This Bud Wasn't For Everyone
January 26, 2015

Baseball has a new commissioner. The Allan Huber “Bud” Selig era is over after over 22 years. He will likely be remembered as one of the best commissioners ever (he was the ninth), but while the sport has flourished during his tenure, there are things that happened under his administration, that aren't all good, and shouldn't be forgotten.

Selig will have two legacies, and both are on the positive end of the spectrum. Revenue sharing is one of them, but it is just beginning to manifest itself. Just this season with Selig on his way out the door, the San Diego Padres have begun to spend money. In the last couple of years, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals started to open up their wallets. At first, revenue sharing was just the New York Yankees writing a check for excessive payroll, and lower-revenue teams pocketing the money, but now “competitive balance”, one of Selig's favorite terms, is seeming to become a reality. One point for Bud.

Selig's other legacy, and one well deserved, is labor peace. It's been just over 20 years since the crippling strike of 1994, and there has been no hint of a walkout or lockout since. That's certainly nice, considering that strike set the sport back several years with its fans, wiped out the World Series, and virtually destroyed the Montreal Expos as a franchise—the team with the best record in the sport that year. Selig also was able to get a drug testing deal with the player's association. Thanks Bud. For all you did (do), etc.

But let's not yell 'hip hip hooray' or sing 'for he's a jolly good fellow' just yet. Media and fans have a short memory, but let's take a look back, shall we?

Bud was elected Commissioner in 1998, but actually took control of the sport in 1992. Commissioner Fay Vincent resigned, no one was elected to take his place, and Selig, while owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, was Chairman of the Executive Council, and thus, the man in charge. (Since he's from Wisconsin, I guess you could say he was the Big Cheese). Baseball expanded in 1993, and with it, alignment changed from two divisions in each league to three. Not many complain about that, and with three division champions, a wild card playoff team was added, and even though that means you could be a World Champion without winning a division or anything else, not many people have complained about that either.

In 1998, baseball expanded again. Arizona was guaranteed placement in the National League, and with Tampa Bay a logical American League franchise, that meant in order to keep an even number of teams, one team had to change leagues. Few people remember that Selig was trying to make the Kansas City Royals move to the senior circuit, but when that effort failed, he moved his own Milwaukee Brewers over to the NL. It wasn't so much a magnanimous gesture as a lucrative one, but his original idea was to have the only two teams within hundreds of miles of each other play in the same league.

It didn't work for Selig in 1998, but in 2012 it did, when he needed to move a team from the National League back to the American, so he could have an odd number of teams in each league and guarantee interleague play. Interleague play began in 1997, so if he left everyone alone in '98, he would have been years ahead of his time. Instead, with the Houston Astros up for sale, he extorted and coerced the new owners by giving them a few million dollars off the sale price to move from the National League Central to the American League West. At least now the standings sheet looks nice and pretty, but 50 years of National League history in Houston is gone. Bud gets a red mark for that one.

You may like interleague play, and it will actually be a little better this year when teams from one league play teams from the corresponding division in the other. The Dodgers will play Seattle, the Yankees will play Philadelphia, and Kansas City will play the Cubs. But for every Yankees-Mets, Dodgers-Angels, or Cubs-White Sox annual matchup, there's a Colorado-Texas, Pittsburgh-Detroit, or Miami-Toronto out there. Last year we had Colorado-Minnesota, Oakland-Philadelphia, and Angels-Reds. Those two even played each other Opening Day, which was incredibly weird, and unattractive. You can thank Bud for those, too.

In 2002, the All-Star Game was held in Selig's home city of Milwaukee. I actually felt bad for him when fans were upset that the game was declared a 7-7 tie after 11 innings when both sides ran out of pitchers. It wasn't Selig's fault that the managers let everybody play, but the Commissioner over-reacted. He instituted the policy that is still in place today, that the league that wins the All-Star game gets home field advantage in the World Series. Players want to win, and having that sort of 'incentive' is not going to change anything. It makes about as much sense as deciding home-field advantage by the number of letters in the cleanup hitter's last name. Billy Grabarkewitz would be a legend, and Erisel Arruebarrena would be the top prospect in the game if that were true. Another winner, Bud.

In 2012, Bud added two more playoff teams. Why? “Other leagues have done it”, Selig said. That doesn't make it good, or right. Look at how important basketball and hockey's regular season is when almost everyone makes the playoffs. More millions (or is it billions?) in television money, though. Giants fans should be happy, too. San Francisco was the 'added team' in 2014 and won the World Series. They are drinking to you in The City, Bud, but elsewhere? Blech.

And speaking of San Francisco, the Giants have 'territorial rights' to San Jose, and are blocking the Oakland A's from building a new stadium and moving there. Selig is supposedly a fraternity brother to A's owner Lew Wolfe, so Bud appointed a commission to study the problem. That was a few seasons ago, and so far, nothing. The Giants get San Jose as a territory because they own a minor league team that nobody goes to see, but letting the A's move in could possibly jeopardize the fan base (to the A's? Really?). Sounds like nothing a few million more dollars can't fix, but nothing from the Bud Man. Way to go, Mr. Selig.

And finally, if you have read down this far, something that fans don't remember, and need to be reminded of as often as possible. Allan H. Selig's real legacy should be for something that didn't happen, but he campaigned hard for. In 1998, ESPN's Peter Gammons even reported it as a done deal. It was called 'radical realignment'. When baseball expanded, instead of putting the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the American League, and moving the Milwaukee Brewers from the American to the National, Mr. Selig wanted baseball in essence to be like the NBA, and have Western and Eastern Conferences. They weren't going to be called that, but that's what was to happen. The 'National League' would have the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, A's, Padres, Seattle, Colorado, and Arizona all in one division, while the American League East would have the Yankees and Mets, Boston and Philadelphia, Baltimore, Montreal,and Toronto. There would be a mixture of NL and AL teams in a Midwest and Central Division too. There would be less travel, true, but it turned out that the two-market cities (mainly New York and Chicago) complained loudly enough to kill the idea. Just checking Google to see if anyone remembered the plan, I did find an article written in 2011. Radical realignment would have had four divisions total instead of six, so we would likely have more wild cards, and a chance for a fourth place team to win the World Series. At least it didn't happen, but no thanks to the Commish. Your worst idea ever, Bud.

But the Budmeister is riding off into the sunset. Rob Manfred officially took over yesterday. We're not sure how long the Manfred Man and his Earth Band will be around, and what his legacy will be, but remember this. He was Selig's second-in-command, and that can't necessarily be a good thing. Here's to you, new Commish, and while we toast your arrival, we don't do it with a Bud.

Pitch Clock: It's coming, and it seems to be Manfred's baby. Over the winter, the Arizona Fall League experimented with a 20-second pitch clock, which was in effect when no runner was on base. If a pitch wasn't thrown in that time, a ball would be added to the count. This year, the minor leagues at the Double-A and Triple-A level will be using it, which means it could be in the big leagues as early as next year. Even if there is a runner on, if a pitcher made a pick-off attempt to a base before the clock expired, it is allowed. Speeding up the game is the goal here, but we all know that if baseball truly wanted to speed up the game (and you can argue if that's really necessary), shorter between-inning breaks (meaning fewer commercials) is the best way to do it. Limiting pitcher-catcher conferences wold be another. One of the best things about baseball is that it is the only sport without a clock. It really needs to stay that way.

I missed it: Former Gold Sox pitcher Anthony Bass signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers last month, including an invitation to spring training. Shortly after the Winter Meetings, Bass was outrighted to Triple-A by the Houston Astros (which I did know), but refused the assignment and became a free agent. There goes what I was hoping would be the future Bass n' Stass battery in Houston, with Bass on the mound, and Yuba City native Max Stassi behind the plate.

Coach K: It seems like ESPN televises every Duke basketball game, but Fox had the broadcast Sunday afternoon when the Blue Devils defeated St. John's, and coach Mike Krzyzewki became the first Division I coach with 1000 wins. No Dick Vitale, but you don't need a milestone for Fox play-by-play man Gus Johnson to create drama.

In the pink: Why are almost all the tennis players at the Australian Open wearing pink? Almost all of the ladies have a pink dress with yellow trim, and even some of the guys like Rafael Nadal were sporting magenta-like shirts with yellow bandanas. Weird.

Pro Bowl: Didn't watch. Didn't care.

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