Allan Huber ‘Bud’ Selig was Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1998 – 2015. Prior to becoming Commissioner, in 1998, he had served as Acting Commissioner from 1992 until 1998. He was the ninth person to serve in that position and retired on January 25, 2015 shortly after his eightieth birthday .
Selig was Acting Commissioner during the strike in 1994 and is credited with ending the labor unrest and maintaining positive relations between the owners and the players’ union.
During his term of office, the Wild Card playoff system was developed and refined, inter league play began and expanded to a daily feature, the steroid era came and, theoretically, went, instant replay was begun and the pace of the game committee instituted changes to speed up the game.
Robert D. ‘Rob’ Manfred succeeded Selig as Commissioner in January. Manfred, who previously owned the Milwaukee Brewers, is a lawyer who earned his Bachelor’s degree from Cornell and his Law Degree, Magna Cum Laude, from Harvard Law. He served in the Labor and Employment Law Division of a major Washington Law Firm before joining Major League Baseball.
He spent fifteen years as the Executive Vice President of Labor Relations for Major League Baseball prior to becoming Chief Operating Officer of MLB in September of 2013. He was elected to the position of Commissioner on August 14, 2014, to take over on Selig’s retirement in January of 2015.
He was in Boston last week as part of his tour of all Major League Ballparks. While there, he provided some insight into his view of baseball’s future and some of the challenges and initiatives he anticipates.
One of the ideas that has been making the rounds lately is the possibility that the regular season may be shortened. Prior to expansion, when there were eight teams, in one division, in each league, each team played all seven other teams in their league 22 times for a total of 154 games. With expansion and the move to three divisions in each league, this number was expanded to 162 games and interleague play was added as well.
There is a feeling that 162 games is too long a season and that fitting 162 games into approximately 183 days creates problems. Baseball attendance during Selig’s term of office continues to set records, despite the feeling among some that the games and the season were too long. Reducing the number of games from 162 to 154 would mean eliminating 120 games.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon your perspective, baseball has become a multi-billion dollar business and I cannot imagine that the owners would ever agree to the reduction in revenue that that would create. When asked about the possibility, Manfred was quick to point out the negative impact on revenue but did not close the door to the possibility.
Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy talked with him about the designated hitter and the problems created by the American League having it and the National League not having it, pointing out the inequity it creates in interleague play. While Manfred acknowledged that there was support for making it the same in each league, he pointed out that it generates interest as is and may not need changing.
With the expansion of interleague play, the rule makes for an uneven playing field which, since the rule is applied or not applied depending upon which league the home team is from, balances out in the long run. The bigger issue is protection of pitchers. American League pitchers, unaccustomed to hitting and running the bases, are at risk when having to bat. Football has special rules to protect quarterbacks, the equivalent of baseball pitchers, baseball should protect its valuable pitchers not put them more at risk.
When asked what issue he had heard about most since taking over, he was quick to say that he got more contacts about Pete Rose than any other issue. He indicated that Rose will be allowed to participate in the All Star Game festivities in Cincinnati this year but would not commit to more than that.
Rose was removed from the ballot for the Hall of Fame because of his being banned from baseball for gambling. Rose, who holds the record for most hits in a career, with 4,256, played in the major leagues for 24 years, compiling a .303 career average. He was Rookie of the Year in 1963,won the National League batting title in 1968, 1969 and 1973, was National League MVP in 1973 and World Series MVP in 1975. He was named to 17 All Star teams, at five different positions and epitomized the type of all out play that gave him the nickname Charlie Hustle.
Sadly, even if he were totally reinstated tomorrow, the Baseball Writer’s Association which votes on candidates for the Hall of Fame, would probably not elect him anyway. Rose’s accomplishments cannot be erased from history. Better to acknowledge them, even if done so by adding an asterisk similar to what was done when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, than to pretend it didn’t happen.
Baseball faces many challenges over the next few years but one of them is not the popularity of the great American pastime. Ideas such as establishing teams outside North America, which was one of Selig’s dreams, and shortening the season will not work and the popularity of baseball does not indicate they are needed or would improve the fans enjoyment and support.
As I have said about baseball many time in this spot, ‘It ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.