Bud Selig, the hand-wringing commissioner of the strike- and steroid era, will be enshrined. We say he’s already got vampire status, so no need for further immortality.
A Bud-Selig-getting-sent-to-the-Hall-of-Fame rant on this site is almost too predictable; it’s so horrible and forced and easy to call it feels like that part in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke somehow makes himself stumble into the carbon freezing chamber, maybe to retrieve Han’s Puka shell necklace, and Vader waves his good hand and says, “All too easy.”
Long-time commissioner Selig, for the record, got in on a supplemental ballot cohort referred to as the The Today’s Game Era committee. Anytime you start naming committees starting with the word “Today” to distract from their implicit obsolescence….
Those writers are tasked with giving a second look to people no longer eligible on the regular annual ballot or figures, like owners and front office folks (please let’s consider a groundskeepers and concessionaires wing if you’re going to go that deep), who may otherwise be overlooked.
This writers’ association committee will review such candidates twice every five years with the next one in 2018.
So Selig sneaks in even though he’s only been out of the game for a year. And true innovators like George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees from 1973 until his death in 2010, as well as deserving players of the Selig era, Mark McGwire, Albert Belle, Harold Baines, Orel Hershiser and Will Clark along with managers Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella got the shaft.
The McGwire snub seems especially ironic in the context of Selig, but more on that in a second.
Selig, the original owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, ousted then commissioner Fay Vincent in September of 1992 and led the league for more than two decades. A look at those two decades shows on Selig’s watch the sport grew into a $10-billion/year enterprise. But also during that time, baseball took a backseat to the N.F.L., NBA and even NASCAR and college football in fan and revenue growth.
He also almost killed baseball, for good.
Just two years in, Selig’s office stopped the baseball season at precisely 9:45 p.m. PDT on Aug. 11, 1994, ushering in the worst strike in
baseball sports history, no playoffs. No World Series. Baseball has survived two world wars, a Great Depression and a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, but it was called on account of greed from the owners fronted by Selig, the greediest of them all. The strike cost players millions of dollars and management about $1 billion. Games didn’t resume until the following April 25, almost four weeks after an injunction was issued restoring the rules of the expired labor contract.
But much more was lost that year than money. San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Williams’ opportunity to (cleanly) break Roger Maris’ home run record ended the night of the strike — he had 43. Greats of their day in their retirement seasons, Bob Welch, Lloyd McClendon, and Kevin McReynolds never got a chance to suit up again.
And though mostly forgotten today, there are many loyal fans of that era who never bumped uglies with a turnstile again.
The strike resulted in a luxury tax for teams whose payrolls skyrocket and it also favored heavily small- and mid-market teams and ownerships getting their share. The latter move has been mostly praised as a good thing for baseball, and has manifested into teams like Houston, Kansas City and Cleveland’s rise to prominence in recent years. But other teams (Oakland, Tampa) and their ownership groups have seemingly taken advantage of the system and used profit-sharing to keep afloat as they continue to ship out budding stars for prospects and see fewer and fewer fans in the seats though their coffers remain flush. (The A’s, for example, received about $34 million in free money last year, a trend that should ebb with the new collective bargaining agreement.)
It should be noted that a labor contract dispute in 2002 was settled in three hours, without a work stoppage — giving heft to the notion that the Selig administration (and the players’ unions) still had 1994 fresh in their memories.
In order to bring fans back to the game in the years that followed the strike, Selig was complicit presiding over the steroid era. It was not until 1998 — the fabled single-season home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa — that baseball re-captivated fans and the general public. Selig, along with most of the rest of the ticket-buying public, knew something was funky about this new long-ball era, and yet he stood by and watched people flock back to the game.
Selig is now and will always be the commissioner of the steroid era. He also says he was the commissioner behind the “toughest drug-testing program in American sports” yet there is no evidence that actually came true. Players and their nerd friends in the chem lab will always try to outsmart the test. In spite of Selig’s tough-guy approach, labs like Florida’s Biogenesis continued to distribute to superstars like A-Rod and Ryan Braun years after the PED “era” came to an alleged end.
And while the game is deemed as “mostly clean” by both players and management today, there will always be guys, in contract seasons especially, who will notch it up to get an edge, 80-game (strike one) or full-season (strike two) suspensions be damned.
Selig should get credit for installing a few tweaks poached from other leagues that dragged baseball into the 21st Century. The wild-card system has been nothing short of a wild success and MLB Advanced Media is perhaps professional sports’ greatest multi-media juggernaut, creating a huge internet presence and accessibility to the sport that is unparalleled.
One of Selig’s most unforgivable legacies — attaching the result of the All-Star Game to home-field advantage in the World Series — was rescinded in the latest version of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with its players’ union last month.
…Home field advantage will instead be decided by the All-Star Weekend celebrity softball game. So the hopes and dreams of your home team are now squarely on the shoulders of Jamie Foxx and Jessica Alba.