Commissioner-For-Life Bud Selig has just reupped as boss of Major League Baseball for two years. That’s what they want us to think. Selig will never step down. He is like the leader of North Korea. The only way he goes is in a casket to his grave.
That’s the way Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis handled the job. He never retired, he just died in office in 1944 after becoming overseer of the game in 1920 as the first commissioner. Landis ran baseball as a fiefdom and while Selig hasn’t quite collected that much power, make no mistake he is the front man for the sport, the most influential non-player in the game, and he usually gets what he wants, even if it takes a couple of years.
Right now the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers is agitating among MLB owners to approve a playoff system that will add two more teams to the post-season. Personally, I think we’ve got enough teams in the playoffs and could do without adding any. But Selig was right about the Wild Card become popular, useful, and appropriate. If you’re going to have playoffs at all instead of regular-season champs going straight to the World Series as they did until 1969, then having the right amount of teams is important. I think baseball is at that number now.
But the republic won’t collapse if baseball tosses another couple of teams on the barbie. If the stupid war in Iraq didn’t rend the fabric of the nation then the National Pastime won’t wreck the country because of a glut of playoff teams.
Either as interim or permanent (and becoming more permanent all of the time) commissioner, Selig has been baseball’s czar since 1992. A whole mess of stuff has occurred on his watch and the 20 years bears more than a passing resemblance to the Clint Eastwood western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”
The average fan can decide on his own which development under Selig belongs in which category, but here are some: A) The 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series happened with Selig as top man; B) The World Baseball Classic was created; C) The steriods era played out with Selig as commissioner; D) A drug-testing policy was instituted for Major League players; E) The American League and National League merged (Did anybody notice?); F) The All-Star game ended in a tie; G) The All-Star game became the determining factor for the location of the seventh game of the World Series: H) Interleague play began.
That’s sort of the War and Peace of baseball resumes.
Selig, who is 77, previously indicated that he would retire when his current contract expired this season. Instead, he signed a two-year extension and by the time that one expires Selig will be 80. That’s even older than Minnie Minoso was when he appeared in a game to mark seven decades in professional baseball.
There most certainly have been ups and downs, but overall Selig gets a pretty good grade as commissioner. The intriguing element on the horizon is who will succeed him? Selig is a baseball man and baseball is best served by a baseball man as opposed to the hiring of someone from the world of politics, such as former Kentucky senator A.B. “Happy” Chandler, or with the reputation as a CEO with a great organizing background, such as Peter Ueberroth.
Here are some names to consider as Commissioner Of The Future: Billy Beane, who can take Moneyball to the head office; Theo Epstein, whom everything thinks walks on water; another owner, pick an owner; Warren Buffett, who seems to have his hands in everything (and everything he touches turns to gold); or…Bud Selig, who might get still another two-year contract instead of retiring in 2014.
Baseball can do a lot worse than ride Selig’s shoulders a little longer. Look at the flailing around the Republican Party is doing just trying to come up with the right presential nominee.