Well the beginning to a new beginning has finally begun – thank God! After being named what seemed like interim baseball commissioner for life in 1992, Bud Selig, the most disastrous/detrimental commissioner in baseball history, is finally relieving us of his services. Selig has formally decided to step down at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Unfortunately, for so many who love the game it’s at least a decade and a lot of damage overdue.
Baseball is one of our nation’s most cherished pastimes. It’s “our” game. Mom, baseball and apple pie, right? Yet under the regime of Bud Selig, a dark cloud has hovered over “America’s pastime” that will finally dissipate with his departure.
So what have been, are and will continue to be some of the detrimental effects felt by Major League baseball and its millions of fans during the idiotic tenure of Mr. Selig? Where do I start? I wrote an entire chapter in my book, “Scars and Strikes,” on the direct and indirect harm that befell MLB while under this man’s incompetent thumb. Yet, here I have a single column; it’s nearly an impossible task, but I will do my best to cover a few of the most relevant high and low points.
Looking back, it seemed that Selig’s intentions were to begin his interim tenure with a bang by allowing the longest work stoppage in Major League Baseball’s 110-year history at just more than 230 days to occur merely two years into his reign. The shutdown cost the league nearly 950 games, the entire post season and billions of dollars. But perhaps the greatest detriment of all was the body blow inflicted upon the game’s integrity, which took many years to re-establish and left an overwhelming number of the game’s fans with a permanent distaste for our great American pastime. Unfortunately, this was just the first inning (sorry for the bad pun) in the two-decade-long train wreck that is Bud Selig.
The first cancellation of the World Series since 1904 might have been avoided had Selig not been naturally partial to protecting the interests of his fellow owner comrades instead of properly upholding the duties of the office of the commissioner and aligning his loyalties with the overall good of the game (before becoming commissioner of Major League Baseball, Selig was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and I would argue still so even after his appointment. His “ownership” responsibilities were turned over to his daughter. Puppet regime anyone?).
With Selig in place as the commissioner, the owners had someone working from the “inside” to protect their rights in any and every dispute. Hardly an impartial system, though it’s the one that has governed professional baseball since 1992.
Most fans and students of the game should have some recollection of Selig’s crudely timed announcement during World Series play in 2001 in which it was revealed that Major League Baseball would potentially be contracting two teams. Days after the announcement, in an interview Selig was asked which teams were under consideration and why. Selig responded that the league was looking at small-market teams in close proximity to larger markets. Tops on the list were Montreal, Minnesota and Kansas City. When asked if Milwaukee was in the discussion, Bud’s response was naturally, “No,” citing that Minnesota was closer and more of a satellite market to Chicago than Milwaukee. I’m not a geographer, but I can look at a map and see that Milwaukee is only 91 miles from Chi-town while Minnesota is more than 400. It should be pretty obvious why Milwaukee wasn’t going anywhere even nearly 10 years after Selig “resigned.”
Now, I don’t have the space to go into the litany of details, but in the midst of MLB’s contraction efforts, Selig and his crony, Jeff Loria (then owner of the Montreal Expos), were sued for conspiracy and racketeering. I don’t know about you, but if you have the stones to sue the commissioner’s office of Major League Baseball, you better have the facts to back it up. Selig and Loria ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed amount of money, and, in my humble opinion, innocent men don’t “settle.”
Bud Selig has never been accused of being a smart man, but his senselessness and back-room deals are not the predominant reason Major League Baseball has suffered so greatly under this man’s “leadership.” I’ve had direct dealings with Bud on several occasions and have seen the self-centered cowardice that has caused the most harm to the institution of Major League Baseball.
Whether it’s social controversy or a steroid scandal, when the noise gets loud and baseball has needed a forthright leader to securely take the reins, Selig has routinely looked for the first desk to crawl under and leave the fallout to be dealt with by anyone but him. What do I mean?
Quick example: In my personal situation, the Sports Illustrated article that was written about me created a tremendous amount of heat throughout Major League Baseball but most specifically on the commissioner’s office itself. After a very brief period of time, the uproar calling for my head was more than Selig could bear. He hastily, and in grand, publicized fashion, levied a punishment which involved a 60-day suspension, $50,000 fine and two months of sensitivity training.
First and foremost, Selig knew this sentence violated a number of provisions in the collective bargaining agreement. Secondly, he knew there was no precedent to substantiate such a punishment. Lastly, he knew the Major League Baseball Players Association would arbitrate the case and have the sentence drastically reduced. He absolutely knew it would never stand. So why was such a heavy hand so quickly laid? Because as soon as the announcement was made, everyone left Selig alone and directed their attention squarely toward the Players Association, which had filed a grievance on my behalf. Bud could go back under his desk and let others deal with the fallout.
Ultimately, my sentence was reduced to a 14 day suspension, $5,000 fine and two weeks of sensitivity training. Here’s the kicker, however, and the theme to this entire story:
I never paid a single dime of that fine and never went to one minute of sensitivity training.
Why was it so easy for a hot-headed, 24-year-old baseball player to ignore the commissioner of Major League Baseball? Because the only person Bud Selig cares about is Bud Selig. Whether it’s a steroid circus or one dealing with a social issue, Bud just wants to be out of the fray and devoid of any real responsibility to lead. Let Congress handle it; let the Association handle it; let the player(s) deal with it. And for that, Major League Baseball has had to suffer many cuts and bruises that didn’t have to go nearly so deep. No one will miss you, Bud.