Bud Selig, Major League Baseball’s serving commissioner since 1992, was supposed to call it quits when his contract expired following the 2012 season. After all the controversy surrounding his reign, the baseball world was shocked at the news that Selig would have his contract extended through 2014.
Since Selig assumed baseball’s most important role, many dark shadows have been cast over the sport. Beginning with the 1994 strike which prohibited a World Series championship, it was shocking enough to see Selig move from temporary commissioner to full-fledged commissioner in 1998.
In his first year, he could not have asked for a better season. McGwire and Sosa's epic home-run chase received national attention all summer, and fan interest had never been higher. Yet the sport received another black eye due to the revelations of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) affecting the players that made the battle so amazing. Although PEDs were somewhat out of his control because no previous commissioner had banned them, it still took Bud years afterwards to put a policy in place to make the game clean.
Selig’s attempt to rid baseball of dirtiness instead came in his continued ban of Pete Rose from Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame. After saying he would review Rose’s case after he came clean and admitting betting on baseball (particularly his Reds to win), he upheld the previous decision to keep Rose away from the game. Despite being the MLB’s all-time hits leader and never betting against his own team, Selig forbids him from baseball activity while allowing criminals, drug users and woman abusers to have second and third chances.
Although only one day a year, Selig’s worst work has consistently come during the All-Star game. In 2002, Selig ended the game in a tie in his hometown of Milwaukee because both teams were out of pitching. This was an outrage to the fans and players alike, as the fans paid huge ticket prices to see the game and the players wanted to do whatever necessary (including allowing position players to pitch) to determine a winner.
Years later, Selig decided to make the All-Star game meaningful (which is controversial because both teams could theoretically run out of pitching again). His decision was to allow the winner of the game to have their league’s representative be awarded home field advantage in the World Series. The idea seems ludicrous though because managers don’t want their players in the game too long and risking injury, and Selig has already displayed his concerns about extra innings.
Yet for the next three seasons, Bud Selig’s signature will remain on the official game balls and his name will sit fixed on the commissioner’s desk. At a whopping $22 million per year, Selig will control baseball again, despite all the poor decisions he has made.
And the crazy thing is, it’s completely understandable.
Selig did put in effect the strongest drug testing policy in all of sports, was a gentleman during the September 11th attacks by making sure baseball didn’t overshadow the tragic events, introduced inter-league play, was instrumental in the creation of the World Baseball Classic and brought instant replay to the sport to review home runs.
So while Selig has definitely made his mistakes, he has done many things right that keep fans coming to the ballparks and baseball in America’s hearts. While many involved in the sport anxiously await his successor, it’s important to remember the proverb, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t."