.

But he did have the wit to simply wait out the critics, to the point where the feigned outrage over National League MVP Ryan Braun's positive test died quickly and quietly because most people stopped giving a sufficient damn.

And frankly, he has waited out everything -- the good and the bad, the stupid and the brilliant. He made sticking around his true epitaph, and it doesn't matter that it was as predictable as punting on fourth-and-26. He won because everyone abandoned the thought he would ever stop doing this.

He won't. Not without a fair amount of kicking and screaming, anyway. Commissioner isn't what Bud Selig does, it's what he is, and he won't stop doing it until he becomes a was.

So Bud's back, and the 7-Eleven stays open all night. Hurray, or something.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com


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