4 Big MLB Issues Bud Selig Must Fix Before Stepping Down
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig confirmed on Thursday that he'll retire January 2015. That leaves barely 15 months for him to resolve a handful of big issues across the sport.
First off, let's take a moment to thank Selig for his many years of service.
The former Milwaukee Brewers owner has led the sport to extraordinary growth. Every team is profitable and there's more competitive balance than ever. Selig wisely agreed to expand the playoff field, thus adding intrigue to September baseball, and he has supported instant replay and stricter drug testing.
With that said, his decision-making process is often drawn-out. Many of the reforms during his tenure came years later than we would've wanted, and we continue to wait for Selig to remedy the following situations.
Disinterest in the All-Star Game
Baseball Almanac lists the annual television ratings for the MLB All-Star Game, and the trend is disturbing.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Midsummer Classic regularly contended for a 50 percent share—that means about half of all Americans watching television that night would be tuned in to baseball's best exhibition between American and National League stars. Meanwhile, the past three have only grabbed 12 percent shares.
Some of that drop is attributable to the rise of cable networks and premium services, but there's no doubt that the changes made under Bud Selig have damaged the event's popularity.
He's been adamant about using the clash to determine home-field advantage in the World Series ever since the 2002 ASG ended in a tie. What sense does that make when players on non-contenders participate? Rosters have grown to include far too many ordinary players, and that rule requiring every team to have representation is ridiculous.
The sport can do a better job of attracting new fans and pleasing its longtime enthusiasts.
A New Home for the Oakland Athletics
It has deteriorated into a disgusting situation for the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum.
As Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News reports, the venue continues to suffer from sewage problems. Thankfully, A's fans haven't reported any significant issues with the public facilities, but there have already been three "eruptions" of waste/fecal matter at the field level this summer.
The team consistently operates with a low payroll because it struggles to attract crowds to the Coliseum considering its age and awkward seating arrangement.
Bud Selig is fully aware of the problem.
“I’m not happy about it,” he told John Feinstein on CBS Radio. “It’s an unfortunate mess. I wish there was an easy solution, but in truth, there is not an easy solution.” The commissioner also added that he's "satisfied we’ll work out something" before his successor takes over.
You better deliver, Bud.
Souring Player-Umpire Relationships
Expanded instant replay is coming in 2014, so Bud Selig won't need to worry as much about C.B. Bucknor and Angel Hernandez making headlines with awful calls. Besides, despite their occasional blindness, veteran umpires aren't the biggest problem.
It's the younger officials, according to Anthony Witrado of Sporting News:
Some players questioned think it is the "new generation" of umpires—five or fewer years on the job—that is more likely to have a short fuse or be unwilling to tolerate a player's grumblings.
It seems like the veteran guys understand the give-and-take more than the younger guys. Sometimes the younger guys can have more of a defensive attitude. I don't know why that is, but it just seems to be the case.
Far too often, we see umpires in the news for instigating arguments with players, or at least overreacting to their comments. Fans don't pay through-the-roof ticket prices to witness their heroes get unnecessarily ejected in person.
Selig and his staff must hold umps accountable for their outbursts and clearly define what the acceptable conduct is for major leaguers.
More Thorough Drug Tests
Of all the players that Major League Baseball has linked to the Biogenesis scandal, only Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon had recently tested positive for banned substances.
The rest of them would've been safe had Bud Selig not gone to such great lengths to investigate drug distribution by the Miami-based clinic. Although Selig ultimately made progress toward cleaning up the sport, he generated plenty of ugly publicity along the way by bullying Tony Bosch and his former associates.
BALCO founder Victor Conte stated the obvious in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, saying "the testing isn't all that much more effective" compared to what MLB introduced in 2003.
Conte estimates that only a small fraction of cheaters are being detected, and Greg Couch of Fox Sports insists that Selig should hire Conte and utilize his experience while trying to overlook past indiscretions.
The drug agreement isn't going to be re-negotiated in the near future, so Selig is stuck with the three-strikes-and-you're-out series of suspensions. The way to make players respect that system is by consulting professionals who know what's going on in the performance-enhancing industry.