Grading MLB Commisioner Bud Selig: Part II

Jeffery StonerCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2009

Continued from part one here.



All Star Games – B


I know a lot of people want to give Selig an “F” here.  The 2002 All-Star Game ending in a tie might not have been popular, but a good option did not exist.  Bringing a pitcher who had already pitched back in (although this would have required bending the rules) would not be a safe solution. 


No manager would accept his pitcher throwing an extra inning that would make him unavailable for the next regular-season game. To some extent, Selig fell on a grenade to keep the managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenley from being the villains. 


Making the All-Star Game decide home field for the Worlds’ Series is pretty stupid.  But, so is alternating year to year by league, a coin-flip, or using best record when schedules are so unbalanced. 


Because there is no intelligent way to decide home field, I find it hard to criticize this decision. If it adds a little excitement to the Midsummer Classic, then it is a win for baseball.



Contraction - D


The rumored contraction of the Expos and either the Twins or Marlins was an unneeded distraction. It may have only been intended to be a negotiation issue with the union, but the impact was sever and led to a distrust of Selig. 


This was particularly true when Minnesota was a potential target, and the closest team to Minneapolis would be the Brewers (See Part Ifor another Brewer / MLB conflict). 


The issue ultimately went away, but not without hard feelings in Canada, Florida, and the Twin Cities.




World Baseball Classic – A


I’m not American baseball fans really understand the importance of this event. It’s not supposed to be the World Cup. It’s not supposed to be the Olympics. It is an international exhibition of the sport in global regions where the sport is an obsession, and in regions where it is obscure. 


If the success of the Netherlands leads to the sport setting root in Europe, baseball benefits. If a few very talented Cuban players become household names, and then end up in the Majors due to defection or a political change, baseball benefits.


If other nations want to participate in future years, baseball benefits. And of course, the potential grand slam, if a Chinese player becomes the baseball equivalent of Yao Ming, baseball has a new market of 1.3 billion people. 


If none of those things happen, and Japanese and Korean fans get to see their Major Leaguers in action before the season, they are more likely to follow Western Hemisphere baseball. 


Albert Spalding led a tour of baseballers in 1888 on a tour that included Egypt, Australia, and Europe. His attempt was to expand the game into a global marketplace.  Although his tour was a failure, the idea was a well crafted idea. Selig is applying the same logic over a century later, and is likely to have more success.


The only negatives here are the lack of participation by many of the games’ best, very loosely defined rules defining eligibility, and a poorly drawn bracket which feeds teams from the same early round pool into the same second round pool. 


Each of these are done for a reason, but they do slightly take away from the credibility of the event.



2008 World Series – A


“It might not be what the fans wanted, but we have strict rules that have to be followed”

-  Any other commissioner of a major sport or collegiate conference


When Game Five was suspended due to rain last October in Philadelphia, the rules that normally govern Major League Baseball would stipulate that the game would be official, and that the Phillies would be the World Champions.


Las Vegas casinos (the purists that they are) called the game official, and paid those who had picked the Phils. Selig refused to apply the standard rules, relying on his authority of scheduling and operations of post season games. 


I believe that most sports “leaders” would have ended this game at the time of the suspension, and proceeded to the clubhouse for a trophy presentation.  That would have left Tampa fans to wonder what might have been. 


The rules have since been changed so that all postseason games will allow the loser at least nine at-bats, and that rule change got little attention. Had the Worlds Series been decided early, this announcement would have been breaking news.



Replay – B


Getting the right call is important.  The flow of the game is important.  The reputation of an umpire who gets over-ruled by replay is not.  The NFL, NBA, and NHL all utilize some sort of replay.


The NFL’s is overused and interferes with the watching of a game, but is realized as a necessity. The NBA only uses replay for very specific situations.  The NHL couldn’t live without it when pucks are traveling at over 100 mph and may have been deflected by a stick that is one inch too high.


Fans of these leagues don’t lose respect for referees who have their calls reversed. Boundary calls need to be correct, and are rare enough that it doesn’t ruin the viewing of the game. 


The grade here is not an “A” because it took too long for implementation.



Steroids  - F


Admit it, through every good grade I’ve handed out you’ve answered, “What about steroids?”  This could be to Selig what Watergate was to Nixon; the only thing remembered a year after he steps down.


This was a horrendous miscalculation by all involved, and the issue will not go away. The MLBPA deserves its share of blame for not being willing to budge on this issue, and to the ultimate disservice to its membership. 


What was missing, however, was Selig out in front putting public pressure on the union. If Selig gathers around microphones and demands that the union rethink their position and capitulate to more stringent testing, the public pressure would win them over.


The honest players within the union would probably win. By the time it became an issue, too many players were using. Having 25 percent or more of baseball testing positive would have been a nightmare, but we’d know who was cheating.


By doing this years sooner, a few bad apples would not have ruined the barrel. 


We think that this issue is going away, then the A-Rod stories hit. It will start to die down again later, and it will be time to vote for the Hall-of-Fame. And most sorrowful, when a generation of great players start to have many die in their late forties or early fifties, we’ll here stories from the survivors. 


Those who report these stories will see that the issue still will not go away.  Unfortunately for Selig, it may never go away as long as his name is mentioned.



Overall – B


I honestly believe that without the steroid issue, Bud Selig would be known as the greatest commissioner in baseball history. With the ominous cloud of performance enhancing drugs, I can’t grade him any higher than this. (For the record, it is much higher than I would grade David Stern of Gary Bettman.) 


He has grown the game better through more difficult circumstances than anyone before him, but we cannot applaud the man. As I said in Part I, as fans, we don’t like him; we’re not supposed to.