The Reckoner!

Baseball Battle! Has Bud Selig actually done a good job as commissioner?

The rumor mill has been swirling that Bud Selig is going to be offered a contract extension as Commissioner of Baseball.  If he gets it, that will almost guarantee that he'll be the longest tenured commissioner in the history of the sport.  Longer than Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  Longer than anyone. Not bad for somebody who seemed be labelled "interim" commissioner until about two years ago.

Ah, yes, Buddy Selig.  The man with the nine-dollar haircut and the eleven-dollar suit jacket.  Buddy Selig, the man who sold so many gosh-darned cars off the lot he could afford to buy a baseball team and bring it to Milwaukee.  Buddy Selig, the magic man who decided an All-Star game should end in a tie.  Buddy Selig, that white hot ball of charisma who oversaw the first cancellation of a World Series since 1904, something that Pearl Harbor or D-Day couldn't even accomplish.

Yes, sports fans, Bud Selig makes for an elegantly easy punching back for your sports punchline.  He certainly does for mine.  But here's the thing: it turns out that he might actually be doing a really good job.  I became a baseball fan in the early-to-mid-1990s, and back then, one of every three articles about baseball were that it was either (a) dying or (b) dead.  When Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's streak, it was treated as if that was something that was going to save the sport from oblivion.  Or was it Sosa and McGwire's home run chase?

Basically, the gist of my childhood was that in becoming a baseball fanatic, I had backed the wrong horse.

But in the fifteen years hence, it seems that baseball has become healthier than ever.  Revenues are skyrocketing.  MLB's Advanced Media division is making great use of the web.  New stadiums are being gleefully provided by their local municipalities (believe me, we can reckon that one later).  Things are generally upbeat in the world of baseball, which is something I'm not accustomed to.  And this is all as the commissioners of the other major North American sports -- Goodell, Stern, and Bettman -- have all been busy eating their shoes.

Could Bud Selig secretly be doing a really good job as commissioner?  Tell me, Reckonauts, have I been wrong all along?

Reckoning Results!
Yes! He's done well!
Naw. He stinks!
Believe it!
He's still Buddy Selig.
Previous Reckoning!
Fargo! Do I need to say more?
Next Reckoning!
Baseball Battle! Has Bud Selig actually done a good job as commissioner?

Reckoning Comments!

I think Bud's biggest problem is that physically he's got the whole Nucky Thompson thing going on.  He must've been a hell of a dynamo to go from selling cars up in Milwaukee to baseball commissioner for life, but physically he's just a charisma vacuum that prevents you from taking him seriously.

I think two things are driving the upswing of baseball at the moment, and I'm not sure how much credit Selig should get for either:

1) The overall proliferation of talent- There's just a lot of really talented guys in baseball right now.  Sure, some teams stink, but overall the level of competition is amazingly high.   Even teams that don't have the monetary resources to go out and get the most expensive free agents have found ways to compete at an extremely high level.  It's the exact opposite of the situation the NBA is currently in (where there are too many teams and not enough talented guys to fill those rosters).

2) The decline of the dynasties that ruled the roost during the 90's- Let's face it, if you weren't a Braves fan or a Yankees fan, there's a good 10 year period in there were your team was probably getting whooped on a semi-regular basis by either the Braves or the Yankees.  Other teams starting to shine (in part because of the proliferation of talent) has really helped baseball.  I can remember friends who had never watched a baseball game in their life being glued to the television during the 2004 Red Sox/Cardinals series.  Similarly, baseball was almost a dirty word in Philadelphia until recent years, and now the Phillies sell out every night.  

@Daniel Lloyd

That's a great point.  Bill James mentioned that part of the reason baseball had a huge attendence boom in the 1970s was because of the collapse of the Yankee Dynasty.  Sure, baseball was swell in the 1950s if you lived in New York, but unlike what that one New Yorker cover suggests, there's a lot of this country that isn't New York.  Out of 20 possible pennants in the 1950s, 14 were won by NYC-based teams.  Whoopee.

Now, it seems that most teams have at least an outside shot at the beginning of the year.  Even the usual doormats like Pittsburgh and KC are showing at least a little life.  And that helps keep people interested.

As a HUGE baseball fan I've thought about this a lot. I can't forgive the All Star game debacle and I HATE the fact that it determines home field in the World Series. Plus, while I've grown to like the Wild Card I'm not for any further expansion of the playoffs. Plus, he's been a complete hypocrite on the steroid issue. He turned a blind eye to steroids when it was making him and the owners billions and then plays dumb when asked about it now. This is not entirely his fault as the Player's Union has done the most to stiffle testing. On the other hand, he's grown the game tremendously and baseball is now more popular than ever. Also, he's responsible for the WBC which I love. I'd go 60% fail - 40% success. 

@Anthony Coombs

Very true!  I didn't even think about the steroid issues, but man, the contortions that Bud pulled on that one boggle the mind.  And the "this time it counts" thing, which is just... 

The Reckoner!