With the news breaking yesterday that Bud Selig got a contract extension and wouldn’t be leaving his post as MLB commissioner after the 2012 season, fans pretty much went nuclear on Selig. Every negative thing that’s happened during his tenure as league commissioner has been brought up as as a black mark against him. But despite common belief, not everything Selig has done has been terrible. In fact, since his reign unofficially began in 1992 (when the commissioner post was vacant, and Selig was the Chairman of the Executive Counsel and took on all the commissioner’s responsibilties), there has been a lot of good that’s happened under his reign. Let’s take a look at the positive things that Bud Selig has accomplished in office.
Interleague Play. I saw someone actually bring up interleague play as a negative. Um….really? If anything, we need more interleague play. 15-18 games makes it seem like a gimmick more than anything else, whereas a full-blown balanced schedule of 42-48 games would work out a lot better for all teams. In any case, before Selig came around, the only times players from opposite leagues crossed paths came in the All-Star Game and the World Series. Imagine being a transplanted Giants fan in Seattle. Before interleague play, the only time you could see your Giants without traveling would be to hope and pray both teams won the pennant. Now with interleague play around, the two teams play every few years. It also gives fans a chance to see the stars of both leagues. Imagine if you were an AL fan, and you really wanted to see Albert Pujols. If interleague play wasn’t around, you wouldn’t get the chance. Now with interleague play, he’ll be around. Well, if you’re an AL fan and you want to see Pujols, you’ll be seeing plenty of him for the next decade, but I digress.
Labor Peace. The strike of 1994 was a mess. The World Series got canceled for the first time in history. But since that work stoppage, the MLB has gone nearly 17 years without any labor strife. Compare that to the NFL, who lost nearly the entire offseason this summer, the NBA, who lost 16 games off their schedule this season, and the NHL, who lost an entire season, all of which have happened since the last MLB work stoppage. This isn’t all on Selig, but it’s great to see a sport where labor concerns aren’t even on fans’ minds anymore.
Money, And Lots Of It. When Selig unofficially took over in 1992, the MLB’s total revenue was $1.2 billion. In 2010, the MLB’s revenue was $7 billion. Selig has increased the sport’s revenue nearly sixfold, and while a lot of the money is lining the owners’ pockets, a lot of the money is going to the players too. In 1992, the players’ minimum salary was $102,000 and the average was $1.028 million. In 2012, the minimum salary will be $480,000 under the new collective bargaining agreement, and in 2010, the average salary cracked the $3 million mark. That’s a huge increase both for the lower-rung guys, and the guys higher up the food chain.
MLB Advanced Media. Even though the MLB has an awful Youtube policy (as Ben Koo talks about here on Awful Announcing), their digital media empire is the envy of sports leagues everywhere. MLB At Bat, freshly released every year for $14.99, lets fans watch games on their phones and iPads, and watch live boxscores as well. But how do you watch a game on your phone? Why, with an MLB.TV subscription of course, which lets fans across the country watch their team from wherever the area…for a yearly fee, of course. The MLB also gets video clips on their website pretty fast, allowing fans to quickly watch highlights of the night’s games.
MLB Network. All baseball, all the time, and available on almost all cable networks. MLB Network lets fans completely immerse themselves in baseball year-round, and breaks free of the constraints brought upon by the national channels, who focus on other sports in the winter.
Steroid Testing. Many fans claim Selig turned a blind eye on steroids during the late-90’s and the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Then, Barry Bonds made a mockery of the steroids controversy, and Selig forced testing for performance enhancing drugs into the next CBA. Penalties were initially steep, but increased to 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third offense. The testing has been a pretty solid success thusfar, nabbing stars like Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Ryan Braun (which still may be overturned) and lower level guys just the same. HGH testing was implemented in the minor leagues this year as well, which no other sport tests for, and Mike Jacobs was the first player caught for using under the new policy.
Selig isn’t perfect as a commissioner, and I don’t think that even his staunchest defender would claim that he is. But given everything that’s gone on in Major League Baseball in the last 20 years with Selig at the helm, the good far outweighs the bad.