With another season of interleague play in the books and the All-Star Game just around the corner (both of which have the commissioner’s handiwork ingrained), I began thinking about Bud Selig’s career and legacy.
I’ve always been a major critic of Selig’s performance as commissioner, but decided to take a closer look at his resume. Was this villain and devious master-mind behind baseball’s destruction really as bad as I had built him up to be? Has his post lead to the disintegration of the game I love?
The short answer to those questions is no. Bud Selig is far from perfect, but he has navigated the game through a strike and a steroids scandal without losing too many fans forever. More on the steroids issue in a bit.
Selig’s biggest claim to fame is the introduction of interleague play. No matter what the skeptics say, no matter how many people cry foul due to the unbalanced schedule, fans love interleague games. Every year most ballparks see a spike in attendance during interleague series. Selig’s brainchild has brought more fans to the game, led to increased revenue, and led to an overall increase in interest.
Selig is also responsible for the introduction of the Wild Card. This move was heavily criticized by baseball purists when it happened, but the result speaks for itself. Since its introduction in 1995, there have been nine Wild Card winners that have made the World Series, and four of them won the World Series.
Selig is also responsible for making the All-Star Game count for home-field advantage in the World Series. It was an interesting concept, but has led to a reduction in the spirit of the ASG. It used to be that fans would be virtually guaranteed to see their favorite player get some playing time in the game. Now, managers manage the lineups to win (rightly so). Players who would have seen some action previously, no longer do as each league jockeys for a chance at home field advantage.
A quick glance at Selig’s resume would lead you to believe he’s been a fantastic commissioner. The positives far outweigh the negatives, right? They do until you remember Selig essentially turned a blind eye to steroid use in baseball.
Lack of testing and repercussions until 2005 is a travesty. There had been plenty of players who were busted for steroids prior to that. There were plenty of suspicions. Players trying to play the game clean were faced with an un-level playing field. Many turned to steroids just to keep up. The famous home run race of 1998 was nothing more than a showcase of performance enhancement.
This all happened under Selig’s watch. And for that, he cannot be forgiven. The good he has done for the game gets lost beneath the endless pile of steroids, HGH, and other performance enhancing drugs that Selig ignored. His legacy is now written in stone. Unfortunately, potential accolades for a career well-done have forever been replaced with criticism of his complacency and disregard.
Only after Selig steps down (supposedly after the 2012 season, we’ll see) will baseball be able to fully heal. One day, we can sit back and enjoy the benefits of Selig’s time as commissioner, but that day will not come with him still at his post.