Major League Baseball: Is Commissioner Bud Selig Good for Baseball?

Jim FlanneryAnalyst INovember 21, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22:  Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig attends a news conference at MLB headquarters on November 22, 2011 in New York City. Selig announced a new five-year labor agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

This week Bud Selig reviewed and approved the blockbuster trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins.

In his statement, Selig said:

After a thorough examination of this information, it is my conclusion that this transaction, involving established Major Leaguers and highly regarded young players and prospects, represents the exercise of plausible baseball judgment on the part of both Clubs, does not violate any express rule of Major League Baseball and does not otherwise warrant the exercise of any of my powers to prevent its completion.

Thus concludes the latest in a long history of fire sales by Marlins management, less than a year after getting their new stadium built in Miami, bringing in a bunch of high-priced talent and promising that the old way of doing business was a thing of the past.

This is just the latest high profile and controversial decision by the MLB commissioner in what has, from the outset, been a tenure filled with controversy.

With his track record, opinions are mixed as to how good Selig has been for baseball.

Since taking over the commissioner's role from the deposed Fay Vincent in 1992, Selig has been at the helm of Major League Baseball for a number of significant events.

Among the big stories are:

  • the creation of the Wild Card in the playoff system,
  • the reorganization of the leagues into three divisions instead of two,
  • the cancellation the World Series for the first time since 1904 during the drawn-out 1994/95 players' strike,
  • reinstating George Steinbrenner from the lifetime ban imposed by Vincent,
  • a failed attempt to contract the Minnesota Twins (coincidentally the team most likely to be drawing market share from Selig's former team, the Milwaukee Brewers),
  • the Steroid Era of baseball and the eventual imposition of a drug-testing system within baseball after names were named in the Mitchell Report,
  • a tie in an All-Star Game and subsequent changes to the process so that the game now "means something," with the winner receiving home field advantage in the World Series.



Some of those items are easily identified as good or bad, and some are debated regularly as to their merit (or lack thereof).

Many would point directly to the loss of the 1994 World Series and subsequent black mark of the Steroid Era as reasons that Selig has done an awful job as commissioner.

One could also argue that those two events go hand-in-hand; if the Majors didn't have to wipe out a World Series, the owners and the commissioner's office might not have turned a blind eye to the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs in the Nineties in an effort to bring the fans back.

But here's one other tidbit: as noted on Selig's Wiki page, Major League Baseball has enjoyed a 400 percent increase in revenues during his tenure. In 2012, 28 of 30 teams saw an increase in value, the entire point of running a business.

That makes the owners—his bosses—very happy. To some extent it also makes the players happy, as team salaries have exploded while Selig has been in charge. The team with the biggest salary in 1992 was the Atlanta Braves at $44,352,002; in 2012 it was the New York Yankees at $197,962,289. 

In fact, the team with the lowest payroll in 2012, the San Diego Padres, had a higher team payroll ($55,244,700) than the Braves did in 1992.

At the end of the day, Bud may have made some unpopular decisions that have unquestionably hurt baseball's image. But fans seem to have forgiven the game they love and returned in droves.

In his 18-year tenure, Selig has been good for business and ultimately, that's what a professional sports league needs most in its leader.


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